A good example of actually getting something done in Congress was highlighted in Sunday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial about Virginia’s Eric Cantor, former congressman from the 7th District who in 2014 was the majority leader and in line to become speaker of the House.
A ten-year-old girl from Leesburg, Virginia, named Gabriella Miller emotionally touched some of the most powerful politicians in America in 2013, including Cantor. Diagnosed with an inoperable form of brain cancer, she had a desire to find more money for children’s cancer research and, though she lost her eleven-month battle with cancer, her quest was taken up by then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor who formed a bipartisan coalition to get the bill passed.
Cantor’s ability to pull together a bipartisan effort was a testament to his leadership considering at the time there was a line drawn on the floor of the Capitol and the government had been forced into a shutdown in the fall of 2013 causing strained working conditions and constant stalemates.
Last week Cantor published an op-ed (see Skip the balloons, fund medical research) that explained how he took Gabriella’s request and made it a reality:
In 2012, the U.S. government spent just over $18 million of our tax dollars on each of the party conventions. In 2008, expenses for the four-day soirees included more than $6 million in salaries, $1.6 million for catering, $350,000 for music, films, and photography and $20,000 for gift bags and trinkets. However, federal funding didn’t cover the entire cost of those or prior conventions. The two parties and the local host committees raised millions in additional private funds to stage the events.
Beginning in 2015, the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act redirected those tax dollars to a new “10 Year Pediatric Research Fund.” Over the next decade, $126 million will be provided through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research treatments and cures for childhood diseases.
In Sunday’s editorial, the Richmond Times-Dispatch thanked Cantor and honored Gabriella (see Thanks to Cantor, federal money helps sick kids, not convention revelers):
She confronted her affliction with courage and conviction. She spoke out in favor of research and treatment. At one point she said she would lose her battle but society would win the war. Cantor named the bill after her to honor her memory. Washington tells stories not only of dysfunction and petty partisanship but, with the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, of legislators from both parties uniting on behalf of the overall good.
In the short time she had, Gabriella, who implored politicians to “stop talking and start doing,” did her part:
With her parents Gabriella helped found the Smashing Walnuts Foundation, named after the walnut-sized tumor that the doctors informed her she had. During the 11 months before she succumbed to the cancer, she helped raised nearly $300,000 for research.
At the time, Cantor said there was more work to do. Unfortunately, some short-sighted populists were joined by Democrats who were happy to oust a leader who actually got things done. Fortunately, Gabriella’s legacy lives on.
In the end, however, Cantor dodged a bullet with today’s dysfunctional GOP, as the RTD noted in an addendum to the editorial:
Speaking of Cantor: His upset loss to David Brat in the 2014 primary may have redounded to his personal benefit. It spared him the agony of serving in the GOP leadership, probably as speaker, when the party nominated Donald Trump for president. Individual senators, representatives, governors and other officials are free to stand on the electoral sidelines when their party nominates an unworthy candidate. Members of the leadership carry a heavier burden. Their position almost obligates them to support their party’s ticket. Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, clearly is uncomfortable with Trump. He has endorsed him nevertheless. (Trump has endorsed Ryan with reluctance, too.) Cantor and Trump are polar opposites. Cantor does not need to join him when he campaigns in the Virginia battleground. He has better things to do.
Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
Cross-posted at Bearing Drift