The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation executive director Kathy Wiedemer spent the day on March 16, 2011 educating Congressional staffers about mesothelioma and the dire need for research funding to find a cure. The visits targeted congressional districts with high levels of asbestos exposure and included the following offices:
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT)
Senator Jon Tester (D- MT)
Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-MT)
Congressman Norm Dicks (D-WA)
Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-PA)
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN)
Ms. Wiedemer educated staffers about the devastating effect of Mesothelioma, and urged legislators to sustain vital funding to the agencies that fund meso research, including the National Institutes for Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Defense. We advocated for the crucial agencies and asked for additional funding in Fiscal Year 2012. Our contacts let us know that many legislators are being very protective of direct grant funding for research and will do their best to defend those funds.
Of greater concern is the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), which may or may not be considered an earmark. With the current efforts to curtail spending, the Republican majority in the House is drawing a hard line on earmarks and making great strides to abolish earmarks all together. The definition of an earmark has been hard to pin down at this point, so it is unclear if the CDMRP will fall into the earmark category. Earmarks are a very small part of the federal budget, but they have become a powerful symbol, particularly for Republicans, of the culture of government spending.
Mesothelioma has been named a program of interest in the peer-reviewed medical research program in the CDMRP and provides critical funding for Mesothelioma research. It is of utmost importance that the Department of Defense funds Mesothelioma research as an estimated one third of meso patients were exposed on Navy Ships and on Navy shipyards. We will continue to watch closely and advocate to increase funding to the CDMRP.