WASHINGTON — House appropriators released a new funding bill Wednesday that would provide another boost to the National Institutes of Health — though a smaller one than their Senate colleagues passed last month.
The legislation, which would fund federal health programs for the fiscal year starting in October, would give the NIH $33.3 billion, a $1.3 billion increase over this year. By contrast, the Senate version would boost the agency’s funding by $2 billion.
The new bill would build on the $2 billion increase the NIH got at the end of last year. Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who chairs the House panel in charge of health spending, has talked repeatedly about the need to give the NIH another funding increase in order to set a precedent for future investments in medical research.
Cole’s subcommittee is expected to approve the bill on Thursday.
The House bill would increase spending for Alzheimer’s research by $350 million and provide a $45 million increase for the BRAIN Initiative, the Obama administration’s program to map the human brain. It also authorizes the full $300 million that the White House requested for its precision medicine initiative.
Another area that would get a big raise in the House bill: opioids. The legislation would authorize a comprehensive state-grant program worth $500 million, part of nearly $600 million dedicated to the epidemic. The Senate’s bill would provide $261 million to combat the opioid crisis, already nearly doubling what was approved in 2016.
Lastly, the House bill would direct $390 million to the federal government’s response to the Zika virus. House Republicans have argued that much of the funding for Zika should be funneled through the regular appropriations process, rather than the emergency bill that’s being debated now.
Republicans and Democrats are in the midst of a standoff over the $1.1 billion emergency funding bill, with Democrats opposing the proposal because it includes what they call “poison pills” to cut funding for Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act.
In addition, the House bill would create a $300 million Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund, putting money in reserve for the next crisis like Ebola or Zika. Some prominent Democrats have argued that such a reserve fund could help prevent future standoffs.