Rachel’s latest word of choice is “super.” Goes well with excited and amazing and ABLE Act! Yesterday in an interview with Fox 4 Kansas City, she said that she was “super excited” and “super happy” about the ABLE Act passing. Even super excited, super amazing, super happy, super awesome, super honored, and super humbled would be just a few words I could use to describe my week. I cannot even begin to describe the elation I felt all week. I had the opportunity to visit in all of my legislative offices. I had great conversations and must tell you that I felt so welcomed and appreciate the encouragement the office staffs extended to me. The ABLE Act has been eight years in the making, but more than one staffer told me that we should feel really proud because most bills don’t make it this far. To have the honor and great privilege of being in the House gallery for the vote and to know that I was representing the hopes and dreams and hard work of hundreds of thousands of people – let’s just say it was a bit overwhelming.
A few of my favorite moments from the week.
- Meeting and re-connecting with an intimate group of NDSS Ambassadors who have all worked tirelessly through different venues utilizing their talents to help get the ABLE Act passed.
- Of those ambassadors, realizing that Rachel is now the Carrie, Fiona and Karen of someone’s world.
- To visit Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and have her hug me and say “I am glad you are here. I look forward to seeing you in the Gallery tomorrow.” She is not my representative but she does represent the great state of KS and as a member of the Ways and Means committee has been helpful in knocking out the final details that led to safe passage.
- To see the twinkle and sparkle in the eyes of mom’s and dad’s of young kids with Down syndrome.
- To meet sweet Macy and Brianna’s momma’s.
- To see fellow Ambassador Kelly’s facial expressions as she talked about her Congressman & House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and to see the faces of the parents who visited him when they opened and shared their framed pictures with and from the House Majority Leader! He played basketball with the kids!
- Sweet Brianna coming into the House gallery and clearly saying “Hello Jawanda!” Many people cannot say my name, and we were in the stiff and quiet gallery where they do not have much of a sense of humor.
- To have the Johnson County legislative group including my new friend State Rep. Erin Davis (R) come in and sit beside me as we were watching the proceedings.
- To have my own Congressman Kevin Yoder (R-KS) mention Rachel on the House floor in his remarks about the ABLE Act and then preside over most of the session that afternoon. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and dad of a son with Down syndrome was able to preside over the actual vote.
- Watching Rep. Julia Brownlee (D-CA) take sweet Brianna on the House floor and let her cast the Congresswoman’s yah vote.
- Listening to Steve Beck who has been the lead NDSS board member to champion the ABLE Act for eight years as he counted outloud 218 votes. That’s where you have to get to pass it. We all cheered.
- Watching Sara Weir and Sara Wolff with arms around each other as we watched the vote tally go up, up, up to 404 yahs.
- Sitting beside fellow ambassadors Brad and Joe who did a big cheer when Rep. Sessions announced 404 yahs and 17 nays. We all followed suit. The ABLE Act passes.
- Toasts in the Rules Committee private office with Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) who introduced the ABLE Act and Rep. Sessions (R-TX) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). It was touching to hear each of them talk about the ABLE Act, thank us and prove that Congress can cross party lines and do the right thing.
- My own Congressman Kevin Yoder’s Facebook posts. One with the picture of the official final vote tallly.
- The other a picture with Rachel with some commentary including this: “Sometimes we all can become cynical about the legislative process and the ability for real people to be heard in the halls of Congress. On a bipartisan vote today, we ensured that Rachel’s voice and millions of other families’ voices were heard.”
- Joining about 100 Down syndrome advocates and self-advocates in the gallery for the experience and shedding some happy tears!
Besides the ABLE Act passing the House with overwhelming support, my very favorite moment on the Hill was when we were scolded for cheering when the bill passed. Rep. Sessions looked up at us and smiled. Apparently cheering for a bill that has taken eight years to pass is not acceptable! We didn’t care!
Now Senate, you know what to do. #PasstheABLEAct and continue to show the American people that you can play together in the sandbox and to the right thing!