On May 4, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing on the president’s fiscal year (FY) 2024 budget request for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Both Democrats and Republicans on the subcommittee, including full committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Vice Chair Susan Collins (R-Maine) had sharp words regarding the proposed funding for the NIH, characterizing the request of less than a $1 billion increase to the NIH’s based budget above the FY 2023 level as too low.
Subcommittee Chair Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) noted in her opening statement, “I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure NIH has the resources it needs across its 27 Institutes and Centers to continue the progress of recent years.”
Ranking Member Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) noted the difficulties of the subcommittee’s work due to the debt ceiling and fiscal challenges broadly. “Support of biomedical research at NIH has long been a bicameral, bipartisan priority. … This year, we need to prioritize areas of agreement including … funding for our academic research institutions.”
In response to an inquiry about the impacts to medical research of the House Republican-supported Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 (H.R. 2811), which would restrict FY 2024 funding to FY 2022 spending levels, Larry Tabak, DDS, PhD, in performing the duties of NIH director, noted there would be a “chilling effect on the entire biomedical research enterprise,” reduced interest in research careers, and a disproportionate impact on young investigators.
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) inquired about the impact of continued funding growth for Alzheimer’s disease research. National Institute on Aging Director Richard Hodes, MD, noted that the “enormous progress we’ve seen could not have happened at this pace without increased support and investment in research.” He added that fewer resources “would slow the progression from most basic discovery to identification of new diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive measures.”
Baldwin and Murray both urged the NIH to accelerate and implement with greater urgency its oversight of grantees in addressing harassment in research. Subcommittee members also inquired about mental health particularly in youth, Parkinson’s disease research, substance use disorders, and adult and childhood cancers. Members also discussed the importance of improving access to clinical trials in rural areas and among diverse populations, such as individuals with Down Syndrome.