FY2011 spending bill advances to Senate for debate
By Mary Lee Watts, M.P.H., R.D.
Director, AACR Government Relations
Cancer research funding remains flat-funded at FY2010 levels and it may soon face deep cuts.
Making good on election promises to reduce federal spending, the Republican-led House of Representatives recently approved a spending package (H.R. 1) that contains massive reductions in discretionary spending for the remainder of the current fiscal year 2011, which will expire Sept. 30.
H.R. 1 would cut current funding levels for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $1.6 billion, reducing the agency's total budget to $29.6 billion, a level last seen in FY2008. The full $1.6 billion is not across-the-board, but rather portions of it target specific line items such as the Global AIDS Transfer fund, the Project Bioshield Special Reserve Fund Transfer, funds for buildings and facilities, inflation for non-competing grants and the Common Fund. However, approximately $640 million is proposed as a “general reduction to 2008 levels,” and would directly impact the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Harold Varmus, NCI's director, has already expressed grave concerns about how such cuts will affect cancer research. At a recent meeting of the National Cancer Advisory Board, he outlined NCI programs that will have to be trimmed, including cancer center awards, contracts and non-competitive award inflationary increases, as a result of the strained budget environment.
H.R. 1 would also cut the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by 21 percent and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by 10 percent.
Consideration of FY2011 spending priorities now advances to the Senate, where debate will begin during the week of Feb. 28. Senate Democrats have expressed strong opposition to spending cuts contained within H.R. 1, and it is anticipated that the bill passed in the upper chamber will differ significantly from the House version.
The current continuing resolution, the stopgap measure that is keeping most government agencies and programs running at FY2010 funding levels, will expire on March 4. By this time, the House and Senate must establish some common ground and approve a single reconciled bill in order to avert a government shutdown.
The power to stave off devastating cuts to cancer research rests with the advocacy community and cancer researchers. Over the next two weeks, constituents will need to encourage their senators to quickly pass a FY2011 omnibus spending bill that includes maximum funding for the vital research supported by the NIH and NCI.
Read More from the February Edition of the AACR Cancer Policy Monitor: