Congress rejects Trump proposals to cut health research funds
WASHINGTON — Back in March, when President Trump released the first draft of his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, he asked lawmakers for deep cuts to one of their favorite institutions, the National Institutes of Health part of a broad reordering of priorities, away from science and social spending, toward defense and border security.
Six months later, Congress has not only rejected the president's N.I.H. proposal; lawmakers from both parties have joined forces to increase spending on biomedical research — and have bragged about it.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bipartisan bill last week providing $36.1 billion for the health institutes in the fiscal year that starts next month. Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri and the chairman of the subcommittee responsible for health spending, said it was the third consecutive year in which he had secured a $2 billion increase for the agency, amounting to an increase of about 20 percent over three years.
The audience erupted in applause when Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, announced the increase at a hearing of a separate Senate committee.
Mr. Trump had proposed to cut funds for the health institutes by $7.5 billion, or 22 percent, to $26.6 billion. Congress pushed back hard.
The president's proposal "would have crippled American innovation in medical research, delayed new cures and treatments and brought N.I.H. funding to its lowest level since 2002," said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat.
The House Appropriations Committee, though less generous than the Senate, still approved a $1.1 billion increase for the health research agency. Lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol said they expected the final figure to be close to the higher amount in the Senate bill.
"The spectacular increase provided by the Senate Appropriations Committee is amazing in the current fiscal environment," said Anthony J. Mazzaschi, a lobbyist at the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health.
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