Saturday, March 22, 2014

The compassion of Eric Cantor and the 'Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act'

The words of a little girl who fought a battle against brain cancer touched one of the most powerful men in Washington, D.C. who continued her crusade after she passed from this world.

Just before her death, ten-year old Gabriella Miller was asked in a documentary what she would like to tell U.S. leaders about the need for pediatric cancer research and she said, “Less talking, more doing. We need action.”

On Tuesday the U.S. Senate unanimously approved bipartisan legislation that had been passed in December by the House, and will now be passed on to the President.

Gabriella's comments came during a documentary that was filmed not long before the fifth grader's death on October 26, 2013. The video was seen by Eric Cantor, the U.S. House Majority Leader who was already working on a bipartisan pediatric medical research bill.  He renamed it the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act.

On Thursday the Richmond Times-Dispatch explained the act:

The measure transfers roughly $100 million from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund — a taxpayer subsidy for presidential nominating conventions — to research on pediatric ailments at the National Institutes of Health. A few months ago Democrats opposed the measure, calling it a sham and a joke, because they were angry about sequestration — a brainchild of the Obama administration.
Liberal bloggers had bashed Cantor, accusing him of exploiting a little girl. But they were wrong.

The bill passed unanimously.
Wiser heads prevailed, and the other day the Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent. Virginia’s two Democratic senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, championed the measure. (No word yet on what ThinkProgress has to say about them.) Cantor issued a statement noting that often “everyone is (so) focused on what Congress cannot accomplish that we overlook the good that can be done when both parties work together.” He has a point — albeit one blunted by the reality that it still took Congress months to set aside partisanship long enough to help find cures for sick kids.
The Times-Dispatch concluded:
And Cantor was motivated not by calculation but by compassion.
Compassion for a little girl whose illness touched one of the most powerful men in America. After the vote, Cantor spoke of Gabriella's impact:
“So often everyone is focused on what Congress cannot accomplish that we overlook the good that can be done when both parties work together. One courageous young girl, Gabriella Miller, inspired bipartisan action to help research, treat, and cure pediatric diseases and disorders. When people would remark that Gabriella was wise beyond her years, she would tell them that having a brain tumor means you have to grow up real fast. And so a 10-year-old girl was battling for more pediatric research at the same time she battled for her life.”
Gabriella didn't live to see the bill passed but when her parents visited with Cantor after her death, they brought a bouquet of brightly-colored tissue paper flowers. Caitlin Gibson wrote in the Washington Post:
The flowers, which were collected by the thousands after Gabriella’s death, were displayed at her memorial service and intended to be distributed to people who could make a difference in the fight against cancer: researchers, legislators, nurses, patients.
Fittingly, the flowers were placed in Cantor's office, a bright splash of color as a fitting reminder of a little girl named Gabriella whose short life, and death, will have a lasting impact.

See also Congress heeds dying Va. girl's call for research by Frederick J. Frommer with the Associated Press.

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