Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 7, 2016

Cantor’s Pediatric Research Bill Has Democrats Fuming

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

While the House ties up some legislative loose ends this week before adjourning for the year, there is one suspension bill the public — and House Republicans — might be surprised to find many Democrats opposing: a measure aimed at boosting pediatric medical research at the National Institutes of Health.

The “Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act,” named after a 10-year-old girl who died in October following an 11-month battle with an inoperable brain tumor, would end $12.5 million in funding for party nominating conventions and authorize the money for pediatric research grants instead. It’s the latest iteration of a proposal House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., unveiled in April and is sponsored by Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss.

“They’re politicizing the death of a child by naming the bill after her,” a Democratic leadership aide told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday. “That’s pretty disingenuous and callous to use a tragedy like hers to advance something partisan.”

The Wednesday vote sets up a politically charged choice for Democrats: Vote to fund politics or vote to fund research for childhood diseases. The attack ads almost write themselves. And by offering the bill on suspension, usually a path for non-controversial items, Democrats will not have a chance to amend it and perhaps find some cover. Because suspension bills require a two-thirds majority, Democrats have the power to kill the bill.

Incensed Democrats note the measure won’t necessarily move money to the NIH — it would only authorize appropriators to do so.

Another Democratic leadership aide told CQ Roll Call that the bill was “disrespectful to the intelligence of the American people” and “a desperate attempt to cover up the GOP’s abysmal record to adequately fund the NIH.”

“Democrats won’t support it,” the aide said of the bill.

Indeed, Democratic leadership sent out a “whip alert” Tuesday urging members to vote no.

The alert, obtained by CQ Roll Call, says the bill is “merely a political messaging Band-Aid that House Republicans are using to hide the gaping wound they have left in our nation’s medical research abilities.”

But if the bill is just a Band-Aid, that doesn’t seem to bother Ellyn Miller, the mother of Gabriella.

“You’re talking about a Band-Aid?” Miller said of the Democratic response to the bill. “We need Band-Aids — lots of them.”

“Don’t tell me it’s a Band-Aid when I’m going around asking — begging — for money, and every single penny helps in this battle,” Miller told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday. Miller said her family’s charity — the Smashing Walnuts Foundation, which refers to the walnut-sized tumor in Gabriella’s brain — is raising small amounts of money. She also noted that her family donated Gabriella’s tumor to a researcher so that he could better understand the growth, and that the researcher was operating on a $100,000 grant.

That he could have his hand on the “doorknob” to a cure for $100,000 really affected Miller, she said.

But Democrats see the bill as nothing more than a cynical messaging ploy.

Matt Dennis, a spokesman for Appropriations Democrats, said it wouldn’t boost funding “by one dime.”

“Rather than increasing the amount that can be appropriated to NIH, it merely creates an unnecessary and unfunded authorization — a solution completely irrelevant to the problem,” Dennis said. “It is a cynical attempt by the majority to obscure their shameful record on medical research funding.”

The NIH has been squeezed by billions of dollars since Republicans took over the House, Democrats note, and the caps under the sequester for the Labor-HHS-Education budget would not be changed by the bill.

A number of prominent Democrats sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter Tuesday, saying that if the money is ultimately appropriated, the bill would add about four-tenths of 1 percent to the roughly $3.6 billion the NIH spent on pediatric research last year — and the letter claims the real issue for NIH funding is the sequester.

The appropriations needed to make the funds available for pediatric research, the letter said, are ordinary discretionary appropriations, which are subject to and reduced by the Budget Control Act.

“It is those caps and allocations, combined with sequestration, that have been driving down funding for NIH research and many other important national needs,” said the letter from Appropriations ranking member Nita M. Lowey of New York, Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry A. Waxman of California and Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey.

Rory Cooper, a spokesman for Cantor, said he hoped Democrats would put politics aside and agree that funding political party conventions is “not more important than saving and bettering the lives of our nation’s children who are combating diseases and disorders.”

“Partisan opposition to the president’s sequester, which leader Cantor has proposed alternatives for, should not stand in the way of doing the right thing for these kids,” Cooper said. “As Gabriella Miller said, ‘Less talking, more doing. We need action!’”

Indeed, Ellyn Miller told CQ Roll Call that she felt as though “people are letting the letter after their name — D or R — stand in the way of good for children.”

She will be in the House Gallery on Wednesday to watch the vote. And she said she’ll be happy regardless of the outcome.

“If it’s a defeat, it’s simply going to gather the forces to help move forward with the next phase,” she said.

  • LincolnX

    Congress could make a deal tomorrow to fund NIH, but Cantor would rather politicize something that most people can agree upon. Cantor has found a way to make the agreeable, disagreeable.

