September 27, 2018

Trump signs spending bill boosting funding for health research

Emily Conron
Policy and Advocacy Officer
PATH/Patrick McKern

This afternoon, President Trump signed into law a spending bill that pairs full-year fiscal year (FY) 2019 funding for Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) and Defense with a stopgap measure to keep other agencies funded through December—staving off a partial government shutdown on the eve of the end of the fiscal year. The “minibus”-plus-continuing resolution (CR) legislation boosts funding for medical research across the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for FY19, while maintaining funding for global health at the US Agency for International Development and the Department of State through December 7 via the CR measure.

Given Trump already signed into law a spending package covering Energy, Veterans Affairs, and the Legislative Branch, now 75 percent of the government is funded for the full fiscal year; while the remaining agencies will remain funded through the CR as lawmakers work to finish full-year funding bills for them. While this year’s appropriations approach may be unusual, by recent historical standards, it was also remarkably efficient: Today marks the first time in 22 years that the government has succeeded in getting at least five of the twelve annual spending bills signed into law before the new fiscal year begins.

Here’s a breakdown of how global health and medical research funding fared in the spending package:

National Institutes of Health

The National Institutes of Health received an impressive US $2 billion boost overall (a 5 percent increase over FY18), including increases of 3-9 percent to each center involved in global health research and development (R&D). In increasing order, the package provided a boost of 3.4 percent for the Fogarty International Center, 3.75 percent for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 5 percent for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and 8.62 percent for the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also saw an overall increase from FY18 – depending on how you do the math. In the FY18 omnibus appropriations bill passed in March, CDC received a one-time $480 million funding infusion to support the construction of a replacement Prevention Biosafety Level 4 high containment laboratory to enable continued research on dangerous pathogens like Ebola. Less the cost of that lab, CDC’s overall year-on-year budget rose 1.63 percent. The Center for Global Health was level-funded, while the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases received a 1 percent bump. The bill also established a new CDC-wide Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund with an initial infusion of $50 million, a key win for global health security advocates.

Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) saw a $25 million budget increase in the bill (a 4.66 percent boost). This—coupled with the House passage of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2018—earlier this week, which reauthorized BARDA and authorized $250 million annually for five years for a new emerging infectious diseases program—is welcome news for those looking to BARDA to play an increasingly robust role in global health R&D. However, given the Senate still needs to pass their own version of a bill and continues to pursue a general all-hazards approach in their bill, a call out for emerging infectious diseases may not come to fruition in the final reauthorization.

US Agency for International Development & State Department

Global health accounts at the US Agency for International Development and the Department of State will be level funded through December 7 since the funding package signed into law today includes a CR for the State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill.
The bottom line: Yet again, strong congressional support has protected global health R&D from deep cuts to key agencies proposed in the President’s budget request and even won significant increases to some accounts. As we get closer to the midterm elections, we will keep a close eye on political developments that could affect our funding prospects for FY20.