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  • Washington Highlights

    House Announces Plan to Punt Spending Bills to March

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

    Appropriators will draft a continuing resolution (CR) to extend current funding levels for most federal programs into March, according to a Nov. 17 statement issued by House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-Ky.).

    The plan would delay final funding decisions for federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), until President-elect Donald Trump and the 115th Congress take office.

    The announcement drew sharp criticism from Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who characterized the move as “a fitting end to an absolute embarrassment of a 2017 Appropriations process,” as well as from senators on both sides of the aisle. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) expressed concern about the impact on the defense budget, noting, “They’re harming the military and will do great damage to the military and our ability to defend the nation.”

    NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, also weighed in, saying the stopgap would be “an extremely unfortunate and painful outcome for biomedical research.”

    A total of 229 patient, medical, scientific, and academic organizations and institutions, including AAMC, sent a Nov. 16 letter urging House and Senate leaders to include $34.1 billion for NIH, as approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee [see Washington Highlights, June 10], in a final FY 2017 spending bill by the end of the year. The letter notes, “Aside from the budget implications, CRs create inefficiencies and add uncertainty to a system that is already under stress.”

    Before the announcement, Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), David McKinley (R-W.Va.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Peter King (R-N.Y.) delivered a letter  signed by 164 Members of Congress urging appropriations leaders “to ensure NIH receives a funding level of no less than $34 billion, equal to the level approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, in order to maintain America’s role as global leader in biomedical research and groundbreaking medical discoveries.”

    The current CR expires Dec. 9.