March 15, 2006 - E-Newsletter Vol III: Ed IV

Mar 17, 2006

Dear neighbors:

The last few weeks in Washington have been full of activity and were highlighted by a significant victory for our city. Here’s an update.

In this E-Newsletter:



On 9/11 Health Issue, Two Major Steps Forward in Two Weeks

Four and a half years is far too long to wait for an adequate federal response to 9/11 health effects, but the administration finally took a couple of important and long-overdue steps this month. After Rep. Vito Fossella (R-Staten Island) and I urged the administration to appoint someone to be in charge of the federal response to the 9/11 health crisis, they heeded our call and named Dr. John Howard as the first 9/11 Health Coordinator. Dr. Howard has served as the Director of National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Appearing the day after his appointment at a congressional hearing on 9/11 health, he said a number of encouraging things which have given me hope that he will be a strong 9/11 health coordinator. I will be watching his performance with great interest.

A week after the appointment of Dr. Howard, the Centers for Disease Control announced its plan to distribute $75 million for 9/11 health programs, which includes the very first federal dollars spent for medical treatment of our 9/11 heroes. This money was part of the $125 million for 9/11 responders that the New York delegation worked hard to save last year after the administration proposed to take the money back. As the doctors who recently testified before Congress told us, the federal commitment to addressing the 9/11 health crisis is not a 4 or 5 year issue, it is a 30 to 40 year issue. This CDC money is hopefully just the beginning of a robust federal aid program. After four and a half years of no money for treatment, it is a welcome start.

Preventing a Repeat of the Dubai Ports Deal

I serve as the Ranking Member of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade and Technology, which has oversight jurisdiction that includes the Council on Foreign Investments in the United States - the board that approved the Dubai port deal. Our subcommittee held one of the first hearings on the Dubai deal, at which I questioned why CFIUS overlooked national security concerns in its decision to green-light the deal. It became clear to me that the CFIUS process must be reformed so that our security is not compromised and we do not have another firestorm over a future deal.

A bipartisan group of colleagues joined me in introducing legislation to strengthen the national security component of the CFIUS foreign acquisition review process. Among other provisions, the bill would include the Director of National Intelligence in the CFIUS process and require a 45-day investigation and recommendation to the president on all acquisitions by foreign governments. We have to learn the lessons from the Dubai fiasco, and one of the clear lessons is that the process needs to be changed.

In a Time When Civil Liberties Protections Are Desperately Needed, the Civil Liberties Board is Ignored

For almost a year, I have worked with a bipartisan group of colleagues in an attempt to give teeth to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. The board was a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission and was created in a weakened form as part of the landmark intelligence reform bill in December 2004. Fifteen months after the board was created, it has yet to even meet.

In the wake of the NSA eavesdropping revelations, many are concerned that the government is not protecting its citizens’ civil liberties, and the administration should do all it can to show its commitment to upholding civil liberties. But instead, it is doing all it can to undermine the civil liberties board. After initially resisting the creation of the board, delaying the nomination of board members and requesting wholly inadequate funding for the board last year, the administration completely omitted any mention of the board whatsoever from their budget request this year. With a bipartisan group of my colleagues, I urged the president to fund the board and give it teeth. It seems either the administration intentionally left the board out of the budget or they simply forgot it ever existed. Neither of those scenarios bodes well for civil liberties.

A Flight Attendants Outsourcing Plan Is Grounded

Last November I led a group of 99 Members of Congress who urged the CEO of Northwest Airlines to scuttle a plan to outsource as many as 2,600 flight attendant jobs on international flights. Aside from this being bad for the American economy, there were important and unanswered security concerns. I’m happy to report that the outsourcing plan never took off.

Earlier this month, the Professional Flight Attendants Association struck a collective bargaining agreement with Northwest in which the airline agreed to drop the outsourcing plan. For the economy and for our security, this is a win-win outcome.

Wal-Mart Wises Up for Women’s Health

After refusing to stock the Plan B emergency contraceptive at its pharmacies, and after being subject to lawsuits in a number of states, Wal-Mart has finally decided to reverse course and supply EC. This is an important advancement for women’s health, and it will hopefully increase the availability of Plan B around the country.

For those of us who have also been pushing the Food and Drug Administration to follow the overwhelming scientific evidence and make the Plan B available over the counter, this is a promising sign. I sincerely hope that the FDA will take a cue from Wal-Mart and make Plan B available without a prescription.

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.


Member of Congress

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