Talk is Cheap

There is a common saying in Washington, DC that, “all politics is local” – meaning that most elected representatives are forced to address the concerns of their home state constituents before all else if they’re to remain in office. The past few elections have challenged this contention though, and many larger national issues like terrorism and the economy have taken over the public consciousness.

But let’s not forget – YOU elected your representative in government. Aren’t you curious about what they’ve been up to? After all, you don’t hire a home contractor and then go on vacation for two years.

This is an election year, and a lot of otherwise non-political people have tuned into the issues because of political attack ads and national debates. You may know these people, you may see their status updates on Facebook about Big Bird, but how many of them actually take action? How many of them write their local Congressperson or petition for the change they Tweet about so vociferously?

Me? I wasn’t content with my blog post from a few weeks ago. I’m upset. I’m disgusted by the inability of Congress to pass the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2012 and I wasn’t going to hide behind a computer screen. I wanted to do more.

So, I hopped on a plane.

I spent two full days on Capitol Hill talking with those representatives I called out in my blog to find out why legislation that has bicameral AND bipartisan support hasn’t passed yet, especially when it will be so vital in saving lives. I wanted answers.

Do you know what I found?

Despite much evidence to the contrary, there are a lot of dedicated, decent folks in government. Many of these people have kept the Immuno Bill and other key transplant patient issues on the Congressional docket for years, and they’ve toiled tirelessly (and thanklessly) to educate staffers and Members on the Hill about the issues. Government is a giant cargo ship, not a speedboat, and you don’t turn it around quickly. But here are these people; they are dedicated public servants, oars at the ready, desperately trying to pull the ship in the right direction.

I met with quite a few House and Senate leaders, including the offices of House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), House Energy and Commerce Vice Chair of the Health Subcommittee Michael Burgess (R-TX), and veteran House Ways and Means member Ron Kind (D-WI). Some of these Members of Congress and their staff have direct ties to transplantation and many of their loved ones, extended family, and constituents that have all been personally touched by the gift-of-life. As a result, their commitment and resolve is strong, even in the face of political gridlock.

Here’s the thing. Is government inactivity frustrating? Absolutely. I think you know how I feel on that subject. But what’s more frustrating sometimes is that these members of Congress may not know just how badly we need their help. I was there, in their office, telling them about AST and our amazing members who feel so passionately about this legislation. And do you know what most of them said?

“Tell them to get in touch. We’d love to hear from them.”

Let’s call their bluff, shall we?

Sure, sometimes partisan politics get in the way, but let’s use that to our advantage. The Immuno Bill has support on BOTH sides of the aisle, so it shouldn’t matter where you stand for party, as long as you stand for something.

Here’s my idea. Let’s get in their face. Let’s email our representatives, call them, message them on Facebook, Tweet at them, show up at their office, hire a skywriter – do whatever it takes. And remember – these are people who SUPPORT us. Let them know we support them. Share your stories, talk about your feelings – give them the ammunition they need to fight through the cluttered ramparts of broken government that slow our advance.

Do you want change? Talk is cheap. It’s time for action. Here’s where it starts.

Brian Sutter or Brett Baker
Office of House Ways and Means Chairman Camp (R-MI)
(202) 225-3625

Srinu Sonti
Office of Senate Deputy Majority Leader Durbin (D-IL)
(202) 224-2152

JP or Rebekah West
Office of Congressman Burgess (R-TX)
(202) 225-7772

Elizabeth Stower or Travis Robey
Office of Congressman Kind (D-WI)
(202) 225-5506

- Roz


This delay is pretty sad. Especially because the document could really save lives. Each day of delay really leads to health deterioration in several patients. Do people in Washington really understand it? And if so, do they really understand that they are responsible for those patients lives? Probably my comment is impolite. So I apologize for sharp words. Konstantin Tchilikidi, M.D.

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