Tag Archives: Tom Harkin

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Ask Your Senators to Support the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act

Funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has remained flat in recent years, and uncertainty is growing over the ability of universities and other research institutions to conduct the noncommercial medical research underlying new preventative measures, diagnostic tools, treatments, and cures. In response to significant concerns about the erosion of NIH’s purchasing power, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has introduced legislation, the Advancing Biomedical Research Act, that empowers Congress to provide up to 10% increases in NIH funding for FY 2015 and FY 2016, and up to 5% increases through 2021. These increases are more than justified by the scientific opportunity unleashed when the human genome was sequenced. And that’s just one of the developments that has set the stage for accelerated medical progress. We need to conquer Alzheimer’s Disease, cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, and other deadly and disabling health threats…and we can. Show Congress that you support Senator Harkin’s efforts to fuel medical progress. Urge the senators who represent you to support the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act now!

Take action.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: A long letter with timely news

Dear Research Advocate:

Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) — one of the most effective and dedicated champions of medical and health research ever to serve in public office — introduced major new legislation, the Accelerate Biomedical Research Act.  This visionary legislation would increase the budget caps in order to boost National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding to $46.2 billion by FY 2021, a strategy for restoring NIH purchasing power without cutting into funding for other national priorities. You can view my statement on the legislation here and our thank you letter to the Senator here.  It would be terrific if you would write a letter of support for the legislation and send a message encouraging your Senator to sign on.

There’s more good news to share! The Senate Labor-H bill and accompanying report language were released today.  We are grateful to Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Labor-H Subcommittee Chairman Harkin for helping to conceive of, and agreeing to include, report language to fund a Blue Ribbon Commission on science literacy and public appreciation of science. We’re pleased to have played a role in making this happen but every science advocate deserves credit when federal leaders take a step like this.

In terms of FY15 funding, you may recall that the Senate Labor-H subcommittee proposed NIH be funded at $30.5 billion, a $605.7 million increase, or about a 2% bump over FY14 levels.  The proposed measure also funds CDC at nearly $6 billion, a 3.3% increase from FY14 and funds AHRQ at $373.3 million, a mere .6% increase from FY14.  With the appropriations momentum stalled, rumors are floating around the Hill that the House will soon consider a Continuing Resolution or CR (extending current spending levels) through the election and potentially into December.  Continue reading →

Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on the Accelerate Biomedical Research Act

Research!America applauds Senator Tom Harkin for taking bold, decisive action to heal fissures in our nation’s research pipeline with legislation that will strengthen the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget over the next six years. The Accelerate Biomedical Research Act will establish a pathway for sustained growth in the NIH budget. That budget has remained virtually stagnant over the last decade, jeopardizing promising research to combat disease and deflating the aspirations of early career scientists. NIH-funded research fuels the development of lifesaving therapies and treatments, and creates opportunities for public-private partnerships to better understand Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and other major health threats here and abroad.

Senator Harkin and other congressional leaders recognize the potential of innovative research, but it is Senator Harkin who is taking the lead at a time when too many elected officials appear to have taken their eyes off the ball with our global leadership in science and technology at risk. China and other countries are aggressively increasing their research and development investments, luring scientists to their shores and challenging our dominance in medical research and innovation. According to polling commissioned by Research!America, a majority of Americans are skeptical that the U.S. will maintain its pre-eminence in science by the year 2020, and many policy experts agree. We urge Congress to support the Accelerate Biomedical Research Act to improve the health of Americans and ensure our global competitiveness.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Research!America: Talk is cheap; bipartisanship is priceless

Dear Research Advocate:

The doubling of the National Institutes of Health budget between FY99 and FY03 is an example of Congress at its most productive … and it hinged on bipartisanship. A small group of Republicans and Democrats recognized the power of medical progress, and they worked together to increase the budget baseline for NIH by nearly $11.5 billion. Without that doubling, and with the stagnation of virtually all non-defense discretionary funding that followed on its heels, which groundbreaking medical discoveries would still lie dormant? Which of those we hold dear would not be alive today?

