Both houses of Congress managed to pass -- and President Obama has now signed -- the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011, clearing the way for an additional three years of federal funding totaling up to $693 million for autism research and treatment.
The original Combating Autism Act was signed into law in 2006, significantly increasing federal funding for autism research. Unfortunately, the original law provided only five years of funding and was set to expire at the end of September. As the deadline loomed, autism activists organized a campaign to pressure Congress into extending the act citing significant increases in the rate of autism since 2006, but in today's fiscal climate, passage was not assured.
After stalling for months, the House of Representatives passed the Reauthorization Act using a procedural tactic called suspension, which allows the House to pass legislation that has not been approved by a legislative sub-committee. Although the bill enjoyed broad bi-partisan support in the Senate, four senators, Tom Coburn (R-OK), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), placed a hold on the legislation, expressing concerns about using federal funds to specifically target autism research. After Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), one of the bill's sponsors, agreed to request a report from the Government Accountability Office reviewing federal autism funding, the four senators released their hold and the bill was passed by a voice vote.
Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy group, congratulated Congress on passing the legislation: "When the fate of this legislation appeared in jeopardy, policy trumped politics. The winners are the families across America who deal every day with the national health crisis that is autism.
To read the bill in full, click here.
To read Autism Votes' press release discussing the vote, click here.Article Last Modified: 10/19/2011