In what would be the most dramatic demonstration of the GOP's new bid to prioritize federal spending to major issues, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is proposing that the nearly $100 million taxpayers spend on presidential campaigns and conventions be turned over to fighting autism and other childhood diseases.
"Instead of spending millions of taxpayer dollars for presidential campaigns, these funds will be better spent helping find cures and treatments for pediatric diseases and disorders like autism," said the Richmond lawmaker.
With Reps. Gregg Harper of Mississippi and Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Cantor plans to introduce the Kids First Research Act to expand pediatric research at the National Institutes of Health.
Their announcement came on World Autism Day and amid a growing number of surveys and reports that autism is on the rise. Cantor, for example, said that one in 50 schoolchildren has autism.
More money is being spent on autism research, but the trio's plan would provide a funding turbo boost by diverting about $100 million over 10 years from the presidential election fund to pediatric research.
"In order for clinical trials -- and other advancements -- to meet their full potential, adequate federal resources must be directed to pediatric research," said Harper.
Cole, a recent chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said picking on funds for presidential campaigns and national presidential conventions was easy. "Transforming welfare for politicians into efforts to eradicate this terrible disease is a much better reflection of our national prerogatives," said Cole. "This legislation is an example of how much can be accomplished by ending wasteful spending and redirecting those funds toward urgent national priorities like the need to combat autism."
If passed, the autism bill will force political parties to raise even more money to stage their conventions. Recent presidential candidates have chosen not to use public funds and instead raised even more money to pay for their campaigns.