Your Direct Link to the News and Events in the Nation's Capital
September 15, 2004
Dear Fellow Oregonian:
After a busy August, driving more than 3,000 miles throughout southern, central and eastern Oregon visiting the vast majority of counties in the Second District, I have resumed my commute from Hood River to Washington, D.C. as Congress reconvened on September 7th.
It is always an honor to travel the District, visiting with residents and hearing the ideas, thoughts and concerns you have about federal government. Most importantly, it is how I create my 'to do' list to bring back to Washington with me.
My colleagues and I have much ahead of us, most importantly the completion of budgets for fiscal year 2005. Below I have outlined the status of appropriations for 2005. Additionally, I have listed some of the upcoming committee hearings for the House and the pending issues they will be discussing.
Last week the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, of which I am vice-chair, held a day-long hearing on disclosure of information about the use of antidepressants in children. This important issue was discussed before a packed room of parents, FDA representatives, pharmaceutical manufacturers and media. Please see below a recap of the hearing.
Last Thursday, the House overwhelmingly passed the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, legislation that takes proactive measures to help combat teen suicide named in honor of Senator Smith's late son. More information about the bill is below.
Also last week, we passed emergency disaster relief for the victims of severe weather in Florida. Introduced on Tuesday, the legislation was passed by both the House and Senate that day and signed by the President on Wednesday the 8th. My thoughts are with those affected by the two hurricanes that have already swept through Florida and with those anxiously awaiting landfall of Hurricane Ivan.
Two of my bills came before the House Resources Committee today for a vote. The first, H.R. 3210, will help improve water quality and quantity in southern Oregon as it authorizes the Bureau of Reclamation to conduct a water resource feasibility study for the WISE (Water for Irrigation, Streams and the Economy). The second, H.R. 4838, provides young adults with the ability to get hands-on education in forest management through fuels reduction work in our federal forests. Young adults will be able to engage in meaningful public service, earn wages and help reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire. For more information about these, please visit my website to see my press release:
I am looking forward to heading back to Oregon this weekend for the annual Pendleton Round-Up. The Round-Up is a wonderful community celebration, and I greatly enjoy the chance to visit with residents and see so many families enjoying the festivities offered throughout the week.
Before heading back to Washington, D.C. next Monday, I will go to Thatcher, Arizona for a field hearing in the Forests and Forest Health Subcommittee, which I chair. We will discuss the impact of the National Forest Management plan and the Endangered Species Act on rural communities in the Southwest. Like Oregon, communities throughout the southwest are dependent on responsible stewardship of our natural resources. This is especially true when it comes to the vast forestlands found throughout these states. I look forward to this hearing so that we can continue the committee's important discussion about forest health. We recently held to similar hearings in Oregon. The first was on the Endangered Species Act in Klamath Falls in July and the most recent was held in Sisters this August on Forest Health. These hearings provide my colleagues and me the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of how federal programs and laws are working in local communities and regions, and help us learn what needs work needs to be done.
As always, you can find additional information about developments in Congress on my web site at www.walden.house.gov <http://www.walden.house.gov/>. If you have any questions or comments about this e-newsletter or anything else taking place in Congress and our nation's capital, please visit my web site and click on "Contact Me" to send me an email. You can also call my Medford office toll free from any phone in the 541 area code at 1-800-533-3303. My staff and I look forward to hearing from you.
I hope you find this edition of the Congressional Connection helpful and informative. Thank you and God Bless America.
Congressman Greg Walden
News From the Hill
Umatilla County Receives Federal Assistance to Combat Drugs
The National Marijuana Initiative is sending $20,000 to Umatilla County to help local law enforcement officials combat the growing drug problem facing the region.
The investment came on the heels of a visit I made to Umatilla County where I brought Scott Burns, deputy director for the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy, to meet with leaders of the Blue Mountain Enforcement Narcotics Team (BENT). BENT outlined the grave problem with both marijuana and methamphetamine facing Umatilla County, giving Mr. Burns an opportunity to learn firsthand the nature of the situation.
I am hopeful that additional investments will be made to help BENT and Umatilla County root out the organizations responsible for the production and trafficking of illegal drugs throughout the region.
For more information, please see our press release at: <http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/or02_walden/pr_040903_ONDCP.html>
Or the East Oregonian story at:
House Passes Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act
Last Thursday, my colleagues and I overwhelmingly voted in support of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, legislation setting aside funds over the next three years to be used for youth suicide and prevention programs at the state and local level. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death among those ages 10 to 24. I spoke on the Floor of the House to share my support for this bill.
