Rep. Michele Bachmann has gotten a lot of mileage out of her symbolic congressional legislation to designate September “National Hydrocephalus Awareness Month.” However, her enthusiasm seems to stall when it comes to funding research for a cure for this brain disease. The 6th District Minnesota congresswoman has voted against federal research funds for hydrocephalus at every opportunity since she was elected in 2006.
Hydrocephalus is a condition in which excessive cerebrospinal fluid — a clear fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord — accumulates to cause an abnormal dilation of the spaces in the brain called ventricles. This dilation causes potentially harmful pressure on the tissues of the brain. The disease may be congenital or acquired, and occurs in about 1 in 500 births.
“It is my hope that by raising awareness of hydrocephalus, we can encourage the research that will lead to new diagnoses, treatments, and cures for it, helping these children and their families live full lives without constantly fearing the worst,” Bachmann wrote on her website.
Federal funding for hydrocephalus research comes through the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is part of the National Institutes of Health in HHS and is the leading federal agency conducting and funding hydrocephalus research. Some research also may be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also under HHS.
Bachmann’s own resolution states that “further research into the epidemiology, pathophysiology, disease burden, and improved treatment of hydrocephalus should be conducted and supported” and that “public awareness, professional education, and scientific research regarding hydrocephalus should increase through partnerships between the Federal Government, health care professionals, and patient advocacy groups.”
Yet Bachmann has voted against every HHS appropriations bill since 2007. She cast “no” votes on final passage of HHS appropriations for FY2007, FY2008, FY2009 and, on July 24, for FY2010.
Bachmann’s office did not return calls seeking an explanation for the congresswoman’s votes against federal research funds for hydrocephalus. But the next time Bachmann comes calling seeking publicity for her latest headline-grabbing bill, MinnPost and others would do well to go beyond the hollow words of her press releases to get the full story.
Karl Bremer is a Stillwater writer.