From the Desk of K. Kimberly McCleary
CFIDS Association president and CEO
Last month, Senate appropriators—the members of Congress
responsible for drafting laws that set spending levels and priorities for the
agencies of the federal government—directed health agencies to do more for CFS
research and education (see the story
“Senate Directs Agencies to Expand CFS
Programs” in this issue of the CFIDSLink). While this
direction isn’t binding yet, it has already hit the “radar screens” of the
agency staff responsible for implementing the directives. As advocates, we need
to protect this language as the bill moves through the next steps of
the legislative process—on the floor of the full Senate, in the “conference” to work out
differences in the House and Senate versions, when it comes to a vote by the
full Congress and then goes to the President to be signed into law.
Now, to be realistic, the CFS language in the Senate bill
is a microscopic detail in a vast spending measure that covers $605.6
billion in programs for all the agencies of the Department of Health and
Human Services, Department of Education, Department of Labor, Social Security
Administration and Corporation for Public Broadcasting. There are a great many
controversial line items (and much larger dollar figures) likely to be the focus
of lawmakers’ debates between now and when it becomes law. But having CFS recognized in
the legislation, and knowing that when it is enacted, federal agencies should do more
about CFS, makes it worth paying attention and taking action.
Should the bill call for more action and funding for CFS? Of
course it should. But it could easily be less specific, and it could
ignore CFS completely. What a message that would send to the federal
We dedicate considerable resources to being part of the
year after year, all year long, because one small lapse in our attention or
Congress’ could have long-lasting detrimental consequences.
Lobby Day (not just
one, but 14 annual events and counting), periodic meetings with appropriations committee
staff, letters from constituents, follow-up mailings, quick and thorough
turnaround on requests from Capitol Hill, effective representation from the
Sheridan Group —all contribute to
getting reasonable, well-documented requests recognized as legislative
direction. Nowadays, even rock stars and billionaires have to do glamourless
homework to get action from lawmakers.
So what can you do to ensure this
language makes it into the final bill? Ask your two U.S. Senators
to vote for the bill when it’s put to the full Senate after the summer recess.
We’ve made it easy to do so, with a
letter available at the
Association’s Grassroots Action Center.
When Congress returns after Labor Day, they’ll set a calendar
for the final weeks of the session before November elections. It’s uncertain
whether the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriation bill will make it to
a vote by the full Congress before the government’s year expires on September
30. Political splits and program priorities (often between health and education
funding levels) often lead to a standstill, requiring emergency funding measures
to keep programs going while Congress works through disputes. Some anticipate
that several of the funding bills may be on ice until after elections. We’ll
watch the process closely and
alert advocates to opportunities to usher our
language through, whatever the date on the calendar. And we’ll be in there pressing
when discussions about FY08 (fiscal year 2008) appropriations begin days later.
K. Kimberly McCleary
President & CEO