Message to the House of Representatives Returning Without Approval the Health Research Extension Bill

November 8, 1985

To the House of Representatives:

I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 2409, the ``Health Research Extension Act of 1985,'' which would extend and amend the biomedical research authorities of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

My action on this bill should in no way be interpreted as a lessening of this Administration's strong commitment to the biomedical research endeavors of NIH. In fact, I want to underscore my personal support and the support of my Administration for biomedical research and for the NIH. For over 40 years, the NIH has enjoyed unparalleled success. Enormous progress in research and the improved health of the American people attest to that success. An appropriations bill or a continuing resolution will provide uninterrupted funding for NIH activities in fiscal year 1986.

I believe that instead of fostering a strong Federal biomedical research effort, H.R. 2409 would adversely affect the pursuit of research excellence at NIH by:

-- imposing numerous administrative and program requirements that would interfere with the ability to carry forward our biomedical research activities in the most cost-effective manner and would misallocate scarce financial and personnel resources;

-- establishing unneeded new organizations, which would lead to unnecessary coordination problems and administrative expenses while doing little to assist the biomedical research endeavors of NIH; and

-- imposing a uniform set of authorities on all the research institutes, thus diminishing our administrative flexibility to respond to changing biomedical research needs.

Although H.R. 2409 is overloaded with objectionable provisions that seriously undermine and threaten the ability of NIH to manage itself and is therefore unacceptable, I recognize there are areas in which the Administration can step forward to strengthen specific research efforts.

As Senator Hatch pointed out when introducing the NIH reauthorization bill in the Senate in June of this year, arthritis afflicts some 49 million of this Nation's citizens and ``all of us suffer, at some time in our life, from some form of arthritis.'' Further, arthritis, along with musculoskeletal and skin diseases, ``collectively result in an extraordinary loss to our economy from lost productivity as well as from medical expense.''

In recognition of the plight of the millions of arthritis victims and society's costs, I have directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish administratively a separate National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases that will meet the continuing need for coordinated research in this important area. This directive is consistent with the Department's recommendation to me that this Institute be established.

At the same time, I do not believe that the establishment of a nursing research center at NIH is appropriate, for a very basic reason -- there is a lack of compatibility between the mission of such a center and the mission of NIH. The biomedical research activities of NIH are concerned with discovering the etiology of and treatment for diseases. In contrast, nursing research uses substantive scientific information and methodology and focuses on their relevance to nursing practice and administration. This research is important, but neither it nor disease-oriented research are served by the provisions of the bill.

H.R. 2409 manifests an effort to exert undue political control over decisions regarding scientific research, thus limiting the ability of the NIH to set this Nation's biomedical research agenda. I do not believe that it is either necessary or wise to restrict the flexibility under which the NIH has operated so successfully. In 1984, I rejected a very similar bill, and once again I find no reasonable justification for the extensive changes to the NIH mandated by H.R. 2409. In order to allow NIH to continue to provide excellence in biomedical research and in its management, I am disapproving this bill.

Ronald Reagan

The White House,

November 8, 1985.

Note: H.R. 2409, which passed over the President's veto on November 20, was assigned Public Law No. 99 - 158.