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  • Washington Highlights

    Appropriators Set Deadline for Determining Next Step in FY 2020 Spending Bills

    Christa Wagner, Manager, Government Relations

    Appropriations Committee leadership Dec. 4 announced plans for subcommittees to finalize each of the 12 individual fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending bills by Dec. 6, and to submit a list of any remaining “unresolved issues” so that Congressional leaders can determine how to move forward.   

    A Nov. 23 agreement between House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders on topline spending levels, or 302(b) allocations, for each of the 12 bills allowed the subcommittees to begin formulating their spending bills. Some continued sticking points reportedly include funding for the president’s proposed border wall, gun violence research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Title X family planning program.

    The question is whether negotiators will be able to resolve outstanding issues with enough time to actually draft the final legislation before expiration of the current continuing resolution (CR) on Dec. 20 [see Washington Highlights, Nov. 22]. If not, observers expect lawmakers to turn their attention to another CR past Dec. 20 to prevent a government shutdown.

    AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, sent a Nov. 26 letter to leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Ed) Subcommittees reaffirming the AAMC’s FY 2020 priorities for programs critical to patients, medical schools, and teaching hospitals nationwide.

    In the letter, Dr. Skorton shared that while the AAMC is “concerned that medical research and public health agencies are currently operating under a [CR], we are encouraged by recent reports of agreement on the 302(b) subcommittee allocations that will allow the appropriations process to move forward.”

    He continued, “The AAMC strongly believes that investing in a thriving public health continuum should continue to be a top national priority, and we hope the recent agreement on subcommittee allocations paves the way to completion by the end of the calendar year of a Labor-HHS-Education spending bill with robust funding growth for several agencies and programs that are vital to improving health.”

    The AAMC and Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, a coalition convened by the AAMC, joined 160 other members of the broader research and development (R&D) community in a Dec. 4 letter urging Congressional leadership to work together in finalizing FY 2020 spending bills quickly. The letter highlights that “uncertainty created by short and long-term [CRs] has severe consequences for science and research.”

    Two additional AAMC-convened coalitions also encouraged lawmakers to complete FY 2020 spending bills in a timely manner. The Health Professions and Nursing Education Coalition (HPNEC) sent a Nov. 26 letter to appropriators restating the coalition’s recommendation of $690 million for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Title VII health professions and Title VIII nursing workforce development programs for FY 2020.

    Separately, the Executive Committee of the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA) coalition in a Dec. 2 letter urged appropriators to “work in a bipartisan manner to finalize and implement FY 2020 spending bills so veteran-centric research can continue without interruption,” while sharing support for the House-passed $840 million for the VA Medical and Prosthetic Research program.