By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R) from Alabama), told the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies that President Barack Obama’s budget request would slow the pace of new medical discoveries. Senator Shelby is the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was speaking to the Committee that day about the administration’s fiscal year 2013 budget request.
Senator Shelby said, “Our nation’s leading researchers will never find a cure for the debilitating diseases that affect us without a commitment to advancing medical research. It is critical to invest in biomedical research to ensure the U.S. continues to make progress towards medical discoveries that improve lives, make treatment more effective, and lower overall health care costs.”
Sen. Shelby said, “I am disappointed that the Administration has cut funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In the last 30 years, biomedical research has yielded significant scientific discoveries that have extended life, reduced illness, and cut health care costs considerably. Secretary Sebelius, your budget request abandons our nation’s commitment to advancing medical research. In fact, the request does not keep pace with biomedical research inflation and as a result, in inflationary adjusted dollars, the NIH is nearly 20 percent below where they were 10 years ago.”
Shelby warned that the federal budget was growing too fast. “We are living in difficult times. America’s gross debt has increased more than $5 trillion during President Obama’s first three years in office and the Fiscal Year 2013 budget request does nothing to curb spending or put our country on a fiscally sustainable path. In fact, the Administration has built the 2013 budget based on the flawed philosophy of spend now, pay later. But as the turmoil in Greece is verifying, at some point the bill must be paid.”
Shelby also warned that Obamacare was contributing to the deficit. “One of the key fiscal challenges facing the federal government is health care spending. In the last twenty years, total funding for the Department of Health and Human Services has tripled. Since 2001, the Department’s discretionary appropriation has increased by 45 percent. The President’s answer to control health spending, the Affordable Care Act, continues to grow our nation’s deficit, and its bills are piling up.”
Sen. Shelby said that Obamacare created budgetary gimmicks to get around Congress. “In Fiscal Year 2013, the budget requests a $1 billion increase in discretionary dollars for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to continue implementation of Affordable Care Act activities. This is in addition to the $15.4 billion in mandatory funding the Affordable Care Act directly appropriated since Fiscal Year 2011. By combining discretionary and mandatory funding streams, the majority of the Affordable Care Act circumvents the yearly appropriations process that is crucial to providing transparency to funding decisions. “. “Agencies and programs should no longer deceive the American taxpayer by arguing their spending is reduced when they also receive mandatory funding from the Affordable Care Act that supplements, and in many cases greatly increases, their spending level.”
Since Sec. Sebellius and the Obama Administration had been using mandatory Affordable Care Act provisions that bypass Congress to fund programs beyond Obamacare and Congress needs to be aware of this if Obamacare is repealed. Sen. Shelby said that “The Administration has used the Affordable Care Act’s mandatory spending, which is not subject to a vote by Congress every year, to backfill key discretionary programs. The Administration then diverts discretionary dollars to fund new programs. When the Affordable Care Act is repealed, many important programs like Community Health Centers and the Section 317 Immunization program at the Centers for Disease Control will be in jeopardy because their base funding provided by the Labor/HHS Appropriations bill has been so significantly reduced.”
Some media critics of Senator Shelby have used those last remarks to argue that Sen. Shelby’s commitment to repeal the Affordable Care Act has wavered, but taken in context of the whole statement that last sentence is more clear.
Senator Richard Shelby has represented Alabama in the United States Senate Senate since 1986.
To read Shelby’s remarks in their entirety: