Congress remembers John E. Porter, appropriator and advocate for NIH

Illinois Republican was a moderate on social programs

Rep. John E. Porter, R-Ill., and his staff work in his office in the Rayburn House Office Building. Staff from left to right, Nicole Wheeler, Susan Firth, Tony McCaun, Carol Murphy and Bob Knisely. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. John E. Porter, R-Ill., and his staff work in his office in the Rayburn House Office Building. Staff from left to right, Nicole Wheeler, Susan Firth, Tony McCaun, Carol Murphy and Bob Knisely. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted June 7, 2022 at 12:15pm

Lawmakers of both parties are paying tribute to former Rep. John E. Porter, an Illinois Republican and Appropriations “cardinal” who died Friday at the age of 87.

As chairman of the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Porter led a push to double funding for the National Institutes of Health — setting a standard that appropriators of both parties have sought to emulate. He represented the 10th District of Illinois from 1980 until January 2001, when he retired.

Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John E. Porter, R-Ill., listens to a witness during hearing on fiscal 2000 appropriations. Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call file photo

“He was a leader and a voice for principled, bipartisan cooperation within our Illinois congressional delegation,” said Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., who served with Porter in the House and praised his service Monday on the Senate floor.

Durbin said the NIH funding boost that Porter championed paved the way for the mapping of the human genome, a project that he said “continues to transform medicine on a daily basis and has provided life-saving cures all around the world.”

Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, who now holds the top Republican slot on the House Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee, said in a statement that Porter served as his role model for that post. And Porter’s doubling of the NIH budget became “a funding priority I sought to emulate during my tenure as Chairman and which I continue to advocate for as ranking member of the panel.”

Among the last of the moderate voices within the GOP caucus, Porter opposed cuts in social programs, supported global family planning programs, and backed the 1994 ban on assault weapons that expired a decade later and which Republicans steadfastly oppose now.