Health Care

Leahy denounces Trump’s proposed cuts to scientific research

Patrick Leahy
Sen. Pat Leahy speaks to reporters at the Northeast Regional NIH Biomedical Research Conference. Photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

SOUTH BURLINGTON — At a gathering of more than 300 scientists from across the Northeast, Sen. Patrick Leahy denounced President Donald Trump’s proposals to cut federal funding for scientific research.

Leahy, D-Vt., is the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will review Trump’s proposed budget when Congress returns from its summer recess in September.

Leahy made the comments at the Northeast Regional NIH Biomedical Research Conference in front of more than 300 biomedical researchers from Vermont, Rhode Island, Delaware and other states. The conference ended Friday.

Leahy said Trump’s budget is “based on the whims of an anti-science, know-nothingism administration” that cuts funding not just for organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Trump’s budget also proposes to cut $7.2 billion from the National Institutes of Health, the major arm of the federal government responsible for biomedical research. That amounts to 21 percent of the NIH budget, and the lowest budget for NIH since 2002.

Tens of millions of dollars in NIH grants come to Vermont facilities. That’s in part because Vermont is part of an NIH grant called Institutional Development Awards, or IDeA. The federal government gives out the money to projects in states that historically did not get a lot of NIH funding.

Using that funding, the University of Vermont has created the Vermont Genetics Network — which gives small undergraduate colleges in Vermont access to UVM’s research facilities — and the Vermont Center for Immunology and Infectious Diseases, among other resources.

Leahy said the IDeA program has brought research to small areas like Vermont, brought health care practitioners to historically underserved areas, and helped train students and faculty at UVM. He said scientists now worry whether their research will be funded into the future.

“Medical research cannot be turned on and off,” Leahy said. “Scientists don’t hit ‘pause’ on studies and continue the research when federal funding resumes. The ups and downs of the budget … are particularly harmful to the medical research field. Budding scientists and researchers might decide to seek other career paths, leaving fewer scientists and fewer discoveries.”

Leahy said some of those cancer research discoveries at NIH helped his wife Marcelle survive an aggressive form of melanoma that doctors found in 2003. Leahy said the family used resources from NIH to help find treatment options that would not have been available just a few years before the diagnosis. The two are about to celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary.

“The bigger picture in all of this right now is the deeply troubling anti-science agenda that is reflected in the administration’s budget, and in its wholesale rollback of science-based policies, regulations and initiatives, from renewable energy, to withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords,” Leahy said.

Dr. Ralph Budd, a professor at the UVM College of Medicine who leads a biomedical research group, said, “The attack on science is coming from all angles, and all areas of science are feeling this.”

Budd said Leahy is right about the long-term effects of a few years of NIH funding cuts. He said scientists saw the effects when the federal government cut funding for NIH back in the 1990s.

“A lot of people gave up and left (the field), and then (the government) realized what had happened,” Budd said. “It was a long time recovering from that. You lose a generation of scientists. You don’t get it back in three years.”

Leahy said: “When we go back into session in September I will fight every single day to keep (funding) going, not just for the people here, but for the next generation and the generation after that.”

Patrick Leahy
Sen. Pat Leahy, center, with Dr. Ralph Budd and Dr. Gary Stein, professors at the UVM College of Medicine. Photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger
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  • Dave Bellini

    Cutting research to find a cure for cancer? He’s nuts.

    • Gary Murdock

      Educate yourself and you’ll find that he’s trying to save and enhance cancer research by eliminating government grants to Vanderbilt University that fund research on picking the real Barbie out of a lineup.

    • John French

      there already is a cure for cancer. The cure is being fed to us in the same fashion as the trickle down theory in economics.The elites that we are fighting are the people that are controlling the research/cures for the population.They are deciding how many live and die.

    • Edward Letourneau

      that won’t happen. He is playing for sympathetic votes that make jobs, that get him more votes. — the fact is, as John Hopkins in a recent report showed, something like 85% of all cancers are cause by cell mutations, and there is no prevention and probably no cure.

    • Matt Young

      And so is funding a bunch of ridiculous pet projects that cost taxpayers money. Maybe more money could be spent finding a cure for cancer if the democrats would stop bowing to the teachers union and slow down on all of the entitlement programs.

      • Dave Bellini

        Education is paid from local property taxes. Cancer research noted in the story is federal funds.

    • Mike McNally

      It’s ok we’re building 10 new supercarriers at 10 billion apiece! It will be a much better use of 100 billion in public funds than “cancer research”.

      Caner research might help people, we wouldn’t want that.

  • Gary Murdock

    I told you where to find it in my comment, but I doubt you’ll be able to find it in the huffington post.

    • Mike McNally

      You found a source from politicians who gets votes for hating on government. Could you try and find independent sources on these projects? Maybe you could look up the actual projects themselves? Maybe there is more to them than your ‘wastebook” would like you to believe.

  • Steve Baker

    Leahy denounces Trump. No kidding!
    And the Cancer Research comment is from someone who knows nothing about clinical research and how funding works and doesn’t work. The corruption and payoffs through the FDA and NIH.

  • Steve Baker

    For the most part many large researchers are not interested in finding a “cure”.

  • David Bell

    One, do you have a source on any of this?

