Congressional leaders hope to approve spending bills by mid-November
With key deadlines quickly approaching, funding for cancer research and biomedical science remains uncertain and in jeopardy.
Fiscal year 2011 officially expired on Sept. 30, but with no agreement on FY2012 funding priorities, Congress enacted a continuing resolution as a temporary stopgap measure to keep federal agencies operating at FY2011 levels until Nov. 18. Congressional leaders are currently struggling to complete work before this deadline to avoid the need to pass another temporary funding measure.
Additionally, approving the bills by mid-November would take FY2012 spending off the table for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which is tasked with releasing a plan by Nov. 23 to reach an additional $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. The AACR sent a letter to this committee specifically urging them to safeguard funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in any proposal they put forth. The letter was signed by an alliance of AACR presidents dating back to 1963.
While Congress continues to formulate the details of the FY2012 budget, the two chambers remain at odds over funding for NIH and NCI. Last month, Republican leaders in the House released a draft proposal that would increase FY2012 funding for NIH by $1 billion (3.3 percent), and boost the NCI budget by $136 million (2.7 percent), just days after Democrats in the Senate voted to cut funds for these research entities.
The new House measure does, however, contain controversial provisions and substantial cuts to other agencies, including the Department of Education and the Department of Labor, that congressional Democrats will find impossible to accept, promising to elevate the level of conflict between the two parties.
The Senate bill, approved by the full Appropriations Committee, would cut $190 million (0.6 percent), from the NIH budget, and $58 million (1.2 percent) from NCI. Under this proposal, NIH would absorb nearly two-thirds of the total cut to the overall Labor-HHS-Education allocation for FY2012.
Over the coming weeks, the House and Senate will need to negotiate the differences between the funding levels and other details of their respective bills. This is a crucial time for the cancer research and biomedical science community to speak out in support of NIH and NCI funding.
One way you can make a difference now is to contact your representative today and encourage him or her to register support for NIH research by signing an important letter being circulated by Reps. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that urges the House Appropriations Committee to support a strong investment in NIH in the FY2012 budget.
The more signatures on this letter, the more powerful the message will be to appropriators. Act now!
Read more from the October Edition of the AACR Cancer Policy Monitor: