Leading Moderate Republican Mike Castle Speaks to the Medical Research Advocacy Community

Leading Moderate Republican Mike Castle Speaks to the
Medical Research Advocacy Community

Legislative Update
June 15, 2006

On June 15, Cong. Mike Castle (R-DE) spoke with the medical research advocacy community at a breakfast sponsored by the ad hoc Medical Research Group. Cong. Castle led the moderate Republicans in seeking an additional $7.1 billion for health and education programs in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 House Budget Resolution.

Cong. Castle made the following summary points about the FY2007 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) appropriations bill marked up by the Subcommittee on June 7 and approved by the House Appropriations Committee on
June 13:

  • Although the bill contains an additional $4.1 billion over the President’s budget (none of which to increase the NIH budget), he never expected the additional $3 billion (for a total of $7.1 billion over budget) until a conference with a Senate bill.
  • The unexpected Committee approval of an amendment in the bill to increase the minimum wage (supported by seven Republicans) may delay House floor action until after the election, jeopardizing House Appropriations Chair Lewis’ (R-CA) schedule to have all House appropriations bills approved before the July 4 recess. (Note that, later in the day, Congress Daily reported that House floor action on the LHHS bill was on hold).

In response to questions about future NIH funding, he acknowledged the extent of past NIH funding increases (e.g., 120 percent increase over the past decade, as also noted by Chairman Lewis at the June 7 Subcommittee markup). He indicated that the community could likely expect “cost of living increases” at the NIH, but that it would need to make its case as the average voter is unlikely aware of the value of the NIH. He recognized, however, that medical research as an issue that has support from both sides of the aisle.

Rep. Mike Castle (DE)When asked about NIH reauthorization, Cong. Castle stated that the Congress has not done a good job of oversight of federal programs in general, echoing comments made by LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee members at its June 7 markup. With respect to NIH, he noted that it is a significant budget expenditure and that reauthorization potentially has more pros than cons, as it would enable NIH to tell its story, educate Congress and prove its worth. Regarding specifics, he mentioned that proposals to “centralize” some NIH functions, especially managing trans-Institute research, might prove useful. He concluded by expressing his opinion that NIH had not traditionally done a good job of “salesmanship” as to the value of the research it conducts internally, with academic Institutions and with private industry. He feels that NIH could demonstrate itself to be of greater value to voters, especially since they are increasingly sensitive to health concerns.

Regarding a potential Senate vote to expand the current embryonic stem cell policy (after the House’s successful passage of HR 810 last May, of which he was a co-sponsor), he didn’t think it would see Senate floor action this session. He suggested that advancements in other countries or through private research in the United States may ultimately place more pressure on the Senate to take action.