Top Democrat calls for big boost in NIH funding

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks MORE (D-Ill.) is renewing his effort to boost funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at a time when he says declining research dollars is “threatening our standing as a leader” in scientific innovation.

The bill, the American Cures Act, would create a mandatory funding stream to support research by the NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies.

Funding would be guaranteed to increase each year by at least 5 percent, an investment that Durbin said is necessary to competing globally.

He pointed out that the government spends two-thirds less on research than it did in 1965, while the NIH taking a brunt of the cuts.  Funding for the NIH – which became a major issue during the sequestration cuts – was revived in Congress last fall as Ebola appeared a greater threat.

Durbin’s bill comes one day after Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a nearly 400-page to-do list for the medical industry in 2015. The massive document quickly drew fire from Democrats who said the bill ignored the NIH’s funding needs.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) slammed the proposal for lacking “any real dollars to fund additional basic research at the National Institutes of Health” despite lengthy conversations from both parties last year.

A Democratic aide for the House Energy and Commerce Committee said the wishlist was largely drafted without Democratic consent and NIH funding would be a major sticking point in future negotiations.