    Two, in spite of right winger hyperbole, important research is not only being defunded, but out right suppressed by our so-called President.

  • Dart W Everett

    Thanks, Do you have the website for the Waste Book? Pat will support anything that brings money into Vermont. A couple of years ago, he pushed for a duplicate engine (tp be made by GE in Rutland) for a new jet that the Pentagon expert didn’t want. And if those money grabbers don’t want to spend money, it probably shouldn’t be spent.

  • Peter Everett

    Glad one person has seen the reality that has become life in the U.S. Leahy wants to keep this going, along with the other 2 that supposedly represent us. In through, they represent Special Interests that fund them and the slackers that help keep them in office so they can continue to rape the workers. Shrinking Middle Class??? Won’t exist if we don’t stop them soon. What will remain is them and those who get things as Bernie expounds….”FREE”. I’m sick of being taken advantage of by these true “Elitists”.

  • jason stone

    And these spend spend program supporters seem to ignore the elephant in the room: WE DON’T HAVE ANY MONEY, those expenditures REQUIRE THE US Government TO BORROW MONEY TO PAY FOR THEM. Are these programs so important that the gov should be borrowing money to pay for them???? Who is going to pay that debt off???? Massive cuts in spending are required in all non-critical areas possible.
    Shrink government and balance the budget.

  • Jamie Carter

    the percentage of grants funded hit an all time low when Leahy was the most senior member of the Senate and Obama was POTUS. Leahy is a partisan hack, he’s a danger to the country, and his divisive political gamesmanship is not appreciated.

  • Mike McNally

    I’d rather them spend billions on scientific research, no matter how mundane, than on bombs and new aircraft carriers we don’t need to perpetuate endless war against enemies that we created with those bombs and aircraft carriers. Unlikely discoveries come from seemingly absurd research areas all the time. One researcher was studying the Mantis Shrimp. It can create super heated bubbles of steam with it’s “punches” which break the sound barrier. It’s ability to do so is not understood, but understanding it could help us in a myriad of ways. What if we understood how the shrimp is able to generate that power? Could we figure how to make materials that can resist super high temptures, speeds and pressures from studying a shrimp? It’s very likely we could.

    But instead her senator put the project, he called it “A shrimp fight club”, in a “wastebook” so individuals like gary murdock could read it and feel superior. When she explained her work to the senator he realized his mistake and was impressed with the potential of her project,

    http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2017/06/21/533840751/episode-779-shrimp-fight-club

    But the nuance of scientific research is lost on the average internet comment section. So we scoff at spending on science while cheering spending on new planes and army uniforms. Scientific research is slow and opaque, bombs just blow up stuff we don’t like, that’s simple and easy.

    To me every new dollar spent on our military is an absolute waste, but to say so wouldn’t be patriotic. Patriotism is growing our society through learning and technology. Science before bullets any day of the week. Cut our military spending in half and then we can worry about scientific research costs.

    • Adrienne Raymond

      Absolutely agree Mike. Science improves our lives and helps to keep us safer from all sorts of threats. How do we expect to develop new, more effective medical treatments and drugs, safer food sources, safer roads, better building materials, etc.? Do we truly expect that private industry will fill this role? I think anyone who does is delusional.

  • Mike McNally

    Why not cut military spending? It dwarfs all of our scientific and arts spending.

  • Mike McNally

    15% of all federal Spending is on the military.

    0.78% is on science.

    from: https://www.nationalpriorities.org/budget-basics/federal-budget-101/spending/

    Trumps military spending increases alone are nearly twice the yearly spending on scientific research, that’s a problem.

    Spending on science is not an issue. Worry more about military spending or spending anywhere else, and less about research expenses.

  • Edward Letourneau

    google on “john hopkins cancer caused by mutations”

  • Edward Letourneau

    I didn’t misrepresent anything. 2/3rds are caused by random mutations in individual DNA. There is no cure for that.

  • Peter Everett

    I try very hard to be civil when I criticize our leaders on both sides of the isle. Most times I succeed. When I see statements by our leaders that are so off base, it really is difficult to say what I need to in a civil way. Rhetoric, as this makes my blood boil to the point that Digger feels it must censor me, even though their is nothing profane. My money spent on studying Seahorses on a treadmill?? Why?? What is the real value to Main St America??. Spend my $$$ on curing Cancer, ALS, AIDS, Tumors, Space research,, etc. I have no problem with studies on scientific material that really have an impact on the population. And, Mitch McConnell wants to increase the debt ceiling? What the heck is wrong with those in D.C.?
    We, the taxpayer, can’t just go out and spend. We have to live within our means. Some have lower budgets, others have higher. Still, we have limits we must face. If we don’t the result isn’t very good for us. We need a balanced budget amendment. Without it, we might as well just do away with spending ceilings. We know damn well that those sitting in D.C. have no idea how we will ever repay this debt. Worse yet, they don’t plan on paying it back. They will all be living, after death, (yes, I believe in the after life). There problem will then be, how to live in constant, unstoppable climate change (which will always rise, temps never going down). They have sold their souls, so they will bear the consequences, eventually. Here, on Earth, they think they’re immune to consequences. Boy, are they going to be in for a rude awakening.