…Senate Appropriations Committee leaders, Democratic and Republican, have agreed to add $2 billion in emergency funding to their version of the health care funding bill that includes NIH — above what Biden agreed to in the debt ceiling deal.
That’s likely a strategy to create a higher bar for negotiations, so that they can keep funding NIH flat, or could result in a small bump in funding, according to Ellie Dehoney, senior vice president at Research!America, a research advocacy organization.
Dehoney views the House version as a messaging bill signaling anger from a segment of the right toward the NIH and Fauci, rather than a sign Republicans have permanently soured on the agency.
“I think that NIH is going to remain a bipartisan priority and that the champions are still strong,” she said, adding, “this was actually a post-pandemic wave of anger more than a change in direction.”
Former Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, an appropriator who was among the NIH’s biggest Republican champions, acknowledged that every health agency took a reputational hit during Covid.
In his view, the NIH isn’t being singled out. “The House is looking for places to cut spending and very few things are protected in that environment,” said Blunt, who retired at the end of the last Congress.
At the same time, he pointed to personalized medicine, immunotherapy and Alzheimer’s treatments as areas of rapid health care transformation. It would be a mistake for the U.S. not to lead the effort toward finding new cures for diseases, he added.
“We want those things to happen in our country, and to have the earliest benefit of those things. And one of the ways to see that that happens is a vibrant NIH,” Blunt said.