Stem Cell Research Rules Relaxed by President Obama
In another refreshing switch from ideology to evidence-based governing,
the President has signed an Executive Order allowing more forms of
human embryonic stem cell research.
Now that scientists
have the opportunity to pursue results unfettered by ideology we can
offer hope--and the real possibility of eventual treatments-- to those
afflicted by incurable conditions. The potential offered by increased
research in this arena is great, and at long last we can now pursue
scientific achievement with proper scientific guidelines and oversight.
But just as significant, the President directed the head
of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to 'develop
a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government
decision-making.' On issues ranging from climate change to cancer
cures, we need a national policy that allows scientists to advance the
human condition unfettered by ideology, as has been the practice for
the last eight years.
I'm so proud to be able to see this happen.
UNFPA Funding Approved by Congress, President
In approving funding for UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), the
House has sent a message to millions of women and children around the
world: we know you have struggled and we are going to help. Instead of
ignoring the world’s neediest, we will help those who seek it, and help
save women’s lives in the 150 countries where UNFPA does its valuable
I’m proud to have helped keep the
UNFPA cause alive-- with the bipartisan coalition of my colleagues that
I organized-- during the last eight years when the previous
administration was withholding legitimately appropriated funds, and
inventing (for ideological reasons) new excuses to withhold funds
during each fiscal cycle.
It was tragic.
UNFPA is truly a ‘motherhood’ issue—almost half of the aid they provide
is devoted to maternal and child health issues, and alone they provide
25% of aid to worldwide population programs.
With this action Congress is helping the U.S. rejoin the community of
nations, over 180 of which support the UNFPA financially. And we are
helping the President fulfill what he promised in his Inaugural Address
when he said: "America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman
and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity."
AIG counterparies revealed
an odd bit of timing, AIG finally released the identities and dollar
amounts of the "counterparties" who were recipients of tax dollars as
part of the ongoing financial rescue the same weekend that their
bonuses were announced. I have repeatedly asked for this information,
verbally and in writing, since November. I'm glad to see it, finally--
but I’m concerned by how long it took.
Transparency about the counterparties is essential to having an
informed debate and developing solutions to our current economic
crisis, as well as to Congress’ ability to oversee the use of
taxpayers’ money. The speed with which the economic crisis is unfolding
requires that future disclosures be made in a much more timely fashion.
that we have the information, I'll be working with colleagues on the
Financial Services Committee to analyze the information and work to
determine how to avoid the kind of systemic risk these sorts of
transactions seem to represent.
Work-life Balance: Working Families Flexibility Act introduced; Federal
Employees Paid Parental Leave bill scheduled for hearings
with my colleagues Reps. George Miller (CA), John Lewis (GA), Elijah
Cummings (MD) and Andre Carson (IN) as cosponsors, I have introduced
the “Working Families’ Flexibility Act” (HR 1274) which will ensure
that working Americans can ask their employer for modified schedules so
they can balance the demands of their jobs and their home life.
It’s long past time for government and employers to recognize the
reality of 21st-century families. Adopting a flexible workplace has
been shown to reduce turnover, which helps employers cut costs and
retain valuable employees. In the United Kingdom, where similar
provisions are already in place, over 80% of requests have been
approved-- and over 80% of employers report no adverse effect from the
legislation. The Department of Labor will develop regulations to
smoothly administer the process, while ensuring the protection of
employees’ legal rights. Small businesses are exempt from the law. For
the full text of the new bill, click here.
In related work-life balance news,
the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has scheduled a
markup for today on my “Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act”
(FEPPLA), H.R. 626, which would provide all federal employees with four
weeks of paid parental leave. Federal employees currently must deplete
their vacation and sick time to take such a leave after the birth of a
newborn or an adoption. The bill passed the House in the last Congress
With this bill, the Federal
government can lead the way. Amazingly, Federal employees currently
receive no paid family leave at all. Yet raising a child is the most
important task in our society. 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.
failing to provide paid parental leave, the Federal government lags
behind both the private sector (53% of private-sector employers provide
some form of paid parental leave), and many industrialized nations.
