What Does Mick Mulvaney Have Against Breast Cancer Research?

From running 5Ks to painting trash trucks pink, most people will do just about anything to raise awareness and money for breast cancer research. Millions of families have been affected by breast cancer, though advances in early detection and treatment continue to improve outcomes for those afflicted. Roughly 1 in 8 women, or some 45,000 residents of South Carolina’s 5th Congressional district, will face a breast cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives.

Since 2008, when George W. Bush was President, the White House has been lit up pink to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Since 2008, when George W. Bush was President, the White House has been lit up pink to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

A piece of legislation that enables the government to raise millions of dollars in funding for breast cancer research without the US Treasury contributing a penny would seem to be a no-brainer, the sort of bill that can be passed unanimously with a bipartisan rubber stamp.

In 2015, just such a bill was proposed, but Mick Mulvaney and his colleagues rebelled against it. When the bill was changed to make it more politically palatable, over 400 members of Congress voted for the new bill, but Mick Mulvaney still couldn’t find the courage to support women and vote yes.

From time to time, the United States government authorizes the mint to make special coins for collectors. They are typically fundraisers for events or non-profit organizations, which get to keep some amount over the cost of making, marketing, and delivering the coins (recently, $35 for each gold coin sold, $10 for silver ones, and $5 for others). Most of these coins are non-controversial and pass Congress by unanimous or nearly unanimous consent.

The US Mint made coins to commemorate the National Park Service and Mark Twain in 2016. The Breast Cancer Awareness coin will be made in 2018.
The US Mint made coins to commemorate the National Park Service and Mark Twain in 2016. The Breast Cancer Awareness coin will be made in 2018.

In 2015, a bill was introduced that authorized the United States Mint to make a coin celebrating breast cancer awareness. Half of the money made would have gone to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the well regarded charity whose Race For The Cure has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for breast cancer research over more than 25 years. The other half was designated for another breast cancer research organization. The Heritage Foundation, a Washington DC political organization, instructed Republican members of Congress to vote against the measure because $465,000 had been earmarked by local Susan G. Komen affiliates in 2015 to fund breast cancer programs at local Planned Parenthoods. The money represented less than 1% of their total grants to organizations that help fight breast cancer, and would have been used exclusively to help battle the disease, but the relationship to Planned Parenthood was enough to kill the bill.

In a spirit of bipartisanship, a new bill was composed that sent all the money raised by the coins to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which has no relationship at all with Planned Parenthood. The new bill passed easily, by a vote of 421-9. By keeping the end goal of raising money for breast cancer research in mind, officials on both sides of the aisle were able to craft and pass a bill that just about everyone could agree on.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) couldn't be more opposite politically, but they came together as the initial sponsors of the Breast Cancer Commemorative Coin Act in Congress.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) couldn’t be more opposite politically, but they came together as the initial sponsors of the Breast Cancer Commemorative Coin Act in Congress.

Mick Mulvaney did not vote for it. He also didn’t have the courage to go on the record voting against it. Instead, he was the only member of Congress to vote “present.”

Too out of the mainstream to vote yes, too cowardly to vote no, Mick Mulvaney instead voted "present."
Too out of the mainstream to vote yes, not bold enough to vote no, Mick Mulvaney instead voted “present.”

He doesn’t object to collector coin programs in a general sense: Mulvaney voted in favor of coins to commemorate World War I and the Baseball Hall of Fame, among others. So if it wasn’t the Planned Parenthood connection, which was deleted before passing the amended bill, and it wasn’t opposition to collector coin programs in general, is it just saving women’s lives that Mick Mulvaney has a problem with?

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