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Senators Fall Short in Effort to Fund Medical Research

The Senate on September 10 passed the FY 2004 Labor-HHS-Education bill (HR 2660) by a vote of 94 to 0, ending seven days of partisan, and at times bitter, debate over overtime pay and spending for education and health.  Final passage occurred after the Senate rejected an effort to add an additional $1.5 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget – including the National Institute of Mental health (NIMH).  The Senate defeated a motion to waive a budget point of order against an amendment offered by Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).  The 52 to 43 vote on the motion fell 8 votes short of the 60 needed to waive the point of order. 

The amendment, which would have declared the additional $1.5 billion as emergency spending not subject to a previously agreed to overall spending limit for Labor-HHS bill, would have provided NIH a total increase of $2.5 billion (9.2%) over FY 2003.  As passed by the Senate, the bill includes $27.982 billion for NIH, a $1 billion (3.7%) increase.   

NAMI wishes to express its appreciation to the 52 Senators who supported additional funds for medical research.  This includes 35 Senate Democrats, 16 Republicans, and 1 Independent.  Republicans supporting the motion were Bennett (UT), Brownback (KS), Campbell (CO), Coleman (MN), Collins (ME), DeWine (OH), Dole (NC), Domenici (NM), Hatch (UT), Hutchison (TX), Murkowski (AK), Roberts (KS), Shelby (AL), Snowe (ME), Specter (PA), and Stevens (AK).

The FY 2004 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill now moves to a House & Senate Conference Committee.  They will be charged with reconciling the separate House and Senate bills before the new federal fiscal year begins on October 1.  The members of the House-Senate Conference Committee are expected to be named next week. 

Read additional background materials on the FY 2004 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill.