Daily Dispatches
Sen. Tom Coburn
Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite (file)
Sen. Tom Coburn

Putting an end to taxpayer-supported political partying

Congress

Is it possible that both political parties could unanimously agree to cut a piece of government spending? Apparently so.

With a unanimous voice vote, the U.S. Senate this week approved the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, a bill that would divert $126 million set aside for national political conventions to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for pediatric research. It’s now headed to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature. 

“The party is over for Washington politicians,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who co-authored a Senate version of the bill. “Hardworking taxpayers will no longer have to fund summertime party junkets for the political class.

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The NIH funding will remain in effect for the next 10 years, after which the money could be reallocated elsewhere.

The House passed the measure on a 295-103 bipartisan vote in December. 

“As the father of a special-needs child, I understand fully the challenges facing families raising kids with medical difficulties,” said Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., the bill’s co-author who has an adult son with Fragile X Syndrome. “This bill appropriately places kids first by prioritizing research for our country’s most vulnerable children.”

Coburn said the Kids First Research Act sets an important precedent, because lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed to pay for new spending by reducing spending elsewhere.

“Historically, Washington has considered that principle to be unusual,” he said. “But in the real world it’s called common sense and living within your means.”

Coburn named party convention expenses as the most wasteful bit of government spending in his 2011 Wastebook. He and other Republicans have long sought to kill funding for political conventions—citing the wasteful spending of both parties—but straight defund efforts have fallen short. Harper’s idea to redirect the money to pediatric research proved successful, although some House Democrats complained it didn’t restore enough funding to the NIH.

Gabriella Miller was a 10-year-old Virginia girl who died of cancer last year.

J.C. Derrick
J.C. Derrick

J.C. is a reporter in WORLD's Washington Bureau. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

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