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Senate Passes the Specter/Harkin Amendment to Add $7 Billion to its Budget Resolution

Legislative Update
March 17, 2006

On March 16, the Senate passed the Specter/Harkin amendment to add $7 billion to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 Senate Budget Resolution for health, education and social service programs. The amendment passed by a vote of 73-27 and, later in the day, the Senate Budget Resolution passed by a vote of 51-49. The House has yet to take action.

This increase to the President's proposed FY2007 budget, if maintained in a conference budget bill, would restore the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee's spending power to the FY2005 level, adding $1 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget over FY2006. The President's budget proposes to freeze NIH funding at the FY2006 level of $28.6 billion and to cut National Eye Institute (NEI) funding by 0.8 percent or $5.3 million, from $666.8 million in FY2006 to $661.4 million in FY2007.

In a press release issued today, NAEVR Board President Stephen Ryan, M.D., stated that, I believe that the outpouring of support for the amendment accurately reflects the opinion of Americans that medical research is our single greatest hope for controlling healthcare costs, increasing productivity, improving quality of life and maintaining our country's global competitiveness. NAEVR members sent thousands of email letters in support of the amendment and in appreciation for its passage.

NAEVR's communications emphasize the importance of funding the National Eye Institute (NEI), for which NAEVR has requested FY2007 funding of $711 million, by citing recent advancements, such as the NEI-funded discovery of a gene strongly associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness. NAEVR has stressed that, without adequate funding in FY2007, the NEI will not be able to follow up on that dramatic discovery with the development of diagnostics for early detection and promising therapies.