Senate spending bill gives NIH $2 billion raise

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The US Senate Aug. 23 passed a spending bill that will increase the NIH budget by $2 billion to $39.1 billion—a 5.4 percent boost over the current level.

Of the proposed $2 billion, $190 million in new money would trickle down to NCI.

NCI is slated to receive $5.747 billion, of which up to $30 million may be used for facilities repairs and improvements at the NCI—Frederick Federally Funded Research and Development Center.

The House version of the Labor-HHS spending bill proposes a $1.25 billion increase for NIH, bringing the total to $38.3 billion.

“Last week’s passage of the combined Labor-HHS-Education and Defense Appropriations bills in the Senate was a great accomplishment for our policymakers in the Upper Chamber, especially when considering that it’s the first time in a decade that the full Senate debated and passed the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill,” said Jon Retzlaff, chief policy officer and vice president of science policy and government affairs of the American Association for Cancer Research.

“The debate and overwhelming vote in favor of these two bills that were grouped together also underscores the Senate’s commitment to providing robust, sustained, and predictable annual funding increases for the National Institutes of Health. “In fact, if the $2 billion increase that’s been proposed for NIH in FY 2019 becomes law, it would translate to a 30 percent increase for the NIH since FY 2016,” said Retzlaff.

“We sincerely hope that this action in the Senate will provide lots of positive momentum for the Senate lawmakers as they enter into conference negotiations with their House counterparts to reconcile the Labor-HHS-Education bills, especially since lawmakers will only have roughly five weeks to hash out differences in the competing versions of the measures if they hope to avoid a short-term continuing resolution.”

The president’s budget proposal initially sought to cut NIH budget by 27 percent, but after Congress raised the spending caps, the White House largely reversed the cut, adding back $9 billion, thereby bringing NIH funding back to the FY 2017 level (The Cancer Letter, Feb. 16).

Here is how the numbers line up for NCI:

  • In the Senate bill, NCI stands to receive $6.15 billion, with $400 million in Cancer Moonshot funds coming from the NIH Innovation Account. The bill also includes $30 million for NCI’s facility in Frederick.

  • In the House bill, NCI would receive $6.13 billion, also with the Moonshot included.

  • Under the White House proposal, NCI would get $5.626 billion. This number, too, includes the Moonshot.

The 2019 appropriations package passed by an 85 to 7 vote.

“The last time that the Senate passed nine appropriations bills by the end of August was 1999,” Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, said in a statement. “We collectively called earlier this year for a return to regular order in the appropriations process because it was broken, and the leaders on both sides—Sen. [Mitch] McConnell [(R-KY)]and Senator [Chuck] Schumer [(D-NY)]—provided us the opportunity to follow through.”

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President Joe Biden’s proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health would be a welcome partner to NCI—particularly in conducting large, collaborative clinical investigations, NCI Director Ned Sharpless said.“I think having ARPA-H as part of the NIH is good for the NCI,” Sharpless said April 11 in his remarks at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. “How this would fit with the ongoing efforts in cancer at the NCI is still something to work out.”
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