September 7 Senate Appropriations Committee’s Approval of a Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Spending Bill

Senate Appropriations Committee Passes FY2018 Funding Bill that Includes a $2 B NIH Increase, $26 M NEI Increase

Legislative Update

September 7, 2017

Earlier today, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) spending
bill—approved the prior day by the Senate LHHS Appropriations
Subcommittee—that totals $164.1 billion in discretionary funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The bill is $3 billion above the FY2017 enacted level and $27.5 billion above President Trump’s budget request. Including discretionary funding offset by savings from mandatory program changes, the bill represents approximately $800 million less in total discretionary funding than FY2017.

The bill, which provides $79.4 billion in discretionary funding for the DHHS, was described by Subcommittee Chair Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) as a bipartisan effort—similar to that in FY2017—which funds the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at $36.1 billion, a $2 billion increase over FY2017. [For comparison, the House’s proposed FY2018 LHHS bill funds NIH at $35.2 billion, or an increase of $1.1 billion over FY2017, reflecting an increase of $943 million or 2.8 percent on base funding]. The President’s budget request had proposed an NIH cut of $7.2 billion, or 21 percent, from the FY2017 funding level. Details of the Senate bill follow:

  • As in the House bill, the Senate includes within the NIH total $496 million in 21st Century Cures Act funding for special initiatives, meaning NIH base funding of $35.59 billion, a $1.856 billion or 5.4 percent increase over FY2017.
  • The Senate bill would fund the National Eye Institute (NEI) at $758.56 million, an increase of $25.9 million, or 3.5 percent, over FY2017—the second year at this percentage increase. The House bill had proposed a 1.5 percent increase in NEI funding to $743.9 million.
  • As in the House bill, the Senate bill maintains the Extramural Salary Cap at Executive Level (EL) II, which is $187,000, as opposed to the President’s proposal to reduce it to the EL V level of $157,000.
  • As in the House bill, the Senate bill includes a provision requiring the NIH to continue reimbursing grantee research institutions for Facilities and Administrative costs. The President’s budget had proposed to limit these indirect costs to 10 percent.
  • Retains the Fogarty International Center and maintains the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) as a separate agency, although it is flat-funded. The Trump budget proposal would have eliminated Fogarty and moved AHRQ into the NIH.

The bill provides increases for several critical research initiatives, including:

  • $1.8 billion, a $414 million increase, for Alzheimer’s disease research;
  • $400 million, a $140 million increase, for the Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative;
  • $290 million, a $60 million increase, for the All of Us research initiative (formerly called the Precision Medicine Initiative); and
  • $513 million to Combat Antibiotic Resistance, a $50 million increase

Additionally, it increases the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program funding by $11 million to $344.3 million and increases the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program by $17 million to $533.1 million,

During the Subcommittee markup, Chairman Blunt spoke in support of the NIH saying, “This bill reflects my top priority as Chairman—a $2 billion NIH increase. Without continued investment in the NIH, we jeopardize our current scientific progress, risk losing a generation of scientists, and stunt our nation’s global competitiveness.” Regarding the bill development process, he commented more fully:

“We faced many challenges in writing this bill—it is not easy to put together for either side of the aisle. We had to compromise, find priorities we could both agree on, and do so in an environment when our effective discretionary funding level is approximately $800 million below last year. This is not the bill I would have written just on my own, but Senator Murray and I made a choice to work together, reflect Member priorities, and find a path forward we could both agree to.”

In her Opening Statement, Ranking Member Murray said,

“…I am glad that Senator Blunt and I were able to work together to protect many critical investments in students, workers, women, families, and the economy. I am especially pleased that this bill doesn’t include a single new damaging policy rider. While I support this bill as a compromise and the best we can do given the inadequate investment levels we’ve been given, it underscores the need for us to keep working toward another budget deal to increase investments in people, communities, and economic growth.”

NAEVR has issued a statement expressing appreciation for the Senate’s proposed $2 billion funding increase for the NIH, which had been the vision community’s request in its extensive Capitol Hill advocacy efforts.