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Harkin Hails Senate Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Allow NIH to Support Retired Medical Chimpanzees

Senate HELP Committee Passed Legislation Unanimously Earlier Today; Harkin Has Also Supported Policy in His Role as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Overseeing NIH Funding

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, today hailed the Senate passage of bipartisan legislation that will ensure that chimpanzees owned or supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—that are no longer used for medical research—can continue to receive the care they need in quality settings. The bill, the CHIMP Act Amendments of 2013, would provide flexibility for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use already-appropriated funds to pay for care of chimpanzees housed in federal sanctuaries if doing so would be more efficient and economical for the NIH.

Harkin, who has also supported NIH’s chimpanzee policy in his role as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee overseeing NIH funding, introduced the legislation with HELP Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and HELP Committee Member Richard Burr (R-NC). Earlier today, the Senate HELP Committee passed the CHIMP Act Amendments of 2013 with unanimous support.

Under a law enacted in 2000, the NIH has been limited to spending $30 million total of its appropriated funds on sanctuary care for these chimpanzees. NIH is expected to reach the $30 million cumulative cap in mid-November, and without Congressional action, NIH will be legally unable to spend additional funds on care for NIH-owned or supported chimpanzees housed in sanctuaries.  Chairman Harkin’s work supports an announcement made earlier this year by the NIH to retire most of its medical research chimpanzees.

“The National Institutes of Health has made a worthy and important decision to scale back the use of chimpanzees in medical research. Current law limits NIH’s ability to use its existing funds to provide care to its chimpanzees already housed in sanctuaries, in addition to carrying out the important goal of moving the chimps currently living in research labs,” Harkin said. “We have an obligation to provide care for animals that have directly contributed to our medical knowledge, and it is absolutely urgent that Congress act to remove this funding limitation now and for the future.”

“Moving these chimps to sanctuary care is not only the right thing to do, but doing so would also be more cost-efficient for NIH and for taxpayers. Now that the Senate has acted, I hope that the House of Representatives will quickly take up this important bill to ensure that NIH can use resources it already has on hand to ensure these chimps’ well-being now and in the future,” Harkin added.

Chairman Harkin also included a provision in his FY2014 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill (S.1284) that would permanently waive NIH’s $30 million cap.