They're tiny. They just helped save Obamacare. And they're not done yet.

6-year-old Timmy Morrison knows where to get the best frozen yogurt and popcorn on Capitol Hill.

He's had time to do his research. For the past six weeks, he's been walking the halls of the Capitol and Senate office buildings with his parents, trying to convince his elected officials not to let hundreds of kids like him die.

Timmy Morrison, left, on a lobbying trip to D.C. Photo via Little Lobbyists/Facebook.


Timmy is one of around a dozen "Little Lobbyists" — kids with chronic, lifelong medical conditions who, along with their families, visited the offices of all 100 Senators, dropping off notes and asking for meetings. And they, ultimately, helped kill the Senate's latest push to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

In the days leading up to the vote, hundreds of activists, organizers, and ordinary citizens descended on D.C. for a final push against the bill.

The effort led by groups like ADAPT, a disability rights community that staged a series of sit-ins on Capitol Hill and at lawmakers' offices, grassroots Indivisible groups as well as traditional liberal political organs, including MoveOn and Our Revolution.

The "Little Lobbyists" were organized by Timmy's mother Michelle Morrison and friend Elena Hung, first-time activists like so many others, who felt like their children's voices were missing from the health care debate.

"It really is just a handful of families trying to figure out what we can do," Morrison says.

Morrison, a linguist at the University of Maryland, explains that she originally barely noticed her health plan's lifetime million-dollar maximum.

Six days after the Affordable Care Act's ban on denying coverage of pre-existing conditions on children's policies kicked in on Sept. 23, 2010, Timmy was born with Opitz G/BBB syndrome, a rare respiratory disorder that requires him to breathe through a tracheostomy and eat through a feeding tube.

By Christmas, the cost of Timmy's treatment had already surged past $1 million. By the time he was six months old, it had climbed to well over $2 million. The Morrisons still pay thousands of dollars in medical bills annually, but thanks to the ACA, bankruptcy appeared to be off the table.  

Timmy, undergoing treatment at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Photo via Little Lobbyists/Twitter.

With the law in jeopardy, that threat once again became real.

"It feels a lot to us like someone is rolling the dice with our children’s lives and not taking the time to figure out what the impacts are," Morrison explains.

With the right care, which Timmy currently gets at three hospitals in three states, the little lobbyist leads a normal kindergarten life.

In between chatting about robots and pirates, Timmy plays on a local soccer team, which, when treated properly, his condition allows.

Timmy Morrison. Photo via Little Lobbyists/Twitter.

Even with Morrison's employer-sponsored plan, Timmy is on a waiting list for Medicaid to help with his care. Several versions of the bill threatened deep cuts to Medicaid.

Hence the constant travel to D.C.

"I don’t think he realizes that it’s unusual for a kindergartner to be running around shaking hands with senators," Morrison says.

For Timmy, the trips to the Capitol quickly became routine. Occasionally, he rode in a stroller, since too much walking can aggravate his breathing. The parents brought crayons and special snacks for all the kids.

Photo via Little Lobbyists/Facebook.

Between meetings, Timmy spent time coloring in the outlines of the states whose senators' offices he's visited. Some of the older kids, 11 and 9, eventually started engaging staff members themselves, encouraging the younger ones to join in and speak up, Michelle says.

Meanwhile, for the adults, the joyful moments were tempered by frequent dead ends and creeping frustration.

The bipartisan group knew what it wanted any new bill to preserve: protections for pre-existing conditions, a ban on lifetime limits, and most critically, Medicaid funding.

The ever-shifting language of the proposed health care bill, however, often made it difficult to determine what arguments to present in meetings. "It’s like trying to catch soap," Morrison says.

Meeting with Senator Tammy Duckworth. Photo via Little Lobbyists/Twitter.

The Senate's recent successful "motion to proceed" vote left the group "heartbroken, terrified, furious."

"We must now watch as the Senate takes as little time as it possibly can to decide the fate of our children," Morrison and Hung wrote in a blog post published the day of the vote.

The parents and children pressed on. The group spent the next few days engaged in a final push, thanking GOP Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski for their no votes and lobbying hard for more.

On the afternoon of the final vote, they finally secured their first in-person meeting with a Republican senator — Jeff Flake of Arizona.

After tucking Timmy in on the night of Thursday, July 28, Morrison drove alone to D.C. to join Hung at what the pair expected would be a vigil.

Photo via Little Lobbyists/Twitter.

29 minutes after 1 a.m., it turned into a celebration of relief, when John McCain cast the decisive "no" vote on the bill.

The crowd outside the Capitol burst into cheers and tears of joy.

The surprise victory left Morrison feeling "pretty fabulous. And overwhelmed."

Their efforts had suffered dozens of setbacks in recent months. The House bill that was killed, then resurrected from the dead. The Senate bill, which was destroyed and reformed so many times. The crushing affirmative "motion to proceed" just two days earlier.

This, after all that, was sweet.

As Morrison and Hung wrote on their blog, dusting off and continuing to fight against the odds is nothing new for families like theirs.

"Our children have taught us well."

Corrections 8/1/2017 — The article incorrectly referred to Michelle Morrison as a linguistics professor at the University of Maryland. She is a linguist. Additionally, it stated that Timmy Morrison depended on Medicaid for part of his care. He is currently on a waiting list for the program. Other members of the Little Lobbyists do rely on Medicaid.

More

Mom and blogger Mary Katherine Backstrom regularly shares snippets of life with her two children on her Facebook page. One particularly touching interaction with her daughter is melting hearts and blowing minds due to the three-year-old's wise words about forgiveness.

Even adults struggle with the concept of forgiveness. Entire books have been written about how and why to forgive those who have wronged us, but many still have a hard time getting it. Who would guess that a preschooler could encapsulate what forgiveness means in a handful of innocent words?

Keep Reading Show less
Family

California has a housing crisis. Rent is so astronomical, one San Francisco company is offering bunk bedsfor $1,200 a month; Google even pledged$1 billion to help tackle the issue in the Bay Area. But the person who might fix it for good? Kanye West.

The music mogul first announced his plan to build low-income housing on Twitter late last year.

"We're starting a Yeezy architecture arm called Yeezy home. We're looking for architects and industrial designers who want to make the world better," West tweeted.

Keep Reading Show less
Cities

The U.S. women's soccer team won the Women's World Cup, but the victory is marred by the fact that the team is currently fighting for equal pay. In soccer, the game is won by scoring points, but the fight for equal pay isn't as clearly winnable and the playing field isn't as even.

We live in a world where winning the World Cup is easier than winning equal pay, but co-captain Megan Rapinoe says there's one easy way fans can support the team: Go see games.

Some people argue the men's team deserves to get paid more because they are more successful and earn more money for the United States Soccer Federation. Pay depends on merchandise and ticket sales, and in general, men's sporting events tend to draw a bigger crowd than women's sporting events. It's not about sex, many argue; it's about the fact that people just prefer to see men play.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

You think you know someone pretty well when you spend years with them, but, as we've seen time and again, that's not always the case. And though many relationships don't get to a point where the producers of "Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?" start calling every day just to chat, the reality is that sometimes partners will reveal shocking things even after you thought you'd been all shocked out.

That's the case for one woman whose Reddit thread has recently gone viral. The 25-year-old, who's been with her boyfriend for five years, took to a forum for relationship advice to ask if it was normal that her seemingly cool and loving boyfriend recently revealed women shouldn't have a fundamental right. (And no, it's not abortion — although there are a lot of "otherwise best ever boyfriends" out there who want to deny women the rights to bodily autonomy, too.)

Keep Reading Show less
Recommended