House passes Steve Gleason Act with unanimous vote

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) witnessed the unanimous passage of the Steve Gleason Act on Wednesday, legislation he authored to improve access to speech-generating devices for patients of Lou Gehrig’s disease and other debilitating illnesses.

Before the House vote, Scalise took to the podium to urge his fellow lawmakers to support the measure, while recounting the story of Gleason, the former New Orleans Saints player who was later diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the disease attacks motor neurons, cells that control the muscles.

“Steve Gleason is somebody who has served as an inspiration for people from Louisiana for a long time,” Scalise said on the House floor. “Going back to that game in 2006, when the Superdome was reopened after Hurricane Katrina, that night was one of the galvanizing moments that helped bring the city of New Orleans back and helped inspire the people of New Orleans to come back.”

In a Monday Night Football game against the rival Atlanta Falcons, Gleason blocked a punt, creating a touchdown that led to a Saints victory.

 “I was in the Dome that night with my wife Jennifer, and we were as euphoric as everybody in that building,” Scalise added.

Since being diagnosed with ALS, Gleason has become a popular advocate for victims of the disease.

“The reason Steve Gleason inspires people today is not because of what he did on the football field, but because of what he has done to serve as an inspiration for people with disabilities all across the country since he was diagnosed with ALS,” Scalise continued. “(He has gone out) and shown that he is able to exhibit his voice because of the speech-generating device that he has. This isn’t something he wants for himself, but for all people who have something to say, who have that same voice, to be able to go out and inspire other people. When (Medicaid) made the change in policy that started to take away that voice, he spoke up, as so many others did, and said we need to reverse this.”

The bill now heads to the president’s desk for final approval.

“This is a bill that truly will give a voice to thousands of people,” Scalise concluded. “Over 5,000 people every year are diagnosed with ALS. They all have something to say. They all have that voice. The Steve Gleason Act will give them that voice so they can go out and continue to achieve their life’s potential.”