The Senate in 2010
Since my swearing in on February 4 of this year, I've introduced several pieces of legislation, and co-sponsored other bills that I thought helped to improve our economy and quality of life. It has been an eye-opening experience working in the Senate. I have seen first-hand both the partisanship that Americans have roundly rejected, as well as many efforts to work across the aisle and get good legislation signed into law.
In this issue of my newsletter, I will explain some of the things that I accomplished this year with the help of my colleagues in the Senate, outline some of the work I've been doing in Massachusetts on behalf of Commonwealth residents, and post the first video to feature a (very good) question from a constituent, with my response.
If this was forwarded to you, you may subscribe here, and visit me at scottbrown.senate.gov. Links to follow/contact me are at the bottom of the newsletter.
Talking with the People
Some of the most interesting things I hear and learn are from the people that I meet with in Washington and Massachusetts. Since coming to Washington, there have been several of note, both the lighthearted and the important. Here is a sampling:
Noah Brokmeier, the Diabetes Dude
Noah, Brokmeier, the Diabetes Dude, is a young man from Taunton who campaigns throughout the country to spread awareness of Type I Diabetes. You can visit Noah at www.thediabetesdude.com.
Scott and a Student at Read for the Record Event
Reading Ezra Jack Keats' "The Snowy Day," which was read across the nation to pre-K students in celebration of October 7th being nationally recognized by Congress as "Jumpstart's Read for the Record Day." I happily co-sponsored the Senate Resolution for this national recognition to play an active role in early childhood education, especially by reading to children. You can learn more about Read for the Record Day at www.readfortherecord.org.
Pine Street Inn Turkey Carving
On Thanksgiving, I tried my hand at carving a turkey at the Pine Street Inn. The Inn provides shelter, housing, outreach and job training in the Greater Boston area. Learn more at www.pinestreetinn.org
Constituent Video Question Answered
Answering Constituent Question
I made a request a while ago for you to send in your video questions. More recently, my staff have been out with me as I visit the state, asking folks on the street if they had a question for Senator Brown. If you see us traveling around, and would like me to answer your question publicly, ask one of my staff if you could record a question. If you don't wish to appear on camera, they may still take your question. You may also send questions firstname.lastname@example.org.
A constituent from Taunton asked me something that I think is on the minds of most Americans, and I thought it the best question to get this started. So here you go, the first of several questions to me answered publicly. I encourage you to send yours.
Working in Massachusetts
Help with a Federal Agency
I am very fortunate to have an excellent staff in my Boston office helping those who come through my door looking for help with a Federal agency, including some who have been recognized publicly for their efforts. It is my duty and desire to help as many Massachusetts residents navigate the bureaucracy and red tape that we sometimes encounter in our dealings with government. It has been my pleasure to help. Although we are, unfortunately, not always able to make things perfect, we are able to help in many instances (thanks to the hard work of my staff).
Since I have been in office, my staff has assisted hundreds of constituents with their mortgages by helping them obtain a modification, repayment plan or providing legal resources to further assist. We have helped over 70 Massachusetts families to keep their homes after foreclosure had been filed. My office is also available to assist with other financial matters, such as credit cards, reverse mortgages and identity theft. In this slumping economy, it is important to have someone on your side.
In another instance, IRS auditors had miscalculated a family's tax burden and overcharged them by over $100,000. My staff was able to point out the error and have the family's overpayment refunded by the IRS.
In the case of a Massachusetts service member who had gone that extra distance in the line of duty and been awarded a Bronze Star, military records did not reflect the medal. One of my staff was able to see that the matter was corrected, and the service member properly honored.
New Staff in Massachusetts
I have brought on four new staff members who will be my eyes, ears, and voice across the state. I will be setting up regional offices as soon as possible in Springfield, Worcester, and Plymouth. For now, you can reach them by contacting the Boston office at 617-565-3170:
Nick Powers, Regional Representative, Western MA
A 1999 graduate of Tantasqua Regional High School, Powers, 30, most recently served as a legislative aide to State Representative Todd Smola of Palmer.
Denny Drewry, Regional Representative, Central and Northeastern MA
Denny has had a wealth of experience in different fields, including service during Vietnam as a Green Beret, small business owner, and 12 years on the Westborough Board of Selectmen.
Sam Jonsson, Regional Representative, Southeastern MA
A Dartmouth resident and formal commercial fishermen, Jonsson recently returned from Afghanistan where he served as an Operations NCO for Headquarters, United States Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A). He served during both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He continues his service in the Army Reserve as a Master Sergeant.
Vito Calomo, Community Liaison Fisheries Specialist
A Gloucester native, Vito will ensure that Massachusetts' fishing communities have a voice in Washington.
