Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Benjamin Krinsky
Thursday, May 9, 2019

House Appropriations Process Begins, Senate Timeline Unclear; Budget Cap Deal Still Needed

Appropriations season is getting underway in earnest, though a broader agreement on the Budget Control Act (BCA) spending caps remains elusive. And while the House has begun to consider fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending measures, the Senate timetable is less clear.

On April 30 the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its FY 2020 appropriations bill. In total, the bill includes $189.8 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $11.7 billion over the 2019 enacted level and $47.8 billion over the President’s 2020 budget request.

For life scientists, the bill provides a total of $41.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health, an increase of $2 billion above the 2019 enacted level. The bill funds several initiatives, including $2.4 billion for Alzheimer’s research, $3.2 billion for HIV/AIDS research, $500 million for the All of Us precision medicine initiative, and $411 million for the Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative. The bill would provide funding increases of about 5 percent above FY 2019 across all NIH Institutes and Centers.

At the markup, Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) praised the NIH: “we know the impact that public research dollars can have on saving lives.” Subcommittee Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) added his words of support, emphasizing that continuing steady growth in biomedical research funding “will ultimately lead our researchers to find cures and treatments for maladies such as Alzheimer’s, Down’s syndrome, cancer, and the like. This is a very wise investment.”

On May 8, the bill was approved by the full House Appropriations Committee by a vote of 30-23. The committee also approved so-called 302(b) allocations: the total amounts allocated to each of the 12 appropriations subcommittees. Democrats are proceeding with allocations that adhere to the broad budget outline previously proposed by the House Budget Committee. The FY 2020 allocations are as follows:

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Source: Bloomberg Government
Meanwhile in the Senate, Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) has expressed his desire to postpone the appropriations process until a bipartisan, bicameral agreement is reached to raise the Budget Control Act caps on discretionary spending. Sen. Shelby said he had been planning a meeting with the White House to discuss the caps. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also expressed his desire to reach a two-year bipartisan spending deal.