Working Her Earrings Off

Senator Mikulski Returns to NIH

United States Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) addressed the “National Institutes of Hope” with love and pride on her February 24 visit, vowing to “do all we can do in the federal law book and the federal checkbook to let you be you” by ending the sequester and supporting the NIH. 

On her last visit in February 2013, Mikulski promised she would “work [her] earrings off” to ensure the NIH’s mission would go forward with the federal government’s support. This time, she was not wearing earrings.

Barbara Mikulski (foreground) and Ramaprasad Srinivasan in a lab.

ERNIE BRANSON

U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski toured an NCI lab before addressing NIHers in Masur Auditorium. Mikulski, who’s chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, worked with the House Appropriations Committee to secure a bipartisan agreement to restore $1 billion in funding to NIH. From left Ramaprasad Srinivasan, head of the Molecular Cancer Therapeutics Section in NCI’s Urologic Oncology Branch, and Mikulski.

We all know of the disappointments, sequester, and shutdown that intervened. But in January 2014, Mikulski, who’s chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, worked with House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) to secure a bipartisan agreement that provided NIH with a $1 billion budget increase over the post-sequester budget, allowing the NIH a sigh of relief.

The sequester cut the NIH budget by five percent; the 2013 shutdown lasted for 16 days, and 74 percent of NIH employees with “nonessential” status were furloughed. Even more sizable cuts were due to take place in the following years.

But Mikulski and her colleagues worked across party lines and set rules for crafting an agreement with civility, free of “funny stuff,” and in-person rather than through the press. She worked with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representatives Chris Van Holland (D-MD) and Paul Ryan (R-WI) and others to craft a bipartisan agreement that cancelled the sequester for two years and restored $1 billion in NIH funding.

With her earrings gone, Mikulski vowed to work off extra calories in her efforts to fund the NIH for innovation in life sciences, to save lives, and to make it possible for scientists to get their research funded.

“NIH is the most well-known and the most revered institution in the federal government,” Mikulski said. “You are beloved [because] you wake up thinking about…how to help people have opportunity and hope when they face medical situations.”