Congress Recesses Without Finalizing FY2011 NIH/NEI Funding

Congress Recesses Without Finalizing FY2011 NIH/NEI Funding

Legislative Update
December 22, 2010

After having failed to pass an Omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2011, Congress has passed a Continuing Resolution (CR), H.R. 3082, that would fund most government programs in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 at the FY2010 level until March 4, 2011. This would be the fourth in a series of CRs, as Congress had not finalized any appropriations bills before adjourning.

The Senate Democratic leadership had hoped to pass an omnibus funding bill that would have increased NIH funding by $750 million, about $250 million less than the $1 billion increase proposed in both the House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) funding bills, as well as the President’s budget, as shown in the accompanying chart. That effort failed due to lack of support by Republican members who expressed concern about earmarks in the bill. Previously, the House had passed a full-year CR, which was not acted upon by the Senate.

The impact of not having final appropriations and being flat-funded for upwards of half a fiscal year is significant. NIH/NEI will not have an inflationary increase and, as a result, will lose purchasing power. NIH Institutes and Centers (I/Cs) will also be limited in the financial commitments they can make, jeopardizing the progress of research and the stability of the workforce conducting it.

Another unknown in this process is the fate of funding for the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN), which was authorized by Congress at $500 million in healthcare reform legislation passed earlier in 2010 [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, P.L. 111-148]. CAN, which was not appropriated funding, was created to assist NIH in “crossing the Valley of Death from bench to bedside,” that is, the rapid translation of basic research into treatments and is an important component of a new NIH strategy regarding translational research (see story on page 21). In the proposed FY2011 funding bills, NEI and the other I/Cs were tapped to initially underwrite CAN at a level of $50 million.

On January 28, 2011, NAEVR will host an Advocacy Day of the ARVO Annual Meeting Program Committee, which engages both domestic and international members in Capitol Hill visits with their Members of Congress. This upcoming event not only provides an opportunity for ARVO advocates to meet with new Members and educate them about the value of vision research funding, it enables them to describe the impact of flat-funding and request that FY2011 appropriations be finalized.