A pediatric research bill that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor helped shepherd through the House became law on April 3 after President Barack Obama signed the measure at a ceremony attended by Cantor, other lawmakers and the family of the young girl for which it was named.
The bill (HR 2019) is designed to shift funding that would have been spent on presidential nominating conventions to pediatric research by authorizing $126 million over 10 years through the National Institutes of Health’s common fund. But appropriators would still need to send the money to NIH in a spending bill, making the ultimate impact of the bill unclear – an issue that Obama alluded to in his remarks at the ceremony.
“What this legislation is going to do is it’s going to put millions of additional dollars into that research,” Obama said. “We’re going to need some cooperation from Congress to continue to work on a bipartisan basis to actually allocate those dollars in an effective way.”
Republican leaders praised the measure in statements released Thursday, touting it as an example of bipartisan cooperation. Like Obama, they also paid tribute to the bill’s namesake, Gabriella Miller, who advocated for support for childhood cancer before her death from brain cancer in October.
“Gabriella captivated people’s hearts and motivated members of Congress to come together to get something good done,” said Cantor, R-Va., who pledged to continue to work toward prioritizing life saving research.
House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio added, “This little girl made of stern stuff showed us all a thing or two about standing up for what’s right, and today belongs to her.”
The bill passed the House in December by a vote of 295 to 103 under suspension of the rules, an expedited procedure that requires a two-thirds majority for passage. It then sat in the Senate until last month, when it cleared the chamber by unanimous consent on March 11. The measure is one of about two dozen health bills to clear both chambers this Congress.
In addition to Cantor, other lawmakers at the ceremony included Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats; the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah; and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.