November 16, 2005 - E-Newsletter Vol II: Ed IX
As we near the tail end of the first session of the 109th Congress, there is a buzz of activity in Washington. Here is an update on some of the issues I have tackled recently.
In this E-Newsletter:
- Using the Lessons of 9/11 to Help the Gulf Coast
- Fire Grant Program Still Shortchanges FDNY
- A Step Toward Salvaging $125 Million for Injured 9/11 Responders
- Demanding Answers About VA Hospital Study
- FDA Should Stop Stalling on Plan B Emergency Contraceptive Decision
Using the Lessons of 9/11 to Help the Gulf Coast
When Congress was appropriating reconstruction funds for Iraq, the Bush administration threatened to veto any legislation that required localities in Iraq to repay the U.S. government. When considering legislation to send aid to hurricane-stricken municipalities on the Gulf Coast, Congress and the administration insisted that this assistance must be repaid.
We in New York know well how a sudden loss of tax revenue following a disaster can impact a community. Localities on the Gulf Coast are struggling tremendously just to pay the bills – New Orleans has been forced to lay off half of the city workforce, while in St. Bernard Parish, almost all of the 1,200 school jobs have washed away. If they are forced to repay the substantial assistance that they need, basic city services will be lost for the foreseeable future.
Ever since 9/11, I have worked to make disaster assistance more practical, but Congress has resisted. Now, I have joined with Gulf Coast Members of Congress to offer legislation to forgive the loans that the federal government gives in response to Hurricane Katrina. We see the paradox in the money for Iraq compared to the loans for the Gulf Coast. This inequity must be corrected.
Fire Grant Program Still Shortchanges FDNY
The one homeland security program specifically meant to prepare firefighters for terrorist attacks is still shortchanging the nation’s largest fire department in the nation’s number one terror target. A year after my office produced a report showing that New York City receives only a tiny amount of Fire Act Grants, my latest report shows that the situation has barely improved.
These grants are inexplicably capped at $750,000 per fire department, which may help rural departments enormously, but is barely a fraction of the FDNY’s budget. Because of that, our city receives 12 cents per person for our fire department, while the state of Montana gets $7.84 per person. It is also difficult to understand why 60 percent of Fire Grant funds goes to Republican Congressional Districts, while only 40 percent goes to Democratic districts. These are statistics that simply cannot be justified under the terror threat that exists.
A Step Toward Salvaging $125 Million for Injured 9/11 Responders
The effort to halt a Bush administration plan to take back $125 million from injured 9/11 responders took a step forward in late October. Senators Clinton and Schumer were able to attach an amendment to the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill that would salvage the $125 million , which the president proposed to take back in his FY2006 budget. Previously, the House incorporated the president’s plan into its version of the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill.
The matter, on which I have worked hard with my colleagues from the New York delegation, will now be settled in conference negotiations between the House and Senate. Our delegation will support New York’s terrific senators as these negotiations unfold to make sure their amendment is included in the final bill.
Demanding Answers About VA Hospital Study
I continue to fight against any plans to reduce health services for veterans at the Manhat tan VA hospital. That is why, when I recently reviewed a study commissioned by the Veterans Administration of possible options for the Manhattan and Brooklyn VA hospitals, I found that the conclusions were questionable at best.
The study claimed that each of the nine options examined would have the same impact on veterans health care and access to care. That seems impossible, particularly since the study examined various plans to relocate health care to various facilities around New York City.
After reading the report, I wrote to Jim Nicholson, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, asking him to provide me with extensive background documentation about the study, including the contract to conduct the study. Given the questionable findings in the study, it is important to know how the contractor was chosen.
FDA Should Stop Stalling on Plan B Emergency Contraceptive Decision
The administration has allowed ideology to trump sound science when it comes to some major health issues, and I believe it is time for that to stop.
The FDA has used a regulatory technicality to postpone its decision about whether to make the Plan B emergency contraceptive available over the counter. This, despite its own scientific panel’s overwhelming recommendation in favor of over-the-counter status.
It has become clear that the FDA is not using sound science to make this decision. A former high-ranking FDA scientist has publicly said as much. To make sure that the stalling stops, I have introduced bipartisan legislation that would force the FDA to make its decision quickly. This is not a partisan matter, it’s a women’s health matter, and health shouldn’t have to wait.
Please feel free to share this email with anyone that may be interested in these issues. As always, I appreciate your comments and invite you to write to me through my website..
CAROLYN B. MALONEY
Member of Congress
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