Congress sent President Donald Trump a multi-billion dollar poke in the eye Monday, refusing to slash medical spending as Trump proposed and instead giving the National Institutes of Health a $2 billion raise.
The budget agreement, finalized in the wee hours of Monday morning, also defies Trump’s demand for cuts to NASA’s earth science program, which the administration had targeted as part of a wider promise to cut climate change research. And it provides $103 million to fight the opioid abuse epidemic — an area of rare bipartisan agreement that even Trump supports. The new budget proposal, which needs votes in the House and Senate, would keep the government running until October, when the 2018 budget is supposed to kick in.
Trump had proposed slashing NIH by $1.2 billion for the rest of 2017 to help pay for his proposed increases in defense spending. Instead, Congress gave the NIH an extra $2 billion for the next 6 months, bumping its total 2017 budget to $34 billion.
Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that oversees NIH funding and who sits on the budget committee, said funding medical research is something Republicans and Democrats agree on easily. “We doubled NIH funding in the late 1990s and early 2000s and then we were flat for a dozen years,” Cole told a seminar on biodefense Monday morning. The result was a giant cut in proposed medical research projects that got paid for, he said. “Instead of funding one in three grants we fell to funding one in six,” Cole said. He said the agency, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, need regular increases, not cuts.