Cong. Van Hollen Warns of Shutdown Impact on NIH
September 22, 2015
On September 22, Cong. Chris Van Hollen, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee and in whose district the NIH is located (as are the NAEVR and ARVO offices), held a press conference at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where he was joined by NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. At this event, attended by NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky, Cong. Van Hollen delivered two important messages to the media: Congress must act to avoid a government shutdown as it will have a detrimental impact on the NIH, and Congress must adequately fund the NIH.
As NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. looks on, Cong. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) speaks about the impact of a potential government shutdown
If Congress does not pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government by the October 1 beginning of Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, all non-essential operations will cease until a funding agreement is reached. On September 10, Cong. Van Hollen co-sponsored the Prevent a Government Shutdown Act of 2015 that calls for bipartisan, bicameral negotiations to raise the Budget Control Act caps and establish appropriate offsets. If the negotiations do not succeed by October 1, the caps are automatically raised to the level in the President’s 2016 budget proposal, eliminating the sequester for nondefense discretionary programs and providing the same amount of sequester relief for defense programs. Under either condition, appropriations action will be able to proceed, avoiding a government shutdown.
He identified several damaging effects of a shutdown on NIH, including that on its employees; the research conducted by its intramural investigators, as well that conducted by its extramural investigators who may experience a funding delay; and the NIH Clinical Center. Regarding the latter, he related details of the 16-day government shutdown in 2013 in which the admission of patients to the Clinical Center for life-saving treatment was slowed to 1-2 patients a day. While recognizing the policy issues driving the current shutdown debate, he stated that, “We (Congressional Members) can agree to disagree, but don’t shut down the government, and save all of the harm that it does.”
Cong. Van Hollen answers questions from print, radio, and television journalists
Regarding adequate NIH funding, he stated that it is “detrimental for the country to shortchange its investment in the NIH, and it is shameful that the NIH budget is now more than 20 percent lower than in the early 2000s.” While citing data that NIH currently funds about one-in-six of investigator-initiated grants submitted, as opposed to the one-in-three funded in the early 2000s, he lamented that “we are leaving grant proposals on the table that could result in new cures and treatments.” He also addressed the funding impact on young researchers, resulting in them leaving science or moving to another country that is adequately funding biomedical research.
He concluded by stating that, “I can’t stand here and say with any confidence that there will not be a shutdown,” and offered up the current best-case scenario as follows: Congress passes a short-term CR at existing levels, then uses the time before that expires for its leaders to come together to develop a new budget framework that provides robust funding for the NIH in FY2016 and beyond.
Cong, Van Hollen’s message about NIH funding echoed that delivered by nearly 300 research advocates from 40 different states and the District of Columbia during the September 17 Rally for Medical Research Advocacy Day, in which NAEVR and ARVO participated.