The Senate this week okayed an amendment to the massive stimulus package to fork over an extra $6.5 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), bringing funding for the fed's biomedical research arm to $10 billion over two years.

"Including funding for the NIH in the bill will provide needed economic stimulus, enable long-term economic growth and save lives," co-sponsor Sen. Arlen Specter (R–Pa.) said in a statement. "The National Institutes of Health have been starved recently. This increase in funding will enable the [NIH] to continue to produce remarkable achievements in scientific advances."

According to Specter, the monies would be divvied up among NIH agencies in amounts proportional to their fiscal year 2008 funding. He said that economists estimate that the additional funds  could lead to 70,000 new jobs in the health industry over two years.

"To fix and modernize our economy, we need to do the same with our health care system," said co-sponsor Sen. Tom Harkin (D–Iowa). "This investment will allow the NIH to continue to be the premier biomedical research agency in the world. It is vital for the Congress to support our scientists as they search for treatments and cures that could provide hope to millions of Americans."

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