The Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) in both the House and the Senate recently held hearings to discuss the fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Since both hearings were held prior to the full release of President Biden’s FY 2022 budget request, much of the discussion focused on the proposed increase to the top-line budget for NIH as well as the proposal for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) as referenced in the Biden Administration’s “skinny budget” released earlier this year.
The House LHHS hearing was held on May 25 featuring testimony from NIH Director Francis Collins; Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Anthony Fauci; Director of the Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Diana Bianchi; Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Gary Gibbons; Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Norman Sharpless; and Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Nora Volkow. Appropriations Committee Chair and LHHS Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK), and many members of the Subcommittee expressed their steadfast support for NIH and for increases to the agency’s research budget. However, Members from both sides of the aisle voiced skepticism about the proposal for ARPA-H due to concerns of duplicating funds for existing NIH research. Other issues raised during the hearing included structural racism in research spaces, gun violence prevention research, NIH research on medicinal marijuana, and the recent work of the UNITE Initiative to promote diversity in biomedical career paths. A recording of the hearing is available on the House LHHS website.
The Senate LHHS hearing was held on May 26 featuring testimony from Dr. Collins; Dr. Fauci; Dr. Bianchi; Dr. Sharpless; Dr. Gibbons; Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) Eliseo Perez-Stable; and Director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) Bruce Tromberg. Subcommittee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Roy Blunt (R-MO) both expressed support for the proposed increases to NIH but still echoed concerns about the non-specific mission of ARPA-H as proposed. Other issues raised during the hearing included foreign influence in research, the effect of COVID-19 on children, gun violence prevention research, animal testing in research, and the impact of climate change on health. A recording of the hearing is available on the Senate LHHS website.