Continuing Resolutions Will Likely Take Spending Talks into 2018

Last week, Congress approved and the president signed H.J. Res 123, a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through December 22. The CR, which avoids a shutdown and keeps federal programs operating at current levels, modified the expiration date of the previous CR set to expire on December 8. All of the previous CR provisions carry forward through December 22. After this date, another funding measure – either another CR or a spending bill funding the government for the remainder of fiscal year 2018 – will be needed. Despite the two-week buffer, there is already an expectation that a second CR into January will need to be passed to give lawmakers more time to complete their work.

These funding measures have implications for research and come into play as Republicans and Democrats negotiate longer-term deals over government funding, which include raising the defense and non-defense budget caps and passing an omnibus spending package for fiscal year 2018 appropriations.

By way of background, at the beginning of the fiscal year, October 1, 2017, spending limits on military and domestic programs came into effect as a result of 2011’s Budget Control Act. Consequently, if Congress wants to increase funding for defense and non-defense programs, lawmakers first need to pass a budget deal to lift the caps and then pass a spending bill containing the actual appropriations for fiscal year 2018 (e.g., funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies). Importantly for the dental, oral and craniofacial research community, it is important to note that for the Senate’s proposed increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) to be realized, Congress will need to make a deal to raise the caps.

Congressional negotiators are currently considering a two-year budget deal to do just that – potentially raising the caps by more than $200 billion. However, Republicans and Democrats are working under different priorities. Republicans are looking to increase the defense budget – initially seeking a deal that would raise defense by $54 billion and non-defense by $37 billion in both fiscal 2018 and 2019 – and Democrats are seeking parity, proposing increasing defense and non-defense equally by $54 billion, a move that would raise the two-year cost above $200 billion.

In addition reaching consensus on top-line numbers and finding a solution for Democrats’ demand for parity, a number of challenges remain for the budget deal as negotiators look to it as a vehicle to pass other legislation, such as the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and a third emergency supplemental for communities affected by this year’s natural disasters.

According to CQ Roll Call, a GOP aide speculates that a budget agreement will be announced December 18, just a few days before the December 22 deadline to pass another funding measure.

AADR will be closely monitoring these developments over the coming weeks given their implications for research funding. Under a CR, NIH will be paying out grants at a lower rate than they would under regular appropriations (see a previous NIH CR notice here). Therefore, it is critical that Congress pass regular appropriations through the end of the year to provide stability for medical research.

If you have questions, please contact AADR’s Assistant Director of Government Affairs Lindsey Horan or continue to check the AADR Government Affairs and Science Policy Blog for updates.

Status Update: Fiscal Year 2018 Appropriations

Under regular order in the annual budget and appropriations process, the president would release the president’s budget submission in February and Congress would complete its budget resolution, which sets the top-line budget totals and divides spending into categories, by mid-April. However, as we have seen over the past several years, ‘regular order’ has become more of the exception than the rule as continuing resolutions (CRs) are passed to keep the government afloat (until budget deals can be reached), and appropriations deadlines are continually pushed back.

In this year’s case, the public didn’t see movement with respect to fiscal year 2018 budget resolutions until the House Budget Committee unveiled its budget blueprint in July and the Senate Budget Committee unveiled its version late last month. Among the biggest takeaways in both the House and Senate versions are the cuts to non-defense spending, which covers everything outside of the defense portfolio, including scientific research, education, etc.:

“The Senate’s resolution keeps defense spending at the budget cap levels outlined by the Budget Control Act. It hacks away at non-defense spending starting in 2019, cutting it by as much as $106 billion by 2027. The House, on the other hand, cuts into non-defense spending right away, but includes a $70 billion increase in defense spending in 2018 alone” (The Hill).

The full House narrowly passed its $4.1 trillion budget resolution last Thursday, October 5, creating a pathway through which members could pass tax reform via the budget reconciliation process. The full Senate is expected to consider its budget resolution in mid-October.

Drilling down further into fiscal 2018 spending, the House and Senate are also working to finalize their respective spending bills, including appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS). The House, which in mid-September voted along party lines to approve a package of 12 spending bills, is farther ahead in the process than the Senate, whose Labor-HHS bill for fiscal 2018 was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee just last month.

