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June 2, 2017: ASPET Government Affairs and Science Policy Update

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Bipartisan support for NIH continues in wake of POTUS proposed cuts; FY 18 appropriations slog; NIH updates 

Senators Send Letter to Appropriations Committee in Support of NIH: On May 24, Senators Robert Casey (R-Pa.) and Richard Burr (R-NC) led a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee asking appropriators to “maintain a strong commitment to funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH)” in the FY 2018 Labor-HHS bill. The letter, which received a total of 57 signatures, including 15 Republicans, 40, Democrats, and 2 Independents, notes recent support provided to the NIH and states, “we must continue to invest in biomedical research that has the potential to save money in the future, improve the lives of Americans, and offer an economic return for our Nation.” Read the full letter.

Vox Reporter Discusses Health Research with Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK): On May 23, Julia Belluz of Vox published her interview with House Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.). During her sit down, Ms. Belluz asks Chairman Cole for his reaction to the president’s budget request and discusses the bipartisan congressional support for NIH, among other things. In response to a question about proposed cuts to NIH, Chairman Cole responded by saying, “I can say NIH will remain a priority in my budget, and we’re going to do everything we can to stay on the course we’re on — which is predictable and modest increases in funding.” Read the full interview.

NIH Announces Appointment  of NIH Deputy Director for Management: On May 25, NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, announced the appointment of Alfred C. Johnson, Ph.D., as NIH Deputy Director for Management. The appointment became effective on May 28, 2017. According to the announcement, Dr. Johnson has been serving as the NIH Acting Deputy Director for Management since May 2016 and has been the Director of the NIH Office of Research Services (ORS) since 2006. In a separate communication, Dr. Collins also announced that Carrie Wolinetz, PhD, would assume the role as Acting Chief of Staff for NIH. Dr. Wolinetz is also associate director for Science Policy at the NIH.

NIH Launches Study on Return of Individual-Specific Research Results: On May 30, the NIH, in collaboration with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the launch of a study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that will convene a committee to review and evaluate the return of individual-specific research results from research laboratories, which are required to be returned in accordance with the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA). Additional information on the study can be found on the NAS website and in an Under the Poliscope post by Carrie Wolinetz, PhD. 

NIH to Hold Advisory Committee to the Director Meeting June 8 and 9: Through a Federal Register Notice, the NIH announced an Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) meeting, scheduled for June 8 from 9 am to 5:30 pm and June 9 from 9 am to 1 pm. The agenda includes the NIH Director’s report and the ACD working group reports, among other business. ASPET will be covering the meeting and providing a report.

FY 2018 Appropriations: With only a little over four months left before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, in addition to a compressed calendar, a delayed presidential budget request, and the lack of agreement on spending limits, the fiscal 2018 appropriations process looks to be a steep uphill battle yet again. A stopgap spending measure will almost certainly be necessary to avoid a government shutdown come September 30.  

CQ Roll Call has reported that "House Republicans are weighing an ambitious plan to pass a 12-bill appropriations package for fiscal 2018 ahead of the August recess." It is becoming clearer that moving 12 appropriations bills through regular will be nearly impossible.  At a closed-door Republican conference meeting Thursday morning on budget policy, Rep. Tom Graves, chairman of the Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee, tested the idea of bundling the 12 appropriations bills into a single package "that identifies our priorities and aligns along with the president's priorities." That would occur immediately after the usual markups in subcommittee and committee, so that a single bill would be presented to the House for an up-or-down vote.

The Coalition for Health Funding asserts that moving such a package *might* work in the House, but the Senate is a different story. Even if House Republicans are able to cobble together an omnibus and pass it before August - a monumental task, given the short time frame and the typical opposition of many Republicans to large spending bills - the legislation would likely be dead on arrival in the Senate, where Democrats will be needed to pass any spending bills for fiscal 2018. What remains indisputable is that we are in for another long and drawn out appropriations cycle.

As we enter another challenging appropriations cycle, it will be important for the community to remain unified in support of sustainable, predictable growth for the agency. Additionally, ASPET is joining efforts coordinated by NDD United and the Coalition for Health Funding to ensure the highest possible investments in non-defense discretionary spending and the Labor-HHS-Education 302(b) allocation, which will facilitate greater investment in NIH and other health priorities.

Sequestration: President Trump this week issued a sequestration order for fiscal year 2018, mandating that, on October 1, 2017, direct spending in each non-exempt budget account be reduced by the amount calculated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Essentially, the order says the OMB will in fact enforce the Budget Control Act (BCA). Read the full executive order.

Last updated: June 7, 2017 

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