Outcome still uncertain for cancer research funding
With just days left before adjourning for the winter holiday recess, there is still no consensus in Congress about unfinished fiscal year 2011 spending bills.
To date, legislators still need to complete all 12 of the annual appropriations bills, including the measure containing funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
In early December, legislators gave themselves extra time to finalize appropriations by adopting a second continuing resolution, a stopgap measure to keep many government agencies and programs running at FY2009 levels through Dec. 18. The first resolution was adopted just before the 2010 fiscal year officially expired on Sept. 30 and extended funding through Dec. 3.
Senate Democrats are still leading an effort to roll unfinished spending bills into a single FY2011 omnibus appropriations measure, which would include a $750 million increase for the NIH. If the Senate is successful, the House of Representatives is expected to follow suit. However, prospects of success are dimming as Republicans in both chambers remain opposed to any measure that increases federal spending.
As the likelihood of an omnibus bill fades, remaining options include a year-long continuing resolution, which would maintain current funding levels through Sept. 30, 2011, or a short-term continuing resolution that would maintain FY2010 funding levels through February of next year, when the new Congress will address spending levels for the remainder of FY2011 before embarking on the FY2012 appropriations process.
Under these two remaining options, the best scenario is a clean, year-long resolution that freezes NIH funding through September of next year.
While flat funding is hardly a good option, the greater concern is that a short-term resolution would be vulnerable to drastic cuts by Republicans, who will gain strength in the Senate and take control of the House of Representatives in January. The idea of slashing funding levels to FY2008 levels is popular in GOP circles, including the incoming Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY).
The outlook for cancer research in FY2012 is no more positive. A report recently released by the president's fiscal commission, which recommends billions in funding cuts to reduce the federal deficit, has found a receptive audience in the White House and on Capitol Hill and will likely be the focus for future work on cutting deficits and the debt — including in the president’s next budget.
The power to change the outcome rests with the advocacy community and cancer researchers. Over the next few weeks, constituents will need to pressure their senators and representatives to quickly pass a FY2011 omnibus spending bill that includes maximum funding for the vital research supported by the NIH. That effort will need to be sustained through 2011 to prevent further cuts.
Read more from the December Edition of the AACR Cancer Policy Monitor: