July 21, 2017

House Panel Approves Increased Medical Research Funding

The House Appropriations Committee rejected recommended medical research cuts in the Trump Administration budget July 19 and approved an appropriation bill that increases spending for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The spending measure would provide $35.2 billion for the NIH, an increase of $1.1 billion above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $8.6 billion more than the President’s budget request.

During the earlier Subcommittee markup on July 13, Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) expressed support for even higher funding levels. “We need to continue to build upon the $2 billion increase provided in last year's omnibus [bill], and indeed $2 billion the year before, and I view this mark set forth today as a floor, not as a ceiling for biomedical research funding,” he said. “I am hopeful that this number can increase as the process goes on, as indeed it did the last two years we've done this.”

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) would see a budget increase of nearly $82 million (1.4 percent) to $5.77 billion, including $300 million for the National Cancer Moonshot program, if the bill becomes law. The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering would receive $362.5 million. The bill also includes a new provision requiring NIH to continue reimbursing grantee research institutions for facilities and administrative costs.

House appropriators also bucked the President’s budget proposal with respect to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). It would receive $300 million per the committee-approved spending measure. Although this proposed appropriation is $24 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level, the President’s budget would have essentially defunded AHRQ, merging most of AHRQ’s activities into NIH.

Notwithstanding the committee’s broad bipartisan support for biomedical research, other provisions in the bill were highly divisive. The American College of Radiology continues to advocate for a $2 billion increase in NIH appropriations.