A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: Trending on Capitol Hill: NIH

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate:

There is a flurry of activity in Washington.  Not only has the Supreme Court ruled on King v. Burwell, but the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have wrapped up consideration of their respective “Labor-H” appropriations bills, regular order we haven't seen for six years.
The implications of the Supreme Court ruling are far-reaching, but one political effect could be a return to partisan gridlock in Congress. We can't let that get in the way of passage of 21st Century Cures Act.  Please contact your representative in the House and ask them to champion 21st Century Cures.  Whether or not they are among the 206 (!) bipartisan cosponsors to date, the more noise we make, the more likely it is that the House will pass the bill in early July so that the legislative process keeps moving.  It’s as easy as picking up the phone.  Calls to congressional offices may seem old school, but they made a noticeable difference in the recent trade debate. Double up for more impact: follow this link to send an email. 

And do write an op-ed or letter to the editor!  I know it can feel like throwing a pebble into the ocean, but when these get published, it keeps the conversation alive. Here are links to a letter to the editor I wrote saluting Congresswoman DeGette (D-CO-01) for her leadership, and LTEs to the New York Times countering an earlier op-ed criticizing the 21st Century Cures bill. These include a pithy letter from Ellie Dehoney, our VP of Policy and Advocacy. 
The appropriations news is terrific in some respects, and not so good in others.  No substantive changes were made to the House Labor-H bill; a good outcome for NIH and CDC, all things considered, and a bad outcome for the health of Americans overall, since AHRQ funding wasn’t restored. Earlier this week, we wrote to Senate appropriators urging them to provide AHRQ the funding it needs to ensure that healthcare is delivered to the right patients, at the right time, in the right settings.  The Senate Labor-H bill does fund AHRQ, but unfortunately cuts the Agency’s budget by 35 percent. On the very positive side, the Senate bill boosts NIH by $2 billion (!), more than both the President’s budget request and the proposed House level -- see our statement.  I recommend a look at this week’s op-ed in The Hill by Senate Appropriations Labor-H subcommittee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) on the urgent need for boosting NIH funding.
The Senate “CJS” bill is also a mixed bag.  Appropriators refrained from following the House’s lead in terms of micromanaging NSF funding, but as the White House noted, they provide the agency with the same budget level as FY15, $380 million less than the president’s budget request. NSF funding stagnation is a strategic misstep (read relevant commentary here).  One more reason to push for a deal to lift the sequestration budget caps...
The newest fact sheet in our Investment Series, looking at research in action for oral health in older populations arrives right on time in June, which is Oral Health Month. Did you know that last year, the amount we spent on NIH research for dental and oral health was less than 1 percent of what our nation spent on soft drinks?  We have made so much progress over the years in driving down costs of oral health disease, but there are disturbing pockets of challenge still in need of attention.  Check it out!


Mary Woolley

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The capabilities are enormous, a little bit of research can pay off quite a bit in the long run.
Paul D’ Addario, retinitis pigmentosa patient