Budget Deal Remains Elusive- Inside the Washington beltway, yesterday, some saw signs of an end to the budget standoff that has been center stage in DC for the past few weeks. A bipartisan group of Senators announced a plan to cut spending and close tax loopholes over a 10-year period to cut the federal deficit by $3.6 trillion. It is unclear what the deal would mean for NIH and other research agencies. However, the spending bill that supports Labor-HHS-Education and some smaller related agencies would be expected to produce $70 billion is savings over 10 years. The House of Representatives has been noticeably cool to the Senate proposal, and some have stated that it may be too late to write a bill that can pass before the August 2nd deadline to raise the debt limit. President Obama indicated today that he may be open to a stopgap measure if it is clear that a long-term compromise is in the works.
House Takes Symbolic Vote- The House of Representatives approved a “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill on Tuesday -largely along party lines. The bill would cut FY12 spending by $111 billion, reduce federal spending as a percentage of GDP over the next 10 years, and require passage of a balanced budget amendment in order to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. The legislation has no chance in the Senate, and the President has already stated that he would veto the bill if presented to him. According to the Obama administration, the legislation would “set unrealistic spending caps that could result in significant cuts to education, research and development, and other programs critical to growing our economy and winning the future.”
[**7/22 Update** As expected, the Senate voted down the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill today -party line vote.]
AADR On the Hill- AADR is continuing with advocacy meetings, in support of NIH/NIDCR, with members of the House and Senate appropriations committees. Meeting feedback suggests that the Senate is taking a “wait and see” approach to the FY12 budget; waiting to see what the White House is able to work out on deficit reduction/debt limit increase with House leaders, and what the House recommends for FY12. The House is moving forward with the regular appropriations process. If the current schedule is kept, as some House staffers suggest, by July 26th we may know the FY12 figure that is being advanced for NIH in the House. It remains a great time for members of the research community to reach out to their elected officials.
[**7/22 Update** The House has postponed consideration of the spending bill that funds NIH and several other agencies. The bill will not move forward until after the month-long August recess. More time for advocacy efforts!]
AADR will also offer input for the oral health component of a health disparities bill that is being reintroduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
Defending NIH Grants- The NIH peer review process is again under attack by an outside group claiming that specific grant awards are of an ideological nature and limited in benefit to taxpayers. The group is administering an online petition to encourage President Obama to institute a grant moratorium at NIH to allow time for a special prosecutor to conduct a review. It is expected that certain Members of Congress will also raise issue with specific NIH grant awards, as legislation to fund the agency for FY12 is assembled in the coming days and weeks.
AADR is joining with much of the biomedical research advocacy community to defend the NIH grant peer review process. A letter is being drafted from our groups to House Appropriators asking that Congress refrain from undermining the peer review process by eliminating funding for specific awards. Although the targeting of NIH grants is not a new phenomenon and rarely seems to gain much traction, the other side of the story definitely needs to be told. Interested individuals are invited to contact AADR Government Affairs for a copy of the current draft letter in support of the NIH grant process .
Did You Know- During the August congressional recess, many Members of Congress hold town hall forums back in their home states/districts. These events provide an excellent opportunity to voice support for federal research investments. Visit the websites [House, Senate] of your elected officials and sign-up for their e-mail distribution lists, so that you can be notified of events in your area.