What the Election Results Mean for the Parkinson's Community

The mid-term elections are certainly going to create something of a sea change in the nation's capital. So, I thought it would be useful to give you a brief analysis of what the election results will mean for the Parkinson's community.  Of course, how this will all settle out needs to evolve over the coming weeks – some congressional races are not even decided yet – so please take this as a quick first look at what the changes mean.

Lame-Duck Session
Congress will return on November 15 for a lame-duck session, probably lasting just two or three weeks.  (A “lame-duck session” is one that occurs after an election but before the new Congress is sworn in.)  Yesterday’s election results make it much less likely that the lame-duck session will address much substantive legislation – even though funding for government agencies, expiring tax cuts, our Parkinson’s national data system bill, stem cells, the Medicare physician fee fix, and other important issues are hanging in limbo.  Watch for most issues to get kicked into next year.

Funding for Research
Further delay of final congressional decisions on government funding would be a mixed bag at best for Parkinson’s research.  It is possible that Congress could decide to fund the entire Fiscal Year 2011 through a “continuing resolution” at 2010 levels.  Unfortunately, that would mean the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would not receive its proposed $1 billion increase and the new Cures Acceleration Network would not get its planned $50 million to get the program started.  A continuing resolution would, however, extend the $25 million for Department of Defense Parkinson’s research program.  We will certainly keep you posted.

Committees
With respect to the appropriations committees, both the House and the Senate will need to appoint several new members in the coming weeks.  But the good news for us is that Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), a friend of NIH research, will remain as Chairman of the relevant Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, and Representative C.W. Bill Young (R-FL), a friend of the Department of Defense Parkinson’s research program, will become Chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

With respect to authorizing committees, the Parkinson’s community should also come out pretty well.  With Republicans taking control of the House, one of the Parkinson’s Caucus Co-Chairs, Representative Fred Upton (R-MI), is in line to become Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over a great deal of our health legislation.  Senator Harkin will remain as Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, which handles health issues in the Senate.
 
Congressional Caucus on Parkinson’s Disease
With over 100 newly-elected Members of the House and 16 freshmen Senators, the new Congress will have a lot of new personalities.  That means a host of new members for us to recruit to join the Congressional Caucus on Parkinson’s Disease.  The eight current Co-Chairs of the Parkinson’s Caucus – evenly split between four Republicans and four Democrats; four House Members and four Senators – will all remain in place next year.  (Caucus Co-Chair Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) was already slated to leave the Senate after his primary defeat in May).

Obviously, everyone in Washington is still analyzing what the election results will mean.  PAN will be looking more in depth at what the changes might entail for the Parkinson’s community, both for the remaining weeks of this Congress and for next year, so please stay tuned!  And, of course, please feel free to contact me directly with any questions you may have.
 
Sincerely,
 
John Schall
Deputy Chief Executive Officer