Legislative Updates

Legislative Updates 2018-10-24T14:26:19+00:00


Friday, September 28th, 2018 – President Trump signed into law the FY 2019 Labor HHS and Defense spending bills (H.R. 6157 (P.L. 115-245). This is the first time in 22 years (FY1997 appropriations cycle) that a full year LHHS and Defense, the law also provides a continuing appopriations resolution (through December 7th) for the annual appropriations measures that have not yet had full-year appropriations enacted. Funding for the NIH, increased by $2 Billion, remained as described below under the Senate action. The House of Representatives passed the Defense Labor HHS bill (H.R. 6157) on Wednesday, September 26th and immediately sent it to the President for his consideration and signature.
The Academy thanked members of Congress for their vote on this important bill and the Appropriations Committee staff for their hard work in completing these bills on time for the next fiscal year.


Tuesday September 18th, 2018 – The Senate voted in favor of the compromise agreement on the FY 2019 Labor-HHS and Defense spending bills (H.R. 6157), agreed to late last Friday which includes $2 billion of increased funding for the NIH, reaching a $39.1 billion total (5.4 percent increase).   With the Senate vote, attention turns to the House (currently in recess for the week) which is expected to vote next week.  Assuming the House votes in favor the bill is sent to the President for his signature

If all this happens by Sept 30th, it will be the first time since 1996 that the next fiscal year funding for Labor-HHS will be in place at the start of the fiscal year.

In the agreement the NIH total includes the funding for the 21st Century Cures Act and also increases investments in several critical research initiatives as follows, according to the House committee-prepared summary:

The bill provides increases for several critical research initiatives, including:

•           $2.34 billion, a $425 million increase, for Alzheimer’s disease research,

•           $400 million, a $100 million increase, for the Cancer Moonshot research initiative,

•           $429 million, a $29 million increase, for the Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative,

•           $376 million, an $86 million increase, for the All of Us research initiative,

•           $140 million, an increase of $40 million, for research to develop a universal influenza vaccine,

•           $550 million, an increase of $37 million, for research on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria,

•           $362 million, an increase of $11 million, for Institutional Development Awards, and

•           $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller “Kids First” pediatric cancer research initiative.

Further, the conference agreement maintains the salary cap at Executive Level II of the federal pay scale and continues a prohibition on changes to NIH support for facilities and administrative expenses, language that was in the House and Senate versions of the original bills. The conferees did not adopt a provision in the House committee-passed bill  that effectively would have prohibited fetal tissue research.

The Academy is thanking senators for their important vote today and has turned its attention to the House to encourage members to complete this spending bill with the $2 billion increase for NIH before Sept. 30.  The Academy joined with the AdHoc Group for Medical Research as well as other coalitions to ensure the message gets to all offices on the Hill this week and next.


Tuesday September 4, 2018 – House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have agreed to proceed to conference on the Defense/Labor-HHS appropriations package in the coming weeks.  They are first focusing on enacting the other two minibus packages (Energy-Water/MilCon-VA/Legislative Branch minibus and Ag-FDA/T-HUD/Financial Services/Interior-Environment minibus.)  Lawmakers will start the effort this week.  The goal is to send as many appropriations bills to the president’s desk for his signature before the September 30 fiscal year end—which unfortunately is just 11 working days away.

Any bills not completed by September 30 will need to be included in a continuing resolution (CR) and that at a minimum, the CR will include State-Foreign Ops, Homeland Security, and Commerce-Justice-Science.  Currently, the CR is rumored to run into December but it has also been rumored that the president may opt to veto a Homeland Security bill because it lacks funding for one of his core priorities – Trump’s southern border wall – to make border wall funding a more prominent political issue before midterm elections.


Status of Appropriations:

Thursday August 23, 2018 – The Senate voted 85-7 to approve the FY 2019 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill, which includes a $2 billion (5.4 percent) increase in funding over FY 2018 for the NIH. (The dissenting votes were cast by Senators Mike Crapo, Jeff Flake, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Jim Risch, Bernie Sanders, and Pat Toomey.) Specifically, the Senate passed H.R. 6157, which combines the Senate Appropriations Committee-passed FY 2019 Labor-HHS spending bill (S. 3158) with the text of the Senate committee-passed Defense spending bill (S. 3159). With the passage of the Defense and Labor-HHS measures–the two largest of the 12 spending bills–the Senate has now moved the most appropriations bills across the floor since 2009. It’s also the fastest the chamber has completed action on spending bills since 1994.

Attention now turns to the House; whose own version of the Labor-HHS bill awaits consideration by the full chamber after the House Appropriations Committee approved the bill on July 11. The House passed its Defense bill but hasn’t taken up the Labor-HHS bill (and isn’t expected to when they return, at least not as a standalone). The House can now go to conference with the Senate on the Defense/Labor-HHS minibus because the House has passed its Defense measure, or it could take up the Senate minibus (unlikely). In any event, the path forward hasn’t yet been determined and there is much to be worked out between the two bills.


