June is a big month on our work to fund the Military Burn Research Program for Fiscal Year 2019. In May, our lobbyists in DC met with offices whose Member of Congress serves on either the Senate or House Defense Appropriations Subcommittees. They discussed the ABA’s request for continued and enhanced funding for next year and received positive feedback. Most Congressional offices view the program recognize the need to provide care and treatment for combat veterans. In fact, a number of staff they met with have military backgrounds and are sympathetic to the program due to first-hand knowledge of combat-related burn injuries. Overall, there is bipartisan support for Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs – the bigger bucket of funding where the Military Burn Research Program sits – and many are confident that the request for continued appropriations for the Military Burn Research Program will be honored.
We are excited to report the House Appropriations Committee approved $8 million in their bill for MBRP last week, the same funding amount as last year. This is fantastic news for us since many programs in Washington are being cut or eliminated. Timing for floor action in the House is unclear at this point. For many of the spending bills, the challenge for the House leadership is to navigate the shoals between conservative Republicans concerned over spending increases and Democrats opposed to controversial items such as cuts to public health programs and border wall funding. Fortunately, the defense appropriations bill tends to have broad bipartisan support and historically has passed the House before Congress leaves for August recess.
Over in the Senate, the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up its bill early the week of June 25, with the full committee action later that week. We continue to advocate for $10 million in funding to allow for more critical research to be undertaken. Once approved, the measure will advance to the Senate floor. Although Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he will prioritize defense appropriations, no timeline has been announced. The Senate’s calendar for the summer is already packed with items related to other appropriations bills and nominations, and the majority leader has raised the possibility of cancelling all or part of August recess in order to complete the chamber’s agenda.
By: Jennifer Bell, Founding Partner; Chamber Hill Strategies, Washington, DC