WASHINGTONAfter a $2 billion increase last year, the drive to
double the NIHs budget over 5 years faces a stiff battle in
Congress this year. Under Senate rules, it takes 60 votes to increase
spending, and an initial attempt to provide an extra $2 billion for
biomedical research in FY 2000 has failed 52 to 48.
We are in a very difficult situation, said Sen. Arlen
Specter (R-Penn), chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that
oversees the NIH budget. He suggested health groups turn their powers
of persuasion on the 52 US senators who voted against
increasing NIH funding.
The Senate is very good at passing nonbinding resolutions supporting
huge increases for NIH, he said, but it is less willing to provide
the funds without stripping the money from other programs.
Sen. Specter spoke during Capitol Hill ceremonies honoring the four
recipients of the Paul E. Tsongas Memorial Award. Sen. Specter shared
the award with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Rep. Rick Lazio (R-NY), and
Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy
(D-RI). It is presented by the Lymphoma Research Foundation of
America to recognize outstanding legislative leadership and a
commitment to and support of health care issues, which result in
improving the quality of life for all Americans. The award is
named for the late Sen. Paul E. Tsongas of Massachusetts, who served
as honorary chair of LRFA from its inception in 1991. He died of
complications of lymphoma treatment in 1997. The first Tsongas award
was given that year to Senators Connie Mack (R-Fla) and Dianne
Feinstein (D-Calif), co-chairs of the Senate Cancer Coalition.