On June 14, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved along party lines, 16-14, its FY 2013 Labor-HHS-Education spending bill, which covers most agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Committee provided $30.723 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a $100 million increase over the FY 2012-enacted level and the president's FY 2013 request. The bill also includes $4 billion in funding over Republican objections to implement the health-care overhaul law and the bill retains the salary cap at Executive Level II ($179,700) implemented this year.
The Society was pleased that its recommendations concerning research related to sickle cell trait and participation in athletic activities, research in the development of blood stem cells from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, and efforts to prevent and mitigate drug shortages were included in the Committee report. These recommendations were shared with the Senate during the Committee on Government Affairs Hill Day and reflect the influence of ASH advocacy.
Following the Senate Committee action, normal process would be for the full Senate to approve the bill and for the House of Representatives Committee to follow suit. However, in this election year, it is expected that further legislative action will stop until September when the Congress will not have time to complete action on appropriations but instead will pass a Continuing Resolution that will keep the government funded past the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1. After the elections a "lame duck" Congress is expected to return to Washington to make final funding decisions for FY 2013.
On January 2, 2013, the across-the-board automatic spending cuts known as a sequester and mandated by last year's Budget Control Act are required to take effect. The effects of the oncoming automatic spending cuts are already starting to be felt by government agencies and will build in the second half of this year. The sequester will reduce spending by $109 billion over the course of the entire fiscal year and $1.2 trillion over nine years. Federal agencies, defense contractors and other organizations that rely on government contracts or grants are faced with making decisions on hiring, budgeting and projects for FY 2013 without any certainty of how much they will be able to spend. There is very little in the way of detail of how the $109 billion in automatic cuts would affect agencies. For example, we do not know the exact amount of cut NIH is facing although it is expected it will be between eight and nine percent. ASH will continue to monitor this issue and share additional information as it becomes available.
In the meantime, ASH will be enhancing and strengthening its advocacy efforts to include the following:
- On-line advocacy campaigns
- Town Hall Meetings – Beginning in July, members of the Grassroots Network will receive weekly alerts of when Town Hall meetings are scheduled in their congressional district/state. We find that attending these events (one hour) and asking about the candidate's position on NIH funding is an effective way to raise the NIH on the candidate's radar.
- Letter to the Editor Campaign – In July we will implement a campaign to submit a letter-to-the –editor focused on the importance of NIH funding. The goal is to place as many Letters to the Editor in local papers as possible.
- Build the ASH Grassroots Network – Over the summer we will also launch a campaign to invite your colleagues to participate in the ASH Grassroots Network.
- Patient Advocacy – We have already notified hematology-related patient advocacy groups about ASH's online campaigns and shared a sign-on letter with them. We will continue to reach out to patient groups.
Fly-in Advocacy Day – We are planning to schedule a special one-day "fly-in" for interested members of the Grassroots Network during the lame duck session in November –December. The purpose will be to increase our contact with congressional offices and urge they protect the NIH.
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