    Nice going, chief.

    • Bradoplata

      Sequester spending is all dems, not repubs. Way to make the agreeable disagreeable.

      • Smazeli

        I recall there being no sequestration, prior to the republicans taking control of the House. Am I wrong?

        • Bradoplata

          Dems negotiated it because they thought the Republicans would never allow defense cuts. You can Google it if you don’t believe me.

          • Smazeli

            Did the republicans demand cuts to domestic spending thinking Dems would never allow them? Or do they just naturally oppose CHIP and pediatric care?

          • Bradoplata

            What does that have to do with the fact that the sequester was the dems idea? The info is out there, I’m not doing your research for you.

          • Smazeli

            It was a pretty simple question. Both sides added things in it that they were sure the other side would never allow to pass, as that was the point of the sequester. It’s asinine to say it was “all dems”, as it was born out of the gridlock that began when the republicans took control of the house in 2010. Which is what lead to this being the least productive congress in US history.

            Everything, productivity, approval ratings, were better when the dems still had control.

          • Bradoplata

            Yes, everything ran smoother when the dems were in charge. Congrats to president Obama for getting politifact’s lie of the year.

            You claim Republicans don’t like taking care of the poor, but who’s responsible for the increase in poverty and hopelessness? The party that had all three houses and a veto proof majority, that’s who.

          • Smazeli

            Actually, Politifact rated Obama’s claim as “True”. The Lie of the Year thing is just determined by an online poll

          • Bradoplata

            PolitiFact has named “If you like your health care plan, you can keep
            it,” the Lie of the Year for 2013. Readers in a separate online poll
            overwhelmingly agreed with the choice. (PolitiFact first announced its
            selection on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper.)

          • SWohio

            Are you truly ignorant and stupid or do you just like to pretend you are?

        • SWohio

          Government shutdowns occurred in 1995 and 1996 under Clinton.

          In your mad rush to blame the shutdown on the GOP per your liberal talking points, you might want to find out who exactly ordered and prepositioned all the gov shutdown signs across the country, as well as scheduling the work of the government employees to install said signs. This was not done overnight. This took months and months of planning.

          You might also want to think about why Reid refused to bring any funding bills that were sent by the House in 2013, up for discussion, much less up for a vote.

          Gee, could it be that by refusing to allow ANY funding bills to go thru, Reid, Obama and the rest of the merry dems deliberately FORCED a government shutdown, while telling their ignorant followers to blame the GOP?

          • Smazeli

            You’re aware that the GOP controlled congress in 1995 and 1996, right? Ah, nevermind.

            Why would closing national monuments and parks require “months and months” of planning? They close every week, and hanging up signs isn’t a time-consuming task.

    • ranchdancer

      Democrats always have to have it their way…

      • Leslie Piper

        Your lips to God’s ears…

  • FED___UP

    We must start prioritizing where tax dollars are spent. I think we should do a lot more cutting of non essential spending. Take the money all presidents get to vacation and play around with and spend it more wisely also. In fact take ALL the slush funds away from all government entities. Anyone caught misusing taxpayer money should be gone from all government jobs and prosecuted!!!

    • DC_Whitt

      How about stop paying for Congressional vacations until the appropriation bills have been legislated?

      • texasaggie

        Heck, why not cut their salaries to pro rate them to time spent actually working? I’d sure like their work week.

        • Leslie Piper

          A good idea, except have you checked lately how many are already MILLIONAIRES? Besides, it isn’t the salary. It’s the gravy that drips from the tables of the Kochies and their coterie of kissups. That and the ‘pieces of the action’ and inside info…salary, anybody? That won’t even pay the rent and the servants.

    • imppress

      The opposite of slush funds (money with no specific rationale) is “earmarks” (money with a specific goal cited that cannot be redeployed.) Be careful what you wish for.

      • FED___UP

        In the content of my other remarks I was speaking of vacation, travel, party funds. My point was they are rich enough to pay for their travel themselves. I assume the president and congresssional leaders have “earmarked” money for these purposes…that needs to change.

  • ranchdancer

    why is it that there is no posting to Facebook…just a like button…seems many articles that are unflattering, to say the least, to Democrats can’t be posted.

    • FED___UP

      Blue tab right above the flag in the picture, labeled with a f

  • DaTechGuy on DaRadio

    Apparently the moral urgency of a mother of a child dead of cancer can’t trump the fear of democrats losing a talking point, not to mention funding for their convention.

