DeLauro Calls on Congress to Increase Funding for the NIH
WASHINGTON, DC (May 17, 2017) — Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) today delivered the following statement at a hearing on the budget for the National Institutes of Health. DeLauro is the Senior Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.
Here are the remarks, as delivered:
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And I too I want to welcome you, Dr. Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, as well as Dr. Lowy, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Gordon, Dr. Gibbons, Dr. Volkow—thank you, thank you so much for being here this morning to discuss the future of funding for the National Institutes of Health.
The sheer talent on your side of the table cannot be overstated—you and the work that you do at the NIH represent the power to do more good for more people than anything else within the purview of our government.
The NIH is the leading biomedical research entity in the world and my colleagues on the subcommittee have often heard me say that medical research is special. A breakthrough at the NIH saves not just one life, but potentially millions, over generations to come. That breakthrough can improve the life of not just a sick individual, but the lives of their loved ones, caretakers, and friends. That is what the NIH represents.
As a survivor of ovarian cancer, this is personal to me.
Everyone on this Committee recognizes the importance of restoring purchasing power for the NIH. And I want to say a thank you to Chairman Cole—and all of the members of the subcommittee—for their bipartisan work to support NIH research in the past.
Last year, Congress showed once again that the NIH is a bipartisan priority by providing an additional $4.8 billion over 10 years through the 21st Century Cures Act. The Trump Administration’s budget proposal, however, would eliminate that entire amount in just one year by cutting $8 billion from the NIH. This would decimate the NIH, reducing the agency’s research purchasing power to a level not seen since the 1990s.
We cannot turn back the clock on lifesaving biomedical research. This is not just theoretical—when we face a public health emergency, NIH research is often our best tool to combat tragic loss of life. Take Ebola—just Friday, the World Health Organization declared an outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Which is why the work that you are doing to develop a vaccine remains critically important, not just for public health, but for global security. It is clear that the Ebola crisis is not over.
Last week, one of my committee staff members visited Puerto Rico to meet with the Principle Investigator of a Phase II clinical trial of a Zika vaccine candidate. The vaccine candidate was developed by the NIH—those are NIH dollars at work.
The Administration’s budget proposal would also completely eliminate the Fogarty International Center. This program represents only a sliver of the NIH’s budget, yet it has an outsized impact on the prevention and the mitigation of outbreaks abroad. Their work helps to ensure that diseases are quickly contained and never reach our country. The Fogarty Center has actively increased capacity in countries facing health crises like Ebola—they have trained some of the best practitioners on the ground, accelerating discoveries, and building essential infrastructure. As we have seen with the diseases like Ebola, Zika, HIV/ AIDS, public health emergencies know no borders.
In FY 2016, the NIH funded 35,840 grants. In 2017, under the Omnibus we passed just two weeks ago, the NIH should be able to fund an additional 1,500 grants. This is the direction that we need to be moving in.
But a cut of $8 billion, like the Administration has proposed, could eliminate approximately 5,000-8,000 grants. In Connecticut, a cut to NIH of this magnitude could result in our state losing over $100 million, or over 250 grants.
Sixteen years ago, NIH funded about one-in-three meritorious research proposals—but today, that rate has fallen to about one-in-five, a slight improvement over recent years but still low by historical standards. We are missing opportunities to work toward cures for life-altering diseases that affect far too many people.
Those unfunded grants translate to medical discoveries not being made—lives not being saved. We are choosing to hamper our progress as a nation. We are choosing to ravage our medical community. And it makes you just wonder—why we would move down that road?
And even without this proposed cut, NIH’s budget has declined by nearly $6.5 billion since 2003, when you adjust for inflation. While NIH is now funded at an all-time high of $34.1 billion thanks to the $4 billion of increases over the last two years, funding has not kept pace with the rising cost of biomedical research. Think about the choice we would be making if we cut already insufficient funding even further.
Last Congress, I introduced the bipartisan Accelerating Biomedical Research Act, which would reverse the devastating funding cuts to the NIH and attempt to provide stable, predictable growth for years to come. It would untie the hands of the committee. It would allow us to go above the caps—this is the same mechanism that we use for the Healthcare Fraud and Abuse Account. This would set us on the path of doubling the NIH budget, as we did in the late 90s under Chairman John Porter.
Investing in the NIH creates jobs, because biomedical research is a driver of economic growth. And diminishing the NIH’s ability to conduct basic science research would result in fewer discoveries, which would lead to fewer cures and therapeutics being developed by the private sector because of the basic science research that the NIH does.
I am almost inclined to dismiss the Administration’s budget—but I cannot ignore it. It would be a disservice to the American people to pretend that it does not exist. It does exist. In fact, senior officials like HHS Secretary Tom Price and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney have tried to defend it. There is no defending cutting thousands of research grants. The budget would inflict immeasurable harm on one of the jewels of our scientific research. This proposal should be dead on arrival. We should be talking about increasing the NIH’s budget by $8 billion, not cutting it by $8 billion.
I thank all of you. I look forward to your testimony. And I look forward to your new discoveries today and your new discoveries in the future. Thank you for the work that you do.