Congress extends timeline to finalize annual funding bills to mid-December
The effort to finalize funding levels for fiscal year 2010 has taken a backseat to the mounting fervor to pass a comprehensive health care package before the year's end.
Congress recently gave itself at least another month to complete work on remaining FY2010 spending bills. On Oct. 29, it adopted 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 2009 fiscal year officially expired on Sept. 30 and extended funding through Oct. 31.
To date, Congress still needs to complete work on seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills, including the measure containing funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Each chamber has already passed its own version of the FY2010 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Education) Appropriations Bill, setting the stage for negotiations to occur between House and Senate members to reach common ground in a single spending bill that can be sent to the president.
One issue for negotiators will be a $500 million discrepancy in funding for the NIH. The Senate bill, which has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and still awaits approval by the full Senate, would increase the NIH budget by $442 million, 1.4 percent over the FY2009 level, bringing the total budget to $30.8 billion. This increase is equal to the president's budget request that was released in May, but $500 million below the level that the House of Representatives has approved.
Both chambers rejected President Obama's proposal to commence an eight-year effort to double funding for cancer research in FY2010. A report accompanying the Senate appropriations bill explained that targeting money at specific diseases would set a "dangerous precedent" by allowing politics to interfere with the professional expertise of the medical research community.
Read more from the November 2009 Edition of the AACR Cancer Policy Monitor: