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Appropriations Update: Life Sciences Off to a Strong Start in the House

Appropriators would give a $2 billion increase to NIH and big boosts for other research programs in a continuing rejection of Trump Administration budget plans.

This week House legislators kicked off the FY 2020 appropriations season with a trio of bills approved in committee – including the Labor, HHS, and Education bill, the largest single nondefense spending measure – and in so doing, provided health research programs with some sizable increases. A recap and notes are below; see also the FY 2020 Appropriations Dashboard for data comparisons. All three bills are headed for the House floor next, though likely not until June.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

As seen below, the committee would provide $41.1 billion, a $2.0 billion increase above FY 2019 and a $7.2 billion increase above the White House budget for NIH, which had recommended historic reductions in research grant funding rates. Most institutes would get a 4.9 percent increase.

This all includes funding allocated via 21st Century Cures. NIH still stands to receive an additional $220 million or more through Superfund Research Program funding, which is appropriated through the not-yet-introduced Interior bill, and through the Type I Diabetes research program of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which the Trump Administration has recommended for $150 million in mandatory funding but which Congress has not yet reauthorized. Prior-year and requested funding for these programs is displayed below.

Table showing funding increases in NIH House appropriations for FY 2020.


Funding for major initiatives and priorities is as follows:

  • $500 million for All of Us/Precision Medicine (up from $379 million in FY 2019)
  • $411 million for the BRAIN Initiative (down from $429 million)
  • $195 million for the Cancer Moonshot (down from $400 million)
  • $2.39 billion for Alzheimer's research (up from $2.34 billion in FY 2019 appropriations).
  • $200 million for NIAID research on a universal flu vaccine (up from $140 million)
  • The Institutional Development Awards (IDeA) program would receive a $20 million or 5.5 percent increase from FY 2019 levels.

New activities include $50 million for the Childhood Cancer Data Initiative, as requested by the White House; $25 million for multi-institute gun violence research; and $10 million for a new competitive Emerging Centers of Excellence program at the National Human Genome Research Institute, to build capacity at institutions that have not previously received Centers of Excellence awards. The bill also includes $25 million for grants or contracts for extramural research facility renovation at public and non-profit institutions.

Report language directs NIH to continue taking action on addressing sexual harassment, a subject on which the agency has taken recent fire. Legislators say NIH must require institutions to notify the agency when personnel named on an NIH award are placed on administrative leave over harassment concerns. NIH must also support research on the psychology of harassment, and work with the National Academies to develop best practices on harassment and inclusion.

Adjusted for inflation, NIH would receive its highest budget level since FY 2006 under the House figures.

Graph showing fall and recent rise in NIH funding levels.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

As seen below, most program areas within CDC would receive at least moderate increases in the House bill, which would provide the agency a $921 million boost above FY 2019 and $1.7 billion above the request. Priorities with larger funding increases (generally in the $15-$40 million range) include prevention of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer; minority outreach; maternal mortality monitoring; rural obesity; and reduction of youth e-cigarette use. The bill includes $25 million for a new gun violence research initiative (in addition to the $25 million for NIH on the same), and $225 million for a new research support building on its Chamblee, GA campus and other one-time infrastructure improvements.

Appropriators also added $140 million for an HIV reduction initiative with the goal of reducing new infections by 90 percent in the next decade.

The National Center for Health Statistics would be flat-funded at $160.4 million, but appropriators would also add $100 million to the Public Health Scientific Services for the first year of a multi-year effort led by CDC, in partnerships with other stakeholders, to modernize federal health data collection and application. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health would receive a $10 million or 3.0 percent increase to $346 million.

Table showing funding increases in CDC House appropriations for FY 2020.


Institute for Education Sciences (IES)

IES would receive a 5.6 percent or $34.5 million increase above FY 2019 to $650 million, with appropriators rejecting the proposed closures of the Regional Educational Laboratories (which would instead see a $5 million or 9.0 percent increase above FY 2019) and Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems grants (which would instead see a $3 million or 9.3 percent increase).

The National Center for Education Statistics would receive an $8 million or 7.3 percent increase above FY 2019 levels to $117.5 million total.

The IES appropriation is $128.4 million above the request.

Veterans Affairs Medical Research

In a separate bill passed Thursday, Department of Veterans Affairs medical and prosthetic research was granted a $61 million or 7.8 percent increase above FY 2019 to $840 million, $78 million more than requested in the White House budget.

The bill provides $40 million for the National Center for PTSD, the same as FY 2019 and nearly double the request for FY 2020. The bill also includes $25 million for extramural research into wireless neural-enabled prosthetics, and $5 million to establish partnerships between VA hospitals and National Cancer Institute-designated facilities to improve veteran access to clinical trials. The committee expressed support for the Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Centers, the Walter Reed National Intrepid Center of Excellence, and several areas of ongoing research. Additional details and committee priorities can be found in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs report.

Office of Technology Assessment (OTA)

In the Legislative Branch spending bill, the third bill adopted in committee this week, House appropriators recommended including $6 million for the Office of Technology Assessment, a congressional agency that once provided expert advice on science and technology matters, but was defunded in 1995. Appropriators also attempted to fund OTA last year, but that smaller proposal failed to become law.


Cover image credit: NIH Clinical Center