Counting Pennies: Current Snapshot Indicates Research Funding Likely to Hold Steady but not Increase

On June 24, 2005, the House of Representatives approved the FY 2006 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill (H.R. 3010) which funds education and health research and programs. The House bill provides $28.507 billion for NIH, an increase of $142.3 million (0.5 percent) but $3 million less than the President's FY 2006 budget request.

On June 24, 2005, the House of Representatives approved the FY 2006 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill (H.R. 3010) which funds education and health research and programs. The House bill provides $28.507 billion for NIH, an increase of $142.3 million (0.5 percent) but $3 million less than the President's FY 2006 budget request.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education marked up its version of the bill on Tuesday July 12, 2005. The Senate subcommittee provided a 3.7% increase for NIH, or an increase of more than $1 billion over this year's level. Unlike the House bill, the increase provided by the Senate bill would exceed the rate of inflation for biomedical research estimated by the NIH at 3.2% for 2006.

The House bill adopts the Administration's plan to provide no funds for NIH extramural research facilities construction. This program received $29 million in FY 2005. The bill does provide the $30 million requested by the Administration for construction of additional bio-safety level (BSL) 3 laboratories for research on infectious agents and countermeasures. Also, the bill maintains the cap on the amount of salary that can be charged to an NIH grant at Executive Level I ($180,100 in 2005).

The House bill includes $1.617 billion for bioterrorism preparedness in FY 2006 to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, CDC received $1.623 billion for these activities.

The House bill provides the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) with $319 million, the same as in FY 2005. However, the bill funds AHRQ with appropriated funds rather than money transferred from other Public Health Service programs as in previous years. The bill directs $50 million of the AHRQ budget for health information technology, as requested by the Administration.

The Senate was able to accommodate the NIH and other budget increases by using an accounting gimmick that changes the payment date for SSI payments from the last Friday in Fiscal Year 2006 to the first Monday in Fiscal Year 2007. This maneuver sets the stage for a difficult conference, as the Members will very much want to maintain the Senate increases but will most likely feel compelled to reject the substantive law change to the SSI program.

Watch for the next update from SPIN for the latest funding developments.

NSF Avoids Research Cuts in House Bill

On June 16, the House passed the FY 2006 Science, State, Justice and Commerce appropriations bill, which includes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) at the level of $5.643 billion (an increase of $171 million over current FY 2005 funding and $38 more than the Administration request) . During debate on the House floor, NSF dodged an attempt by Rep. Anthony Wiener (D-NY) to reduce its Research and Related Activities account by $147 million in order to boost funding for the Community Oriented Police program. Stalwart NSF allies, Reps. Frank Wolf (R-VA), David Obey (D-WI), Alan Mollohan (D-WV), Vern Ehlers (R-MI), Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), and John Culberson (R-TX) helped defeat the amendment by speaking about the importance of NSF-supported research.

The Senate Commerce, Justice, and State Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its FY 2006 spending bill on June 21. It allocated $5.531 billon for NSF, only $58 million above last year's funding level, $74 million below the President's request, and $112 million below the House. The full Senate appropriations committee accepted the Subcommittee's actions on June 23 and reported the bill out for an eventual vote by the full Senate.

For the Research and Related Activities Account, which funds the research directorates, including the directorate for the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences, the Senate panel provided $4.345 billion. This is $125 million above last year, $12 million above the request, but $33 million below the House. The Committee report includes language noting the NSF priority in Human and Social Dynamics and funding it at the requested level of $39.45 million.

The Senate panel provided only $747 million for the Education and Human Resources Directorate. This is $94 million below FY 2005 levels, $60 million below the House, but $10 million above the President's request. Unlike the House, which accepted the Administration's plan to have the Math and Science Partnership program exist only within the Department of Education, the Senate Committee included $64 million for the program, of which $4 million is for new grants. Once the bill passes the Senate, House and Senate conferees will work together to bridge these differences and pass a final piece of legislation for the President's signature.