Reps. Bill Young and Ralph Regula are Porkers of the Month for September ’04 | Citizens Against Government Waste

Reps. Bill Young and Ralph Regula are Porkers of the Month for September ’04

Press Release

For Immediate ReleaseContact:  Mark Carpenter/Tom Finnigan
September 9, 2004(202) 467-5300

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today named House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor/HHS) Subcommittee Chairman Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) Porkers of the Month for September 2004, for their attempt to censor other members of the House of Representatives from questioning the funding of controversial grants to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) during consideration of the Fiscal Year 2005 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS) Appropriations Act.

When the House debated the fiscal 2004 version of the bill, Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) proposed an amendment, defeated by two votes, that would prohibit the NIH from funding the following four studies: “Mood Arousal and Sexual Risk Taking,” “Study on Sexual Habits of Older Men,” “Study on San Francisco’s Asian Prostitutes/Masseuses,” and “Study on American Indian Transgender Research.”  Reps. Young and Regula claimed they were not prepared to answer detailed questions about these grants because they had not received “timely” notice beforehand.

In an effort to head off such a “surprise” this year, Reps. Young and Regula sent a letter (obtained by CAGW) to members of the House asking that they refrain from offering such amendments in order to pass the Labor/HHS bill “in a timely fashion” (as if Congress ever passes appropriations bills on time).  The letter states that any member who has questions on current grants should contact NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, who has already “provided information to Congress about the grants in question” during Appropriations Committee hearings.  Alternatively, members should contact the committee itself.  The request to avoid amendments gives unadulterated power to agency heads—who do not directly answer to the people—and committee chairmen.  Moreover, it further denies taxpayers a voice on the floor of the House.

Questioning Dr. Zerhouni on the funding of particular grants would be a waste of time since he has vigorously defended them.  When previously questioned by members of Congress, Dr. Zerhouni repeatedly refers them to a letter in which he argues the grants questioned by Rep. Toomey, and similar research, provide critical contributions to the study of sexually transmitted diseases and behavioral problems.  While this may be the case for some studies, members of Congress have the right to question the validity of grants at NIH or any other agency to determine if it is necessary to prohibit their funding.

Moreover, the Appropriations Committee is already the most powerful in the House as it determines which projects are funded in the budget and is responsible for a record $22.9 billion in pork in fiscal 2004.  Sending a heavy-handed letter to members to accept the committee’s decisions only increases its power.  This tactic also sends an underlying message that any member that challenges an appropriator may not receive a requested project in the future.

Last year, Chairman Regula said during the debate on Rep. Toomey’s amendment that micromanaging a few NIH grants “would set a dangerous precedent and put a chill on medical research…”  For putting the big chill on their colleagues by bullying, threatening, coercing, and intimidating them from frank and open discussion on the House floor, Chairmen Young and Regula are Porkers of the Month for September 2004.

Citizens Against Government Waste is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, mismanagement and abuse in government.

 

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