The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, introduced by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), would divert $126 million from a seldom-used fund set aside for national political conventions and use the money to expand pediatric cancer research through the Common Fund at the National Institutes of Health. The funding would be provided to NIH over a 10-year period.
Though some Democrats sharply objected to the legislation, the act received enough bipartisan support to pass in a 295-103 vote.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) was among the Democrats who condemned the vote, claiming that the legislation was intended to mask deeper cuts to NIH funding championed by House Republicans.
“It’s one of the most cynical acts I’ve seen in a Congress,” Connolly said in a prepared statement.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), a strong supporter of the legislation, acknowledged the concerns from Democrats in his remarks before the vote.
“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,” he said. “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.”
The act was named for Miller, a Loudoun County fifth-grader who became a celebrated cancer awareness activist and public speaker during her 11-month battle with an inoperable brain tumor. She died in October.
Gabriella’s parents, Mark and Ellyn Miller, were present for the House vote. In a Facebook post Wednesday evening, Mark Miller said it had been an “amazing” experience for the family.
“To sit in the House gallery and listen to members of Congress speak so highly of your daughter during debate is overwhelming. Gabriella would have been thrilled with the events of the day,” he wrote.
Megan Whittemore, Cantor’s press secretary, said the bill’s supporters hope the Senate will also take up the legislation.
“We hope the Senate will act on this important bill so that Gabriella’s legacy will live on,” she said.