Cancer survivors in Congress push for ‘moonshot’ funding
By Sarah Ferris
A pair of top Democratic lawmakers who have survived cancer delivered a strong — and at times, tearful — plea for more funding on Wednesday to bolster research into the disease.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) teared up during a markup on next year’s health spending package as she urged Congress to devote about $500 million more to support the Obama administration’s cancer research initiative.
“On behalf of millions of survivors, who I know I can speak for, it’s really critical that we work together to achieve this,” the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee said while fighting back tears.
The amendment was offered by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who is herself a survivor of ovarian cancer. DeLauro is also the ranking member of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees health spending.
Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee voted down the amendment, 29 to 19.
The amendment would have increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $750 million. It would have included a $555 million boost directly to the National Cancer Institute to “fully fund” the Obama administration’s cancer research initiative, led by Vice President Biden.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who leads the health spending subcommittee, lauded the cancer initiative, though he said the timing made it difficult to find new funding for next year.
“It would have been a lot more helpful if the proposals had come earlier,” Cole said. “It’s hard to fund something completely until you know what it is you’re being asked to fund.”
He added that the committee is already proposing a $1.25 billion increase to the NIH, the second year of a major funding boost to medical research.
"We have proposed more money for the CDC and the NIH than the president proposed," Cole added
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But DeLauro said without the extra funding, Biden’s cancer “moonshot” bid would continue to be underfunded. And any new funding, she said, would “continue to come at the expense of other very, very worthy programs.”
DeLauro’s amendment would pay for the additional funding by freeing up additional money to fight opioids abuse by deeming it “emergency spending” and therefore would not require offsets in an appropriation bill.
The calls for more cancer funding were among several tense, emotional moments during the Appropriations Committee’s hearing. The health bill, known as the Labor-Health and Human Services bill, is historically among the most contentious spending bills debated by Congress each year.