Tag Archives: Harry Reid

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Congress is back and there is lots to talk about

Dear Research Advocate,

Congress is back in Washington but still in campaign mode, making its decisions with the election very much in mind. A 6-month continuing resolution (C.R.) is expected to pass momentarily. The C.R. would put off appropriations decision-making until the new Congress has gotten under way, flat-funding the government through March of next year at fiscal 2012 levels. The atmosphere of fiscal uncertainty for the agencies that fund research, and everyone seeking that funding, is in fact demoralizing in the extreme. Compounding the problem is that the C.R. does nothing to address the looming problem of sequestration, which is scheduled to take effect on January 2, 2013. The administration is slated to release a report tomorrow detailing how the sequestration cuts would be implemented at the department and agency level; it is unlikely to single out research and innovation for special protection. Thus it is more important than ever that our stakeholder community unite in a call to stop sequestration. We encourage you to join us and other members of the United for Medical Research (UMR) coalition on September 20 in a press conference at the National Press Club at 9:30 a.m. Please RSVP to sbauer@gpgdc.com.

Last week, a timely op-ed by Michael Milken in the The Wall Street Journal highlighted the wondrous medical advances and economic prosperity that have been made possible through investments in research. The op-ed coincided with the Milken-sponsored Celebration of Science, a weekend-long series of discussions and other events shining a spotlight on the multifaceted contributions of science to the well-being of Americans and populations throughout the world. In the course of the proceedings, both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) spoke forcefully about the high priority the nation must place on medical research.

On Tuesday this week, the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation announced the recipients of the prestigious Lasker Awards – often referred to as the ‘American Nobels’ – which will be presented in New York City later this month. The accomplishments of these awardees exemplify the power of research to unlock knowledge that is of invaluable benefit to society. Mary Lasker, a founder of Research!America, lives on with her hard-hitting message: “If you think research is expensive, try disease!” For timely information on the costs of disease as well as the value and promise of research, see our fact sheets. Use them in your advocacy!

Three other media pieces this week were timed for Congress’ return. Our Your Candidates-Your Health ad is running in Politico now. Use it to leverage your request to candidates to tell us all what they will do to make research a priority. A Washington Post op-ed co-authored by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Research!America board member and AAAS Executive Director Dr. Alan Leshner fights back against kneejerk reactions to research based on the name of the project and/or the misconception that science is a mechanical process rather than an iterative, dynamic one. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and others have come together to recognize outstanding researchers whose contributions belie their detractors with the first Golden Goose Award ceremony.

With her letter in the The Wall Street Journal, Ellen Sigal, chairman and founder of Friends of Cancer Research and a Research!America Board member, emphasizes that the views and values of patients must be taken into account when FDA makes the risk vs. benefit calculations that factor so importantly in drug approval decisions. She points out that “risk” is in the eye of the beholder when a new drug is the last and best hope for a terminally ill patient. It is a welcome development that more patients and patient groups are stepping up to take their rightful place in the research process, ultimately driving it across the finish line faster. Patient engagement with Congress has always been high impact; now we need it to influence candidates to make medical progress a top national priority.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Congress is heading your way – resist the temptation to duck!

Dear Research Advocate,

Just before leaving Washington for five weeks, Congressional leaders Harry Reid and John Boehner announced agreement on a continuing resolution (“C.R.”) to fund the government until March 2013. In what has become routine, appropriations decisions will be deferred far beyond the October 1 beginning of the federal fiscal year. The leaders’ agreement, motivated by the need to avert a government shutdown, would leave NIH, FDA, AHRQ, CDC and the NSF with steady-state budgets, which is at least a better outcome than proposals for cuts pending before the House right now. But don’t take your eye off the ball! All kinds of mischief is possible between now and March, including modification of the measure before Congress votes on it in September, and other detrimental funding decisions driven by the “fiscal cliff.”

The need for a C.R. is the latest signal to the citizenry that our government is dysfunctional. To the research enterprise, it delivers yet another message of instability. As Lilly CEO John Lechleiter reminds us in a recent Forbes article, the U.S. is now ranked second to last among 44 nations in a measure of the ingredients that power technological innovation. Taking a step toward reversing this course, the Senate Finance Committee took action on the R&D tax credit. That said, their proposal is a mixed bag. The credit would be reinstated for 2 years, which is a positive sign in the current budget climate, but none of the needed improvements to the credit would be made. Research!America will be weighing in on behalf of the strongest credit possible, and I hope you will do the same.

As you develop your message to those running for Congress, don’t forget to take a stand against micromanagement of science. A timely reminder of how our society can be hamstrung in coping with a difficult challenge is recalling that the CDC was prohibited, beginning in the late 1990s, from conducting research on preventing gun-related injuries. Take a moment to read a thought-provoking op-ed in The Washington Post by former Congressman Jay Dickey and Mark Rosenberg, president of the Task Force for Global Health. In the wake of the Aurora tragedy, the authors call attention to the need for research on gun-related injuries if we are to formulate evidence-based policies that will save lives.

For all these reasons and more, please take action in August – don’t take a break from the Congress while they are running for election – run right toward them to make our case! I urge you to attend town hall meetings, visit the home offices of your senators and representatives, stop by various campaign headquarters, and make your message heard. Please call me or Ellie Dehoney at 703-739-2577 if we can provide talking points, data or other materials that may be useful in your advocacy or if you just want to brainstorm ideas. I’ve been pounding on the importance of getting candidates on the record – this is absolutely essential to our cause. Please do your part via the Your Candidates – Your Health voter education initiative.

As part of our own outreach to campaigns, Research!America has been working with scientists and patients to produce short YouTube videos that illustrate the importance of  research and to urge campaigns to participate. Take a moment to watch the researcher videos on our new webpage and share them with your networks. Then tape and send us your own! This is an opportunity to participate in “reality” media. And what could be more real than your own story – as a patient, a caregiver, a researcher or an entrepreneur?

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

P.S. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has scheduled a call to discuss the potential impacts of sequestration on funding for science and technology. The call is being held Wednesday, August 8th at 2pm – click here to RSVP.