Senator Maria Cantwell's Weekly Update for Washington State
Promoting U.S. Leadership During Humanitarian Emergencies
To help America lead the way in providing relief during natural and manmade humanitarian crises, I've joined Senator Joe Biden in promoting legislation to make the protection of vulnerable populations, especially women and children, a priority. Our bill, the Protection of Vulnerable Populations During Humanitarian Emergencies Act, would direct the Secretary of State to develop a comprehensive strategy to protect those affected by humanitarian emergencies and establish a new position in either in the State Department or the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) responsible for coordinating U.S. efforts on behalf of vulnerable populations. The bill would help get health services to people in need during a humanitarian emergency, and would ensure that American soldiers are better trained to protect vulnerable populations. It also expresses the sense of Congress that the United Nations should strengthen the ability of its Department of Peacekeeping Operations to protect civilians, especially women and children, from sexual exploitation by peacekeeping personnel.
I've also joined 22 of my Senate colleagues urging the Appropriations Committee to approve critical funding for Darfur peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts. The violence in Darfur has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced. Earlier this month, the Sudanese government and the Sudan Liberation Army--one of the primary insurgent groups in Darfur--signed an important peace agreement. Even though two smaller rebel groups have refused to sign, we need to continue the momentum towards peace. Cutting assistance now would be a terrible mistake, and I'm going to continue working to make sure we do all we can to bring a lasting peace to this war-torn region.
Supporting Washington State's First Responders
Last week was National Police Week, an important time for us to thank our nation's law enforcement officers for their unending courage and sense of duty, and to remember those we have lost. Our gratitude extends far beyond this one week. Local, state, and federal law enforcement officers represent the very best of America, and I offer my thanks to the men and women who wake up everyday, put on a uniform, and set out to keep our communities safe. First observed in 1962, National Police Week takes place each year during the week that includes May 15.
Yesterday, I joined members of the Normandy Park Police Department to announce more than half a million dollars in U.S. Department of Homeland Security equipment grants for 41 small first responder agencies across Washington state. We need to make sure all our communities--including smaller communities and those in rural areas--have first-rate emergency response capabilities. The innovative pilot program I discussed in Normandy Park this weekend provides smaller law enforcement and emergency response agencies with cutting-edge equipment they wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. This equipment helps police and fire departments in small communities all across our state do the job they were trained to do as effectively as possible. This program helps make sure small communities aren't disadvantaged. Our state's first responders do an amazing job and put their lives on the line every day to keep us, our children, and our communities safe and secure. We owe them our full support.
Putting Forward a New Energy Independence Platform
Forty-two of my Senate colleagues joined me last week to unveil an energy plan that will dramatically reduce our over-reliance on fossil fuels. The 5-point plan would boost our country's alternative fuels infrastructure, replace big oil giveaways with incentives for clean energy, reduce harmful emissions, and develop new technologies to reduce oil consumption. I also introduced comprehensive legislation, entitled the Clean Energy Development for a Growing Economy, or Clean EDGE, Act, which legislates these core principles and highlights a number of steps we could enact today. To view a summary of the Clean EDGE Act, please visit my website at: http://cantwell.senate.gov/Clean_EDGE_Act_Summary.cfm.
I also believe that improving the fuel economy of our nation's vehicles is a vital tool for reducing our nation's dependence on oil. Earlier this month, as the top Democrat at a Commerce Committee hearing on Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, I asked witnesses to analyze the impact of 20 years of stagnant CAFE standards, and underscored the importance of better fuel economy if we want to achieve real energy independence. Following that hearing, I am working with other members of the Commerce Committee to develop legislation to increase national fuel economy standards.
Establishing a National Meth Prevention Week
Meth abuse is a growing problem we cannot ignore. We need to increase awareness of this drug's dangerous consequences before even more families become victims. To help raise awareness, I introduced legislation, approved unanimously by the Senate last week, to create a National Meth Prevention Week. Last month, the House passed identical legislation sponsored by Congressman Brian Baird. With the green light from both houses of Congress, it's now up to the president to take the final step to create a National Meth Prevention Week. By educating the public about the dangers of this harmful drug, we can prevent lives from being destroyed and can make sure meth victims know how to get help. A new week focused on prevention and awareness will teach all kids and their families about the importance of staying away from meth--a vital step in the fight against this highly addictive drug.
In addition to promoting meth awareness, I'll continue working to increase funding for anti-meth initiatives. Earlier this year, I worked to include the Combat Meth Act and other anti-meth measures in legislation to re-authorize the Patriot Act. This new law restricts the sale of products used to produce meth, provides funds to help those affected by meth use, and gives new tools to states, law enforcement, and prosecutors working to combat meth. The legislation also authorizes $99 million for the Meth Hot Spots program, which provides grants to states and communities to clean up meth labs, purchase equipment, and train state and local law enforcement officials to investigate and convict meth offenders. In March, I worked with Senator Jim Talent to secure the unanimous Senate approved of an amendment to the Senate version of the 2007 budget to fund this vital program at the authorized level of $99 million during 2007.