Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Ellen Kuo
Wednesday, June 8, 2022
Witnesses Advocate for Priorities in FY 2023 Health Spending Bill

Over the last few weeks, members of Congress have presented their priorities in various appropriations bills that are being drafted for fiscal year (FY) 2023. During the May 24 Member Day for the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) Subcommittee, members testified for funding for projects of importance to their districts and communities as the subcommittee produces its bill in this month. Their testimony covered a wide range of community projects, including construction of negative pressure rooms to keep patients with infectious illnesses away from others; a mobile clinic to reach underserved children unable to travel to a central hospital; an upgrade of an air filtration system to keep people safe during the pandemic; and the creation of a memory care center in a rural area.

Members spoke to the letters of support for their projects and the benefits their projects would provide to the larger community. Subcommittee members were also given the opportunity to question their colleagues’ requests.

During the public witnesses day for the LHHS subcommittee, 24 handpicked witnesses testified for base funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of no less than $49 billion. Several focused on improved funding for individual institutes and centers at NIH such as the National Cancer Institute, stating that cancer research is at an unprecedented time in history where discoveries have been converted into meaningful progress in cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and cures. The witness Karen E. Knudsen, Chief Executive Officer of the American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, testified that this was not the time to reduce funding for cancer especially with the aftereffects of the pandemic causing delayed detection and treatment. As a result, she said there will be an unprecedented increase in cancer mortality for the first time since 1991.

Another witness, Brian Wallach, Co-founder of I AM ALS, provided inspirational and moving testimony with his wife amplifying his voice. He expressed his gratitude for the passage and funding of Act for ALS, which provides patients living with ALS access treatments in phase three trials—before full FDA approval. The law also established a public/private partnership for neurogenerative diseases between the NIH, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and a nonprofit to support the development and regulatory review of drugs that address ALS and other rare neurodegenerative diseases.

Wallach also thanked members for recognizing that ALS should be part of the mission of the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H). He stated, “On May 12, I AM ALS and hundreds of ALS advocates gathered in DC a mile away from the Capitol to plant thousands of flags for those living with ALS and those we have lost. This is the reality of ALS today. For me, my reality is that I can now barely speak, and am mostly confined to a wheelchair, and can no longer raise my arm. But I am still here and will keep fighting as long as I breathe.” His testimony was provided one day after the announcement of an acting deputy director for the ARPA-H, Adam H. Russell, D.Phil. Russell is the chief scientist at University of Maryland's Applied Research Laboratory for Intelligence and Security. The ARPA-Health Act, H.R 5585 authorization bill, is expected to be considered on the House floor for final passage this month, after it previously received funding in the omnibus bill for FY 2022.