This summer marks the one-year anniversary of the House passage of the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 6). The Senate has spent the intervening year passing a total of 19 bipartisan bills through the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee aimed at accelerating the discovery, development and delivery pipeline. Negotiations to finalize a legislative package are ongoing.
The Senate and House Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Committees advanced their appropriations bills, which funds NSF at $7.5 billion and $7.4 billion, respectively in FY17. Both proposals fall short of the $8 billion Research!America is advocating for in FY17. The Senate and House Agriculture, Rural Development, and FDA Appropriations Committees advanced their FY17 appropriations bills, which include $2.77 billion and $2.76 billion in budget authority for FDA, respectively. While modestly better than the President’s budget, the FDA cannot fulfill its massive list of responsibilities with nominal budget increases.
The Senate advanced their FY17 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) bill through the Appropriations Committee with strong bipartisan support. The House version is moving through the committee process as of early July. In both the Senate and House, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has fared well, with $2 billion and $1.25 billion respective increases in the base budget. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is facing a more complicated appropriations fate, with a budget cut of $118 million or 1.66% in the Senate version and a nominal increase in the House version, but with much of the additional funding directed to Zika and the opioid epidemic. In the Senate, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) received a 3% reduction compared to a 16% reduction in the House bill.
As experts warn of a potential Zika virus outbreak within the U.S., Congress remains gridlocked on the issue of emergency funding for further research and vaccine development. Nearly four months after the president requested $1.9 billion in the fight against Zika, consensus on emergency funding is stalled due to a lack of agreement on the need for new funding and controversial policy riders.
The Senate Commerce Committee marked up a National Science Foundation (NSF) reauthorization, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S. 3084), in late June. The Committee-passed legislation authorizes 4% increases for NSF in FY17 and FY18. The House passed their NSF reauthorization, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1806), in May 2015. It is not likely that either version will advance further before the end of this Congress.
During a late-June Cancer Moonshot summit, Vice President Biden announced several proposals to advance new cancer treatments, including the creation of an Oncology Center of Excellence at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The new center is tasked with creating efficiencies by coordinating all FDA cancer-related activities. Dr. Richard Pazdur will serve as acting director of the center.