Congress Preparing for August Recess Constituent Outreach Activities

Interested in planning a campus visit for your Congressional delegation? Email jnurse@aadronline.org for more information.

Beginning August 5th and lasting through September 6th, Members of Congress and many of their staff will work from home -in a sense. The month-long Congressional recess, or District Work Period as some prefer, gives Members of Congress a prolonged opportunity to engage their constituents. Many take the opportunity to hold town-hall forums, visit federally supported project sites (i.e. research facilities), and attend community events. We’ve heard that Members of Congress are preparing to be particularly visible this August, given the impending start of the mid-term election season and need to explain the legislative paralysis in DC. Today, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, reported that the House leadership has developed a planning kit for August that outlines suggested constituent outreach activities for its caucus. The document includes such items as a college campus visit, hospital or health care facility tour, and an “Emergency Health Care Town Hall.”

The AADR Advocate in Your State webpage offers guidance for planning and engaging in local outreach activities. Of particular note is the need to invite Congressional offices to receive a short briefing on federally-supported research taking place at your institution and to tour related facilites. For additional information, contact AADR Government Affairs at (703) 299-8098 or jnurse@aadronline.org.

Senate Subcommittee Pushes $31B for NIH in FY14

Sen. Harkin (D-IA), who chairs the panel, described the bill as making critical investments in education and health

Yesterday, the Senate Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations approved a FY14 spending bill that includes $30.955 billion for the National Institutes of Health. The figure would put the NIH budget 1% above its pre-sequester (FY12) level. The allocation includes $40 million that President Obama requested for the BRAIN initiative. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research is provided $409.9 million in the bill, which would represent level funding with FY13 -if not for the 5% reduction this year due to the sequester. Despite this encouraging step, NIH and most of the other discretionary items in the federal budget will be under considerable threat during the remainder of the FY14 appropriations process. The Senate Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations was able to provide NIH and other line-items a boost largely because it is operating with considerably higher top-line budget number, as compared with its House counterpart. The Senate Appropriations Chair, Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), advanced top-line budget numbers for the various appropriations subcommittees/bills that assume a replacement to sequestration will be adopted. To say that is a big assumption would be a considerable understatement. Republicans in the Senate have pledged to block floor consideration of any of the FY14 appropriations bills, as they violate current spending caps that sequestration is helping to achieve. Continue reading

Five Minutes for the AADR Advocate in Your State Initiative

Three out of four AADR members (2012 Membership Survey) believe that advocacy is necessary for research. Join AADR’s advocacy efforts at the grassroots level by participating in Advocate in Your State, taking place throughout August. Some activities can be completed now!

AADR Advocate in Your State Webpage

Why should I participate?
This August, Members of Congress will return home to engage their constituents during a five-week recess. AADR is urging its members to participate in its Advocate in Your State program.

The National Institutes of Health is currently slated to lose $19 billion over the 10-year period covered by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which brought the nation the policy now commonly known as sequestration. Similar losses will be experienced within other federal science agencies. The reductions will be felt on the campuses of research institutions around the nation and ultimately by the general public.

How can I help?
Advocacy for dental and craniofacial research can be done effectively without ever setting foot in Washington, DC. Help us to personalize the case for sustained federal investments in research.

A wide range of advocacy options are available to you, some requiring only 5 minutes. You can send an email, make a call, visit the local offices of your Members of Congress, invite Congressional staffers to campus to see your work, attend a town hall, write an op-ed, or send us your story on the impact that the sequester is having on your work or in your community. The AADR Advocate In Your State webpage provides the resources that you will need.

Contact Jonathan Nurse, AADR Director of Government Affairs, with any questions at (703)-299-8098 or jnurse@aadronline.org.

Coalition of Stakeholder Groups Launch Video On Budget Cuts

The budget debacle in Washington known as sequestration remains a mystery to much of the public. It’s not surprising given that — up until a few months ago — many senior policymakers in DC were holding firm to a belief that a last minute budget deal would be reached and the policy would never be implemented. Even today, nearly three months after the President was forced to sign an order setting the sequester into motion, federal agencies are struggling to finalize their plans for implementation. As a result, many of the consequences of sequestration remain unclear to those who will be directly impacted. What is clear is that, without a public push to develop an alternative, Congress is not likely to change course in time for the upcoming fiscal year.

A coalition of advocates representing communities impacted by sequestration continues to work on public and legislative messaging, as well as to capture the real impacts of the policy. The coalition, NDD (Non-Defense Discretionary) United, now consists of over 3,200 groups -including AADR. As mentioned on the coalition’s website, NDD programs are core functions of government and now exist at historic lows as a percentage of GDP, yet they continue to serve as targets for budget reduction. Today, NDD United released a short video that captures our current budget dilemma in a “just the basics” format. Groups and individuals are encouraged to share the video with their personal and professional contacts. A base level of understanding among the general public would be a significant step forward in the campaign to develop a well balanced alternative.

