‘You Don’t Have to Be a Genius to Figure Out What’s Left’

“In the 21st Century, we don’t need a mission to the moon; we need a mission to the mind.”

In the same room where John F. Kennedy declared his intent to run for president, another Massachusetts senator, Ed Markey (D), made those remarks a few days ago during a briefing by the Personalized Medicine Coalition to highlight precision medicine. Precision medicine seeks to maximize effectiveness by taking into account individual differences in lifestyle, environment and genes.

But the conversation quickly turned to the topic of medical research funding. How much money will go to the National Institutes of Health under the Trump administration?

Research is one of the areas both Republicans and Democrats want to fund, and the president himself has made some comments in favor of innovation and research. But with $54 billion in discretionary funding potentially on the chopping block, that money will have to come from somewhere.

I caught up with Sen. Markey after his remarks, and he told me if the Republicans plan to pass massive tax cuts while building the U.S.-Mexico border wall, increasing defense spending and balancing the budget, “Well, something has to go.”

“You don’t have to be a genius detective to figure out what’s left.”

The next day, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) also told me “it would be very hard to get the Senate to do that,” when I asked him to comment on the president’s plan to cut $54 billion.

“I don’t think it’s hard to get the Senate to increase defense dollars. But I think at the cost of other discretionary dollars, that’s a tall order and I think while we need to be focused on defense, we’re going to look at other ways to get that done,” Blunt said after a hearing on medical research.

He paused and was careful in choosing his words. But his position is critical for medical research as he is the chairman of the labor-health panel on the Senate Appropriations Committee—which means he’s taking the lead with ranking member Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on how a number of health agencies will be funded, including the NIH.

This should be an interesting year for budget talks. I’ll be covering the NIH portion as it unfolds.

Read my full story here.

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