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House Approps Committee Approves FY2019 Labor-HHS-ED Funding Bill

The House Appropriations Committee passed its FY2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (Labor-HHS-ED) funding bill on a party-line vote of 30-22 (see bill and report). A total of 18 amendments were adopted during the full Committee markup.

The Committee-approved bill would fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at $38.334 billion, an overall $1.25 billion increase from FY2018 enacted levels, $3.57 billion above the president’s budget request (PBR), and $750 million less than the Senate proposal. The $1.25 billion increase is inclusive of money authorized by the 21st Century Cures Act. While the Manager’s Amendment adjusts funding levels in the bill for the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and National Institute of Mental Health, the change corrects an error in the Subcommittee-passed bill language to align the text with the funding table in the report. Thus, the overall funding level for NIH is unchanged from that which the Subcommittee approved.

The bill includes language to maintain the extramural salary cap at Executive Level II, as opposed to the administration’s proposal to lower the cap to Executive Level V. The report also rejects the administration’s request to limit the percentage of a researcher’s salary that may be paid with NIH grant funds. The bill would prohibit use of funds for research on fetal tissue obtained from an induced abortion.

The bill provides $614 million for the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) Title VII and Title VIII programs, $526 million above the PBR, $32 million less than FY2018 levels and $29 million below the Senate bill.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) would receive $334 million, equal to FY2018 enacted levels and the Senate proposal. The administration had proposed to cut funding for AHRQ and move its activities into the NIH, creating a National Institute of Research on Safety and Quality. The House bill, like the Senate one, keeps AHRQ as a separate agency.

Within the Department of Education, the bill would provide $22.475 billion for the Pell Grant program and keep the maximum Pell Grant award at $6,095. The proposed appropriated level is equal to the amount in the Senate bill, as well as the level of FY2018 funding and the PBR. Yet the Senate bill would raise the maximum Pell Grant award to $6,195 while rescinding $600 million from the program’s surplus. The House bill would fund the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need program at $23 million, level with FY2018 and the Senate bill, while the PBR proposed zeroing out the program. Although the PBR would also zero out the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) program, the House bill would provide $840 million for SEOG, level with FY2018 funding and the Senate proposal. Like the Senate proposal, Federal Work Study would receive $1.130 billion, which is the same as FY2018 and $630 million above the PBR. The bill would fund TRIO at $1.060 billion, an increase of $50 million from FY2018 levels and the Senate proposal, and $110 million above the PBR. While the PBR would zero-out GEAR UP, the House bill would provide $360 million, a $10 million increase over FY2018 and the Senate bill. The Institute of Education Sciences would receive $613 million, level with FY2018, $2 million less than the Senate bill, and $91 million above the PBR. Title VI International Education Programs would receive $72 million, level with FY2018 and the Senate proposal. The PBR would eliminate the program.

House Passes FY2019 Interior-Environment Funding Bill

The House approved its second “minibus” appropriations bill, which includes the FY2019 Interior-Environment and Financial Services spending bills, by a vote of 217-199.

In contrast to the PBR that proposed zeroing out the Water Resources Research Institutes (WRRI) and Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units (CRUs) at the U.S. Geological Survey, the House bill would provide $6.5 million to WRRI, level with FY2018 and the Senate proposal, and $19.2 million to CRUs, a $1.9 million increase over FY2018 and $1.6 million more than the Senate bill.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Science and Technology would receive $644 million, $62 million below FY2018 funding levels and the Senate’s proposed funding level. The PBR proposes $449 million for the agency.

The bill would fund the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) at $155 million, which is the same as the Senate proposal and $2 million more than FY2018 enacted levels. The PBR requested $42 million to close out the agency. An amendment offered on the House floor by Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) would have reduced funding for NEH by $23 million. APLU and others opposed the amendment which failed on a vote of 114-297. Many universities weighed in with their House members in opposition to the amendment.

NIH Delays Some Requirements on Clinical Trial Case Studies

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a guidance notice delaying the enforcement for some requirements affecting prospective basic science studies involving human participants. The notice specifies that “through September 24, 2019, NIH will continue to expect registration and reporting for prospective basic science studies involving human participants, with additional flexibility to allow reporting on existing basic science portals, with the expectation that data will eventually be transported to ClinicalTrials.gov.” Additionally, a Request for Information (RFI) will be issued for more input on “registration and results reporting standards best suited for prospective basic science studies involving human participants.” Last September, APLU joined the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Association of American Universities (AAU), and Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) in sending a letter to NIH in response to the agency’s revised definition of a clinical trial, which included fundamental and basic health-related research.

APLU Letter to Energy & Water Appropriations Leaders

In advance of the first FY2019 Energy and Water funding bill conference committee meeting, APLU sent a letter to Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairmen and Ranking Members in support of the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science and the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E). The letter asks lawmakers to include $6.65 billion for DOE Office of Science and $375 million for ARPA-E, the levels included in the Senate bill with strong bipartisan support. APLU also supported a statement by the Energy Sciences Coalition in support of $6.65 billion for the Office of Science.

USPTO Letter Regarding Proposed Changes to PTAB Proceedings

APLU, AAU, AAMC, and COGR submitted a comment letter to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in response to a proposed change to the claim construction standard used in Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) proceedings. The letter is supportive of harmonizing the inter partes review claim construction standard with that of the federal courts and the International Trade Commission.

House Democrats Introduce Comprehensive HEA Reauthorization Bill, the “Aim Higher Act”

House Democrats on the Education & Workforce Committee unveiled legislation to comprehensively reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA). The bill’s title is the Aim Higher Act. The Democrats intend the legislation as a contrast to the Republican PROSPER Act which passed through the Committee late last year but has not reached the House floor. APLU released a statement applauding some provisions of the Aim Higher Act while noting the need for engagement with lawmakers to improve the bill.

FY2019 NDAA Conference Agreement Released

After completing conference committee negotiations, lawmakers on Capitol Hill released a final FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report this week. The report would authorize FY2019 appropriations and set policy priorities for the Department of Defense (DoD). Shortly after the release, APLU issued a statement in support of how the conference bill would address some national security concerns pertaining to talent recruitment programs and DoD research conducted at universities. The statement highlights a provision in the bill that would instruct DoD to establish an initiative with universities to best determine effective means to address emerging national security issues.

NASEM Releases Breakthrough 2030 Food and Agriculture Research Report

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released Breakthrough 2030, a report detailing promising scientific breakthroughs in U.S. food and agriculture research achievable by 2030. The full report, a four-page brief summary, and video with the main messages from the report are all available online.

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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