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House Members Urge Restoration of NIH Funding to Pre-Sequestration Levels

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – More than 100 members of the US House of Representatives have signed off on a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urging them to restore funding to the National Institutes of Health to pre-sequester levels.

With the current federal funding resolution set to expire on Dec. 11, the House members said that any continuing resolution or omnibus appropriations package for Fiscal Year 2015 should aim to fully restore the NIH's funding "to at least the agency's pre-sequester level, adjusted for inflation," they wrote.

They noted that over the past decade funding for the NIH has consistently failed to keep pace with inflation.

"By failing to at least hold NIH funding constant with other rising costs, Congress has allowed the agency's purchasing power to diminish by more than 20 percent since 2003," they wrote. "Irresponsible budget cuts imposed on the agency during sequestration only further exacerbated this trend, reducing NIH's budget by an additional 5 percent in FY 2013."

The letter, authored by Representatives Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who is the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, was sent to Boehner and Pelosi on Monday. It urged them to prioritize NIH funding, as other countries' investments in medical research "continues to far outpace those made here in the US."

"We know that funding for biomedical research at NIH gives us a great return on investment, supporting medical innovation that saves lives, improves health outcomes, and reduces costs," DelBene said in a statement earlier this week. "It is short-sighted and irresponsible for Congress to continue denying NIH the resources it needs to develop the next generation of cures, treatments, and vaccines. The time to fully restore funding for NIH is now."

Earlier this year a Senate subcommittee had voted in favor of a roughly 2 percent bump in NIH's budget for FY 2015 to $30.46 billion. The office of Senator Tom Harkin (D – Iowa), who chairs the US Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies, noted at the time that the $605.7 million increase, when combined with the $1 billion increase the agency received for FY 2014, would fully replace the funding NIH lost due to sequester cuts in fiscal year 2013.

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology has recommended a $32 billion budget for NIH in FY 2015. However, the federal budget cap for FY 2015 is roughly the same as 2014, $1.014 trillion compared to $1.013 trillion, which doesn't leave a lot of room for significant adjustments.

Joining the House members in signing the letter were several organizations including the American Association for Cancer Research; the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network; the American Heart Association; and the Association of American Medical Colleges, among others.