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Steve C.
Democrat TN 9

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  • National Institutes of Health Funding

    by Representative Steve Cohen

    Posted on 2015-01-08

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    COHEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to call the Congress' attention to what I think is our most important issue we face as a Congress and as a people, and that is preserving America's greatest asset, which is the health and lives of our citizens.

    In doing so, I request, as I have done on many occasions, that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle join me in adequately funding our Nation's other department of defense--coequally important--the National Institutes of Health.

    Yes, the Department of Defense is important, and we fund it more than adequately, more than they even ask for, and it protects us from ISIS and others that caused the great tragedy in Paris and has caused terror and havoc in Great Britain, Australia, and Canada and that I am sure will come to our shores sooner than we expect, but the National Institutes of Health protects us from disease, disease that threatens every American and every American's loved one.

    The sequestration has cut billions from NIH's budget, and that is our country's foremost medical research center. It has helped billions of people across the country and across the world who suffer from heart disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, you name it, but we have inadequately funded the NIH.

    It has not kept up with the level of inflation over the last decade. Based on that level of inflation, the funding we have given the NIH has resulted in a 10 percent diminution in funding on the purchasing power of the National Institutes of Health.

    The likelihood of any one of us dying from a terrorist attack or from some weapon fired from North Korea or Russia or Iran is very slim, but the odds of us suffering from the diseases which I have mentioned previously is likely in our loved ones. We need to fight those diseases. We can do it, and we can successfully come up with treatments and cures if we fund the National Institutes of Health.

    Supporting the NIH used to be a bipartisan commitment, especially seeing that every dollar invested results in about $2.21 in economic growth. I hope that this new American Congress will see that and that my Republican colleagues will agree with me that we need to put a focus on our individual capital, the personal capital of people, their health and their well-being.

    I talked to Representative Marino recently, and he is going to join me in founding an NIH caucus. I think there is nothing more important. In the past, many times, when I have brought up funding for the NIH, friends on the other side have said: ``Well, we will have to pay for it. If we put more money in it, then our children and grandchildren will be paying for the debt for years to come.'' That may be true, but nevertheless, the children and the grandchildren will be receiving the benefits of the treatments and cures more likely than any of us will, for research takes a long time.

    We also need to change our course in stem cell research. We have had problems with allowing scientists to use this opportunity to come through with great medical breakthroughs.

    Federal funding is currently prohibited by the 1996 Dickey amendment to the appropriations bill that funds the NIH, but researchers around the world have dived headfirst into the field using stem cells and producing incredible findings and progress.

    In 2010, a gentleman named Darek Fidyka, a Polish man, was stabbed multiple times in a knife attack, and he was paralyzed from the chest down, but thanks to stem cell research in Poland, in collaboration with researchers and doctors there and in the United Kingdom, Darek can now walk again with the help of a walker.

    Dr. Geoff Raisman, the chair of neurological regeneration at University College London's Institute of Neurology called this development--and I agree with him--``more impressive than man walking on the Moon.'' {time} 1030 We allowed a man who couldn't walk, couldn't stand to walk, and more will come from that research on stem cells and other scientific research. Darek otherwise would have been paralyzed for life, and now he is walking again thanks to private investment in stem cell research, but the government needs to participate.

    Mr. Speaker, it is time for this Congress to adequately fund the National Institutes of Health, recognize its importance to our constituents who are important to us, and whose lives and health are the most important things that we can provide for them. It is time this country no longer turns a blind eye to research, and to stem cell research in particular. I urge my colleagues to seize the opportunities offered by this new Congress and join me in the efforts to fund the National Institutes of Health and to join the National Institutes of Health Caucus.


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