Montana Politics

Dennis Rehberg, Cancer Champion

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One of the marks of a bold politician is a willingness to defend the unpopular, to champion337229_10151032555159207_1600236945_o that which no one else will. It seems that, in Representative Dennis Rehberg, Montanans have that kind of champion. Unfortunately, the unpopular cause he’s committed to seems to be cancer.

Recently, Representative Rehberg issued a budget that would eliminate the National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens, which studies chemicals responsible for increasing cancer risk. As Mother Jones notes, Rehberg’s move is almost certainly designed to meet the needs of chemical producers and industrial users, who oppose the kind of research that might put public health above the bottom line.

As the American Sustainable Business Council notes, continuing to fund the Report on Carcinogens is critically important:

The ROC is a valuable information resource for sustainable businesses so they
can identify, with solid scientific review, substances that pose a risk of cancer, as
they make decisions on the chemicals and components to use in the products
they manufacture.
Small US businesses should be able to trust that any chemical or component with
chemicals marketed and promoted for use in the U.S. marketplace is safe. But the
truth is, as we all know, our chemicals regulatory system is broken. The Toxic
Substances and Control Act of 1976 needs serious revision with environmental
health protections that are responsive to evidence of the hazards of manufactured
chemicals.

Unfortunately, it seems that political considerations often trump public health for Representative Rehberg when it comes to cancer.

We’re all familiar with his efforts to reduce Title X funding for breast cancer screenings, funding that serves thousands of women in Montana at dozens of health clinics across the state.

In 2011, he voted for the radical Republican continuing budget resolution which would have cut $1.6 billion from the National Institutes of Health and its National Cancer Institute, a move condemned by the Economist for its breathtaking stupidity.

In 2011, the American Cancer Society and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids condemned a move by Rehberg which would have immunized “the tobacco industry against many FDA regulations preventing them from making tobacco more addictive and marketing it to children.”  From their joint statement:

The Rehberg amendment is a huge step backward and would turn the tobacco companies loose on our children again.

While this amendment is part of an appropriations bill, it does nothing to save taxpayers money or reduce the budget deficit. In fact, it likely would increase how much the government spends on tobacco-related health care costs under Medicare, Medicaid and other programs. It is purely and simply a giveaway to the tobacco industry that must be rejected by the full House.

Isn’t it time for Representative Rehberg to put public health ahead of partisan politics and corporate profits?

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it’s a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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