Special Visitor Makes Impact on Capitol Hill
The months of March and April are known as the busiest in Congress. In addition to the many Appropriations Committee hearings taking place, this is the time when many groups travel to Washington to meet with Members of Congress to advocate for their various causes.
In the past few weeks, I have met with dozens of such groups, ranging from military commanders and industry leaders to federal agency directors and school groups visiting Washington.
Of note, a group from Montgomery that included Mayor Todd Strange and Maj. Gen. Steve Kwast met with me to discuss key issues for the Capital City. I met with the new Chairman of the Board of International Paper, which employs hundreds of workers at its paper mill in Prattville. I also met with nursing students from Auburn University and AUM who are studying the unique health care needs of veterans at Walter Reed Hospital. They were eager to hear about my office's work to improve VA health services in Alabama, particularly how we are trying to bridge the gap between the VA and community hospitals throughout the region.
However, of the many visitors to my office, one really stands out: Gabe Griffin, a ten year old boy from Birmingham who suffers from a genetic condition called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, or DMD. DMD is a neuromuscular disorder that causes muscles to weaken and die over time. Doctors say that, without a cure, Gabe could be wheelchair-bound within a few years and could lose his life by age 20. Gabe’s parents, Scott and Traci Griffin, have worked tirelessly to build awareness about the disease and raise money for finding a cure. You may have heard about their 3,300 mile cross-country bicycle trek called “Ride for Gabe.”
Stories like Gabe's are the reason I support the 21st Century Cures Act, which seeks to enhance our ability to find cures and treatments for rare, unique diseases. The bill would modernize our biomedical research capabilities by breaking down barriers to collaboration and hastening the development and approval of new, life-saving drugs. The House passed this bill last year by an overwhelming bi-partisan vote. Momentum is now building in the Senate, as a companion bill is being drafted. Also, Vice President Joe Biden has been meeting with lawmakers about the 21st Century Cures Act and other bills that seek to advance medical research.
It’s clear that Gabe’s story is making a difference on Capitol Hill. Using my office’s conference room as a home base, Gabe and his parents welcomed a long line of lawmakers from both parties who stopped in to convey their support.
It was a privilege having Gabe and his family in our office. With all the hearings, meetings and votes going on, this one special visitor offered a reminder of what is truly important in life and how Congress can work together to solve problems affecting people.