03.08.17

Appropriations Vice Chair Leahy's Statement At Subcommittee On Labor, Health and Human Services Hearing: “Saving Lives Through Medical Research”

I want to thank Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray for holding this important hearing to discuss the importance of medical research in saving lives. 

Medical research holds tremendous promise and is responsible for breakthroughs with diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.  Federal research dollars provide the nation’s top professions with the resources they need to continue expanding medical knowledge.  The tireless devotion of researchers to finding cures has served as a catalyst for nationwide medical advancement.

At the University of Vermont, medical research funding opportunities are critical, not just for creating new medical advancements but for attracting the best faculty members and researchers to Vermont.  Last year, research funding through NIH accounted for nearly $40 million at UVM, supporting hundreds of jobs and students.  Research through the University has led to advancements in lung disease treatment, cancers, and more effectively using genome testing to advance precision medicine.  I was proud to host Vice President Biden at the University of Vermont to discuss his Cancer Moonshot initiative and how Vermont is contributing to research to better treat—and hopefully cure—the disease. 

This subcommittee has recognized the importance of funding medical research.  This commitment has resulted in billions of dollars in increases for NIH over the last few fiscal years in addition to the billions of dollars promised with the passage of the 21st Century Cures bill in December. 

Unfortunately, the progress we have made is in jeopardy as medical research funding and so many other programs are in the crosshairs for fiscal year 2018.  Medical research cannot be turned on and off.  Scientists don’t hit “pause” on studies and continue the research when federal funding resumes.  The ups and downs of the budget are particularly harmful in the medical research field.  Budding scientists and researchers might decide to seek other career paths, leaving fewer scientists and therefore, fewer scientific discoveries.  We must prove to the world that we will stand firm on our commitment to medical research for generations to come. 

President Trump has proposed a different approach.  He wants to make deep cuts to domestic programs to pay for increased defense spending and to build a misguided and expensive wall on our southern border.  President Trump seeks to implement this unbalanced agenda at the expense of other priorities that will affect all of us, especially when it comes to medical research.  This is not only misguided policy, it flies in the face of the Budget Agreement which is meant to ensure parity between defense and non-defense spending. 

The Appropriations Committee is where our national priorities are translated into reality.  I look forward to working with this subcommittee and others to ensure that cuts are not made that would undermine our progress on medical research.  I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on the importance of medical research and how federal contributions are critical. 

Thank you, Chairman Blunt, for holding today’s hearing. 

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