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Collins Continues Capitol Hill Campaign

NIH Director Francis Collins says he has probably personally visited with more than 100 members of Congress in the last year, at NIH's headquarters or down on Capitol Hill, as part of his campaign to combat sequestration.

"I can't tell you a single one of those meetings that went badly," he tells the Huffington Post's Sam Stein.

Pumping Congress to find a way to wipe away the sequester cuts, or at the very least exempt NIH or restore funding another way, has become an important part of Collins' job, which also includes singing the blues about the sequestration in a YouTube video.

He says it doesn't matter which party he meets with on the Hill, they agree that the NIH funding cuts should be done away with. But then they tell him that there is nothing they can do, because of the "national impasse" over government spending and the deficit.

"And nothing happens," Collins says.

Stein notes that the sequestration is now six months old, and cites NIH estimates that the it will end up cutting more than 700 grants this fiscal year and as many as 1,000 next year, as the cuts would be deeper next year.

"It is so unimaginable that I would be in a position of somehow saying that this country is unable to see the rationality of covering what biomedicine can do," Collins says. "But I'm not sure from what I see right now that rationality carries the day."

Still, Collins tries to see this period of uncertainty and forced thrift as just a part of a long tradition of highs and lows, a "roller coaster" that NIH has dealt with over the years. Things will have to get better at his agency because they always have in the past, he tells himself.

"But as I say those things, I'm not sure I'm completely right, or convinced that I'm telling the truth," he says.