Created by on 03/27/2012

Fiscal matters continued to be a priority on the legislative agenda as the House focused on making progress on the fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget before taking a two-week break for Easter and Passover. On March 20th, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released the highly anticipated Republican FY 2013 Budget Resolution. The Ryan budget plan includes an overall discretionary spending cap of $1.028 trillion, $19 billion below the $1.047 trillion limit enacted in the Budget Control Act (BCA), a decision that angered both House and Senate Democrats. Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND) released a statement saying that the decision to lower the spending cap below the BCA-approved level was a “breach of faith.” In addition to further reducing spending, the House Budget Resolution eliminates the pending sequestration and instead instructs six different committees to find the more than one trillion in required savings by April 27th. The House Budget Committee approved the Ryan proposal by a vote of 19 to 18 on March 21st. It is expected to be considered on the House floor the week of May 26th, although the close vote in committee suggests that passage is far from certain.


While the House considered the Ryan budget plan, Senator Conrad and Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) urging them to abide by the spending level in the BCA. Conrad also filed a “deeming resolution” affirming that the Senate would adopt the $1.047 trillion spending limit agreed to in the BCA. Formally adopting the BCA cap will allow Senate appropriators to determine “302(b)” allocations (e.g. top-line funding levels) for spending bills in each of the 12 appropriations subcommittees. FASEB and more than 900 stakeholders from the health, education, and labor communities sent a March 16 letter to House and Senate appropriators urging them to provide the largest possible FY 2013 302(b) allocation to the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee which funds the National Institutes of Health (NIH), among other health agencies.
As the House and Senate continue to battle over the overall spending level for FY 2013, the Appropriations Committees are making preparations to begin consideration of the individual funding bills. On March 20th, the House Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) Subcommittee held a hearing to review the NIH budget request (see related story in this newsletter). The Senate LHHS Subcommittee will hear from NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and Thomas Insel, M.D., acting director, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences; Harold Varmus, M.D., director, National Cancer Institute; Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Griffin Rodgers,  M.D., M.A.C.P.,  director, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; and Richard Hodes, M.D., director, National Institute on Aging on March 28th. This hearing will be webcast.

In related news, 153 members of the House joined Representatives Edward Markey (D-MA) and Brian Bilbray (R-CA) in sending a bipartisan letter to the Appropriations Committee urging that they allocate $32 billion for NIH in FY 2013. The letter notes that NIH is a driver of economic growth and plays an important role in “bettering the lives of millions of Americans.” It also quoted from FASEB’s FY 2013 Federal Funding Report. Another letter to the Appropriations Committee signed by Representatives Dave Reichert (R-WA), Jim Gerlach (R-PA.) and eight other Republicans asked for “continued support for NIH medical research.” The Reichert-Gerlach letter stated, “NIH research is a critical part of meeting health care challenges, strengthening our economy, inspiring the next generation of scientists, and maintaining our nation’s leadership in innovation. Continued investment in the NIH can leverage existing resources for maximum impact and will build on current progress to further help the American public.” A similar communication coordinated by Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (D-NC) requested that the Senate Appropriations Committee “maintain a strong commitment to funding for the National Institutes of Health.” It also urged the appropriators to “consider the tremendous benefits of a sustained investment in the NIH” but did not state a specific funding request. 30 Senators had signed the Casey-Burr letter as of March 23rd. Further work on the FY 2013 funding bills is likely to take place next month once Congress returns from their spring recess the week of April 16th. A specific schedule of when each bill will be considered has not been released yet. FASEB will be following progress on the various spending measures and will report on the details in future issues of the Washington Update.