Research Leaders Push Congress for Longterm Budget Funding

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The Campaign for Cures Election 2016 blog features news, analysis, commentary and data about the presidential candidates and congressional races in key states on issues relevant to medical progress. Janice Lloyd, former USA Today senior editor and health reporter, manages The Campaign for Cures blog. You can reach Janice at campaignforcures@gmail.com.   Follow Campaign for Cures, a national voter education initiative, on Twitter and Facebook and visit www.campaignforcures.org

Research Leaders Push Congress for Longterm Budget Funding

By: 
Janice Lloyd

The drama resumes on Capitol Hill as Congress faces important decisions of how to fund the government and prioritize issues such as the Zika virus.

Efforts to fund the fight against the mosquito-borne virus struck out again Tuesday night – for the third time just as Florida reported seven new locally transmitted cases -- but before diving into that deadlocked issue, let’s look at big picture concerns of research advocates this election year.

How long to fund the government? The ultimate decision this fall shows how much is at stake for the science community, ideas that were put forth in a joint-letter from the leadership of Research America and the Aerospace Industries Association.

Their letter applauded past efforts (the FY16 Omnibus Appropriations bill increased the NIH budget by 6 percent to $2 billion) and asked Congress to complete its work on the 2017 appropriations process rather than default to a long-term continuing resolution (CR).

Finishing the current appropriations process will sustain a strong and nimble national defense and rebuild the inflation-eroded budget of the National Institutes of Health, the letter states.

 “A long-term CR would under-cut funding growth, choking off unprecedented progress against deadly and debilitating health threats,’’ wrote Mary Woolley, CEO of Research!America and David F. Melcher, CEO of Aerospace Industries Association.

On the national security front, the letter says “A long-term or extended CR will send the wrong message to deal appropriately with current or looming national security challenges.”

This comes as presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump discuss national security issues in separate appearances at a Town Hall on the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York on Wednesday.

It goes without saying elections complicate votes on Capitol Hill. With so much on the line in November, Politico reported Tuesday “Republicans say they can’t and won’t let government shut down, despite Minority Leader Harry Reid’s raising of that possibility last week. Conservatives are even prepared to accept a higher funding level negotiated by outgoing Speaker John Boehner and the White House last year – a figure they spent the entire year opposing.”

However, it looks like acceptance will come slowly, when and how it does come. Case in point: the drama Tuesday evening with party leaders trading insults on Twitter over a failure to pass funding for Zika. Three times now, following Tuesday night’s 52-46 vote, the Senate has rejected a $1.1 billion funding package. Democrats said Tuesday night the language threatens Planned Parenthood. And the CDC says it is running out of money to fund the effort.  

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn tweeted “They just did it again.” Later, he said in a statement, “For the health of our country and for the protection of all our children, let’s get this compromise legislation done. No one should doubt the gravity of the threat or the long-term health consequences of failing to get this work done.”

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid tweeted “McConnell should acknowledge that we now have a logjam of legislation, a mess of his own making. It’s time for Republicans to #DoYourJob.”

Meanwhile, Florida’s Republican lawmakers are asking for Zika funding. Many expect the funding to get tucked into the larger, must-pass spending bill, according to Politico.

When and in what form the measures will be passed will be played out in the days or months ahead.

The letter to Congress from Woolley and Melcher stated before closing “we are confident that under your leadership, the 114th Congress can complete the FY17 appropriations process this year without resorting to a long-term CR.” 

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Presidential Candidates Should Participate in Debate on Science

 
Source: A Research!America and ScienceDebate.org poll of U.S. adults conducted in partnership with Zogby Analytics in September 2015.

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