Narrowly avoiding a shutdown of the federal government, President Obama has signed into law a bill to keep the federal government running through the first part of the new fiscal year. The six-week continuing resolution, or CR, which passed the Senate on September 26 and cleared the House on October 4, funds the federal government through November 18 at a rate of $1.043 trillion, the amount mandated in the Budget Control Act of 2011 and nearly $7 billion below fiscal year (FY) 2011 levels. As a result, funding for most federal programs, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is reduced by 1.503 percent from the FY 2011 levels.
Although a CR is will temporarily fund the federal government, Congress must still complete work on its FY 2012 spending bills this fall. Negotiations between the House and Senate on a final FY 2012 spending package are expected to begin soon. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved its version of the FY 2012 Labor-HHS-Education spending bill, which includes funding for NIH. The bill provides $30.5 billion for NIH, a decrease of $190 million (0.6 percent) from the FY 2011 level. The bill also provides $20 million for the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) at NIH and creates the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) as part of a broader restructuring at NIH that also includes the termination of the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR).
Although the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee has postponed action on its version of the bill indefinitely, House appropriators have released a draft of the subcommittee's FY 2012 spending bill and accompanying funding tables. The draft House bill proposes funding for NIH at the President’s requested level of $31.7 billion, $1 billion (3.3 percent) more than the current year's level, and $1.2 billion more than provided in the Senate committee-approved bill. Unlike the Senate bill, the House draft does not include funding for the Cures Acceleration Network, but instead provides up to $10 million for the NIH Director's Discretionary Fund, some of which can be used to establish a Cures Acceleration Board tasked with providing recommendations for future CAN funding. Whereas the Senate bill reflects the dissolution of NCRR and appropriates funding for NCATS, the House draft also continues to appropriate money to NCRR.
As Congress continues to formulate the details of the FY 2012 budget, funding for the NIH remains in jeopardy. All Members of Congress need to hear from their constituents about the need to adequately fund NIH. To contact your Representative and Senators quickly and easily, please use the email template offered online at the ASH Advocacy Center where you can quickly and easily send a message to Congress. The Society encourages you to personalize the letter, providing examples of why NIH funding is important to you and your research.
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