WASHINGTON _ Several Republican and Democratic Senators onThursday denounced planned reductions in the National Institutes ofHealth (NIH) budget and stated their support for an amendment torestore funding for biomedical research.

Senate floor debate on the Republican plan to balance the federalbudget by 2002 by making deep cuts in domestic spending programsbegan Thursday and will continue into next week.

Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.), who chairs the AppropriationsCommittee which decides NIH funding levels, said the GOP budgetis a "blueprint for disaster for biomedical research." Hatfield blamedthe Clinton administration for proposing a modest 4.1 percentincrease but termed the Republican budget plan a proposal that would"cripple the infrastructure of the greatest research center."

Hatfield said his amendment would restore more than $1.1 billion toNIH's budget and add another $1 billion to "accelerate recentprogress in finding therapeutic treatments" for serious chronicdiseases.

Recent Congressional decisions to maintain funding for the Centersfor Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and research on AIDStreatments was reducing the debate on biomedical research to "pittingone disease against the other," Hatfield said at a press conferenceThursday.

The Senate Budget Committee plan now being debated on the Senatefloor would reduce all discretionary health spending by $2.8 billion.However, HIV-related research funding would go unscathed whileNIH's budget would be cut 10 percent.

The House Budget Committee proposal, also being debated on theHouse floor, would cut NIH spending by 5 percent in fiscal 1996 andthen freeze spending at the Institutes for the next five fiscal years.

The press conference was organized by the Ad Hoc Group forMedical Research Funding, a coalition of 180 medical and scientificsocieties, patient groups and research organizations here. Accordingto the coalition, spending reductions envisioned by the GOP budgetplan would "mean that few new research projects could be funded."Specifically, the group estimated that 85 percent of all approvedgrants would not be funded. n

-- Michele L. Robinson Washington Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.