Tags: Newt Gingrich | NIH | Newt Gingrich | Congress | funding

Newt Gingrich Calls on Congress to Double NIH Budget

Image: Newt Gingrich Calls on Congress to Double NIH Budget
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By    |   Thursday, 23 Apr 2015 01:39 PM

Asserting that it is "irresponsible and shortsighted, not prudent," to permit funding for basic research to dwindle, Newt Gingrich argues in a New York Times op-ed that Congress needs to double the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

"As a conservative‬, I'm often skeptical of government 'investments.' But when it comes to breakthroughs that could cure — not just treat — the most expensive diseases, government is unique. It alone can bring the necessary resources to bear.

"For this reason, we should double the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget, which has fallen flat in the last 12 years, so they can focus more resources on the most common and expensive ‎health‬ problems," wrote the former House speaker Wednesday.

The Georgia Republican's plea for placing a priority on the NIH should not come as a surprise considering he has been an advocate for boosting its budget since his time in Congress. Shortly after the GOP won control of the House in 1994, Gingrich fought efforts by his colleagues to cut NIH's budget after speaking with business executives and Nobel laureates, according to Bloomberg News.

He would also continue to back a doubling of the research center's funding.

Gingrich's endorsement of the government's role in medical research contrasts statements he made last year at the height of the Ebola debate.

"If money is all that's needed, though, there was a perfect reminder today that Congress and the bureaucracies continually flush it away on ridiculous projects costing many times the budget of the National Institutes of Health," he wrote last October.

He also referenced former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn's annual "Wastebook," which documented "$25 billion worth of obscene spending – enough to nearly double the budget of the NIH."

While not disagreeing with his claims that NIH funding has leveled out over the years, David Shlaes questions the wisdom of some of Gingrich's recommendations, including his suggestion that the director of the NIH be granted authority to decide spending priorities.

"Another part of Mr. Gingrich's proposal is that the NIH director be given the freedom of how to spend the money. The problem is that, at least within the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (one of the institutes of NIH) where antibiotic research is funded, the director has deliberately chosen to prioritize other areas of research over antibiotics for decades," Shlaes, the former vice president of infectious disease research at Wyeth Ayerst Research, writes in Science 2.0.

Gingrich is not the only former Republican member of Congress making the argument for boosting government spending on scientific research.

"The president has consistently said, and the Democrats' position remains, that if there is going to be an increase in defense spending there must be a commensurate increase in domestic spending," former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told The Huffington Post earlier this month.

"My position would be, let's go ahead and commit to long-term creation of value, let's go in and put all the incremental dollars on the domestic side into scientific and medical research," said Cantor, who believes it is possible to increase funding without offsetting it elsewhere in the budget.

"If we would start to take a longer term look to create value long term, rather than always succumb to the siren of short-term gain," added Cantor, who left Congress after being defeated in the 2014 GOP primary.

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Asserting that it is "irresponsible and shortsighted, not prudent," to permit funding for basic research to dwindle, Newt Gingrich argues in a New York Times op-ed that Congress to double the budget of the National Institutes of Health.
NIH, Newt Gingrich, Congress, funding
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2015-39-23
Thursday, 23 Apr 2015 01:39 PM
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