Congress Adjourns for Summer Recess, Will Return in September with Most FY2009 Appropriations Bills Still Unfinished

Congress Heads into Summer Recess with Much in Play Regarding FY2008 and FY2009 Appropriations for Medical Research

Legislative Update
August 4, 2008

Congress is in its summer recess, to return in early September after the conventions for three weeks of work prior to the election recess. Congress may not return after the November election, meaning that Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 appropriations will not be finalized until the 111th Congress convenes in early 2009. Prior to the election recess, Congress must pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) that funds the government into FY2009, which begins October 1. Whether the CR is stand-alone legislation or included in “must-pass” legislation, such as the FY2009 Defense appropriations bill or an FY2008 Domestic Supplemental bill, is currently unclear. Here is what is in play:

ENACTED: $150 Million in FY2008 Supplemental NIH Appropriations
On June 30, President Bush signed into law a Supplemental Appropriations bill, passed overwhelmingly by the House (416-12) and the Senate (92-6), which included a science package of $150 million in additional FY2008 National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, as well as $62.5 million for the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bill’s Report Language instructs the Office of the NIH Director to prorate funds to the Institutes, Centers, and NIH Common Fund—at this time, the amounts awarded (including that to the NEI) have not yet been announced. Bipartisan Senate leaders, specifically Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-PA), had directed these additional resources to fund 246 research grants beyond that possible in initial appropriations.

PROPOSED: $5.2 Billion in FY2008 Supplemental NIH Appropriations
On July 16, Senator Specter (on behalf of Senator Harkin) made a statement on the Senate floor introducing Senate Bill 3272, which would make emergency supplemental appropriations of $5.2 billion for the NIH in FY2008—$4 billion would be provided to the Office of the NIH Director for prorating to Institutes and Centers, and $1.2 billion would go to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to enhance cancer research. Senator Specter, who just completed a chemotherapy regime for Hodgkin’s disease, noted that these emergency appropriations were necessary to restore NIH’s purchasing power, which has been eroded by 13 percent due to flat funding and biomedical inflation over the past five funding cycles. Whether the supplemental is acted upon in the remaining days of the 110th Congress is currently unclear. However, it is a dramatic statement about the extent of loss of NIH’s purchasing power that provides a basis for future actions to increase funding.

PROPOSED: FY2009 NEI Increases of $23.6 Million (House), $20.2 Million (Senate)
Per the funding chart, both the House and Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittees reported out FY2009 spending bills that would increase NIH funding by $1 billion (inclusive of Global AIDS funding and other transfers) and $20 million-plus increases for the NEI. Both bills match the biomedical inflation rate of 3.5 percent for increased funding overall for the NIH, which had been proposed to be flat-funded in the President’s proposed FY2009 budget. The House bill, which is slightly more generous, has yet to be reported out of full Committee due to partisan disputes. Both bills are unlikely to be acted on until the 111th Congress convenes in early 2009.

POSSIBLE: Pre-Election FY2008 Domestic Supplemental
Congressional leaders are discussing the possibility of a pre-election FY2008 Domestic Supplemental to provide another economic stimulus package and to fund key programs. NAEVR understands that Senate medical research champions may propose inclusion of $500 million of additional FY2008 NIH funding should a bill be introduced when Congress returns in early September.