Ice Bucket Challenge Irony

Several US legislators who voted in favor of a bill that cut federal funding for ALS research have taken the chilly plunge for charity.

By | August 25, 2014

WIKIMEDIA, SLGCKGCThe viral video/charity stunt that has been sweeping the internet in recent weeks has reached the halls of Congress. Several US legislators have participated in the so-called ice bucket challenge, which involves filming people while they dump a bucket of frigid water over their heads to raise awareness and money for research on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). But, as the Huffington Post first pointed out, 16 of those sopping-wet lawmakers also voted for a bill in 2011 that whittled federal funding from ALS-specific research programs administered by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Nine Democrats and seven Republicans both took the ice bucket challenge and voted for the passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which came at the end of tense negotiations between the Obama administration and Congress. That year, Congressional Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling and save the U.S. from defaulting on its loans until substantial budget cuts were made at the federal level. Obama and Congressional Democrats relented at the 11th hour, and conceded serious budgetary trimming that included an across-the-board sequestration that sapped about $1.5 billion from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Funding for ALS research, which falls under the umbrella of NINDS, dropped by $5 million.

Subsequent legislation reduced the losses experienced by NINDS, and about $1 million was restored to NINDS’s ALS funding program. Since going viral online at the end of July, the ice bucket challenge has raised more than $70 million for ALS research as of Sunday (August 24), according to the nonprofit ALS Association (ALSA).

As reported by the Huffington Post, here are the legislators who both voted for the Budget Control Act of 2011 and took the ice bucket challenge.

John Barrow (D-Ga.)

Timothy Bishop (D-N.Y.)

Robert Brady (D-Penn.)

John Carney (D-Del.)

David Cicilline (D-R.I.)

Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.)

Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.)

Jim Langevin (D-R.I.)

Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.)

Jim Himes (D-Conn.)

Steve Israel (D-N.Y.)

Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.)

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.)

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)

Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.)

Ed Perlmutter (D-Co.)

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Avatar of: .M....


Posts: 4

August 25, 2014

Charity is, by definition, voluntary -- not coerced (e.g., taxes).

So, it's not inconsistent to vote against government spending tax revenues on ALS, while supporting charitable donations.

Avatar of: Elizabeth V H

Elizabeth V H

Posts: 3

August 25, 2014

There's no irony in the legislators actions.  They chose to participate in a private charity event which raised over $70 million.  They've shown that funding through the federal government is less effective than the private path. 


Avatar of: Jay Thakar

Jay Thakar

Posts: 16

August 25, 2014

May be this promotional technic should also apply to raise money to pay off the US debt.

Avatar of: RD


Posts: 4

August 28, 2014

Elizabeth, I agree with you that there is no irony in the public vs. private aspect of the source of funding, but I don't see how this event shows that federal funding is "less effective."  If you believe that funding medical research is outside the proper bounds of government activity, then effectiveness is not the issue.  On the other hand, if you believe that the public benefits from continued research into health issues which are unlikely to be well-supported by private industry or personal donations, then the goverment is the only entity capable of providing it.  The Ice Bucket Challenge went viral and raised a lot of money for a one-time event, but it doesn't look to me like the way to sustain research over the years required to make progress.

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