UPDATE: HR 2239 did not pass in the 112th Congress. In February 2013, the Act was reintroduced in the 113th Congress as HR 842. Please see the March 2, 2013 post or click on the HR 842 category on the blog sidebar for updated information.
According to THOMAS, the Library of Congress legislative database, prior to Congress adjourning for the holiday recess this past week, Representative Maurice Hinchey (D- NY-22) has signed on as a cosponsor to the Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act of 2011.
The 22nd Congressional District of New York is a large one that encompasses all or part of eight counties in the mid-Hudson Valley, the Catskills, the Southern Tier and the Finger Lakes regions, namely, all of Sullivan and Ulster Counties and parts of Orange, Dutchess, Broome, Delaware, Tioga and Tompkins Counties. Some notable cities in this district are Middletown, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Binghamton and Ithaca.
According to various public sources, Representative Hinchey is a Navy veteran and member of the Appropriations Committee and Subcommittee on Defense, with a record of sponsoring or supporting other legislation concerning veterans and health care for veterans and service members. As discussed previously on this blog, veterans and service members deployed in the Persian Gulf region have been shown to be disproportionately affected by functional gastrointestinal disorders, of which IBS is the most common. If you are a constituent of Representative Hinchey, please take a few minutes to write or call him with your thanks for his support of HR 2239.
In officially supporting HR 2239, Representative Hinchey joins the lead sponsor, Representative F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI-5) and co-sponsors, Representative James Moran (D-VA-8), Representative Peter Welch (D-VT), Representative Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24), and Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL-2) and Representative Tammy Baldwin, (D-WI-2). U.S. citizens residing in the districts of Representative Hinchey’s colleagues listed here, please thank them as well.
According to the information on THOMAS, it appears that the bill is currently under consideration in the Subcommittee on Health. If you would like to see a list of the members of that Subcommittee, click here and scroll down to the fourth subcommittee listing.
Congressional representatives will return to Washington, DC to begin the second session of the current Congress on January 17, 2012. U. S. citizens, if your Member of Congress is not yet a co-sponsor of HR 2239 and you have not contacted him or her recently to ask for his or her support, please see this previous post from July 6 for links to the bill and more details on how to do so. Often, it takes multiple attempts to elicit any interest from legislators, so if you do not receive a reply, do not hesitate to try again or to switch contact methods until you attract attention.
Your personal experiences as a person with IBS and/or other functional GI/motility disorders, or as a concerned family member, friend or colleague, are most effective in communicating to legislators and their staff that there are real human beings behind the statistics.
HR 2239 is bipartisan legislation (supported by members of both parties) and according to IFFGD discussions with IBS Impact, is “revenue-neutral,” meaning that there will be no additional taxes or spending added to the current federal deficit if it is enacted. Discretionary funds are available at the National Institutes of Health to be allocated if Congress directs NIH, through this Act, that functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders are a priority. Congress will only do so if we, as a community, are able to show them the importance of the research, education and FDA coordination provided for in HR 2239.
It is IBS Impact’s understanding that HR 2239 will most likely not require a debate or vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, and will pass as soon as it reaches 219 sponsor/cosponsors, or a simple majority of the House. In order for this milestone to be accomplished during the current Congress, the 112th, the necessary number of sponsor/cosponsors must be reached by December 2012. Beginning in January 2013, the Congressional membership will be different as a result of the upcoming 2012 elections. Thus, a similar bill will have to be reintroduced and the FGIMD community will have to start the process of gathering cosponsors anew. While it is quite common for legislation of various sorts to take several Congresses to pass, our continuing advocacy now can increase awareness, build momentum and perhaps accelerate passage. It is in our hands.
Check back on this blog or join IBS Impact’s Yahoo discussion group for further updates on HR 2239 as they occur.