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New Year's Blog

My new year began in earnest on Monday, January 4. Full of the spirit of a fresh start, I began with 25 minutes of aerobics on the elliptical machine and lifted some weights. Feeling self-righteous, I luxuriated in one of the best holiday gifts ever from my husband Bob – a one and a half hour massage. I went straight from there to get a manicure, went to Jenny Craig and started on the annual diet, got my hair colored and cut, and now, I am fully ready to launch into 2010! Coiffed and polished, I am heading off to Washington to see about a health care bill.
 
The challenge is to craft a bill that makes health care affordable and available to all Americans regardless of income or health status or gender or geography, does not compromise women’s access to abortion services, is paid for in a way that does not burden middle class people, seriously controls the unbridled power and greed of the insurance industry – and can get 60 votes in the Senate.  “Ah, there’s the rub.”

Protecting a Woman's Right to Choose

The health care bill passed in the House of Representatives on Saturday night makes many improvements to benefit women. It bans gender rating for premiums, prevents breast cancer survivors and domestic abuse victims from being denied coverage, and expands access to preventive care like cancer screenings.

Unfortunately, as a result of the inclusion of the Stupak-Pitts amendment, it continues gender discrimination by providing the largest expansion of anti-choice language since the Hyde Amendment.

Our message is clear: we will not support any final bill that restricts women's access to reproductive health services beyond current law. Before any bill reaches the President's desk, language that takes us back to the last century by undermining women's rights must be eliminated.

My Conversation with Goldman

This week I had an opportunity most Americans would relish, just as I did. I was able to unload on two top executives of Goldman Sachs who descended from on high to my office because I clearly needed some educating. One was a Vice President and the other their Chief Risk Officer.

I had authored a letter on October 28, along with Congressman Peter Welch, that read, "We understand Goldman Sachs is expected to award its employees $21 billion in bonuses this year...Goldman Sachs is good at what it does, but its profits this year...were supplemented by the generous financial support of American taxpayers. In particular, Goldman Sachs benefited from a taxpayer payment of $12.9 billion from AIG on credit default swaps, insurance lending, and other contractual obligations between the two firms. AIG's payment to Goldman Sachs was, in fact, a taxpayer payment...Should taxpayers be repaid the $12.9 billion before bonuses are distributed to Goldman employees? We believe they should. We therefore urge Goldman Sachs to repay taxpayers the $12.9 billion it received from them through AIG."

My Trip to Guantanamo: It Must Be Closed

 I went to the prison at Guantanamo Bay on June 16 with a small bi-partisan group of House members. It was my third trip, and I came away thinking that those Congressional visits may not be helpful in generating support for closing the facility. (That conclusion, by the way, has nothing to do with the true fact that I fell on a step and fractured my foot while at the facility.) The problem is that a one day guided tour can easily leave the wrong impression.

What one sees at Guantanamo is what appears at first blush to be simply an efficiently managed prison, the mission of which as described by the congenial and impressive Rear Admiral David Thomas, Commander of Joint Task Force-GTMO, is the "safe, transparent, legal and humane treatment of detainees." He answered all our questions, fed us lunch, and took us on a tour of the facility. This man is clearly a strong and popular leader who is doing his job and doing it well.

Admiral Thomas took us on the grand tour. One of the must-sees is Camp 4 where prisoners live in barrack-style units, 5 to a unit (though built to accommodate 10) who are "free" to move in and out of an outdoor yard 20 hours per day. Camp 5 and 6 are medium and maximum (not counting the high value detainees) and visitors are shown the small individual cells and are told that these prisoners are given up to 4 hours per day out in the yard with other prisoners. Camps 4, 5, 6 are comfortably air-conditioned.

Running for Re-Election

I want to let you, my friend and supporter, know that I have decided to seek reelection to my seat in the House of Representatives. 

The Private Health Insurance Industry is Killing the U.S. Economy

Fifteen years ago the private health insurance industry told Congress and the nation that it could fix the health care mess if government got out of the way. The insurers said that they would control costs for American families and businesses and improve the quality of care. The American people, American business and the Congress aren't about to buy that line again.

The result of leaving health care reform to the insurance industry is that health insurance premiums have gone up six times faster than wages in the past nine years. Those dollars are buying skimpier health coverage with high deductibles and caps on benefits, resulting in more and more insured people being forced into medical bankruptcy. Businesses that are struggling to meet health care costs in a global economy and dropping coverage, so much so that now 1 out of 3Americans under the age of 65 has been uninsured at some time in the past two years. Health care eats up 16% of our economy, up from 11% when the nation decided to leave the private insurance in charge.

Refuting the Self-Fulfilling Torture Prophecy: A Response to Hayden and Mukasey

No timid wimp is former CIA Director Michael Hayden. And he's not reluctant to tell you so. You can find out what a tough guy he really is by reading his opinion piece, written with former Attorney General Michael "Not sure waterboarding is torture" Mukasey in the April 17 Wall Street Journal, defending the use of torture and objecting to the release of the nightmarish memos. We're talking here about "walling", (repeatedly smashing a detainee against a wall), stress positions (hanging a person from the ceiling with feet barely touching the floor -- including a one legged man), sleep deprivation for as long as 11 days, cramped confinement (put in a casket-sized box or smaller -- insects optional), and that medieval favorite, waterboarding.

In fact, it was the torture described in these memos, the existence of secret prisons, Guantanamo Bay, and Abu Ghraib that endangered the security of the United States. What better tools could there be to inflame and recruit new terrorists and instill hatred for our country throughout the Muslim world and beyond? Still Mukasey and Hayden clearly believe that these techniques should have been used and should be used in the future. They are in favor of torture.