The Economic Bailout Plan: "An Economic Iraq!"
On Monday, September 29, 2008 and again on October 3, 2008, I voted against the Economic Bailout Plan.
This bailout policy - and the arguments in favor of it - reminded me of the debate over Iraq. This is an economic' Iraq. The Bush Administration wanted a blank check - with no accountability. They proposed that the same people who got us into this mess be charged with fixing it. Their estimates of the cost - even at the astronomical amount of $700 billion - are deceptively low. They used fear-mongering in arguing that inaction was a greater threat than any action - when nobody suggested inaction. They could not prove that our nation would be more secure as a result of their plan. And we will probably need a surge' of billions in just a few months!
"It is time to go back to the drawing board - to reject a trickle-down' plan and go directly to the heart of the problem: Keeping people in homes threatened by foreclosure. Investing in public infrastructure. Creating an alternative energy policy.
"I am certainly prepared to stay in Washington until we solve this crisis affecting Main Streets all across our nation."
Continuing the Fight for Equity for Filipino Veteran
I am deeply sorry that we were unsuccessful in convincing the leadership of the House of Representatives to bring the complete S. 1315, the Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act, to the House for a vote after it passed the Senate.
With that avenue to benefits all but closed, I introduced H.R. 6897, the Filipino Veterans Equity Act, to provide an alternative--a lump sum payment to veterans in the United States and in the Philippines. I know that many of you were supporters of H.R. 1315 and did not want H.R.6897 to pass. I agree that this bill in no way provided the full equity that the veterans deserve and the full equity that we all were seeking, but it appeared to have a chance of success. The Filipino veterans are dying, and many of those who are still with us desperately need financial help!
Indeed, H.R. 6897 passed the House by a vote of 392-23! You may know that we were also successful in getting $198 million in the Consolidated Appropriations bill to pay for H.R. 6897! But, at this point, a "hold" was placed on this bill on the Senate side. The end result is that Filipino Veterans will get nothing from the 110th Congress.
We came very close. Although we are all saddened by the turn of events, I promise I will never give up. Equity and recognition for World War II Veterans is a moral imperative!
Commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month
Hispanic values - faith, family, love of country - are American values. The Hispanic dream - the hope of a better future - is the American Dream. During Hispanic Heritage Month, we honor the Hispanic community and pay tribute to the extraordinary contributions that Hispanics make to America all year long.
The 45.5 million Hispanics make up the fastest growing group in our country. Their hard work, deep faith and closely-knit families have made America a better and stronger country. Hispanic contributions to American popular culture are plainly evident in music, film, food, and other areas. Hispanic purchasing power is more than $600 billion and Hispanics are opening businesses at a rate that is three times as fast as the national average. Economically, culturally, and politically, Latinos are a vital part of our nation.
Unfortunately, many Hispanic families have not fared well over the last several years - with a struggling economy. Indeed, since 2000, the median household income of Hispanics has fallen by $1,256, the number of uninsured Hispanics has grown by 3 million, and the number of Hispanics living below the poverty level has grown by 2.1 million. Furthermore, unemployment among Hispanics has skyrocketed in recent months - jumping from 5.4% in August 2007 to 8.0% in August 2008.
The Democratic-led 110th Congress has been fighting for a new direction in economic policy - aimed at restoring broad-based growth, reducing the cost of energy, college and health care, improving retirement security, and increasing prosperity for all Americans.
The 110th Congress has been successful in getting certain key initiatives enacted but is also aware that much more needs to be done to revitalize our economy and renew the American dream for millions of America's working families, including Hispanic families.
In January, the Congress worked quickly in a bipartisan way and enacted Recovery Rebates that went out to 130 American households this spring and summer to help try to jumpstart the economy. This summer, in order to address the subprime mortgage crisis, the Congress enacted the most sweeping housing bill in a generation - designed to prevent 400,000 subprime foreclosures, crack down on predatory lending, and expand affordable mortgage opportunities for working families.
The Congress has also enacted a three-step increase in the minimum wage, benefiting 2.3 million Hispanics over the next several years - the first increase in a decade. In addition, it has extended unemployment benefits - at a time when the Hispanic unemployment rate stands at 8.0%. The Congress has also enacted an Innovation Agenda, which will help restore our ability to compete in the global economy and create 21st century good-paying jobs.
