Not long after the passage of the omnibus, rumors began to circulate that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and President Donald Trump were discussing possible cuts, or rescissions, to non-defense discretionary funding. Though multiple reports suggest Congress is unlikely to accept any proposed rescissions package, the law requires the proposed funding to be impounded for 45 days, essentially freezing related activities at agencies facing potential cuts. Given that FY18 funding wasn’t resolved until nearly half the fiscal year had passed, further delays simply set the stage for needless operational challenges and missed opportunities. Research!America joined the science advocacy community in encouraging individuals to speak out against triggering a rescissions process.
In addition to monitoring developments with respect to FY18 appropriations, we continue to advocate for robust budget growth in FY19. Based on the deal to raise the caps, there is only an additional $5 billion over FY18 levels available for increases in non-defense discretionary spending in FY19. Securing the funding NIH, CDC, FDA, AHRQ, NSF and other science agencies need to advance our nation’s strategic objectives will require difficult budget tradeoffs. We are working to make the case that FY19 increases for medical, scientific and public health research needs to be a top national priority, and that the funding needed to advance the respective missions and objectives of these key agencies should be prominent in any long-term strategy aimed at securing our nation’s future health, fiscal and homeland security, and prosperity.
The Senate HELP Committee has produced bipartisan legislation to address the opioid epidemic and is in the process of assessing the nature and scope of potential amendments should the bill move to the Senate floor. On the House side, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee has also been drafting a package of opioid-related legislation that they hope to bring to the floor by Memorial Day.
At the request of the Senate HELP Committee, Research!America drafted two letters recommending that NIH and FDA provide technical assistance before pursuing Senate passage of H.R. 70. This legislation -- intended to ensure the integrity of advisory committees -- unfortunately contains language that could compromise peer review and advisory committee processes at agencies like NIH, NSF and FDA. Reportedly the bill is now on hold pending further review.
President Trump is expected to deliver his first major speech on the topic of drug pricing this month. In a midterm election year, it is unlikely that Congress will act on any proposed legislation. Although details of the president’s proposal are unknown, we will continue to make the case that reducing health spending and increasing access to high quality, affordable health care without compromising desperately needed medical progress requires a systems approach, one that balances the many interwoven health care cost variables that influence spending.