House and Senate Pass FY2018 Omnibus Spending Bill, Which Awaits President’s Signature, that Increases NIH Funding by $3 B, NEI by $41 M

House and Senate Pass FY2018 Omnibus Spending Bill That Increases NIH Funding by $3 B, NEI by $41 M

Legislative Update
March 23, 2018

On Thursday, March 22—just one day before the 5th Continuing Resolution (CR) that funds the government was set to expire— the House (256-157) and today the Senate (65-32) approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (H. R. 1625), which is the $1.3 trillion Omnibus spending bill that finalizes Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 appropriations. The 2,200 page bill reflected both defense and nondefense spending increases facilitated by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (H.R. 1892), passed on February 9, which provides a two-year (FY2018 and 2019) budget framework that eliminates sequestration. The Omnibus bill’s spending increases were opposed by many Members who voted against the bill.

The bill provides a $3 billion increase to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) FY2017 funding level of $34.08 billion. The $37.08 billion FY2018 funding level includes $496 million for the NIH Innovation Account (created by the 21st Century Cures Act passed in December 2016 to fund special initiatives, such as BRAIN, Cancer Moonshot, Precision Medicine, and Regenerative Medicine) and $500 million for Opioid Abuse research, split evenly between the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Absent the Cures and Opioid funding, the $2.36 billion increase enabled robust increases for the NIH Institutes and Centers (I/Cs), including the National Eye Institute (NEI), which is funded at $772.3 million, a $41.1 million or 5.6 percent increase over its FY2017 Operating Budget of $731.2 million.

The bill also prohibits a reduction in the reimbursement for Facilities and Administrative (indirect) costs in NIH grants, which had been proposed by the Trump Administration. The bill is also silent on the use of fetal tissue in research.

NAEVR has issued a statement praising the NIH/NEI funding increases and commending the Appropriations leaders. NAEVR has called for continued robust funding increases in FY2019 appropriations to rebuild budgets reduced by past flat-funding and biomedical inflation.

Just hours before the Omnibus bill text was released, the vision community was engaged in a Capitol Hill reception recognizing the 50th anniversary of the creation of the NEI by Congress, which was hosted by House Rules Committee Chairman Cong. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and featured comments by NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, NEI Director Paul Sieving, MD, PhD, and Research to Prevent Blindness President Brian Hofland, PhD (RPB led the advocacy for the creation of the NEI in 1968). Dr. Hofland was visiting the office of House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Cong. Nita Lowey (D-NY) when the House successfully passed the Omnibus during a NAEVR-hosted Private Vision Funding Foundations Advocacy Day. NAEVR was also hosting an ARVO Advocacy Day when the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 was passed on February 9.