Two for two: Senate Labor – Health and Human Services – Education bill would give NIH $2 billion increase in FY 2017, second such boost in two years

The bill (called the Labor-HHS bill for short) is often one of the last of the twelve appropriations bills to be drafted and reported, so it was good news to see the Senate Appropriations Committee act on its version of the spending bill in early June.  The Senate bill would provide NIH with $34.1 billion, a $2 billion increase, or 6.2 percent above FY 2016.

The Senate bill would parcel out much of the NIH increase to high-profile Administration initiatives. These include:

  • $1.39 billion ($400 million increase) for Alzheimer’s disease research;
  • $300 million ($100 million increase) for the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) cohort program;
  • $250 million ($100 million increase) for the BRAIN Initiative;
  • $261 million ($126 million increase) for programs targeted at fighting opioid abuse, including $52.5 million to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Scientific organizations including APA have been advocating for a second $2 billion increase, and were pleased the Senate found a way to make it happen.  Given that the budget allocation for the Labor-HHS bill is $270 million less than in FY 2016, the NIH increase has come at a cost to several other agencies and programs within the bill.  The bill would provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with $6.2 billion, or $114 million more than was requested by the Administration -- a modest increase.

Of the agencies that saw their budgets decrease, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) would receive $324 million, a cut of $10 million or 3 percent. If this cut is enacted, the AHRQ budget would be reduced by $40 million since FY 2015. Last year the House had proposed the agency's termination, but the House-Senate conference agreement preserved the agency with a lower budget.  The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) would be cut by $4 million or 2.7 percent.The bill includes $612.5 million for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the Department of Education, a reduction of one percent below the FY 2016 enacted level.

The next step for the Labor-HHS bill is consideration on the Senate floor, which has not yet been scheduled, but may occur before the Senate recesses in mid-July. The House Labor-HHS Subcommittee has not scheduled its markup of the bill, which will likely differ from the Senate’s in several respects, and will likely include a smaller increase for NIH.