Mar 16 2018

VIDEO: Blunt Lays Out Priorities for Upcoming Government Funding Bill

Blunt-Backed Efforts Include Boosting Medical Research, Fighting Opioid Epidemic, Making College and Career Training More Accessible and Affordable

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, spoke on the Senate floor to outline his priorities for the upcoming omnibus appropriations bill. During his remarks, Blunt called for additional investments in medical research, a sustained focus on combatting the opioid epidemic, the continuation of year-round Pell, and more.

Following are excerpts from Blunt’s remarks:

Blunt on the Appropriations Process:

“[N]ext week we're going to move forward on an appropriating process that's gotten way out of control. I'm glad that the leaders have decided to appoint a special committee to look at this. You and I are on that committee to look at the budgeting process. To look at what's happened here, that instead of bringing these bills to the floor one at a time, and letting every member of the Senate have an opportunity to amend every bill, in any way they want to, as long as it deals with spending, and as long as you don't add new money, every amendment you want to come up with, that I’d like to take some money here and spend it here instead, and have a debate about why that should happen. That's what the Congress did for a couple hundred years and it's time we did it again. …”

Blunt on National Institutes of Health (NIH):

“You know, first we're on track to increase the third straight year of significant increases for the National Institutes of Health and health research. So what do they do? In the last decade, we failed most of the time, to make any increase at all. In fact, two years ago when I started chairing this committee and Congressman Cole starting chairing the committee on the other side of the building, it had been 12 years since there had been one penny increase in health research. And during that 12 years we’d figured out so much more about the human genome. We’d figured out so many more ways to figure out how I’m different than you and you're different than me and how that makes a difference in how whatever is attacking my system, we could fight back and not one penny of increase in 12 years. …”

 “[W]e made a commitment at the end of the last century to double, in a short period of time, National Institute of Health funding, and then somehow we thought we were done. Now we would be done any time there is no more research to be done, we would be done as soon as we developed a cure for cancer and found out what to do about Alzheimer's and determine what we can do to make heart attack risks less and found the answer to every orphan disease, a disease that only a few people have. But let me tell you, Mr. President, we're a long way from doing that. In the last three years, we’ve tripled the amount of dollars going to Alzheimer's research. And without a cure for Alzheimer's, or a way to slow down the onset of Alzheimer's, the projection is by 2050, we'll be spending twice as many tax dollars on Alzheimer's-related care and dementia related care as we’re spending now to defend the country. …”

Blunt on Opioid Epidemic:

“There's no reason to think that the opioid addiction epidemic, leading to heroin and other drugs, is slowing down. So we need to do things that improve treatment and prevention efforts. Prevention obviously better than treatment, but if prevention fails, better treatment systems than we have now. We need to look for alternative pain medications that aren't addictive. And I will say, that in the 1970's and 1980's, I’m told, that in medical schools they thought opioids weren't addictive. So we need to be pretty sure when we have a alternative that’s not addictive, it really isn't addictive… And then behavioral health, that impacts so many families and so many communities, and if you're going to recover from opioid addiction, you have to have a place to go. And too many programs and policies say we'll work with you for 14 days, or a lot of them say we'll work with you for 28 days, four weeks. Not many people get this behind them in 28 days. So we're doing that. …”

Blunt on Pell Grants

 “We're also looking in this bill at ways to support students and parents and teachers. Obviously, a safe environment. What can we do to provide more flexibility to schools to spend the money they currently have from the federal government to create a safer environment… We need to be doing things that prepare people not just for college, but for careers… We ought to be thinking about whether or not our post-high school dollars are equally available to both college and other kinds of training, and we need to see that people have access to higher education. We're doing that by increasing the funding for the Pell Grant. This is not a loan… Given specifically based on economic need and performance in school. You have to stay in school. You have to get passing grades. But in many colleges in my state, Missouri, in every single community college, and in several of our four-year schools, if you qualify for the full Pell Grant, that's more than enough to pay tuition, books, fees, and that part of your education is there... Year-round Pell means if you have something working, you need to stick with it as long as you can, as quickly as you can… This will be the first year when both students and colleges and universities could really prepare for summer Pell. But if you don't break the rhythm you're in where things are working for you, you're much more likely to graduate from college than you would otherwise be.”