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July 03, 2024

Can the National Institutes of Health Navigate Multiple Storms and Rebuild its Bipartisan Support?


In an article for STAT, Faegre Drinker Consulting principal Nicholas Manetto explained how the National Institutes of Health (NIH) can work to regain bipartisan support and to continue its mission in a divided Congress. 

While the NIH once saw widespread support from both Republicans and Democrats, Manetto writes, several challenges, including retirements of agency heads and supportive lawmakers, budgetary constraints and questions of effectiveness, have hindered the agency in recent years. This includes calls for reform from top lawmakers, including Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who both issued frameworks to “modernize” the NIH, including consolidation and forming a commission to rework the “performance, mission, objectives and programs” of the NIH. 

“It will be tempting for those inside and outside of the NIH — including those heavily reliant on its purse — to push back aggressively and dismiss calls for reform as being politically motivated,” Manetto writes. “But doing so would fail to heed legitimate concerns and frustrations and miss opportunities for improvement.”

Manetto adds that the NIH, unlike many other federal agencies, has enjoyed a long history of bipartisan support through tangible success, which can return if agency leaders and stakeholders take the calls for reform seriously and work to answer legitimate concerns and frustrations.

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