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Autism Speaks Hails Historic Senate Vote Renewing Combating Autism Act for Another Three Years

September 27, 2011

NEW YORK, N.Y. (September 27, 2011) –  Autism Speaks, the nation'’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, today hailed the Senate for passing the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) by unanimous consent and called on President Obama to fulfill his promise to sign the bill into law.

Sponsored in the Senate by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), the bipartisan legislation when enacted will reauthorize the 2006 Combating Autism Act, renewing the federal government’s commitment to fund autism research and treatment for another three years. The bill would sustain federal funding at current levels, authorizing $693 million for research and treatment for autism and related disorders.

“"Autism Speaks thanks Senator Menendez who led the bill across the finish line,"” said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks. “"When the fate of this legislation appeared in jeopardy, policy trumped politics. The winners are the families across America who deal every day with the national health crisis that is autism."”

Autism Speaks also thanked Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Enzi who, as chairman and ranking member, helped move the bill out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in early September so that it was in position for a final floor vote. Autism Speaks also thanked the thousands of grassroots advocates it energized across the nation whose phone calls, emails and Facebook posts to key lawmakers greatly influenced the debate.

The final vote last night resulted after Senators Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin lifted their “hold” on the bill after their concerns over accountability of taxpayer-funded research were addressed. The Government Accounting Office will be asked to examine how federal funding for autism research is being utilized.

“"Autism Speaks has long supported such federal oversight over the use of scarce federal research dollars and recognizes the four Senators for their contribution in insisting that this be a priority of the reauthorization process,"” said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president for programs and services. “"We also extend our thanks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for moving this bill to the top of a very lengthy list of bills awaiting consideration.”"

In the time since the CAA was enacted, the prevalence of autism has risen to 1 in every 110 children—including 1 in 70 boys and the cost of autism continues to climb with some estimates as high as $90 billion per year.

Other national advocacy organizations that worked closely in winning passage of the bill included the Autism Society of America, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, Easter Seals, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities.

The Senate version of the CARA bill, S.1094, attracted 36 cosponsors following its introduction in May by Senators Menendez and Enzi. Senators Scott Brown (R-MA) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) were listed as original co-sponsors. In chronological order, the following Senators later signed on as co-sponsors:
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
Sen. Robert Casey Jr (D-PA)
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR)
Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) 
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Sen. Bernard Sanders (D-VT)
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI)
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)
Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE)
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Sen. Mark Begich (R-AR)