NEW ORLEANS – First lady Jill Biden visited a medical center in New Orleans on Friday to stress the importance of cancer research, a priority in the budget proposal President Joe Biden sent to Congress.
The Democratic president’s overall budget plan has been roundly criticized by Republicans and won’t make it through Congress intact. But Biden is hoping the fight against cancer will find bipartisan support.
The first lady briefly touted her husband’s budget plan but the tone of the event was largely apolitical.
“Cancer doesn’t care who you vote for,” she told state and city leaders, doctors and researchers gathered for her visit.
She was introduced by U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, who was at her side during her speech and tour at the Louisiana Cancer Research Center.
Cassidy had joined his fellow Republicans a day earlier in criticizing the president’s overall budget plan. His remarks Friday stressed the need for early detection and treatment to prevent colorectal cancer deaths. And he said researchers can address Louisiana's disproportionate number of colorectal cancer deaths “with the aid of the cancer moonshot,” a reference to the president's cancer-fighting initiative.
Cassidy and his wife, Laura, who also was part of the tour, are physicians. They were joined by Democratic Rep. Troy Carter and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell as they viewed laboratories and heard information on the center’s research and treatment efforts.
The president made fighting cancer part of the “unity agenda” that he outlined near the beginning of his administration, and he’s asked Congress to approve $2.8 billion to advance the goal.
It’s a personal issue for the Bidens. According to the White House, Jill Biden’s advocacy for cancer education and prevention dates to 1993, when four of her friends were diagnosed with breast cancer. The president’s eldest son, Beau, died from a brain tumor. And the president and first lady both recently had lesions removed that contained basal cell carcinoma, a kind of skin cancer.
Jill Biden recounted her family’s anguish when her sister, a cancer survivor, was first diagnosed. “My sisters and I were stunned when we heard her diagnosis,” she said. “Terrified of losing her.”
President Biden has set a goal of reducing cancer death rates by half over the next 25 years.