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Chairwoman DeLauro Opening Remarks for House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Hearing on “Investments in Medical Research at Five Institutes and Centers of the National Institutes of Health”

September 25, 2019
Press Release

(As prepared for delivery)

A video of the hearing can be found here.

Good morning, Dr. Collins. Welcome back to the Labor, HHS, Education appropriations subcommittee.

Let me thank you for hosting Members of the subcommittee for a site visit at the NIH campus last week. During the visit, this subcommittee had the opportunity to learn more about NIH’s work. We met with researchers working to cure sickle cell disease, to develop treatments for major depression, and to shrink and treat cancer tumors in children. And, we got to hear from participants whose lives have been change by clinical trials. It was a very moving experience.

I would like to welcome our witnesses, including the five Institute and Center Directors who are joining us today:

  • Dr. Francis Collins, of course, has joined us many times. He is the Director of the National Institutes of Health;

Today, he is joined by:

  • Dr. Bruce Tromberg, Director National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering;
  • Dr. Helene Langevin, Director, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health;
  • Dr. Eliseo Perez-Stable, Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities;
  • Dr. Patricia Flatley Brennan, RN and PhD, Director, National Library of Medicine;
  • Dr. Christopher Austin, Director, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

Your work, and at all of the NIH’s 27 Institutes and Centers, leads to treatments and cures for diseases and conditions that affect people around the globe. It is transformative and some of the greatest good we can do in government.

Each year, this subcommittee holds a budget hearing to hear from the NIH Director, now Dr. Francis Collins, as well as directors of 5 or 6 of the larger Institutes and Centers.

Today’s hearing is an opportunity for the subcommittee members to hear more and to hear from directors of an additional five Institutes and Centers, who may not always get the same platform that they need and deserve.

It is also a chance to demonstrate the need for the Congress to continue to invest in basic research. In recent years, we have directed an increasingly large share of NIH’s budget to specific initiatives. While I strongly support those initiatives, it often means that basic research at smaller Institutes and Centers get shortchanged. So, it is important for this subcommittee to understand the type of research opportunities we might be missing by directing such a large share of additional funding to a limited number of Institutes.

When I first joined this subcommittee about 25 years ago, we used to invite every IC director to testify every year. But it has been a long time since we have heard from many of them. In fact, I invited an additional 3 IC directors to appear today—the directors of the National Eye Institute, the National Institute of Nursing Research, and the Fogarty International Center. Unfortunately, the administration refused the invitation. I am disappointed that we could not be hearing from even more of your colleagues today, but I plan to invite those directors to a future hearing.

I would like to return to inviting every IC director at least every 2-3 years. It is critical for this subcommittee to get the full picture of NIH’s portfolio, as well as the research landscape.

With each scientific discovery, each medical breakthrough, NIH advances human knowledge, improves our quality of life, and saves lives.

I am very proud that the Congress increased NIH funding by $9 billion, or 30 percent over the past four years. And, I will note, the subcommittee has done this on a bipartisan basis.

These successes are laudable. But, they make the president’s budget proposal to slash NIH’s funding even more objectionable. His budget proposal for 2020 would reduce funding for NIH by $5.2 billion, or 13%, below the fiscal year 2019 level and force NIH to make nearly 3,800 fewer new research grants compared to 2019. That is a reduction of 32%—to the lowest level since 1998.

Let me say right now, and I believe my colleagues on both sides will agree, we will not be doing that. This committee will continue to invest in NIH research, despite the administration’s short-sighted and misguided budget.

In fact, for 2020, the House-passed appropriations included increased funding consistent with significant annual increases over the last four years. The House bill increases funding for each of these institutes by at least 5 percent. Our funding bill is a statement of our values and a reflection of our commitment to investing in basic biomedical research and the NIH. I will continue to fight for funding for the NIH as we move to negotiations with the Senate and the White House.

It is not overstating the case to say that NIH has prolonged or improved the life of every American. Because of NIH research, we have childhood decreased cancer mortality 50 percent in 35 years. We have a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. We have a drug that prevents HIV transmission with 99% effectiveness.

In fact, a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in February found that NIH-funded research contributed—directly or indirectly—to every single one of the 210 drugs approved by FDA between 2010 and 2016.

That is your impact. It is amazing.

So, to our guests, let me thank you again for everything you do. I look forward to our conversation today.

Now, let me turn to my friend from Oklahoma, the Ranking Member, Mr. Cole, for any opening remarks he may have.