McCain pushes for change in Pentagon's medical research budget
 
McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday he wants to block the Pentagon from funding medical research or projects unless Defense Secretary Ashton Carter determined that the research was related to the military. 
 
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"I'm all for medical research. I'm all in. The National Institutes of Health has done great things," McCain said. "But when we take it out of defense spending rather than what it should be taken out of, which is Health and Human Services, then I object to that." 
 
He added that over the past two decades, lawmakers have appropriated nearly $7.3 billion on medical research that he said was "totally unrelated" to the military.
 
McCain sought to preempt criticism of his proposal, saying that he wasn't looking to cut medical research funding. 
 
"I know what the response is going to be, 'Oh my god, McCain, you want to make money away from fill-in-the-blank,' " he said. "No, I'm not asking to take money from any medical research. I'm asking that it be put where it belongs, and that's not in the Defense Department." 
 
McCain included his proposal as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), currently before the Senate. But while he said Wednesday he wouldn't ask for a vote — suggesting the measure would fail — he insisted the issue "must be addressed."
 
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who opposes McCain's proposal, countered that the secretary of Defense wasn't the right person to make a decision on whether the department would fund a medical research project. 
 
"The amendment which the senator from Arizona offers would give the secretary of Defense the last word as to whether we do this research. Now I've known secretaries of Defense. They're talented individuals," Durbin said. "But when it comes to making medical decisions about medical research, I don't think any of them are qualified to do it."