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Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has introduced a bill that would set a minimum budget for the US National Institutes of Health, the Nature News Blog reports.

The legislation put forth by Harkin, who chairs the appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, would ensure that NIH funding never dips below its current its $29.9 billion level. The bill also proposes a 10 percent funding increase for NIH for the next two years, followed by a 5 percent increase for the five years after that. Under this proposal, the Nature News Blog notes, the NIH budget would reach $46.2 billion by 2021.

"I believe passionately that Congress has the responsibility to give researchers around the country the resources they need to fulfill their mission of saving lives, while upholding America’s traditional global leadership role in this area," Harkin says in a statement.

However, the Nature News Blog adds that this proposal could set NIH against other government agencies during lean years. It also says that the future of the bill is uncertain as Harkin is retiring at the end of the year, and Congress is gearing up for elections in November.