According to IFFGD and the official Congressional legislative database Congress.gov, Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY-16) and Representative Dave Loebsack (D-IA-2) signed on earlier this month as co-sponsors of the Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act of 2017.
Representative Engel is serving his sixteenth term in the House of Representatives. His current district, the 16th Congressional District of New York, encompasses the northern portion of the Bronx, which is one of the boroughs of New York City, as well as parts of suburban southern Westchester County. Representative Engel is also a current member of the Subcommittee on Health, where HR 1187 is under consideration. See the linked website for a list of all current members. Representative Engel has a long record of supporting a wide range of veterans’ issues and health issues, as seen on his official house website. As previously discussed on this blog on August 12, 2011 and August 25, 2011, military service members and veterans are at disproportionately high risk for functional gastrointestinal disorders like IBS, which are already very common in the general population.
Representative Loebsack is serving his sixth term in the House of Representatives. His district, the 2nd Congressional District of Iowa encompasses most of the southeastern region of the state including the cities of Davenport, Iowa City, Clinton and Ottumwa, among others. According to his official House website, Representative Loebsack is currently a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which includes the Subcommittee on Health. He has immediate family members currently serving in the military, previously served on the House Committee on Armed Services, and also has a strong record of supporting veterans’ issues.
In officially supporting HR 1187, Representatives Engel and Loebsack join Representative F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI-5) , who is the initial sponsor and Mark Pocan (D-WI-2) ,the initial co-sponsor. All of these Representatives also supported the previous version of this Act, HR 2311, in 2015-2016, and Representative Sensenbrenner has been the initial sponsor for all four versions of the Act since 2010. If you are a constituent of any of these legislators, please take a few minutes to call, write or contact him on social media to thank him for his continuing support of the functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders community.
U. S. citizens, if your Member of Congress is not yet a co-sponsor of HR 1187, please see the previous post from March 21, 2017 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. Keep in mind that your Representative may be different from before because of the 2016 elections, district boundaries that may have been re-drawn, or if you have moved.
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. However, even general expressions of support are helpful.
HR 1187 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 1187.
NIH grants funding to researchers throughout the world, not just in the U.S., so in the long run, enactment of this Act may also benefit readers with IBS in other countries. Medical research also sometimes involves multinational teams of scientists, and in any case, study results are usually published globally, adding to the cumulative knowledge worldwide.
It is IBS Impact’s understanding that HR 1187 will not require a debate or vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, and will pass as soon as it reaches 218 sponsor/cosponsors, or a simple majority of the House. In order for this milestone to be accomplished during the current Congress, the 115th, the necessary number of sponsor/cosponsors must be reached by December 2018. Every two years, the Congressional membership will be different as a result of elections. Thus, if HR 1187 has not passed by that time, a similar bill will have to be reintroduced and the FGIMD community will have to start the process of gathering co-sponsors anew. This is what occurred with HR 2239 in 2012, HR 842 in 2014 and HR 2311 in 2016. 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 Facebook page or Twitter feed for further updates on HR 1187 as they occur. Links to the social media sites can be found on the right sidebar of the blog.