A U.S. Senate panel on Tuesday approved a budget bill that would increase funding for the National Institutes of Health by $605 million for the fiscal year that begins October 1.
Lawmakers on the Senate’s appropriations subcommittee that oversees education, health and labor programs passed legislation that would increase the NIH’s budget to nearly $30.5 billion in the coming year. That $605 million jump represents a greater increase than the $198-million increase the Obama administration had requested.
The measure, which now goes to the full Senate appropriations committee, mirrors the president’s request for Pell Grants. The bill would keep discretionary funding for the program at the same level as last year, allowing an automatic funding mechanism to kick in that would increase the maximum award by $100, to $5,830. That would affect recipients starting in the 2015-16 academic year.
The bill also calls for a combined increase of $50 million for the Federal Work Study and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant programs. Federal TRIO programs, which are aimed at helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds, would see an $8.4 million increase.
The Obama administration’s budget recommended that all three of those programs be funded at their current-year levels.
The funding bill passed on a voice vote with Republican opposition. The panel’s top Republican, Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, said he opposed the measure because it would provide funding to the insurance market places under the president’s health care law, which he called a failed policy.
Separately, the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday passed a defense spending bill that would cut the Department of Defense’s research budget by 6.4 percent for the fiscal year
Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities, which represents 62 leading research institutions, criticized the bill as “only a modest improvement” on the president’s budget request, which had recommended a steeper, 6.9 percent cut to Pentagon-sponsored basic research.
“Congress should approve this kind of cut only if it wishes to erode our armed forces’ future technological advantages,” Rawlings said in a statement.