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Autism Act Clears Senate After Last-Minute Deal

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The U.S. Senate approved an extension of the country’s primary autism legislation late Monday night after a group of Republicans agreed to lift a hold on the bill.

The reauthorization of the Combating Autism Act now heads to President Barack Obama’s desk.

White House officials say the president plans to sign the measure, which calls for $231 million for each of the next three years to fund everything from autism research to prevalence tracking, training, education, early identification and intervention programs.

Despite broad bipartisan support for the autism bill, a group of Republican senators had placed a hold on it, arguing that Congress should not be directly setting the priorities of research dollars in favor of one condition over another.

After days of uncertainty, the bill’s sponsor Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., struck a deal with the opposing Republicans late Monday night at what one Senate aide described as “quite literally the last minute.”

Under the deal, Menendez agreed to request a report from the Government Accountability Office assessing the use of federal autism dollars. In exchange, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., allowed the bill to move forward.

Shortly after, the Senate approved the measure on a voice vote — the last before senators left for a planned break until next week.

“This reauthorization had been blocked by a few Republicans for more than two weeks, causing families coping with autism in New Jersey and across our nation unnecessary anxiety over the fate of the research programs and support services they have come to rely upon,” Menendez said. “Last night’s actions will provide families the security in knowing these programs will continue for another three years.”

The vote could not have come too soon for advocates who favor the autism act’s extension. The current version of the Combating Autism Act is set to expire at the end of the September and without reauthorization, supporters said many programs funded under the bill would lapse.

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Comments (6 Responses)

  1. msamericanpatriot says:

    This would force people with autism to have to register with the Feds as if they are some kind of criminal. It would dictate ALL aspects of a person with autism’s life. We are NOT criminals. I am so high functioning I can NOT stand when people tell me what to do when it comes to certain aspects of my life. Ones of us that are married could be forced to divorce and those of us who want to be married and want the things that come with marriage will be curtailed to no end. This is flat out wrong and inhumane. DeMint says that this stuff is covered under other bills then let it be covered under them and leave this bill in the dustbin where it rightfully belongs.

  2. dadgum says:

    comments?

  3. disabilitiesrightsadvocate says:

    As an advocate, I acknowledge the impact that research has on progress, however I would think that it is more important to provide funding for programs and services that work directly with consumers in order to assist individuals with autism or other disabilities to reach their maximum potential, live independently and dictate their own fate. It saddens me to learn that our government is willing to fund efforts which are essentially developing methods at combating autism, rather than focusing on efforts to provide support on behalf of those with disabilities.

  4. waywilldo says:

    Dear msamericanpatriot,
    This program has already been in place for a number of years now. Nothing exists that even resembles what you are talking about. I am an autism specialist working with families and individuals with autism everyday. There are many laws and constitutional guarantees that protect you and me from what you are describing. The other issue is that there is not nearly enough funding to help everyone with autism so every dollar counts. Please don’t go around telling people untruths like this. There are plenty of problems “enough” for people with autism, who unlike yourself, need this type of federal aid to try and have as normal a life as possible.

  5. bjcoleman35 says:

    msamericanpatriot … Some kind of Criminals?? Everyone is now tracked by the feds in one way, shape or form. However, if this “tracking” is needed to truly assess how the money is being allocated and used than i am all for it. There are Billions upon Billions of unaccounted tax payers dollars for programs across the spectrum and we need to start accounting for what they are used for.

  6. bodey041 says:

    Two things can always be said about msamericanpatriot’s views: 1) They are used to instill fear, and 2) They are never substantiated by any fact.

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