ASN Fights Federal Budget Cuts

Owing to federal austerity measures Congress implemented starting in 2011, federal spending for non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs—ranging from medical research to public health, to natural resources and veterans services—is at the lowest level since the 1950s as a percent of GDP. These measures set caps on spending for both defense and non-defense discretionary spending programs through 2021. As a result, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has lost nearly 25 percent of its purchasing power since 2003.

In response, 3200 organizations, including ASN, banded together in 2012 in support of NDD United, an advocacy coalition seeking to restore funding for NDD programs to keep America competitive, safe, and secure. NDD United has organized advocacy days in Washington, DC, as well as letter-writing and media campaigns, to raise awareness about the impact austerity has had on important programs like medical research. For example, ASN co-sponsored a NDD United awareness effort on September 10, 2015, to deliver hundreds of baseball hats to congressional offices during an advocacy day called “Raise the Caps” that encouraged Congress to raise the budget caps.

Due in part to NDD United’s efforts, Congress raised the spending caps for 2014 and 2015 and President Barack Obama has threatened to veto budget bills that lock spending caps in place for 2016. Unless Congress passes and President Obama signs a budget for 2016 by December 11, essential government services will shut down.

The last shutdown in 2013 lasted 16 days. Non-mandatory federal programs funded by Congress through the annual appropriations process, such as medical research, were affected. NIH, for instance, was unable to fund new grants and contracts during that time. ASN and NDD United are both urging lawmakers to come to agreement, support medical research and other important NDD programs, and avert a government shutdown.

“Better and more cost-efficient treatments and therapies are desperately needed to slow or prevent progression of kidney disease and improve care,” commented ASN Research Advocacy Committee Chair Frank “Chip” Brosius, MD. “ASN urges Congress to raise the budget caps for 2016 and to increase investments for kidney research, which would reduce the significant burden of kidney disease on patients and the Medicare program.”