GOP senator slams proposed NIH cuts: ‘No one should have to defend’ them

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the chairman of the Senate’s health appropriations subcommittee, on Thursday tore into the Trump administration’s proposal to cut National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding by $7.5 billion.

“I fundamentally disagree with the proposed funding reduction for NIH,” Blunt said at a subcommittee hearing on the NIH budget, estimating that the cuts would eliminate 90,000 jobs nationwide and reduce economic activity by $15.3 billion.

“A cut to NIH is not a cut to Washington bureaucracy — it is a cut to life-saving treatments and cures, affecting research performed all across the country,” he said.

NIH funding has broad support in Congress. In May, a bipartisan deal on 2017 spending reversed proposed cuts to NIH, giving the agency an additional $2 billion in funds instead.


Appropriations hearings are typically a forum for agency heads to defend the president’s budget proposal for their agency, a situation Blunt noted would be difficult for the NIH witnesses.

“I know this is a budget they do not want to defend,” he said. “It’s a request no one should have to defend.”

In his testimony, NIH Director Francis Collins avoided explicitly decrying the cuts.

Instead, he focused on the importance of NIH-sponsored science for medical advancement and its progress in work on diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and epilepsy, as well as rare diseases that collectively affect over 25 million Americans.

“The future has never been brighter for advances in biomedical research than right now,” he said.

“If advances in medical research are to continue, if research is to lead to breakthroughs that can reduce health care costs, if the considerable economic return on research is to continue, and if America is to continue its global leadership in biomedicine, we need to be sure this next generation has the confidence that there will be support for them,” he continued before outlining the specific programs the Trump budget would cut.

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