The Washington Report Archive 2012

November 2012

Congress is out through November 13 when it will reconvene for its “lame duck” session to complete the business of the 112th Congress. The 113th Congress will be sworn into office on January 3, 2013.

The number of House cosponsors of the National Neurological Diseases Surveillance System Act of 2011 (HR 2595) remains at 87 but this month I directed my attention to the Senate bill of the same name, S. 425, introduced in March, 2011, by Sen. Tom Udall (D-CO). It is nearly identical to the House bill and has 14 cosponsors, nine Democrats and five Republicans.

The Senate could consider the House version during the “lame duck” session if it was packaged into a larger (called an omnibus) bill. If no action is taken this year, a representative would reintroduce it in the 113th Congress.

I sent emails to members of the committee to schedule visits and later met with staff of Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Mike Enzi (R-WY). Uniformly they were unfamiliar with ET, were engaged in my presentation, and agreed that while chances for action were slim this year, they were interested in co-sponsorship next year.

I met with the health LA of Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) completing my visits to the Idaho delegation in which I reviewed ET, urged support of S. 425 and presented a copy of the spring/summer issue of Tremor Talk magazine with the piece about the engineering class at the Boise high school providing improved tools for those with ET.

September 2012

The House returned from its summer recess on September 10 only to adjourn a week later. It will reconvene on November 13 following the general elections. That session, commonly called a “lame duck” session, will complete the business of the 112th Congress as it passes into history and before the 113th Congress is sworn into office in January

Through the efforts of the IETF, the number of cosponsors of the National Neurological Diseases Surveillance System Act of 2011 (HR 2595) has climbed to 87, up from 84 last month. The principal cosponsors of the bill, Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Michael Burgess (R-TX), remain committed to the bill, but if any final action on the measure is to occur it will have to come during the “lame duck” session.

Meanwhile, I have contacted 35 other House offices seeking cosponsors. Several of these emails resulted in visits with health staff, including the legislative assistant with Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), whose district includes the University of Kansas, and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), who is a member of the Senate committee considering its version of the House bill, S. 425. I also visited the office of Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), whose district includes the high school featured in the spring/summer issue of the IETF magazine.

In addition, I met with the health LA of my member of the Senate, Mark Warner (D-VA).

August 2012

The House has been in recess for the past month, returning on Tuesday, September 10. Nevertheless, the break provided an opportunity to meet with congressional health staff and continue emailing other staff asking for support of the National Neurological Diseases Surveillance System Act of 2011 (HR 2595).

At Cathy Rice’s request, I contacted members of the Idaho congressional delegation to bring to their attention the Spring-Summer issue of Tremor Talk. The feature story reported efforts by high school students in Boise to engineer better tools to help those with essential tremor improve their communication skills.

I met with Ashlyn Seymour, the health legislative assistant (LA) with Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), to introduce her to essential tremor, highlight the Tremor Talk article about her constituents, review the work of the foundation and ask that Crapo become a cosponsor of the Senate version of HR 2595, S 425. I also met with Brian Perkins, counsel with Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), again to discuss essential tremor, IETF and seek his office’s support of the Senate bill. Both meeting went well and were promising.

I also emailed about 50 House offices requesting their support of HR 2595. With positive indications from some offices, the possible number of cosponsors would increase to 84.

Meanwhile other offices said they would review the bill in the coming days and I will urge them to do so in later emails.

May 2012

Congress was in session for much of the month but will be out the last week of May for its week-long Memorial Day recess. It will return in early June for about a month before again shutting down, this time for its Fourth of July break.

I continued my email contacts with House staff seeking additional cosponsors of the National Neurological Diseases Surveillance System Act (HR 2595). I have received several emails from House staff expressing a strong interest in the bill. However, the tight daily schedules of many House members are such that it is difficult to arrange time to review the bill for a decision to become a cosponsor.

The number of cosponsors now stands at 78: 25 Republicans and 53 Democrats. About half of this number is the result of the IETF’s efforts.

April 2012

The number of cosponsors of the National Neurological Diseases Surveillance System Act (HR 2595) now stands at 73, and nearly half of them are the result of the International Essential Tremor Foundation’s efforts.

I continue to email House health staff requesting co-sponsorship of the legislation. Despite the number of messages sent, it is unclear which of them will actually trigger a positive response. I learned from the offices of the two members who introduced the bill, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Michael Burgess (R-TX), that they have contacted their colleagues on several occasions requesting support..

In the meantime, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), who represents the IETF, provided the foundation with a floor statement to mark the occasion of March as National Essential Tremor Month. He also entered his statement in the Congressional Record on Thursday, March 29th and provided Cathy Rice with copies. This is the result of continuing contacts between Yoder’s office and the IETF staff. We anticipate a meeting between Yoder and Cathy in the near future.

March 2012

Congress returned to Capitol Hill on Tuesday following a week-long District Work Period to mark Presidents’ Day. It will be in session for the next three weeks.

The number of cosponsors of the National Neurological Diseases Surveillance System Act (HR 2595) has climbed to 68. Nearly half of the cosponsors are the result of the Foundation’s efforts.

I continue to send (sometimes multiple) requests to House health staff for support of the legislation. Mostly, however, it is serendipity. I secured a cosponsor within 48 hours following a chance meeting in the House barbershop while many others have resulted from several emails. Ultimately what is important, of course, is the support.

Last week, at Cathy’s request, I attended a portion of the annual meeting of the American Society for the Experimental Neurotherapeutics (ASENT) in Washington. ASENT had extended an invitation to not-for-profit patient advocacy groups to attend a session at no charge. I was impressed with the quality of the speakers and the program.

January 2012

The Second Session of the House began with its return to Capitol Hill on January 17. The Senate came back the following week.

The number of cosponsors of the National Neurological Diseases Surveillance System Act (HR 2595) now stands at 62. As I described in my November report, I continue to send repeat requests to House health staff asking for support of the legislation. I’ve learned from experience that emails like ours are often “lost” in the volume of communications received.

Per suggestions of the Van Hollen and Burgess health staff, the bill’s lead cosponsors, I have targeted in recent days the more than 200 cosponsors of an identical bill passed by the House in the last Congress. While not all of the previous supporters have returned, those who have may continue to be supportive. This has accounted for the recent “bump up” in cosponsors.

I also visited the offices of California’s senators and the representative of the two IETF members featured in the Fall/Winter issue of the magazine. The purpose of the visits was to introduce the members to the foundation and essential tremor while urging their support of S. 425, the companion bill to HR 2495. That measure has 14 cosponsors. Within the coming weeks I will visit the Senate to urge cosponsorship of S 425.

Earlier this month Cathy Rice asked me to meet with Roxanne Yaghoubi, a representative of the Coalition for Imaging and Bioengineering Research (CIBR), located in Washington, DC, to learn of opportunities for cooperation. The CIBR is the only permanent coalition dedicated to education and advocacy in support of imaging research. Its more than 170 members include corporations, associations, professional societies, medical schools and centers, imaging and radiological entities, and neurological and other organizations relying on imaging for diagnosis, treatment and research. The coalition sponsors congressional briefings, visits to the National Institutes of Health for connections between researchers and Capitol Hill and legislative advocacy. There are no membership dues.

[Editor’s Note: The IETF has been added to the roster of organizations joining the CIBR.]