    Kill the bill if you want I’m sure Gabriella mother will have a few things to say about it

    • Franklin Bacon

      But she sure can be used by Republicans to help kill funding for fair elections. She has been used and will not see much if any increased funding for her cause from this law.

  • InklingBooks

    There’s nothing surprising here. The reality is that these Democrats care more about oiling their political machine than about children fighting cancer.

    The Democratic presidential convention is where the party give the ever-compliant news media its marching orders for the next campaign. For Kerry it was “war hero.” For Obama it was “hope and change.”

    And what are we doing funding these conventions anyway? They already get huge subsidies from the cities where they are held. Let the political parties pay all their costs, including police services and traffic handling.

    –Michael W. Perry, author of My Nights with Leukemia: Caring for Children with Cancer

    • Franklin Bacon

      I want funding to third parties. Screw the Dems and the Reps. Now no one will get any, much less cancer research.

  • michaelj68

    Why were the taxpayers even funding what have become glorified political infomercials the first place? Let the parties fund their own conventions.

  • LouAnnWatson

    “They’re politicizing the death of a child by naming the bill after her,” a Democratic leadership aide told CQ…well, i guess parading the parents of dead children around pushing a fraudulent gun control agenda doesn’t count.

    • Scott Anderson

      Don’t forget the crimmigrants for amnesty and Sandra Fluke for free condoms.

      • John Richter

        That s&ut wanted her insurance premiums to cover contraceptives like the vast majority of policies. What a dirty slY&… Rush has you guys really screwed up.

        • richard40

          If the person paying for her policy wants to do that fine, otherwise she has no right to use gov to force them to.

          • John Richter

            Most states had mandated contraceptive coverage before Obummercare and no one said a peep about it… Strange, huh?

          • richard40

            An overeach by big gov is far worse at the fed level than the state level. If you are disgusted with a leftist state, you can always leave the state. But if there is a disgusting big gov abuse of power at the fed level, there is no place to run. I dont care as much about what you lefties do in your leftie states, just keep your grubby hands off my state.

  • halevi

    I’m glad the Repubs are playing hardball, at least a tiny bit.

  • Mary123s

    why is MY team upset over this? Because THEY can’t boast about it. So they will hold back research because how dare a REPUBLICAN come up with good ideas.

    • Franklin Bacon

      It’s not a good idea. It just diverts money meant for another purpose, which they were unwilling to dedicate from reasonable sources.

  • Turning Leaves

    First Harry Reid asks why they’d want to fund pediatric cancer drug trials and now this. Democrats sure hate children suffering from cancer.

  • j Ray

    Why do Democrats hate children? When they aren’t trying to abort them in the womb, they want them to die of cancer or of Sebelius turning thumbs down on kids getting lung transplants.

    • richard40

      Children are only worthwhile to dems if they can use them as props in a gun control debate.

    • texasaggie

      The person opposing lung transplants is Jan Brewer. The last report is that she is a republican governor in Arizona.

  • kbiel

    There are a lot of paragraphs dealing with the Democrat charge of partisanship covered by the death of a child, but only one quote regarding the charge that Democrats want to protect the tax-payer funding of their party convention. Hello, the fact that we were sending tax dollars to the parties should be a story in and of itself. And that story doesn’t have to targeted at Democrats alone, the Republicans were party to this as well.

    • richard40

      The repubs USED to be a party to it. But now it looks like they want to do the right thing and end the taxpayers dollars for conventions, and the dems not only wont let them, but claim it is partisan exploitation for even daring to suggest it.

      • kbiel

        I’m trying to give the author an out. Obviously, he can’t write a story that is detrimental to the Democrats only. That is verboten in modern journalism.

      • texasaggie

        You did notice that Cantor’s bill didn’t mandate that the money go from conventions to research. It just said that it would be ok if it did. And can anyone who has seen the republicans party believe that they are about to spend their party money on little kids?

        Why is it that Cantor didn’t mandate the money instead? The Democrats would have been fine, even happy, with that, but Cantor isn’t about to actually let the money go. He just wants points for bringing it up, but when it’s come to Jesus time, he isn’t about to let the money go. Does someone who wants to cut $10 billion of food stamps going to feed little kids REALLY care about research in pediatric diseases?

        • richard40

          I don’t particularly care where else the money goes, I just don’t want it spent on conventions. My preference would be to not spend it on anything else. But instead of all these hysterical complaints, why didn’t the dems make their real objection clear, and publically say they would agree to the convention cut if the money actually went to the kids.

        • Franklin Bacon

          Taxpayers select this option on their tax forms with the idea it is intended for elections, not for medical research. No one will select it for another purpose and the money will go away completely.

