Tag Archives: Budget Control Act

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: A “dark future for science?”

Dear Research Advocate:

Although Congress officially returns next week, many Members are back in Washington as the debate about the crisis in Syria commands center stage. Members also face looming fiscal deadlines, with only nine legislative days scheduled in September to act on those and a large backlog of other legislation. Given all this, it is not hard to predict how Congress will handle the long- or short-term budget resolutions, debt ceiling, the future of sequestration, tax and entitlement reform, and a myriad of other interconnected items: They will put off decision-making.

Thus a continuing resolution (“CR”), extending FY13 budgets, looks likely, once again kicking the can down the road and, in doing so, kicking patients and researchers alike into the ditch. And things will be worse than the terrible FY13 numbers, given that the Budget Control Act mandates less discretionary spending in FY14 than in FY13 — almost certainly prompting agencies to further decrease their spending while waiting for what might well be a still-lower final appropriations bill (more details here.)

This adds up to “a dark future for science” according to NIH Director Francis Collins. He and other leaders of science believe that the nation is increasingly underprepared to meet existing — not to mention emerging — health threats. Now is the time to hold Congress accountable for avoiding a dark future by making your voice heard. Click here to send a message to your representatives that medical research at NIH, CDC and our other health research agencies must be championed in the upcoming fiscal debates — not cut, not put on hold, but prioritized, championed. After participating online, magnify your voice as a broad coalition joins forces on September 18 to participate in the American Association for Cancer Research’s Hill Day, urging Congress to champion the National Institutes of Health. Continue reading →

Advertisements

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Sequestration will not produce a growth economy

Dear Research Advocate,

Sequestration is barreling down on us. With the clock ticking to March 1, there are disturbing indications that Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are prepared to let sequestration move forward. It sounds much too painless to make cuts to a category called “discretionary” — the very word invites belt-tightening — not to mention that this blanket term masks the importance of the programs that would again be damaged (the Budget Control Act took the first swipe at them, and the fiscal cliff agreement, the second). We need to unleash the power of advocacy to put human faces on the rhetoric. We know the reasons research can’t be cut without severe consequences, but do your senators and your representative? It is especially timely to stress the point, made more critical as we heard the news about a decline in GDP, that boosting research investment catalyzes a growth economy.

In this time of critical congressional decision-making, we are very pleased  to report that two champions for research, Senator Burr (R-NC) and Senator Casey (D-PA), will join us at our March 13 Advocacy Awards dinner to receive the Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy. Senators Burr and Casey, have — individually and as a bipartisan team — worked extremely hard to promote a robust medical research pipeline in the U.S. and to ensure patients receive new, safe and effective treatments and technologies on a timely basis. Please contact Carol Kennedy if you would like more information about the Awards dinner. Click here to see a full listing of this year’s honorees. I do hope you can join us!

The Huffington Post carried two excellent articles in support of research funding. Dr. Glenn D. Braunstein of Cedars-Sinai describes the impact of NIH research and urges Congress to avoid the “blunt ax” of sequestration. Dr. William Talman from the University of Iowa writes of the eroding buying power of NIH, which shortchanges all Americans on the return on investment and better health that result from discovery. Inside the Beltway, The Washington Post published a piece by Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, urging Congress to “invest in what’s next.” Dr. Jackson describes the profound impact that advances in science and technology have had on our lives, many of which would have been impossible without federal support.

While the U.S. is contemplating cutbacks to science, Japan is the latest nation to announce multibillion dollar research investments as part of a concerted plan to jumpstart their innovation economy. This is a significant reversal from three years ago when Japanese lawmakers proposed deep cuts to science as part of a budget control plan. Proposals then led to protests from renowned Japanese researchers — a lesson for those who wish to keep funding for research growing even in an era of austerity. The change in the attitude of policy makers, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, can be surmised from his recent quote, “Of course we must aim for number one.” It’s time for stakeholders in the U.S. to do more to prevent counterproductive cuts to our own research enterprise and to assure we maintain our global leadership. I recently participated in a panel convened by the Parkinson’s Action Network that brought out the value, as well as the how-to, of advocacy. You can watch the just-released video here.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Reading Between the Lines, part 2

Dear Research Advocate,

In last week’s letter, I highlighted research-related themes in the Republican National Platform. The good news included explicit support for basic and applied research and a pledge to make the R&D tax credit permanent. The bad news included strident criticism of FDA — such that support for adequate funding was unclear — and opposition to embryonic stem cell research. The Democratic platform asserts that Democrats will “double funding for key basic research agencies.” It also goes further than the Republican platform in improving the research and development tax credit and places a very strong emphasis on science education as critical to our innovation economy. And, it reiterates Democratic support for embryonic stem cell research.

Do platforms matter? Yes and no. Yes, in that the language comes from a broad base of each party’s membership. It lays out principles that we can ask policy makers to adhere to, and we can see how well those principles track with the polls we regularly commission. But also no — as a respected Nobel laureate reminded me in an insightful response to my last letter, it is a mistake to breathe easy based on the rhetoric in these platforms. Actions speak louder than words, and the fact is Republicans and Democrats alike supported the Budget Control Act (BCA), which not only applies across-the-board cuts to research spending but also tightly restrains annual growth in discretionary spending. That makes it difficult to envision any kind of “moonshot” for research or even a basic policy frame that truly promotes research and innovation. Despite what these platforms assert, policy makers have taken their eye off the ball. The public is not happy about that fact. Our new polling data shows that only 19% of likely voters believe elected officials are paying enough attention to combating disease. For more on this point, see my piece this week in The Hill’s Congress Blog. It ends with a call to action to engage the candidates — you can lead the way in doing just that among your network of colleagues, family and friends.

In case you missed it, a U.S. appeals court has upheld the legality of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research — a major victory for advocates and patients alike. See this recent ScienceInsider article to learn more about the ruling.

In past letters, I’ve written extensively about the grave threat that sequester poses to American research and innovation, and the news seems to be getting worse. According to the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, the user fees that FDA collects for review of drugs and devices may be subject to sequestration in addition to the funding provided through taxes. In effect, the FDA budget would be double-slashed with cuts totaling $294 million! Just imagine the havoc that these cuts would wreak on our nation’s ability to bring new, critical treatments to patients. With Congress reconvening next week, please remind lawmakers that they are playing with fire. Research is important. Innovation is important. Blind, across-the board funding cuts aren’t just an abdication of congressional responsibility, they are a divestment in medical and economic progress.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley