Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) Passes in Senate; heads to President Obama's desk.

The Senate has passed the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) and has sent it to President Barack Obama. The bill passed after Sen. Bob Menendez reached an agreement with a Republican senator who had been blocking the measure.President Obama has already made public his intention to sign the bill into law.

The passage of a three-year extension of the 2006 Combating Autism Act authorizes $231 million in funding each year for research, education and services. Without an extension, Menendez, D-N.J., said there would have been no guarantee that autism research funded by the National Institutes of Health would have continued.

Menendez said he had been trying since last week to address concerns raised by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who blocked passage of a bill that had cleared the Republican-led House unanimously.

In the final deal, Menendez and Coburn agreed to jointly request a Government Accountability Office report on whether there was any redundancy in federal spending on autism.

“This original legislation was a centerpiece of coordination of programs,” Menendez said after the Senate unanimously approved the bill. “It’s a big victory. I’m not fearful of a GAO report and neither is the autism community.”

If the bill had not passed, the programs authorized by the 2006 law, including a coordinating council that brings together NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other groups, would have expired.

“Services that families depend upon could have been disrupted, and some might have lapsed,” Menendez said.