Gingrich to GOP: 'Irresponsible' not to increase NIH funding

Gingrich to GOP: 'Irresponsible' not to increase NIH funding
© Greg Nash

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) is urging the GOP-controlled Congress to double the funding for the National Institutes of Health, as his own Republican majority did under President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonEpstein podcast host says he affiliated with elites from 'both sides of the aisle' Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in repose at Supreme Court Business groups start gaming out a Biden administration MORE more than a decade ago.

Gingrich wrote in a New York Times op-ed that funding for the government’s leading research agency should be a “priority,” and urged fiscal conservatives to set aside their distrust of the federal government when it comes to the issue.

“As a conservative myself, I’m often skeptical of government 'investments.' But when it comes to breakthroughs that could cure — not just treat — the most expensive diseases, government is unique,” he wrote Wednesday.

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Gingrich added that the massive increase in government spending on healthcare “should trouble every fiscal conservative” but argued that breakthroughs for diseases like Alzheimer's or diabetes could drastically reduce future costs.

“It’s irresponsible and shortsighted, not prudent, to let financing for basic research dwindle,” the longtime champion of the NIH wrote.

Gingrich’s op-ed comes as House and Senate Republicans are meeting to complete a joint budget proposal for the first time since 2006. The final deal, which will likely be reached next week, is not expected to include any increases to the NIH's current budget of about $30 billion.

President Obama's budget proposal, which NIH officials have praised, would boost the center's funding by about $1 billion, ending sequestration cuts.

In his op-ed, Gingrich compared the budget-slashing climate under his tenure to that of the current Congress but argued the GOP should still fight for NIH funding.

Gingrich, who served as Speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999, helped protect the government’s scientific research budget at a time when his party was committed to balancing the budget.

After meeting with biomedical executives and Nobel laureates, Gingrich helped lead a bipartisan effort to double the center’s funding over five years — making it one of the only areas where spending would increase.

Still, he added that an increase in the NIH’s budget should be tied to internal reforms, such as making the agency “less bureaucratic.”

“By funding basic medical research, Congress can transform our fiscal health, and our personal health, too,” he wrote.