History Was Made Today

Tonight, the House passed comprehensive health care reform.  This century long fight to provdie quality, affordable health care to all Americans took a big step forward with this historic vote.  I delivered these remarks on the floor of the House before I cast this vote:

Madam Chairwoman, I want to express my profound thanks to the people of Illinois' 9th Congressional District, the place where I was born and lived nearly all my life, for the privilege of being here today to cast my vote for this historic health care measure. My life’s work has been to answer what is at bottom a moral question – Will the United States of America continue to allow its people to lose their lives, their homes and their fundamental sense of security, or we will finally decide that a proud and wealthy country like ours has an ethical obligation to provide access to health care for everybody? Is it even credible to think that a country as rich in so many ways as ours can’t afford to do this?

I am so proud that today, the House, under the leadership of perhaps THE most effective Speaker in US history, Nancy Pelosi, will say to all those parents agonizing that their sick child is excluded from insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition, sleep well. When our courageous and visionary President signs this law, that will end. This bill tells all Americans suffering from a chronic condition whose insurance companies set lifetime or annual caps on coverage, those days are over this year. Seniors will learn the happy truth that they will get more help with prescription drug costs and that the life of Medicare itself has been extended. And millions and millions of Americans will find out that this bill will mean that they will be able to afford the health care they need.

I am humbled and grateful to be here today to vote yes.

Become a Citizen Co-Sponsor of the Stop Outsourcing Security Act

It seems that every week, we're hearing about another outrageous example of Private Military Contractors, especially Blackwater, (or Xe, as they now call themselves). Last week we were shocked to hear about allegations of how Blackwater billed the government for prostitution. Two weeks ago The Nation highlighted the heartbreaking story of Blackwater's youngest victim, a 9 year old who was shot by Blackwater guards. He was one of 17 victims that day in Nisour square.

As of mid-2009, the United States employed over 22,000 hired guns in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that number keeps going up. Our reliance on private, for-profit companies for the business of waging war is extremely dangerous. It's time we move to eliminate the use of these unaccountable and controversial mercenaries, and I ask you to join me as a citizen co-sponsor of legislation that I have just re-introduced, the Stop Outsourcing Our Security Act.??

Ending My "Abusive Relationship"

I am happy to report that I have taken the first very important steps in ending the abusive relationship I am in. That's right. I am breaking up - with my "too big to fail" bank.

Bank of America, bye-bye. It started out innocently enough. When I first started banking as a young woman, I went to the Norshore National Bank, a friendly community bank in my neighborhood. And then it was bought by a bigger bank, and then by a bigger bank, and then by LaSalle Bank, a large but esteemed institution in the Chicago area, and finally by Bank of America. The transitions were pretty smooth, and frankly, I admit I took the easy way out and stayed put.

Hello, Devon Bank! Yesterday I went to the bank that my parents patronized for many happy years. It's in the neighborhood I grew up in, near my house, in my district. The friendly bankers were happy to see me and helped me open a new checking account. I can still bank on line, get a debit card, and use without charge a network of ATMs that are conveniently located. They gave me a map that I'll keep in my car. Not only that, they will pay me 4.15% interest on my balance up to $20,000 and they gave me a very nice pen set and a clock!

Remembering the Legacy of Dr. King

As we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., I urge you to remember Dr. King's legacy of non-violence and compassion as he fought for progressive change. Many of you already take part in civic, religious, and volunteer activities as part the MLK Jr. Day of Service, which urges citizens to view the Federal holiday not as "a day off, but a day on."

This MLK Jr. Day, please keep in mind the people of Haiti, as the struggle to recover from last week's earthquake. Over the last several years I have travelled to Haiti many times, and the images of the destruction have broken my heart.

Haiti Needs Our Help

Haiti needs our help. As I'm sure you've heard, a major earthquake has devastated Port-Au-Prince, Haiti's capitol. I've traveled to Haiti several times, most recently in the last year. While there had been glimmers of hope in this country with a difficult history, news of this horrific tragedy breaks my heart.

In my time in Haiti, I was privileged to develop a strong friendship with Dr. Paul Farmer, and have become a passionate supporter of his remarkable organization Partners in Health, which many of you might already be familiar with. Chicago supporters of Partners in Health helped construct a hospital and Women's clinic in Haiti. By supporting Partners in Health, your donation will go directly towards helping those most affected by the earthquake. Please read this message that Partners In Health sent out yesterday evening, and consider giving your support.
A major earthquake centered just 10 miles from Port-au-Prince has devastated sections of the city and knocked out telephone communications throughout the country. Reached via email, Partners In Health staff at our facilities in the Central Plateau report that they experienced a strong shock but no major damage or injuries. We are still attempting to establish contact with other PIH facilities and to locate several staff members who were traveling in and around Port-au-Prince.

In an urgent email from Port-au-Prince, Louise Ivers, our clinical director in Haiti, appealed for assistance from her colleagues in the Central Plateau: "Port-au-Prince is devastated, lot of deaths. SOS. SOS... Temporary field hospital by us at UNDP needs supplies, pain meds, bandages. Please help us."

Donate now to support our earthquake relief efforts.

The earthquake has destroyed much of the already fragile and overburdened infrastructure in the most densely populated part of the country. A massive and immediate international response is needed to provide food, water, shelter, and medical supplies for tens of thousands of people.

With our hospitals and our highly trained medical staff in place in Haiti, Partners In Health is already mobilizing resources and preparing plans to bring medical assistance and supplies to areas that have been hardest hit.

Both our teams in Boston and Haiti are already mobilizing to deliver resources as quickly as possible to the places where they are needed most.

Donate now to support our earthquake relief efforts.

Thank you for your solidarity during this crisis,

Ophelia Dahl
Executive Director - Partners in Health


Progress Illinois Covers the Preckwinkle Endorsement

Progress Illinois Covers the Preckwinkle Endorsement
Progress Illinois' coverage of today's Endorsement Press Conference of Toni Preckwinkle. 
This afternoon, a who's who of Chicago progressives stood shoulder to shoulder with Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th Ward) to lend their support for her bid to unseat Todd Stroger as Cook County Board President.

The Capitol Fax Blog Highlights Jan at the Goodman Theatre

The Capitol Fax Blog Highlights Jan at the Goodman Theatre
 Rich Miller at The Capitol Fax Blog decided to have a little fun with Jan's recent appearance at the Goodman Theatre, highlighting this photo for his regular caption contest feautre.  She was there with Congressman Quigley and Senator Durbin as part of a charity event for members of the armed forces and their families.  

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."