Legislative (Lame) Duck Hunting

As a kid of the 80s reaching that video game age in the early 90s, the Nintendo was truly an early love and came into my home to provide hours of entertainment. One of the games included with this system was Duck Hunt, which many know by the orange plastic handgun used to hunt down the passing birds that appear on the screen.

Targeting D-Advocacy at the
Lame Duck Congress.
Well, now I find myself turning to that Duck Hunt action once again as I set my D-Advocacy sights on the Lame Duck Congress. My weapon may not be an orange clicking video game gun or voice-activated scope headgear, but instead a cell phone and letter-writing campaign, as well as my online messages that appear here and other places throughout the Diabetes Community. Nearly two weeks ago, the JDRF issued a call to action for the Diabetes Community that urged us to contact our legislators in the U.S. Congress and ask that they support a very important piece of legislation.

That legislation is House Resolution 3668 and Senate 3058, both of which have a common goal: to renew the Special Diabetes Program. Without this multi-year renewal, federal funding for Type 1 diabetes research will decrease by 35% starting Oct. 1, 2011. Congress increased the amount of funding to $100 million per year in 2001, and then again increased it to $150 million per year from 2004-2009. Congress reauthorized the program for an additional two years for 2010 - 2011 at the current level, and now the introduced legislation would renew it for another five years at $200 million annually.

Through the years, clinical research supported by this program has demonstrated tangible results such as delaying the full onset of Type 1 diabetes in newly diagnosed patients, gaining insight on the underlying causes of diabetes and halting or reversing costly complications such as diabetic eye disease. Without this money, that's been in place since 1997, those types of results will no longer be possible.

That's why we need Congressional support.

About the same time as the JDRF's urging came along, a newspaper headline caught me attention: "Lame-duck session has lots to do, but not much incentive."
This headline engraged me, and all of that political anger that had unleashed itself in my voting on Nov. 2 against those incumbents surfaced once again. I recalled why it's basically necessary to vote out those Rs and Ds who are more interested in political messages and stances than actually doing something productive. Rather than just voting their conscious whether that is a Yes or No, they simply delay and bicker back and forth. That's what frustrates me as a citizen and voter and constituent on any given topic, as well as this particular issue that strikes at me personally as a Person With Diabetes.

One hundred freshmen lawmakers join the Congressional circus, and most of them are Republicans as we clearly saw that GOP sweep the Dems out of that legislative power hold. But before we arrive, much work remains - from taxing issues, to whether qualified men and women should be able to put their lives on the line for their fellow citizens in military service, and just how the federal government will be able to keep running in the coming months.

Diabetes is one of those priorities. What, Congress members? You don't have enough incentive to at least discuss this SDP issue and bring it for a vote in the next month? Well, please, use me as incentive. How about your grandchildren who could someday in the coming years be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, meaning you'll have to worry not only about their lifelong health insurance options for the rest of your life but also make sure they test their blood sugars every time they visit and plan your family holiday meals a little differently. Or the fact that they may not live through the night because of a Low blood sugar, or that a High blood sugar might result in them feeling like they have the flu or even being rushed to the hospital for something called ketoacidosis.

We lose children and adults to Type 1 diabetes, something that you may or may not fully understand as being an autoimmune disorder that parents or children don't bring on themselves. The causes of this chronic condition aren't understood and we don't know what triggers a person's immune system to basically attack itself and kill off the insulin-producing cells. That's why we need federal funding to study this, so that those smart researchers can pinpoint the nuances of Type 1 diabetes and someday stop this from being a reality for so many millions worldwide. It goes beyond diabetes and has the potential to impact many other autoimmune disorders, too, and this is just a way to help that effort.

I need you. We need you. This country needs you to raise this as a discussion point, at the very least. Please use that as incentive when deciding whether this is worth talking about and bringing up for a vote. If you vote No, so be it. I can respect that if it's what you believe and feel is needed with your vote. But you owe us that vote, whatever it may be.

I have written about this issue before, early in 2010 when meeting with some of my Indiana-based Congress members as part of the JDRF Advocacy Promise to Remember Me Campaign. I met with Sen. Evan Bayh and Rep. Dan Burton, and many other people were a part of more than 400 meetings with other lawmakers throughout the country.
Now, it's time to retap those earlier connections and reiterate the importance of this funding. Everyone is encouraged to reach out to their particular lawmakers (here's a way to find yours to representative or senator), as well as others who might help get the message out that we need this SDP renewal.

Inquiring recently pre-Thanksgiving about the likelihood of this legislation being brought up before year's end, one staff member for Congressional co-sponsor in the Senate relayed this: "(This senator) is a co-sponsor of S. 3058 and remains hopeful it will be considered later this year. The bill currently has 60 co-sponsors which would make it a good candidate for potential passage. (He) has met personally with your.. chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, including children and their families living with Type 1, to discuss this important reauthorization effort and to share his support for continued funding in this area."

Sure, it would've been nice to have Congress actually vote on this diabetes legislation during what was D-Awareness Month. But that's not the point. Now, is the time for action regardless of what the calendar says.

Aside from emailing or calling or writing letters, we can also pitch this issue to our local media to get the message out. This is especially important during the holiday season, as our elected representatives are spending more time at home where they're exposed to their state and hometown newspapers and news casts. Should the Lame Duck Congress not act in time, the new Congress that convenes in early 2011 will be the ones responsible for having this discussion. Whether it's now or then, the importance remains the same and action must come before the 2011 fiscal year comes to a close next fall.

Amy Tenderich over at DiabetesMine recently had a great post about how we can work with media to get this story out, and it's important we do just that - to find these local stories that resonate with people and hopefully motivate more people to contact their lawmakers about this issue.

So, there you have it. The time for a Legislative Lame Duck Hunt is here. Let's get going, and urge our Congress members to talk about diabetes and cast a vote not only for us, but for everyone who could someday be touched by diabetes. We are their incentive, so let's show them that and get the message out.


Sysy said…
Very well put. I hope this post inspires others to keep pushing our legislatures, I know it inspires me.

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