To make college more affordable, the Congress has enacted the single largest investment in college financial assistance since the 1944 GI Bill, including cutting the interest rate on student loans in half and increasing the size of Pell Grants to help millions of Hispanics have the opportunity for a better education. It has also enacted another bill that gives colleges incentives to rein in tuition increases and cracks down on scandals in the student loan industry.
With a New Direction, the Congress has made our children a priority - including America's 15 million Hispanic children. For example, Congress has enacted a bill to strengthen the successful Head Start childhood education program to make sure our children are ready for school. In addition, it has enacted a key bill to make America's children safer - banning the import of unsafe toys from China and other countries. We have also twice passed a key bill that would have provided health care coverage for 10 million children, including millions of Hispanic children; however, unfortunately, the President has vetoed it both times.
Finally, this Congress has enacted major bills to improve the lives of America's veterans - including the 1.1 million veterans who are Hispanic. These bills include the 21st Century GI Bill that provides a free four-year college education to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans (providing these veterans the educational benefits our country provided to World War II veterans) and a bill providing the largest increase in funding for veterans' health care in the 77-year history of the Veterans' Administration.
Celebrating the Hispanic community for one month a year is not enough. All Latinos deserve a real opportunity to achieve the American Dream, whether they have been here for generations or just arrived to our shores. That's why I am proud to partner with my colleagues to promote a New Direction agenda that builds opportunity for all American families.
Leading the House in Passage of Comprehensive Bills to Help Veterans Prevent Foreclosure and Access the Health Care
As Chairman of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, I am pleased to announce that the House of Representatives passed comprehensive legislation to provide improved health care services and increased benefits for our Nation's veterans last month. I thank my Republican and Democratic colleagues for their contributions to the comprehensive legislative package. I also thank my Senate counterparts for their dedication to working together to craft legislation that will address the important and timely needs of veterans.
Over the course of the 110th Congress, we have learned much about the needs of our nation's veterans and the bills that were passed recently go a long way to address them. S. 2162 takes care of the men and women who have given so much to defend this nation and provides our veterans with the quality health care programs and services they need and so richly deserve. S. 3023 will help modernize the VA claims processing system and assist it in becoming a 21st century, world-class entity that reflects the selfless and priceless sacrifices of those it serves - our veterans, their families, and survivors.
Accessing mental health services for family members is particularly important for our newest generation of veterans and their families, many of whom are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
There are nearly 24 million veterans in this country, more than 2.7 million of whom receive disability compensation benefits from the VA. S. 3023 would comprehensively modernize the VBA claims processing system and arm it with the up-to-date tools and paradigms it needs to process claims using integrated information technology and platforms, while improving accountability, timeliness, and quality of adjudicated claims. Veterans can now have hope that the VA will finally stand for Veterans Advocate, instead of Veterans Adversary
Supporting the Early Treatment for HIV Act
Last month, I co-sponsored the Early Treatment for HIV Act, H.R. 3326. This bill would permit state Medicaid programs to cover low-income, HIV-positive Americans. States that take advantage of this option will be rewarded with an enhanced federal Medicaid match.
The Early Treatment for HIV Act will help provide equitable coverage for HIV-positive Americans. A person's financial position should not prevent them from receiving desperately needed care. For those whose lives or loved ones have been touched by this disease, I hope this legislation will come as a relief.
According to a detailed analysis by the Center for Disease Control of HIV incidence in the United States in 2006, the disease continued to affect men who have sex with men (MSM) more than any other group. MSM represented the most new infections among white, black, and Hispanic populations. Most infected women acquired HIV heterosexually, with black women particularly at risk.
Announcing Funding for Double-Stacked Booths at the Border
I recently announced that the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has decided to award $1,149,000 for repairs of the nine double-stacked booths at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
I fought to get funding included in the FY 2008 Appropriations Bill for the San Ysidro double-stacked booths and I am extremely pleased to announce this award.
Double-stacked booths enable the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to process frequent travelers enrolled in the SENTRI (Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection) program more quickly. The double-stacked booths also maximize the space available at these crowded border crossings.
San Ysidro is home to the world's busiest land border crossing, with 150,000 people crossing daily. This funding for the double-stacked booths is an important step to reduce border wait times.
