You’ve seen GEN’s Congressional Hall of Fame—now, here’s our Hall of Shame. Following is a list of five U.S. Representatives and five U.S. Senators who have spearheaded efforts in recent years to reduce funds for federal agencies involved in funding basic research, or sought to reverse individual NIH grant funding decisions, sometimes by distorting and publicly deriding the purposes and relevance of the projects—or more recently, sought to narrow the activities of the agencies in ways that would alter their missions by Congressional vote.
The tight federal budgets of recent years have, understandably, caused the House and Senate to scrutinize most federal spending more closely. One consequence, however, has hurt NIH and other federal agencies—the across-the-board budget cuts or “sequestration” required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 absent a cut of at least $1.2 trillion in spending over a decade. NIH has lost $1.6 billion as a result of sequestration, while leaders of both parties in Congress have responded largely by pointing fingers at each other. For that reason, sequestration’s Congressional architects, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), also appear on this list.
Each member is listed by name, party, and state abbreviations, followed by a description of their efforts. Efforts to oppose the funding or grant-review policies of agencies have seen three waves of activity since President Barack Obama first won election in 2008. The first occurred from 2009–2010, after Obama won passage of his $814 billion “stimulus” law or American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, through Democratic majorities on both sides of Capitol Hill. The law—which included a one-time, $10 billion jump in NIH funding—sparked numerous efforts by Congressional Republicans to highlight wasteful or questionable spending, some focused on individual grants funded by NIH or NSF.
The second took place 2011–2012, after Republicans benefited from anger over Obama’s ramming the “Obamacare” law or Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act through Congress, recapturing a majority in the House of Representatives. In this period, GOP leaders sought to spotlight what they deemed questionable spending by the agencies, in part by numerous anecdotes about agency-funded projects. In the third wave, which began this year, Republicans have sought to sway the types of projects funded by the agencies, insisting on national-security or “biomedical” bases for decisions on grant funding.