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March 3, 2017: ASPET Government Affairs and Science Policy Update

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Appropriations bills on the move; Renewed interest in closing out FY2017 spending bills; Labor HHS holds hearing on budget priorities 

House Labor-HHS Subcommittee Hearing: The House Labor-HHS Subcommittee held a hearing this week for Members of Congress to testify about their funding priorities yesterday. Chairman Tom Cole wasted no time throwing cold water on expectations for FY 2018, noting that if President's budget plan to cut $54 billion from NDD were to come to fruition, Labor-HHS could expect a cut of at least $18 to $20 billion since the bill represents about one-third of all NDD funding. "There's no part of this budget that can escape unscathed if we have $18 to $20 billion in reductions," said Chairman Cole.

POTUS Budget Framework Expected Mid-March: The Trump Administration is reporting it will release its FY 2018 budget proposal by mid-March, according to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. The proposal is expected to be a “skinny budget” and provide an outline of the President’s fiscal goals, while a more comprehensive budget plan is not anticipated until May. Trump officials aren’t yet specifying next year’s deficit, with increases expected for the Pentagon and Homeland Security. But the president said that a “moral duty to the taxpayer requires us to make our government leaner and more accountable,” and that likely means some budget cuts on the domestic side.

Among cuts that have been under consideration are conservative targets such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and major reductions for the Energy and Commerce departments. The White House didn’t specify any spending proposals this week, saying the budget work is far from complete, though officials have reportedly considered a budget framework that would slash spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years. Congressional Republicans are pushing a plan to cut federal spending by $8.6 trillion over the next decade. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney was confirmed by the Senate just last week.

Congress Looks to Finalize Funding for the Current Fiscal Year: As the President continues to develop a budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year; appropriators in Congress are reportedly working to finalize FY 2017 spending bills as the April 28th expiration of the current Continuing Resolution (CR) approaches. It remains unclear, however, whether the spending bills will be passed individually, through an omnibus, or, more likely, through several minibus packages. The process could be complicated by an anticipated military supplemental and an initial request of $12-$15 billion for the border wall. Until FY 2017 appropriations are resolved, ASPET will continue urging Congress to finalize an FY 2017 spending package with $34.1 billion for the NIH, as approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee in June.

USDA Returns Records to Website: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) caused a stir recently after removing all regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records from its website; they have since returned many of the same documents online in response to public outcry.

According to APHIS, all records pertaining to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and Horse Protection Act were removed from its website on February 3 after a “comprehensive review.”  APHIS later informed the regulated community that the records had been removed because of pending litigation. The action was considered a cautionary step due to privacy concerns.

APHIS has since returned some of the documents to its website. The first batch of reposted records included annual reports of research institutions and inspection reports from certain federal agencies that APHIS regulates. Additional documents were reposted a week later. Those reports pertained to registrants under the AWA, which include research facilities, intermediate handlers, and carriers that move animals. Throughout this process, APHIS has pledged its commitment to safeguarding the welfare of animals and to ensuring transparency. ASPET continues to monitor the situation.

FASEB Finalizes FY 2018 Funding Recommendation: FASEB has released its annual funding recommendations for fiscal year (FY) 2018, recommending substantial increases in the budgets of several federal scientific agencies in order to bolster American biological and biomedical research.  Commenting on the need for increased U.S. investment in science, the report states: “Advances in biomedical and biological research have improved the health of our citizens, generated new treatments for life threatening diseases, and enhanced our quality of life . . . our future success requires sustained and predictable growth in the federal investment in the nation’s research enterprise.”

Specific funding recommendations for the five federal agencies included in the report are:

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH): At least $35.0 billion
  • National Science Foundation (NSF): At least $8.0 billion
  • Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical and Prosthetic Research Program: At least $713 million
  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): At least $700 million for the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and $1.24 billion for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
  • Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE SC): At least $5.8 billion

With FY 2017 funding levels still pending, presenting the recommendation in this way will allow the community to weigh in as the FY 2018 process unfolds, and also affords groups the opportunity to emphasize that Cures funding is in addition to the community’s recommendation.

Last updated: March 3, 2017 

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