On March 20, the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee in the House of Representatives began hearings concerning fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins and officials from the various institutes and centers at NIH testified on behalf of the fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request for NIH. ASH submitted written testimony to the Subcommittee on March 29 in support of at least $32 billion in funding for NIH in FY 2013.
Dr. Francis Collins testified before the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee on March 28 about the Obama Administration's proposed fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget for the agency and how potential cuts would impact NIH and biomedical research. In a bipartisan show of support for NIH, Subcommittee members universally praised NIH and supported increased funding for the agency.
Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), Raking Member of the Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee, spoke of the importance of increased funding and chided the Obama Administration for proposing a flat NIH budget in fiscal 2013. Senator Shelby noted that "the Administration's request does not keep pace with biomedical research inflation" and that "in inflationary adjusted dollars, the NIH is 17 percent below where they were 10 years ago."
Although Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) talked about trying to increase the NIH budget, he didn't downplay the threat from across-the-board cuts know as "sequestration" mandated by the failure of last year's Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (commonly referred to as the "Super Committee") to reach agreement on a deficit-reduction proposal.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that most non-defense discretionary programs, such as NIH, would be cut by 7.8 percent in January 2013 if Congress does not enact a plan before then to reduce the national debt by $1.2 trillion. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has estimated that the NIH budget would be cut by as much as nine percent in if these automatic cuts occur.
NIH Director Collins said that if these cuts were to take effect, the agency would lose $2.4 billion in funding in fiscal 2013. As a result, the agency would have to cut nearly 2,300 grants it plans to fund (nearly one quarter of the new and competing grants funded by NIH), this at a time when global competitors such as China, India, Russian and Europe are planning hefty increases in medical research budgets.
Additional information about the Senate hearing, including an archived webcast and testimony from Drs. Collins, is available on the Senate Appropriations Committee website.
Meanwhile, in an exceptional show of support for NIH funding, grassroots efforts by ASH and the biomedical research community led to more than 150 Democrats and Republicans in the House signing a letter to the House Appropriations Committee urging the Committee to provide at least $32 billion for NIH in fiscal year (FY) 2013. The effort was spearheaded by Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Brian Bilbray (R-CA), who have been outspoken supporters of NIH. A similar letter, sponsored in the Senate sponsored by Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC), gained the support of nearly half of the Senate.
As Congress continues to formulate the details of the FY 2013 budget, the Society encourages all ASH members to visit the ASH Advocacy Center to send a letter to their Senators and Representative urging their support for NIH funding. We encourage you to personalize the letter by providing examples of why NIH funding is important to you and your research.
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