Before she died in October, 10-year-old Gabriella Miller recorded a video criticizing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — by name — for his willfully-misinterpreted comments about funding the National Institutes of Health during the government shutdown. That video of Gabriella, including the misdirected critique on Reid, is now the highlight of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's website promoting a bill that would reallocate medical research funding.
"I have very good ears," the video at Cantor's Kids First Research Act site begins, showing Gabriella sitting in what appears to be a bedroom, on a colorful quilt littered with toys. "I heard them talking, the government, saying, that they wanted to give a little bit of money to childhood cancer, just because." She continues.
And Senator Reid says, "Why would we do that for one child? I have people that are off work for a few days." People are off work for [air quotes] "a few days" all the time. Think of the parents that are off work for a few days for their children that have cancer.
What Gabriella is referring to is Reid's comment at a press conference shortly after the government shutdown got underway. House Republicans had begun a strategy of pushing piecemeal bills to fund popular components of the government in order to undermine the Democratic unity demanding full government funding or nothing. Our Abby Ohlheiser transcribed the conversation between CNN's Dana Bash, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Reid when a bill that funded the National Institutes of Health was brought up.
BASH: But if you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn't you do it?
SCHUMER: Why put one against the other?
REID: Why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force base that are sitting home.
The "why would we want to do that?" was in response to Schumer, not Bash. But Schumer's comment, off-mic, was ignored by Republicans, who claimed that Reid was actually dismissing the idea of helping kids with cancer. That's the message the Gabriella got, too, it seems.
There's nothing wrong with advocating for changing public policy or advocating for increased funding for certain illnesses (you can read about the policy here). It is a little trickier to feature young children advocating for policy, but it's not uncommon. When you feature a visibly sick child criticizing an opponent by name for something that is obviously unfair, it's simply stunning.
On Tuesday, CNN's Bash covered the story of Gabriella's life of advocacy and her death from a brain tumor at the end of October. She interviewed Cantor.
BASH: It's pretty rare to name a piece of legislation after a person.
CANTOR: It could be a really inspiring story for so many people.
As Democrats note to Bash, far more funding was cut from NIH under sequestration than would be replaced by Cantor's bill — cuts that Cantor praised in September.
Hat-tip: Zach Beauchamp
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.