Casey warns of more cuts to medical research funds


Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., speaks during a news conference at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
PITTSBURGH (AP) — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said new spending cuts to federally funded medical research will take effect in January if Congress does not stop them, and he blamed an earlier round of funding cuts for massive job losses in Pennsylvania.

Casey, a Democrat, said Friday at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute that automatic budget cuts put into motion by Congress caused the loss of $73 million in medical research funding and 1,200 jobs in Pennsylvania alone this year, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

“It is important we focus on finding adequate funding levels for medical research,” Casey told the newspaper after taking a tour of research labs at the facility. “Unfortunately, the good work done here, the inspiration derived from that work can be impeded, undermined and badly damaged if we don’t make the right decisions.”

He said he is pushing to “turn off” the automatic spending cuts for at least two years.

The Post-Gazette said Pitt estimates it lost about $24 million in funding for research. Pennsylvania’s institutions received $1.4 billion in grants from the National Institutes of Health in 2012. Casey said the research underwrites more than 24,000 jobs in Pennsylvania.

He said the spending cuts are spurring some top researchers to move to Europe and dulling the United States’ edge in research.

Pennsylvania’s other U.S. senator, Republican Pat Toomey, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he does not support rolling back those planned spending cuts, also called sequester cuts. However, he said, he wants to change the law to allow executive-branch agencies to have more flexibility in how they decide to cut spending.

“While I believe that the overall magnitude of the sequester’s spending cuts should remain in place, I remain committed to working with my Senate colleagues on additional ways to ensure that these cuts are done in a more sensible manner that protects our nation’s priorities,” Toomey said.

The second round of cuts is expected to total $90 billion overall.

Casey, whose late father, Robert, survived a heart and liver transplant in Pittsburgh during his tenure as governor, said medical research subsidies enjoy bipartisan support in Congress.

“Disease and trauma doesn’t land on just one party or one people. It visits all of us and all of our families,” Casey said.

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