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Congress Considers Year-long Continuing Resolution to Fund NIH/NEI

Legislative Update
December 13, 2006

Before ending its "lame duck" session on December 9, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund government programs until February 15, 2007, as it had only completed Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 appropriations bills relating to defense and homeland security. Subsequently, incoming Senate and House Appropriations Chairs Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Cong. David Obey (D-WI) announced that they would likely seek a year-long CR, which would preclude earmarks included in the remaining unpassed spending bills by the previous Republican leadership. The 110th Congress will take up the FY2007 spending bills, including that for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS), which includes NIH/NEI funding, when it returns on January 4.

The current CR, as well as any potential year-long CR, funds the NIH/NEI at the FY2006 level. For NIH, that means flat funding, but for NEI, that would mean an additional $5.3 million over that initially proposed in the Presidentís FY2007 budget, which would have cut NEI funding by 0.8 percent. At this time, however, until final action is taken on a year-long CR or an omnibus spending bill, the NEI cannot make budget commitments beyond the Presidentís FY2007 proposal.

Another result of a year-long CR is that eye and vision research would automatically retain its eligibility in FY2007 for funding under the Department of Defenseís Congressionally-directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). NAEVR obtained this listing in FY2006, and two vision researchers were recently notified that they have received DOD/CDMRP grants.

Since NIH champion Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) will assume leadership of the LHHS Subcommittee early next year, it is likely that he and former chair Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) may call for an increase in NIH funding, specifically, even if an overall year-long CR is passed. To maintain the pressure on Congress in this regard, NAEVR is hosting a January 19, 2007, Capitol Hill Lobby Day of members of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) and a January 31, 2007, Welcome Reception for the 110th Congress to emphasize the value of vision research funding.