December XX, 2012
CONGRESS ADJOURNS WITHOUT PASSING THE RECALCITRANT CANCER RESEARCH ACT
Despite overwhelming bi-partisan support in Congress and initial passage in both the House and Senate, the 112th Congress adjourned without completing the final steps necessary to pass the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act, formerly known as the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act.
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The "lame duck" session officially started on November 13, and it will be a very busy couple of weeks as Congress focuses on finalizing the FY13 federal budget in order to avoid sequestration – which would mean automatic across-the-board cuts, which would be devastating to research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
By law, the $110 billion sequestration cuts will be split between defense and domestic programs. Of the domestic programs, an estimated $39 billion in cuts will be applied to “discretionary” programs, which include the NIH with the remaining $16 billion in cuts coming from programs like Medicare. By Congressional Budget Office estimates, most programs will face a 7.8% budget cut per year. A cut like of this nature to the NIH budget will amount to over $2.4 billion in this fiscal year alone. Specifically, cancer research funding will receive a 8.2% cut over the next ten years. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is deeply concerned about the impact sequestration could have on medical research and is actively advocating that Congress and the President reach a deal to avoid sequestration from kicking-in.
While focusing on avoiding sequestration, Congress failed to agree on the federal budget before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. Instead, a continuing resolution (CR) was passed on September 22 to allow the day to day operations of the federal government through March 2, 2013.
The CR essentially allows federal programs to continuing operating until Congress returns and decides how much money to allot to a wide range of federal activities, including cancer research. The CR, in this instance, will permit a small, 0.612 percent increase, to all federal programs. But while even a small increase in spending may be unusual in these austere budget times, it is important to note that funding for the National Cancer Institute will not even keep pace with the research inflation index.
“Some changes to current law are needed to prevent catastrophic, irreversible or detrimental changes to government programs or to ensure good government and program oversight,” the House Appropriations Committee said in its summary of the legislation.
Overall, the CR will fund the government at an annual rate of $1.047 trillion, the amount lawmakers agreed to last year as part of a deal to raise the government’s debt limit. That would be an $8 billion increase over current levels, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
It is important to note, however, that the new Congress that is sworn in next January will be charged with finalizing funding levels for federal spending through the remainder of the fiscal year. It is at this time that Congress will decide cancer research funding levels.
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network will be monitoring this issue very closely over the next several weeks.
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