Democrats are trying to turn GOP-backed budget cuts to health agencies into a bigger political issue, seizing on the Ebola outbreak to argue the cuts have slowed the U.S. response.
They are pointing their fingers at the sequester, which introduced automatic spending cuts to the government in 2013 that Democrats say hurt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, told The Hill the bulk of the cuts were “dictated primarily by the sequester,” and argued Democrats and President Obama have offered proposals that would repeal it.
“All you have to do is compare the budgets and you’ll find the president’s budget and budgets proposed by the Democrats had more responsible funding levels for these agencies — funding levels that would allow them to fulfill their responsibilities in a more effective manner,” he added.
Republicans are asking the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to defend a multimillion dollar grant given to ObamaCare consultant Jonathan Gruber in light of his controversial comments on the law’s passage.
“Recent developments related to Dr. Gruber raise questions about his objectivity and judgment, and thus the utility of his research,” Reps. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) and Andy Harris (R-Md.) wrote in a letter to NIH Director Francis Collins Wednesday.
“Further, the award of this grant causes major concerns regarding NIH’s funding priorities,” they wrote.
Pitts leads the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Health, and Harris serves on the Appropriations Committee.
The letter stated that Gruber has received $1.5 million from the National Institute on Aging to study how seniors choose between plans in Medicare Part D. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor is “on pace” to receive more than $2 million for the project, Republicans said.
Thanks, Obama! Meanwhile, Gruber’s gravy train has hit another roadblock.
Vermont expects economist Jonathan Gruber to finish his health-care consulting, but without any additional pay.
Lawrence Miller, the state’s chief of health care reform, announced the decision Wednesday.
“I have told Mr. Gruber that I expect his team to complete the work that we need to provide the legislature and Vermonters with a public health care financing plan,” Miller said in the statement. “I’ve informed Mr. Gruber that that we will not be paying him any further for his part in completing that work.”
In an interview, Miller said the decision resulted from discussions that wrapped up earlier that morning. When asked about the contract change by email, Gruber declined to comment.
Gruber, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, has been working under contract for up to $400,000 to run economic models for a proposed government-financed health insurance system, known as single-payer.
The contract states that Vermont would pay Gruber up to $500 per hour, and the programmers working with him would be paid up to $100 per hour.
Scamming the public is big business.