Floor Debate on the Amendment offered by Rep. Neugebauer

Mr. NEUGEBAUER. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

The CHAIRMAN pro tempore. The Clerk will designate the amendment. The text of the amendment is as follows:

Amendment offered by Mr. Neugebauer: At the end of the bill, insert after the last section (preceding the short title) the following section: Sec. _. None of the funds made available in this Act for the National Institute of Mental Health may be used to fund grant number MH054142 & MH064527.

The CHAIRMAN pro tempore. Pursuant to the order of the House of today, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Neugebauer) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Texas. (Mr. Neugebauer).

(Mr. NEUGEBAUER asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. NEUGEBAUER. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

My amendment would prohibit the National Institute of Mental Health from further funding a grant studying the decorations of dorm rooms and college students' Web pages. It also would prohibit NIMH from further funding a grant studying what makes for a meaningful day.

This would not cut out any funding for NIMH; it would simply focus research funding that is provided toward serious mental health issues and not interior decoration.

I have personally read this grant application and found that each participant was allowed to receive $100 for decorating his dorm room and, additionally, three $1,000 prizes were given away in a lottery to the study participants.

The second application states that ``for many students, attending college may be a source of meaning itself, as a stepping stone to future goals or as a means of occupying a meaningful social role.'' Now, I do not think we need to spend $1 million for college students to determine what is a meaningful day in their life.

Each of us meet with constituents on a daily basis with serious mental health issues threatening not only themselves, but their families. Right now, when Americans are facing these unbearable losses, taxpayer dollars should be focused on serious mental health issues like bipolar disorders and Alzheimer's.

Research areas under the NIMH include Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and suicide prevention. Grants to questionable studies like dorm room wall decorations cloud many of the good things that the National Institute of Mental Health does and can do.

According to a recent study published by the Treatment Advocacy Center and Public Citizen, ``Individuals with serious mental illnesses account for 58 percent of our direct costs for all mental illness. However, only 5.8 percent of the NIMH budget funds `clinically relevant' studies.''

I have no doubt that those receiving those NIH funds will conclude that their research is valid, but when I talk to Americans with mental health issues and mental illnesses, I want to be able to tell them that we are committing NIH funds to studying serious mental health issues.

Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Flake).

Mr. FLAKE. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time, and I thank the gentleman for bringing this important amendment forward. Every once in a while you just have to stand back and say, hey, you have gone too far here, and studying dorm room walls to see if the paintings or the decorations on them say something about the health of the student or whatnot is just going too far.

I can look back at college and I can tell my colleagues my dorm room walls were pretty bare. It said one thing about me, that I was broke, and that is what most students are worried about in college, just getting through. To tell them that they are paying taxes and some of their taxes are going to study what they have put on their dorm room walls, as to what that tells about them, is simply absurd.

So I think every once in a while you have to step back and say we will have none of this; you have gone too far, the taxpayers deserve better.

I thank the gentleman for bringing it forward, and I urge support for the amendment.

Mr. NEUGEBAUER. Mr. Chairman, how much time do I have remaining?

The CHAIRMAN pro tempore (Mr. Thornberry). The gentleman from Texas has 1\1/2\ minutes remaining. Does the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Regula) seek the time in opposition?

Mr. REGULA. Mr. Chairman, I claim the time in opposition.

The CHAIRMAN pro tempore. The gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Regula) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. REGULA. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Hulshof).

Mr. HULSHOF. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time.

I would like to commend the gentleman from Texas for working with me. I would like to commend the gentleman and thank the gentleman for the advance notice seeking to rescind funding for a competitive grant that has been awarded to a constituent of mine. I would like to, but I cannot because he did not have the common courtesy to advise me of that in advance.

Certainly, the gentleman portrays the amendment in a simplistic way, and I know that is certainly great fodder for an election-year press release, but I would say to the gentleman that the grant itself does have substance.

First about the scientist. Dr. Laura King, who is a constituent of mine at Columbia, Missouri, I would like to put her curriculum vitae into the Record, Mr. Chairman, at this point.

In addition, of course, to the many awards, she was most recently awarded the University of Missouri's Chancellor's Award for outstanding research and creativity activity in the area of social and behavioral sciences, not to mention the fact that the scientific field has recognized her because of this important work with the American Psychological Association, Templeton Positive Psychology Prize. In addition, as the curriculum vitae will indicate, Dr. King has had 30 separate presentations. She is preparing seven manuscripts in preparation, five manuscripts under review, 11 chapters and manuscripts already published, and 34 published articles; but particularly as it relates to the substance of the study, this study has relevance to the prevention of mental disorders, just as the gentleman says that he professes that he supports.

