“If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.”

By on September 24, 2018 in Featured News, News

Blunt Boosts Budget for Medical Research by Consolidating Programs & Smart Use of Tax Dollars

WASHINGTON, DC – Sometimes, boring is good.

That was one of the messages of a speech that U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) delivered to The Ripon Society this past Thursday afternoon.

It was a speech in which the Missouri lawmaker discussed not only some of the Senate’s top accomplishments this year, but why the current political environment has created an “almost cocoon-like environment where we could get things done.”

“We have had in the Senate probably the most productive 18 months in recent memory,” Blunt stated.  “One of the reasons I think we may have been as productive as we have is there is so much going on all the time and such a changing set of issues out there that we don’t have very much to do with.

“It kind of creates almost a cocoon-like environment where we could get things done, because we are so boring compared to everything else that’s happening.  But in that environment, a lot of things are getting done … We have passed — out of both the House and the Senate — 90 percent of all the spending before the end of the fiscal year.  And 75 percent of that is headed to the President’s desk.”

Blunt was elected to the Senate in 2010 after serving 14 years in the U.S. House.  A former history teacher and college president, he currently serves as Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies — a panel, he noted, that has also seen its share of accomplishments this year.

“It’s the first time that the Labor HHS bill has been passed before the end of the fiscal year in 22 years,” Blunt stated, referring to the annual appropriations measure that his subcommittee wrote.  “It’s also the first time in 11 years that we’ve had the Labor HHS bill on the floor of the Senate. So it’s the first time in 11 years that 70 of the Senators even got to have anything to say in a public forum — let alone offer an amendment — about that particular bill, which is 12 percent of all the spending.”

Blunt noted that this year’s Labor HHS bill was paired with the defense appropriations bill so both Republicans and Democrats would have priorities to support.

“Our top priority is to defend the country,” he observed, “and most of their top priorities are included in that Labor HHS bill. In fact, when I started chairing the committee, Senator Durbin said to me, ‘Now Roy, you know when you chair this committee, you’re in the Democrats’ church. Every line of the Labor HHS bill is sacred to at least one of us. And most every line is sacred to all of us. So you’ve got to figure out how to work your way through that.'”

Noting that the combined measure was approved overwhelmingly earlier in the week by the Senate by a 93-7 vote, Blunt added: “It may work in the future, or it may not.  But there’s a lot of logic to what we did.”

Blunt then turned his attention to what he views as one of his panel’s top accomplishments in recent years – increasing the amount being spent on medical research.  The increase has been achieved, he said, not by raising taxes, but by consolidating programs and prioritizing the tax dollars that were already in hand.

“When I started chairing the committee four years ago,” he said, “they [the National Institutes of Health] were 22 or 23 percent below in buying power from where they’d been 12 years earlier, and young researchers were actually quickly becoming young financial analysts or wherever you take that big brain and use it where somebody would actually honor what you were doing. And that all ended four years ago.

“We did a $2 billion increase on a $30 billion research budget. We did another $2 billion the next year.  So it was prioritizing. It was combining programs. I think we either combined or eliminated 32 programs to come up with that money.  It wasn’t that the Democrats were against NIH research. They were just for everything. And if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. We decided to prioritize this, and the bill we voted for last week has a net 30 percent increase in health research in four years.”

According to Blunt, it has been money well spent.

“We know so much more about the human genome.  We’re beginning to see what’s happening with immunotherapy … There’s not a cancer you have that there’s not something inside you to fight back. It’s just that the cancer overwhelms that, and immunotherapy amps that up. And this was not a realistic thing five years ago at all.”

To view the remarks of Senator Blunt before The Ripon Society last Thursday afternoon, please click on the link below:

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.

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