A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: This just in: Congress busy meeting long-expired deadlines

Dear Research Advocate:

Congress is working to reach agreement to fund the government for FY15. Recall that the federal fiscal year 2015 began on Oct. 1, but that deadline was not met. Instead, a continuing resolution (CR) was enacted to keep the government from shutting down. Missed deadlines and CRs have now been the pattern of many years’ standing, despite rhetoric about the importance of a “return to regular order.” Instead of regular order we have “kick the can down the road,” again and again.

It seems increasingly likely that Congress’ current appropriations negotiations will produce a hybrid omnibus and CR (a “CRomnibus” for fans of linguistic portmanteau!) which includes all the spending bills for federal funding except those that relate to immigration. (Those accounts will be funded solely on a short term basis in order to afford the new 114th Congress an opportunity to re-evaluate immigration-related funding early next year.) Neither an extension of the full CR nor a CRomnibus will improve the dismal status quo for science funding. Please urge your Member of Congress to pass full appropriations legislation for FY15, rather than another standing-in-place CR, by clicking here.

Congress is also working to address expired tax provisions. Bipartisan negotiations earlier this month on a package that would have made the R&D tax credit and several other tax provisions permanent stalled. Then this Wednesday, the House voted to extend expired tax provisions through Dec. 31, 2014. That’s right, extend them through the year that ends in four weeks’ time, then presumably extend again in a new Congress or – one hopes and we will work for – make permanent decisions, so that businesses and entrepreneurs can plan and invest and drive the U.S. economy via research and innovation. There is nothing here for the Congress to feel proud of, barely meeting deadlines that in fact were passed months ago. Another example of kick-the-can.

Congress has another high stakes decision to make, again much too long after the fact: do we learn from the Ebola crisis or not? We and many others are urging Congress to provide the supplemental funding necessary to advance a vaccine and therapeutics, and to better equip our nation at the local and national levels to respond to future threats of this nature.  Does a threat need to be staring us down before we address it? Think about the fiscal and emotional tsunami that is Alzheimer’s disease. As we combat Ebola, we must also recognize the gravity of other threats we face, and invest what is necessary to combat the escalating health crises before us.

There is a bright light of bipartisan determination and momentum in the lame-duck session. If you have a proposal for the 21st Century Cures Initiative being spearheaded by Representatives Upton (R-MI-06) and DeGette (D-CO-01), the time is now to send them to cures@mail.house.gov. Please let us know if we can assist! Chair Upton and Ranking Member DeGette will be offering legislation on 21st Century Cures early in the new Congress.

21st Century Cures is the good news about the new Congress. There will be challenges as well, every bit as daunting as securing permanent tax reform and increases in research funding. We expect to have to fight short-sighted attempts to eliminate funding for social sciences research, despite ample evidence of this work saving lives, saving dollars and enhancing the well-being of the American people. On Tuesday, CQ Roll Call ran a compelling op-ed highlighting the importance of the social and behavioral research funded by the National Institutes of Health. And an article in California Healthline highlighted the role of AHRQ health services research in cutting the number of deadly health care-acquired infections in half. More of us must bring examples like these to the Hill and work to keep accomplishments in the public eye if we are to prevent Congress from making a very costly mistake.


Mary Woolley

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