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House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee Reports Out FY2005 Spending Bill

Legislative Update
July 8, 2004

This morning, the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the Chairman's Mark for the FY2005 LHHS spending bill, which now goes to the full House Appropriations Committee for consideration.

The Chairman's Mark allocates $142.3 billion for programs covered under the bill, which is a $3.4 billion increase over FY2004. It appropriates $28.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the same as the President's budget request and $726.8 million or 2.6% over FY2004. The Mark summary distributed at the mark-up session does not detail specific Institutes within NIH, but it likely includes the $19 million or 2.9% increase in FY2005 for the National Eye Institute (NEI) to $672 million from $653 million in FY2004. NAEVR has requested an FY2005 appropriation for the NEI of $711 million, which would complete the doubling of its budget since FY1998 and bring it into budget parity with the NIH overall and other Institutes.

Much can still happen regarding numbers, in the full House Appropriations Committee as well as on the House floor, let alone on the Senate side (where mark-ups are still not scheduled).

For example, in voting for the Chairman's Mark, several Democratic members of the Subcommittee voiced approval with the caveat of "with improvements." What they were echoing were comments by Subcommittee Ranking Minority Leader David Obey (D-WI), who noted what the FY2005 spending bill did not include (cuts to key programs or insufficient increases). In fact, Cong. Obey introduced an amendment to add $7.3 billion to the bill, including $500 million for the NIH, the spending of which would be offset by a 30% reduction in the tax cut to Americans with adjusted gross income of more than $1 million. The Subcommittee voted down the amendment along party lines.

In commenting on the amendment's defeat, Cong. Obey stated that the bill "must be improved" in Committee and on the House floor, the latter being the venue where floor debate would produce a "more enlightened set of numbers." In responding, Subcommittee Chairman Ralph Regula (R-OH) noted the tough choices and balancing of priorities that the Subcommittee had to make. "The overriding [budget] issues are bigger than this Subcommittee," noted Regula, who added that "we are trying to manage the taxpayer dollars responsibly." He proceeded to detail the increases in funding for several programs over the past few years (including the doubling of the NIH budget from FY1998 to FY2003) and acknowledged that those portions of the government getting increases must demonstrate that they are using those dollars responsibly (referring specifically to unspent dollars at the Department of Education).

The House Appropriations Subcommittees continue their efforts to report out spending bills for full Committee consideration and then potential House floor action prior to the recess, beginning on July 23. Several sources are reporting that floor debate on many of the spending bills is expected to be contentious, such that initial plans for a Continuing Resolution to run the government after the fiscal year ends on September 30 are also under consideration.

To help make its case for funding the NEI at $711 million in FY2005, NAEVR has prepared a new fact sheet that details the increased incidence of age-related eye disease and graphically demonstrates vision loss associated with Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), Glaucoma, Diabetic Retinopathy, and Cataracts.