Today, Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) introduced a bill to protect our national investments in biomedical research from impending automatic federal budget cuts. The automatic budget cuts, or "sequester," will cancel $85 billion in federal spending between March 1 and September 30, including roughly $2 billion from the National Institutes of Health budget (NIH). That amounts to a failure to fund or renew funding for some 2,000 grants at America's research universities, where the world's top scientists are discovering treatments for diseases like cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and HIV/AIDS. McDermott's bill would ensure that NIH's budget is protected for the balance of this fiscal year.
"It's shameful that critical programs like Medicare, Head Start, Community Health Centers and so many other priorities are currently on the chopping block for a manufactured crisis and I've opposed these cuts from the beginning." said Congressman McDermott, a member of the House Budget Committee, which oversees sequestration. "Seattle, however, will be hit especially hard by the loss of NIH funds which drive one of our largest industries. It is no exaggeration to say that they would drastically threaten Seattle's economy, which is why I am introducing a standalone measure to stop cuts to the NIH."
Seattle's economy uniquely relies on federal funding for biomedical research. Washington State's third largest employer, the University of Washington, receives more federal funding than any other public university in the nation. Research funding has established the state as one of the brightest destinations for scientists from around the world and supports an industry populated by a diverse set of almost 30,000 skilled and unskilled workers.
McDermott's bill would turn off the sequester for NIH from the period of March 1, 2013 through September 30, 2013, and reduce the amount of the sequester by that amount to avoid deeper cuts to other programs. After September 30, NIH, along with most other discretionary programs, would be subject to a global appropriations target and not to specific across-the-board cuts as they are during this fiscal year.