Long-sought compromise on Fiscal Year 2016 spending looks good for research: U.S. House approved bill on Friday December 18

Before a temporary funding bill lapses on December 22, the Senate will vote on a $1.1 trillion compromise funding bill for Fiscal Year 2016 made possible by the Bipartisan Budget Act that passed Congress last month. The House passed the bill on December 18.

The omnibus funding bill would provide $32 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) - a roughly 6.5 percent boost. H.R. 2029 as amended includes funding for the Administration's Precision Medicine and BRAIN initiatives, as well as a $350 million increase for Alzheimer's research. The NIH increase beats the $1 billion boost requested by the Administration and House of Representatives for 2016 and equals the funding approved by a Senate appropriations subcommittee last summer.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $7.46 billion, an increase of nearly $120 million over FY 2015, though about $260 million below the Administration’s budget request.  Crucially, language that would have decimated the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) budget was removed.  Instead, the omnibus states that SBE should be funded at no more than the FY 2015 level. APA’s Heather Kelly noted, “While we are pleased that the Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation did not have its FY16 budget cut in the omnibus appropriations bill, we remain concerned about its being singled out for funding only up to the current level. This signals a continued need to document the important work conducted by scientists in these areas.”

Among other federal health agencies, the Food and Drug Administration budget would be increased by $133 million to $2.7 billion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would also see a boost, including increases for its Injury Center’s activities on prescription drug overdose and the National Violent Death Reporting System. The omnibus retains the general provision that no funds may be used to advocate or promote gun control.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) was cut from $400 million to $334 million.  However, given that the House bill would have eliminated the agency altogether, and the Senate bill would have decreased its budget by 35 percent, the outcome seems quite positive. 

Advocates for the Veterans Administration research portfolio were pleased with the bill’s $630.7 million for VA research, up from current FY 2015 funding of $589 million-- nearly a  $42 million increase.

The Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences would receive $618 million, an increase of $44 million, or 7.7 percent, over the FY 2015 appropriation.

President Obama has issued a Statement of Administration Policy in support of the omnibus. It reads:

 The Administration appreciates the bipartisan effort to provide full-year appropriations legislation for FY 2016 largely free of new unrelated ideological riders, and take a critical step toward a simpler, fairer tax code and a stronger economy and urges the Congress to pass this legislation.   

 Leaders in both chambers engaged in last minute lobbying to ensure the bill's passage. While neither party claims to be entirely happy with the bill, it does include victories for both parties: Republicans succeeded in lifting the four-decade ban on exporting U.S. oil. Democrats were successful in keeping out many policy riders, including proposed limitations on U.S. acceptance of Syrian refugees.