Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Ellen Kuo
Wednesday, December 20, 2023
Labor-HHS and Commerce, Justice, and Science Bills Stalled

On November 16, the House postponed consideration of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) bill, H.R. 5894, and immediately thereafter declared from Wednesday, November 15, to Monday, November 27, as a "district work period." This action signaled members could leave Washington, D.C. since the House had already passed a laddered continuing resolution (CR), H.R. 6363 and sent it to the Senate for passage. H.R. 6363 has two end dates of Friday, January 19, 2024, for the Agriculture, Energy-Water, Military Construction and Transportation-HUD spending bills and the remaining eight appropriations bills, which include funding for the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, until Friday, February 2, 2024. 

House Speaker Mike Johnson sought these extensions as a way to buy more time to finish the fiscal year 2024 spending bills. The clean CR, H.R. 6363 does not provide deep spending cuts or border security provisions sought by certain conservatives nor does it provide emergency supplemental funding which have been negotiating points. The Senate voted 87-11 to approve the CR on November 15 and the president signed it on November 16.

After two days of intense floor debate on which of the 146 amendments would be accepted to amend the Labor-HHS bill under the rule H. Res. 864, the bill was postponed for further consideration. Therefore, no vote on final passage took place on November 15. Some interesting amendments that were individually debated and passed on the floor that impacted NIH included:

Meuser (PA) Amendment #6–Provides the Health Workforce Account with an additional $10 million for the Nurse Corps programs, which is offset with a $19 million deduction to the National Institute of Nursing Research.

Pfluger (TX) Amendment #34–Decreases the amount appropriated to the NIH’s Office of the Director by $3,748,715 to redress the amount of federal funds the NIH awarded EcoHealth Alliance, Inc. to conduct gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Clyde (GA) Amendment #36–Reduces funds for the NIH by $5,955,345,000. During this debate, LHHS ranking member Rosa DeLauro said this amendment would equal $3.6 billion in cuts on top of the $2.8 billion reduction to NIH in the base FY 2024 LHHS bill for a total of $6.4 billion below the FY 2023 amount.

Harris (MD), Burgess (TX) Amendment #38–Decreases the appropriation for NIH buildings and facilities by $59 million. Increases the appropriation for Project BioShield by $50 million.

Harris (MD), Dunn (FL) Amendment #39–Decreases the appropriation for NIH buildings and facilities by $119 million. Increases the appropriation for the Strategic National Stockpile by $100 million.

Gosar (AZ) Amendment #99–Prohibits funding for NIH grant R01AI110964, “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence,” and Cooperative Agreement U01AI151797, “Understanding Risk of Zoonotic Virus Emergence in EID Hotspots of Southeast Asia.”

Massie (KY) Amendment #115–Prohibits funds from being used to fund any grant related to any transgenic edible vaccine.

Massie (KY), Miller-Meeks (IA) Amendment #116–Prohibits funds from being made available to conduct or support gain of function research.

Rosendale (MT) Amendment #133–Prohibits funds made available by this act from conducting or supporting any gain-of-function research involving a potential pandemic pathogen by Rocky Mountain Laboratories.

Schweikert (AZ) Amendment #138–Increases funding for the National Eye Institute by $5 million for the development of autonomous eye screening for diabetic retinopathy. Offsets the increase with a decrease in funding of $5 million from the General Departmental Management account under the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The House also rejected the rule H. Res. 869 with Roll Call Vote 660 of 198 to 225 that would govern debate on the 2024 Commerce-Justice-Science bill, HR 5893–meaning no further consideration could continue on the floor. The House returned from Thanksgiving on the evening of Tuesday, November 28, for legislative work but no further work was planned on completing the 12 appropriations bills before the chambers left for the Christmas break by Friday, December 15.