House version of Labor-HHS-Education funding bill includes large cuts, restrictions

When adjusted for inflation and population growth, the House Subcommittee’s bill would bring funding back to levels not seen since 2001

Pat Kobor of the APA Science Government Relations Office is blogging about the federal budget: with the changes in Congress and renewed focus on reducing the deficit, scientists want more information about how the budget deliberations will affect spending on research. Below is a recent blog entry. For future updates and archives, visit the APA Federal Budget Blog.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education reported its version of the fiscal year 2013 funding bill on July 18, providing a sharp contrast to S. 3295, reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 14, 2012. A report from Appropriations Committee Member Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., states that when adjusted for inflation and population growth, the House Subcommittee’s bill would bring funding back to levels not seen since 2001. 
 
The House bill is based on levels adopted in the fiscal year 2013 House budget, which are below the levels the House and Senate agreed to with passage of last year’s Budget Control Act. The bill cuts funding for labor, health and education programs $6.8 billion (4.3 percent) below last year’s level. As expected, the bill eliminates all funding for Affordable Care Act (ACA) programs, including Patient Centered Outcomes Research (PCOR), which would mean a $150 million cut to the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute’s (PCORI) projected $320 million FY 2013 budget. It eliminates funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (the Senate bill includes $435 million for AHRQ, a $5 million cut from last year’s funding). The House bill cuts the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) by 9 percent, funding it at $3.15 billion (in contrast to the Senate’s proposal of $3.472 billion) and eliminates funding for Title X family planning programs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would receive a $66 million ostensible increase. However, the elimination of the ACA-authorized Prevention Fund and other transfers that had supplemented CDC programs results in an 11 percent decrease for the agency — $815 million less than the FY 2012 level, and $876 million less than the Senate provides. 
 
While the bill would maintain funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the current year’s level, the bill includes language that gives the institutes less flexibility to manage their finances in an increasingly tight budgetary climate. The House subcommittee bill provides $30.6 billion for NIH. The majority of institutes and centers are reduced by 0.02 percent below the FY 2012 comparable level. By contrast, the Senate bill provides a $100 million increase (0.3 percent).
 
More troubling is the House subcommittee bill’s restrictive report language: “... none of the funds from all Institute, Center, and Office of the Director accounts within the 'Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health' shall be used for any economic research programs, projects, or activities.” Another provision would set up a new certification system requiring that the head of each agency certify to the secretary that programs, projects, or activities are of “significantly high scientific value; and (ii) the impact of the program, project, or activity on public health is measurable; and (B) justification for the certification under subparagraph (A), including an explanation of how the success of the program, project, or activity will be measured with respect to its impact on public health.” APA will provide additional information about the impact of this proposed language when NIH makes it available.
 
The Senate bill which was reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 14, 2012 would provide $158.8 billion, including offsets and cap adjustments, to the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education and related agencies. HHS funding would see a slight 1.9 percent increase under the bill, providing discretionary programs $71 billion (program level), up from $69.6 billion in fiscal year 2012. NIH is provided $30.723 billion, a $100 million increase. A summary statement released by the committee provides additional details.
 
On Monday, July 23, the Appropriations Committee’s Democratic Leadership announced that full committee markup of the House Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill has been indefinitely postponed. The Senate bill is also unlikely to come to the floor. So the committee versions of the bills we have seen will most likely be the subjects of a conference committee. The bills will be rolled into a continuing resolution, a combination of spending bills, nearer to the end of the fiscal year.