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April 14, 2017: ASPET Government Affairs and Science Policy Update

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  Congress faces critical budget deadline and another shutdown showdown; Congress shows bipartisan support for research community in wake of proposed cuts; Looking ahead to FY 2018 

2017 Appropriations: With the government currently operating on a continuing resolution (CR) set to expire on April 28, Congress must approve a budget bill to pass funding for the remaining 5 months of FY 17 before this date in order to avoid a shutdown.  The optimists on the Hill are anticipating that an omnibus will ultimately pass or a possible one-week extension of the CR while legislators work out some final issues and get a firm whip count for votes.

As previously reported, the President released his budget proposal for funding the federal government on March 16th. To offset a major increase in defense and border security funds, Trump has identified ways to decrease nondefense discretionary spending in FY 17. Included in this supplementary proposal are $1.182 billion in reductions to NIH research grants and $50 million in the elimination of Institutional Development Award (IDeA) grants for FY 17. Trump’s proposed cuts would undermine the FY 17 spending bill that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved last summer, which included $34.1 billion in funding for the NIH. Most members of Congress are not optimistic that the cuts will not occur, as the fiscal year has already begun. Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), chairman of the House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee, told CQ, “It's a little late in the process. We've closed out our bills.”

Shutdown Showdown?: Despite the progress being made on the Hill, Politico reports that Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), is pressing lawmakers to include language to restrict federal funding grants for cities that do not enforce federal immigration policies. The goal is to bring the House Freedom Caucus on board with a government funding bill or at least show that the administration is courting the support of the hard-right and pushing GOP leaders to adopt Trump's priorities. This threatens to disrupt ongoing bipartisan negotiations, with Democrats already calling a request for border wall money a “poison pill” that would shut down the government. An attempt to block liberal cities from receiving federal funds if they ignore immigration guidance would similarly cause Democrats to flee. The budget bill will need Democratic votes to pass; at least eight in the Senate, but probably in the House as well.

On the Congressional side, many of the outstanding issues appear to be ones that could wait for the FY 18 funding cycle and leadership has been adamant that there will be no shutdown. The White House, however, remains insistent on its FY 17 funding priorities (defense, border security, and the border wall, etc.), which leaves Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell are finding themselves in a tight jam. Accommodating the White House will cost them Democratic support, while accommodating Democrats may provoke a Presidential veto. A POTUS veto might be less likely, though, as it would optically place responsibility for the shutdown on the executive branch.  All that said, while a government closure is IMPROBABLE, it is certainly not IMPOSSIBLE.

ASPET is working with other FASEB societies to coordinate advocacy efforts for the final week in April.

Powerful Republican Lawmakers Reject Trump’s Plan to Cut Medical Research Funding: An April 6 article in the McClatchy Washington Bureau highlights the work of appropriations Chairmen, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) on behalf of federal research funding. The piece points out that the two chairmen have been actively advocating for an increase in appropriations for the NIH, saying Chairmen Blunt and Cole will push “for Congress to increase the institutes’ annual $32 billion budget.” Read the full article here.

FY 2018 Budget Resolution: House Republicans are hoping to foster unity around a fiscal 2018 budget resolution after a failed attempt at repealing the Affordable Care Act. However, it may be a tough road to consolidate GOP support, as fiscal conservatives demand a plan that shows a path towards eliminating the deficit within 10 years. Congressional Quarterly reports that Republicans on the House Budget Committee have been meeting in private over the past several weeks to hash out budget resolution funding levels, considering past efforts to balance the budget and coming up with new approaches. They aim to mark up a fiscal 2018 budget resolution in May; about the same time the administration says it will release the President's full fiscal 2018 budget.

Bipartisan House Letter Advocates for Robust NIH Funding: In a strong showing, 206 House Republicans and Democrats joined together on a March 31 letter to the House Appropriations Committee in support of a $2 billion increase over fiscal year (FY) 2017 for NIH in FY 2018. Read the full letter and see who signed here.

Reps. Fred Upton and Diana DeGette Urge Investment in NIH: In a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) supported investments in and voiced opposition to cuts to the NIH in FY 2017 and 2018. Though a press release issued April 4, Reps. Upton and DeGette argued, “This is not a partisan issue. Disease isn’t Democratic or Republican. Congress voted to reinvest in NIH research because we recognize its remarkable return on investment for the American people, and so we oppose any cuts to the NIH budget in FY17 or FY18. NIH research saves lives, creates jobs, controls long-term entitlement costs, protects our national security, and advances our global leadership, all while bringing renewed hope to patients and families across the country.” Read the full letter here.

NIH Announces May Council of Councils Meeting: The NIH published a Federal Register Notice regarding a May 26 Council of Councils meeting. The meeting will begin at 8:15 am at the NIH in Building 21, C Wing, 6th floor, Conference Room 10. Among other topics queued up for the meeting, agenda items for the open sessions include a discussion of the history of the Knockout Mouse Program (KOMP), background on NIH and federal budget process, progress and plans at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), and the Common Fund Diversity Program. The open session will be videocast and can be accessed from the NIH Videocasting and Podcasting site here.  

Last updated: April 17, 2017 

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