Late Monday evening, the Senate approved legislation to reauthorize the Combating Autism Act marking the final legislative hurdle in getting the bill to the President’s desk for his signature. The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) provides for increased research, awareness programs, and training of healthcare professionals to identify and support individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. Originally signed into law by President Bush in 2006, the Combating Autism Act is now up for a three-year renewal.
While the bill enjoyed broad, bi-partisan support in the House and Senate, Senate passage of the bill prior to its expiration date of September 30th was put into question when a small group of Senators issued a “hold” last week, preventing the bill from being considered by the full Senate. In a letter detailing their opposition to the CARA, these Senators – led by Sen. Coburn (R-OK) and Sen. DeMint (R-SC) – cited their opposition to supporting condition-specific legislation and concern regarding potential waste and fraud in the current system.
Under a tight timeline in which the current Combating Autism Act was due to expire on September 30th and Congress to adjourn for a week-long recess this week, tensions were high on Monday night as last minute efforts were made to secure passage in the Senate.
In an 11th-hour deal, Senator Menendez (D-NJ and sponsor of the CARA) agreed to Senator Coburn’s request that the Government Accountability Office issue a report on how monies allocated to CARA are spent. Upon reaching this agreement, the Senate passed the bill which now awaits the President’s signature.