The House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Subcommittee Mar. 1 held its Member’s Day hearing, in which Members of Congress testified about their priorities for fiscal year (FY) 2018 appropriations under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction.
Throughout the hearing, Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) repeatedly asked for Members’ advocacy to move the FY 2017 LHHS appropriations bill forward. Most federal agencies, including those funded by the LHHS bill, are currently operating on a continuing resolution (CR) which is set to expire on April 28.
Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) focused his testimony on funding for basic research and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He began his testimony explaining that NIH funding is “important for the country and the world,” pointing out the “remarkable track record of the NIH” and that, in addition to improved health, the agency is “producing actionable research that has truly transformed our economy.”
Also voicing support for the NIH, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) requested $34.5 billion, in addition to money allocated from the 21st Century Cures Act, and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) voiced his support for “cancer research programs,” saying that the NIH was “in need of full funding.”
Chairman Cole and Ranking Member DeLauro reaffirmed their support for the NIH after each member’s comments. In response to Rep. Delaney’s testimony, Chairman Cole stated, “You’re preaching to the choir on NIH but it’s a sermon we like to hear over and over and over again.” Additionally, Chairman Cole stated, “If we can get the ‘17 bill out, the good news is that we’ll have another substantial increase for NIH and I want to compliment my friend Roy Blunt in the Senate and Patty Murray, his Ranking Member, because they’ve worked hand in hand with us on that and have been a leader. It’s been an area of bipartisan cooperation.”
The House Appropriations Subcommittee July 7 approved an FY 2017 LHHS spending bill [see Washington Highlights, July 8, 2016], which provides $33.3 billion for the NIH, a $1.25 billion (3.9 percent) increase over FY 2016, while the Senate Appropriations Committee June 9 approved an FY 2017 LHHS spending bill [see Washington Highlights, June 10, 2016] providing $34.1 billion for NIH in FY 2017, a $2 billion (6.3 percent) increase. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees recently restarted bicameral negotiations for how to finalize FY 2017 as the CR’s expiration approaches. The AAMC and more than 250 other organizations have urged Congress and the administration to finalize a spending bill with $34.1 billion for NIH without further delay [see Washington Highlights, Feb. 10].
In addition to NIH, witnesses also highlighted other programs of interest to medical schools and teaching hospitals. In her testimony, Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, urged the subcommittee to fund the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Title VII health professionals programs, including the Centers of Excellence and the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP). “I ask that the committee support my request to invest in the most vulnerable, fund health delivery service sites in medically underserved areas, whether urban, suburban, or rural – and my district is all three, and place support in programs that encourage primary care providers to practice in communities with shortages. The request that you will receive from me will ask that you prioritize health professional training programs like the minority Centers of Excellence and Health Careers Opportunities Program.”