The 114th Congress was sworn in on Jan. 6 and with that began the cycle of annual congressional activity. New members of Congress have received committee assignments and some returning members have assumed new roles in the 114th Congress, particularly due to the new Senate majority. Key new committee assignments related to research span both authorizers and appropriators. On the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) was confirmed as the chairman and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) remains the ranking member (the senior role in the minority party) of both the full committee and the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Sen.Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) is the chairman of that subcommittee. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) is chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-H) subcommittee (which has jurisdiction over funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has assumed the role of ranking member on both Labor-H and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which has authorization responsibility for NIH, CDC, AHRQ and theFood and Drug Administration (FDA). Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is now chairman of HELP. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) now serves as chairman for the Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over funding for FDA, along with ranking member Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) will continue to lead the Senate Finance Committee, which has tax writing authority, as chairman and ranking member, respectively. The House side has fewer changes, most notably on the Appropriations Committee: with Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.)leading the Labor-H subcommittee and Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) leading the CJS subcommittee. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is now chairman of the Ways and Means Committee (the House counterpart to the Senate Finance Committee) while Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) has assumed the role of Budget Committee chairman. The ranking Democrats on those committees have not changed since last Congress. We look forward to working with each of these members to advance public- and private-sector funded research and development.
A 21st Century Cures legislation discussion draft was released to the public as a starting point for concrete conversations about how to modernize the discovery, development and delivery process in order to speed preventative measures, diagnostics, treatments and cures to patients. The initiative, championed by 2015 Whitehead Awardees Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), has helped keep research and patient-related issues front of mind during the new Congress. The initiative welcomes input and asks that you send them your comments at:email@example.com.
This week, advocates received copies of the President's Budget, which enumerates the administration's priorities for FY16 and recommends easing the stringent sequestration budget caps that perpetuate artificially low discretionary spending. President Obama's proposal is a starting point for a major recommitment to medical progress. The President focused on advancements in precision medicine, antibiotic and other anti-infective discovery, Alzheimer's research, and the BRAIN Initiative. Research!America is working with appropriators to push beyond what is probable and achieve what - if both parties and both branches are willing - is possible. Medical progress is a national strategic imperative, and it is time to treat it as one.