Armey calls for discretionary cuts — but not on health research

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) said this week that he supports federal cuts in education, the arts — and even defense — but stopped short of extending that budget-balancing strategy to federal health research programs. 

Appearing Tuesday night on CNN's "Parker Spitzer," Armey, now chairman of of the conservative group FreedomWorks, defended government spending on both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — as long as scientists at those institutions aren't interfered with politically.

"I would leave [the CDC] in the hands of the scientists and I would tell the politicians to butt out," Armey said when asked if he would cut the program. "Let real [scientists] who have real expertise make scientific decisions, medical decisions. Let's not have a bunch of political mandates issued by people who don't even understand."

Asked about cutting the NIH, Armey had a similar response. 

"[The NIH] is probably an acceptable opportunity to do some good with the federal government's taxpayer dollars — if they have the discipline to leave the agency to do its job on a professional basis, rather than corrupting it," he said.

Other federal programs wouldn't fare as well in Armey's world.

Higher education, for instance, "should be under the jurisdiction and under the auspices of the state governments," he said. 

"The state of Texas has a great university system that has not been made any better by federal government involvement."

Armey also endorsed the elimination of "a lot of nonsense like the National Endowment for the Humanities and Arts." 

"And how about getting rid of AmeriCorps, which is just obnoxious?" he said. "Even intellectually, it's an insult to the American people."

Medicare and Medicaid — which together represent the single greatest threat to the nation's fiscal health — weren't mentioned.