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Autism CARES Rolls Out Of House, Senate Hearing On Tap

WASHINGTON, DC (June 24, 2014) -- The U.S. House of Representatives tonight approved a five-year extension of federal funding for autism research, monitoring and other activities with strong bipartisan support. A Senate committee plans to take up the bill tomorrow as Congress races a September 30 deadline to get final legislation before President Obama.

Called Autism CARES, the House and Senate bills, would reauthorize the 2006 Combating Autism Act through the 2019 federal budget, calling for $260 million annually in new federal funding, a revamped Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), and an initiative to address the growing needs of adults with autism. The legislation would also institute stronger accountability controls over the use of federal funding.

"Autism Speaks expresses its gratitude to the House of Representatives and our bipartisan champions, Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), for delivering the support and priority attention this legislation demands," said Autism Speaks President Liz Feld. "Autism is this nation's fastest growing neuro-developmental disability and now costs the United States $239 billion a year. Doing nothing is not an option."

Autism Speaks is part of a coalition of dozens of national disabilities organizations urging Congressional approval of Autism CARES. Other groups include the American Academy of Pediatrics, The Arc, Easter Seals, the March of Dimes, the Autism Society of America, and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities.

The House bill (HR.4631) was introduced just five weeks ago, attracted over 80 bipartisan co-sponsors and cleared the Energy and Commerce Committee (E&C) with amendments incorporating changes in the Senate bill (S.2449).

"Autism Speaks thanks the E&C Chair, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), and Ranking Member, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), for their expeditious consideration of this vital legislation and the Senate amendments," Feld said. "We also extend our gratitude to Reps. Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) for their leadership on the bill in the E&C's Health Subcommittee."

The bill was approved last night by voice vote by the House.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has scheduled a hearing tomorrow on S.2449, sponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY). Once voted out of committee, the bill would be lined up for final Congressional action on the Senate floor.

The new reauthorization bill proposes:

  • Dedicating another five years of federal funding for autism activities at an annual level of $260 million
  • Designating an official in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement the IACC's strategic plan
  • Directing HHS, with input from the autism community, to examine the  demographics and transition needs of adults on the autism spectrum

“Previous autism law including the Combating Autism Act of 2011 made critical investments—continued by this bill—that are working to determine the causes of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), identify autistic children as early as possible to begin treatment, raise critical awareness and develop new therapies and effective services,” said Smith. Click here to read Smith’s floor statement.

Doyle said, "We have made tremendous advances in understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders – but this progress will be lost if Congress allows these programs expire. That is why it’s so important that Congress pass common-sense, bipartisan, bicameral legislation like the bill before us today."