Campaign

Where do we go from here? (Sen. Bernie Sanders)

One year ago the nation gave a collective sigh of relief as the worst and least popular administration in modern American history came to an end. Not only was the Bush administration heading out the door, but the Republican Party was reeling from two consecutive elections in which it suffered massive losses at all levels.

With a huge taxpayer bailout attempting to prop up a reckless and greedy financial system on the verge of collapse; with 700,000 workers a month losing their jobs in the worst recession since the 1930s; with the continuation of a war in Iraq that we never should have gotten into; with a rapidly increasing national debt caused largely by that unpaid-for war as well as tax breaks for the rich; and with the continued refusal to address or even acknowledge the crisis in global warming, the American people were ready for change.

In Senator Barack Obama, Americans at every level reached out to an inspiring young leader who, through a brilliant campaign, brought enormous energy into the political process. Young people who had never given much thought about elections were not only registering to vote in record-breaking numbers, but their newly-tapped idealism was leading them to actively participate in the campaign. Workers and their unions, who were victims of corporate greed and the ongoing collapse of the middle class, were determined to elect political leadership which represented ordinary Americans, not just the wealthy and large corporations. Women, who had battled for eight years to maintain the reproductive and legal rights they had struggled for over generations, were eagerly awaiting an administration that was on their side. Seniors, who were tired of hearing about Republican efforts to privatize Social Security and Medicare, wanted a president who understood the importance of those vital federal safety-net programs. And minorities and people of color, some of whom had experienced the hurt and humiliation of American apartheid, were ecstatic that the dream of a non-discriminatory society was taking a giant step forward. The result: With a strong voter turnout Barack Obama was elected president; the Democrats picked up 21 seats in the House and seven in the Senate (eight by the time Al Franken survived a recount and court challenge).

That was then, one very long year ago. Where are we now?

Today, having already experienced decisive losses in governors' races in New Jersey and Virginia, the Democratic prospects for 2010 appear bleak. Polls show President Obama's approval numbers sagging and some recent "generic ballots" show Republican candidates ahead of Democratic candidates -- a huge turnaround over the course of the year. Perhaps most ominously, these new polls show that "enthusiasm" and "interest in voting" among Republicans is far higher than with Democrats. Given that off-presidential year elections (voter participation could fall by 50 million this year compared to 2008) are often dominated by older and more conservative voters, a particularly low voter turnout among Democrats this fall could result in disaster for them. Why has this occurred? What can be done within the next few months to turn this scenario around?

In my view, the Democrats -- including the President -- have absurdly continued to stumble along the path of "bipartisanship" at exactly the same time the Republicans have waged the most vigorous partisan and obstructionist strategy in recent history.

Instead of making it clear that the first two years of the Obama administration would be about digging the country out of the incredible mess that Bush's eight years left us in, (deep recession, financial collapse, record-breaking deficits, disintegrating health care system, two wars, lack of respect from the international community, neglect of the environment) President Obama, incredibly, has enabled tens of millions of Americans to now believe that Bush's failures are his as well.

Unlike FDR in 1933, who consistently denounced Hoover's Republican policies as the cause of the country's perilous condition, Obama appears very reluctant to be "partisan" and point out to the American people the cause of our current crises. Can one imagine Barack Obama, for example, telling the American people as Roosevelt did in 1933, that he "welcomed" the hatred of the "economic royalists" whose greed had devastated the country?

In response to Obama's genteel and bipartisan outreach, the Republicans have undertaken a campaign of rhetorical savagery unprecedented in recent memory. The Right-Wing echo chamber of Fox News and talk radio, to which the Democrats have no equivalent and no interest in developing one, have implied that Obama is an "illegitimate" president not born in the United States, that he is a friend of terrorists, that he is an anti-white racist, that he rules unconstitutionally and that his administration reeks of Chicago-style corruption. And those are the respectful attacks!

In the overwhelmingly Democratic Senate the situation has been equally dismal. There, the Senate Finance Committee created a "Gang-of-Six" process which included three Republicans -- two of whom (Grassley and Enzi) are extremely conservative -- to determine the shape of health care reform. Amid cries of "death panels," "socialized medicine," "government takeover of health care," etc. etc. the meetings dragged on and on and on. On the floor of the Senate, the situation has been even worse. The Republicans have played the most obstructionist role ever with a record number of filibusters and other delaying tactics. The Republicans recently even voted temporarily to deny funds to our troops in the field of combat as a way to delay health care reform. They are also unanimous in opposing the increase in the debt limit, which if not raised, would likely cause the collapse of both the American and the international financial systems.

