Sen. Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBottom line Biden's first 100 days is stylistic 'antithesis' of Trump The Memo: Washington's fake debate on 'bipartisanship' MORE (D-Nev.) did it again. He single handily blocked a bill from moving in the Senate. With a one page objection, the retiring senator kept terminally ill Americans from a step closer to having a right - a right to try. 

The senator’s reasons seemed right - he wants Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonRand Paul clashes with Fauci over coronavirus origins Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as White House continues to push vaccination effort Overnight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna MORE's Right to Try bill to have a hearing in the Senate committee with the main jurisdiction, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and he felt the bill wasn't bi-partisan.  Sounds reasonable?

ADVERTISEMENT

As is typical in politics though, the senators facts were - shall we say - off.

Johnson recently helped clear the record for Reid with some facts.

As Johnson outlined, the Right to Try bill did have two hearings in the Senate - in the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) of which Johnson chairs. This committee has some jurisdiction over this issue due to the bills attempt to streamline a burdensome government agency process – allowing expedited access to trial drugs under supervision of the FDA.

One may ask, why did the hearings happen in the HSGAC Committee and not HELP? That's because the HELP Committee has refused to hold a hearing, act on this bill or even publicly address Right to Try. Neither the chairman of the HELP Committee, Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderThe Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - CDC news on gatherings a step toward normality MORE (R-Tenn.) or ranking member, Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayBiden's pre-K plan is a bipartisan opportunity to serve the nation's children Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap MORE (D-Wash.) have weighed in on the issue. Seeing a lack of action, Johnson, the unusual Senator who likes action - held the hearings in his committee to vet the issue with patients, advocates and he invited the FDA.

The Senate bill was also bi-partisan.  Democratic Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSenate panel deadlocks in vote on sweeping elections bill Wyden: Funding infrastructure with gas tax hike a 'big mistake' Biden to host Sinema for meeting on infrastructure proposal MORE of West Virginia and Joe Donnolly of Indiana are indeed co-sponsors of this bill. Also on the state level, 32 states have had over 4,000 state legislators voting for State Right to Try bills - in most cases unanimously, making this issue bi-partisan across the nation. 

The most recent example was in California whose prime sponsor was the Democrat Senate Majority Leader.  Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown - a politician not usually know for libertarian or right-wing leanings signed the bill into law.  So what propelled California to exhibit such bi-partisanship? Perhaps people and not politics. Isn't that rare. 

Unfortunately some in the U.S. Senate - whose control hangs in the balance next year seem to know only politics not people. 

It's no secret Johnson from Wisconsin is up for re-election and is vulnerable. The Democrats may be able to unseat him. In his press release Johnson outlined the multiple bi-partisan and good policy bills Reid has objected to. Why? One can only conclude that the Senate Minority Leader, Reid, can't afford to let a vulnerable Republican like Johnson have a win - even at the expense of terminally ill Americans. The people lose - politics wins. 

In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson had a similar battle.  When the Civil Rights bill was introduced into the Senate, a majority of Democratic senators objected to it. Why? In the South - this issue would undermine their Democratic stronghold. Thankfully, with some clever political maneuvering, in a bi-partisan move - Republicans joined with supportive Democrats and passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act - reinforcing rights that many Americans had but had long been barred from. The people won over the politics.  

Fast forward to today and while terminally ill Americans are effectively denied a fundamental “right,” the Congress has passed rights for Sexual Assault Survivors, Animal Welfare (rights) Act, Crime Victims Rights Act, A Consumer Bill of Rights, a Taxpayer Bill of Rights and others.

So Animals have a bill of rights but a Parkinson or Cancer patient does not? Really?

Politics aside, the Congressional “inertia” is now in overdrive due to the election year. This denial of rights will continue despite an opportunity to pioneer a new trail with Right to Try legislation - a right allowing terminally ill Americans access to FDA monitored treatments.

Like in 1964, terminally ill American’s are denied a right - the Right to Try - but don't have the strength or time to march or protest.  Instead they sit quietly in homes across our nation, cared for by friends and family whose budgets and hopes have been stretched to the breaking point. Aren't we a supposed to be a compassionate nation?

Well - Congress' break is a month less time for an ALS patient with a 2-5 year life expectancy.  Unlike Congress, they don’t have time to waste. 

While terminally Americans suffer from this lack of a right - Reid's response on the floor of the Senate was "I went to the hospital and watched two people with ALS die." So much for compassion.

Mihalek is executive vice president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Foundation.


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.