Inside (The Beltway) Scoop
Created by on 07/25/2013

By Jennifer Zeitzer 

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves $1.8 Billion Increase for NIH; NSF Funding Bill Advances; Senate Gains an Additional Champion for Research
With the summer break in Washington quickly approaching, lawmakers recently made additional progress on their legislative “to do” list, including approving several more spending bills. By a vote of 16 –14, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the fiscal year (FY) 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) bill (S 1284) that funds the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The bill provided $30.955 billion for NIH, an increase of $1.80 billion (6.18 percent) above the FY 2013 funding level after sequestration. All Democrats voted for the bill and all Republicans voted against it. Republican opposition to the bill focused on the overall level of spending and that it increased funding for implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who noted that NIH funded-research has led to significant health improvements, stated that “these medical breakthroughs didn’t just happen; they occurred because this Committee supported NIH, and the NIH supported dedicated scientists who sought knowledge and medical breakthroughs. We must keep up this support.” Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) and LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) also spoke on behalf of the NIH funding increase.
Language in the Appropriations Committee Report accompanying the Senate LHHS bill provides some insight about the recommended increase for NIH, pointing out that “while China and India are investing heavily in biomedical research, NIH funding has dropped significantly, in real terms, since the end of the of the 5-year doubling in fiscal year 2003. At a time when the promise for medical advances has never been greater, the Nation cannot afford to lose any more ground in the life sciences.” The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) issued a press release thanking the Committee for the proposed NIH funding increase and urging Congress to continue efforts to adopt a deficit reduction plan that cancels sequestration for FY 2014 and beyond.
Appropriators also took action on the FY 2014 House and Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) bills (S 1329; no House bill number yet) that provide funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), among other agencies. The Senate Appropriations Committee adopted the FASEB recommendation of $7.4 billion for NSF, while the House provided $7.0 billion. There were no NSF-related amendments adopted in either bill. A FASEB press release, issued this week, commended the Committee for supporting its NSF funding request. 
In related news, long-time NIH champion Edward Markey (D-MA) was sworn into the Senate following his victory in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry. Senator Markey was appointed to the Small Business Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Small Business Innovation Research and the Technology Transfer programs; the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which oversees NSF and science, engineering, and technology research and development policy; and the Foreign Relations Committee.
“Massachusetts is an international innovation hub and our state’s business plan relies on a safe, stable global community,” Senator Markey said in a statement. Markey also added, “I plan to help foster the commonwealth’s innovation economy to encourage job growth and global competitiveness.”