The Senate Committee of Appropriations on Thursday overwhelmingly approved the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017. It allocates $76.9 billion to the HHS, an increase of $1.4 billion from fiscal 2016.
It includes a $2 billion increase for NIH that adds $400 million for research on Alzheimer's disease as well as increases for the Precision Medicine Initiative and an initiative to map the human brain. It also puts money toward prescription drug monitoring programs and expanded access to treatment of opioid misuse.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said it is an increase of 542% to fight the opioid epidemic from one year ago. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said, however, that it is “far from the last step we need to make on this front.”
The chairman of the House committee on Labor and HHS appropriations has said he doubts the House bill will include the same increase for the NIH but that it might be reached in negotiations.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said at the markup Thursday that the additional funding for NIH is important, but the Senate also needs to pass a package of bills that complements the 21st Century Cures Act, which passed the House last July.
Passage in the Senate has been held up by disagreement over mandatory funding for the NIH, which Democrats have said is not satisfied by the appropriations bill.
Research America President and CEO Mary Woolley said in a statement that the NIH increase in the appropriations bill is helpful, but reductions for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality are disappointing.
“Strong, sustained budgets for the federal health agencies are critical to advancing medical progress to overcome health threats like Alzheimer's, obesity, diabetes and cancer,” she said.