November elections overshadow work on Capitol Hill
By Mary Lee Watts, M.P.H., R.D.
Director, AACR Government Relations
Congress returns from the Fourth of July recess this week with a full schedule before legislators pack up again for an extended August recess. Amidst growing concerns about the federal deficit and perceptions that spending in Washington is out of control, as well as anti-incumbent sentiments taking hold in their districts, Congress continues to struggle to pass a budget framework and spending bills for the coming year.
Prior to leaving town for the July recess, the House passed a "budget enforcement resolution" setting a limit of $1.12 trillion on fiscal year 2011 discretionary spending. This figure is about $7 billion less than President Obama's budget proposal and $3 billion less than the resolution approved by the Senate Budget Committee.
Unlike the conventional and more comprehensive budget resolution, the House spending plan does not project the budget out over a five-year period; such a document would have been certain to indicate large future deficits—the last thing Democratic lawmakers want voters thinking about in the looming November elections. House leaders defended this tactic by explaining that they are waiting to see the recommendations from the president's fiscal commission which is tasked with producing a long-term plan to reduce the national deficit before the year's end.
The full Senate has not taken up a resolution and it is unclear if it will at all.
Despite the uncertainty, several House Appropriations subcommittees have pushed ahead to mark up FY2011 spending bills—including the subcommittee
with jurisdiction over the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The bill would provide the FDA with $2.57 billion in total funding—$214 million above FY2010 and $55 million above the president's request.
The Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor-HHS) Subcommittee in the House is scheduled to consider the spending bill that contains funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) on July 15. The Senate Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee is expected to take up the Senate version by the end of the month.
Despite the threat of frozen spending and perhaps budget cuts in Washington, the AACR and like-minded groups continue to work to engage appropriators to make the case that biomedical research is a high priority, and that federal investment in the NIH should be increased by at least $4.2 billion, which is equal to half of the two-year research funding provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, for a total of $35.2 billion for NIH. The AACR is also advocating a total of $5.795 billion for NCI.
With contentious mid-term elections right around the corner, it is likely Congress will pass a continuing resolution this fall to fund the government at FY2010 levels into 2011.
More from the July Edition of the AACR Cancer Policy Monitor: