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House Passes Stimulus Package, Senate Could Vote Tonight

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The House of Representatives today passed the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which contains $10 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health, and provides $19 billion to fund health information technology adoption by doctors and hospitals.

The House vote cut along partisan lines, with 246 Democrats voting for it, and 7 Democrats joining 176 Republicans voting against it. The Senate vote is expected to closely resemble the previous tally, when it received three Republican votes.

"This investment in basic research will distribute critically needed dollars to labs at universities and small businesses across the country that will, in turn, stimulate local economies, retain jobs and foster recurring research breakthroughs for years to come," Richard Marchase, who is president of the Federation of Associations and Societies of Experimental Biology, said yesterday in a statement supporting the bill.

While Republicans in both houses of Congress opposed the bill with near unanimity on the argument that the spending is not stimulative, or at least not quickly enough, or that more tax cuts would be preferable, they have not specifically opposed the funding for NIH and other science programs.

The bill includes $1.1 billion for comparative effectiveness research, some of which could be marked for NIH. It also includes $3 billion for the National Science Foundation, $1.6 billion for the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and $580 million for the National Institutes of Standards and Technology.

FASEB believes that the stimulus funding, even $10 billion worth, "does not replace the need for sustainable funding for scientific research.

"Stable and predictable budget growth will expedite the research that will improve the health and quality of life of all Americans," Marchase argued.

The American Association of Medical Colleges, which represents a group that could receive not only research funding but also some of the renovation dollars in the bill, has called the NIH money in the bill "a critical down payment" toward achieving the "promise of medical research."

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