Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) has a reputation for his partisan and ideological edge. During the 109th Congress, however, he sponsored an important measure with broad bipartisan support. The Combating Autism Act of 2006 would step up federal efforts to fight autism through research, screening, intervention and education. The Senate version passed the upper chamber unanimously. The House companion bill has 227 cosponsors — more than a majority of the chamber – including such conservative stalwarts as Richard Pombo (R-CA).
One would think that top House Republicans would eagerly pass a measure that could help an endangered Senate colleague, attract favorable publicity, and -- as an added bonus -- actually do good for the country.
But Joe Barton (R-TX) , chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, refused to bring it up. On his website, he explains that he wants to take politics out of medical research. This rationale seems odd when you scroll down his press releases and find one touting a $496,000 "Barton-requested grant" for research at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Whatever his motives, Barton has alienated a significant group of voters. Autism strikes one in 166 children. Millions of Americans either care for an autistic family member or know someone who does. Organizations that support autism research are spreading the word about Barton's obstructionism. And radio talk show host Don Imus has joined the fray.
Because of such pressure, there is a chance that Barton will yield and permit action on the bill during the lame-duck session.