Revitalizing the American Economy
The new Congress has wasted no time in tackling the problems facing our
nation. The House of Representatives has already passed H.R. 1, the “American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”
This legislation will give 95% of American workers an immediate tax cut,
create or save 3 to 4 million jobs, make us greener and more energy independent,
and transform our economy for long-term growth. It will impact the economy
quickly with 75% spent in the first 18 months.
New York itself will benefit greatly from the stimulus package, with over $20
billion in new funding:
--$12 billion in aid over 2 ¼ years will be directed
to hospitals and healthcare providers under the House bill.
bridge, mass transit, and clean-water infrastructure capital investment will
total $3.6 billion.
--New York’s students will benefit from $1.6 billion for
renovation and repair of K-12 public schools and college and university
As I write, the Senate has passed its version of recovery legislation, and a
Conference Committee is meeting to resolve House and Senate differences.
State Childrens's Health Insurance
On January 14, 2009, I joined a sizable majority of my House colleagues in
passing, for a third time, an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance
Program (SCHIP). President Bush twice vetoed a similar measure in the last
Congress, but President Obama is expected to sign the new bill.
The State Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act preserves
health insurance for all 7.1 million children currently covered by SCHIP
(including 651,853 kids in New York) and extends coverage to 4.1 million
additional children nationwide.
No child in America should have to go without proper health care. I’m proud
that a bipartisan majority stood up to right one of the enduring wrongs of the
previous administration, and I’m glad we finally have a President who will
protect the fundamental human rights of children.
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
I’m thrilled to report that the new Congress also passed the “Lilly Ledbetter
Fair Pay Act” in its first days, reversing a Supreme Court decision that has
kept women from pursuing pay discrimination claims. The bill was the first bill
the President signed into law.
Forty years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act and Title VI, statistics
show that women continue to be paid less than their male colleagues. When I
entered the workforce, women were paid 59 cents to every dollar a man earned.
Today, it’s only up to 78 cents--a disparity which costs women an estimated
$400,000 to $2 million dollars in lost wages over a lifetime!
In passing Lilly Ledbetter, Congress has sent a resounding message of
fairness and equity to women and families.
Joint Economic Committee
I’m honored that Speaker Pelosi has appointed me to chair the Joint Economic
Committee (JEC) in the 111th Congress. Created by an Act of Congress in 1946,
the Joint Economic Committee is one of just four joint Congressional
In such a challenging year, I’m pleased to work with our first woman Speaker
of the House as the first woman to chair the JEC. I look forward to working
closely with the President's economic team and to continuing to work with
Senator Chuck Schumer as Vice Chair on long-term solutions to the grim economic
situation facing our country--and putting the needs and concerns of America's
working families front-and-center in Washington.
In the coming weeks the JEC will focus on the financial crisis as it
continues to unfold and the complex set of related issues: the labor market, the
housing market, consumer spending and credit, as well as economic recovery and
stimulus measures and the reform of financial regulation.
Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights
On January 22, I reintroduced the “Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights”
(CCBOR), H.R. 627. This comprehensive reform is aimed at leveling the playing
field between credit card companies and consumers and abolishes industry abuses
that have been described by regulators as “unfair,” “deceptive,” and
The story so far: last September, after 18 months of roundtables and hearings
within my Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee of the House
Financial Services Committee, my bill passed the floor of the House by an
unprecedented bipartisan 312-112 vote, but it died in the Senate. This year, I’m
proud to have convinced Sens. Chuck Schumer and Mark Udall to sponsor the
companion to H.R. 627 in the Senate.
In December the Federal Reserve released final regulations that would ban
many of these practices-- but their new rule does not take effect until July
2010. This year’s H.R. 627 would take effect 90 days after the President
I hope that with the Senate support and stronger Democratic majorities in
both houses—and the support of the President, who is on record in favor of
credit card reform—we can finally level the playing field between consumers and
credit card issuers.
Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave
I’ve also reintroduced two family-friendly bills in the 111th Congress which
would help working parents deal with the challenges of family life.
The “Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act” (FEPPLA), H.R. 626, is
bipartisan legislation that would provide all federal employees with four weeks
of paid parental leave. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate by
Senator Jim Webb (VA).
Families should not have to choose between a paycheck
and getting their newborn home and settled in, especially in these economic
times. With FEPPLA, the federal government can make “family-friendly” more than
a buzzword and ensure that both newborns and the government benefit.
The “Family and Medical Leave Enhancement Act,” H.R. 626, would allow more
workers to take unpaid leave to care for their family member. Since the original
FMLA took effect early in the Clinton Administration, tens of millions of
employees of companies larger than 50 employees have taken leave to care for
newborn and adopted children. My new bill enlarges the companies covered to
those of 25 employees or more, and also allows up to 24 additional hours of
unpaid leave for parents or grandparents to attend parent-teacher conferences or
to take family members—children or aging parents—to the doctor for regular
medical or dental appointments.
Every other industrialized nation on the planet allows for employees to
accommodate their family responsibilities around their work obligations. It’s
time for the United States to catch up.
The Repeal of the Global Gag Rule
I’m pleased to report two big changes in family planning policy announced by
President Obama in his first days: repeal of the “global gag rule” and funding
in the next fiscal year for UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.
The gag rule was first ordered by President Bush and bars both foreign
non-governmental and multilateral organizations from receiving U.S. family
planning funds if - with other, non-U.S. funds - they provide legal abortion
services or “engage in any activity or effort to alter the laws or governmental
policies of any foreign country concerning the circumstances under which
abortion is permitted, regulated, or prohibited.”
The UNFPA works in 154 countries to provide family planning information and
services. Since 2002, the U.S. has been isolated and singular in withholding its
contribution to UNFPA. This administration is signaling that we will now join
the community of 180 nations in supporting UNFPA's life-saving work.
My goal has been to give women around the globe all the options about their
reproductive health, save lives, and improve the lives of women and children
everywhere. In announcing support for UNFPA funding and repealing the gag rule,
President Obama sends a clear and resounding message to women and children
around the world: after eight long years the United States is back on your side.