A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: First 100 days

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate:

The first 100 days of the 114th Congress have come and gone.  In a national poll Research!America commissioned in January, we asked how important it was for the new Congress to take action in the first 100 days to assure more rapid discovery, development, and delivery of treatments and cures for diseases. More than a “super-majority” of Americans - 67% to be exact - said congressional action was important.  Now that those 100 days have elapsed, the question is: what happened?  Plenty. 

  • The 21st Century Cures initiative, a bipartisan effort to strengthen and speed the discovery, development, delivery feedback loop that drives medical progress, transitioned from discussion to draft bill text. The initiative’s leaders (and Research!America Whitehead awardees), Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI-06) and Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO-01), and their respective staff members have been working hard since then to shape this draft into bipartisan legislation.
  • A remarkable six bills have already been introduced to boost funding for NIH and other research agencies. 
  • Funding for NIH has received significant attention as part of the budget reconciliation process, which sets the tone for the annual appropriations process.  Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) secured, on a bipartisan basis, an amendment asserting the need to significantly increase funding for NIH. (See our letter to Congressional negotiators about this amendment.)
  • Several fiscally conservative members of the House, including Congressmen Matt Salmon (R-AZ-05) and Kevin Yoder (R-KS-03), spoke out in favor of major funding increases for NIH. 
  • Urging the sitting Congress on, prominent Republican leaders Eric Cantor and Newt Gingrich have boldly asserted the need for a major increase in medical research funding - Cantor suggesting that funding for science be taken “off-budget,” and Gingrich calling on Congress to double the NIH budget.  A special shout-out to Speaker Gingrich is in order, since he was instrumental in securing the doubling of the NIH budget that took place from FY 99-03, and has long been an outspoken supporter of basic research.  In his New York Times op-ed this week, he makes the economic case for medical progress and salutes Reps. Upton, DeGette and Michael Burgess (R-TX-26) and Senators Moran, Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) for their work to advance medical research.

This is not an exhaustive list, and that’s saying something. The examples above are more than enough to distinguish this Congress and this year. The key now is to make the transition from rhetoric and intention into law...no easy feat. I am optimistic that this can happen, particularly if enough advocates get involved now in support of legislative action.  For example, it is never too early to cultivate congressional research champions. We are partnering with United for Medical Research and FasterCures to hold a meeting next week to introduce freshmen members to NIH Director Francis Collins.  If your member of Congress is a newbie, please encourage her/him to join us.  For more information, email Caitlin Leach at cleach@researchamerica.org.

And then help us keep the "First 100 Days" momentum strong by joining a virtual Hill Day next Wednesday aimed at engaging more members of Congress in the fight to boost funding for NIH, CDC, and AHRQ. The House Labor-H Appropriations Subcommittee is holding a hearing that day during which public witnesses will make the case for agencies and programs under the subcommittee’s purview. This is the perfect time to tweet and post messages on Facebook using the hashtag #findfundcure and to call and email members from both sides of the aisle, in both houses of Congress, urging them to speak out for medical progress. More information here.

Finally, I’m very pleased to let you know that former Representative Rush D. Holt, PhD, the committed and effective advocate for science and CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), has been elected to the Research!America Board. Read our press release here.   

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley
 

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If concerted, long-term investments in research are not made, America will lose an entire generation of young scientists.
Brenda Canine, PhD; McLaughlin Research Institute, Montana