Senators look to protect NIH from budget cuts

Senate Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Monday cited several needs, including pandemic flu research, cancer research and nursing shortages, in arguing that his panel should ignore President Bush's proposal to cut the National Institutes of Health's fiscal 2008 budget.

"In all these areas NIH continues to do really good work even though they got tight budgets, but I think what I take from this is the fact that if we were to give them the increases that we should be giving them, that we're really on the cusp of some really important breakthroughs," Harkin said after the hearing.

Harkin and Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Arlen Specter, R-Pa., have vowed to restore as much as possible of the $328 million the president proposed cutting from the NIH budget.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said researchers are plugging away at a universal flu vaccine that could be applied to every seasonal and pandemic flu iteration, but implied more resources would be helpful.

"We're concerned -- as we all are when we have a flat budget -- will we be able to take advantage of the opportunities that arise? But we're putting substantial resources into it," Fauci said.

Patricia Grady, director of the National Institute of Nursing Research, and John Niederhuber, director of the National Cancer Institute, also said more funding would be helpful.

Grady said additional funding could be used to train more faculty for nursing schools that last year had to turn away 42,000 potential students.

Niederhuber said this year the flat budget will require NCI to cut clinical trials back 5 percent, and academic groups might continue slicing trial numbers if funding isn't more stable.

Harkin broached to Grady the cost of end-of-life care and wondered if Medicare could require beneficiaries to have written instructions about their wishes.

"Maybe there ought to be some other requirement that you have to fill out an advance directive," Harkin said.

Grady said end-of-life care is often complicated by family members who are unsure of what their incapacitated loved one would want.

"I witnessed my first father-in-law after he had been brought back to life," said Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, in support of Harkin's suggestion about tying advance end-of-life directives to Medicare. "He never [swore] in his life but he [swore] at the doctor that brought him back to life, and he died about two months later."

Harkin said after the hearing he has not formalized any plan to offer his colleagues, but he has been thinking about the idea for a while.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.