AADR Congratulates Spring Intern and Recent Graduate

During the Spring 2013 semester, AADR government affairs efforts were supported by Waseem Khaleel -a native of Iraq and now double alumnus of Georgetown University (GU). Waseem, a graduate of the GU MS program in Biomedical Science Policy and Advocacy, was an active advocate over the past four months. He blogged on policy developments — particularly as related to the application of the sequestration provisions in the Budget Controll Act of 2011 — and became a regular in the halls of Congress. He met with several staffers to highlight the importance of federal investments in biomedical research, as well as to discuss a separate project aimed at increasing testing for diabetes.

In just a few years, Waseem has undertaken a rather incredible journey. Much of his youth was spent in Baghdad, where he witnessed the effects of war firsthand. Recognized as a promising student, he was awarded a scholarship to pursue undergraduate studies at Georgetown University. He earned a perfect grade point average in his final semester of graduate studies at GU and is now finishing a second internship with a medical imaging organization while seeking a permanent role in the government affairs community. Waseem hopes to one day apply the knowledge attained through his various educational and professional experiences to serve his community back home.

On behalf of the larger oral health research community, the AADR staff congratulates Waseem on his second graduation in as many years and thanks him for his service.

AADR Joins Call for Preservation of NSF Merit Review

Last week, Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, released a discussion draft of anticipated legislation entitled the High Quality Research Act. While the title appears supportive of research, the text conveys an intent to alter the well established  peer review system of the National Science Foundation (NSF).  The bill establishes new criteria for the awarding of NSF grants:

(1) is in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science;

(2) is the finest quality, is ground breaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large; and

(3) is not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies. Continue reading

AADR Members Take to the Hill

Rep. Jack Kingston addresses Advocacy Day participants

Yesterday, oral health scientists and students participated in the 2013 AADR-ADEA Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. Members of the associations joined to conduct 84 meetings in House and Senate offices, covering more than 20 states in the process. The participants carried a message of the need to replace the March 1st budget sequestration order and increase investments in biomedical research. More specifically, the group called on Members of Congress to support a Fiscal Year 2014 NIH appropriation of $32 billion. In recent weeks, the FY14 funding recommendation for NIH has been promoted by many health and research associations, as well as drawn bipartisan support in Congress. However, the figure remains a reach in the current budget environment.

During a morning briefing session that preceded Congressional visits, Rep Jack Kingston (R-GA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations expressed support for the important work carried out with federal investments in NIH. He also communicated a desire to see better prioritization of NIH grant investments, and told that group the he viewed the $32 billion figure as slightly out of reach in the coming year. Nonetheless, his presence and the totality of remarks given demonstrated a considerable interest in oral health and research.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) provided closing remarks during the morning session. He explained the need for a “Grand Bargain” on the budget, one that would get the deficit under control while making important investments in areas that grow the economy and are good for the public, such as biomedical research.

Initial reports from Advocacy Day participants indicated considerable support on both sides of the aisle for oral health research and education. Participants were encouraged to keep up their advocacy efforts, so that oral health remains a part of the budget dialogue in the months ahead.

Photo Index of the AADR-ADEA Advocacy Day

NIDCR PowerPoint Presentation

Bipartisan Effort Underway to Boost NIH for FY 2014

Congressmen David McKinley (R-WV) and Ed Markey (D-MA) have called for increasing NIH funding to $32B in FY 2014, which would repair much of the damage done to biomedical research by the budget sequestration order issued on March 1st. Members of the oral health research community are asked to urge their representatives in the House to support this bipartisan effort.

The stakes for research have never been higher. We know that research is a critical national investment that will save and improve lives while growing our economy. Make sure your representatives get the message by visiting the AADR Action Center. Remember to share this alert on Facebook and with everyone in your network.

AADR Action Center

McKinley-Markey “Dear Colleague Letter”

Revisiting the Origins of Budget Sequestration

President Obama signs the Budget Control Act of 2011

With a sequester of the federal budget now a reality, some are asking: “How did we get here?” Neither the White House nor Congress are accepting attribution for the idea.

Budget sequestration stems back to the US debt-ceiling crisis in the summer of 2011. At the time, there was a fierce debate over the ability of the federal government to borrow additional money to pay its bills. The term “debt ceiling” refers to the government’s legal borrowing limit. At the time, the debt limit of 14.29 trillion dollars had been reached. The government faced an August 3rd, 2011 default on its obligations, if it not allowed to borrow additional capital. With just days to spare, Democrats and Republicans reached a deal known as the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). The legislation raised the debt ceiling in exchange for spending cuts to reduce the deficit. The BCA put in place spending cuts for a period of ten years (2012-2021), for a total of 2.4 trillion dollars; 1.5 trillion dollars of the total was to come from discretionary spending, half of which was of the non-defense discretionary (NDD) category. As a result, NDD spending was set on a course to fall to its lowest level on record, as a share of GDP, with data going back to 1962.  Continue reading