The United States Senate unanimously passed the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act on March 11th. The bill provides $126 million over ten years to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research into pediatric diseases and disorders, including autism. The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.
The bill (HR.2019) was introduced by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) last year on Autism Awareness Day. It is named for Gabriella Miller, a 10-year-old girl who died last year from an inoperable brain tumor. The bill eliminates public funding for the presidential nominating conventions and redirects it to the NIH, approximately $12.6 million per year.
Eric Cantor said,
“So often everyone is focused on what Congress cannot accomplish that we overlook the good that can be done when both parties work together. One courageous young girl, Gabriella Miller, inspired bipartisan action to help research, treat and cure pediatric diseases and disorders. When people would remark that Gabriella was wise beyond her years, she would tell them that having a brain tumor means you have to grow up real fast. And so a 10-year-old girl battling for more pediatric research at the same time she battled for her life. . .
“Putting pediatric research over politics was the entire point of this bill, and we have achieved that in more ways than one. Gabriella Miller’s amazing spirit stirred the capitol into action, and I hope it continues to do so for years to come.”
He went on to quote Gabriella Miller herself,
“There could be a lot, a lot, a lot of awareness at one time, and then after a while it just dies off. But I would prefer there be a little awareness out there and it be constant, forever and ever, and that will build up. It’s like sugar, sugar you go up like this and you go down like this, you have protein, you go up only halfway and you’re steady through the entire day. And that’s what we need.”
Other members of Congress shared their approval of the bill. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) said,
“The bipartisan effort is about making sure pediatric disease research is high priority. I applaud the leadership of my fellow Richmonder Eric Cantor in moving this bill through the House.”
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), said,
“Our children are our future, and furthering our efforts to fight against pediatric cancer and other diseases impacting our youth should be among our nation’s top priorities. I’m proud the House and Senate were able to come together in a bipartisan manner and pass this important bill, and I hope the President signs into law as soon as possible.”
Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks, praised Congress for passing this bill. She said,
“Autism Speaks commends Leader Cantor for forging this bipartisan commitment to funding research for autism and pediatric conditions. This shows sound leadership and sets an important example of how to establish priorities in Congress.”