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Murray: “Put simply, stronger investments in medical research mean a stronger, healthier country”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee delivered remarks at a hearing: “National Institutes of Health: Investing in a Healthier Future.”  In her remarks, Murray highlighted the work the NIH does to improve the health and wellness of families around the globe, and how that work helps drive economic growth and job creation in in Washington state and across the country. Murray discussed her work to support medical research through bipartisan efforts to advance medical innovation, and called on Republicans to join Democrats and work together on a budget agreement that builds on the bipartisan foundation of the deal she reached in 2013 to avoid shortsighted, automatic cuts and ramp up investments in priorities like medical research.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“In my own state of Washington, researchers are working on ways to: repair heart tissue damaged by disease and injury, decode difficult to treat forms of breast cancer, and use precision medicine to tackle eye disease and Alzheimer’s. These are just a few examples of the incredible work being done to improve health and wellbeing for families across our country and the globe. And at the same time, the life sciences are helping to drive economic growth and job creation. For example, in Washington state the life sciences sector directly employs 34,000 people, making it the 5th largest employment sector in our state.”

“Supporting medical research starts with making sure shortsighted budgeting doesn’t get in the way. For far too long, we’ve seen inflation erode federal investments in R&D, making it harder for researchers to get the support they need. In fact, I know that you, Dr. Collins, have said that increasingly, the NIH is having to turn promising projects away. For patients and families who are waiting and hoping for medical breakthroughs—that’s just unacceptable.”

“I’m proud that in late 2013, Democrats and Republicans were able to reach a budget agreement to roll back sequestration for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. That deal expired last week—which means Congress is once again going to have to come together and find a solution. As I’ve made clear, I believe we need an agreement that: builds on the bipartisan foundation set in our budget deal last Congress, rolls back cuts to defense and nondefense investments evenly, and protects priorities that are essential to promoting a strong and growing middle class, like research, education, and infrastructure. I have been encouraging my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to come to the table and work with us, so that we can reach another bipartisan budget deal, and avoid automatic cuts that impact these and other important investments in our country’s future.”

“I am currently working with Chairman Alexander in the HELP committee on a bipartisan initiative to advance medical innovation—an effort that is very much related to our conversation today. I see this initiative as an opportunity to help patients get the best, most effective cures and treatments as quickly as possible—while upholding the highest standards of patient and consumer safety. And to me, a central part of accomplishing this goal—and tackling the tough medical challenges our country faces—is making sure research and development can thrive.”

“I’m pleased that so far, we’ve seen bipartisan interest in ramping up investments in the NIH and the FDA and I’ve made clear that I’ll only support a bill that does just that.  I’m going to be very focused on finding a path forward on this in the coming weeks. Because put simply, stronger investments in medical research mean a stronger, healthier country. So, I am hopeful that Republicans and Democrats can work together to: build on the bipartisan foundation set in the budget deal last Congress, and make the investments we need to seize these and other opportunities in a way that helps our economy and country work better for every family.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you, Chairman Blunt. Dr. Collins, thank you for being here.

 

“I am so grateful for all you’ve done to champion the critical work the NIH does—you have truly been a great partner to us in Congress.

 

“And welcome Doctors Volkow, Rodgers, Koroshetz, Lorsch, and Lowy.

 

“I look forward to the discussion this morning.

 

“All of us here today can agree that there is a lot more we need to do to keep families and communities healthy, and continue investing in priorities that strengthen our economy from the middle out.

 

“And the work of the National Institutes of Health is vitally important to this effort.

 

“The NIH supports basic research that makes medical advances possible; gives hope to those living with chronic and life-threatening disease; and helps drive economic growth and competitiveness.

 

“In my own state of Washington, researchers are working on ways to: repair heart tissue damaged by disease and injury, decode difficult to treat forms of breast cancer, and use precision medicine to tackle eye disease and Alzheimer’s.

 

“These are just a few examples of the incredible work being done to improve health and wellbeing for families across our country and the globe.

 

“And at the same time, the life sciences are helping to drive economic growth and job creation.

 

“For example, in Washington state the life sciences sector directly employs 34,000 people, making it the 5th largest employment sector in our state.

 

“The investments we make in NIH, education, and other programs under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction that support the life sciences indirectly, will help our economy create the jobs of the 21st century, and help ensure our workforce can take them on.

 

“That’s why, like Chairman Blunt, I see maintaining our country’s central role in the life sciences as a top priority.

 

“And federal investments in medical research could not be more critical to this effort.

 

“Supporting medical research starts with making sure shortsighted budgeting doesn’t get in the way.

 

“For far too long, we’ve seen inflation erode federal investments in R&D, making it harder for researchers to get the support they need.

 

“In fact, I know that you, Dr. Collins, have said that increasingly, the NIH is having to turn promising projects away.

 

“For patients and families who are waiting and hoping for medical breakthroughs—that’s just unacceptable.

 

“I’m proud that in late 2013, Democrats and Republicans were able to reach a budget agreement to roll back sequestration for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

 

“That deal expired last week—which means Congress is once again going to have to come together and find a solution.

 

“As I’ve made clear, I believe we need an agreement that: builds on the bipartisan foundation set in our budget deal last Congress, rolls back cuts to defense and nondefense investments evenly, and protects priorities that are essential to promoting a strong and growing middle class, like research, education, and infrastructure.

 

“I have been encouraging my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to come to the table and work with us, so that we can reach another bipartisan budget deal, and avoid automatic cuts that impact these and other important investments in our country’s future.

 

“I am currently working with Chairman Alexander in the HELP committee on a bipartisan initiative to advance medical innovation—an effort that is very much related to our conversation today.

 

“I see this initiative as an opportunity to help patients get the best, most effective cures and treatments as quickly as possible—while upholding the highest standards of patient and consumer safety.

 

“And to me, a central part of accomplishing this goal—and tackling the tough medical challenges our country faces—is making sure research and development can thrive.

 

“I’m pleased that so far, we’ve seen bipartisan interest in ramping up investments in the NIH and the FDA and I’ve made clear that I’ll only support a bill that does just that. 

 

“I’m going to be very focused on finding a path forward on this in the coming weeks.

 

“Because put simply, stronger investments in medical research mean a stronger, healthier country.

 

“So, I am hopeful that Republicans and Democrats can work together to: build on the bipartisan foundation set in the budget deal last Congress, and make the investments we need to seize these and other opportunities in a way that helps our economy and country work better for every family.

 

“Thank you.”