NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – As the US federal government’s fiscal year ends in two weeks and the 2009 budget is not yet inked on the legislative schedule, the Senate may soon consider giving a $500 million buttress to the National Institutes of Health as an addition to its fiscal 2008 funding.
The additional money is a small part of a three-headed supplemental funding bill that includes a second economic stimulus package, hurricane relief, and other projects. The bill was proposed by Appropriations Committee Chairman Senator Robert Byrd (D – WV) at the end of the summer session in late July.
NIH already received a $150 million boost for fiscal 2008 in early July through a war funding bill. Those funds will be used to support the common fund, and will go to programs already supported under 2008.
But Byrd said he thought that was little more than a bandage and that NIH, which is slated to receive $29.3 billion under the White House’s request for 2009, is slipping against the steady surge of inflation.
“Even with the $150 million included in the first supplemental bill, NIH funding failed to keep up with biomedical inflation in FY08 for the fifth year in a row, a trend that has discouraged many young scientists from this field and puts the nation at risk of losing a generation of talented investigators,” Byrd said in a statement outlining the bill.
Because there are only two weeks left on the budget deadline, Congress will almost certainly head into fiscal year 2009 under a under a continuing resolution that would continue to fund NIH and the rest of the government at the current 2008 levels, Byrd’s press officer John Bray told GenomeWeb Daily News in a statement Tuesday.
The $500 million could pass after a continuing resolution if the supplemental appropriations bill makes it to a full vote, Bray said, but he said he “would not speculate whether or not it will get done.”
Howard Garrison, director of public affairs at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, told GWDN he expects the continuing resolution will pass for either three to six months, which would last until the next presidential administration. He also said it is possible that NIH could land some more funding if Congress opts to use funding levels that had been set by mark-up committees after the 2008 budget passed.
Garrison expects a frenetic pace in Congress over the next two weeks. “Something’s got to happen soon, and I’m assuming there are a lot of negotiations,” he said. “But there are pieces of the puzzle that aren’t clear just yet,” he added.