Posted by December 22nd, 2005
Wednesday, December 21 the Senate passed by unanimous consent the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies (Labor-HHS) Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 Appropriations Bill (HR 3010). This is the bill which provides funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Cancer Institutes (NCI), Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) among other agencies of interest to the cancer community.
The bill increased the NIH budget by $253 million (0.89%) over FY 2005 making it one of the few agencies in the massive $142.5 billion Labor-HHS bill to receive an increase. This is well under the $1 billion increase in the original Senate version of the bill and conderably less than the $1.7 billion increase recommended by One Voice Against Cancer.
While we are fortunate NIH received an increase, albeit at an unacceptable one, Congress also approved a one percent across-the-board cut to all discretionary domestic programs. This will wipe out the modest gain NIH received and turn the increase into a decrease.
Nancy Roach, President of C3, said this about the NIH funding in the Labor-HHS bill:
“The bottom line is that NIH is now facing its first cut in funding in more than 35 years. I don’t know when we will understand the specific impact of this action on NCI funding.”
While we must wait for specifics from NIH and other agencies on how this bill will impact their cancer-related programs an article published in the December 6, 2005 edition of the NCI Cancer Bulletin provides a hint at what will happen. Here is a quote from the article:
“In the interim, and as discussed at the NIH Director’s Advisory Committee meeting on December 1, noncompeting research grant awards will be made at a level of approximately 80 percent of the previously committed level. Upward adjustments to these levels will be considered after the final 2006 budget level is established. Competing renewal awards also are being made at approximately 80 percent of current levels until more definitive budget information is available. NCI leadership has advised that recipients continue to monitor their expenditures carefully during this period.”
While we do need to wait for official word from NIH it looks like there will be a 20 percent cut in the funding level of noncompeting research grant awards. One thing is for sure with the small increase removed by a larger across-the-board cut there will be less money for research and other activities.
While I am upset that Congress passed these funding levels I am perhaps more mad at the way the Senate did it. As I mentioned at the start of this post the Senate adopted the bill by unanimous consent. This is a procedure in which a motion can pass if no one present objects. This differs from a roll call vote when each Senator’s name is called and the Senator must say “yea” or “nay” on the motion.
Since the Senate passed the Labor-HHS approriations bill by unanimous consent there is no public record of whether or not each Senator supported or opposed the bill, thus we constituents have no way of knowing how our Senators would have voted. I want to know why the Senate did not go on record with this vote. I know time is short and they wanted to go home for the end-of-year recess but bills like this are too important not to go on record with a roll call vote.
Nancy ended her email with this:
“I watched this on CSPAN2 last night – not a very cheerful event. The only positive note is that it could have been much worse – the initial iterations included larger hard cuts to NIH. Constituent pressure made the difference, so thank you all for your efforts, and stay tuned for next year.”
Those of you who contacted your Senators and Representatives about the Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill did have an effect. It did not pass the House the first time through and was having a rough time in the Senate.
You made a difference one person at a time.