A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Will Policy Makers let Rome Burn?

Dear Research Advocate,

Today, the Senate is planning to vote on a bipartisan continuing resolution from Sens. Mikulski and Shelby to fund the federal government through the end of the year. The good news is that the bill includes an increase, albeit small ($71 million) in NIH funding; Senator Harkin tried, unsuccessfully, unfortunately, to increase NIH even further, and Senator Durbin worked on an ambitious amendment to add more than $1.5 billion to the NIH budget. We truly appreciate the efforts of all of these champions and the fact that NIH funding was singled out for an increase on a bipartisan basis by the Appropriations Committee. The bad news is that sequestration will wipe out all of these increases. The most likely outcome of the Senate appropriations process is a cut to NIH in the $1.5 billion range. While our community’s herculean advocacy efforts over the last several months are paying off — medical research funding is clearly receiving priority consideration — sequestration is sweeping away our progress. We must continue to fight this policy mistake, with its 10 years of consequences. Take a minute right now to speak out to your representatives. And plan, on April 8, to join the research community at a Rally in D.C. to fight for medical research. Learn more here.

Another amendment offered to the Senate legislation would eliminate political science research at NSF by transferring those dollars to the National Cancer Institute. This amendment sets a dangerous precedent that threatens the integrity and value of research. For years, leaders in Congress from both sides of the aisle, including Research!America’s chairman, former Congressman John Porter, have fought off attempts by Congress to micromanage research. We must fight to keep research decisions off the House and Senate floors and in the hands of scientists and patients.

The House and Senate budget resolutions for FY14, which were also introduced this week, are emblematic of the problem we, as a country, face. The ideological divide is so great that “a grand bargain,” one that will balance the federal budget without decimating our economy and forsaking our determination to defeat disabling and deadly diseases, seems impossible. But Congress and the White House report to the American people. We can and must demand compromise between competing views of the government’s role, and we must stand up for priorities like fighting diseases that threaten our own and future generations. No more political party posturing usurping the governing process. No more across-the-board cuts. FY14 must bring with it pragmatism, prioritization and policy making that puts the country first. Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has penned a compelling op-ed in Roll Call capturing these sentiments.

Switching gears in this very big week, I’d like to thank all who were able to join us for yesterday’s Annual Meeting and Advocacy Awards dinner. We heard truly inspirational remarks from Sens. Richard Burr and Bob Casey, champions of the entire ecosystem behind U.S.-driven medical progress. Our other award winners — John Crowley, Diane Rehm, Dr. John Mendelsohn, Dr. Mark Rosenberg and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine — are strong advocates for research; we salute their achievements.

Finally, as I announced at our Board meeting, I’m proud that Research!America has entered into a letter of agreement with our sister organizations in Australia, Canada and Sweden to ensure international collaboration by sharing best practices in advocacy for research for health. While our organizations operate in different countries and in distinctly different political environments, we have in common a fundamental commitment to making biomedical and health research a higher global priority.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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