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Autism Speaks Lauds Senate HELP Committee for Moving Vital Autism Bill to Senate Floor

September 07, 2011

NEW YORK, N.Y. (September 7, 2011) – The renewal of the Combating Autism Act took an important first step today as a Senate committee moved a reauthorization bill out of committee by unanimous voice vote and on to the Senate floor with just 23 days to go before the act expires.
The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee vote on S.1094, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA), was the first step in moving the bill out of Congress before critical provisions in the original 2006 act expire on September 30. Sponsored in the Senate by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY),CARA has strong bipartisan support in both the Senate and House. President Obama has promised to sign a reauthorization bill this year.

“"The quick action today by the Senate HELP Committee underscores the urgency of reauthorizing the Combating Autism Act by September 30,"” said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks, executive vice president for programs and services. “"Autism Speaks thanks the committee chair, Senator Tom Harkin, and ranking member Senator Enzi for their bipartisan leadership in getting today’s job done.”"

In the House, the CARA bill, HR.2005, was originally sponsored by Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA). Thus far, 30 members of the Senate, including another five today, and 63 members of the House have signed on as cosponsors.

The original 2006 act authorized nearly $1 billion of federal spending through 2011 on biomedical and treatment research on autism. CARA would continue funding at current levels, authorizing $693 million over the next three years, and not add to the federal debt.

Autism is the fast growing developmental disability in the United States, with 1 in 110 children – and 1 in 70 boys – now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to the national Centers for Disease Control. Autism costs the nation $35 billion a year in special education and social services costs, yet in 2010 received 0.6 percent of the research funding allocated by the National Institutes of Health.

The 2006 law established autism as a national health priority and increased funding, leading to significant advances in the understanding of autism. The law required the federal government to develop a strategic plan to expand and better coordinate the nation’s support for persons with autism and their families. Important research findings have resulted, critical studies are underway and promising new interventions have been developed for children with autism, helping them to lead more independent lives, thereby reducing the need for publicly funded special education and social services.