by Mark Vieth, Senior Vice President
Few issues before Congress generate more bipartisan support than medical research. But despite the incredible strength and breadth of Congressional support, we occasionally witness threats to research buried deep in massive pieces of legislation.
Most recently, threats to Congressionally-directed research came in the form of four provisions included in the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would severely restrict the medical research programs at the Department of Defense (DoD). A bipartisan amendment filed by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) to strip these provisions from the bill was blocked from a vote, so these provisions survived intact when the Senate ultimately approved its version of the NDAA. Thankfully, no similar provisions were included in the House version of the bill.
In response, the Defense Health Research Consortium (www.defensehealthresearch.org), a coalition of 36 patient advocacy, medical provider and veterans organizations created and coordinated by CRD Associates, contacted Members of Congress, urging them to sign onto bipartisan “Dear Colleague” letters circulating in the House and Senate. These letters called for the removal of the onerous provisions. The Consortium was joined by dozens of allied organizations in a broad national grassroots advocacy campaign designed to secure support for these letters.
On October 10, the Senate letter, circulated by Senators Durbin and Blunt and signed by 54 Republican and Democratic Senators, was sent to the House-Senate conference committee for the NDAA. On October 24, a similar letter circulated by Reps. Ryan Costello (R-PA), Peter King (R-NY), Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA) drew the support of 180 Republican and Democratic Representatives.
House and Senate conferees have convened, and hopefully they will hear the message from their colleagues in both chambers: Take these provision out of the bill and protect groundbreaking medical research at DoD!