Giving patients tools to alleviate depression could minimize the development of other chronic health conditions that flow from depression. Specifically, I would say that studies have shown prevalence of depression and severe psychological problems among college students is growing. Sixty-one percent have reported feeling hopeless; 45 percent felt so depressed they could barely function; 9 percent felt suicidal.

Perhaps that is not of relevance or significance to my colleague, but I certainly would say to him that the average age of diagnosis for bipolar disorder is 21, and 27 years for unipolar depression, and 5 percent of college students drop out of college due to psychiatric disorders.

So, again, I recognize that the gentleman wants to talk about being fiscally responsible, and certainly Congress has a prerogative to exercise congressional oversight, but I would just say to the gentleman, as it relates specifically to the funding and the study specifically, that that is a legitimately peer-reviewed award by the National Institutes of Health, a grant was competitively sought, that was, in fact, awarded to a very distinguished scientist in this particular field, and I would urge a ``no'' vote on the gentleman's amendment.

Mr. REGULA. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Smith).

Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Chairman, first of all, I would like to thank the gentleman from Ohio (Chairman Regula) for yielding me time.

Mr. Chairman, I would also like to say very rarely, if ever, have I ever disagreed with my friend from Texas (Mr. Neugebauer) before, but I do oppose this amendment today.

The intent of this amendment is to ensure that the National Institutes of Health is prudent about which grants are funded through their peer-review process. While I agree with this intent, I do not think the amendment accomplishes that goal.

For instance, the University of Texas grant currently under discussion has already been funded and completed in previous fiscal years. Furthermore, any discussions about follow-up funding do not pertain to the Labor-HHS appropriations bill currently under consideration.

This project has received funding for a second study, but it was awarded by the National Science Foundation in the VA-HUD appropriations bill, which has not yet been brought to the House floor for consideration.

Mr. Chairman, I encourage my colleagues to vote against this amendment and instead focus our efforts on reforming the National Institutes of Health grant selection process.

Mr. NEUGEBAUER. Mr. Chairman, can I inquire how much time I have left.

The CHAIRMAN pro tempore. The gentleman from Texas (Mr. Neugebauer) has 1\1/2\ minutes remaining. The gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Regula) has 1 minute remaining, and the gentleman from Ohio has the right to close.

Mr. NEUGEBAUER. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Pence).

(Mr. PENCE asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. PENCE. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the Neugebauer amendment as a commonsense statement about what I think the American people would have us do in this majority, and that is, after allowing our distinguished appropriators to do their level best in producing legislation that the gentleman from Ohio (Chairman Regula) has produced is to come to this floor and in the absence of a Presidential line item veto to try and do that ourselves.

The amendment in particular of the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Neugebauer) in focusing, as it does, on funding that would in one case explore the value and merit of dormitory decorations is precisely that which, I believe if the President had a line item veto, would be struck from legislation again and again.

The gentleman from Texas (Mr. Neugebauer) is new to this institution, but he is demonstrating a courage and a conviction and, more to the point, a common sense that I think is a great value to this institution. I rise with great respect to the members of the committee who have produced this important and meritorious legislation to strongly support the Neugebauer amendment.

Bring common sense back to the spending process. Pass the Neugebauer amendment today.

The CHAIRMAN pro tempore. The gentleman from Texas (Mr. Neugebauer) has 30 seconds remaining.

Mr. NEUGEBAUER. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the remaining time. Well, first of all, I want to thank the distinguished chairman for his hard work in bringing this bill forward. It is a good bill. I believe that we do have to bring some common sense to this process, and we have to be good stewards of the American taxpayers' money, and there are some serious mental health issues that need to be addressed in this country. Our charge as Members of this Congress is to prioritize how we spend that money and make sure that we are putting it into areas where there are serious mental health issues at risk. Certainly, I think that this amendment is very positive and would encourage Members to vote in support of this amendment.

Mr. REGULA. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the remaining time. I am not going to oppose this in a vote because the grants are over. They have been completed. The amendment does not have any impact, in essence; but I think the gentleman is trying to make a point that they ought to be cautious about what type of grants they fund.

I would point out that NIH funds almost 40,000 grants annually; and, obviously, when you look at 40,000, you can find a couple that you might have some question about the efficacy of those particular grants, but on the other hand, I would not want to get our committee or this body in the position of trying to monitor or to be in the decision- making process on what grants are funded.

We have very capable people at NIH. It is peer-reviewed by physicians, by people who are very knowledgeable on the subject; and the objective of many of these grants is ultimately in good faith to, in some way, improve the health conditions. But given the fact that they are over with, I am not going to object to the amendment.

The CHAIRMAN pro tempore. All time for debate has expired.

The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Neugebauer).

The amendment was agreed to.