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House Appropriators Receive Preliminary FY21 302(b) Allocations

April 17, 2020

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CONTACTS
Christa Wagner, Senior Legislative Analyst
Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach

Bipartisan concerns about the impact of discretionary spending caps on Congress’s ability to invest in health programs in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic seems to be driving some House appropriators to advocate targeted exceptions to the fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget caps. 

Subcommittee chairs received preliminary topline spending limits on April 10 for each of the 12 FY 2021 spending bills. Topline funding levels, or 302(b) allocations, will allow appropriators to move forward with drafting FY 2021 spending bills.

Appropriators are facing a budget cap of $626.5 billion in FY 2021 for all nondefense discretionary spending, allowing for only a $5 billion increase (0.8%) over the comparable FY 2020 spending level [see Washington Highlights, Aug. 2, 2019]. Despite bipartisan interest in the House, the White House has not indicated support for cap adjustments for FY 2021.

Through her spokesperson, House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) told reporters that she “strongly supports budget cap exemptions for programs that relate to coronavirus response,” such as those impacting public health.

House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Ed) Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-Okla.) echoed Lowey’s remarks. “We’re going to have to do a lot more in the areas of CDC, NIH, Strategic Stockpile, and it can’t be a one-and-done supplemental, in my view.”

The Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, convened by the AAMC, sent an April 10 letter to House and Senate Appropriations leadership, supporting the proposal to exempt certain programs from the FY 2021 budget caps and urging a significant increase to the Labor-HHS 302(b) allocation.

“Due to the strain COVID-19 is placing on our researchers and research infrastructure, and the strict limits of the FY 2021 discretionary spending caps, the Ad Hoc Group supports the proposal to exempt key health programs from the FY 2021 budget caps. We encourage you to ensure that the allocation for the Labor-HHS Subcommittee appropriately reflects the broad range of national public health priorities under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction, including the nation’s investment in medical research supported by the NIH,” the letter stated.

In addition, the AAMC joined 370 organizations representing diverse stakeholders supporting various Labor-HHS-Ed programs in an April 16 letter to House and Senate appropriators, urging a “significant boost” in the FY 2021 Labor-HHS-Ed 302(b) allocation. “We are appreciative of Congress’s recent additional funding for Labor-HHS agencies and programs to support efforts to combat COVID-19 and … we believe that the long-term impact of COVID-19 and the outcomes of future pandemics will be catastrophic if we do not provide robust investments through annual appropriations,” the organizations wrote.

The administration released its budget request on Feb. 10 [see Washington Highlights, Feb. 14], and several House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees held FY 2021 budget hearings before the COVID-19 national emergency. House appropriators are not expected to hold markups of any FY 2021 draft spending bills until members return to Washington, D.C., which is currently scheduled for May 4.

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