This memo is a report from Jack Crowley of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the issue of funding for biomedical
research. Crowley summarizes the comments of Rep. John E. Porter, Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor,
Health and Human Services at a rallying speech for Research!America. Issues addressed include the report from Citizens Against
Government Waste that NIH is "foolish government spending" and the suggestion for a national trust fund for research.
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1996-03-18 (March 18, 1996)
Korn, Edward D.
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Beyond the Laboratory: Professional, Personal, and Political Life, 1967-2002
At noon 13 March Hon. John E. Porter, Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services,
Education, and Related Agencies, an ardent proponent of biomedical research, gave a rallying speech to Research!America on
Rep Porter said:
What worked in FY 1996 won't be enough in FY 1997. Last year, not many know this, I called about ten university presidents
(he named several institutions). All graciously agreed to energize their boards. We will do that again this year -- more broadly.
We must balance the budget, make the government more efficient, program by program. However, "there is no more vital endeavor"
for government than NIH. How do we make this contageous? I need your help. The American people must make it a priority. You
must do this. Infect the people with the needs. Three targets in Congress:
1. John Kasich and the members of the H Budget Committee. The House Budget Resolution may be on the House Floor in mid-April.
2. Bob Livingston and the House Appropriations Committee. Markups will occur in mid-May.
3. Every Member of the House and Senate.
Set meetings in each District. Visit the Members in their local offices. Tell them what NIH means to them personally in their
home districts. We need to do this because even some in the leadership don't understand. One leader in the House (not
the Speaker) said, "why do we need NIH? Research is being done in all of our universities."
We have to make the argument that in both sectors (universities and industry) we lead the world. It is the most efficient
government spending of all. It makes longer, more healthy lives across the country and around the world. It provides for greater
economic growth, more exports, more high technology jobs. We must get this message out to Congress, to newspapers, to local
media and to the people. Speak at local community organizations. Urge others to write to their Congressman. I believe in the
firepower theory of lobbying. If you fire enough bullets you will hit some targets. Research!America's suggested actions
are right. They do make a difference. Popularize Research and what it does for our society.
We cannot forget last year. The House Budget Committee began with a 5% cut which translated to a 25% cut on a static base
over 7 years. The Senate then suggested a 10% cut. God bless Mark Hatfield who turned it around. However, he's retiring.
The Senate provided only a 2.7% increase and then did not pass the bill. We may be looking at something similar again. Such
cuts would be disaster. Awards would drop. Talented minds will move to other fields.
We can provide a 6.5% increase for NIH this year if we all work aggressively in the home districts and home groups. We can
Response to questions:
1. Citizens against Government Waste challenged NIH as foolish government spending. Sam Donaldson helped there by saying that
such spending may appear foolish at first blush but it is good science. I am particularly worried now. Not many ideas in the
FY '96 bill got funded like NIH. There are 800 line items in the bill. All of the others will target NIH arguing that
it is not fair to cut them in order to fund NIH. But it is not a matter of fairness. It is a matter of priorities and of where
the dollars should be spent. What the Senate did yesterday (adding funds for several programs, including education) won't
help next year because there will not be the money to sustain those increases. We need to be careful that the NIH is not targeted.
Last year I took all 5 new members of the subcommittee to NIH for a day and then asked Dr. Varmus to bring a group of Nobel
laureates before the Subcommittee. This year I'm taking our spouses with us to NIH. I called ten university presidents;
this year we want to call 100! I want to reach every single university president. There is nothing more important than having
the president of the local university come into the Member's office and tell him that this is something important. Also,
look ahead to the fall electrons. Ask the local candidates what they think about this issue. But talk with them ahead of time
so that they give the right answer. If you do that the Member or candidate learns and then those in the room hear the right
answer. And, do not forget the President and the Secretary of DHHS. They need to be lobbied. It will be much tougher, much
tougher this year.
2. A national trust fund for research? We ought to look at long-term solutions. Obviously, there was no peace dividend. With
dropping award rates a 6.5% increase for NIH is minimal. We need to do much much better in the future. Senators Harkin and
Hatfield have raised the question of a trust fund. Tobacco is a wonderful idea. But, we will raise NO taxes. Maybe we can
dedicate a percentage of existing taxes on tobacco to biomedical research. But don't get off the appropriations fight
until it has run its course! Last year's 5.7% increase was about the cost of one B-2 bomber. We don't need more SeaWolf
submarines. And, we do not need a tax cut either! (Which does not make me popular within my party!) And, do not make predictions
of cuts in research. Do not accept cuts! The Speaker said that he would review not only biomedical research and NIH but all
federally funded research -- and he did. But not much changed. Make appointments to see the Speaker and make the case for
all government research. Republicans ought to support all research because it is essential to grow our economy, to jobs and
to sustaining our high standard of living. We must not lose our technological lead. We must chose our priorities.