Research!America Chair and former Congressman John Porter, who chaired the House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee, was one of a relatively small group of champions on that bipartisan team. On Monday, March 31, the National Institutes of Health held a dedication ceremony for the John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center. NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, Senators Tom Harkin and Mark Kirk, renowned researchers and NIH alumni Dr. Gerald Fischbach and Dr. Steven Hyman, and other distinguished leaders paid tribute to Congressman Porter, acknowledging his staunch commitment to bipartisanship and his extraordinary contribution to advancing medical research. As Congressman Porter emphasized during his remarks, the two are not unrelated. The severe partisan divide in Congress has served to perpetuate the stagnation of NIH resources, both by compromising the deliberative process that is meant to inform the prioritization of appropriated dollars and by stymying tax and entitlement reform. Scientists must fight back, buoyed by the high esteem in which they are held by the public and armed with unique insights into the societal benefits of investing in research. View photos of the dedication ceremony here and our statement here. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: “Good” news that might not last

Dear Research Advocate:

This week the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to increase NIH funding by $307 million in FY14, an increase largely due to the unwavering support of Labor-HHS subcommittee Chair Tom Harkin and Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski. The Senate bill also increases funding for the CDC by $1.6 billion over FY13. It is important to note that the Senate bill does not include sequestration reductions, but Mikulski has vowed to fight these dangerous, continued cuts. (See my brief statement on this week’s Senate action.) We all realize that these proposed funding levels are not adequate to capitalize on the current opportunity in science and respond robustly to the needs of patients and their families, but they are significantly better than what the House has in store. The overall funding level in the House Labor-HHS bill, which includes NIH, CDC and AHRQ, is 26% less than the Senate’s proposal, leaving the outcome of any kind of budget deal bleak indeed. “Compromise” between the two houses would be significantly worse than a continuing resolution, and sequestration is still in place. In short, the welcome action of the Senate is not likely to become the law of the land.  We have work to do!

Congress can be an insular place, as evidenced by cuts policy makers are weighing for research and other basic government functions. Outside Congress, the implications of underfunding are all too real. Take the story of Navy veteran and cancer patient Bryan Fazio, who exemplifies American values and whose story is a testament to the importance of continued research. We may lose this amazing young man, but with continued research we can save others struggling with this disease. Please join me in contacting Members of Congress and urging them to support robust funding for health and research during the FY14 appropriations process and beyond.

Lawmakers across the pond recognize the importance of investing in research. British Chancellor George Osborne announced a capital investment commitment of £1.1 billion ($1.661 billion) a year in the science budget through the end of the decade, influenced by the strong case made by the U.K. National Academies for the economic benefits of research (see report). The U.K., under a conservative government and with an austerity budget, has made a national commitment to science and research. They are not alone. Australia’s federal government recently announced a $13.5 million ($12.42 million U.S.) investment in research to improve primary care, including a research partnership with Canada. Other nations are following suit and ramping up research; isn’t it ironic that the U.S. wrote the playbook but now appears to be ceding global leadership? I don’t think it is a choice the American people are making. Based on our polling data and a number of recent radio interviews around the nation, I have come to the conclusion that Americans are taking for granted that policy makers are giving research a high priority, and since policy makers are not hearing from their constituents, they are not thinking twice about cutting research as part of deficit reduction. People are surprised to find out that research isn’t the priority it once was; surprised to learn about cuts that have already occurred; and openly shocked to hear about further cuts being proposed. I implore you to join me in setting the record straight and connecting the dots for people you know who might be taking research funding for granted. We must inform Americans and then translate the shock of understanding into advocacy. We have been urging more Americans to speak out via Twitter using the hashtag #curesnotcuts. Please join in.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley’s Statement on Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee Markup of FY14 Bill

July 9, 2013

 The Senate subcommittee markup of the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education FY14 spending bill goes a step in the right direction in softening the blow sequestration has dealt to the hopes and expectations of patients and their families. Sequestration’s across-the-board spending cuts have sent no-confidence signals across the full ecosystem of medical research and innovation in the public and private sector. There’s a reason that, according to a recent national public opinion poll commissioned by Research!America, nearly half of Americans (48%) do not believe we are making enough progress in medical research in the U.S. This nation can’t push ahead forcefully with one hand tied behind its back. Our global leadership in research and development is at risk as other countries accelerate investments in research and development and roll out the welcome mat for young scientists unable to secure grants in the U.S. as a result of spending cuts. We commend Senators Tom Harkin and Jerry Moran and members of the subcommittee for their efforts to restore the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget, and urge the full committee to do still more. There’s no downside to doing all we can to support research that will help us improve health, drive our economy and contribute to the nation’s security. That’s the track record of the NIH; this is not the time to shortchange it.