States, localities, tribal communities and college campuses will be able to use these funds for programs aimed at helping kids understand the deep emotions and depression that often precede suicidal thought or action.
The bill was named after my good friend Senator Gordon Smith's late son, who committee suicide one year ago September 8th after battling bipolar disorder and depression.
Suicide is an unspeakable tragedy, but this bill encourages young people to speak up, to talk about it. It also enhances the ability for kids to seek out assistance when they feel hopeless or depressed by enhancing access to trained professionals and programs.
Senator Smith and his wife, Sharon, have demonstrated great strength throughout their personal tragedy. Their efforts will help prevent other youth from taking their own lives and spare families from the deep heartache that accompanies such a loss.
You can see the East Oregonian's story on the bill's passage at:
Oversight & Investigations Hearing on Anti-depressants and Children
On Thursday, September 9, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held our first hearing to address the issue of anti-depressant use among children and the rising concerns that these drugs are not only ineffective in kids, but they may in fact increase the risk of suicide.
This is an extremely important topic for many parents, caregivers and doctors in this country. Depression, especially in
teenagers, is sometimes difficult to identify and even more difficult to treat. When a loved one is suffering, it is natural to be drawn toward medication that offers a possible solution.
What is troubling, however, is that millions of anti-depressant prescriptions are written for kids when studies show that six out of seven of these drugs tested in pediatric trials did not show efficacy in youth. In 2002 alone, more than 10 million kids in America were prescribed anti-depressants, and that number is on the rise.
What we do know is that we owe it to these children to make sure the drugs they are taking are effective and safe.
What we don't know is where the root of the problem lies. Are America's kids being prescribed drugs for depression that are no better than sugar pills, yet may nearly double their risk of suicidal behavior? Are the companies who sell these drugs adequately releasing the results of their trials in so that parents and doctors to get all of the facts? Can and should the FDA do more to protect the public health in this area?
The good news is that these investigative hearings are making headway. The FDA acknowledges that changes need to be made in the way they release information to the public, including the labeling of prescriptions.
Drug companies are moving toward centralized databases to house all of the data from clinical trials and research done on the drugs they manufacture.
And most importantly, we are educating parents, the public and the industry on this problem in order to raise awareness across the board.
On Thursday we heard from Dr. Janet Woodcock, deputy commissioner for operations at the FDA. We also heard from a panel of representatives from the major pharmaceutical companies including GlaxoSmithKline, Wyeth, Forest Laboratories, Eli Lilly, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Organon USA and Pfizer. Our final panel included a representative from the American Medical Association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Next week, we will hold the second hearing on this important topic where we will delve further into the role of the FDA and their review of data on safety and efficacy in anti-depressants, specifically in children.
To see the article written in The Washington Post on the hearing, please visit: <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A9802-2004Sep9.html>
Or, for more information on the groups involved in this discussion, please visit:
PhRMA: www.phrma.org <http://www.phrma.org/>
FDA: www.fda.gov <http://www.fda.gov/>
Umatilla Chemical Depot Begins Burning Weapons
Last Wednesday marked the beginning of the end for chemical weapons currently housed at the Umatilla Chemical Depot a few miles from Hermiston. As of today, they have destroyed 11 rockets and have moved an additional 150 into the incineration facility.
Opened in 1941, the Depot is one of eight facilities storing chemical weapons in the U.S. For the last several years, its sole purpose was to house these weapons prior to their destruction, which has now begun. I have monitored this issue closely and have visited the depot many times in recent years.
I am fascinated by the process and the amount of preparation those in charge of the project have completed to ready themselves and the facility for last week. While it will take time to destroy all of the weapons housed at the Depot, I am pleased that we are finally moving forward on the effort. The delays we have experienced leading to today have numerous reasons behind them, most importantly were concerns about the safe disposal of these munitions and the chemical agents within them.
The Army has developed safe and effective incineration methods for the weapons' destruction and the plans are endorsed by the National Research Council, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. By beginning the process today, we can prevent these dangerous chemical weapons from sitting idle in our storage facilities in the future.
The destruction of these rockets is a multi-step process designed to safely remove the chemical agent from the weapon before chopping the rocket into pieces. Weapons are loaded onto a conveyer belt for movement into an enclosed room where they are punched with three holes in order to drain the liquid agent. The rockets are then chopped into eight pieces and dropped into a furnace. The liquid agent is stored and, after enough liquid has been collected, it will be incinerated.
In addition to Oregon, there are three other states participating in the Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program: Alabama, Arkansas and Utah.