Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bush Vetoes Domestic Spending Bill That Includes Autism Research, Education Funds

President Bush today vetoed a bill that autism advocates say would have increased funding for autism research, data collection on autism diagnosis studies, and provided more awareness and training for professionals working with autistic students. Some autism advocates are calling on Congress to override the president's veto.

The money involved—$1 million at the National Institutes of Health for research, $16.5 million at the Centers for Disease Control for the population studies, and another $37 million for awareness programs—is a relative pittance when compared with the billions of dollars in disagreements you're about to read in the quotes from government leaders that follow. It demonstrates how difficult it can be to get federal funds appropriated for a cause that just a year ago enjoyed wide bipartisan support, when Bush signed the Combating Autism Act into law.

These autism-related items are part of a much larger spending bill that also pertains to education, health and anti-poverty programs.

Partisan Bickering—and the Iraq War

Bush issued a statement saying the domestic spending proposal from Congress, called the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Conference Report, costs too much and contains too many "earmarks," spending provisions for projects in local Congressional districts. The president's statement said: "This year, the Congress plans to overspend my budget by $22 billion, of which $10 billion is for increases in this bill. Health care, education, job training, and other goals can be achieved without this excessive spending if the Congress sets priorities."

Leaders of the appropriations committees in the House and Senate, both Democrats, sought to point out the relative low cost of the programs designed to make Americans' lives better, compared with the mounting cost of the Iraq war and Bush's tax policies.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wisconsin, chairman of the House budget panel, issued this statement:

“The same President who is asking us to spend another $200 billion on the misguided war in Iraq and is insisting on providing $60 billion in tax cuts next year to folks who make over a million bucks a year, is now pretending to protect the deficit by refusing to provide a $6 billion increase to crucial domestic investments in education, healthcare, medical research and worker protections that will make this country stronger."

Senator Robert Byrd, D-W. Virginia, chairman of the Senate appropriations committee, issued a similar statement, urging the White House to return to negotiating with Congress on the budget.

Autism Society Calls for Veto Override

Since the Bush White House has not developed a reputation for negotiating with Congress, it is not surprising that advocates at the Autism Society of America are urging its membership to contact their representatives in Congress to override the president's veto.

Here's an excerpt from the argument the society is encouraging autism advocates make to their members of Congress urging them to override the president's veto:

This important legislation would provide significant increases for autism research, public awareness, early intervention and education. Specifically, the measure calls for:

* A 3.1 percent increase in research at the National Institutes of Health, a portion of which can be used to expand, intensify and coordinate research into the causes, diagnosis, early detection, prevention, services, supports, intervention and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. This includes $1 million to reinstitute the Inter-Agency Autism Coordinating Committee.

* $16.5 million for the CDC's Disabilities Surveillance and Research Program, which supports data collection, analysis and reporting, so that we can better understand the scope of the autism epidemic.

* $37 million to increase awareness, reduce barriers to screening and diagnosis, promote evidence-based interventions for individuals with autism and train professionals to utilize valid and reliable screening tools to diagnose autism and provide evidence-based interventions for children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

These important increases will ensure that research into improved treatments and interventions can be explored, and that children with autism are diagnosed earlier, can access early intervention services, and are able to receive a quality education.

President Bush's veto seriously endangers our ability to diagnose, treat and serve individuals with autism and their families.


Anonymous said...

Rarely have I seen it put so clearly - we can't help our kids b/c we need to spend the money on an at best questionable war. I hope the autism society of america web site has a list of congresspeople who are likely to override the veto so we can lobby.

Jackie said...

Very shortsighted. Yay to Rep. Obey (I'm from Wisconsin). I mused about if people realize what's coming just a few days ago on my own blog:


By the way, I just discovered your blog. My husband is an IT professional and so was I before I had to leave due to my son's autism. We know a lot of IT people with children with autism. Have you noticed that, too?

Michael Goldberg said...

Thanks for the comments. You can find your member of the House of Representatives by going to the House website.

As for IT people with children on the autism spectrum, I have heard anecdotal evidence that scientists and technologists are very interested in following autism news. The editors of the popular website Slashdot.org even sometimes post autism-related science news for the benefit of their readership of technology professionals.