Congress to Take Action on FY2008 Consolidated Funding Bill with Increases for Some NIH Programs, Most Institutes Flat Funded

House and Senate Expected To Take Action on Consolidated Appropriations Act Before Continuing Resolution Expires on December 21

Legislative Update
December 17, 2007

The Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2008, which represents an omnibus bill of remaining appropriations bills, including Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS), has been submitted to the House Rules Committee in anticipation of House floor action on December 18. If successfully passed, the Senate is expected to amend the bill to add Iraq/Afghanistan war funding, then send it back to the House for approval before sending it to the President for signing. The Continuing Resolution (CR) funding the government expires Friday, December 21.

National Institutes of Health (NIH):
After adjustments to the initial conference agreement and a 1.74 percent across-the-board rescission in the final bill, NIH gets an appropriation of $29.23 billion, an increase of $329 million over FY2007. The actual program level for NIH is $28.94 billion, an increase of $133 million (or .46 percent), as the Global/HIV AIDS funding level increases by $201 million over 2007. Although NIH funding is increased, this did not result in any appreciable across-the-board increase to Institutes/Centers, as most of the increase is directed toward special programs, for example, the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program and the Children’s Health Study. The newly established common fund for trans-Institute research is directly funded within the Office of the Director, obviating the 1.7 percent contribution from each Institute. As a net, the overall NIH increase falls far short of the 3.8 percent increase (matching inflation) in the conference bill passed by Congress earlier this Fall and vetoed by the President, which Congress failed to override.

National Eye Institute (NEI):
As with most Institutes (other than those with new programs), the NEI is essentially flat funded. Despite House and Senate bills that would have increased NEI by $10 million and $14 million respectively, as well as a conference bill that proposed a $17 million increase, the consolidated bill proposes NEI funding at $678.9 million, which is reduced by the 1.74 percent rescission to a total of $667.1 million. Although the bill’s supporting charts cite this as a $1.13 million increase for the NEI, it balances a $1.13 million reduction in the baseline FY2007 funding, due to the Director’s one percent transfer of funds from all Institutes for the Genes and Environment Initiative. Due to the direct appropriation to the common fund, however, NEI will have $8 million for programs that it will not have to contribute to the common fund. Although this is an $ 8 million increase over the President’s initial FY2008 budget (which did not directly appropriate the common fund), it is not a net increase over FY2007, as the common fund was also directly appropriated last year.

As anticipated, for most programs, the consolidated bill is similar to a year-long CR. Although the Democratic Congressional leadership responded to the advocacy community’s request for increased NIH funding, it could not sustain the initial significant increases in its internal struggles with Republican Members and the White House.

NAEVR is still analyzing the impact of this funding bill, as well as other funding opportunities not in the NEI line item, including dollars available from programs within the Office of the Director, such as the common fund. As reported earlier, the Defense Appropriations bill has continued eye and vision research’s eligibility for funding in FY2008, and the just-passed Defense Authorization bill includes Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) dollars (including that for “vision dysfunction research”) which may be directed through the same DOD mechanism as the other funding noted immediately above.