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Key Funding Bill Moves in U.S. House of Representative

On July 14, the House Appropriations Committee, on a vote of 31-19, reported out the Fiscal Year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill.  The bill funds several federal agencies important to FABBS members, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

NIH

The bill boosts the NIH to $33.3 billion in FY 2017—an amount $1.2 billion above the agency’s FY 2016 enacted level and $2.2 billion more than the President requested.  This amount encompasses proposed increases for all of the NIH Institutes and Centers and funds a number of trans-NIH initiatives, including:

  • $165 million for the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) initiative;

  • $1.26 billion, a $350 million increase, for Alzheimer’s disease research;

  • $195 million, a $45 million increase, for the Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative; and,

  • $300 million for the Precision Medicine Initiative.

IES

While the NIH fares very well in the House proposal, other agencies do not. The Institute of Education Sciences (IES), for example, receives $536,049,000, which is approximately $82 million below the agency’s FY 2016 funding level.  Other agencies slated for major reductions in the bill include the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ), which received $280.2 million, $54 million (16 percent) below its FY 2016 funding level.

During the full committee mark up of the bill, which lasted over two days, the committee considered over 20 amendments, most offered by Democratic members, most of which were defeated on partisan or voice votes.

The amendments covered such topics as Zika funding, cancer research, Headstart programs, family planning, year-round Pell grants, anti-tobacco programs and the “Dickey amendment” on gun research.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) offered an amendment to increase the NIH by an additional $750 million.  Although the amendment failed, the Subcommittee Chairman Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK) stated he expected the NIH to get more funding in the final FY 2017 appropriations bill, particularly given the amount ($34 billion) in the Senate version of the bill.

In a report accompanying the bill, the committee praised the National Institute of Drug Abuse for launching the Adolescent Behavioral and Cognitive Development(ABCD) study. In particular, the language lauds the study design for “…using advanced brain imaging as well as psychological and behavioral research tools to evaluate brain structure and function and track substance use, academic achievement, IQ, cognitive skills, and mental health over time.”

Outlook

On June 9, the Senate Appropriations Committee considered its version of the FY 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill, S. 3040, which, like the House bill, included a generous increase for the NIH ($34 billion) and more funding for IES ($612 million). It is not clear if and when S. 3040, however, will proceed to the Senate floor for consideration.

In an ideal world, the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate would pass their respective versions of the bill and later agree on a reconciled version negotiated by a conference committee. However, given it is an election year and Congress is session less than four weeks before the current fiscal year ends on September 30, it is more likely these bills will be incorporated into a larger omnibus funding bill Congress considers later this fall.  This means there is still time for FABBS, working with its coalition partners in Washington, D.C. and with its members nationwide, to influence the outcome of the final Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations process in favor of agencies supporting mind, brain, and behavior research.

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