Relevant for AADR members, the House and Senate bills call for a $1.1 and $2 billion increase, respectively, for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The two spending bills also call for increases to the budget of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). The House bill provides roughly $432.36 million for NIDCR, and the Senate bill provides just under $439.74 million, compared with the fiscal 2017 level of $425.75 million.

The House and Senate bills will ultimately have to be reconciled, and in anticipation of the end of the fiscal year on September 30, lawmakers voted to extend 2017 spending levels until December 8, 2017 to give them more time to reach an agreement. However, it is not clear whether Congress and the White House will be able to make a deal by that time.

AADR will continue to keep its members apprised of the budget process and how developments unfold in the weeks to come.

Fiscal Year 2018 Resources:

Congress Approves Short-Term Funding Bill Averting Govt. Shutdown

Yesterday, Congress approved a short term continuing resolution (CR) averting a government shutdown and funding the federal government through December 9, 2016 at 0.5% funding level lower than fiscal year 2016. Importantly, the CR also includes $1.1 billion supplemental funding to combat the Zika virus. Included in the $1.1 billion for Zika is $397 million for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to support advanced research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.The Senate voted 72-26 and the House voted 342-85 in support of this legislation.

What is next? When Congress returns from the November elections a lot of unfinished business awaits them during the lame duck session. Congress must approve an appropriations bill that funds the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year after the current CR expires on December 9th. AADR is strongly urging Congress to adopt an appropriations bill that provides increased funding for NIH and NIDCR.

How can you help? Please take a moment and send an email to your member of Congress stressing the importance of approving an omnibus appropriations bill by clicking here to access our action alert.

Dental Community Urges Congress to Support Funding for Oral Health Programs

This month, the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) and the American Association for Dental Research (AADR) sent  letters to the House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittees urging them to provide modest programmatic increases to allow more Americans to have access to better oral health.  The letter included a chart of funding priorities for oral health research and programs, including a request for Congress to provide $430.5 million for the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) in the final appropriation bill for fiscal year 2017. These organizations also noted the significant and detrimental impact a six month or year long continuing resolution would have on these programs and the populations they serve. ADA, AAPD, ADEA and AADR therefore urged Congress to approve an omnibus appropriation bill after the election.

Budget Update

This week Congress approved their budget resolutions by a 52-46 vote in the Senate and a 228-199 vote in the House. The budget resolutions essentially are a blueprint laying out Congressional priorities for the next year. The House and Senate will now develop a compromise agreement or conference report in the upcoming weeks. Unfortunately, both bills keep in place the sequester level caps on non-defense discretionary spending. Non-defense discretionary spending funds important components of the federal government including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). By adhering to the austere spending caps it will be virtually impossible for Congress to provide meaningful increases in funding for NIH in the upcoming fiscal year.

There may be a small glimmer of hope however, according to CQHealthbeat, “Some in the GOP see the House and Senate budgets as an opening bid in a likely negotiation with the White House later this year. Such talks would look for broader changes in the spending caps that many lawmakers argue should be raised both for defense and domestic programs.” AADR will continue to advocate on behalf of our members urging Congress to undo sequestration, raise the caps on non-defense discretionary spending and reinvest in biomedical research.

What is next? After Congress votes on the budget resolution conference report, the appropriations committees receive their funding allocations and will begin their work drafting appropriations bills. Historically, Congress will release the text of those bills in early summer.

AADR Supports the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act

Today, the American Association for Dental Research sent a letter in support of the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act (S. 2658).  Sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, this legislation creates a mechanism by which predictable, increased and sustainable funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) may be possible. AADR applauds this bill as an innovative approach to address the declining purchasing power of NIH and to prevent the further erosion of promising research.

However, since the funding levels dictated are still too low for other agencies and oral health programs AADR also strongly urges Congress to develop a long-term and permanent solution to replace sequestration for all non-defense discretionary spending.

AADR stands ready to work with the broader scientific community and Sen. Harkin to enact this legislation in the upcoming months.