Today, on CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer pressed Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on the spending cuts being pushed by House Republicans. Noting that both he and McCain are cancer survivors, Schieffer asked McCain if he was open to slashing cancer research funds — a proposal which is apparently “on the table” according to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA):
SCHIEFFER: Let’s get back to spending cuts. You’ve never been shy about spending cuts especially when it comes to earmarks and those pet projects that members have. But the House Republicans are talking about draconian cuts, that according to some liberal groups would mean a 40 percent cut this year in such things as the National Institutes of Health and the FBI and federal prosecutors.
Eric Cantor said this morning on Meet the Press that even cancer research is on the table. Now you and I are cancer survivors. Do you think that’s something where we can cut back?
MCCAIN: I think there may be efficiencies there. And frankly I — cancer research I think is one of the last things that I would go after. But we’ve got to take on some of the sacred cows, Bob.
However, cancer research is not on the bottom the GOP’s list of things to cut. The proposal introduced by the Republican Study Committee (RSC) last week includes a provision which would reduce non-defense discretionary spending to 2006 levels until 2021. Pat Garofalo of ThinkProgress points out that such a cut would cost the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — which includes the National Cancer Institute (NCI) — $5 billion. Back in November, when Cantor indicated that the House would roll back funding to agencies to fiscal 2008 levels, the NIH called the reduction “very devastating.” NIH-funded research has already led to the development of drugs that include the cancer therapies Avastin, sold by Roche Holding AG, and Novartis AG’s Gleevec.
Money has been tight at the Cancer Institute for years. “We are pulling the rug out from the world’s best infrastructure for cancer research and for all biomedical research. It doesn’t make any sense to me,” said one cancer researcher back when the Bush administration slashed NIH funds.
In late 2010, President Obama asked Congress for $32 billion for the National Institutes of Health. His request for the National Cancer Institute is reportedly up 10 percent from where it was in 2008.