December 22, 2006 - Vol III: Ed XIII
I hope you are having a joyful season. We recently returned to Washington to
wrap up business for the 109th Congress. Here is an update, which includes some
good news on legislation that passed in the final hours of this session of
In this E-Newsletter:
- Co-ops Now an Option for New York City Veterans
- Keeping American Exporters Competitive
- A Call to Include 9/11 Health Funding in the President's Budget
- Civil Liberties Board Still Lacks Adequate Power
- Reform to Foreign Investment System Must Be Completed
- Anti-Birth Control Doctor Appointed to Top Family Planning Job
I am thrilled for our city's veterans because of a victory in Congress that
came just before the 109th session ended. We passed legislation that included
provisions on which I have worked closely with Sen. Charles Schumer that will
allow veterans to use VA loans to purchase cooperative housing. As we all know,
co-ops are prevalent in our city, meaning that our veterans now have more
options when using these loans.
The successful legislation contains H.R. 4537, "The Veterans Housing Fairness
Act," my bill to expand veterans' housing options. Sen. Schumer also did
excellent work in the Senate to include these provisions in the final bill.
I have always said that a home is a home - no matter if it is a bungalow, a
brownstone or a co-op. There was no reason to restrict the use of these loans,
and I am glad this problem has been remedied.
Another bill that passed during the final days of the legislative session
will give a needed boost to businesses - both big and small - looking to exports
goods and services. I was proud to work as the lead House Democrat on
legislation that will reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, an entity that
provides loans to and insurance for American companies that export.
The very existence of this bank is vital, so it was important to keep it up
and running. However, we also strengthened the bank's mission by ensuring that
it will help even the playing field for two specific groups of exporters.
One of those groups is comprised of American exporters competing against
companies from countries with unfair trade practices, including China. The other
group is small businesses, which are often underserved in the trade arena. The
legislation we passed will help American businesses, including small businesses,
stay competitive in the global marketplace.
Five years after 9/11, the very first federal dollars to provide health
treatment for those suffering from 9/11-related illnesses have finally been
disbursed, but it is also very clear that the government must make a much larger
annual funding commitment if those who are sick are to get the treatment they
need. In order to truly address this problem that doctors have testified will
span decades, we need to make sure that regular, serious funding is included in
the federal budget.
Members of the New York delegation recently met in New York with the head of
the Department of Health and Human Services's 'A Team' that is assigned to 9/11
health, Dr. John Agwunobi. At the meeting, representatives of the two major 9/11
health monitoring programs said that the treatment funding distributed earlier
this year is likely to run out in months, underscoring the dire need for steady
and serious federal funding.
The president has a chance to start this flow of money when he releases his
budget proposal in January. To that end, Rep. Vito Fossella (NY-13) and I were
joined by 25 bipartisan colleagues in urging the president to do so.
more about the first federal money distributed >
more about our meeting with Health and Human Services >
about our request to the President >
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board recommended by the 9/11
Commission and created as part of the intelligence reform bill in 2004 has
finally begun to function. However, because of the board's limited power, it
seems that until the board is strengthened, it will not function effectively.
It was reported last month that the civil liberties board was recently
granted White House briefings about its warrantless wiretapping program and its
international bank surveillance program. While it is good that these briefings
took place, the fact remains that the civil liberties board had been asking for
a meeting on the wiretapping program for about a year. The board cannot
adequately protect our privacy and civil liberties if it is left waiting for
White House-controlled briefings long after an issue is first reported in the
I have introduced legislation with Rep. Christopher Shays (H.R.1310) that
would strengthen the civil liberties board. I believe that, among other
improvements, it should be removed from the White House's direct control and
given subpoena power. I am encouraged that this can be accomplished under the
New Direction Agenda.
Dubai Ports World (DPW) officially divested itself of commercial operations
in several key U.S. ports recently when it reached an agreement to sell to
American International Group (AIG). This brings to an end an eye-opening episode
that began when DPW, which is owed by the government of Dubai , purchased the
ports and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) gave
the deal a green light without raising any security concerns.
Despite the positive resolution to this particular case, Congress still must
reform and strengthen the security component of the CFIUS review process to
prevent future similar situations. I am the lead Democrat on a bipartisan reform
bill that unanimously passed the House. Despite the widespread support for CFIUS
reform, the leadership in Congress could not get together and push legislation
through both houses, and so we are essentially back where we started.
I will continue to work for reform, and I am hoping that we can take action
I was somewhat encouraged earlier this year when President Bush, after nearly
a year of delay, finally asserted that he does support birth control.
Unfortunately, much of that encouragement has been squandered by the
administration's recent appointment to a major family planning position within
the Department of Health and Human Services.
The president named Dr. Eric Keroack, the head of a crisis pregnancy center
that deems birth control "demeaning," to be Deputy Assistant Secretary for
Population Affairs. In this position, he will control hundreds of millions of
dollars meant for programs to provide access to birth control and will help
direct administration policy on reproductive health. This is particularly
unsettling because Dr. Keroack's organization has public advocated against the
use of birth control.
Together with colleagues, I have urged the president to rescind this
appointment. Our concerns go beyond political ideology - we are worried about
reproductive health and women's health, and we believe this appointment is a
major step backward.
more about my call to rescind this appointment >
more about the Administration's view on birth control >
CAROLYN B. MALONEY
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