The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is coming under fire from a congressional subcommittee for using a "loophole" in the law to pay senior officials as if they were consultants rather than staff employees. These NIH officials are able to draw salaries of up to $225,000 a year, nearly twice what they could otherwise earn, and are not required to file public financial disclosure forms that would otherwise be required.

In an unrelated development, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), has resigned his post because he plans to retire from Congress when his current term ends next year. The House Steering Committee has tapped Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who now chairs the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, to replace him. Tauzin's committee has been investigating various NIH policies and practices, including payments and gifts to top officials.

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