It is a near certainty that Congress will pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) that flat-funds government until March or maybe April, 2017. The current CR expires December 9, 2016. Research!America sponsored a letter, signed by more than 280 organizations and individuals, that calls on Congress to finish FY17 appropriations instead of saddling our nation with another CR. We believe it is important not to remain silent, to help dissuade Congress from passing a CR that goes beyond March and to underscore that flat-funding squanders life-saving scientific progress.
Congressional leaders negotiated a 21st Century Cures package (21stCC ) over Thanksgiving that was passed by the House on Wednesday, November 30, and Senate consideration is expected early the week of December 5. The legislation supplements the House version of 21stCC, with key provisions from the package of “Innovation” bills that the Senate HELP Committee passed earlier this year. Provisions have also been added to provide an accelerated regulatory pathway for regenerative therapies.
The bill provides $4.77 billion for NIH and $500 million for FDA over a 10-year period. The NIH funding is allocated as follows: $1.5 billion for the Precision Medicine Initiative, $1.5 billion for the BRAIN Initiative, $1.8 billion for the Cancer Moonshot, and $30 million for clinical research to regenerative medicine using adult stem cells. In addition to the “Cures” provisions, the bill provides $1 billion in funding for grants to states to combat the opioid crisis, includes provisions intended to strengthen mental health care quality and access, and incorporates several previously agreed upon Medicare policy changes.
While the funding is fully paid for and is not counted against the discretionary budget caps, appropriators would still need to sign off each year in order for the funding to be released. “Pay-fors” to cover the cost of 21stCC include proceeds from selling off part of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and dollars redirected from future increases in the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF). We are disappointed that policymakers chose to redirect future increases in the Prevention and Public Health Fund to help offset the cost of this legislation, since that fund is a strategic investment in its own right. Nonetheless, we believe this bill is beneficial to our nation and hope that the House and Senate swiftly pass the bill.