WASHINGTON, March 19 – Representative George Gekas (R-PA) the founder and co-chair of the House Biomedical Research Caucus, has introduced a resolution calling for a $3.4 billion budget increase for NIH in 2002, $600 million more than President George W. Bush has proposed.
"The National Institutes of Health has spawned a biotechnology revolution. But future medical breakthroughs depend on Congress appropriating sufficient funds to continue and expand on the research currently being conducted at the NIH. And that is why I have introduced House Resolution 72, to keep on track the goal of doubling the funding for the NIH within five years," Gekas said.
President Bush made a campaign pledge to stay on track to double the NIH budget from the 1998 level of $13.6 billion to $27.2 billion by 2003. But a straight-line path to the 2003 figure would require an increase of $3.4 billion in the fiscal 2002 budget to $23.7 billion.
Should the president's proposal pass, the budget would only be increased to $23.1 billion. Making up the difference would require a hefty $4.1 billion or 18 percent increase in 2003. Since 1998, the budget has never been increased by more than 14 – 15 percent a year.
The House resolution, which has bi-partisan support, joins a similar resolution in the Senate, indicating a widespread push for a bigger NIH allocation than the president has recommended.
The House resolution was referred on March 14 to the Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health, which has jurisdiction over the NIH. The subcommittee makes recommendations to the House Appropriations Committee, which will be factored into the budget negotiations on the NIH spending package. Ken Bentsen (D-TX), Lane Evans (D-IL), David Price (D-NC), Calvin Dooley (D-CA), Connie Morella (R-MD), and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) co-sponsored the resolution.
Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Committee, which has jurisdiction over NIH funding, introduced a similar resolution to the Senate in February. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, co-sponsor of the resolution, is the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee. The resolution has since been referred to the Appropriations Committee to await action during the upcoming budgetary debate.