Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY2024 LHHS Spending Bill

On July 27, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS)  spending bill.  

The bill would fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at a level of $47.8 billion, an increase of $943 million over FY2023. This stands in contrast to the bill approved two weeks ago by the House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee, which made severe cuts to the overall NIH funding level. The Senate bill funds the National Eye Institute at a level of $896 million, the same amount as FY2023 and what the House bill provides.

The bill also funds the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health (ARPA-H) at a level of $1.5 billion, the same level it was funded at in FY2023. The House-passed bill proposes to cut ARPA-H funding by $1 billion.

At the markup, the Committee also approved three other FY2024 Appropriations bills, including for the Department of Defense.  The Senate-passed bill does not include funding for the DOD’s Vision Research Program (VRP), as the Senate generally accepts the funding levels for the DOD’s medical research programs in the House bill. On June 22, the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee approved its FY2024 spending bill which included $20 million for the VRP, the sixth year that the VRP has been funded at that level.

Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) opened the meeting by saying that the bills recognize the spending limits imposed by the Debt Limit bill negotiated between the President and Congress earlier this year, and that the bills are ‘serious’ and the product of bipartisan efforts. She further said that passage of the four bills will show the public that Congress can work in a bipartisan way on important legislation.

In her opening remarks, Committee Vice Chair Susan Collins (R-ME) noted that this marks the first time in 5 years that the Committee has passed all 12 individual appropriations bills, and that she hopes that Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) will begin bringing packages of bills to the Senate floor in September. She also said she was proud of the funding increases for the NIH, notably for research on Alzheimer’s, Cancer and Diabetes.

The significant differences between the House and Senate passed LHHS spending bills will likely present a challenge for Conference Committee members from the two chambers who must meet to iron out differences between the bills before final passage.

With Congress about to begin its August recess, it will return in September with less than a month to complete work on all 12 Appropriations bills before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1, or be forced to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to avoid a shutdown of the federal government.