This week, in a moment of sober bipartisan agreement, the House and Senate voted to extend retirement benefits for the nation’s research chimpanzees.
As National Journal‘s Elahe Izadi reported a few weeks ago, the National Institutes of Health was quickly approaching a $30 million ceiling for the amount it could spend on research-chimp retirements.
This left the agency in a bind, as the NIH is phasing out many of the experiments it conducts with chimps. A 2011 report found that most research conducted on them is unnecessary, and in the coming months 310 animals (out of 360) will be retired. Though it probably wouldn’t have come to it, euthanasia could have been used if it was deemed to be in the best interest of the animals.
Chimp advocates were ecstatic at the news.
“It’s a great day for federally owned chimpanzees,” Cathy Willis Spraetz, president and CEO of Chimp Haven in Keithville, La. (the national chimp retirement community sanctuary), told The Washington Post. “I am breaking out the champagne as we speak.”
And it is exciting. Who wouldn’t want to retire to a facility with ample “climbing, swinging, and resting options as well as views of the surrounding areas,” along with 200 acres of forest and accommodations for “large social groups.”
As advertised on the Chimp Haven website: “How the chimpanzees choose to spend their day is up to them.”
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House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Monday that the government funding bill will be released on Tuesday. The bill is the last piece of legislation Congress needs to pass before leaving for the year and is expected to fund the government through the spring. The exact time date the bill would fund the government through is unclear, though it is expected to be in April or May.
As has been rumored for a week, Donald Trump will nominate Ben Carson, his former rival, to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In a statement, Trump said, "We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities. Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a Presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up."
The National Defense Authorization Act passed the House this morning by a 375-34 vote. The bill, which heads to the Senate next week for final consideration, would fund the military to the tune of $618.7 billion, "about $3.2 billion more than the president requested for fiscal 2017. ... The White House has issued a veto threat on both the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill, but has not yet said if it will sign the compromise bill released by the conference committee this week."
"Republicans have elected Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) the next chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Walden defeated Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Joe Barton (R-TX), the former committee chairman, in the race for the gavel" to succeed Michgan's Fred Upton.
"Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are working on legislation that would limit deportations" under President-elect Donald Trump. Leading the effort are Judiciary Committee members Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is also expected to sign on.