Inside the Beltway

President Calls for Cutting NIH Budget but Congress Increases It Instead

The Trump administration wanted to slash the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget but Congress wouldn’t allow it. It’s been the same narrative for the past four years. But even though it’s dog-bites-man, rather than the other way around, the story is still noteworthy, especially in times of pandemic.

The Budget Back-and-Forth

 This year’s version of the pas de deux began in February when the President proposed reducing the NIH’s budget roughly 8 percent from $41.46 to $38 billion.

The President’s FY 2021 NIH Budget Proposal

NIH Institute (not inclusive) FY 2020 Proposed FY 2021
National Cancer Institute $6.44 billion $5.69 billion
National Human Genome Research Institute $606.3 million $550.1 million
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases $5.89 billion $5.45 billion
Total $41.46 billion $38 billion

Of course, all of this was before the pandemic. Still, as usual, Congressional Republicans and Democrats declined the proposed cuts and increased the NIH budget instead. And that’s where things are headed this year. Thus, on July 14, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved a $5.5 billion increase in NIH FY 2021 funding to $46.96 billion, with all institutes and centers getting a boost, including:

  • National Cancer Institute funding would increase from $6.44 billion to $6.91 billion;
  • National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute funding would increase from $3.62 billion to $3.89 billion;
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases funding would go from $5.89 billion to $6.39 billion; and
  • National Human Genome Research Institute funding would increase from $606.3 million to $650.5 million.

The proposed House budget would also include a $5 billion emergency fund to help cover shutdown, startup and other costs related to delays in research in 2020.


The same familiar pattern is also unfolding with regard to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the House committee rejecting the President’s proposed FY 2021 budget reduction in favor of a 3 percent increase—from $7.75 billion to $7.98 billion, including an extra $9 billion in emergency appropriations.


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