December 10, 2007

THE RECORD OF THIS CONGRESS

The 2006 Elections were a clear indication that most Americans wanted a change.   They wanted a change in direction in Iraq, and a change in many of our nation's priorities, particularly in access to health care, funding for education and efforts to protect the environment.  

 

This Congress has passed many bills reflecting many of these changes.   Unfortunately, we have a fundamental difference in values and goals between the Legislative and Executive Branches, often preventing enactment of important legislation.  

 

This Congress has a very slim majority, yet it has been able to pass, often by wide margins, major pieces of legislation.   It has passed the largest increase in college student aid since the GI bill, providing an additional $17 billion in financial assistance to students. After a decade of fighting to raise the minimum wage, this Congress succeeded in increasing the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour by 2009.   We also passed a comprehensive ethics reform bill that brings more openness and transparency to government and limits the influence of special interest lobbyists.

 

While this Congress does not have the votes to override a Presidential veto and change direction in Iraq, it has sent the President a troop redeployment bill and legislation requiring him to certify that Iraq is making progress in 18 "benchmark" areas.

 

Congress also has not had the votes to override a Presidential veto of legislation that would reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).   This measure, which Congress passed with wide, bipartisan support, called for expanding CHIP by $35 billion over five years, providing health care to an additional 3.8 million low-income children nationwide and 100,000 children in Maryland.   President Bush vetoed the measure, leaving millions of children vulnerable and uninsured.

 

I am hopeful that this Congress will enact legislation to reduce global warming. I have co-sponsored the bipartisan Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, S. 2191, which would require a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.   If enacted into law, it would be the strongest climate change law in the world. I also successfully offered an amendment that would substantially boost funding for mass transit by an estimated $46 billion.

 

It has been almost a year since I became a member of the Senate, and I have worked hard to change our nation's priorities.   I believe we have made significant progress, but more needs to be done.   That will be accomplished when the White House and Congress come together on the priorities for this nation.