Durbin: We Must Commit To Strong And Sustained Funding Increases For Our Nation’s Medical And Scientific Researchers

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin urges robust funding for medical research agencies and calls out Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans for proposing massive cuts to government spending

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, spoke about the significance of medical research conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that has led to major breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer, heart disease, COVID-19, and more. While Durbin emphasized the progress made in the medical field, he called on Congress to continue investing in medical research to ensure that the U.S. remains a leader in the field and to provide better health care outcomes for those fighting serious illness. 

“In the last two centuries, federal support for scientific research has helped split the atom, defeat polio, explore space, create the Internet, map the human genome, develop vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, and so much more… But with the challenges we face today, from devastating diseases to climate change, there is more progress to be made,” said Durbin. “Unless we commit to providing strong and sustainable funding increases for our nation’s premier medical and scientific researchers, our position as the world leader will be at risk.”

Durbin continued on, explaining that his legislation, the American Cures Act, would ensure that medical researchers and scientists at NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Defense Health Program, and the Veterans’ Affairs Medical and Prosthetics Research Program would continuously receive funding for their work, with a five percent real funding growth annually. 

“Since 2014, I have continued to introduce legislation to keep our nation on the cutting edge [of medical research].  It’s entitled the American Cures Act.  This bill would provide our top medical research agencies with five percent real funding growth every year.  That’s steady, predictable growth, pegged above the rate of inflation,” Durbin said.

Durbin has worked alongside his Senate colleagues on the Appropriations Committee, both Democrats and Republicans, to ensure that medical researchers have access to the funding levels envisioned in the American Cures Act.

“Researchers supported by the NIH make tens of thousands of new discoveries every year, breakthroughs that could literally change the world.  In recognition of these remarkable feats, Congress has, on a bipartisan basis, increased NIH’s annual budget by more than $17 billion since I first introduced the American Cures Act in 2014.  It’s gone from $30 billion to $48 billion in that period of time since 2014 – a 58 percent increase,” Durbin continued. 

“These increases would not have been made possible without a bipartisan effort in the United States Senate.  I enlisted a willing participant and ally, and really an effective member of the Senate, Patty Murray to be part of this.  Former Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, who when the Republicans were in majority control of the Senate kept up this promise to increase the spending, and retired Senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee, who shared our passion for medical research.  Luckily, we had a leader at the time, Dr. Francis Collins, former director of the NIH, who really did his part in enlisting support for these increases,” Durbin said.

While Durbin expressed his gratitude for funding for NIH, he noted that the research agency needs far more funding to continue its mission.

“While this year’s budget provided a 5.8 percent bump to the NIH – a $2.5 billion increase – I’m sorry to say that we fell short of the ‘five percent real growth’ target above inflation… That said, I am still encouraged by how far we have come.  We finally reversed a 22 percent decline in NIH purchasing power that took place after 12 years of flat funding.  But we need to step up our efforts,” Durbin said.

Durbin highlighted the impact that robust medical research has already made in the U.S., which has contributed to the treatment of millions of Americans diagnosed with diseases ranging from cancer to opioid addition.  Notably, as a result of strong NIH funding, the American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 3.5 million lives were saved from 1991 to 2019 as a result of improvements in cancer treatment, detection, and prevention.  This is a 32 percent drop in the cancer death rate since 1991.

“Diseases like cancer, stroke, opioid addiction, and mental illness will not wait on us… Sustained and robust NIH funding will help cure, prevent, and treat these diseases.  It will help the people we care about most… Consider this – NIH funding contributed to research associated with every new drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration from 2010 to 2019,” Durbin said.

Durbin ended his remarks by calling out House Republicans, particularly Speaker McCarthy, for proposing to slash government funding—which could devastate funding for medical research at the detriment of sick Americans.  In exchange for votes to secure his position as Speaker of the House, Speaker McCarthy reportedly agreed to hamstring government funding for 2024 at 2022 levels, which could cut funding for research by roughly seven percent and consequently delay the delivery of new cures and treatments for those most in need.

“After more than a dozen, in fact 15, painful and embarrassing failed votes to secure the Speakership, Speaker McCarthy made a series of deals with MAGA Republicans.  One of those agreements would literally devastate funding for medical research in the future… So I’d like to know for the record – which diseases and conditions would Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans like us to slash funding for?  Cancer?  Alzheimer’s?  Parkinson’s?  Diabetes?  ALS?  Heart Disease?  Which one?” Durbin posed.

Durbin concluded, “Now is not the time for political horse-trading that puts one person in power at the expense of everyone waiting for a cure.  We need to build on the bipartisan success we have achieved over the past decade and continue to prioritize medical research funding that creates jobs, but most importantly, saves lives.”

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.