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CARA: It Took a Community

September 28, 2011 5 comments

This is a guest post by Peter Bell, the executive vice president for programs and services at Autism Speaks. He oversees the foundation’s government relations and family services activities and also serves as an advisor to the science division.

I couldn’t be happier to share once again the news that we all had been waiting for…the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act is on its way to President Obama. Late Monday night, the U.S. Senate passed HR2005, the same bill that passed the House of Representatives last week.

For those who followed the chain of events during the past week, the band of four Senators who had placed a “hold” on the bill agreed to allow CARA to pass the Senate under the Unanimous Consent procedure. Their only condition was a request to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to undertake an investigation on the federal funding of autism research, a request Autism Speaks has long supported to ensure our scarce federal research funds are spent wisely.

So now we have a law…well technically it becomes a law once President Obama signs it later this week!  $693 million in authorizations for autism research for the next three years.

Our success in the Senate this week and the House of Representatives last week was the result of a rare show of bipartisan leadership in today’s Congress. In the Senate, we thank our two original sponsors, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), along with the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee chairman, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also earn our thanks by enabling our bill to move through a crowded agenda and on to the Senate floor for a final vote. In the House of Representatives, a team effort between Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the prime sponsor of HR.2005, and Mike Doyle (D-PA) was assisted by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) who expedited consideration of the bill.

But this team effort extended well beyond the Beltway. The tens of thousands of Autism Speaks grassroots supporters and advocates across the United States who we called upon time and time again to make their voices heard played a central role in this success. A special thanks goes out to the entire Autism Speaks Field team for its incredible responsiveness and for rallying the troops from Maine to Florida, Texas to Minnesota and from Washington to the Tijuana border. Our grassroots efforts have never been better! And our thanks must also go to our partner organizations in this effort, the Autism Society of America, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, Easter Seals, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities.

The final enactment of CARA will be of enormous benefit to the autism research community that is making advancements on an almost daily basis. Because of CARA,  the research enterprise will be able to continue to grow, without interruption, to find the answers our community so desperately needs and deserves.

On behalf of the 3 million Americans who wake up every day with the challenges of autism, the professionals who work daily to care for them, the scientists who are dedicating their careers to finding the answers and all of those who are committing their lives to improve the futures for those living with autism, thank you!  Today is a better day because of what WE ACCOMPLISHED TOGETHER.

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