Wednesday July 11, 2018 – The House Appropriations Committee has approved the $177.1 billion House version of the FY19 bill to fund the departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services.

The House Appropriations committee has now approved 11 out of 12 FY19 spending measures.

Senate Appropriators are looking to combine its Labor HHS bill with the Defense measure, but, the House of Representatives has already passed the National Defense Authorization Act for FY19. If the Senate can pass a combined bill and send it to the House of Representatives, the House may skip a floor vote on Labor HHS FY19 and head straight to conference.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: Rescission Package & the Status of Appropriations 

Rescission Package:

The Senate has voted down a key White House priority when it defeated the House amended rescission package, in a procedural 48-50 vote. The vote on the measure, which had already passed in the House, was held open for 90 minutes. The Academy is delighted that the Senate is continuing to support NIH and its increases, by defeating this rescission package.

Status of Appropriations:

June 28, 2018 – The Senate Committee on Appropriations has advanced the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019, the largest non-defense bill. The committee approved funding measure contains $179.3 billion, an increase of $2.2 billion from FY2018, of base discretionary funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies. This bill also includes $711 million in accordance with the 21st Century Cures Act, $2.3 billion for Alzheimer’s disease research, $429 million for the BRAIN initiative, $560 million for the Clinical and Translational Science Award, $376 million for the All of Us precision medicine initiative, and $120 million for research on a universal flu vaccine.  This measure was passed with a vote of 30-1.

The House Appropriations Committee was scheduled to consider its version of the FY 2019 spending bill, but the committee has postponed that markup until a date to be determined; the House committee did, however, post the report to accompany the committee’s spending bill, with language on NIH running from pages 51 through 75 of the report and funding tables on pages 211 through 213.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: Rescission Package

The Trump administration has submitted to Congress last Thursday a $15.4 billion rescissions package.  The rescission package does not directly impact the FY2018 Omnibus nor does it take any funds from NIH.  Nearly half of the cuts, or $7 billion, would come from unspent Children’s Health Insurance Program funds, and almost $5 billion would be cut from dormant Energy Department loan programs, in addition to other programs listed.

It is not clear yet whether there is any potential indirect impact on FY2019 appropriations efforts re subcommittee allocations.  This is important to note as Congress understood that these “unallocated or dormant” funds would be available to them in the appropriations process when it set overall funding levels in the 2017 budget deal for FY2018 and FY2019.  Congress was already, in essence, including responsible rescissions of CHIP funds and the “changes in mandatory programs savings” (CHIMPS) to make room in the bill for more adequate funding levels for public health and health research.  To take them back now is a backdoor way of reneging on the deal and would reduce nondefense discretionary funding BELOW what members of Congress agreed to in the two year budget deal, particularly for the Labor-HHS bill, where NIH receives its funds.

Under the 1974 Impoundment Control Act (ICA) budget law, Congress will have 45 calendar days “of continuous session” (includes weekends and holidays, but not days where Congress recesses for more than 3 days) to consider the rescission package.  If the relevant committees have not acted within 25 days, a member of either chamber supporting the rescissions measure may seek to discharge the package from committee with the support of at least one-fifth of the chamber in question.  It is expected that the House will pass the package. It is far less certain what will happen in the Senate.  The Senate parliamentarian is likely looking into the requirement for a 60-vote threshold.

For more information on rescissions here are two helpful summaries from NDD United,  CRFB.


The following is a summary on the status of funding for NIH broadly and NIBIB specifically. The most recent Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 signed into law last Friday, March 23rd paved the way for large budget increases for NIH and NIBIB.  This is great news and the Academy and the medical research advocacy community hope to continue that robust budget trajectory into the FY2019 appropriation determinations.

Recall, in February of this year, a two-year budget deal (Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018) was agreed to by Congress that raised the spending caps for both defense and non-defense spending for FY2018 and FY2019 by $296 billion.  Thus, while more than a majority goes to defense it did provide non-defense discretionary spending with an additional $60 billion in FY2018 and $18 billion in FY2019.  Please note that in FY19 the money available will be just a fraction of the extra money they were able to spread around for FY2018 (from 60B to 18B), and the competition for this will be strong.

The Numbers

When discussing appropriations, there are many complicating factors.  One must know if they are talking about budget authority (the amount Congress appropriates) or outlays (the amount the agency actually spends).  It does not matter which you use, as long as the numbers are consistent.  We generally will use budget authority, because that is the lobbying target.  Outlays are influenced by a series of external factors that we often cannot control.  The numbers below are stated in budget authority.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 provides $37.084 billion for NIH, including the full $496 million from the 21st Century Cures Act Innovation Account and $500 million split evenly between NINDS and NIDA for research related to opioid addiction, development of opioid alternatives, pain management, and addiction treatment (available through Sept. 30, 2019). The total funding level for NIH represents a $3 billion increase over the comparable FY 2017 program level for the agency.

