American Association for Cancer Research

AACR Cancer Policy Monitor


                                                                                                    AUGUST 2010


House and Senate appropriators match president's funding recommendation

By Mary Lee Watts, M.P.H., R.D.

Director, AACR Government Relations

Prior to adjourning for a month-long August recess, House and Senate appropriators advanced fiscal year 2011 spending bills that would provide the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with a $1 billion increase, matching the amount requested by President Obama in February.

The House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over NIH funding, as well as the full Senate Appropriations Committee each approved measures that would boost the NIH budget by 3.2 percent over the FY2010 appropriation and bring the total budget to $32 billion (see chart below). Both bills would also allow NIH to use up to $50 million for the new Cures Acceleration Network, which was established by the health care reform legislation passed earlier this year.

The funding increases, if retained during the next steps of the appropriations process (approval by the House Appropriations Committee and the full House and Senate), would represent NIH's largest appropriations percentage increase in eight years. However, the total budget would still fall short of the level that NIH has been operating with over the last two years owing to the additional short-term $10 billion investment provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

NIH champion, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.) implored fellow appropriators to approve a more significant increase for the agency. “We're talking about life and death,” he declared before the Senate Appropriations Committee, specifically citing cancer statistics and improvements in cancer survival rates that have resulted from investment in NIH research. His amendment to increase NIH funding by an additional $1 billion, to bring the total budget to $33.7 billion, was readily defeated, however, by a vote of 2-28, as it would have required an across-the-board cut on all other programs in the bill. 

The National Cancer Institute would receive a 3.2 percent, or $162 million increase, under the House version and a slightly smaller increase of 3 percent, or $153 million, under the current Senate version.

In other action, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill that would provide the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with a total of $2.5 billion in total funding—$154 million above FY2010 and equal to the president's request. In the House, appropriators are considering a slightly higher level of $2.57 billion in total funding—$209 million above FY2010, although it has not been acted upon by the full House Appropriations Committee.

Members will return to Capitol Hill from the August break on Sept. 14, though further action on appropriations will likely be deferred until after the November elections. History shows that Congress, especially the Senate, has difficulty moving spending bills during election years. Further complicating the process is the anticipated Dec. 1 release of a report from the president's fiscal commission, which will outline recommendations for reducing the federal deficit. Given the attention to the deficit and the contentious political environment, the general consensus is that Congress will pass a continuing resolution this fall to fund the government at FY2010 levels into 2011. 


FY2011 Proposed Investments in Biomedical Research (in millions)








House Subcommittee


Senate Committee







(3.2% increase)


(3.2% increase)


(3.2% increase)


(13.5% increase)




(3.2% increase)


(3.2% increase)


(3% increase)


(13.5% increase)




(6% increase)


(9% increase)


(7% increase)


(13.5% increase)


* One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) is a coalition of more than 40 cancer-related organizations, including the AACR.

Note: FY2009 and FY2010 funding levels do not reflect funds provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.


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