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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: We can’t let up now

Dear Research Advocate,

Glimmers of hope can be found in the dire funding situation we face under sequestration. The continuing resolution (C.R.) funding the government through the end of the fiscal year (September 30) included very small increases for NIH, CDC, NSF and FDA; AHRQ was flat funded. But the fact remains that these increases were overwhelmed by the effect of sequestration, which remains in place and will continue to weigh us down for 10 years unless overturned. Our champions in Congress are speaking out and taking a stand on behalf of research as the budget negotiation proceeds. Reps. McKinley (R-WV) and Markey (D-MA) have co-authored a letter to House appropriators calling for $32 billion for NIH in FY14, a $1.5 billion increase. Take action right away and urge your representatives to sign on! Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) delivered a powerful floor speech highlighting the bipartisan importance of investing in NIH. In the Senate, Sens. Durbin, Mikulski, Moran and Cardin sponsored an amendment to the budget resolution calling for increased investment for biomedical research at the NIH. While this move is largely symbolic, it demonstrates the level of bipartisan commitment of our champions. You can view Senator Durbin’s statement here as well as the Research!America statement. And special thanks are due to Senator Harkin for his effort to provide NIH with a $244 million increase as part of the C.R. His sustained leadership has helped in so many ways to sustain NIH through good times and bad. Read our statement on his amendment here.

Congress is on recess and getting an earful from their constituents. A new public opinion poll shows that people are extremely angry at Congress but don’t see that sequestration is going to be a problem. That’s why it’s important to connect the dots. Hooray for a flurry of articles published in newspapers in Baltimore, Lancaster (PA), Los Angeles and Seattle —all emphasizing the damage being done by sequestration. More are called for! In a pulling-no-punches editorial in Science, Dr. Bruce Alberts lays out his concerns for the future of research, a future that is closely linked to the decisions our elected officials will make over the coming months. He invites responses; you can weigh in.

Many of you may be aware of our upcoming panel discussion on April 8 — Conquering Pain & Fighting Addiction: Policy Imperatives to Combat a Growing Health Crisis — featuring thought leaders on issues relating to pain and addiction. This a critical topic of growing national importance with a major role for research — I hope you can join us. Register here. Earlier in the day, the entire staff of Research!America will join tens of thousands of advocates at the Rally for Medical Research on the steps of the Carnegie Library in Washington, DC. Let’s all join forces that day to drive home the message that research must be a higher national priority.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Will Policy Makers let Rome Burn?

Dear Research Advocate,

Today, the Senate is planning to vote on a bipartisan continuing resolution from Sens. Mikulski and Shelby to fund the federal government through the end of the year. The good news is that the bill includes an increase, albeit small ($71 million) in NIH funding; Senator Harkin tried, unsuccessfully, unfortunately, to increase NIH even further, and Senator Durbin worked on an ambitious amendment to add more than $1.5 billion to the NIH budget. We truly appreciate the efforts of all of these champions and the fact that NIH funding was singled out for an increase on a bipartisan basis by the Appropriations Committee. The bad news is that sequestration will wipe out all of these increases. The most likely outcome of the Senate appropriations process is a cut to NIH in the $1.5 billion range. While our community’s herculean advocacy efforts over the last several months are paying off — medical research funding is clearly receiving priority consideration — sequestration is sweeping away our progress. We must continue to fight this policy mistake, with its 10 years of consequences. Take a minute right now to speak out to your representatives. And plan, on April 8, to join the research community at a Rally in D.C. to fight for medical research. Learn more here.

