Hardliners Balk at Mandatory Spending for Cures – but Used Same Mechanism for Vets

Some hardline House Republicans are opposing a $9.3 billion program for the National Institutes of Health because it creates a mandatory spending program for an agency that is traditionally funded with discretionary spending.

But much of the opposition is coming from members who last year approved a veteran’s bill using the same mechanism to create a mandatory spending program. And that bill added an estimated $10 billion to the deficit.

The NIH bill, known as the 21st Century Cures Act, would give the research agency, along with the Food and Drug Administration, $9.3 billion for medical research. The bill is fully paid for, and the research fund ends after five years.

But far right members like John Fleming (R-La.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) say they will oppose the legislation if the funding for NIH comes by creating a mandatory spending program, even if it is temporary. They want the legislation funded using discretionary spending.

“If we’re not going to cut spending at least replace the bad spending with good spending, but this bill adds new spending and that’s the problem,” Fleming (R-La.) told reporters. “The point is that if they would change it to appropriated spending and find pay fors I’ll support it.”

That didn’t stop them from voting last year to create a $10 billion mandatory spending program in the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014. The $10 billion program passed the House in July 2014 with only five Republicans voting no. Unlike the NIH bill, which is estimated to reduce the federal deficit, the veterans’ bill increased the deficit by $10 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Fleming and Gosar’s office did not respond immediately for comment.

Freshman Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) has offered an amendment to change the funding method to discretionary spending.

“You can say a mandatory program will sunset with pay fors, etcetera,” Brat told reporters. “Highly dubious. All the other programs are insolvent already by their own board of trustee reports and so now we’re going to do another one of those? I mean the next generation is getting rolled here.”

Gosar also has issues with a provision that extends exclusivity rights to makers of rare disease drugs for six-month periods. He has introduced an amendment to strike that provision.

“The way it’s written it could be exclusivity to infinity and beyond,” Gosar said in an interview. “You can extend that for perpetual distances.”

A House vote on the legislation is expected later this week.

Morning Consult