From: "Sheldon Whitehouse" <email@example.com>
Subject: Latest News from Washington
Date: Thu, 6 Sep 2007 18:18:29 -0400
Now that the Senate has reconvened for its busy September work session, I wanted to take a moment to share some of what I've been working on this year, my first as a Senator, to represent you and our fellow Rhode Islanders. We've made some headway on a few important issues, but we still have a long way to go, and I'm working hard to make certain that Congress's priorities reflect Rhode Island's priorities.
First, the good news. The Democratic-led Senate has passed legislation to raise the minimum wage for the first time in a decade; put a balanced budget in place that supports middle-class tax cuts and more funding for veterans and children; increased Pell Grants to help young people afford acollege education; reduced our reliance on foreign oil and encouraged the production of more renewable energy; implemented the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission to protect against terrorism; and begun to clean up Washington with a landmark reform of ethics and lobbying rules. But you and I both know that much remains to be done.
Traveling in Rhode Island in August and throughout this year, I've talked with many Rhode Islanders who are still very concerned, and frustrated, with our country's course. Every day, I hear from more and more Rhode Islanders calling for a new direction in Iraq. I cosponsored a bill to end virtually all funding for the war by early 2008, and have supported every measure before the Senate that I believe would help bring our troops home rapidly and responsibly. Earlier this year, I met with President Bush in the Oval Office. I had the chance to argue with him for a new course, and share a few of the e-mails and letters I had received from Rhode Islanders calling to bring the war to an end. The only way to bring about change in Iraq is for America to make it clear that we are on our way out and I will work with my colleagues to continue that fight.
At a community dinner I hosted in Riverside, several people shared their worries about the disastrous Medicare prescription drug program, and the significant problems they've experienced in our health care system. I voted to change the law that now prohibits Medicare from negotiating with drug companies over price. Such a change could generate enough savings to close the "donut hole" in Medicare Part D coverage. The Republicans blocked that effort, but our fight isn't over. We'll continue working to fix Part D so seniors can trust that the prescriptions they need will remain affordable.
Continuing many years of work in health care, I introduced three bills built on Rhode Island's own remarkable progress to improve our health care system. This legislation is aimed at encouraging health quality reforms, building a national health IT infrastructure, and linking health care payments to health care quality. I was also proud to vote to pass a strong bipartisan children's health bill that is a huge victory for Rhode Island's working families, renewing and strengthening our investment in affordable health care for every child in this country. The House and Senate must reach agreement on final legislation that will garner an override of the President's threatened ideological veto because our children deserve health care they can depend on.
Rhode Islanders are also worried about increasing evidence of global warming from the increased strength of hurricanes and weather patterns, to rising sea levels, to the earlier and earlier blooms on trees in our own backyards. I serve on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, which, under the new leadership of Senator Barbara Boxer(D-Calif.), is raising public awareness about climate change and pushing for real action in Congress. I'm a cosponsor of the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, the most comprehensive proposal in the Senate to cut carbon emissions. Senate Democrats are committed to real solutions that address the threat of global warming and invest in alternative and renewable energy sources.
In recent days, we've all been struck by the collapse of the subprime mortgage market and the ripple effects it's had throughout our economy.Too many Rhode Islanders I've met are struggling just to get by, as healthcare, energy, and education costs continue to skyrocket. President Bush still thinks the right way to help working families is to give more tax breaks to the wealthy. In the coming months, I'll continue to fight to help middle-class families make ends meet.
As a former U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island, I've also played an active role in the Senate's investigation into what went wrong at the Department of Justice with the unprecedented firing of several federal prosecutors late last year. While I'm glad that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales finally did the right thing and announced his resignation, a great deal of work remains to be done to restore Americans' confidence in this great Department, to restore its traditions and spirit, and to restore itsability to fairly and dispassionately enforce the law. Whoever the President nominates to be the new Attorney General at this critical timemust put the interests of the Department, its employees, and the American people foremost - before partisanship, and before politics.
Over the next several months, we will face many challenges together. I hope you will continue to stay in touch and share your views with me, and to let me know if I may be helpful to you in any way.