U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder’s efforts to secure increased funding for the National Institutes of Health has earned him recognition from The Science Coalition.
Yoder convinced more than 100 Republican lawmakers to sign a letter calling for the largest increase in NIH funding since 2003.
“It wasn’t one of those things where you sent around the letter, and people just signed up on it. I would sit down on the floor and say, ‘Sir, let’s talk for a second,’” Yoder said Monday at the University of Kansas Medical Center, where he received the "Champion of Science" award from the Science Coalition. “Sometimes people were ready to sign just to make you go away. Whatever it takes.”
Yoder says curing diseases before they can drive up health care costs is a fiscally conservative position. “We unified under the position this was smart to save lives, it was smart to save money and it was smart to create jobs, and it was the right thing to do for the future of this country,” Yoder says.
University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little presented him with the award Monday. The award is given to members of Congress who support funding for basic scientific research.
NIH ultimately received a $2 billion increase in funding for fiscal year 2016, which ends next month.
Douglas Lowy, acting director of the National Cancer Institute, says the funding is a start.
“The problem is that there are incredible numbers of meritorious research applications as we are winding down this fiscal year that I simply need to say no to,” says Lowy, who attended the award presentation. “Not because they wouldn’t be fantastic to do, but because we have run out of money.”
In his acceptance speech, Yoder criticized the currently divisive political climate, which he says has made it difficult to have productive conversations about future funding increases.
“There’s so much hot air,” Yoder says. “We watch the presidential debates and talk about dishonesty and email servers and lack of temperament and statements people make that offend groups and cultures. Where are the debates about the larger issues that are facing America?”
Yoder offered a lukewarm endorsement of Donald Trump back in May. Asked if he would walk back his support in response to some of the comments Trump has made recently, Yoder reiterated his opposition to Hillary Clinton. Without mentioning Trump by name, Yoder pledged his support to the Republican nominee.
Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.