Announcing the New Otay Mesa Border Congestion Relief Project
I am pleased to announce that the U.S. Department of Transportation has chosen to fund the Otay Mesa East Port of Entry as one of three projects nationwide under the new Border Congestion Relief Program.
San Diego's Otay Mesa East Port of Entry project will create a new port of entry and a 2.7-mile, four-lane highway that will link to the existing California highway system to provide more capacity for traffic through the region.
In July, I wrote to the Federal Highway Administration urging approval of the Otay Mesa project that was submitted by CALTRANS, stating:
"The State of California has been wrestling with the negative impacts of border congestion for many years. A recent report showed that delays for both personal travel and freight movement across the California/Mexico border cost our economy $8.63 billion in lost output and nearly 74,000 jobs in 2007 alone.
My district encompasses the entire California/Mexico border region, and I know first-hand that border congestion has also negatively impacted families who must cross the border regularly for work or school and the health of my constituents who breath in the pollution caused by idle trucks and cars at the border.
The massive number of trucks and amount of freight crossing the border has also caused problems on local roads, making neighborhood streets unsafe. Most of the freight crossing the border is destined for places far beyond the region, making this a national problem that requires federal funding to solve."
Honoring Julian and Lourdes Martinez of Chula Vista for the 2008 Angels in Adoption Award
Last month I announced that Julian and Lourdes Martinez of Chula Vista as my selection for the 2008 Angels in Adoption Award, sponsored by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Each year, the Coalition invites all Members of Congress to honor an individual, couple, or organization who make a difference in the lives of children through adoption and who deserve recognition.
Julian and Lourdes are my 2008 Angels in Adoption because of their loving acceptance of a sibling set of three - April, Angel and Alejandro - who were in need of a forever family.
Before taking the children into their home, Julian and Lourdes owned a business where they worked around the clock. In order to care for their new family, they closed the business, Julian took a job that allows him to spend time with his children, and Lourdes became a stay-at-home mother. The Angels in Adoption Award is their second recognition this year; Julian was recently named Employee of the Year at his place of employment.
Julian and Lourdes are also enthusiastically working to send out the message about the importance of adoption. They volunteered their time to appear in a public service announcement (PSA) on Univision and CBS Channel 8 - local San Diego TV stations - and on radio.
Black Eye Studios produced the PSA, San Diego County Adoptions is the owner of the PSA, and U.S. Airways donated the plane trip to Washington so the Martinez Family could participate in the Gala Banquet and Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, September 16, 2008. San Diego County Adoptions was the placement agency. Since the Angels in Adoption program's beginning in 1999, Members of Congress have recognized more than 1200 Angels from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
As the father of an adopted child, I recognize the contribution of those who adopt and who facilitate adoption. I wholeheartedly support the Angels in Adoption Award as a way to raise awareness of the thousands of children in the United States who need permanent, safe, and loving homes.
2008 Angels in Adoption Award
Pictured above me above (from left): April, Lourdes, Angel, Julian, and Alejandro Martinez.
Constituent Mail Bag
Countless Americans rely upon an open Internet in their daily lives. Our elected leaders must protect our basic right to communicate from those who want to take it from us. Please join with me and 2 million others to demand that Congress protect the free-flowing Internet from blocking, censorship and discrimination by phone and cable companies
Congressman Filner replies:
Thank you for contacting me about preserving and protecting a free and open internet.
I wholeheartedly agree with you! I have always supported open and affordable access to the internet for everyone in our community. Rest assured that I will work with my colleagues to protect internet neutrality and ensure that the internet remains a source of innovation, creativity, and free speech.
I appreciate your advocacy on this important issue.
Useful Web Site: Veterans History Project
The Veterans History Project relies on volunteers to collect and preserve stories of wartime service. The project is an initiative of the Library of Congress and was created by the United States Congress in 2000 as a way to collect the stories and experiences of war veterans while they are still among us. The primary focus is on first-hand accounts of U.S. Veterans from the following wars: World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, and Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.
In addition, those U.S. citizen civilians who were actively involved in supporting war efforts (such as war industry workers, USO workers, flight instructors, medical volunteers, etc.) are also invited to share their valuable stories.
The website for the Veterans History Project is: http://www.loc.gov/vets/