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Trump's Big Cuts to Medical Research May Not Get Past Congress

20 March 2017

The budget proposal calls for a $5.8 billion cut - almost 19 percent- in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which, through the National Cancer Institute, supports a significant amount of cancer research, including clinical trials, at independent institutions around the country. Jerry Moran of Kansas, the effort resulted in a $2 billion jump in funding and enabled the NIH to give out 1,147 more grants nationwide.

That legislation authorizes $4.8 billion in new funding for NIH.

Further, these cuts follow an erosion of purchasing power of NIH grants by about 25 percent over the last 15 years.

Trump's spending plan - running into opposition from Republicans and Democrats alike - would cut about 20 percent of the roughly $30 billion budget of the nation's medical research agency that supports research on cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Zika and other conditions. So those cuts will cost Wisconsin almost 2,000 jobs and $220 million to $260 million annually. "Failure to nurture the historic US investment in research places health outcomes, scientific leadership and economic growth at risk", ASCO said.

That language offers clues about how the White House might have arrived at the proposed cut. The president called for a "major reorganization" of NIH to stress the "highest priority research", but only specifically targeted for elimination the $69 million Fogarty International Center that focuses on global health and has played a big role in HIV research overseas. Sequestration cuts led NIH to issue 700 fewer competitive research grants in fiscal year 2013.

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The agency, which distributes funding to some 300,000 scientists worldwide, has seen its funding wax and wane over the last 20-odd years.

Research institutions nationwide decried the cuts as potentially devastating to their work. Researchers say that work is important because numerous serious health threats faced in the United States originate elsewhere. "If these trends continue, the US risks creating an innovation deficit and losing its status as the global innovation leader". U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) echoed that sentiment in his own statement: "I am disappointed that numerous reductions and eliminations proposed in the President's skinny budget are Draconian, careless, and counterproductive".

According to Joanne Carney, the director of government relations at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, around 80 percent of the funding from the agency is sent to universities and medical centers throughout the country.

"We can solve these problems", the former vice president said. In the past, Republicans in Congress have been highly critical of spending on social science research.

Trump's budget slashed several agencies' budget to fund a bump for defense funding and money for veteran's affairs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's statistical capabilities, for example, would be reduced while the administration maintains "core departmental analytical functions, such as the funding necessary to complete the Census of Agriculture", the document states.

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The department of Energy's Office of Science saw an estimated cut of around 17 percent.

"By undermining these surveys, you're undermining the quality and credibility of the data", remarked Naus.

Ryan said Sunday he's encouraged that the president's budget proposes an increase in defense, but noted it is early in the budget process. (ASCO®) is committed to making a world of difference in cancer care.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who chairs the House Appropriation subcommittee that oversees NIH, didn't address NIH specifically, but said, "It will ultimately be Congress that makes the decisions about what will get cut and what will be increased".

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Trump's Big Cuts to Medical Research May Not Get Past Congress