For every patient awaiting a cure, for every researcher working toward the next breakthrough, and for every aspiring scientist considering a career in the lab, this increase marks a day of real hope and opportunity.

The Opportunity

This is an important increase in NIH funding – not only in both dollar terms and as a percentage of the base but also for specific targeted programs as mentioned previously – since the completion of the doubling in FY2003.  During that time, the value of NIH funding has dropped by more than 20 percent and the success rate for NIH grantees has plunged to unprecedented levels.  Note, that when adjusting for inflation, the FY 2018 NIH budget is only still just above where it was in 2003

The increase is a wonderful recognition of NIH when you consider the fact that the Health and Human Services Department, the Education Department and the Labor Department all come from and therefore compete for money within the same congressional subcommittee allocation.  For FY2018 the amount was set at $177.1 billion, compared with $161 billion for the prior fiscal year.  Out of that $16 billion increase, the $34 billion NIH received a $3 billion boost while the $70.9 billion Education Department got a $4 billion spending hike and the Labor Department received a $192 million increase.

The unexpected increase is not enough yet to reverse the decline, however, it is perhaps indicative of a commitment by members of Congress that have been champions for NIH to continue to fight for its investment and the results of many years of hard fought by the health research community that is paying dividends.

For researchers who have struggled under tight budgets and low success rates, this money creates new opportunities.  Since 84 percent of NIH’s funding is spent extramurally (versus 10 percent intramural and six percent on administration), we should strongly encourage researchers to seek funding aggressively utilizing existing Investigator-Initiated Research mechanisms and current Program Announcements.  We must encourage our investigators to pursue grants and to reach out to NIH directly to ask questions to determine how to act quickly and to create the strongest possible applications based on the current state of the science.

The Future

What does the success for FY18 indicate about the likelihood of success in FY2019? The short answer is “really not sure in the current political environment”

Every appropriation year is an entity unto itself.  As of today, despite the budget agreement and the release of the President’s proposed budget for FY2019, we do not know what Congress will decide for FY2019 as many events occur prior to final decision-making, not the least of which is the 2018 election.

We believe our congressional champions will continue to support NIH and we will work to avoid any feeling that NIH “got more” this year and they need to put money in other health or non-health agencies.  (After the doubling of the NIH budget in 2003 this was the feeling of many in Congress and was responsible for more than a decade of flat budgets.)

The two-year budget agreement provides the advantage of taking the numbers game off the table with bottom line number for government spending for FY2019 moves the committee discussion to where it needs to be – on the funding levels for the different agencies.  We remain focused on the LHHS bill funding level which will only increase by $18 billion next year.

We haven’t solved the NIH funding issue by getting this increase in this year as the goal in research funding must be to obtain steady, predictable and robust funding increases every year.  We cannot have the NIH flat-funded going forward as we have seen what devastating effects that has on research and those choosing careers in science.  We all agree that research funding is not a faucet that should be turned on and turned off at will.

The Academy, along with the rest of the health research community, would be well-served by maintaining and even intensifying the focus on research funding in 2019.  To do less risks losing the gains already obtained. Advocacy is a team sport, without efforts from each of you we may not be where we are today with this positive momentum Congress has created!

February 8, 2018

A two-year deal to lift strict discretionary budget caps on defense and domestic spending was agreed to by Congressional leaders putting an end to the series of short-term congressional resolutions (CR) to keep the government funded.  The deal increases defense and domestic spending by about $300 billion over two years (FY18 and FY19) as well lift the debt ceiling and disaster aid.  While the bill is not perfect it was a hard negotiation between Democratic and Republican leaders that found common ground around what the American people need.

Under the agreement, in FY18 defense spending will increase by $80 billion and nondefense (domestic) by $63 billion beyond the budget caps.  For FY 19 the increases are $85 and $68 respectively.  The deal also included $140 billion for defense and $20 billion for emergency spending over two years.  The agreement also includes a commitment to provide “$2 billion for important research at NIH (above the CURES Act increases)” and also specifies that the figures cited are “over two years”.  The documents do not provide additional details about whether the deal would reserve a minimum of $1 billion for increases to NIH in FY 2018 and another $1 billion for increases in FY 2019, or distribute the NIH funding another way.

President Trump has signaled he supports the bill.  However, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi does not support the agreement without a commitment from House Speaker Ryan to vote on an immigration bill to protect DACA immigrants, though the Speaker has already said he will only take up an immigration bill that Trump supports.  It is expected that the House Freedom Caucus of hardline GOP conservatives will oppose the budget deal-making Speaker Ryan need Democratic votes to pass the bill in the House.

What happens next is the Senate amends the House CR bill to include the deal that was reached and votes it out, sending the bill back to the House for approval prior to tomorrow’s Feb 8th deadline.  This will keep the government funded until March 23 by which time Congress will have written a new spending bill that outlines the levels set by the budget deal.   This deal also potentially avoids a budget showdown in an election year.