Combating Autism Reauthorization Act Stalled in Senate
Posted Sep 22 2011 9:16am
The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. The next steps are approval in the Senate and, should that happen, signing by the President. Mr. Obama has indicated that he will sign. The senate, however, is a different story.
Just hours before, however, a clash on the Senate floor revealed fresh opposition in Congress to the measure. When the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., called for his colleagues to give unanimous consent to the autism legislation, a group of Republican senators objected.
“All of us who object support autism research… but it makes absolutely no sense for us from where we sit to try to play scientist and physician,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.
It’s politics, so I don’t expect the short sound-bytes to be logical. The CARA doesn’t make legislature “play scientist and physician”. It does set up an infrastructure to plan for the research priorities, using researchers and stakeholders for input.
Another paragraph from Disability Scoop:
In addition to opposing condition-specific legislation, DeMint, who was joined by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., in speaking against the bill, said the measure was not necessary in order to continue current research programs which are funded under other appropriations bills.
Again, let’s consider what actually happens. The Combating Autism Act, and the re-authorization, don’t appropriate funds. They authorize the appropriations. Simply put, they are a plan for what will be authorized. But the Act doesn’t commit congress to make the appropriations. Consider it a statement of intent. A promise.
The Washington Times has a story: Standoff threatens autism research funding. This includes a statement by Senator Tom Coburn:
“What we are opposed to is tying the hands of the researchers and the directors at National Institutes of Health and telling them what they should do and how they should do it.”
I find this odd on two counts. Again, the Act does not tie the hands of people at NIH other than in the formation of the IACC to create a strategic plan and advise the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
As to telling the NIH what to do, what areas to focus upon. Well, there’s the National Cancer Institute, the National Eye Institute, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute…you get the idea. The NIH has already created specific focus areas. The Combating Autism Act is not out of place in the way the NIH is run by congress.
The Times quotes Rep. Michael F. Doyle:
Mr. Doyle said he spoke with two senators who had concerns about the bill and that he “did not have an indication that there was an effort to block this thing permanently.”
If accurate, this places the current stall in the category of “politics”.