Dear Ms. Elliott:

Thank you for contacting me with your support for funding of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  It is good to hear from you.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, I have been very supportive of funding for biomedical research through the NIH. In 1998, I joined several of my colleagues in setting a goal to double NIH funding within five years. I am pleased that we were able to meet that goal in fiscal year 2003.

Unfortunately, in the years after we doubled the funding, NIH received flat funding that did not allow it to keep up with previous gains.  However, Congress was able to halt this trend for Fiscal year 2009, when the NIH received over a 3 percent increase in funding, close to the rate of medical inflation.  This increase in funding continued through fiscal year 2010 with a 2.3 percent increase.  In addition, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was signed into law on February 17, 2009, included $10 billion for health research and construction of NIH facilities.  This money allowed for more NIH-funded research at research facilities through the country.

As you know, President Obama released his fiscal year 2012 budget proposal on February 14, 2011. The Senate Budget Committee, of which I am a senior member, is currently drafting a Senate Budget Resolution that must then be passed by the Committee. This document will set guidelines for federal spending in fiscal year 2012 and over the next five years.  Additionally, as you may be aware, on April 5, 2011, the House of Representatives passed Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget without a single Democratic vote. The bill proposed $4.3 trillion in spending cuts over ten years. On May 25, this measure failed to get the 60 votes necessary in the Senate to proceed to consideration. I voted against this budget because I have serious concerns about the negative effects it would have on millions of Americans, including scaling back NIH funding levels to fiscal year 2008, resulting in a 5 percent decrease.

Ensuring that this funding is kept on track is critical. As a result of our efforts to double the NIH budget, NIH was able to advance into new areas of science and support far more promising research than it was ever able to before. Investing in the NIH will ensure that there are enough trained professionals ready to turn today’s research advances into tomorrow’s treatments, diagnostics, vaccines and cures. Every dollar invested in medical research can save money in health care costs and economic productivity. Please rest assured that as Congress works on fiscal year 2012 funding, I will continue to support efforts to preserve NIH funding.

Again, thank you for contacting me regarding this important issue. If you would like to know more about my work in the Senate, please feel free to sign up for my weekly updates at http://murray.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=GetEmailUpdates. Please keep in touch.
Sincerely,

Patty Murray
United States Senator

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