Another amendment offered to the Senate legislation would eliminate political science research at NSF by transferring those dollars to the National Cancer Institute. This amendment sets a dangerous precedent that threatens the integrity and value of research. For years, leaders in Congress from both sides of the aisle, including Research!America’s chairman, former Congressman John Porter, have fought off attempts by Congress to micromanage research. We must fight to keep research decisions off the House and Senate floors and in the hands of scientists and patients.

The House and Senate budget resolutions for FY14, which were also introduced this week, are emblematic of the problem we, as a country, face. The ideological divide is so great that “a grand bargain,” one that will balance the federal budget without decimating our economy and forsaking our determination to defeat disabling and deadly diseases, seems impossible. But Congress and the White House report to the American people. We can and must demand compromise between competing views of the government’s role, and we must stand up for priorities like fighting diseases that threaten our own and future generations. No more political party posturing usurping the governing process. No more across-the-board cuts. FY14 must bring with it pragmatism, prioritization and policy making that puts the country first. Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has penned a compelling op-ed in Roll Call capturing these sentiments.

Switching gears in this very big week, I’d like to thank all who were able to join us for yesterday’s Annual Meeting and Advocacy Awards dinner. We heard truly inspirational remarks from Sens. Richard Burr and Bob Casey, champions of the entire ecosystem behind U.S.-driven medical progress. Our other award winners — John Crowley, Diane Rehm, Dr. John Mendelsohn, Dr. Mark Rosenberg and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine — are strong advocates for research; we salute their achievements.

Finally, as I announced at our Board meeting, I’m proud that Research!America has entered into a letter of agreement with our sister organizations in Australia, Canada and Sweden to ensure international collaboration by sharing best practices in advocacy for research for health. While our organizations operate in different countries and in distinctly different political environments, we have in common a fundamental commitment to making biomedical and health research a higher global priority.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

ACS-CAN Rallies for Cancer Research Funding – With Some Help from Hoops

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), left, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) both spoke at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network rally on Capitol Hill on Thursday. Behind them is Christopher Hansen, president of ACS-CAN.

The American Cancer Society and its advocacy arm, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, kicked off its lobby day on Capitol Hill with a rally that urged Congress to preserve funding for research, prevention and treatment of cancer. But the event wasn’t just about cancer: Four Division I men’s basketball coaches also helped kick off the rally.

But it wasn’t merely a token appearance. The coaches — Tad Boyle of the University of Colorado, Paul Hewitt of George Mason University, Fran McCaffery of the University of Iowa and Mike Rice of Rutgers University — each had a personal story of how cancer had affected them or their families. The coaches are all part of Coaches vs. Cancer, an initiative of the American Cancer Society.

The coaches were joined by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO). John Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer of ACS and ACS-CAN and a Research!America Board member, joined Christopher Hansen, president of ACS-CAN, in welcoming the crowd and introducing the speakers.

For McCaffery, the issue is intensely personal. He explained that he lost both of his parents to colon cancer, and he now participates in a study at Iowa that is researching hereditary aspects of cancer. He also told the story of a 10-year old named Jacob, who visited the Hawkeyes last season. Jacob had advanced brain cancer but was able to enjoy an evening with the Iowa basketball team in its locker room and on its bench.

Four months after the visit, Jacob passed away.

“I think about my parents,” McCaffery said. He’s active in Coaches vs. Cancer “so Jacob could have more birthdays. I promise you, my wife Margaret and I are going to continue this fight.”

Rice, the second speaker, shared a recent story about his 14-year old son and his son’s best friend, who was diagnosed with leukemia. On Labor Day weekend, while nearly all of their friends were at the beach, Rice’s son and his friend were playing video games in a hospital room. One of the boys vowed to the other that he would never again waste a sunny Saturday playing video games.

Later, Rice visited the boy’s parents and told them of Thursday’s event.

“They said, please thank them — the American Cancer Society, the volunteers, the survivors, the researchers, the doctors and the elected public officials for [putting up] this fight,” Rice said.

Boyle told the crowd that he is a newcomer to Coaches vs. Cancer, but that he and his family would be supporting the initiative in whatever way they could.

