Congressional negotiators have rejected President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to medical research funding and are instead moving forward with a plan that would provide a $2 billion increase.
U.S. House and Senate negotiators on Monday released a more than $1 trillion omnibus budget bill that will fund the federal government through the end of September. The bill will have to be approved by both chambers of Congress by the end of Friday, when a continuing resolution to fund the federal government expires.
The bipartisan plan would provide $34 billion to the National Institutes of Health, a 6.3 percent increase from the previous year.
Trump had proposed a $1.2 billion cut to the NIH as part of a package of budget cuts that were intended to pay for the construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Those cuts and funding for the wall have been dropped from the omnibus bill.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, said the president is “on board with the bill,” but that “doesn’t mean that debate is over for 2018.”
Trump has proposed a $5.8 billion cut to NIH funding in 2018.
Roy Jensen, director of the University of Kansas Cancer Center, said that increased NIH funding for 2017 “lets us rest easy for a little bit here, but this is one battle in a much larger conflict.”
The center, which has clinical facilities in both Kansas and Missouri, receives about $40 million in NIH funding annually. That goes to a broad range of projects, including research into new breast cancer drugs and treatments for bladder cancer. Jensen will travel to Washington, D.C., this week to meet with lawmakers about the 2018 budget.
U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, a Kansas Republican, said the proposed increase for this year should be seen as a sign of congressional Republicans’ commitment to medical research funding, noting that the GOP-controlled Congress also passed a $2 billion increase in the final year of the Obama administration.
“No matter who’s president of the United States, our commitment remains,” Yoder said. “Because we have met with the families. We have had heartfelt conversations with constituents who are suffering from an incurable disease.”
Yoder called the Kansas City region a hub for biomedical research and said the federal dollars are a key component in supporting that.
The proposed funding increase was applauded by lawmakers of both parties and on both sides of the state line.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, said in a statement that investing in NIH research now could help save “millions of lives long into the future. This $2 billion increase assists our nation’s top researchers in finding ground-breaking discoveries, including new treatments and cures for diseases, which makes our healthcare system more effective and efficient while also lowering overall healthcare costs.”
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, said in a statement that these “critical resources help support cancer and vaccine research at Missouri’s cutting edge medical and research centers that are on the front lines of fighting disease — they’re good for Missourians’ health and safety, and help boost our economy.”
Blunt, who chairs the budget subcommittee that deals with NIH funding, said the boost to the program’s funding would be achieved without an extra cost to taxpayers. Other federal health dollars would be shifted to cover the cost.
“We did that with no new money. We just made research a priority,” he said.