April 16, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Spending Standoff Keeps NIH Chimps in Lockdown

Courtesy Chimp Haven
The NIH wants to move retired lab chimpanzees to a sanctuary. The proposal has gained praise and will save money, but is stalled because of the dysfunctional appropriations process.

That’s also been a hurdle for Harkin’s bid to shift servicing of graduate medical student loans from the Health Resources Services Administration to the Education Department, which has an entire office dedicated to this kind of work. HRSA’s Health Education Assistance Loan program ended in 1998. Moving the legacy loans to the Education Department would reduce duplication of federal student loan servicing and may make collection more efficient.

Harkin is a rare example of a lawmaker who is both the top authorizer and top appropriator for a set of programs. There are times when the House and Senate spending committees overstep and anger the leaders of committees that have jurisdiction for writing rules for federal programs, which raises cries against the practice of “authorizing on appropriations” bills. But appropriators also work in concert with authorizers, who want to see a change or extension made for an existing law more quickly than they might be able to do through authorizing legislation.

“We’re not always doing work for ourselves. We’re putting items in the bills for the other members and items that the authorizers want in there,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., a House appropriator. “You eliminate all of that good work if we just enact a CR. It limits the ability of the House, and of Congress, to impact how the agencies and departments run. We give up a lot of our oversight authority by passing CRs.”

Dent pushed to include language in the fiscal 2014 CR that would allow the federal government to continue to sell helium for another year, a cause important to Lehigh Valley, Pa.-based Air Products & Chemicals Inc. He got an amendment that would have accomplished this into the fiscal 2014 Interior-Environment appropriations bill in July.

In the end, however, House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., got a law (PL 113-40) through to extend the helium program.

“The authorizers got it done,” Dent said. “Thank goodness, because the helium program would have expired.”

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