Van Hollen Speaks Out in Support of Increased Funding for NIH
Nov 6, 2003 -
Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the motion of my colleague from Texas and thank him for his leadership on this issue.
If there is anything that we as a Nation ought to be able to agree on, it is our common resolve to fight and overcome the scourge of disease and disability. This is not a Democratic issue. This is not a Republican issue. It is an American issue. It is really a human issue. And I want to commend the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Regula) and the others who on a bipartisan basis over the years have helped double and really make a commitment to this issue.
There are literally tens of thousands of our fellow citizens and their families waiting today, right now as we are talking on this floor, for a cure or a treatment or a breakthrough that will mean the difference between sickness and health, between hope and despair, between independence and suffering, between life and death.
How disappointing, then, that after following through on our noble bipartisan effort to double our NIH budget over 5 years, we should be here today talking about an effective freeze on spending, on our investment in basic biological and biomedical research. It is as if we had our collective foot on the pedal together in a race for a cure on all these diseases and then all of a sudden we slam on the brakes. What happened? Did we win the race against these diseases? Of course not. Is there any less need today? No. Are there fewer promising avenues for research? Of course not. In fact, the opposite is true. We are poised, because of our investments over the last 5 years, to make breakthroughs in many areas if we continue to commit the necessary resources.
I am very proud of the fact that the National Institutes of Health has its home in my congressional district. We also have a flourishing biomedical research industry developing the medicines of tomorrow. We have just completed mapping the human genome. We are on the threshold of many new discoveries, many new cures, and we have the potential for breakthroughs in so many areas. Now is not the time to rest.
The House-passed appropriation calls for just a 2.5 percent increase, the smallest in 18 years, and effectively, when we consider the fact that biomedical inflation is 3.3 percent, it effectively takes us backwards. The Senate came in at 3.5 percent, barely standing still. What are we saying? What kind of message are we sending to our citizens? What are we telling our families? Sorry, the tax cuts were just too important? Sorry, this just is not one of our top priorities anymore? Do not worry, we need to take a breather, there is always next year? That is the wrong message to send. Diseases do not call it quits. Diseases do not say okay, time out for this year, wait until next year. And neither should we.
So I congratulate my colleague from Texas for offering this motion. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to continue that bipartisan support that we have had for the last 5 years in doubling the NIH budget. Let us continue it. Let us make a renewed commitment not to put the brakes on, which is unfortunately what this budget does. Let us take advantage of the investments and the knowledge we have gained over the last 5 years to follow through and come up with cures to so many diseases that plague our citizens.