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  • Washington Highlights

    AAMC, Research Groups Urge NIH Funding Increase, Expeditious Completion of Spending Bills

    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach

    The AAMC joined more than 200 patient groups, medical and scientific societies, academic institutions, and research institutions in a Sept. 7 letter to House and Senate appropriations leaders expressing the importance of enacting a final fiscal year (FY) 2017 funding package with $34.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by the end of the calendar year.

    The letter, organized by the AAMC-convened Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, praises appropriators’ efforts to champion sustained, real-growth in medical research funding. The spending bill (S. 3040) approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee in June includes $34.1 billion for NIH [see Washington Highlights, June 10]. Though the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill (H.R. 5926) with $33.3 billion for the agency, House Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) expressed interest in working with his colleagues toward the Senate number in the final package [see Washington Highlights, July 15].

    Neither bill has been considered by its respective full chamber, and as the end of the fiscal year approaches Sept. 30, House and Senate leaders have been in discussions about a continuing resolution (CR) to extend current funding levels for all federal agencies temporarily until after the election and to avoid a government shutdown.

    House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have both suggested to reporters that they expect to pursue a stopgap spending bill that extends to Dec. 9. Members of the House Freedom Caucus, however, have been urging leadership to consider a CR until March, a proposal that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has told the press and the president that Senate Democrats will reject.

    Signatories to the Ad Hoc Group letter, which was shared with House and Senate leadership, cautioned lawmakers about the consequences of delaying final funding decisions until midway through the fiscal year. The letter notes, “Our organizations strongly support an approach to the final FY 2017 spending package that maximizes the federal support for NIH and avoids a long-term continuing resolution (CR). Aside from the budget implications, a long-term CR would create inefficiencies and add uncertainty to a system that is already under stress.”

    The letter continues, “We strongly urge lawmakers to make finalizing the FY 2017 appropriations a priority.”