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  • Washington Highlights

    House Debates, Punts HHS and Education Spending Bill


    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach
    Katherine Cruz, Legislative Analyst
    For Media Inquiries

    The House has postponed further consideration of its fiscal year (FY) 2024 departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education spending bill (H.R. 5894) after debating and adopting dozens of amendments imposing deeper cuts and restrictions on the HHS and Department of Education on Nov. 14 and 15, compared to the bill approved by the House Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee in July [refer to Washington Highlights, July 14].

    AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, and Chief Public Policy Officer Danielle Turnipseed, JD, MHSA, MPP, issued a Nov. 15 statement expressing concern over the bill’s “dangerous funding levels and harmful policy provisions,” including provisions that would “interfere in the patient-clinician relationship, affect access to care in rural and other underserved communities, undermine public health, limit the education of future health care providers, and harm efforts to improve diversity and health equity.”

    The statement also characterized the bill’s drastic funding cuts and restrictions to medical research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a “slap in the face to patients, families, and scientists pursuing medical advances against Alzheimer’s, cancer, mental health, addiction, and other conditions that affect people in every congressional district.”

    During the debate, lawmakers approved amendments that would cut the NIH’s base funding by nearly $4 billion more than the $2.8 billion cut advanced in the subcommittee bill, amounting to a roughly $6.6 billion (14%) total cut to the agency’s base below the FY 2023 funding level. The Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, which the AAMC convenes, issued a Nov. 9 statement and sent a Nov. 14 letter to all House offices urging lawmakers to reject such cuts to the NIH.

    Among other amendments considered, the House also adopted one that would prohibit federal funding to support gain of function research and another that would block the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from supporting firearm injury and mortality prevention research. The Rules Committee did not allow floor consideration of an amendment filed that would have removed a late-addition provision to the bill prohibiting funding to programs that comply with accreditation requirements on medical abortion training.

    Lawmakers defeated amendments to eliminate funding for the NIH’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the NIH’s Fogarty International Center. The authors of an amendment that would have capped NIH reimbursement for facilities and administrative expenses withdrew the amendment from consideration after House Appropriations Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) outlined the consequences of such a proposal on medical research, citing opposition from the AAMC and other associations.

    It is unclear when or whether the House will be able to resume consideration of the legislation. Meanwhile, the Senate reportedly is considering advancing its bipartisan version of the spending bill [refer to Washington Highlights, July 28] as part of “minibus” after the Thanksgiving holiday.