Dear Research Advocate:
As I write, most members of Congress are on the way home for August recess. As anticipated, no further action has been taken on the appropriations front – or much else, for that matter. In terms of issues we care about: no movement on tax reform, which means no much-needed enhancement of the research and development tax credit; no repeal of the medical device tax; and no final passage of Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations bills. In upcoming letters I will talk in more detail about Capitol Hill-focused advocacy strategies through the election and beyond.
In the absence of legislative action, some attention – in a bipartisan manner – is being given to research for health. In previous letters, I’ve talked about an effort spearheaded by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI-06) and Ranking Member Diana Degette (D-CO-01) called the 21st Century Cures Initiative that will remain active over the recess. Public input is being sought as central to this initiative. The truly engaged and whip-smart congressional staff coordinating this initiative have indicated that they would welcome your thoughts at any time. They are particularly interested in the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and public-private partnerships. If you believe the key to faster medical progress is increased funding, tell them. If you feel that bottlenecks in the clinical trials process are the priority concern, tell them. This is not only an opportunity to seed positive change; it is an opportunity to elevate the priority of medical progress going forward. When you think about it, the volume of comments is nearly as important as their content. Issues with an army behind them get attention. To submit comments, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming soon to a polling place near you: midterm elections. But before those elections come candidate town halls and debates. While there is no single source for information about these events across the country, if you’re interested in attending, let us know, and we’ll keep an eye on candidate websites in your area. We hope you do get involved in this way. Asking a question at a campaign event can resonate through the local news. And who knows, you may strike a chord and your question will go viral!
With your help, the Ask Your Candidates! voter education initiative has been picking up steam, with candidates from 32 states and every party responding to your requests that they comment on the importance of medical progress. More will be added as primaries take place. You have asked a variety of questions reflecting your particular interests and perspective, and candidates have responded in kind. For example: from Maryland’s second district, we have received quotes from both the Republican and Democratic candidates (full candidate profiles linked below):
- Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD-02), incumbent: “I have and will continue to support robust funding for federal research agencies like the National Institutes of Health, as well as funding for disease research, from cancer to diabetes.”
- Mr. David Banach (R-MD-02), challenger (via Twitter): “The health, wellness, and longevity of Americans rests on medical research progress.”
Not all candidates are supportive of federal funding for medical research; in fact, some believe that government should play no role whatsoever. Others focus on the importance of cultivating robust private-sector medical innovation. All answers are worth reading. Our goal is to assure that the topic of medical progress is brought into the election conversation. The more candidates who treat the subject as important, the more important the subject will be when the new Congress convenes. Help us get there.
It’s easy to ask your candidates to join the conversation with our pre-populated letter. After providing your name and address, our system handles the rest for you. If your candidate has already provided a statement on www.askyourcandidates.org, be sure to say thank you! And whether you are asking your candidates questions or thanking them, help build the momentum by asking five friends or colleagues to do the same.
Finally, I urge you to join us on September 11 for the 2014 “Straight Talk” National Health Research Forum at the Knight Conference Center at the Newseum in Washington. Federal officials and other national leaders in research and innovation will discuss the good, the bad and the ugly as they look at the future of our research ecosystem. You will have a chance to be heard, as well. Click here for more information and to register. There is no charge for Research!America members.