Senators create new caucus on NIH funding

Two top senators are pairing up to bolster support for federal research — and to find a way to fund it.

Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal McConnell blocks bill to reopen most of government On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (R-S.C.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump AG pick: I won't be 'bullied' by anyone, including the president Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing Senate Dems set to take aim at new Trump attorney general pick MORE (D-Ill.) will co-chair the Senate’s newest caucus, dedicated specifically to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

They plan to officially announce their new initiative Tuesday afternoon, standing alongside NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and other researchers.

The caucus will focus on the agency’s waning ability to fund research after losing 25 percent of its purchasing power since 2003, which the senators attribute the decline to “sequestration and flat budgets.”

“As a result of this decline, the U.S. is missing opportunities to discover cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes, and countless other diseases,” they wrote in a release.

Funding for the NIH is already a driving force behind a bipartisan House bill known as 21st Century Cures. That bill, which comes from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, includes $10 billion for the agency.

Still, boosting the NIH’s budget will be an enormous challenge for Congress at a time when the budget-slashing sequestration cuts still apply. While an unusual coalition of Democrats and conservative Republicans have called for increased funding for the NIH, none have proposed how to pay for it.

The group was first announced to medical groups in early May, according to a letter from the American Association of Medical Colleges.