House Appropriators Take Action Despite Absence of House Budget Resolution

House Appropriators Take Action Despite Absence of House Budget Resolution

Legislative Update
May 10, 2006

On May 9, the House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Cong. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), formalized Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 allocations to each of the Subcommittees. The Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (LHHS) Subcommittee would receive an allocation of $141.93 billion, which is $843 million or 0.6 percent over the FY2006 enacted level and $4.14 billion or 3 percent over the President’s FY2007 budget proposal. At this time, how this would translate into any appreciable increase in specific LHHS programs over FY2006, such as at the NIH, is dependent on Subcommittee markup, scheduled for the week of June 5, and whether the House takes action on a Budget Resolution.

Cong. Lewis issued a statement noting that the allocations represent his best effort to fairly distribute limited resources and reiterating his intent to pass all House appropriations bills by the July 4 recess.

Concurrently, House moderate Republican Cong. Mike Castle (R-DE) has vowed to continue to push for a $7.16 billion increase in the FY2007 House Budget Resolution for health and education programs, similar to the Specter/Harkin amendment included in the Senate Budget Resolution (see March Legislative update). The $7.16 billion Castle seeks, as compared to the $4.14 billion increase in the 302(b) allocation noted above, would restore funding to FY2006 levels plus include a 2 percent inflationary factor. Cong. Castle issued a statement thanking the leadership for the “step in the right direction” of the increased 302(b) allocation for the LHHS Subcommittee, but noted that the $7.16 billion is that necessary to add to the President’s FY2007 budget to adequately fund these programs.

The House leadership is still in negotiations to bring the House Budget Resolution to the floor. In the interim, NAEVR continues to educate Congress about the value of vision research, issuing its quarterly E-ZINE to Capitol Hill, which acknowledges May as Healthy Vision Month and notes NEI activities surrounding it. The E-ZINE also reports on the just-released NEI-sponsored study on the extent of vision impairment in the United States, which also garnered extensive national media coverage, quoting both NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni and NEI Director Dr. Paul Sieving. The study makes a compelling case for an eye examination, whether for corrective lenses or for early diagnosis of an eye disease.

The media focus on NIH-sponsored research is timely, as Dr. Zerhouni is scheduled to appear on May 19 before the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA). NAEVR has been invited to participate in a panel noting “missed opportunities” in research at NIH, specifically the National Eye Institute (NEI), due to proposed FY2007 funding. NAEVR will post full coverage of this hearing on the Web site.