No, the House GOP Isn’t Standing Up for Kids With Cancer
But missing from all of this is any explanation of what the Republicans’ continuing resolution would actually do: Enshrine the severe cuts imposed on the institute by sequestration. NIH lost 5 percent of its budget—or $1.7 billion—when the cuts included in the Budget Control Act went into effect last spring. It has adjusted by eliminating at least 700 research grants, and slowed down priorities such as developing a universal flu vaccine. As NIH director Dr. Francis Collins told the Huffington Post in August, “God help us if we get a worldwide pandemic.” (Making a bad situation worse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it will be unable to effectively monitor flu vaccination programs and virus outbreaks during the shutdown.) In September, Collins suggested that the cuts to research could put “the next cure for cancer” on ice.
None of this should come as news to House Republicans. When Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) visited a cancer center in his district, he got a lecture from researchers, who said the NIH cuts had thrown their budget into flux and made it harder to treat patients. (Ross told the researchers he’d work to restore that missing funding.)
This being American politics in 2013, there’s no easy way out for NIH. House Democrats have already said they’d be okay with a “clean” continuing resolution that merely extends sequestration and preserves the steep NIH cuts, embracing the notion that reduced NIH funding is better than no NIH funding at all. Senate Democrats have also signaled that they’ve accept the lower funding levels in order to end the impasse.