April 19, 2004 - Volume I: Edition II
The past few weeks in Washington and New York have been busy, leading up to the House of Representatives April district work period. Here is an update of some of the main issues I have worked one since my last e-newsletter:
Health Screening for 9/11 Volunteers
"We Will Never Forget" - it's an appropriate slogan for our city and nation's response to and recovery from 9/11. Unfortunately, the federal government has acted for too long like it forgot the work and heroism of the responders and rescue and recovery workers who helped our city overcome the tragedy of 9/11. They didn't even announce aid for health screening for 9/11 rescue workers - many of whom still suffer from serious health problems - until last month.
That's why, with my colleague Rep. Christopher Shays (CT-04), I introduced "The Remember 9/11 Health Act" (HR 4059, click here) to provide long-term monitoring and health care for rescue workers. We were joined by Ground Zero responders, 9/11 family members, medical experts and downtown residents to announce this bill in New York. They all know, as I do, that when Mt. Sinai's Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine says that half of the 9,000+ rescue workers screened so far have long-term respiratory illness or injury, the federal government must do more. This bill does more.
White House game plan for the 9/11 Commission?
It is very important that the independent commission investigating the events leading-up to 9/11 remain just that - independent. That is why reports that White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales contacted a Republican member of the commission before its high-profile hearing with former counter-terrorism head Richard Clarke is highly disturbing. I, along with five of my New York colleagues, wrote to Mr. Gonzales, asking him exactly what transpired (click here). It is my hope that he responds quickly and comprehensively, so that we can ensure that the 9/11 commission is untainted.
Astonishing amount of untested rape DNA evidence
169,000 rape cases nationwide have DNA evidence that sits untested. 169,000! That's an appalling number that seems unreal, but it is the number estimated by a Department of Justice-commissioned study, which released a report on April 1 (click here). The good news is that Congress can do something to remedy that problem today by passing the "Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act" (HR 3214). This legislation contains provisions known as "The Debbie Smith Act," which would expedite the immediate testing of rape evidence kits - hundreds of thousands of which are sitting on the shelves. The bad news is that after going through the House so easily, this bipartisan, widely-supported bill has been stuck in the Senate because of individual turf battles. As the original sponsor of "The Debbie Smith Act," I continue to call on the Senate to pass this bill, so we can get rapists off the streets and put them behind bars (click here).
Jobs and the Economy
There have been a lot of Administration officials patting themselves on the back since it was announced that our economy added 308,000 jobs in March. Certainly, this is welcome news for American workers, and I am most happy for those looking for jobs in New York. However, celebrating these numbers too much would be foolish - this an economy that still must recover from losing 1.8 million jobs since January of 2001 (click here). One month of real growth has not reversed the effects of 25 months of job stagnation. I maintain that this Administration's fiscal policy - an unwieldy tax cut coupled with the largest budget deficit in history - is the wrong way to go and has stunted economic growth for far too long. At the same time I, like everyone else, am hoping for robust employment numbers from now on.
The millions of unemployed Americans need assistance right now to maintain their well being and encourage them to find new jobs. Nevertheless, the President and Majority in Congress refused to extend unemployment benefits when they ran out on April 1 (click here). More than 50,000 unemployed residents in the New York Metro area lost their benefits in the first three months of 2004, and 30,000 more will over the next three months. We need to treat our unemployed fairly and extend benefits to those who need it.
Town Hall Meetings
I will be holding two upcoming town hall meetings to discuss the economy. I hope you can join me to share your thoughts on:
Monday, April 26, 2004 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Sutton Place Synagogue
225 East 51st Street, Manhattan
(between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)
Monday, May 3, 2004 from 6 - 8 p.m.
HANAC Archbishop Iakovos Senior Center
32-06 21st St., Astoria
(between Broadway and 34th Avenue)
Taking toxins out of vaccines
Kids shouldn't be given anything that's toxic - who would argue against that? So, if we knew we could make childhood vaccines that don't contain mercury, why wouldn't we make them? To reach that goal my colleague Rep. Dave Weldon (FL-15) and I introduced legislation to eliminate mercury from vaccines. The bipartisan bill is fast-acting, requiring the complete removal of mercury in less than two years.