The U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives have each released their drafts of Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations bills that include funding for the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the news is worrisome. Neither bill has been approved by the full Senate or House of Representatives. As with any negotiation, each bill can be viewed as an opening offer so the final outcome may be different.
Along with troublesome funding levels for each agency, the House of Representatives’ draft NIH bill includes policy “riders” that place limitations on what research can be conducted and who can do the research.
With both houses of Congress in recess for August, now is a good time for you to reach out to your Senators and Representative to educate them on the importance of NIH and NSF funding to research in their state and district.
Show Me the Money
The NIH funding bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee includes a 6.2% cut to the Fiscal Year 2024 NIH budget. Included in the 6.2% cut is a 2.6% cut in the NIGMS budget, the NCI budget is reduced by 2.9%, and the NIAID budget is slashed by 22.9%. The cuts to the NIH by the Republican-led House are in stark contrast to recent Republican-authored budgets. In recent years, budgets for the NIH have done better under Republican majorities, in part because Republicans support fewer programs within the annual Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill, which funds the NIH.
The Senate Appropriations Committee bill for the NIH is different. The overall NIH budget is increased by 2.4%. The NIGMS budget is funded at the same amount as last year, NCI sees a 0.9% budget increase and NIAID is funded at the same level as last year.
The House reduces the NSF budget by 2.7% less than last year. The NSF would see a 4% cut if the Senate bill were to become law. The reductions by both houses in the NSF budget are curious because the NSF is the “and Science” part of the highly touted Chips and Science Act passed last year with bipartisan support. Implementing the “and Science” provisions of the Act will require additional funding not currently included in either funding bill.
Careful Where You Step
The budget cuts are just one concerning part of the House NIH bill. The bill also includes a number of policy landmines that check a number of ideological boxes.
- The NIH is prohibited from funding research that uses fetal tissue from elective abortions
- The bill contains a prohibition on NIH funds going to EcoHealth Alliance, which was in the news during the COVID-19 pandemic. EcoHealth works with research labs in China in an effort to find new coronaviruses.
- The NIH can’t provide funds to labs in the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela.
- Federal funds can’t be used for ‘gain of function” research in countries including China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate need to pass their 13 individual funding bills, reach compromises with the other house, and have all the bills signed into law by the President in 3 weeks in September, before the end of the current fiscal year. It is all but certain Congress will need to pass continuing resolutions to keep the government open after the October 1 start of Fiscal Year 2024. Another government shutdown also hangs in the air. Based on the outrage by the right wing members of the House Republican caucus after the agreement the House Speaker reached with President Biden to avert a federal default, a long shutdown this fall is entirely possible.
About the Author:
Kevin M. Wilson serves as Director of Public Policy and Media Relations for The American Society for Cell Biology. He's worked as the Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Robert Weygand (D-RI) and as a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). He has a BA in Politics and American Government from the Catholic University of America. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org