WASHINGTON — Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.) strongly criticized the Reagan Administration today for plans to limit research grants at the National Institutes of Health and to freeze spending for some other programs.
"The tough choices are being made by the tough and the well-off to the detriment of the weak," Weicker told Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret M. Heckler as she defended the President's budget before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.
Congress last year approved money for more than 6,500 new research proposals at NIH in 1985, yet the Administration plans to finance only 5,000, Weicker noted.
Heckler said if the full 6,500 new grants were provided, the budget would have to be increased by $538 million. She called the decision not to provide all of them "probably the most difficult dilemma of the budget for this department."
Balancing Act Seen
Weicker suggested the cutback was "for purposes of budget balancing rather than the health needs of the nation."
Heckler responded that "the decision was made not only for budgetary reasons but the need to develop a stable base for NIH in future years."
The Administration is proposing $58 billion government-wide in 1986 for research and development, Weicker said, of which 68% is for military purposes while 8% is for health.
Her department will spend $330 billion, Heckler responded, adding that "we are dealing with the department that consumes the lion's share of the budget."
. . . . Defense is still behind this department by about $40 billion."