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Senate Republicans Move To Derail Autism Act


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The U.S. House of Representatives approved an extension of major autism legislation Tuesday evening, but the bill’s future remains unclear.

The Combating Autism Act, which dates from 2006 and allocates millions for autism research, training and infrastructure, will expire at the end of this month if Congress does not act.

An effort to extend the bill for an additional three years was approved by a voice vote in the House on Tuesday.

Just hours before, however, a clash on the Senate floor revealed fresh opposition in Congress to the measure. When the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., called for his colleagues to give unanimous consent to the autism legislation, a group of Republican senators objected.

“All of us who object support autism research… but it makes absolutely no sense for us from where we sit to try to play scientist and physician,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.

In addition to opposing condition-specific legislation, DeMint, who was joined by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., in speaking against the bill, said the measure was not necessary in order to continue current research programs which are funded under other appropriations bills.

Following Tuesday’s events, it is unclear what will happen next with the autism bill, which has received broad bipartisan support otherwise.

If the legislation does gain Senate approval, Obama administration officials have indicated that the president is “fully committed” to reauthorizing the act, which calls for $231 million annually to fund everything from autism research to prevalence tracking, education, early identification and intervention programs.

For their part, proponents of the measure, including Autism Speaks and the Autism Society, hailed the House passage Tuesday evening in emails to supporters, leaving out any mention of the hurdles in the Senate.

At the same time, others within the autism community are working against the bill, saying that it focuses too little on services and the needs of adults with the developmental disorder.

“The Combating Autism Act has failed to provide for the direct needs of families and individuals with autism,” said Ari Ne’eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

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Comments (5 Responses)

  1. mjm6783 says:

    Once again the partisan actions of Congress deflect attention away from legitimate concerns with the proposed legislation. Our representatives should be debating the ways in which funding is allocated, the role of government in scientific research, and whether prevention, treatment or support is the best approach.

    Instead it’s become a Black and White issue. One side arguing for unregulated funding, the other for cutting funding all together. If we continue to elect extremists and political panderers we can expect further setbacks, especially for the vulnerable members of society, (children, the elderly, people with disabilities, the homeless).

    It is good that the House passed the bill, but without some serious discussion regarding how we spend this money, it may be a somewhat hollow victory.

  2. marklolson says:

    Ari Ne’eman does not represent the needs of families and individuals with autism. Once again, Ne’eman has demonstrated that the only needs he represents are his own personal issues. He needs to step down from the National Council on Disability. In addition to undermining CARA, he is abusing his position on the Council to push ASAN’s agenda to catastrophically rewrite the benefits for housing and services provided by the Medicaid HCBS waiver, endangering the welfare of thousands of adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.

    Senators DeMint and Coburn speak falsely when they say they support autism research because if they did they would not be objecting to CARA. They would support it and then ask “what else needs to be done?” Let’s remember that Sen. DeMint stated in his 2010 re-election bid that not only should gays and lesbians be prohibited from teaching in public schools, his ban would extend to sexually-active (how would that be determined?) unmarried men and women. And Sen. Coburn threw a tantrum and walked out of the Gang of Six when he didn’t get his way. Neither Senator is a leader or compassionate about the needs of the disabled.

  3. msamericanpatriot says:

    I see where DeMint is coming from. I am autistic and I do NOT support this bill. This bills sounds as if it will CRIMINALIZE autism by making people register. It would dictate how an autistic individual is to live ALL aspects of their life which may be fine for those who are lower functioning but it doesn’t sit well with me and my HIGH FUNCTIONING ability. I do NOT like to be told how to live my life. A bill like this COULD prevent autistic people from having romantic relationships and things of that nature. Apparently you aint thinking this thing through. They say these services are covered under other legislation then let it be covered under that other legislation and NOT as a separate entity. I do NOT like being seen as a criminal which is what this sounds like to me.

  4. starling1313 says:

    Neither party represents the needs of families and individuals with autism, except during election cycles. How long are we going to let them sucker us like this? Our non=profits aren’t doing much better. As a life long party line voting conservative let me say; may God help our children with Autism if Perry becomes President or Obama wins again. Enough said on that.

  5. bodey041 says:

    True to msamericanpatriot’s form she again engages in hyperbole and misrepresentations to attempt to impose your limited view of the world on others.

    This bill does none of which she claims. What it does is provide much needed resources for treatments and educational opportunities for individuals with ASD.

    It is msamericanpatriot who would have individuals with disabilities be prisoners of a system which continues to have a microcosmic view of disabilities. The community of individuals with disabilities would prefer to live in a macrocosmic viewing world.

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