      • Franklin Bacon

        Repubs want to eliminate common people (taxpayers) from the democratic process; they having access to deep corporate pockets, while Dems and third parties only have the people.

  • AlexCristo

    Wo, camel, WO! I might be splitting hairs here, but I could have sworn the Democrats have used kids as pawns and props every chance they could in one gigantic appeal to emotion during any gun-control debate.

  • Dantes

    Affordable Care Act. Enough said about Democrats propagandizing legislation with names.

  • Greg Quark

    If it’s no big deal, then every Democrat should vote for it, making it a bipartisan bill, not a Republican one.

    Why do Democrats hate children so much they’re opposing this bill?

  • 500_lb_Gorrila

    This bill cuts some of the taxpayer’s money that’s been funneled to political parties, where it absolutely should not go, and it helps sick children. Democrats that oppose this are greedy lying hypocrites, no surprise there.

    • texasaggie

      Actually the bill does nothing like that at all. If you had read the article, you would understand that it just says that it could happen if sometime in the future the republicans stopped defunding the NIH. Cantor was very careful not to actually send the money to the NIH. That way he gets to party and also gets credit for caring about the same kids whose food stamps he is cutting to the tune of $10 billion to let them starve.

      • imppress

        Even assuming you’re right, why would Democrats defend taxpayer spending on political party organization? (BOTH parties, it seems, mind you, not just theirs.)

        It’s almost WORSE that Dems would oppose this measure since it doesn’t appear to actually accomplish anything. It’s all ceremonial tripe.

        I’m scratching my head about the strategy in play here. They’re either not as smart as I thought or way over my head. We’re talking 3-D chess level.

      • richard40

        So why don’t the dems propose a compromise, that they will agree to cantors convention cut if the money is actually appropriated and not just authorized. I did not hear any dem in the article make that offer, which makes your point look like an excuse, rather than the real reason the dems rejected it.

  • John Richter

    I say mandate the money goes to it instead of just authorizing it. There is a you know what in the woodpile.

    • richard40

      I notice no dem in the article made your very sensible offer as a compromise in exchange for their vote.

  • John Richter

    Another useless “symbolic” bill from congress? ”

    “Rather than increasing the amount that can be appropriated to NIH, it merely creates an unnecessary and unfunded authorization — a solution completely irrelevant to the problem,” Dennis said. “It is a cynical attempt by the majority to obscure their shameful record on medical research funding.”

    The NIH has been squeezed by billions of dollars since Republicans took over the House, Democrats note, and the caps under the sequester for the Labor-HHS-Education budget would not be changed by the bill.

  • Common_Sense_says

    Sounds like a good cause – they just need to make one minor change to make everyone happy, and that’s in the source of the funds – just take the money out of the extravagant amounts that we send to Israel, or what we spend on F-35 engines. Problem solved, and I’m sure Cantor and Boehner would support such a reasonable solution for everyone!

    • texasaggie

      Absolutely, and that would actually free up enough money to do some good.

    • richard40

      So you want taxpayer money spent on political conventions. I certainly don’t.

  • Rob

    Homosexuals get paid $28,000,000,000 (billion) annually for mental and physical help from the white house rat, why?

  • texasaggie

    So the obvious response is to have a suspension bill MANDATING that the money go to pediatric research and then add a lot more onto it to fund the NIH.

    • richard40

      So why didn’t any dem in the article make that very sensible compromise offer. If they would agree to the convention cut, as long as the NIH appropriation is actually increased by that amount, then the onus would be back on cantor. But since I heard no dem actually make that offer, it looks like an excuse on your part, and the dems really do want taxpayer money spent on political conventions.

  • imppress

    Liberal democrat here.
    Astonished how much I have in common with the dittoheads here.

    It doesn’t matter how little the money is. The question is whether taxpayers are served by furthering the interest of the major parties at the expense of independents and third parties.

    Liberals are upset that Democrats didn’t dig in their heels about unemployment benefits and THIS is where Democratic leadership takes a stand?

    How does this strike anyone in my party as good strategy?
    If you must do this, you slip the funding back in on some omnibus bill someday, but defending it in public? Wow. That’s amateur hour.

    Where’s the good ol’ fashioned cynicism?

    • Leslie Piper

      Old fashioned cynicism takes a deep breath here…have you read “This Town”? by the way, didn’t one of you, awhile back, offer to send me plans on how to build a guillotine? Probably WASN’T a reep.

  • Franklin Bacon

    So the lady wants to sacrifice fair elections for a pipe dream? She can be advised that her cause will never see any of the money, because it will now dry up, while the plutocracy gets a yet a firmer grip upon campaigns.

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