May 24, 2004 - Volume I: Edition III

May 24, 2004

Dear Friend, 

Activity and debate has heated up in Washington over the past few weeks, and several of the Administration's recent actions have troubled me and many of my colleagues.

Administration Onslaught Against Reproductive Choice: FDA Decision

Just two weeks ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided to ignore its own scientific panel's overwhelming recommendation to grant over-the-counter (OTC) status for the Plan B® contraceptive - the so-called "Morning-After Pill". Even though the scientific community has affirmed that over-the-counter Plan B® would benefit women and children's health, the FDA ruled that it would not grant over-the-counter status to Plan B®. In response to this decision, I have introduce, HR 4377, the Science Over Politics Act. This bill finds that on December 16, 2003, a joint panel of the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee and Non-Prescription Drugs Advisory Committee voted 28-0 that Plan B could be safely sold as an over-the-counter medication and then voted 23-4 to recommend that the FDA approve the application to make Plan B available over-the-counter for women of all ages. Further, it finds that the FDA's rejection of over-the-counter status for Plan B on May 6, 2004, directly contradicted the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence. The bill then directs the FDA to review its decision and affirm that it was not politically influenced and was based on sound science. The FDA's action sets a dangerous precedent. The FDA should only be looking out for the health of Americans, but if other things have begun to influence its decision-making process, I am extremely concerned that we will all suffer.

Abuse in Iraq: Secretary Rumsfeld Must Go

The pictures of prisoner abuse in Iraq have shocked and horrified us all. The actions of the American soldiers involved was deplorable. They absolutely do not reflect the honor and conduct of our upstanding and professional Armed Forces. The abuse instead reflects a fundamental flaw in the management of the war in Iraq that originates at the very top of the chain of command. It is a flaw that apparently led many in this Administration to deem the Geneva Convention unnecessary in Iraq. We must have military leadership that better understands the rules of conduct and shows more immediate concern when evidence of abuse such as this first arises.

Under Secretary Rumsfeld's stewardship, the Pentagon has maintained that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, assumed that our troops would be welcomed with roses, and undertaken a war without planning for winning the peace.  Now, we are involved in a scandal, and I believe that those in charge should be held accountable. I have called on Mr. Rumsfeld to resign.

NYC VA Hospitals - The Fight Continues

Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi announced last week that his department will continue to study moving medical services from the Manhattan VA Hospital to the Brooklyn VA, or vice versa. A study leaves the door open for eventually closing one of those hospitals, and as long as the door remains open, I will continue to stand with New York City's veterans to make sure the hospitals stay open. Instead of shutting down a VA hospital, they should shut down the study. Reducing health care options for our veterans is a disservice to the men and women who put their lives on the line for our country.

Where's the 9/11 Recovery Money?

Six of my New York colleagues joined me in asking the President, "Are we getting everything promised in 9/11 funds?" Our city was promised a much-needed $20 billion in a Rose Garden ceremony after 9/11, but a number of reports since then have shown that we'll never get that full amount - even though we need every cent. An accounting of the money is required by law, so we want to see it now.