The evening of June 6 Senate and House conferees met to discuss the Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 Supplemental Appropriations bill. There was an attempt to add to the bill a "deeming" resolution establishing the appropriations allocation for FY 2007, Senators on the conference committee introduced an amendment to this resolution which would add the $7.1 billion for health and education programs that were part of the Specter-Harkin Amendment.
In order for it to pass the amendment needed the support of two Republican Senators. One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) assumed Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) would support the effort and felt Senator Mike DeWine’s (R-OH) vote was a key to the amendment’s passage but was unsure of his support.
I contacted Rebecca Dague, colon cancer survivor and C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition advocate who lives in Ohio, to ask she call Senator DeWine to urge him to support the amendment. She called his office that night to leave a message and followed up with another call the next morning.
The next day (June 7) I recieved a message from OVAC which said the Senators on the conference committee approved the amendment and that Senators Specter and DeWine were the two Republicans who supported it. Unfortunately, House members of the confernce committee did not accept its adoption into the bill.
A short while after this Nancy Roach, C3 President, attended an OVAC meeting which discussed the vote on the amendment. She said the OVAC people were "very, very surprised" that Senator DeWine voted for the amendment. At the time of the meeting Nancy did not konw of Rebecca’s contact with Senator DeWine.
Nancy’s email went on to say:
"Your personal connection makes a big impact when it comes to specific asks. Elected officials want to be re-elected, so they want to please voters — and that means YOU."
I do not claim that Rebecca’s calls to Senator DeWine were THE reason he voted for the amendment but it could very well have been the nudge needed to get his support. Most of us do not have Sneators and Representatives in position’s as key to the passage of cancer legislation but that does not matter. What does matter is that you remember you do not know what will push elected officials to decide one way or the other so it is vital for youi to start, build and maintain a relationship with them and their staffs.
The Hill is feeling the impact of the cancer community in general and C3 in particular. Members of Congress must realize that in addition to their support we want adequate funding of cancer programs. The FY 2007 Labor/HHS appropriations process is not over thus you still have opportunity to influenc the final bill Congress sends to the President.