Legislative Updates

NonDefense Discretionary United Coalition Releases Report on Impact of Sequester Cuts; NAEVR and ARVO Urge Congress to Replace Sequester in FY2014 Appropriations

Legislative Update
November 14, 2013

On November 7, Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) addressed a standing room-only crowd of advocates for government programs funded through the LHHS appropriations bill. In addition to thanking advocates for “speaking for people who don’t have voices,” he challenged them to strenuously oppose the inclusion of sequester cuts in the FY2014 budget agreement. Earlier this year and under Senator Harkin’s leadership, the Subcommittee reported out a “regular order” bill that would have eliminated sequester cuts. Although approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, the bill was not queued up for full Senate action.
On November 12, the NonDefense Discretionary (NDD) United coalition released a report entitled Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Have Made Us Sicker, Poorer, and Less Secure. The report, which was supported by AEVR, NAEVR’s educational foundation, focuses on the impact of sequester cuts on numerous government programs funded through NDD, which includes vision research at the National Eye Institute (NEI) and vision surveillance and blindness prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unless Congress acts to replace sequestration with a balanced approach to deficit reduction, in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 NDD funding will be nearly 18 percent below the FY2010 level adjusted only for inflation as a result of FY2011 appropriations cuts and the Budget Control Act, including sequestration. These cuts bring funding for NDD programs as a share of the economy to the lowest level on record, with data going back to 1976.

As the report’s chapter on biomedical research funding notes, the sequester’s $1.5 billion cut to the FY2013 National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget has resulted in 650 fewer competitive research project grants, resulting in an historically low success rate of 17 percent. The chapter emphasizes that the sequester cuts are jeopardizing innovation, economic growth, competitiveness, and the biomedical researcher career life line.

NAEVR and ARVO are signatories on community letters by NDD United and the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research to Congress urging replacement of the sequester. Additionally, NAEVR has hand-delivered letters to all members of the Budget Panel that is developing the recommendation for a final FY2014 budget agreement. Per the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2014 (H.R. 2775) which ended the government shutdown, the Budget Panel has until December 13 to develop recommendations for the full House and Senate to act on before the Continuing Resolution (CR) that runs the government through January 15, 2104, expires.