News Releases

At committee hearing, Senator Murray spoke with directors who lead the nation’s health research agency about their work to tackle the challenges families across the country face 

Recent bipartisan budget deal included second largest increase for the National Institutes of Health ever

President Trump’s budget would cut the agency’s funding below its 2017 level, while Senator Murray calls for increased investment in 2019 to preserve the nation’s leadership in biomedical research

Senator Murray: “[President Trump’s budget proposal] is out of step with the sentiments of Congress and the country.”

Senator Murray: “Less than two months ago, Congress passed, and President Trump signed into law, a bipartisan bill that increased funding for NIH by $3 billion, the second greatest increase in the agency’s history… President Trump’s request would undermine these efforts, slowing their progress.”

(Washington, D.C.)  – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), top Democrat on the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee (LHHS), highlighted the importance of continuing to invest in groundbreaking, lifesaving medical research during a committee hearing on medical research funding. The hearing included testimony from Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Norman Sharpless, Director of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Walter Koroshetz, Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Richard Hodes, Director of the National Institute on Aging, and Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Senator Murray also criticized President Trump’s budget proposal for cuts that would undermine the bipartisan investments in health research signed into law under the recent bipartisan budget deal. 

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s opening remarks:

“President Trump’s budget for fiscal year 2019 once again seeks deep cuts across the spectrum of health activities, including a reduction to the National Institutes of Health that would cut its funding down to roughly $100 million below the 2017 enacted level. The request is out of step with the sentiments of Congress and the country. Less than two months ago, Congress passed, and President Trump signed into law, a bipartisan bill that increased funding for NIH by $3 billion, the second greatest increase in the agency’s history… President Trump’s request would undermine these efforts, slowing their progress.”

“We are in a time of immense promise and challenge for the research community: the promise of unprecedented new tools, technologies, and computational power, balanced by the challenge of making the most of the staggering and ever-growing amount of data that NIH produces.”

“I am pleased that the Administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget abandons its ill-conceived proposal to drastically cut grant support funding that it proposed last year, but troubled that it now seeks to arbitrarily slash researchers’ salaries by 20 percent. The budget claims this proposal would stretch grant dollars to fund more research, but like the previous proposal, it is blindly destructive and short on details – a gimmick no one is meant to take seriously.”

Senator Murray’s full remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

“Dr. Collins, it’s good to see you and other members of your team.  Welcome Doctors Volkow, Fauci, Hodes, Koroshetz, and Sharpless, and thank you for being here. And it’s a pleasure to see Anne Houser here as well. Anne has done so much to support the subcommittee’s work for many years, and is a great credit to the agency.

“President Trump’s budget for fiscal year 2019 once again seeks deep cuts across the spectrum of health activities, including a reduction to the National Institutes of Health that would cut its funding down to roughly $100 million below the 2017 enacted level. The request is out of step with the sentiments of Congress and the country.

“Less than two months ago, Congress passed, and President Trump signed into law, a bipartisan bill that increased funding for NIH by $3 billion, the second greatest increase in the agency’s history. Those funds will be used to accelerate efforts to discover cures to Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other diseases; tackle the opioid addiction crisis; develop a universal flu vaccine and new antibiotics; and so much more. President Trump’s request would undermine these efforts, slowing their progress.

“By comparison, in just the past three years, Congress has provided NIH an overall increase of $7 billion, boosting its budget by almost a quarter. After adjusting for inflation, the NIH budget still falls short of its peak in 2003, and grants remain highly competitive – especially for our early stage investigators – but the numbers are trending in the right direction. I am hopeful that in the bill our subcommittee will shortly begin writing, we will be able to continue closing the gap. And I know Chairman Blunt feels the same way.

“These funding increases reflect a sustained commitment to invest in medical research with the goal of achieving breakthroughs that benefit all of us – including those who have been historically under-represented in clinical research – and preserve our nation’s leadership in biomedical research.

“We are in a time of immense promise and challenge for the research community: the promise of unprecedented new tools, technologies, and computational power, balanced by the challenge of making the most of the staggering and ever-growing amount of data that NIH produces. The BRAIN initiative, efforts to cure Alzheimer’s disease, the Cancer Moonshot, and the All-Of-Us initiative to advance precision medicine – these are massive undertakings that pose extraordinary challenges: how to manage and make sense of it all, allow the research community to leverage it as much as possible, and find the proverbial needle in an immense haystack –while at the same time ensuring that each patient’s data remains secure.

“I believe that much of NIH and its grantees are up to this task. I see the potential every time I visit the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, but few organizations have their level of sophistication.

“Two years ago, the committee tasked NIH with developing a strategic plan for outlining how it would manage and make the most of the data it is producing. NIH released that plan earlier this month on schedule, but the real work still lies ahead. 

“I’m concerned there still remains no senior member of the leadership responsible for this portfolio. I see that NIH recently posted an opening for a Chief Data Strategist, and understand that you are actively reaching out to those in the private sector in the hope of attracting the right person to public service. It is essential to find them quickly, bring them on-board, and make sure you properly support them to implement your strategic plan. I look forward to hearing more about NIH’s plans in this area when we turn to questions.

“I am pleased that the Administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget abandons its ill-conceived proposal to drastically cut grant support funding that it proposed last year, but troubled that it now seeks to arbitrarily slash researchers’ salaries by 20 percent. The budget claims this proposal would stretch grant dollars to fund more research, but like the previous proposal, it is blindly destructive and short on details – a gimmick no one is meant to take seriously. 

“I see the budget follows Congress’ lead by preserving the increase we provided to address opioid addiction and spur the development of non-addictive pain treatments. These are critical investments of great importance to the members of this subcommittee, and I think I can speak for all of us in saying we expect NIH to make the most of the resources entrusted to it to address this crisis. We, and those we represent, are counting on you.

“Finally, few agencies enjoy greater trust than the National Institutes of Health. So it’s particularly troubling that questions have been raised about the impartiality of a study to assess the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. Dr. Collins, I know you have been focused on determining the facts here, and ensuring the integrity of NIH’s research practices. Hopefully you will be able to provide an update.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”