September 2010

Congress Adjourns until Fall with Most Appropriations Bills Unfinished


Once more, the U.S. Congress heads into its traditional August recess with work unfinished on almost all regular appropriations bills – an event so commonplace for so many years that it has become the new norm, as predictable as the notorious Washington, D.C. humidity that Congress leaves each August to escape. 


NFTH---CongressAs of mid-August, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has approved nine of 12 appropriation bills, but none have reached the Senate floor. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed two bills, and another nine have been approved by the relevant appropriations subcommittee.

Senate Approves $1 Billion Increase for NIH

On July 29, the U.S. Senate Appropriations committee approved the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2011 (S.3686), funding the agency at an overall level of $77.6 billion in discretionary funding. The National Institutes of Health would receive $32.0 billion, which was the President’s request; this is $1.0 billion more than NIH received in fiscal year 2010, a 3.2 percent increase (approximately the rate of biomedical inflation). This funding level results in an estimated $31.4 billion in research and development investment at NIH.

Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Penn., offered an amendment during the markup to increase the NIH budget by an additional $1 billion, but the amendment failed. Committee chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, expressed sympathy for the amendment, but the committee simply did not have enough money to fund the amendment. He also noted that a great deal of the stimulus money approved for NIH last year ($10 billion) had not been spent, which should cushion the impact of no real growth at NIH in 2011.

The Senate committee report includes language related to a number of American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and other Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology society concerns:

• Cures Acceleration Network: Fifty million dollars goes to the Office of the Director. The report notes that the committee hopes to fund CAN at higher levels in future years, but that that there will be limited time in fiscal year 2011 to award grants because of start-up issues like establishing the review board. (ASBMB Today readers will remember that this proposal, offered by Specter, was adopted last year during the final debate on the health care reform bill.)

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