All In   |  October 03, 2013

The latest Republican shutdown stunt

House Republicans introduced a bill to restore funding to the National Institutes of Health only after the Wall Street Journal ran an article highlighting the impact the government shutdown has had on the NIH. Chris Hayes talks with Dr.  Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> wake you. i'm just looking for a doctor. there's nothing to worry about.

>> stewardess, i think the man sitting next to me is a doctor.

>> sir, excuse me, sir. i'm sorry to have to wake you, are you a doctor?

>> that's right.

>> we have some passengers that are very sick. could you come take a look at them?

>> yes.

>> hi, everyone, you might be wondering why i'm wearing this stethoscope. you know i'm not a doctor. and i probably look ridiculous. probably as ridiculous as house republicans looked this afternoon amid their latest stunt.

>> when the president shut down the government this past tuesday, i don't think they realized the impact on things like cancer trials, for children can with cancer . i've taken care of many children with cancer during my medical practice , and as a parent, every parent can appreciate the seriousness of that and the need to solve those can kind of problems.

>> that was georgia representative tom price , with other house republicans , introducing a bill to restore funding, just to the national institutes of health . so why is that ridiculous? because congressman price is wearing his lab coat and stethoscope, even though he hasn't practiced medicine since he opted to run for the house senate? 1996 . and i'm guessing the rest of those people standing behind him in lab coats haven't practiced medicine in quite some time either. and the on reason eric cantor wasn't in a lab coat is because he doesn't have a medical degree . but if the costuming didn't tip you off this was a stunt, there are two other dead giveaways. one, house republicans did not propose a mini continuing resolution to fund the nih until this story ran tuesday in the " wall street journal ," which pointed out that since the government shutdown , the national institutes of health began turning away dozens of children, many suffering from cancer from drug tries. suddenly, when they're getting bad press from the " wall street journal " of all places, house republicans find their conscience. and two, remember, this is the same house republican caucus that brought us the real world hurt of sequestration cuts back in january, when it cut nih funding by $1.55 billion, which cuts research and delays progress in the development of better cancer drugs, which will have long-lasting effects, considering medical breakthroughs do not happen overnight, but rather three years of incremental research. in fact, this specific cut to the nih was so troubling to all on "all in," that we invited republican congressman renee ellmers on the show, who to her credit, sponsored a bill to restore the nih's funding, because it's the right thing to do. and do you know how many vote that is bill got? zero. and do you know why it got zero votes? because house speaker john boehner never brought it to the floor. joining me now is dr. georges benjamin , executive director of the american public health association . dr. benjamin , there is an argument that republicans are making which is that if you care about cancer treatment, if you care about what's happening in the nih because of the government shutdown , just fund the nih. what do you think of that argument?

>> chris, how you doing? my problem with that is that's a false choice. i care a lot about those 200 people and 30 kids who have cancer . but i also care about the 48 million people who get food-borne illness every year and the 3,000 who die. i'm concerned about the fact that we're in flu season and we aren't tracking the flu like we ought to. i'm concerned about the fact that hospitals aren't being adequately regulated, and, you know, we have 100,000 people who die each and every year because of medical errors . we've got a lot of the issues here we have to deal, and health care as a system, and that stunt that they pulled just doesn't cut it.

>> there's been a lot of effects, effects on sequestration, before we got to the shutdown, cdc was doing cancer screenings that had to be cut back. have you seen in your role as running a public health organization, have you seen the effects of that?

>> we've lost over 44,000 local health department workers over the last few years, both because of the federal and local cuts because of the economy and the sequestration and these cuts at the federal level have just made that worse. we're losing whole programs, including our bioterrorism preparedness programs. big cuts there. so we're having significant problems throughout the health care system .

>> is there an argument that you can make to the public about the importance of investing in these kinds of programs, and what ends up happening, the reason that we're talking about nih cuts and being shut down is because it's part of the discretionary budget that has been the focus of such battle between republicans and democrats, and it's rolled into the other stuff government does. why does this stuff matter? why is it important?

>> you know, we often ignore prevention until something bad happens. and i can tell you, when i was at the state health department in maryland, dealing with -- responding to the tornado that occurred in southern maryland or the anthrax letters or west nile virus or the drought and we've had, you know, tornadoes all around the country, we get them every spring, and we're probably going to get some terribly this spring, the health departments respond to that. we've had a big flu season , we had a pandemic flu . good news was, the mortality wasn't as high as we feared, but we did have it. and flu season comes each and every year and people need to get their flu shots.

>> dr. georges benjamin , thank you so much for your time. joining me now is publisher of the federalist, web magazine, senior fellow of the heartland institute , and sam seder . all right, ben, i have been beating up on republicans all night. i'm in a very red meaty mood this afternoon because i'm super angry and frustrated about the shutdown. and i genuinely feel like i have lost the plot on this thing. like, i knew four days ago when they wanted to defund obama care, i guess, why they were shutting down the government. they seem to think that the message of defunding obama care doesn't work, so now the message is about the shutdown himself, but i don't understand why they're shutting the government down. i want you to answer for me after this