Standoff Threatens Autism Research Funding; GOP Senators Object to Limits

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Byline: Jordan E. Otero, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

House lawmakers Wednesday implored their Senate counterparts to break a logjam they said is endangering federal support for autism research and funding.

The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act passed the House of Representatives by voice vote Tuesday but is facing opposition from conservative Senate Republicans who argue that Congress should not be dictating to researchers on the front lines how best to spend scarce federal dollars.

No one who is opposing reauthorization of this bill right now is opposed to autism research or the ideas behind it, said Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, one of four Republicans who objected to the bill when it reached the Senate on Tuesday.

What we are opposed to is tying the hands of the researchers and the directors at National Institutes of Health and telling them what they should do and how they should do it.

House lawmakers and outside advocates for autism funding held a news conference at the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon to urge a compromise.

Our work is done in the House, said Rep. Michael F. Doyle, Pennsylvania Democrat and a co-sponsor of the autism authorization bill. We ask our colleagues in the Senate: If there's a reason that you have a hold on this bill, let's discuss those reasons. Let's sit down and work them out.

Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, wrote the Combating Autism Act of 2006 after discovering disturbing trends and limited amounts of quantified research on autism in the mid-1990s. He said that even after 10 years of extraordinary work that the issue has not been won. …