June 27, 2012

What’s Ahead on the Hill

Policy and Advocacy Officer

In this feature on Breakthroughs, we provide an update on what’s currently happening with global health in Congress and an outlook for future legislative activity.

Following the August recess and Labor Day Holiday, Congress is now back for a very brief time before it takes another break to focus intensely on campaigning ahead of the November elections. We don’t expect much action on legislation specific to global health or research programs. Instead, Congress will focus on passing a Continuing Resolution (CR) for fiscal year 2013 in order to keep the government running through the end of March 2013, as members juggle the remaining legislative tasks on their plate.

The CR actually includes a tiny 0.6 percent increase across the board for all federal programs, including those that fund global health research. However, the resolution will expire long after the looming budget sequestration goes into effect in January 2013 and will also run into the fiscal year 2014 budget process, effectively creating a budgeting perfect storm. Advocates for a wide range of federal programs are in high gear to convince Congress to delay sequestration or to pass a balanced budget in its place. Some of those advocates have found congressional allies willing to take on their cause.

Also this week, we’re looking for a report from the Obama Administration on the potential impact of sequestration on federal agencies. As we outlined in our last update, sequestration could result in cuts ranging from 8.5 percent to 14 percent to most federal programs, depending on the outcome of the budget negotiations in Congress and the November elections. Sequestration would undoubtedly have a significant impact on global health and research programs at agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Defense, the US Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the US Agency for International Development. We’re eager to see this report and learn more about how sequestration might impact efforts supported by these agencies to develop new lifesaving global health tools.

Global health research and development (R&D) programs span the breadth of the US budget. Congress needs to work to protect these essential R&D programs from disproportionate cuts and ensure that funding is sustained—and increased if possible—for the coming years. Although the elections may be on the top of everyone’s to-do list for now, temporary budget fixes that leave these activities vulnerable to indiscriminate cuts and similar actions will not work forever. We need a plan that protects global health R&D and other key programs for the long-term, and right now, that job starts with Congress.