The House Appropriations Committee June 24 approved its fiscal year (FY) 2016 Labor-HHS spending bill by a 30-21 vote after rejecting a number of Democratic amendments to restore funding to programs cut by the measure. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its version of the bill the following day by a 16-14 vote.
The House bill, which the Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee approved June 17, includes $153 billion in discretionary funding, 3.7 billion below the FY 2015 enacted level and $14.6 billion below the president’s budget request. The committee released a draft committee report on June 23. The Senate bill, which was approved in subcommittee June 23, is slightly higher at $153.2 billion.
National Institutes of Health: The Senate bill provides $32.1 billion for NIH, $2 billion (6.6 percent) more than the FY 2015 enacted level, and $900 million more than the House bill.
Both bills fully fund the administration’s Precision Medicine Initiative at $200 million. The House bill provides $150 million for the Brain Research through Application of Initiative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, an $85 million increase over FY 2015. The Senate bill provides the administration’s requested $135 million.
The House bill provides $886 million for the Alzheimer’s disease research initiative, an increase of $300 million over FY 2015. The Senate bill does not specify a funding level for Alzheimer’s disease, but includes a $350 million increase for the National Institute on Aging, “a significant portion of which the Committee expects to be dedicated to Alzheimer’s disease research.”
The Senate bill retains the extramural salary cap at Executive Level II ($183,300 in 2015). The House bill lowers the cap to Executive Level III ($168,700), an eight percent cut.
For the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program, the Senate bill provides $499.7 million, an increase of $25 million over the FY 2015 enacted level and $19.1 million more than the House bill. The Senate committee report states the increase is to implement the recommendations from the 2013 Institute of Medicine report on CTSAs.
For the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program, the House bill provides $311.9 million, an increase of $38.5 million (14.1 percent) and $11.9 million more than the Senate bill. The Senate bill also includes legislative language to allow entities eligible for the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) for the past two consecutive years to apply for inclusion in the IDeA’s Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence award.
The House committee defeated, 20-30, an amendment offered by Labor-HHS Subcommittee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) to increase NIH funding by $3 billion above the level in the bill by adjusting the spending cap. The proposal is similar to the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act (H.R. 531), introduced Jan. 26 by Rep. DeLauro, Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), and Peter King (R-N.Y.).
While opposing the amendment because it violated the bill’s spending cap, Labor-HHS Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) noted that NIH “has been an area where the two parties have been able to find common ground.” He added, “[L]ooking down the road, what we ought to try and do is not just an increase this year… but to get ourselves back in the position of sustaining increases on a somewhat predictable basis….”
The committee rejected, 6-23, an amendment by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to shift funds within the NIH’s budget away from certain infectious disease programs toward other areas.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ): Unlike the House bill, which terminates funding and authorization for AHRQ, the Senate bill provides $236.0 million for the agency, a $127.7 million (35.1 percent) cut below the comparable FY 2015 level.
Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME): Both the House and Senate committees reject the president’s proposal to cut CHGME by $165 million. The House bill continues funding for the CHGME program at the FY 2015 level of $265 million, while the Senate bill boosts funding for the program by $5 million (1.9 percent) to $270 million.
Health Professions: The House bill provides a total of $246.0 million for Title VII health professions programs administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), $9 million (3.5 percent) less funding than in FY 2015. Within the total, the bill cuts funding for the Public Health and Preventive Medicine program, but continues funding for the Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) and Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP), which the president had proposed to eliminate. By contrast, the Senate bill provides a total of $230.3 million, a cut of $24.6 million (9.7 percent), including the elimination of HCOP and cuts to Primary Care Training, Workforce Information and Analysis, Oral Health Training, and Public Health and Preventive Medicine.
For Title VIII nursing programs, the House bill continues funding at the FY 2015 level of $231.6 million, while the Senate bill provides $220.6 million, an $11 million (4.7 percent) cut. The Senate bill also consolidates the Title VII and Title VIII geriatrics programs into one program, eliminating funding for the Title VIII Comprehensive Geriatric Education program.