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Autism Speaks Urges GOP Bloc in Senate to Lift Hold on Republican Autism Bill

September 23, 2011

NEW YORK, N.Y. (September 23, 2011) – Four Republican colleagues are continuing to block a vote in the Senate renewing the landmark 2006 Combating Autism Act by raising 11th-hour objections to a Republican-sponsored bill that was voted out of the U. S. House of Representatives Tuesday. Autism Speaks is calling on the Republican lawmakers to lift their "hold" on the bill so that the full Senate can have the opportunity to vote for it.

Requiring only the approval of the Senate, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act would continue the federal government's commitment to autism research, treatment and services for another three years at current funding levels. If Congress doesn't complete action by September 30, critical provisions in the law will expire, stopping research into autism which the national Centers for Disease Control has declared a public health emergency.

Autism, which is a developmental disorder, now affects 1 in 110 children and 1 in every 70 boys. President Obama has promised to sign legislation renewing the 2006 law once Congress completes action on a bill.

The bill was unanimously voted out of the Senate  Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on September 7 and has been awaiting final Senate action. Recognizing the short time left for Congress to act, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) agreed to expedite a vote in the House on Tuesday where the bill cleared by voice vote. The measure has strong bipartisan support in both houses of Congress and was originally sponsored in the Senate by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)  and Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY). 

The Ciombating Autism Act  was approved in 2006 by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush. No objections had been raised to the new bill until Senator Menendez asked the Senate on Monday to approve the bill by unanimous consent. Along with Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) blocked the request, raising objections for the first time publicly to the bill which was introduced in May.