Durbin Speaks Out on Gun Violence, Medical Reserach at Capitol Hill Rally for Children

WASHINGTON—Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) spoke today at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Rally for Children at the U.S. Capitol.


Watch video of Durbin’s remarks HERE.


Full text of Durbin’s remarks:


“It was about two and a half years ago that I went to the National Institutes of Health and saw a man who’s an inspiration, to me and to many, Dr. Francis Collins. And he brought together the doctors who were in charge of the Institutes and caught me up to speed on the latest research and what they think is a breakthrough area of medicine.


And I said to him, Dr. Collins, I can remember when there was a moment in time when three people came together, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Tom Harkin of Iowa, and John Porter of Illinois. And they said at the time we want to double the research budget for the National Institutes of Health and they did it. It was an amazing moment and it wasn’t heralded as it should have been.


But I said to Dr. Collins, that’s a hard ask now, but what can we do to help you? He said if you will give the National Institutes of Health 5% real growth in their budget each year for 10 years, I’ll light up the scoreboard. I’ll bring through breakthrough research that will change the United States and maybe the world. But I can’t do it without that kind of constancy, without that kind of commitment. It’s tough to keep young researchers on board if they don’t know what next year’s budget is going to look like. They get discouraged. Some of them don’t get paid a lot of money, but they stick with it because they want to make a difference with their lives. So if you can just give me that kind of commitment.


I then introduced the American Cures Act to make sure that NIH, CDC, the V.A., and Department of Defense each had 5% real growth each year. Now here’s the good news: we’ve done that with the Department of Defense and we’re going to continue to. They have an important medical research program they work with NIH on. But we need to make sure we do it in the National Institutes of Health.


So I went to the Republican Senator who is in charge of that appropriation, Roy Blunt of Missouri, and I started talking to him. I didn’t have to talk a lot to his counterpart on the Democratic side, Patty Murray—she was on board. She’s terrific. And so we kept talking to Blunt, ‘you’ve got to do it, you’ve got to do it’. He did it. He put in his appropriation bill a 5% real growth in the NIH funding for this fiscal year. Now, there are two more things I have to tell you though: he cut a lot of other good programs to do it. So we hope to get that improved. And we now have the potential this week of a budget agreement. And that budget agreement will mean that we are going to move some $33 billion into non-defense spending. That gives us a chance and an argument to not only hold on to NIH but to restore some of the other cuts.


So your job and mission if you chose to accept it, if you go to these offices, is to tell Members of Congress and the Senate, with this new budget agreement, we have the wherewithal to put the money into research that can make a big, big difference. And I’ll leave it to each of you to pick out that area of research that you know is important in your practice, to your families that you help, and to our nation.


The second issue that I want to touch on briefly, but it’s no reflection of how serious it is, is an issue which—I want to look up a number here because I want to get it right and my staff took a lot of time making sure that they provided this information. In 2013, the second leading cause of death of our kids, and number one among African American kids: guns. Guns kill twice as many children as cancer, five times as many as heart disease, 15 times more than infection.


Dr. Catherine A. Humikowski, Medical Director of Pediatric Intensive Care at University of Chicago, and a member of your organization, wrote a compelling piece in the Chicago Tribune about her experience. In the last five years, her unit has treated 185 children for gunshot wounds. She said she’s fed up with seeing children’s bodies and lives destroyed by guns.


Last year she treated two babies, one hit by bullets aimed at her father, and one shot while playing with a gun. Both died. Sadly this happens every week in America. My friends, this is madness for us to continue to ignore what is happening with guns in America. We have had 48 gun shootings in schools in America this year. 48. There’s got to be an end to this. There has to be sensible reform. And those of us who feel strongly about it have to speak up and not be drowned out by those other voices. I respect the second amendment, but I respect the right of these children to grow up without gunfire in their neighborhoods.


And on that note, thanks for being here, and thanks for your great work.”