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Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY2005 LHHS Spending Bill with Increased Funding for NIH Institutes, including the NEI

Legislative Update
September 15, 2004

NAEVR was in a front row seat for today's markup and approval of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations bill by the full Senate Appropriations Committee. The Senate mark for the NIH overall is $28.9 billion, or a 4% increase (or $1.1 billion) over FY2004 and greater than the $28.5 billion or 2.6% increase in the House bill and as proposed in the President's budget request. The Senate mark for the NEI is $680.3 million, a 4.2% increase (or $27 million) over FY2004 and greater than the $671.6 million or 2.9% increase over FY2004 in the House bill (HR 5006) and as proposed by the President's budget request. In comparison to other Institutes, the NEI received the fourth highest percent increase.

Committee Chair Stevens noted that the overall mark for the bill of $142.3 billion is less than the $142.56 billion in the House bill. The Committee increased appropriations for programs within HHS, Education and Labor as a result of moving the last Social Security payment of FY2005 into FY2006, a transfer of an unfunded balance in the Medicare Modernization Act, and a recision of some technical training programs.

In commenting on the Committee's action, NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky said, "NAEVR commends the Committee and especially the leadership shown by Senators Stevens (R-AK), Specter (R-PA) and Harkin (D-IA) to ensure a level of funding for medical research at the NIH, generally, and at the NEI, specifically, which is greater than that in the President's budget request. Although NAEVR will continue to advocate for $711 million for the NEI to complete its budget doubling since FY1998 and bring it into parity with the budget doubling that has occurred within the NIH overall, we appreciate this significant action to close the gap in eye and vision research funding." Jorkasky added that any additional dollars for the NEI, in particular, would be well spent since the current annual economic and societal cost for eye disease and vision impairment is $68 billion and growing.

Senator Specter, Chair of the LHHS Subcommittee, specifically noted that the increased funding was due to the vocal and consistent messages that Members heard from constituents about the importance of this issue. NAEVR has played a prominent role on Capitol Hill with respect to the value message of eye and vision research, which includes distributing a new Age-related Eye Disease Fact Sheet and following up with Hill staff after educational briefings held by the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) on the Aging Eye (May 2004) and Vision Health Disparities Research (September 2004).