John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Moon Shots and the Unacknowledged Hard Work of the Congress

Posted on February 3, 2016

While the President announced his “moon shot” to cure cancer from the Speaker’s Rostrum overlooking the United States House of Representatives, he might as well been speaking from an alternative universe.

Don’t get me wrong. I think we need to invest a lot more in cancer research. I also think we need to invest more to cure Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Here is what the President said:
Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past 40 years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control.

For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.

All sounds good. Except for one thing.

The Congress has already been moving briskly on efforts to rapidly expand medical research.

The Omnibus Appropriations legislation, passed by Congress and signed by the President, boosted funding for NIH by a hefty two billion dollars.

And the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill last year to send even more resources into medical research. As Fred Upton and Diana DeGette wrote in the Huffington Post:
Since 2013, we have been working together as a Republican from Michigan and a Democrat from Colorado, united in the belief that the country needs and is ready for a renewed effort to support biomedical research and harness innovation to turn discoveries in a lab into the treatments and cures that change patients' lives. We are passionate about finding faster cures and better treatments for diseases that touch every family in America, including the Vice President's and our own.

Our legislative approach was different. We listened. We engaged. We solicited input. We drafted. We listened some more. It was an inclusive, unique, transparent process, a comprehensive effort that criss-crossed the country, engaging experts in every related field, from academia to government to private industry and everything in between. And most importantly, we listened to patients.

Our efforts culminated in legislation that would safely speed the discovery, development and delivery of new drugs and devices: H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act, which overwhelmingly passed the House 344 to 77 six months ago. The bill invests nearly $9 billion in new resources for a medical research innovation fund at the National Institutes of Health that will target diseases for which there is not yet a cure. 21st Century Cures also supports the Food and Drug Administration with new resources to keep pace with medical innovation, including new drugs and devices that need expert review. This bill also brings the patient perspective to the heart of research and development, and seeks to foster better use of personalized medicine and more participation in clinical trials.

So, the bipartisan efforts in the Appropriations Committee to pour more appropriated money into NIH, which followed bipartisan efforts in the House to pour even more resources into solving diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s were never even mentioned in the State of the Union. Lamar Alexander, the Chairman of the Senate Committee which will deal with the Cures Act, announced aggressive plans to consider the House action, which will also be conducted in a thoroughly bipartisan way.

It would have been appropriate for the President to acknowledge all of these efforts, but of course, he didn’t.

And the question is why?

Did he not know about them or does he not want to acknowledge that the Congress has been working well without him, thank you very much.

If he doesn’t know about these efforts, well then, shame on him and his team. That is leadership malpractice.

If he doesn’t want to acknowledge them, well, shame on him for that too.

It wouldn’t have taken much time to pay tribute to the good work of the Congress, but that’s not how Obama rolls.

He wants all the credit for himself and his legacy.

And that pretty much sums up the frustrations that many Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle feel towards Mr. Obama.

He doesn’t seem to understand that for our system of government to work, it requires cooperation between the branches. The President would prefer to go off on his own, issuing executive orders and doing stuff without the proper Constitutional authority.

Ronald Reagan once said, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.”

For Mr. Obama, it’s amazing what he can get credit for when he claims credit for stuff that other people are accomplishing.

I am all for the moon shot. I just wish the President has acknowledged the progress that has already been made on a bipartisan basis back here on earth.

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