January 31, 2007 - Vol IV: Ed I
The new session of Congress has gotten off to a roaring start, beginning with
the historic First 100 Hours agenda. Here is the latest update from Washington.
In this E-Newsletter:
- Opposing Iraq Escalation
- 9/11 Health Should be a Presidential Priority
- First 100 Hours Legislation: An Important First Act
After being given a steady stream of inaccurate, misleading and misguided
information since the inception of the War in Iraq, we are now being sold an
escalation of the war in Iraq as “a new way forward.” I am not buying it.
I have long stated my desire to begin a withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. I
am a member of the Out of Iraq Caucus, and I have strongly supported my
colleague Rep. John Murtha's plan to redeploy our troops. This plan is more
sensible than escalation and would prove ultimately more successful than digging
ourselves deeper in the quicksand that Iraq has become.
Furthermore, I will support any proposal that comes before Congress that
would block funding for the implementation of escalation. I will support the
effort by Senator Kennedy and my colleague Rep. Ed Markey to require the
authorization of Congress before the president escalates this war.
As the daughter of a soldier and the sister of a soldier, I will always
support our troops. It has become clear to just about everyone that the best way
now to support the troops is not to send more into the Iraqi Civil War – the
best way to support them is to bring them home.
The plight of those made ill by the toxic air at Ground Zero is well known to
many New Yorkers and Americans, but the federal government's response to this
crisis continues to be shockingly weak. Even though the first and only dose of
federal treatment funds will run out by the summer, the government is not
For the fourth time, I organized my colleagues from New York to give their
State of the Union tickets to sick 9/11 responders and family members. Still,
there was no mention of 9/11 health issues in the State of the Union, and there
is no indication that 9/11 health funding will be included in the upcoming
The new Congress and its leadership will be more serious about this crisis
than Congress in previous sessions, and that is encouraging. Still, we have a
long way to go until everyone exposed to the toxic air is examined and everyone
who is sick is treated, and we are getting far too little help from the federal
about the 9/11 heroes who attended the State of the Union >
my response to the State of the Union address >
Under the new leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, we were able to pass a
number of important pieces of legislation that address real challenges facing
Americans. The ability to accomplish so much at the beginning of this session
and the commitment to follow through on so many high-priority issues make me
proud of the new Congress and hopeful about what we will be able to get done.
Here are the highlights of the First 100 Hours.
Ethics: The first business of the new Congress was to change
the rules of Congress to lessen the influence of special interests and lobbyists
and to make Congress more civil and fiscally responsible. The new rules include
a ban on gifts from lobbyists, a ban on lobbyist-funded travel, shutting the
revolving door between Congress and lobbying firms on K Street, a ban on
open-ended votes for arm twisting, requiring budget discipline and full
disclosure of earmarks.
9/11 Commission Recommendations: We were also able to
implement 9/11 Commission recommendations that had been left to sit and collect
dust. As an original sponsor of the landmark intelligence reform legislation
passed in 2004 and as a co-chair of the 9/11 Commission Caucus, I was thrilled
that these long overdue security measures were finally approved. Among other
improvements, should H.R.1 be signed into law, it will bring fairer homeland
security funding to New York and other top terror targets, will better secure
our ports and airplanes, and will help enhance our diplomatic outreach.
I am also thrilled that H.R. 1 included provisions almost identical to a bill
I introduced along with Reps. Christopher Shays (CT-4) and Tom Udall (NM-3) to
strengthen the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.
Minimum Wage Increase: After almost 10 years, a pay raise
for 13 million workers nationwide – including 661,000 in New York – was long
overdue. It is wrong to have millions of Americans working full-time and
year-round and still living in poverty. H.R. 2 will increase the minimum wage by
$2.10 an hour – from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over two years. Raising the minimum
wage is the first step to a stronger economy for all Americans.
Embryonic Stem Cell Research: As the co-founder of the
Congressional Working Group on Parkinson's Disease, I have long been a strong
supporter of federal support for embryonic stem cell research. It has the
potential to save millions of lives and produce unprecedented medical
breakthroughs. I was saddened that the president used the only veto of his
administration to strike down stem cell research last year. Congress should keep
pushing this until it is signed into law, and I am glad we are doing just that.
Medicare Prescription Drug Costs: H.R. 4 requires Medicare
to negotiate lower prescription drug prices on behalf of millions of American
seniors, a tremendously important step forward. Current law states that the
Secretary of Health and Human Services, unlike the Veterans Administration, is
expressly prohibited from negotiating the best drug prices on behalf of the 43
million seniors and others in Medicare who desperately need the lowest price
Negotiations that lower prescription drug prices will help many consumers
avoid the doughnut hole by preventing them from ever hitting the coverage gap
where they have to pay thousands of dollars of out-of-pocket expenses for
medications while still paying their monthly insurance premiums.
Student Loan Rates: H.R. 5 will cut federal student loan
interest rates in half over the next five years. Studies show the #1 reason
students fail to attend college, or are forced to drop out of college prior to
graduation, is cost, and this bill helps address that.
In July of last year I released a report with several of my New York
colleagues on the impact of the growing cost of college on New York City
residents. This study showed that the interest rates on federal Stafford Loans
were raised in July, to the highest point in 16 years, from 5.3% to 6.8%. The
report also showed that an average graduate in New York State leaves college
$17,594 in debt. Under H.R. 5, that same student would save $5,662 in interest
payments over the life of his or her loans.
Clean Energy: The final component to the 100 Hours agenda
was legislation to end the comfortable ride oil companies have gotten from the
federal government and to spur investment in renewable energy. For years, I have
criticized the underpayment of royalties owed by oil and gas companies to the
American taxpayers for extracting resources from public land. Not only does this
legislation rewrite the royalties, but it also closes loopholes for and ends
giveaways to oil companies written into the tax code and the 2005 energy bill.
In addition, H.R. 5 reinvests this new source of taxpayer funds in
cutting-edge alternative energy technologies. This is a critical first step
toward a path to energy independence, an important goal not only for energy
policy, but also for our foreign policy.
my press release on the implementation of the 9/11 Commission recommendations >
more about the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board >
more about the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act >
more of my thoughts on student loans >
CAROLYN B. MALONEY
P.S. Please do not respond to this unattended email account, but instead click
here if you would like to send me a message. I look forward to hearing from