Washington, D.C. -- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) today delivered the following speech urging colleagues to support the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act (H.R. 2109). With Gabriella's parents, Mark and Ellyn, present in the House chamber, H.R. 2019 passed the House of Representatives with a strong bipartisan vote of 295-103:
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the gentleman from Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act. I also would like to thank my colleague, the gentleman from Vermont, for his courage in providing bipartisan support, along with some other colleagues, in support of this bill – as well as the Republican cosponsors Gregg Harper from Mississippi and Tom Cole from Oklahoma, here in this chamber. I also would like to recognize, for those colleagues who are here in the chamber, we are joined by Gabriella’s parents in the gallery, Ellyn and Mark Miller. I want to thank them for their courage in being here. I want to thank them for their understanding of what goes on on this floor and to not take it in any other way than we’re trying to do what’s right. We’re trying to do what’s right in delivering on the legacy of their daughter.
“Mr. Speaker, Gabriella Miller, a young girl from Virginia, was only 9 years old when she found out she had an inoperable brain tumor the size of a walnut and wasn’t given long to live. Despite her diagnosis, Gabriella and her family chose to fight and share her dream with others of overcoming childhood disease.
“Gabriella was so determined that she captivated people’s hearts at rallies, online with videos, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Make a Wish Foundation, and even wrote a book for other children about understanding cancer. She poured every remaining ounce of her life into raising awareness for pediatric research for other children with the hope that they would not have to suffer the same fate. In her last few months, Gabriella left a mark on the world that will never be forgotten.
“Mr. Speaker, there is no question that Washington has a spending problem. But the problem is not only that we spend too much, but that we are spending taxpayer dollars on the wrong priorities. Medical research for children should be a national priority.
“The first NIH bill I scheduled as Majority Leader was a bipartisan bill authored by Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Representative Lois Capps to strengthen pediatric research networks. The President signed that bill into law last month.
“The bill before us today builds on that legislation by providing some money through the NIH Common Fund for high risk, high reward research that has the potential to transform pediatric research for children suffering from many different diseases and disorders. For the first time, Congress will establish a Pediatric Research Initiative Fund that will serve as an accountability mechanism to help ensure that dollars are reaching their intended target.
“While all of us support the NIH, this bill is an opportunity to push the agency to make big discoveries that will improve and ultimately save so many lives. We don’t have to accept the status quo as the best we can achieve. Yes, the NIH needs taxpayer resources; but it also matters how we invest and apply those dollars.
“Some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle say this is a drop in the bucket compared to the sequester cuts. I agree, the sequester cuts were unfortunately indiscriminate, and I and my colleagues have proposed alternatives to them. But let's not let Washington politics get in the way of any effort to help these kids. This is one step of many we should take together.
“How many times do we meet with parents and families who share their stories and ask us for their help? Well I recently had the privilege of meeting Gabriella’s parents Ellyn and Mark, and they personally shared with me Gabriella’s fighting spirit. In fact, in one of her last interviews, and you can view this online, when asked what Gabriella would like to tell our political leaders, she said “Stop talking, start doing. We need action!” This bill is our opportunity to act.
“Outside of this building this legislation has tremendous support. The leading children’s research hospitals, United for Medical Research, and over one hundred patient advocacy groups support this bill. Currently, it leads all other bills on cosponsor.gov with over 2,500 citizen co-sponsors.
“This kind support is great, but what matters now are the members of this House and how they vote. The question before Members today is simple. What is more important: Finding cures for our children? Or balloons for party conventions and catering for politicians?
“The bottom line is this bill is a choice between allocating monies for political conventions or for pediatric medical research – that’s the choice. The bill isn’t just about a government agency or taxpayer dollars. It’s not about Democratic issues or Republican issues. It’s about a cause frankly that should unite each and every one of us. Yes, I would say to my colleague from California, this is a serious first step. It is not everything and to sit here and impugn anyone’s motives, much less say something that somehow is a commentary that this isn’t constructive towards the plight of the parents like the Miller’s who are around this country searching for some indication that we can break the political gridlock on an issue like this. And I align myself with the comments of my colleague from Vermont who says, “can’t we just put down the battle axes for something like this?” Can’t we all do that for someone like Gabriella?
“Now, Gabriella may no longer be with us, but her fight lives on. I ask, Mr. Speaker, that all of us stand united today and join this fight.
“Again, I want to thank Congressmen Gregg Harper. I want to thank Congressman Peter Welch for introducing this bill, as well as Congressman Tom Cole from Oklahoma. Earlier this year, they began the effort to join with so many that have come before to raise awareness for the need for medical research – and yes this time the need for us to prioritize funding for pediatric research.
“I want to thank Gabriella’s parents, the Miller’s, who are so brave in their commitment to this effort, and realize this is just a first step, for being here with us today and for joining us in this fight. I strongly urge my colleagues to support this bill.”