Developments Yesterday on Capitol Hill

A couple of important developments broke in Congress yesterday evening after we sent the NABR Update to our members. The "21st Century Cures Act" passed in the House of Representatives and Congress is expected to adopt a long-term stopgap spending bill to fund the federal government. Read more details below.

Landmark Healthcare Reform Bill Passes House

Last night, the “21st Century Cures Act” passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 392-26. The bipartisan omnibus health care package was first introduced in May 2015 by Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) and consists of measures to expedite and improve research for lifesaving cures. It also includes reforms for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Medicare, Medicaid, mental health and other health care issues. Most notably, the act will provide $4.796 billion of funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) between FYs 2017 and 2026.

Highlights of the bill include:

  • $30 million to expand clinical research for regenerative medicine using adult stem cells, between FYs 2017 and 2020
  • $1.8 billion for cancer research, between FYs 2017 and 2023
  • $1.455 billion for the Precision Medicine Initiative, between FYs 2017 and 2026
  • $1.511 billion for Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative, between FYs 2017 and 2026

“21st Century Cures is the innovation game-changer that patients, their loved ones, and the nation’s researchers and scientists so desperately need. The White House has expressed its enthusiastic endorsement of this critical legislation. So it’s now on to the Senate, where we are just one final vote away from delivering #CuresNow,” said Upton and Diana DeGette in a press release by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The next step for the bill is a vote in the Senate, which is expected to pass the bill without amendment early next week.

Long-Term Spending Bill Inevitable

Additionally, it is now expected that Congress will adopt a new longer-term stopgap spending bill. Although, according to the Hill, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently stated that Congress prefers a short-term Appropriations bill to fund the government into President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, Congress is simply running out of time to complete action. Yesterday, Republicans in the House and Senate contended that a new longer-term Continuing Resolution (CR) stretching into at least April will be inevitable because of the Senate’s tight schedule, which will include important votes confirming President-elect Trump’s Cabinet members. Congress has until next week (December 9), when the current CR expires, to approve the new long-term CR.

Please continue to check your email and www.NABR.org for the latest news from NABR. Please also follow NABR on Twitter to get breaking news instantly.

President-elect Names HHS Secretary Nominee

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump (R) to serve as the incoming U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Price has represented the 6th district of Georgia since 2004, following twenty years as an orthopedic surgeon. He currently presides as chair of the House Committee on the Budget and serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means. He is also a member of the Congressional Health Care Caucus and the Doctors Caucus. He received his undergraduate and M.D. degrees from the University of Michigan and completed his residency at Emory University, where he later held an academic appointment and trained residents at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital.  "There is much work to be done to ensure we have a health care system that works for patients, families, and doctors; that leads the world in the cure and prevention of illness; and that is based on sensible rules to protect the well-being of the country while embracing its innovative spirit,” said Price in a statement released upon nomination.

Dr. Price has been a critic of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obama Care), which some predict will be a major point of focus during his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing.  Nature reports there's evidence Price has pushed to cut federal spending overall, but his plans and positions on biomedical research issues and funding will likely become clearer during his upcoming confirmation hearings. Confirmation hearings for nominations will begin in 2017.

Election Day is Fast Approaching!

One of the most important political events is rapidly approaching! Election Day is a little over a month away. On Tuesday, November 8 Americans across the country will go to the polls to cast their ballots for President, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, Governor, as well as a number of state and local offices.

Every vote counts! If you’re not yet registered to vote, please do so. You can find out more about voting in your state by clicking here.  Check out Google’s How to Vote to learn more about voting in your area.

Registration Now Available for NABR’s Next Webinar, “Participating in the Public Policy Process”

NABR is the only national, nonprofit organization dedicated solely to advocating for sound public policy that recognizes the vital role animals play in biomedical research. NABR members play a unique and irreplaceable role in public policy process, especially when Congress considers legislation impacting biomedical research and when federal agencies propose new regulations.

Join us Tuesday, October 11 at 12:30 p.m. for NABR’s next webinar, Help Us Help You: Participating in the Public Policy Process. This webinar will provide participants with the necessary information to become an active participant in the regulatory and legislative processes and provides guidance about how to help shape the environment in which we all work. NABR’s program will share an insider's perspective into Washington that highlights important aspects of policymaking by using recent legislative initiatives and Federal Register notices to demonstrate the importance of participation.

As always, space is limited for NABR's webinars so please be sure to register ASAP to guarantee your spot for Help Us Help You: Participating in Public Policy Process. Please click here to reserve your spot.

2016 Rally for Medical Research Hill Day Registration Open

The Rally for Medical Research has opened registration for the 2016 Hill Day, scheduled to take place Thursday, September 22.

This Capitol Hill event began in 2013 and includes nearly 300 national organizations coming together for the Rally to raise awareness about the importance of continued investment in medical research, leading to more progress, more hope and more lives saved.  Its ultimate purpose is to call on federal policymakers to make funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a national priority.

Additional details about the day’s activities and registration information are available here.  If you have any questions, please contact info@rallyformedicalreserach.org.

