Tag Archives: John Boehner

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: This is your BRAIN on research

Dear Research Advocate,

On Tuesday, the president announced a new $100 million brain research initiative (BRAIN) that will involve NSF, NIH and DARPA and include support from a number of independent research institutes and private foundations. The fact that the White House has announced this “moonshot” is an important sign that research is securing its rightful role as a top national priority, which is critical to our collective goal of eliminating sequestration and aligning research funding with scientific opportunity. The president will include BRAIN in his FY14 budget, which will be released April 10.

In CQ, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) expressed support for the BRAIN initiative but commented that it should be funded by redirecting money from social and political science programs, a sentiment echoed in a statement from Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) office. Social and political science programs are a critical piece of our nation’s research portfolio. We are cosponsoring a Hill briefing on this topic Friday — Economics Research: Saving Lives and Money. Leader Cantor has also announced a new bill that would increase NIH funding by $200 million in order to support new research that may include pediatric diseases like autism, paying for it by redirecting public funding away from presidential campaigns.

Sequestration remains a topic generating huge interest in the media. Our community is succeeding in making sure the impact of sequestration on science is part of the conversation. USA Today ran an article describing how reduced funding and success rates for basic research is leading young researchers away from careers in academic science. The Huffington Post published a thought-provoking op-ed co-authored by Drs. Neal Lane and Peter Hotez at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine, respectively. They discuss the importance of creating a cadre of scientist-advocates or “civic-scientists” in order to engage with the public and policy makers. In The Hill, Dr. Leroy Hood, president of the Institute for Systems Biology, describes how medical breakthroughs can help solve the budget crisis through a new era of P4 medicine, which could deliver lifesaving cures and treatments to lower health care spending while powering our economy. PBS’ “NewsHour” and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes covered sequestration’s impact on science last evening and on their websites. Local media are highlighting how sequestration could impact individual institutions, such as this article illustrating the impact on front-line medical research. For those of you at institutions that have not as yet been covered by the media, now is the time to write an op-ed or reach out to your local newspaper. We can help; just ask.

The next big statement the research community will be making about the importance of research will be the Rally for Medical Research on April 8. I hope to see you there! Our board chair, former Congressman John Porter, will be among the many research champions speaking out  at the event sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). We are working to continue the momentum of the Rally so that the value of bringing together so many organizations (175 and counting) can be leveraged on a continuing basis.

Watch for our release of a new poll in conjunction with a panel discussion to be held on Capitol Hill, Conquering Pain & Fighting Addiction, on April 8 at 4 p.m. Conquering chronic pain without fear of addiction is a goal research can help address. These are topics that are underappreciated even as they are highly charged, causing great anguish as well as great suffering.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Bungee-Jumping into the New Year

Dear Research Advocate,

Since I wrote with a note of optimism last week, Speaker Boehner was unable to hold his caucus, and both houses of Congress summarily recessed. As of today they remain at a virtual standoff, with the House calling for passage of a bill to extend all tax cuts and the Senate calling for passage of a bill to let rates expire on families making more than $250,000 per year. The current 112th Congress and the White House are unlikely to come to terms on a deal this year. And now the rhetoric has changed to describing a fiscal cliff effect that isn’t irreparable (thus “bungee jumping,” per a Bank of America economist), with the Administration using damage-delay maneuvers until the new Congress springs into action in the first weeks of 2013. Or maybe things will drag on for months, again? Clearly, “deadlines” have lost their meaning; politics trumps all. Perhaps the markets will force action as they did over TARP. For all of us, stakeholders in research — patients and caregivers, researchers, universities, and industry — the message is that elected officials continue to ignore our interests.

On a positive note, increased media attention to the impact of the fiscal cliff has provided opportunities for researchers to describe the very real consequences of deep spending cuts. In response to an interview request from CBS News, we asked Dr. Kerri Mowen of the Scripps Research Institute to describe how medical research would be affected by the fiscal cliff for a segment that aired on the CBS Evening News on Christmas Eve. Stories like this are crucial for maintaining the drumbeat on the consequences of budget cuts from both a health and economic standpoint. Fewer grants mean fewer discoveries and massive job losses at research facilities and industries nationwide. “Cliff diving” will rupture the drug discovery pipeline and hinder medical progress, an outcome most Americans fear and dread, according to our polls.

We must start the new year with a renewed focus on personalizing the reasons research should be prioritized. The health and well-being of Americans is at stake. Make one of your New Year’s resolutions a pledge to do more to engage lawmakers and the general public. We can help; call on us early and often!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Cliff diving and appropriations, too

Dear Research Advocate,

Congress is back and there is talk of more stalemate, with support wavering for a deal to avert the fiscal cliff before the end of the year. Speaker John Boehner said early today that “no substantive progress has been made” on negotiations. Amazingly, inaction (going over the cliff) remains a possibility. The more likely scenario is a short-term fix that leaves the major decisions in the hands of the next Congress. In the midst of behind-the-scenes negotiations between congressional leadership and the White House, appropriators are talking about finalizing their bills before the end of the lame-duck session rather than waiting to revisit the current continuing resolution in the new Congress. They would likely use an omnibus appropriations bill, creating a vehicle for funding the damage from Superstorm Sandy. If this scenario plays out — and it’s a long-shot — it is possible that more cuts to research and other discretionary spending will be embedded in the omnibus.

This is yet another compelling reason to get involved now in research advocacy. At every turn in the current policymaking process, biomedical and health research is at risk. If you have not called your senators and congressional representative, now truly is the time. In addition, you can take advantage of the sample materials in our Save Research online toolkit to personalize op-eds, letters to the editor, social media messages and more.

If you do decide to speak up, you will be joining a movement that is gaining traction. For the first time ever, our community has been included in a list in an Associated Press article that features defense and oil and gas interests as those being heard in Washington. Indeed, a broad array of media has been picking up our story.

An op-ed in Politico co-authored by six former CDC directors urges Congress to maintain CDC funding amidst the deficit reduction negotiations. The piece highlights the critical role that CDC plays in protecting public health, citing the recent fungal meningitis outbreak. The directors register concern about a system so tightly constrained that it can’t respond to a crisis without compromising health in other areas. Further cuts would be catastrophic. A similar point about the dangers of compromising key public health capacity was made by Dr. Herb Pardes in an opinion piece in the New York Daily News. This is the time to state your case; tell the media, your elected representatives and anyone who will listen just what is at stake.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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.