Victories and Challenges in 112th U.S. CongressBy Elizabeth Kucinich, PCRM’s Director of Government Affairs
This past year was marked by victories and challenges in our federal work. At a time when political wrangling often seems to get in the way of agreement, we made progress on several fronts.
PCRM worked nonstop in 2012 on the BEST Practices Act—a bill that would provide the highest level of military medical training to service members and begin to end its cruel and unnecessary use of animals. That effort paid off. In December, the Senate and the House approved language in the National Defense Authorization Act that calls for the Department of Defense to provide a report detailing how it can implement human-based simulators in place of live animals. This marks the first time that Congress has passed binding legislative language on this issue, which will modernize the military’s medical teaching methods and save more than 7,500 animals per year.
Members of Congress helped PCRM protect great apes when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) planned to transfer more than 100 “retired” chimpanzees to a laboratory instead of sending them to a sanctuary. PCRM’s government affairs team immediately rallied congressional support for a plan to ensure the chimpanzees’ permanent safety. NIH will now retire all of the chimpanzees to Chimp Haven sanctuary (see story in this issue).
The Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act accelerated and strengthened to a great degree in the 112th Congress. The measure—which would have brought the United States in line with every other civilized country in ending invasive experiments on chimpanzees—had strong congressional support by leadership in both the House and the Senate. PCRM worked with other groups, particularly the Humane Society of the United States, in advancing the legislation, leading to the Senate “hotlining” the bill for quick passage in December.
Unfortunately, it takes just one senator to hold up legislation under this scenario—and the Great Ape Protection Act had a handful. Despite our efforts to work with these senators, they delayed the process until the clock ran out at the end of the session.
Throughout the last congressional session, we were able to draw attention to wasteful and destructive agricultural subsidies in the Farm Bill. Due to wrangling in the House, however, Congress merely extended—and did not reauthorize—the $1 trillion Farm Bill in 2012. That means it will be back on the legislative calendar for the 113th Congress.
This provides us the opportunity to advance our proposed reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly the food stamp program), which is covered under the Farm Bill. SNAP currently puts an emphasis on candy, soda, meat, cheese, and other unhealthful foods—putting these foods on a par with healthier choices. Our proposed Healthy Basics program would provide SNAP recipients healthful products, improved nutrition, and better health, at greatly reduced cost.
The new legislative session began Jan. 3, and we will continue our work on these campaigns and new efforts to promote responsible health policies, modernize research methods, and elevate ethical research standards.