March 8, 2005 - E-Newsletter Vol II: Ed III

Mar 8, 2005

Dear friends:

The 109th session of Congress is off to a busy start – already, there is substantial news to report affecting New York and the nation.

In this E-Newsletter:

Budget Proposal is Rotten for the Big Apple

The administration’s budget proposal unveiled last month hurts the Big Apple, right to our core. Severe cuts to scores of domestic programs – in areas like education, affordable housing, health care and community programs – will impact urban America, particularly New York City. Just take a look at some of the proposed cuts:

Medicaid- a $60 billion cut nationwide, which will harm the health of low-income New Yorkers

Housing and Community Programs – the City would lose a $207 million community block grant and as much as $50 million in Section 8 housing vouchers

Amtrak – a total elimination of federal funding.

While these statistics are just a sample of how the proposed budget will impact New York, they give a sense of how New Yorkers will feel the effects. From rail travelers in the nation’s busiest rail hub to low-income residents, New Yorkers get the short end of the stick under this proposal. I will fight at every turn during the forthcoming budget and appropriations process to restore the programs that benefit our city.

First Responders Are Also Ignored in Budget

While the president’s budget proposal contains an overall increase for homeland security, the details of the homeland security spending are somewhat worrisome. The programs that fund local first responders, such as the NYPD and FDNY, are facing an overall cut of $235 million.  How the Administration can cut funding for first responders when the terrorist threat is still real and when they proposed an overall increase for homeland security is a mystery, but they’ve managed to do it.


A Piece of Good Budgetary News – The Second Avenue Subway

Amidst the storm of bad budgetary news for New York, there was a positive development on federal funding for the Second Avenue Subway. The Federal Transit Administration designated the subway line and the Long Island Railroad’s East Side Access connector as “highly recommended” projects – they are the only local transportation projects in the entire country to receive such a high distinction. This development confirms the federal government’s commitment to accelerate funding for the projects – the subway has already received federal funding for five consecutive years – and it could mean hundreds of millions of federal dollars is in the pipeline. The bottom line: the subway is on track.


Finally, We May See All the Files on Nazi War Criminals

In 1998, I introduced, and Congress passed, legislation to make public all previously-classified documentation about our government’s close ties to former Nazis after World War II. While every other federal agency – from the Pentagon to the U.S. Treasury – fully complied with the law, the CIA released only part of its information, withholding perhaps hundreds of thousands of pages of documentation. Together with Senator Mike DeWine (OH), who is the law’s Senate sponsor, I questioned CIA officials on Capitol Hill about their reluctance to comply with the law. A few days later, the CIA informed the working group charged with reporting on the information to the public that the agency will, in fact, release the previously withheld information. The working group also needs some extra time to process the information it is just now receiving, so I have introduced a bill to extend the group for two years. Senator DeWine introduced the same measure in the Senate, and it passed easily in February. Perhaps now we can finally gain a complete understanding and close the book on this sad chapter.


Pre-9/11 Aviation Threats Must Be Made Public

Just this January – six months after the 9/11 Commission’s final report and more than a month after I called for it’s public release – the Department of Justice released the final classified 9/11 Commission monograph to the National Archives. This particular monograph, which centers on aviation issues, apparently contains troubling information about clear warnings on the threat to airliners before 9/11. Together with my colleague Rep. Christopher Shays (CT-04), we have renewed our call to the Attorney General for the monograph to be immediately made public. In addition, my colleague Rep. Henry Waxman (CA-30) and I called for congressional hearings into the content of the monograph and why it alone was withheld for so long. It’s been three and a half years since 9/11 – the full truth is long overdue.


While Trying to Help Rape Victims, a Disturbing Encounter With the Justice Department

Last month, I attended a Justice Department public hearing on its new national protocol for treatment of sexual assault victims. I intended to speak about the dire need to include in the protocol the option of emergency contraceptives for rape victims to prevent unwanted pregnancies. To my shock, I was told I would not be able to speak or even submit written testimony. More than that, I was told to leave by an official, who threatened to call security. What is the point of a public hearing if they don’t allowed all concerns to be aired? The Justice Department used a technicality in their rules to prevent me from speaking. In doing so, they denied an opportunity for a serious concern to be heard.


Bill to End Unnecessary Penalties for Bank Customers

Have you recently experienced an increasing amount of unexpected overdraft fees from your bank? If so, please contact my office – you may be feeling the side-effect of a new law, which modernizes check clearing for banks, allowing them to rapidly and electronically clear checks. Unfortunately, when consumers deposit checks into their accounts, they are still subject to hold times that can be days long. The net result is that some banks are clearing checks much faster than their customers can put money back into their accounts. I have reintroduced legislation to level the playing field – it would give consumers the same advantage of electronic clearing when they deposit checks. I will pass along updates on the bill’s progress when they are available.


Thanks for Attending the Town Hall Meetings

I had a wonderful and informative time discussing Social Security with many of you at my recent town hall meetings in Manhattan and Queens. I will let you know when I hold future meetings, and I hope to see you there!


Member of Congress

P.S.  Please do not respond to this email, but instead click here to send me a message.  I look forward to hearing from you!