WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today called on Senate Republicans to stop blockage of his bi-partisan bill to extend the programs under the Combating Autism Act for another three years.
“For nearly a week, some Republicans in the Senate have sat on, blocked and held up this bi-partisan bill that would simply extend critical programs for families dealing with autism,” said Menendez. “Let me be very clear: A majority of Senators were ready to pass this bill this week. There can be only one explanation for obstruction – petty partisan politics.”
Last week, Menendez’s bill, The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act, was unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and has been sitting before the full Senate since Tuesday morning. Since then, some Senate Republicans have refused to allow this bill to proceed, despite bi-partisan support and unanimous approval from Senate Democrats.
The legislation is a simple three-year extension of the Combating Autism Act (CAA) of 2006. This legislation included provisions relating to the diagnosis and treatment of persons with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and expanded and intensified biomedical research on autism, including a focus on possible environmental causes. Additionally, it provides for detailed surveillance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the increasing prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The Act also reconstitutes the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee to advise the Secretary, coordinate the federal response to autism and develop the annual strategic plan for autism research. The programs authorized under the CAA are scheduled to sunset at the end of the month.
Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the country, affecting on average 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys. In New Jersey, 1 in 94 children are affected with autism spectrum disorders, one of the highest rates in the nation. This year more children will be diagnosed with autism than with AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined.
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