Rep. Andy Harris Reportedly Being Considered to Lead the NIH

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Another conservative Maryland doctor might be up for a position in Donald Trump’s administration, and this time the individual has experience serving in office. Rep. Andy Harris is reportedly being considered by Donald Trump for a top leadership role at the National Institutes of Health.

CQ Roll Call first reported the news yesterday that Trump is considering Harris, who represents the Eastern Shore along with areas of Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties. The congressman’s spokeswoman hasn’t returned a message requesting comment, though the Delmarva Daily Times quoted a statement from him saying he would be “very willing” to work in Trump’s administration.

Harris, an anesthesiologist by trade educated at Johns Hopkins here in Baltimore, has represented Maryland’s first congressional district since 2011 and was a state senator for eight years prior. His medical experience and current role on a house subcommittee overseeing NIH funding are among his qualifications for the job. In recent years, he’s successfully pushed for the NIH to craft a strategic plan to direct its future work and has made redirecting funding to younger scientists one of his top issues.

His work with the latter subject could make his appointment to lead the NIH controversial for many within the scientific community. According to ScienceInsider, he previously proposed requiring the agency to lower the average age at which researchers get grants, from 42 to 38. In response, biomedical researchers have pushed back with concerns that that idea is a micromanaging attempt to solve an acknowledged deeper-rooted problem, which to that too many older scientists are picked for grants over younger ones.

Harris is a famous opponent of abortion, though that view wouldn’t factor much into his role at the NIH. As with Schedule I substances, the agency is prohibited from granting any funds to research or health coverage that includes abortion.

Harris is the second former Johns Hopkins physician to be potentially tapped for a top position by the Trump administration. Ben Carson was offered the job to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but we’ve since heard crickets on the matter. Carson left the world hanging when he posted on Facebook just before Thanksgiving that an announcement was forthcoming, but didn’t mention it again, despite posting almost daily on the same account about terrorism, government funding of abortions and “liberals and their double standards.”

The same spokesman who previously said Dr. Carson wasn’t qualified enough to take a job in the Cabinet told The Washington Post yesterday that he “continues to ponder his decision.”

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
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