With the government days away from shutting down, and Republicans still searching for votes on a measure to raise the debt ceiling, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor took some time Thursday to focus on what’s really important: the children.
Of course, the children in question just happened to be accompanied by NASCAR superstar Denny Hamlin and supermodel Niki Taylor.
The Virginia Republican met with the group, representing the March of Dimes, in his office to hear about their legislative priorities. At the top of their list are a Senate-passed bill to expand research and education on preterm birth and one of Cantor’s bills to end taxpayer financing for presidential campaigns and conventions and shift funding to pediatric research.
Hamlin, driver of NASCAR’s No. 11 FedEx Toyota, showed political shrewdness by getting straight to the point.
“The key to research is funding,” he told Cantor.
The majority leader agreed but noted to knowing chuckles, “There are things going on right now having to do with funding the government period.”
Still, Cantor acknowledged, “I can’t think of a better expenditure for our federal dollars” than funding pediatric research.
“If we’re talking about trying to balance the budget and trying to do these things, not only is curing disease the right thing to do because it helps save lives … but it also can affect the federal deficit, because so much of overspending is due to health care,” Cantor postulated.
Hamlin, his right hand showing no sign of a recent injury, noted that as a new father, he is newly appreciative of moments when he sees premature babies in the nursery.
“We just hope and pray that everything is going to be all right for them,” he said.
He also extended appreciation to his car sponsor.
“FedEx has been great — they’ve given up their race car the last six years to promote the March of Dimes,” Hamlin said.
Cantor congratulated Hamlin on his fatherhood and pondered the bright future ahead for children whose lives could be saved or improved by more pediatric research.
“Look at all those NASCAR races we can go see,” he said.
Three hundred advocates for the March of Dimes are in town this week; the supermodel/stock car driver/family group also planned to meet with Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Richard M. Burr of North Carolina.