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March 29, 2017

Trump proposes cutting $1.2B from NIH to fund border wall, military spending

Daily Briefing

    The White House has proposed cutting $18 billion in federal funding for domestic programs, including those focused on medical research—but some lawmakers say the cuts likely will not be implemented.

    The proposed cuts are separate from the White House's fiscal year 2018 budget blueprint, which the administration released earlier this month. The proposal, which was distributed to Congress, is meant to serve as a list of "options" for GOP lawmakers to consider as they work on legislation to continue funding the federal government through the remainder of the current fiscal year.  

    Congress must pass a federal spending bill by 11:59 p.m. on April 28, when current federal funding is set to expire, in order to avert a government shutdown.

    Details on the proposed cuts

    According to summaries of the proposal, which has not been released to the public, the White House suggested cutting:

    • $1.2 billion from NIH research grants, including a $50 million reduction in funding for IDeA grants, which aim to bolster biomedical research throughout the United States;
    • $314 million from CDC public health preparedness and occupational safety grants and domestic and global HIV/AIDS programs; and
    • $100 million from mental health block grants distributed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

    According to Bloomberg, the savings from global HIV/AIDS programs would be achieved by slowing the rate of new patients put on treatment through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program and reducing support for "low-performing countries." States also would lose $50 million in funding and those cuts would target "less effective HIV research and prevention activities."

    According to the Associated Press, the Trump administration suggested the cuts as a way to pay for President Trump's proposal to build a boarder wall between the United States and Mexico and increase funding for the Department of Defense.

    The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the cuts, STAT News reports.

    Stakeholders, patients say cuts would jeopardize medical research

    According to STAT News, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers in the past have pushed back against cutting NIH's funding.

    The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology criticized the newly proposed cuts, saying they would deter progress made on biomedical research. The group added that some Republican leaders "view investments in biomedical research as critical to the nation's security"

    Seven scientists win Lasker Awards for medical research

    Ann Romney, who is married to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and has multiple sclerosis, on Tuesday also denounced the cuts. She warned that if NIH loses funding, "[t[here will be no new treatments, there will be no new drug therapies. Progress in medicine will come to a halt."

    Lawmakers say cuts unlikely to be implemented this fiscal year

    In addition, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.)—who chairs the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies—said "it's a little late in the process" for Congress to make spending cuts for the current fiscal year. Further, Cole said, "No entering administration should be negotiating the budget for the year it's in, because they don't have the people there to do it. They just got an [Office of Management and Budget] director, they don't have a lot of their staff, they don't have their people in places in the cabinet agencies in order to make intelligent decisions and even recommendations."

    Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee's Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, also said he thinks it is "a little late" for Congress to make the cuts. He added that while lawmakers will "look at" the administration's suggestions, "the responsibility for appropriations is with the Congress" and lawmakers ultimately will "write the budget."

    House Appropriations Committee spokesperson Jennifer Hing on Monday said members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees plan to have a spending bill ready the week of April 24 (Taylor, AP/Detroit News, 3/28; Scott, STAT News, 3/28; Belluz/Resnick, Vox, 3/28; Krawzak/Mejdrich, CQ News, 3/27 [subscription required]; Savransky, The Hill, 3/28; Edney, Bloomberg, 3/28; Kelly, USA Today, 3/27).

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