As the appropriations process continues, “Dear Colleague” letters for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in the House and Senate, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the House, have been submitted to committee leadership with significant bipartisan support.
The House Labor-H Subcommittee held a hearing on NIH appropriations for FY17. Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK), Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and subcommittee members expressed disappointment with the President’s budget request, which relies on mandatory funds to backfill cuts in discretionary funding. Chairman Cole was adamant that NIH would not see any budget cuts. NIH director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., made a compelling case for the value of NIH dollars.
The House Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Subcommittee held an FY17 hearing. NSF director France Córdova, Ph.D., testified about a wide range of NSF priorities including the importance of basic science; workforce development; and a science-driven, balanced research portfolio. The latter comments arise from concern the House CJS bill will once again usurp NSF’s authority to make directorate level funding decisions.
The Senate HELP Committee’s “Innovations Initiative” – a companion process to the House 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 6) – is ongoing. After the first tranche of bills passed in early February, the Committee passed a second set of bipartisan “Innovations” bills in March, which focus on a range of topics from combination products to health IT. The third Innovations mark-up is scheduled for April 6.
To address funding left out of the Innovations Initiative, the HELP Committee Democrats introduced the National Biomedical Research Act (S.2624) which would provide a new mandatory funding stream for NIH and FDA, "earmarked" for such initiatives as precision medicine and a cancer moonshot. HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has not ruled out mandatory funding, but has asserted that such funding will not be negotiated until Innovations legislation is considered by the full Senate.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has established a “Select Investigative Committee on Fetal Lives,” which is largely focused on fetal tissue research. The committee’s work, coupled with state legislative activity, places the future of fetal tissue research at risk.