No one expects the events of Sept. 11-and the subsequent drains on the U.S. Treasury's surplus-to keep Congress from keeping its promise made in 1998 to double the National Institutes of Health budget by 2003. The proposed $22 billion-plus appropriation for Fiscal Year 2002 is close to the ensuing year's expected amount of about $26 billion. Congressional committee changes to President George W. Bush's NIH request prior to Sept. 11 have remained untouched.

But the monies that Congress wants to spend on bioterrorism research and other security measures will come from the treasury's surplus, recently projected to drop from $237 billion to $127 billion. "Clearly," says Melissa Merson, communications director for the Congressional Budget Office, "a substantial amount of the surplus is being consumed. It's not unlikely that we will end up with a deficit for 2002."

So the question-and some say it's rhetorical-that could be asked is:...

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