By Julian Pecquet - 03/30/11 04:29 PM EDT
Mikulski made the remarks during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The Maryland senator has world-class government and private-sector research institutions in her district, including the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and Johns Hopkins University, and she wanted answers as to how a shutdown would affect research grants and clinical trials.
"We are operating [in] extremely uncertain territory right now," Sebelius said. She said NIH Director Francis Collins has informed grantees all over the country that "he cannot assure them that ongoing funding is available."
Despite her calls for a hearing, Mikulski refused to blame the administration or the Democratic leadership for the apparent lack of agitation over a pending shutdown. Rather, she said, the fault lies with House Republicans' "intransigence."
"This is not a messaging problem, it's a money problem," she told The Hill. "It's an Eric Cantor problem," referring the House Republican Leader from Virginia.
After the hearing, Sebelius told reporters the administration is doing all it can to strike a deal on the budget.
"I think the more members are informed about what the likely consequences are, is also helpful," Sebelius told reporters after the hearing. "That's really up to [Congress] what they're going to hear and what they're going to discuss. We're going to continue to do our work, but it is precarious to be halfway through a fiscal year and have absolutely no framework for the rest of the year."