On February 9, Congress passed the fifth Continuing Resolution (CR) of fiscal year 2018 (FY18) complete with a two-year deal to raise the caps for defense and non-defense discretionary spending. The CR, which runs through March 23, also directed appropriators to increase funding for NIH by at least $2 billion over two years and to devote more funding to combating the opioid crisis and improving our nation’s mental health system. Unfortunately, the deal cuts $1.3 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) – a move that compromises our nation’s ability to intervene and halt chronic health conditions before they become a threat.
Although the FY18 302(b) allocations have yet to be finalized, appropriations subcommittees appear to be working with “draft” allocations in order to send a bill to the appropriations committees by March 2. Our alliance members have joined us in a #fundscience campaign urging Congress to capitalize on the increased budget caps to grow funding for NIH, NSF, and our nation’s other science and public health agencies.
In addition to urging advocates to use the hashtag #fundscience in tweets to their representatives, we created two action alerts that provide advocates with modifiable emails to send to their member of Congress urging them to advance medical progress and support science research and development. As Congress works to finalize the FY18 spending bill, we encourage our members to join us in this effort make sure the final bill demonstrates a national commitment to science.
We also led the charge on two letters to congressional and appropriations leaders this month. The first highlighted the need to utilize budget cap increases to support medical and public health. The second, signed by the CEOs of 25 prominent science organization, reiterated the call for greater investment in science R&D.
As Congress works to finalize the FY18 spending bill, individual members in both chambers have started setting deadlines for FY19 appropriations requests. The President’s FY19 Budget Proposal, released on February 12, drastically underfunds NIH and our nation’s other science and public health agencies. Since Congress will have the final word, it is imperative that we make use of member appropriations requests to convey what these agencies mean to our nation’s long-term health and prosperity.
The president’s budget proposal also contained legislative proposals designed to reduce federal spending on prescription drugs. While Congress and the Department of Health and Human Services will likely explore potential policy changes affecting drug pricing and discounting, it is unlikely the President’s proposals will gain traction.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar appeared on Capitol Hill this month to discuss the president’s budget and direction of the department. During his testimony, the secretary asserted that his department could and would conduct much needed gun violence. Policymakers on both sides of the aisle have weighed in to reinforce the need for such research and ensure HHS has the authority to conduct and fund it. Research!America will continue to advocate for the unfettered deployment of research to inform strategies to minimize gun violence.