Progress on FY19 appropriations has continued in both the House and Senate. The Senate has now voted to approve three of four proposed “minibus” packages for FY19. Of note, the minibus package including appropriations under the jurisdiction of the Interior-Environment, Financial Services, Agriculture (inclusive of FDA) and Transportation-HuD as well as the combined Labor-HHS/Defense appropriations bill (inclusive of NIH, CDC, AHRQ and the Department of Defense CDMRP) both cleared the Senate and have been sent to the House for consideration. The next step involves “conferencing” the bills to arrive at legislation both Houses can support.
As noted in the budget chart on page 4, the Labor-H/Defense minibus includes a $2 billion increase for NIH. Net of transfers, CDC would also receive a modest increase, and AHRQ would be flat-funded. The White House Statement of Administration Policy (S.A.P.) on the minibus expressed concern about the Labor-H funding levels, which are higher than the President’s FY19 budget proposed, and also expressed disappointment that the bill does not move AHRQ into NIH, zeroing out its budget in the process. The Administration’s concerns are unlikely to deter the president from signing this measure should the House approve it.
The Protect Medical Innovation Act (H.R. 184), which calls for the permanent repeal of the medical device tax, passed the House with bipartisan support. It is likely that the tax will be packaged with a larger bill before the Senate takes action on repeal. The timing of such action remains unclear.
NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., sent a letter to research institutions informing them of heightened efforts to prevent the misappropriation of intellectual property (IP), enforce reporting requirements, and ensure the integrity of the peer review process. Dr. Collins specifically suggested that there have been failures to report foreign funding sources and that sensitive information could have been shared with foreign governments or entities. On the legislative side, a bipartisan amendment was introduced into the Senate Labor-H/Defense minibus providing increased funding for NIH grant oversight.
With the midterm elections approaching, Research!America has been working on a multi-faceted voter education initiative to engage congressional candidates on the important role science plays on the health and prosperity of the nation. One component of this effort, in partnership with the National Science Policy Network (NSPN), 15 scientific societies and the Rita Allen Foundation, provided 10 graduate student and postdoc led science policy groups with microgrants to support civic engagement activities highlighting the benefits of research. Individual letters are also being sent to post-primary congressional candidates urging them to include in their platforms a commitment to securing our nation’s at-risk leadership position in the global R&D arena.