Bill to Address Regulatory Burden Introduced in U.S. House

On June 24, Representative Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) introduced the University Regulation Streamlining and Harmonization Act of 2016 (H.R. 5583), a bill to streamline and harmonize Federal research regulations at institutions of higher education, and for other purposes. Current co-sponsors are Reps. Tom Graves (R-GA), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), and Reid J. Ribble (R-WI).  H.R. 5583 was jointly referred to two committees, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

In a letter to Congressman Lipinski, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) praised the bill for the steps it takes to streamline and harmonize the increasingly complex and burdensome set of regulations that hamper the conduct of research. While acknowledging that appropriate regulations are necessary to ensure research is conducted in a responsible and ethical manner, FASEB supports the provisions in the bill that would reduce regulatory burden on practicing scientists. In particular, the proposed legislation would establish a Research Policy Board, reporting to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), tasked with reviewing new and existing regulations with an eye toward streamlining requirements.

Because federal regulations governing animal research are among those which may be affected, NABR is encouraged by this interest in reducing regulatory burden and will report any progress of this new proposal and others.

Senate Spending Bill Proposes $2 Billion More for NIH

The Senate Labor-HHS-Education appropriations subcommittee yesterday marked up its version of the FY 2017 Labor-HHS-Ed appropriations bill. “This is the first bipartisan Senate Labor-HHS bill in seven years, and I want to thank Senator Murray for her work on this bill,“ said Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), subcommittee chair. “The fiscal year 2017 Labor-HHS bill eliminates 18 duplicitous or unnecessary federal programs in addition to the 18 from last year’s bill, and is $270 million less than last year,“ he added.  The bill provides $161.9 billion in base discretionary spending, which is $270 million below the FY 2016 level and $2 billion below the President’s budget request.  The Full Senate Appropriations Committee may take up the bill as soon as tomorrow.

According to the Republican summary, the measure provides $34 billion for NIH, a $2 billion (6.3%) increase.  In December of last year, the NIH received a $2 billion boost in the omnibus funding bill that raised its budget from $30 billion to $32 billion. The new proposal includes:

•    $300 million for the Precision Medicine Initiative, an increase of $100 million;
•    $1.39 billion for Alzheimer’s disease research, an increase of $400 million;
•    $250 million, an increase of $100 million, for the BRAIN Initiative to map the human brain;
•    $333.4 million, an increase of $12.5 million, for the Institutional Development Award;
•    $463 million, an increase of $50 million, to Combat Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria; and
•    $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act.

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking member of the subcommittee, said, “I am especially proud that this bill doesn't include a single new damaging policy rider.”  The Democrats also released a summary.

NIH Workshop on Research with Non-human Primates (NHP)

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Associate Director for Science Policy Carrie D. Wolinetz, PhD, announced last week a workshop on September 7, 2016, that will convene experts in science, policy, ethics, and animal welfare to discuss the oversight framework governing the use of non-human primates (NHPs) in NIH-funded biomedical and behavioral research.  As yet, no workshop speakers have been announced.

In her “Under the Poliscope” blog post, Dr. Wolinetz stated, “NIH remains confident that the oversight framework for the use of non-human primates in research is robust and has provided sufficient protections to date. However, we believe that periodically reviewing agency policies and processes ensures that this framework evolves in a manner consistent with emerging scientific opportunities and public health needs. Toward this end and in response to Congressional interest, the Office of Science Policy is taking the lead in planning a workshop on September 7th . . .  At this workshop, participants will also explore the state of the science involving non-human primates as research models and discuss the ethical principles underlying existing animal welfare regulations and policies…  NIH is committed to ensuring that research with non-human primates can continue responsibly…”

The workshop will be broadcast live and archived for future viewing on the NIH Videocast website.  Comments regarding the workshop may be submitted online in advance of and during the workshop for consideration.

Congress Moves on Zika Funding

The U.S. Senate voted decisively last week in favor of a bipartisan $1.1 billion measure to combat the Zika virus this year and next, cutting back President Barack Obama’s request from $1.9 billion, but offering significantly more money to fight Zika than the U.S. House.  For its part, the House approved an emergency appropriations measure providing limited funds – less than a third of what was requested – only through the end of this fiscal year (September 30, 2016), as described in this Science news report. Florida Governor Rick Scott has urged Congress to pass a Zika funding bill, according to the Miami Herald.  And a May 17 Boston Globe editorial headline said Funding to Fight Zika Shouldn’t Wait. The challenging negotiations ahead for Congress and the White House to resolve the question are described here by the Washington Times.

The fact that animal research is critical to understanding the Zika virus and finding a vaccine has been part of the public discussion.  In a Newsweek op-ed, FBR President Frankie Trull explained how primate research is key to finding a Zika vaccine.  Also, three studies showing the Zika virus causes microcephaly in mice embryos are discussed in these May 11 reports in The Scientist and the Los Angeles TimesCNN and the BBC have broadcast news stories acknowledging the contributions of animal studies to Zika research.

NABR Presents Annual Analysis of Federal Animal Rights FOIA Requests

In its ongoing efforts to keep the animal research community informed, NABR presents its annual analysis of animal rights FOIA requests, "A Review of Animal Rights FOIA Requests FY15."  This is an in-depth report of every federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made during FY15 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by animal rights groups that you won’t find anywhere else.

NABR’s experts have broken these requests down in an easy-to-read format to help you quickly understand the most commonly requested information, frequency of requests by party, and the cost to taxpayers. Of particular note, the number of requests for information about institutions submitted to NIH’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare have increased dramatically.

While this report focuses specifically on the federal FOIA, we also encourage you to review where your state stands with respect to state-level open records laws at NABR's "FOIA in Your State." (log-in required)

As animal rights groups continue to rely on FOIA to gather intelligence about research projects, it is important to understand the impact of such requests.  Download "A Review of Animal Rights FOIA Requests FY15" today by clicking below, and share it with your staff and counsel.

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