Policy Corner: FASEB, Allies Push for NIH Appropriations

Research funding is at stake as the White House and Congress wrangle over the federal budget for FY2015. Jennifer Zeitzer summarizes the process and issues in the following update from FASEB (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology), of which ACSM is a member society.

Obama Budget Released; FY 2015 Appropriations Process Underway; Research Champions Seek $32 Billion for NIH

Last week, President Barack Obama released his fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget proposal, requesting an additional $56 billion above the FY 2015 discretionary spending level of $1.014 trillion agreed upon by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) in December. Although Obama offset the additional spending with other cuts and changes in the tax code, both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill quickly threw cold water on the proposal.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) issued a press release expressing his extreme disappointment that the Obama proposal “blatantly disregards the budget limits for fiscal year 2015,” and emphatically stated that the Committee will abide by the spending limit agreed to in the Ryan-Murray budget deal. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) also released a statement pledging that her Committee would adhere to the spending caps in the Ryan-Murray deal.

Following the release of the President’s FY 2015 budget, the Appropriations Committees immediately proceeded with hearings on the individual agency spending requests. The majority of the hearings on the science agency budgets will take place over the next few weeks, with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack scheduled to appear before the House Appropriations Committee on March 14. On March 25, the House Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a “Public Witness” hearing to receive testimony from organizations and individuals on behalf of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other agencies funded by that panel. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) has requested to testify at that hearing. NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, is also expected to discuss the agency’s budget with the House LHHS Subcommittee later this month.

In related news, Representatives David McKinley (R-WV), Peter King (R-NY), Andre Carson (D-IN), and Susan Davis (D-CA) are seeking signatures from their colleagues on a letter to the House Appropriations Committee that requests $32 billion for NIH in FY 2015 – the same level recommended by FASEB. Signatures on the McKinley-King-Carson-Davis letter are due by March 25.

During FASEB’s Capitol Hill Day on March 5, advocates urged their Representatives to sign the letter to the Appropriations Committee to demonstrate their commitment to increased funding for NIH in FY 2015. FASEB is also asking members of Congress to submit programmatic requests to the Appropriations Committees supporting $32 billion for NIH and $7.6 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF). The member programmatic requests are an extremely important factor the subcommittees take into consideration when determining funding priorities.

Although the Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet announced the process for submitting member programmatic requests, it has established deadlines for submitting testimony in support of specific agencies. Statements related to NSF funding are due by April 25, and testimony regarding NIH must be submitted no later than May 23. FASEB will submit written testimony to the relevant Senate Appropriations subcommittees detailing the Federation’s requests for NIH, NSF, the Department of Energy Office of Science, and the veterans and agriculture research programs.

Consideration of the individual spending bills at the subcommittee level could begin as soon as April in the House. The Senate is expected to follow a similar schedule. However, Senate debate on the LHHS bill probably will not take place until July, and there is increasing speculation that the House may not hold a subcommittee mark-up at all given that the legislation funds the Affordable Care Act and other controversial programs.

For information on ACSM’s policy program, please contact Monte Ward, Vice President of Government Relations (mward@acsm.org).