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Senate Passes FY2019 Defense/LHHS Minibus Bill with $25 M Increase for Vision

Legislative Update
August 24, 2018

On August 23, the Senate passed by 85-7 H.R, 6157, a minibus bill that combined the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) spending bills. Prior to the vote on final passage, the Senate adopted by unanimous consent a Manager's Package that included 53 of the 309 filed amendments. None of these amendments appears to affect top line National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, which is increased by $2 billion, or 5.4 percent over FY2018, to $39.08 billion, and National Eye Institute (NEI) funding by $25 million, or 3.2 percent over FY2018, to $797 million.

With passage of the Defense/LHHS minibus, which includes the two largest of the twelve spending bills, the Senate has now debated the largest number of annual appropriations bills on the floor since 2009. It is also the fastest the chamber has completed action on spending bills since 1994.

The House returns after Labor Day, and has eleven legislative days until FY2018 ends on September 30. The path forward to finalize appropriations remains unclear; the House passed its Defense bill on June 28 (with Vision Research Program funding at $20 million, a $5 million increase over FY2018) but has not taken up the LHHS bill, which was approved on July 11 by the House Appropriations Committee. The House can go on to conference with the Senate on the Defense/LHHS minibus because the House already passed its Defense measure, or it could take up the Senate minibus. The House LHHS bill proposes a $1.2 billion NIH/$9.2 million NEI increase, since the top line spending allocation was less than in the Senate and includes several onerous policy riders.

NAEVR issued a statement commending the Senate for the $2 billion NIH/$25 million NEI increase and has urged the House to join in passing a bipartisan spending bill with at least a $2 billion NIH increase.