Congress Passes FY 2018 Funding Bill with $3 Billion Increase for NIH

Six months late and after five temporary stopgap continuing resolutions and two brief partial government shutdowns, the FY 2018 appropriations process is finally completed. After multiple delays, Congressional negotiators released a $1.3 trillion spending bill March 22 as the clock ticked closer to a March 24 shutdown deadline. Leaders originally planned to release the details of the bill earlier in March, but the spending talks remain mired in fights over immigration, gun control, and healthcare. The House of Representatives and Senate passed the bill with less than 24 hours until the deadline.

Despite the extended fight, the final bill represents a huge victory for the Endocrine Society.

The spending bill (HR 1625) provides a $3 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a total budget of $37.084 billion. This funding level exceeds the recommendation approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last summer! That amount includes $496 million for projects funded by the 21st Century Cures Act and $500 million for opioid research. Funding increases were made possible by legislation passed last month that raised statutory spending caps in the federal budget.

The bill also includes:

  • Increases to every NIH Institute and Center above their FY 2017 levels
  • No restrictions on federal funding for fetal tissue or stem cell research
  • A provision prohibiting any caps on facilities and administrative costs (e.g., indirect costs)
  • Language stating that the NIH is expected to use the increased funding to support an increase in the number of new and competing Research Project Grants
  • Language mandating that the NIH continue its focus on emerging investigators and first-time renewals of young investigators with actions to significantly reduce the average age of an NIH-supported new investigator
  • New language clarifying that the Dickey Amendment does not prohibit the Centers for Disease Control from awarding grants to study gun violence
  • A provision directing the NIH to delay enforcement of the new clinical trials definition
  • Significant funding increases for the other federal agencies, including a $1 billion increase for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • $8.1 million increase for the National Diabetes Prevention Program
  • Endocrine Society-recommended report language recognizing certain hormone assays need harmonization
  • A compromise on controversies surrounding the Title X family planning grant program, which will receive flat funding in FY 2018. While Republicans have sought for years to eliminate the program because some of its funding goes to Planned Parenthood, negotiations over the bill were prolonged because Democrats wanted to prevent the administration from making changes that could affect Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. The bill no longer has that restriction, and instead contains language that would require grant recipients to “encourage family participation” when minors seek family-planning services.

The Endocrine Society was certainly not the only group advocating for funding increases, but we were one of the most vocal. We thank our members who joined in our efforts by sending emails to Congress, participating in our Hill Days and briefings, and rallying for medical research. Your work made a difference! We now begin working on FY 2019 appropriations and increases for our program priorities.

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