The first several months of the 116th Congress have been a busy time in our nation’s capital. The new Congress was officially sworn in during what would become the longest government shutdown in history. The shutdown harmed hundreds of thousands of federal employees and wreaked havoc on critical science-focused agencies such as FDA and NSF. Research!America weighed in on multiple fronts urging a swift resolution to the impasse. In February, Congress passed legislation to fund the government through the remainder of FY19, providing an increase of more than $300 million in funding over FY18 levels for the NSF, and an increase of over $260 million in funding over FY18 levels for the FDA.
The FY20 appropriations process is well underway, with the House Appropriations Committee scheduled to take up its first funding bill, for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, the second week of May. Research!America will be closely monitoring the actions of the Committee and will be ready to weigh in to ensure agencies such as the CDC, NIH, and AHRQ are funded at the levels necessary to continue and further improve on their health and R&D missions.
At the same time, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Leader Mitch McConnell have agreed to begin talks on a deal to raise the budget caps for defense and non-defense spending. Under the 2011 Budget Control Act, FY20 defense spending must be cut by $71 billion and non-defense discretionary spending by $55 billion relative to the current federal budget. Unless Congress passes and the president signs a bill raising the FY2020 budget caps, cuts to science agency budgets are inevitable. Leader McConnell has said reaching a deal will be his top legislative priority after the April recess, but that may be easier said than done. Research!America, in partnership with multiple organizations, has launched a #RaisetheCaps campaign to urge Congress to act quickly to raise the caps and, in doing so, advance national priorities like economic competitiveness and faster medical progress. Strategic investments fuel health, security, and prosperity; the budget caps stifle all three.
Securing the repeal of the medical device tax is another steep challenge. Taxes laser-focused on a key contributor to medical progress is a mistake in fact and in precedent, and we will continue to play a visible role in efforts to end this tax as soon as possible. Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have introduced legislation in the House and Senate, respectively, to repeal the tax and both bills have bipartisan support.