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The bill is expected to come to the floor either this week or next, and it may even come under suspension of the rules, which makes it easier to bypass committee consideration. That would avoid some public scrutiny from conservatives, but it also would require a two-thirds majority vote for passage.
“It is a high hurdle, but it really would be the right thing to do and I’m hopeful,” said Harper. “I do think that when this is explained and looked at by anybody, regardless of their philosophical leaning, they’ll say this is one that ought to get through.”
But conservatives are skeptical that the move is just a ploy to skirt around their opposition and also pin the bill’s possible failure on Democrats. Although leadership aides said they will not bring the bill to the floor unless they are certain it will pass, other GOP sources speculated that they could craft effective campaign advertisements against Democrats who vote against boosting research funds.
Democrats do not necessarily agree with defunding the public presidential campaign fund. When Harper brought to the floor a bill last Congress that repealed the fund and used the savings to reduce the deficit, no Democrat voted in favor and only one Republican, Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, voted against.
In this effort, though, six Democrats have signed up as co-sponsors because of the boost in NIH funding, including Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont, a chief deputy minority whip who is trying to round up support in his caucus.