President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal 2020, released Monday, would reduce funding for the Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health by about 13 percent – a cut of about $4.9 billion.
Under Trump’s proposal for the budget year that begins Oct. 1, NIH – Montgomery County’s largest employer with nearly 20,300 workers – would receive $34.4 billion, down from $39.3 billion for the current fiscal year.
Monday’s proposal marks the third time since Trump took office that he has sought significant funding cuts for NIH.
Bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress have resisted these moves in the past, instead increasing funding for the agency by a total of about 14 percent over the past two years.
With Democrats gaining a majority of the U.S. House of Representatives in last fall’s election, resistance to the administration’s latest proposed reduction is likely to be even stiffer as the budget is debated on Capitol Hill in the coming months.
“I will fight against these deeply misguided cuts, to ensure NIH has the resources it needs to conduct research that produces treatments and cures to diseases that impact every American family,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in an email.
In addition to the work conducted on its Bethesda campus and nearby facilities, NIH is the leading financial supporter of biomedical research at universities nationwide — with more than three-quarters of its funding reportedly devoted to this purpose.
The Rockville-based American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology expressed concern that Trump’s latest proposal “threatens the progress of biomedical research,” according to Science magazine.
If Trump’s budget were adopted, it would roll back NIH funding to approximately the level it stood at when Trump succeeded President Barack Obama at the beginning of 2017. At the time, the agency was funded at $34.3 billion annually, but was increased by Congress to $37.1 billion for the 2018 fiscal year.
Trump sought to cut this back to $34.8 billion for fiscal 2019, but the House and Senate instead raised it to its current level of $39.3 billion.
NIH is comprised of 27 separate institutes and centers, with the single largest amount of funding going to the National Cancer Institute.
Under the fiscal 2020 proposed budget, NCI would receive $50 million as a down payment on a $500 million initiative to combat pediatric cancers that Trump announced in his State of the Union speech last month. But NCI’s overall budget would drop nearly $900 million, from its current $6.1 billion, to $5.2 billion.
NIH’s second largest unit, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – headed for the past 35 years by well-known immunologist Anthony Fauci – would see its annual budget drop by more than $750 million, from $5.5 billion to about $4.75 billion, under Trump’s proposal.
The Trump $4.7 trillion budget plan contains large increases in defense spending and equally large reductions in domestic programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Van Hollen and his Maryland colleague, Sen. Ben Cardin, both Democrats, blasted the proposal.
Cardin called the reductions in Medicare and Medicaid “delusional” and pronounced the plan “dead on arrival.” Van Hollen, alluding to the Trump-supported tax cut legislation enacted at the end of 2017, charged, “Now, this budget attempts to pay for the corporate tax giveaway by gutting investments that help America’s working families, seniors, and those with disabilities.”