Hewitt recalled the story of Michael Isenhour, who played for Hewitt at Georgia Tech. Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia prior to the 2001-2002 season, Isenhour underwent treatment but died the following summer.

“Then it really hit home: My dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer,” Hewitt said. “But he was fortunate enough to go to [California] and undergo a breakthrough treatment. And today he’s still teaching me how to coach.”

Harkin and Lautenberg reflected on previous legislative successes — Harkin as the architect of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Lautenberg, who crafted the legislation that banned smoking on airplanes — and vowed to continue the fight. As with the coaches, both senators had up-close encounters with cancer: Harkin lost several siblings to the disease and Lautenberg defeated lymphoma in recent years. Polis surmised that, like so many Americans, most Members of Congress or a member of their families has been affected by cancer.

“[Research] funding is absolutely critical. It’s one of the most valuable investments we as a nation can make,” Polis said. “It’s an investment in our future, an investment in lives.”

“Better therapies and a cure is attainable with the right kind of research and incentives,” Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) said during a rally on Capitol Hill for the lobby day for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. In the background is John Seffrin, PhD, CEO of the American Cancer Society and ACS-CAN and a Research!America Board member.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: The peacock and the ostrich (wait for it…)

Dear Research Advocate,

Sequestration, the looming fiscal cliff, a dangerous House appropriations bill – all were addressed in our members-only call yesterday with Chairman John Porter. As Porter pointed out, we have to keep the big picture in mind, pushing for tax and entitlement reform as part of the larger “fix,” AND, in the immediate, we have to cry foul about the House bill and sequestration. Right now, while Congress is still in session, we must flood their offices, and the Administration, with calls and e-mails. Take 30 seconds to send a message to your representatives to remind them that medical research should be among our nation’s highest priorities. And – as was emphasized by many on the call – keep in mind that even as we step up advocacy we must resist the temptation to go after our own piece of the pie or be lured into supporting unprecedented congressional micromanagement of NIH. NIH micromanagement threatened now, CDC micromanaged in the past and now facing a steep cut, AHRQ eliminated – we have to halt all this in its tracks!

We must all stand shoulder to shoulder with one another.  Take a stand against every aspect of micromanagement whenever it rears its ugly head – speak up, for example, against baring the NIH from funding research in the critical field of health economics. Click here to sign on to the letter at COSSA@cossa.org.

Have you noticed the vast difference between how the defense community is working to stop sequestration, in contrast to the rest of us? There are millions of us who care about health and research for health every bit as much as we care about defense. Yet it’s the defense stakeholders who are speaking with one voice, and are loud and proud in strutting their stuff to remind us of what is at stake – they are the peacocks to our ostrich-like image, not ready for prime time! The good news is that we, part of the non-defense discretionary (NDD) community, have lifted our heads out of the sand and are starting to be heard. Yesterday on the Hill, hundreds of advocates attended a rally to raise awareness regarding the importance of federal agencies and programs funded from the non-defense discretionary budget. Senator Harkin (D-IA), the chair of the Senate subcommittee that sets funding for NIH, CDC, and AHRQ, spoke at the rally and released this report detailing the impact of sequester on these programs. The media is taking increased notice; now we must all leverage this to make NDD funding an issue that is impossible to ignore.

Speaking of media, check out a recent piece in the Providence Journal  and this story in Bloomberg Businessweek, about how AHRQ-funded research saves both lives and money.  As I mentioned, the House bill would eliminate this critical agency.  AcademyHealth has launched a campaign to save AHRQ and stop other damage — we should add our voice to #No4LaborH on Twitter – social media is critical in these times; get involved!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

P.S. We lost an American hero this week. Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, died from pancreatic cancer. She was only 61. Her many accomplishments and dedication to promoting science education is inspirational. To ensure a strong, sustained bioscience ecosystem, we must carry forth her legacy by fighting for robust STEM education programs as part of the research pipeline. Her life and dedication to breaking barriers reminds me how far our nation has come in terms of scientific and social progress, while her untimely death is a testament to the importance of individual scientists taking time to be educators and advocates.