Monday, March 11, 2013


Happy meteorological spring!  It arrived in the Washington area with a refresher course on what winter looks like with a snowstorm hitting early this week, dumping over 18 inches on some parts of the Greater DC metro area.  This edition has a summary of our Public Policy Conference plus a lot of information on the sequester and the budget, an upcoming medical research rally the Society is co-sponsoring, a link to a new MS fact sheet by Research!America, and of course information on how (not) devastating the budget situation is on Members of Congress.  Be sure to get to the end though – interesting statistic about St. Patrick’s Day.

2013 Public Policy Conference.  Earlier this week the 22nd Annual National MS Society Public Policy Conference was held in Arlington, VA with over 300 MS Activists coming together for a ‘deeper dive’ into our 2013 priorities:  maintaining adequate funding for the FDA and for medical research at the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense.  Senator Byron Dorgan kicked off the conference talking about what needs to be done to get our fiscal house in order, and relaying stories about his time in office.  JP Paluskiewicz, deputy chief of staff to MS Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Michael Burgess, MD detailed the current status of the federal budget, sequestration, and what the climate in Congress is right now.  Veteran pollster Celinda Lake was our lunch speaker, highlighting trends including the popularity (or rather, un-popularity) of Congress and the ongoing partisan fights.  Numerous other speakers, including MS Activists, presented information on medical research, the role of the FDA, engagement on-line and on-the-ground, and various other subjects.

PPC Hill Day.  For what we believe was the first time in its history, PPC Hill Day had to be cancelled due to a late winter storm that hit the area that the Weather Channel named ‘Saturn’ and politicos and local weather people affectionately named ‘Snowquestration.’  An improvised day took shape with a second medical research Q & A with Chief Research Officer Tim Coetzee, Reingold Inc. social media/communications/research expert Joe LaMountain, and additional networking roundtables.  Even though the official Hill Day needed to be cancelled due to safety concerns, dozens of Hill visits occurred the day before and the day after (and of course, many braved the weather and kept their scheduled visits.

MS Awareness Week Resolution introduced.  Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Michael Burgess (R-TX) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced the Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week Resolution (H.Res. 95) and Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have introduced a companion in the Senate (bill number not available yet).  Please contact your Senators and Representative and encourage them to co-sponsor these resolutions!

Sequestration in effect.  The across the board spending cuts have begun, with President Obama signing necessary papers last Friday to make it real.  Leading up to the deadline, the president and his team rolled out numerous examples of the impact of sequestration.  Some Democrats are concerned that he may have overplayed it a bit (or a lot).  Others are highlighting how sequestration could set America back as a leader in areas like medical research and innovation, and how it could impact patients and communities.  Meanwhile the credit agencies have simply yawned, saying more cuts are needed.

How are Lawmakers affected by Sequestration?  Their salaries aren’t touched, but their budget to run their offices are.  In legislation to suspend the debt ceiling temporarily, a ‘No Budget, No Pay’ provision was enacted so that whichever chamber doesn’t pass a budget by April 15, its members’ pay will be escrowed until the end of the current Congress (January 2015).  Before cheering about this provision, the fine print apparently says nothing about the two chambers agreeing to a budget, just that they have to approve one . . . clever eh?

Federal Budget & Deficit Deal maneuverings.  President Obama has begun an outreach effort to rank and file members of the House and Senate, going around each chambers leaders to try and find common ground.  Obama dined with key Republican senators Wednesday and had lunch with Budget Committee Chairman Congressman Paul Ryan and ranking member Chris Van Hollen on Thursday.  Speaker Boehner expressed positive feelings about the outreach.  Senator Mike Johanns stated that ‘His goal is ours. We want to stop careening from crisis to crisis.’  Ryan and Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray are the key lawmakers to make a deal happen.

Old Fashioned Filibuster!  There is a lot of complaining about the Senate filibuster in large part because Senators stop business simply by threatening one.  Senator Rand Paul (and likely 2016 presidential candidate) this week decided to do it the old-fashioned (and intended) way – he spent nearly 13 hours on the Senate floor to filibuster and apparently only ended it due to nature calling.  His effort, however, wasn’t considered favorably by two of his GOP colleagues, Senators McCain and Graham, who clearly made their views known afterward.

Obamacare notes?  The Federal Reserve Beige Book reports that in some areas of the country, the Affordable Care Act is being cited as the reason for some layoffs.  And freshman Senator Ted Cruz is renewing the now-pretty-dormant push to de-fund the health law.

The Cuban Missile Crisis ‘myth.  Yes, this is random, but it caught my eye.  A new book explores what went down in the Cuban Missile Crisis based on recordings of actual proceedings, asserting that RFK’s book ’13 Days’ essentially established a myth around the crisis.

St. Patrick’s Day.   The National Retail Federation estimated that Americans spent around $4.6 billion on St. Patrick’s Day in 2012.  The National MS Society spends approximately $45 million per year on research and the federal government spends another $130 million or so.  That means that on one day, Americans spend enough to fund the combined Society/Federal government MS research efforts for over 26 years . . . that’s a bit sobering, huh!

Have a great week!

No comments: