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Durbin: 'Tax and Spend' for Medical Research

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Richard J. Durbin returned to his alma mater Monday evening for a lecture that lived up to its name.  

The talk by the Illinois Democrat in the old Riggs Memorial Library on Georgetown University's main campus was billed as "The Case for Good Government: What the Demagogues and Deniers Don't Get (or Won't Admit)."  

Durbin was unabashed in his criticism of conservatives and the tea party movement, on climate change and money in politics and traditional Democratic interests, but with an audience primarily of students, the Senate's minority whip spent much of his time making the case for increased federal funding for medical research.  

He explained how, with assistance of staff, he bundled together a bunch of budget resolution amendments from both sides of the aisle pertaining to research.  

"What I'm try to do is to create this bipartisan coalition behind this," Durbin said. "The difficulty — Newt Gingrich can write all the articles he wants in The New York Times about how we need this research — the difficulty is to get the Republicans to the point of figuring out how to pay for it."  

A longtime foe of the cigarette (and more recently, the e-cigarette business), Durbin was up front in saying he wanted to increase taxes to help bankroll his effort to increase research funding.  

"You know, I'm pretty forthcoming on this. Tax and spend and so forth. I'm pretty forthcoming. I would raise the federal tax on tobacco products a dollar a package, and it would pay for half the research I just talked about and discourage young people from using tobacco products," Durbin said, realizing that won't happen anytime soon with Republicans in the majority on both sides of the Capitol.  

He relayed a conversation about medical research funding, and said increasing funding could pay for itself with advances like those that could delay the onset of or eventually eliminate Alzheimer's disease. Costs for the care and treatment of Alzheimer's patients are often borne by the government through Medicare and Medicaid.  

"It's the 'T' word though for many of my folks on the other side of the aisle, they can't touch it. So we've got to find an avenue, a path to get there on this. But, I think if we tell the stories and relate to real life. The Alzheimer's story I told. I mean, there are more that can be told on muscular dystrophy and diabetes and autism and heart disease and cancer disease," Durbin said. "Each one of these constituencies has a group of people who are receptive and couldn't give a tinker's damn about political party in this. They want the research to take place."  

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