REVIVING THE ECONOMY
The first thing I did in the Senate was to introduce legislation to cut payroll taxes for employees and pay for this initiative by rescinding unobligated stimulus funding. My amendment received bipartisan support when I first introduced it in March 2010. More recently, a version of my idea -- a one-year payroll tax cut for employees - was included as part of the bipartisan tax compromise that was passed by the Senate. I support the tax compromise because it will help get our economy back on track by allowing people to keep more of the money they earn. It is good for American families, for small businesses and for individuals in Massachusetts and across the country. Unemployment is still too high, and reports of ongoing job losses leave me very concerned. Creating a climate that is good for job growth remains my number one priority, and I will continue working with the administration and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle until there are more jobs for Americans.
SECURING A SAFER FINANCIAL FUTURE
(Signed into law)
I supported the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The final bill, signed into law in July 2010, included negotiated changes that I championed to protect jobs in Massachusetts and across the country and to ensure a safer financial environment to prevent another meltdown like the one in 2008 that left millions of Americans out of work and saw our economy take its worst dip since the Great Depression. This legislation takes important steps toward greater market transparency and consumer protection and will also ensure that taxpayers are never again put on the hook for bailing out the financial sector.
Within the bill I included the following:
Standing up for our troops. I introduced and passed an amendment (99-1) that created the new Office of Service Member Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The final version of the amendment was a joint effort with Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and was signed into law as part of the Wall Street Reform Act. Our young troops have a target on their back when it comes to questionable or downright illegal financial practices -- from payday loan traps to bogus life insurance policies, and the new office at the CFPB will make sure that men and women in uniform are not the victims of financial scams. I also worked on a bipartisan basis to make sure that people have access to their credit score if they are turned down for a loan. If certain types of creditors turn down a person's application for a loan or a credit product because of a bad credit score, that company is required to tell the person what their credit score is without charging them.
Standing Up For Massachusetts. The financial services industry is one of Massachusetts' key industries, employing hundreds of thousands of workers. I worked tirelessly to protect the Commonwealth from unfair treatment under the new financial reform rules. Although the recent crisis proved the need for new limits on the financial services industry, institutions that provide traditional life insurance, asset management and trust services were being unfairly targeted under a one-size-fits-all approach. If passed as originally written, a number of Massachusetts-based firms could have been splintered apart, with thousands of jobs lost. I also passed a bipartisan amendment protecting angel investors and start-up companies from burdensome regulations included in the original bill that would have made it much harder for innovative new companies to raise money to and create jobs. All of these changes were included in the final legislation that was signed into law.
Fighting higher taxes. I led the charge against the $19 billion tax on financial institutions that would have been passed on to bank customers and consumers. Each dollar that banks lend into the economy creates a significant multiplier effect. Rather than sucking billions out of our faltering economy at a time when many banks aren't lending, the conference committee reconvened and offset the costs of the bill by eliminating wasteful spending in the TARP program which was not used for its original purpose.
GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT OUR NATION'S DEBT
(Included in bipartisan recommendations)
I sent a letter to the Debt Commission in October 2010 outlining some of my ideas for reducing our nation's alarming level of debt and asking for the Administration to work with Congress to eliminate waste, unnecessary spending, and fraud. This follows from my work as Ranking Member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight which held 8 oversight hearings to attack waste, fraud and abuse in the way the federal government spends taxpayer money. Specifically, I asked for the Commission's consideration of adopting reforms to the federal acquisition process in order to leverage the federal government's enormous purchasing power to achieve substantial savings and help reduce our national debt.
The Commission, which released its report in December 2010, included my ideas as part of its overall recommendations on how to get our nation's fiscal house in order.
PROTECTING OUR NATION'S FALLEN HEROES
I introduced legislation (S. 3860) with Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri to help prevent future cases of the egregious mismanagement that have surfaced in recent months at Arlington National Cemetery. This legislation was passed by the Senate earlier this year.
Senator McCaskill and I first joined forces in this effort to investigate the causes of the absurd mismanagement and oversight lapses at the cemetery and to figure out how to remedy the problems as part of our work as Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight. This legislation will provide the appropriate Congressional oversight to make certain that those responsible for managing the cemetery are being held accountable and meeting the highest standards when it comes to ensuring the proper burials of America's fallen heroes.
PROTECTING ACCESS TO LIFE-SAVING DRUGS
I introduced legislation (S.11) to restore "orphan" drug discounts through the 340B program to children's hospitals that was included as part of H.R. 4994, the Medicare and Medicaid Extenders Act. This legislation was passed by the Senate earlier this year. Orphan drugs are used to treat rare diseases that impact fewer than 200,000 people. They are widely used in children's hospitals and play an important role in treating the sickest children with the most complex health needs.
My legislation restores access for children's hospitals across the nation to obtain discounts on these drugs. These discounts were eliminated under the federal health care bill signed into law by the President in March 2010. In addition to introducing legislation with seven Republican sponsors, I made a series of remarks on the floor to promote my efforts.