Senate sends Obama childhood cancer research bill

WASHINGTON — The Senate Tuesday passed Republican-backed legislation to repeal taxpayer funding for political conventions and to go on record in support of devoting $126 million over the coming decade for additional research into pediatric cancer and other childhood disorders like autism and Down syndrome.

The measure was passed by unanimous voice vote at the request of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. It now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature. The House passed the measure late last year.

The legislation was named after Gabriella Miller, a Virginia girl who died of brain cancer last year at age 10. She had helped raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and also sought to win public support for pediatric cancer research.

“One courageous young girl, Gabriella Miller, inspired bipartisan action to help research, treat and cure pediatric diseases and disorders,” said Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., a key House sponsor of the measure. 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.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said that the measure is largely symbolic and doesn’t directly fund additional pediatric research; the actual funding would come in future appropriations bills. Funding for medical research through the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, has been squeezed in recent years under tight spending limits and automatic spending cuts.

“It’s extremely important that we understand that the NIH is billions of dollars short of being able to maintain the place they’ve had in the past,” Reid said.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties each accepted more than $18 million from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund in 2012 to help finance their nominating conventions, with the money coming from the $3 or $6 checkoff designations made by taxpayers on their returns.

Congress separately provided $100 million to help state and local law enforcement agencies provide security for the 2012 host cities of Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was the last major party nominee to accept federal funding for his 2008 presidential campaign.

McConnell called the measure an “an important child health care bill, paid for by something I’ve been trying for a quarter of a century to get rid of, which is taxpayer funding of political conventions.”

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