NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - The US Senate this week could consider a budget resolution that would add $2.1 billion to the amount of funding Congress appropriates for the National Institutes of Health in fiscal year 2009, an official from the Association of American Medical Colleges told GenomeWeb Daily News today.
Senators Tom Harkin (D – Iowa) and Arlen Specter (R – Pa.) will propose the addition as an amendment to a budget resolution the senate is debating this week, said Dave Moore, senior VP of the AAMC’s office of government affairs.
That funding would be in addition to another roughly $950 million that was added to the budget resolution for the NIH through a Senate Budget Committee last week, Moore said. The roughly $3 billion in additional funding would be on top of the White House’s proposed FY 2009 budget of $29.5 billion for the NIH.
Advocates for greater NIH spending in the life sciences community have been vocal in their support of an increase in funding for the NIH that would keep pace with the costs of biomedical inflation.
The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology has said that $31.2 billion would be a good number for 2009 NIH funding, and would keep the institute’s budget in line with inflation.
If the budget resolution passes with the NIH funding amendment this week, that will open the door for talks of raising NIH appropriations above $29.5 billion when the Senate begins to draft its actual budget.
That does not mean that Congress will pass a budget greater than US President George W. Bush requested.
What the passage would do, however, is “set a blueprint for how Congress will identify its priorities; how much here and how much there,” Moore explained.
“Having a bipartisan majority say NIH should get a $3 billion increase is important,” he added. That does not mean that those funds are likely to make it past the White House, which set a veto-enforced budget limit, as Moore sees it.
The Bush Administration has not singled out NIH or life sciences research spending for cuts, or as a culprit for wasteful spending, but it also has not responded to advocates’ calls for increases.
Anticipating congressional changes to the administration’s budget proposal, Director of the Office of Management and Budget Jim Nussle last week issued a statement saying that “bills that exceed the President's reasonable and responsible spending levels will be met with a veto because every dime Congress spends beyond these limits will push the budget deficit higher.”
Moore said he expects “an uphill struggle” for NIH funding this year, and he suggested that the Democratic majority in Congress may opt to stall out the budget process until President Bush leaves office and a new administration is in the White House.
Senators Specter and Harkin have not yet commented publicly on the budget resolution.