UPDATE: Judy Woodruff just posted an interesting piece on the budget battle for NIH. You can read it here.
We have had a welcome surprise of late: conservatives are telling Republicans (yes, you read that right) not to cut the NIH budget.
The federal government has been running on a string of continuing resolutions (CRs) that temporarily fund the government and don’t serve much purpose other than preventing the government from shutting down entirely. This is not that unusual for Congress, but this year the stakes are as high or higher than ever before, particularly for science as the current Republican-controlled Congress has proposed a 5% cut to NIH. If you care about research including stem cell research, you should be worried as such a cut would have drastic effects.
Interestingly, a growing chorus of conservatives is collectively arguing that the cuts to NIH proposed by the Republicans are a really bad idea, kind of like shooting ourselves in the foot. Keep in mind, these are highly conservative people telling the Republicans not to cut NIH.
We have an article in Bloomberg, a fiscally conservative venue, arguing against the NIH cuts and the focus of the article is on none other than Newt Gingrich, who is opposed to the NIH cuts. Keep in mind that people don’t get much more conservative to Newt and he may even be a Republican candidate for president in 2012.
In the article is a quote from former GOP Congressman John Porter calling the proposed cuts to NIH: “mindless”.
Also quoted is Mark McClellan, a former Medicare administrator in the G.W. Bush administration calling the Republican approach to budget cutting, including the NIH cuts, as cutting with a “blunt instrument”.
Perhaps getting the ball rolling was conservative columnist George Will, who wrote a January 2011 column in the Washington Post (read it here) that argued that America is “eating its seed corn” meaning we are not investing in our future because we are failing to invest properly in research. Will did not mention NIH specifically, but the column was written as a message to new GOP Representatives and clearly opposed cuts to scientific research.
The bottom line is that these conservatives are right: America needs research to maintain its leadership. Appropriate funding for NIH is actually a net gain for America, producing far more money from the research it consumes.