Created by on 10/06/2011

Since the beginning of this year, freshman Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) has steadily built a reputation as the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) latest champion on Capitol Hill. A new member of the Senate Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Moran’s advocacy on behalf of medical research is partly the result of a visit earlier this spring to the Specialized Chemistry Center (SCC) at the University of Kansas (KU), which was established as part of the NIH Molecular Libraries Program. SCC is conducting cutting-edge research to enhance the growing pharmaceutical industry in Kansas. The visit gave the Senator the opportunity to meet one-on-one with SCC researchers, which he spoke about during the subcommittee’s May hearing on the fiscal year (FY) 2012 NIH budget. During the same hearing, Moran asked NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins if there was anything other than lack of funding that was impeding research progress and stated that he “planned to support medical research in a big way.”
On September 22nd, Senator Moran participated in a visit to the NIH Clinical Center where he saw firsthand how laboratory discoveries are being translated into new drugs and treatments. Senator Moran wrote about his tour of the Clinical Center in his Kansas Common Sense Constituent Newsletter, noting that “Research is directly linked to biomedical industry developments and private sector growth in Kansas and throughout the U.S. Congress today faces the challenge of balancing effective, efficient government operation with the necessity of righting our nation’s fiscal course during these challenging times. Therefore, it is extremely important that we reduce spending, lower our national debt, and prioritize programs that effectively serve the American people and demonstrate sufficient return on taxpayer dollars. I believe medical research needs to be a priority because it saves lives, improves health, drives economic development, and enhances our global competitiveness.” The day before visiting NIH, Senator Moran offered an amendment to restore a proposed $190 million cut to the agency’s budget during the Senate Appropriations Committee mark-up of the FY 2012 LHHS spending bill (see “Senate Bill Would Cut 2012 NIH Funding By $190 Million”).
Jerry Moran’s emergence as the Senate’s newest NIH champion offers advocates a powerful reminder of the importance of educating policymakers about the benefits of medical research in their state. Inviting elected officials to visit local research facilities provides lawmakers with a unique opportunity to speak directly to individuals who rely on federal funding to support their work. In addition, these interactions create positive press for the local institution. FASEB has a variety of materials, including a Congressional Visit Toolbox, available for researchers who would like to organize a meeting with their Senators and Representatives at home. The Advocacy Resources for Scientists page on the Office of Public Affairs (OPA) website features talking points, slides about NIH funding trends, and other resources that are easily accessible and specifically tailored for both members of Congress and their staff aides. Please contact OPA if you are interested in hosting an event with elected officials in your community.