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House Leadership Presses for Budget Bill Opposed by Health Advocates
By Greg Brozeit

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has indicated that he will schedule a full vote on a House Budget Resolution package as early as tomorrow, Thursday, May 11, 2006. Advocates are encouraged to contact their members of Congress to urge them to oppose any Budget Resolution legislation that does not include at least $7.2 billion more for domestic funding—including cancer research—than the President requested in his budget proposal.

Call your representatives and ask them to vote no on the House Budget Resolution (H. Con. Res. 376) because—as it is now written—it does not fund health and education programs, which require at least the $7 billion more as was approved in the Senate.

You can find your member's number and contact information at www.house.gov.

Currently the bill closely follows the President's plan. The Senate has already passed a Budget Resolution calling for more than $7 billion in domestic spending as was in the administration's proposal. House moderates are still pressing the leadership to accept allow votes on an amendment similar to the Senate bill.

In another move highlighting tensions between the Budget and Appropriations Committees, Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) moved ahead by providing each subcommittee with its funding targets without waiting for a Budget Resolution. In a nod to domestic spending advocates, Rep. Lewis shifted $4.1 billion to the amount given to the Labor, HHS, and Education Subcommittee by taking the funds from Defense and Foreign Operations.

Without such an alignment of the Senate and House Budget bills, there would be more uncertainty with the ultimate direction and outcome of issues including cancer research funding until the appropriations process ended sometime at the end of the year. Since this is an election year, it remains to be seen how it will affect the process.

The International Myeloma Foundation joined hundreds of public health organizations, universities, companies, and health care providers in writing Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) to support an additional $7 billion in domestic spending. (Read the letter to The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert.)

The Coalition for Health Funding (CHF), who sponsored the letter, wrote in a memo circulated in Washington, DC that "(r)esearch at the NIH is eroding. Factoring in inflation NIH has lost 11 percent of its purchasing power since 2003, the last year of the doubling effort. The result is NIH is funding fewer new research projects, slowing progress against disease and disability and discouraging talented young people from pursuing careers in medical research."

According to an additional statement by CHF Executive Director Marcia Mabee, "the shift of funding [of the $4.1 billion made by Appropriations Chair Jerry Lewis] basically flat-funds programs from the FY 2006 level and so builds in the deep cuts to many health programs that occurred last year."

A small group of moderate House Republicans who stalled the Budget Resolution prior to the Easter congressional recess because of their insistence on seem to be slowly moving toward agreement with the House Leadership to move forward on the Budget Resolution. This would mean an uncertain short term future for the status of medical and cancer research funding and delay a final showdown between the Senate, the House leadership, and the administration until at least September and could possibly remain unresolved by the November elections.

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