On August 2, Congress and President Obama reached a compromise to raise the federal debt ceiling and address the country’s $14.3 trillion deficit through a series of spending cuts. One of the primary outcomes of the deal, termed the Budget Control Act of 2011, was the formation of the bipartisan Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction (aka the “Super-committee”), which is tasked with identifying $1.5 trillion in spending cuts to be made over the next 10 years.
Just what will the deficit reduction negotiations mean for biomedical research funding? The honest answer is, we don’t know. While committee members will mainly be focused on changes to entitlement programs and other mandatory spending, discretionary outlays will also be under consideration. However, there is reason to be hopeful that investment in basic biomedical research will be spared. Support for the National Institutes of Health has long been a rare source of bipartisan agreement. Moreover, the biomedical research community got a pleasant surprise when Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD, whose district includes the NIH’s Bethesda campus, was named to the committee.
In an interview given earlier this week, Van Hollen re-affirmed his well-known support for the National Institutes of Health. “It would be very short-sighted to make cuts to NIH because history has shown that the discoveries that they’ve come up with have helped to reduce costs because they’ve developed treatments to various diseases,” stated Van Hollen. While he admitted that NIH funding is a potential target for cuts during the negotiations, Van Hollen remains “very hopeful that we’ll be able to protect that very important national investment.”
Another member of the Super-committee has also voiced his support for biomedical research. In a letter read at the Montana Delegation on Research meeting, Sen. Max Baucus, D-MO, stated “it will be a tough battle in Congress, but I will continue fighting for money to fund NIH because I understand the importance of medical research.” Sen. Baucus added that in addition to enhancing overall health, “research funding is essential to building the medical and bio industries in Montana and creating good paying jobs.”
As the deficit reduction negotiations commence, ASBMB is encouraging our members to do as much as they can to bang the drum in support of scientific research. The ASBMB Public Affairs staff has compiled a list of town hall meetings hosted within congressional districts during the August home work period. Take this opportunity to meet with your Congressman and explain the importance of a sustained investment in biomedical research!