Videos & Speeches

As my colleagues know, we’re in the process of discussing an appropriations bill, called an “omnibus” bill. For the first time in a long time we have passed an appropriations bill in the Senate. That is progress and we are working on a second one today as well. But as we debate the priorities and spending levels for this final appropriations bill for this year, I want to highlight an opportunity we have to deliver on a promise to provide strong support for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and for the lifesaving biomedical research that results in that spending. 

I would also mention that we have the opportunity to assist in financial support, in providing resources to advance the efforts of a couple of agencies that are greatly allied with NIH; that being the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Defense and its medical research as it treats – finds cures and treatments for our military men and women and the consequences of their service, as well as the Centers for Disease Control. 

But I what I want to highlight is that if we fulfill a promise in regard to medical and biomedical research, we can position our country to provide steady, predictable growth to NIH, the largest supporter of medical research in the world. And this sustained commitment, which has been absent for so long will benefit our nation many times over and bring hope to many patients in today's generation and those that follow. 

Unfortunately, we have not adequately and we have not always upheld our responsibility in this regard. The National Institutes for Health’s purchasing power has diminished dramatically. If you account for inflation, NIH receives 22 percent less funding than it did in 2003. This has negatively impact our research capacity. 

In the best of times, NIH research proposals were funded one out of three times. So, three proposals, one of them was accepted for funding. That ratio has now fallen to one in six, the lowest level in history. 

The challenge is ours and the moment to act is now for our moms, our dads, our family members, our friends, for people we don't even know, and for the fiscal condition of our country – the moment to act is now. Or if you care about people, you would be supportive of medical research; and if you care about the fiscal condition of our country, you would be caring about medical research. 

I’m a member of the Labor, Health and, Education, Appropriations Subcommittee that’s responsible for the funding of NIH and these other agencies. And earlier this year, under the leadership of my colleague and friend from Missouri, the chairman, Senator Blunt, my Senate appropriations colleagues and I were successful in significantly boosting NIH’s budget in the Senate’s FY 2016 appropriations bill. We achieved more than a $2 billion increase in NIH. This is an amount around $1.95 billion more than the President's request and more than $880 million above the number contained in the House’s version of this legislation. This $2 billion increase would be the greatest baseline boost to NIH since 2003. It bothers me when I say it’s a boost to NIH because what it’s a boost to is not a federal agency but rather a boost to the results, the consequences of that investment in research.

Now, with the recent 2-year budget deal that became law recently, it presents a path by which we are able to deliver a much needed budget increase to NIH and to prioritize important research that saves and improves lives, reduces health care costs and fuels economic growth. This boost would be a tremendous step in putting NIH back on a sound path of predictable, sustainable growth demonstrating to our nation’s best and brightest researchers, medical doctors, scientists, and students that Congress supports their work and will make sure they have the resources needed to carry out their important research.

The time to achieve this objective is now. If the United States is to continue being – providing leadership in medical breakthroughs, to develop cures and treat disease, we must commit significantly to supporting this effort. If we fail to lead, researchers will not be able to rely upon that consistency, we will jeopardize our current progress, stunt our nation's competitiveness and lose a generation of young researchers to other careers or to other countries’ research. 

Whenever Congress crafts appropriations bills we face the challenge. We all face this issue of balancing our priorities with the concern about making certain our nation's fiscal course is on a better path than it has been. Therefore, it is extremely important for us to find those programs that are worthy of funding, that actually work, that are effective and that serve the American people and demonstrate a significant return to the taxpayer who actually pays the bill. Congress should set spending priorities and focus our resources on initiatives that have proven outcomes.

No initiative I know meets these criteria better than biomedical research conducted at National Institutes of Health and our other federal allied agencies. NIH-supported research has raised life expectancy, improved quality of life, lowered overall health care costs and is that economic engine that our country so desperately needs as we try to compete in a global economy. 

Today, we are living longer and we are living healthier lives thanks to NIH research. Deaths from heart disease and stroke have dropped 70 percent in the last half century. U.S. cancer death rates are falling about 1 percent each year, but as we know, much work remains. Diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, mental illness touch all of us, touch all of our communities, touch all of our states and dramatically affect our country.

Half of the men and a third of all women in the United States will develop cancer in their lifetime. One in three Medicare dollars is spent caring for an individual with diabetes. Nearly one in five Medicare dollars is spent on people with Alzheimer's or other dementias. In 2050, it will be one in every three dollars. In other words, the cost of dementia and Alzheimer’s grows dramatically over time.

New scientific findings are what yield the breakthroughs that enable us to confront these staggering financial challenges of these diseases and others. Therefore, in order to advance lifesaving medical research for patients around the world, balance our federal budget, control Medicare and Medicaid spending, let’s prioritize biomedical research and lead in science and in discovery.

Mr. President, I appreciate the opportunity as we work to fashion this final appropriations bill before the deadline of December 11, to work with my colleagues across the Senate to make sure that biomedical research, NIH and its allied agencies receive the necessary financial support that benefits all Americans today and in the future.