A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: The enemy is complacency

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate:

The CDC has concluded that a causal relationship exists between the Zika virus and microcephaly. Earlier this week, Congress passed a law providing incentives for private sector development of Zika vaccines and treatments. But responding to threats like Zika is a resource-intensive, multi-pronged process.  We are working with the March of Dimes and other partners to fight for emergency funding. Interested in joining this effort?  Let me know!

The Senate Appropriations Committee has parsed the overall FY17 discretionary budget into “302(b)” allocations for its various subcommittees. Given that the topline numbers are virtually flat, it is not particularly surprising that the subcommittee allocations are less than impressive.  For example, the “Labor-H” Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over funding for NIH, CDC, and AHRQ (and several other key federal departments/agencies), received an allocation $270 million (0.16%) lower than its FY16 allocation. The bottom line: increased funding for research is far from a sure thing.  We need to keep making the case for it, and equip our champions in Congress to do the same.

Along those lines, the House and Senate Labor-H Subcommittees are still collecting input from outside organizations. Their deadlines for written testimony are one and the same: tomorrow, Friday, April 15. If the deadline crept on you but providing testimony is still of interest, we stand ready to help! Give Ellie a call at (571) 482-2717 or send her an email at edehoney@researchamerica.org.  Read our testimony here.

On the the House side, the “Ag”  Subcommittee marked up its FY17 appropriations bill yesterday with a $33 million increase for FDA.  This is modestly better than the President’s budget, but FDA cannot fulfill its massive list of responsibilities with nominal budget increases.  Given that the Senate 302(b) allocation for the Ag Subcommittee is $500 million below FY16, securing the dollars FDA needs will not be easy.  But the public health role FDA plays is too important to shortchange it.  We are working with the Alliance for a Stronger FDA to push for an increase of at least $120 million in FY17.  Ambitious? Yes. Warranted? Absolutely.

Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) are working hard to finalize an Innovations bill that includes a fully-paid for boost in NIH funding, and to secure time on the Senate floor for its consideration.  You and I can help make sure the full Senate considers and passes the Innovations bill. Email your Senators and tell them to get it done. Additionally, the Bipartisan Policy Center welcomes organizations to join its open letter to Congress in support of Innovations. The enemy of this effort is complacency.  It mustn’t win.

Complacency is also the enemy when it comes to safeguarding lifesaving science.  At both the federal and state levels, efforts are underway to stop fetal tissue research. Last month, Research!America, along with over 60 other organizations and research institutions, signed on to the Association of American Medical Colleges statement on the importance of fetal tissue research. See our fetal tissue research fact sheet  -- which has been shared on the Hill -- for more information on the topic.

One last thing: The deadline for nominating leading research advocates for Research!America’s 2017 Advocacy Awards is about a month away. The process is easy. Take a moment to check it out!

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You can change the image of things to come. But you can’t do it sitting on your hands … The science community should reach out to Congress and build bridges.
The Honorable John E. Porter