President Donald Trump’s hopes of slashing research funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) won’t be coming to fruition, as Congress rejected his proposal last week. Instead, members from both the Democratic and Republican parties have agreed to increase funds for the health research agency, reports The New York Times.
Back in March, Trump called for a $7.5 billion cut to the NIH, which is where much HIV/AIDS research is carried out. As POZ previously noted, the proposed budget also planned to take away $300 million from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a global initiative to fight the epidemic around the world.
In a 29 to 2 vote, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bipartisan bill that provides $36.1 billion in spending for the coming fiscal year, which is set to begin in October. During the past three years, funding for the health institutes has increased about 20 percent. In addition, the House Appropriations Committee also increased spending for NIH by $1.1 billion.
“The administration’s proposal would radically change the nature of the federal government’s relationship with the research community, abandoning the government’s long-established responsibility for underwriting much of the nation’s research infrastructure, and jeopardizing biomedical research nationwide,” wrote the Senate Appropriations Committee in a report about the bill.
And according to Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, Trump’s proposal “would have crippled American innovation in medical research, delayed new cures and treatments and brought NIH funding to its lowest level since 2002.”
Both committees also denied Trump’s proposal to reduce overhead, or indirect, payments to universities for several costs: utilities, internet service, data storage, the construction and upkeep of laboratories, and compliance with federal rules protecting human subjects of clinical research. Lawmakers even went so far as to prevent Trump’s administration from making any changes to the decades-long formula used to assess and pay such fees.
The committee also prohibited the president from making any changes to the stopgap spending bill he signed last Friday to avert a federal shutdown. They also voted against the president’s suggestion to eliminate the NIH’s Fogarty International Center, which has worked to fight many diseases—including Zika, malaria and Ebola—worldwide.
As of press time, there’s been no word from Trump or the White House about the recent action from Congress.
Click here to read about how Trump’s budget proposal would decimate efforts to fight HIV.