Senate to Seth Rogen: ‘Absenteeism Does Not Equal Apathy’
Posted at 5:01 a.m. on March 3, 2014
Seth Rogen, center, came to the Hill to advocate for research on Alzheimer’s Disease. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Actor/comedian Seth Rogen was dead serious when he blasted Senate lawmakers for presumably tuning out his testimony on Alzheimer’s during a sparsely attended Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee hearing.
“All those empty seats are senators who are not prioritizing Alzheimer’s. Unless more noise is made, it won’t change,” he charged on Twitter, posting a pic of the near-empty dais facing his secondary panel.
Rogen also called out Sen. Mark Kirk specifically, taking the Illinois Republican to task for introducing himself ahead of time but then excusing himself before Rogen had a chance to say his piece.
The shaming campaign is playing well on social media.
But the cold hard reality is: life on the Hill is just plain hectic.
Several lawmakers — including Subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Thad Cochran, R-Miss. — participated in the first half of the two-plus hour discussion, actively engaging with the medical professionals summoned to share their professional opinions. In Rogen’s defense, by the time he and ex-Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan., had their turns at the mic, only Harkin and Moran remained.
As he indicated on Twitter, Kirk stepped away not because he was disinterested in the proceedings, but because of pre-existing commitments with Apollo 13 vet Capt. Jim Lovell.
Cochran was similarly indisposed, but remained pleased he’d had a chance to compare notes with National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis S. Collins.
“In his questioning, Sen. Cochran asked whether a ‘crash course’ to accelerate research on Alzheimer’s disease would be effective, similar to the groundbreaking cardiovascular research conducted by Dr. Arthur Guyton at the University of Mississippi Medical Center,” a Cochran aide shared.
Sen. Lamar Alexander’s team explained that the Tennessee Republican stepped away to tend to previously scheduled meetings regarding higher education issues (huddled with officials from California State and Georgia Southern Universities) — only after getting the NIH’s read on “their plans for spending the $1 billion increase in support for brain and Alzheimer’s research.”
Several of the no-shows were bogged down with similar scheduling conflicts, both personal and professional.
An aide to Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin explained that the Illinois Democrat was out of town attending a friend’s funeral.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., was unable to attend by virtue of having to gavel in his first meeting as chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs.
New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen was presiding over her own Committee on Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support discussion.
An aide said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., got tied up talking about the Iranian nuclear threat on the Senate floor (followed by constituent meetings).
Arkansas Republican John Boozman, likewise, had to split his time between constituent meetings and bringing to light Veterans Affairs needs on the Senate floor. But his office was adamant that Alzheimer’s remains a top priority.
“Senator Boozman has been a champion of Alzheimer’s awareness, as a co-sponsor of legislation, member of the Bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease and host of a Health House Policy Committee Hearing that brought together Alzheimer’s researchers and educators and people impacted by the disease like University of Arkansas Athletic Director Frank Broyles,” a spokeswoman asserted.
One staffer turned the tables on Rogen, denouncing the celeb’s vanity crusade.
“Yet another actor confusing his fame for significance and expertise. Senators who have other hearings to attend and meetings with constituents in town to advance their causes really don’t need to hear from someone whose mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s,” the senior Senate aide argued. “They needed to hear from the guy who might be able to cure it.”
Whether he believes it or not, Team Mikulski wants Rogen to know his contributions are very much appreciated.
“His attendance at the Appropriations Committee hearing ensured that media outlets that might not otherwise cover the hearing paid attention and got the word out,” Mikulski spokesman Vincent Morris estimated. “I especially hope that young people have been reached by Seth’s message and are spurred to action on Alzheimer’s.”