Congress Ignores Trump, Proposes $2 Billion Boost to NIH Budget

Move seen as slap in the face for president

Congress has agreed to include a $2 billion funding increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in a proposed spending package aimed at keeping the government financed through the end of September, according to an article posted on the FierceBiotech website. The decision was a slap in the face for President Trump, who submitted a proposal to slash NIH funding by $5.8 billion in 2018 on top of the $1.2 billion reduction the White House requested in the current fiscal year.

An editorial published in the New England Journal of Medicine at the end of March said Trump’s efforts would “deplete medicine and science of the best and brightest minds and lead to a global destabilization with far-reaching impact,” adding that there was “a clear consensus among economists that public-sector funding for scientific research produces high returns.”

Congress’ NIH allocation is part of a broader “omnibus” spending package hammered out among Republican and Democratic leaders and the Trump administration. It came after stopgap funding was agreed upon to give time for a deal to be reached by negotiators from the House and Senate appropriations committees, and after the White House dropped a push to halt subsidy payments to insurers under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Safeguarding and extending the NIH budget to more than $34 billion suggests that lawmakers in both parties see a clear benefit for making sure the U.S. medical research engine is supported, according to the FierceBiotech article. The heads of the House and Senate appropriation committees—Representative Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) and Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri)––both backed the NIH allocation.

The House and Senate are expected to vote on the budget package by April 4.

In addition to the hike in NIH finding, the omnibus bill includes $5.7 billion for the National Cancer Institute; $1.39 billion for Alzheimer’s disease research; $463 million to push the search for new antibiotics for resistant infections; and $320 million for the Precision Medicine Initiative.

Source: FierceBiotech; May 1, 2017.