Last year, the FEPPLA bill was determined by the Congressional Budget
Office to have no “PAYGO” implications.
Transparency-- what a concept
is a term like many in Washington-- often used, difficult to define.
I've introduced two bills which specify ways of making the use of tax
dollars truly transparent and open for public inspection.
you're as tired as I am of reading report after report about the
questionable spending by financial institutions who have been the
recipient of taxpayer dollars, you'll want to know I've introduced--
along with Rep. Peter King of Long Island as cosponsor--a bill which
The first is the “TARP
Accountability and Disclosure Act” (H.R. 1242) which requires the
creation of a centralized, web-accessible public database in a
standardized format within the Department of Treasury, so that TARP
funds will be easily searchable. Treasury will be required to combine
the already-reported government data with data that is collected by
independent sources including corporate press releases, news articles,
indexes, corporate profiles, and other non-government financial
The compilation of
government and third party data will create as full and complete a
profile as possible of the institution’s financial application of TARP
funds. It also provides the crucial ability to monitor inconsistencies
in near real time that could indicate the misuse of such funds at both
the corporate and individual officer level.
H.R. 1242, if enacted, will provide the kind of transparency that
President Obama has promised the American people: a real ability to
monitor and account for the use of tax dollars. To read the full text
of H.R. 1242, click here.
second bill introduced is H.R. 1095, the "TARP Transparency Reporting
Act," which would strengthen oversight over the $700 billion being
spent under the Troubled Asset Relief Program passed by Congress last
fall. It is the House companion bill to legislation introduced in the
Senate (S. 133) by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA).
bill would prohibit firms receiving Federal funds-- either economic
assistance from Treasury or emergency loans from the Federal Reserve--
from using such funds for lobbying expenditures or political
contributions; require that firms receiving assistance provide
quarterly reports to Treasury outlining how Federal funds have been
used; establish corporate governance standards to ensure that firms
receiving government assistance do not waste money on unnecessary
expenditures; and create penalties of at least $100,000 per violation
for firms that fail to meet the corporate governance standards.
taxpayers have put an ever-increasing amount on the line to backstop
struggling financial institutions, Congress must ensure that those
funds are spent wisely. This legislation provides a solution to help
assure confidence in economic stabilization efforts. I’m proud to join
with Sen. Feinstein in sponsoring this important legislation.
misuse of TARP funds is unacceptable and unfair to American taxpayers.
These bills will make transparency real so that TARP funds can be
traced and financial institutions can be held accountable.
Make the Census Bureau Independent
As the Ranking Member of the Census Subcommittee in the run-up to the
last decennial census in the late 90's, I watched what happened as the
Census Bureau's work became a political football. That's why I've
introduced-- with bipartisan cosponsors--H.R. 1254, “The Restoring the
Integrity of American Statistics Act.” The bill would remove the Census
Bureau from the Commerce Department and make it a separate, independent
agency similar to NASA or the National Archives.
The Census Bureau’s work is scientific: it requires careful, thoughtful
planning by those who know how best to perform this huge undertaking.
The work is too important to be a stepchild of a larger organization—
buffeted by year-to-year budget whims and political storms that every
Cabinet agency is subject to. Elevating the Census Bureau to the status
of an independent body will allow it to conduct its ten-year planning,
testing and execution process without interference.
Changing its stepchild status will result in a clear focus on its
crucial, Constitutionally-mandated mission: counting all Americans
accurately. It will also allow the Bureau to summon and retain the best
demographers, statisticians, scientists, and managers to lead this
vital agency. That's why seven former census directors-- appointed by
Presidents of both parties-- have in the past supported a move to make
the Bureau independent.
Data generated by
the Census Bureau is used to determine the representation of each state
in the House of Representatives. Census data is also used by Federal
agencies to allocate funding for government programs and by private
businesses to make sensible decisions about where to expand and invest
their capital. It's crucial that we ensure this information is gathered
to the highest standards.
For the full text of H.R. 1254, click here.