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May 26, 2017: ASPET Government Affairs and Science Policy Update

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POTUS releases full-budget request; Concern from both sides of aisle on proposed cuts to NIH; FY 2018 budget process begins; Sequestration watch?  

President’s Detailed FY 2018 Budget Released: On May 23 the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMG) released the Trump Administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget proposal titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness.” The administration’s budget proposed significant reductions in federal funding for research and development. According to an analysis from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), total federal funding for research across all federal agencies would be cut by nearly 17 percent (approximately $12.6 billion) in FY 2018.

Most reports indicate that the President's fiscal 2018 budget proposal is "dead on arrival" in Congress. But if Congress enacts an overall spending level that includes cuts to nondefense programs, lawmakers will need to cut something somewhere; and a Republican-lead Congress will likely take their cues from the Trump budget, at least to an extent. 

NIH has posted the Congressional Justification for the FY 2018 budget request to its website. Individual Institute/Center submissions are also available.

On Thursday, Democrats from the House Appropriations Committee release an updated report on President Trump's proposed budget cuts. The report details state-by-state impacts of the proposed cuts on American families and communities. This report is an update of one issued upon release of the so-called "skinny budget" in March, which contained estimates and projections due to lack of full information. In the report, Rep. Nita Lowey, the Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee writes: “This budget request is a betrayal of President Trump's promises. If enacted into law, these cuts would have a disastrous impact on job security; health; schools; safe, clean, and secure communities; and American leadership.  It is a framework to shift more and more burdens onto the shoulders of working families.” Read the full report.

ASPET immediately issued a statement expressing concern at the proposed cuts and joined several community partners in letters outlining the repercussions of cuts to biomedical research.

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.  

Conversations with staff confirm that clearing appropriations bills this year will be a heavy lift; as it is, the current timeline would require the Committee to take up two bills per week- and progress will be largely dependent upon the overall spending level set in the forthcoming budget resolution (coming sometime after the Memorial Day recess). If the budget resolution ultimately cuts NDD (which we expect it will, given the goal of balancing the budget in 10 years without cuts to Medicare and Social Security) we could expect a repeat of 2013 where it becomes very hard to move bills.

That being said, 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.

Note that changes to the BCA spending caps, including sequestration, require an act of Congress.

We'll be posting the budget documents and the agency CJs in a one-stop-shop on our website in the next couple of days. Stay tuned!

Conservative Leaders Urge POTUS to Appoint New NIH Director: This week a group of 41 Members of the House of Representatives sent President Trump a letter in which they call on the President to appoint a new NIH Director to replace Dr. Francis Collins, who has been held over indefinitely from the Obama administration. The Representatives urge the President to appoint a replacement who more closely aligns with the Republican party's stance on "the pro-life direction of your new Presidency." Read the full letter.

Last updated: May 30, 2017 

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