Chimps Endure Congressional Monkey Business

A picture taken on April 26, 2005 shows three female chimpanzees nodding-off as they sit on rocks in a family group, with the sun on their backs in their open air enclosure at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney.
National Journal
Elahe Izad
Add to Briefcase
Elahe Izad
Oct. 29, 2013, 3:45 p.m.

If Con­gress doesn’t act soon, hu­mans won’t be the only prim­ates frus­trated with the polit­ic­al pro­cess — chim­pan­zees will take a hit, too.

Spe­cific­ally, re­search chimps owned by the Na­tion­al In­sti­tutes of Health. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has de­cided it won’t use the an­im­als for re­search any­more and has plans to re­tire most of them. The prob­lem? NIH is pre­ven­ted by a 2000 law from spend­ing more than $30 mil­lion over time on the care of our fuzzy re­l­at­ives liv­ing in re­serve sanc­tu­ar­ies. The agency ex­pects to hit that lim­it by mid-Novem­ber.

It’s a chimp cliff, if you will.

“If we do not get the ne­ces­sary changes to the law it will be very grim in­deed,” says Kathy Hud­son, NIH deputy dir­ect­or of sci­ence, out­reach, and policy. “We cer­tainly don’t want to be in a po­s­i­tion where we’re in vi­ol­a­tion of the law, but we also don’t want to be in po­s­i­tion where these an­im­als are not fed and cared for.”

NIH owns and helps pay for the care of 670 chim­pan­zees, as of Oc­to­ber 2012. The agency had an­ti­cip­ated send­ing about 60 to the Chimp Haven sanc­tu­ary (which is sort of like Flor­ida for chimps). More than 100 are already in the re­serve, each cost­ing about $43 a day to care for. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment provides 75 per­cent of the money re­quired to take care of the chimps, while Chimp Haven pays the re­main­ing 25 per­cent.

A bill be­fore the Sen­ate Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor, and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day would give Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­ret­ary Kath­leen Se­beli­us great­er flex­ib­il­ity in how to spend money NIH already has for the re­tired chimps in the re­serves. It’s sponsored by Com­mit­tee Chair­man Tom Har­kin, D-Iowa, and rank­ing mem­ber Lamar Al­ex­an­der, R-Tenn.

And if it doesn’t pass? The cur­rent law leaves few op­tions. NIH can’t send the chimps in sanc­tu­ar­ies back to re­search labs, where they are more ex­pens­ive to care for but where the agency is al­lowed to spend money on them. Eu­thanas­ia is pro­hib­ited un­less it’s in the “best in­terest” of the an­im­al.

Chimp ad­voc­ates don’t think it will ever come to that. Mar­cia Kramer, dir­ect­or of le­gis­lat­ive pro­grams for the Na­tion­al Anti-Vi­vi­sec­tion So­ci­ety, says private donors and vo­lun­teers will likely step up in the short term to help care for the an­im­als if money runs out. “It’s mor­ally un­ac­cept­able to the people in­volved that they would just be eu­th­an­ized,” Kramer says.

Giv­en its bi­par­tis­an sup­port, time is the bill’s biggest en­emy. It could pass the Sen­ate un­der un­an­im­ous con­sent. “This is the time when we really, really, really need Con­gress to work to­geth­er, and it’s an is­sue where there are no op­pon­ents, so this should be really easy,” Hud­son said.

If re­cent his­tory is any in­dic­a­tion, even the easy stuff is hard to get through a jammed con­gres­sion­al cal­en­dar. And as for wheth­er chimps are already fed up with Con­gress, none could be reached for com­ment.

COR­REC­TION: A pre­vi­ous ver­sion of this story gave an in­cor­rect af­fil­i­ation for Mar­cia Kramer. She is dir­ect­or of le­gis­lat­ive pro­grams for the Na­tion­al Anti-Vi­vi­sec­tion So­ci­ety.

What We're Following See More »
PER NEW AGENCY PLAN
FDA Trying to Reduce Nicotine In Cigarettes
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The agency intends to issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to seek input on the potential public health benefits and any possible adverse effects of lowering nicotine in cigarettes."

Source:
PLAN C?
Senate Looks to Pass “Skinny Repeal” Then Negotiate with House
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"Senate GOP leaders picked up support Wednesday for their plan to pass a scaled-back bill to repeal a handful of elements in the current health law, and then open negotiations with House Republicans to try to bring together their two very different bills."

Source:
“CLEAN REPEAL”
Senate Votes Down Repeal without Replace
1 days ago
THE LATEST
TURNED OVER NOTES
Manafort Testifies in Closed Session
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Paul Manafort, who served as a top aide to President Trump’s 2016 campaign, on Tuesday provided congressional investigators notes he took during a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer that has emerged as a focus in the investigation of Russian interference in the election. Manafort’s submission, which came as he was interviewed in a closed session by staff members for the Senate Intelligence Committee, could offer a key contemporaneous account of the June 2016 session."

Source:
PENCE BREAKS THE TIE
Senate Will Debate House Bill
2 days ago
THE LATEST

By the narrowest of margins, the Senate voted 51-50 this afternoon to begin debate on the House's legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins defected from the GOP, but Vice President Pence broke a tie. Sen. John McCain returned from brain surgery to cast his vote.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login