The result of all this is that Democrats of every stripe and many independents are perplexed, dispirited and sometimes disgusted. Constituency after constituency has been ignored or rejected. Some examples:

Progressive activists are angry that a Medicare-for-all single-payer approach was totally ignored during the health care debate. They also cannot understand how, despite overwhelming support for a strong public option in health care reform, there will not be one in the final bill. Trade unionists, many of whom voted for Obama and against McCain because of the latter's position on taxing workers' health care benefits, are apoplectic that Obama and Senate Democrats now support the McCain position. Women are outraged that the Democratic House was put in the position of having to support major restrictions with regard to abortion rights. And seniors, who for the first time in 45 years will not be receiving a Social Security COLA, are responding to the hypocritical Republican attacks about "cuts" in Medicare.

Now, I may not be the greatest political strategist in the world but I don't know how you win elections by ignoring the ideas of the progressives who have worked hardest at the grass-roots level for your political victories, or the trade unions that have provided significant financial support and door-to-door volunteers for Democratic campaigns. I am not aware how you succeed politically when you insult women, who far more than men consistently provide you with great margins of support. How do you preserve a big majority in Congress when you fail to be aggressive in protecting the interests of seniors, a huge voting bloc in off-presidential year elections? In other words, it should not surprise anyone that the Democrats are in serious trouble.

The time is short but I believe that the Democrats still have the potential to turn the tide, reverse their fortunes and bring out large numbers of their voters in the coming election. Here are some important steps forward that I believe should be undertaken in the coming months.

Perhaps most importantly, let Obama be Obama. Bring back one of the great inspirational leaders of our time who is more than capable of taking on the powerful special interests and rallying the American people toward a progressive agenda and a more just society. We have too quickly cast aside the audacity of hope as being too audacious. We need to aspire to more, not less: health care for all, education for all, a secure retirement for all, a world at peace, and a nation bound together by looking out for what the Constitution called "the general welfare" rather than a series of special interests looking out for their own financial wellbeing.

Pass the strongest health care reform legislation as soon as feasible -- making it clear that it will be significantly improved in the near future. While it was a tragic mistake to believe that a strong bill could pass under the provision that required 60 votes -- there was a procedural route which would have required only a simple majority -- this legislation does contain a number of provisions that will profoundly help tens of millions of Americans in every state in the country. It is a bill that can be successfully defended in a campaign because, whatever its many weaknesses, it is an indication that we are finally, after countless decades of futility, moving forward. A president and a party that can provide insurance for 31 million more Americans is far preferable to most voters than a party that only says "No."

Pass a major jobs bill which creates millions of new jobs rebuilding our infrastructure and moving our energy system in a different and sustainable direction.
At a time when we have the most inequitable distribution of wealth and income of any industrialized nation, this bill must be progressively funded. This means taxing the super-rich - the very people who George W. Bush served so assiduously -- in order to make life better for the average American family.

Pass legislation allowing workers to have the right to join unions without unfair and illegal opposition from their employers.
If we are going to reverse the race to the bottom, workers must have the right to engage in collective bargaining.

Boldly address the economic and financial crisis which has left 17 percent of our workforce unemployed or underemployed. This means that the Democrats must be prepared to take quick and decisive action against Wall Street and other Big Money interests whose uncontrollable greed have lowered our standard of living and wreaked havoc on the middle class. Among other actions we should: Pass a strong anti-usury law which limits the interest rates that banks charge on credit cards. We must break up those huge financial institutions which are "too big to fail:" if they are too big to fail, they are too big to exist. We must significantly increase transparency at the Federal Reserve, and replace Chairman Ben Bernanke, a major economic advisor in the Bush administration, with a progressive economist who understands that one of the Fed's core missions is full employment. We must either limit, or levy high taxes on, the bonuses paid by financial institutions.

In the midst of these terrible economic times, we must continue the effort, which Democrats have already pushed, to strengthen the safety net.
If the Republicans oppose these efforts, we must make this a major campaign issue. Millions of Americans face unemployment, hunger, homelessness and a desperate existence. This includes senior citizens living on inadequate Social Security benefits, people with disabilities and disabled veterans. In these difficult times we cannot turn our backs on them.

Enact Senate reform. It is extremely undemocratic that 41 percent of the U.S. Senate can thwart the will of the American people, the President, the House of Representatives and a strong majority of the Senate. While individual senators will always have great clout, no one senator should be able to bring the United States government to a halt at one of the most perilous periods in American history.

In January 2009, we inaugurated a new president and swore in a new Congress with large Democratic majorities in the Senate and the House. Our nation seemed poised on the brink of a decade of progressive government, a new ascendancy of hope and change after eight disastrous years of Republican dominance.

One year later, the new electoral majority is disintegrating under the weight of continuous Republican attacks and, more importantly, an unwillingness of both the Congress and the President to rally the American people behind the kind of fundamental changes they were anticipating as a result of the election.

We can learn from the past. The last time our nation faced economic challenges as great as our own, Franklin Roosevelt embraced progressive social policies and major financial and economic reform. The nation did not ignore or forget his commitment to help American families, provide aid to the disadvantaged, and take on the moneyed powers of Wall Street. Roosevelt's greatest political legacy was to build a coalition of Americans from across the country who understood that, if they stood together under a progressive banner, life could be better for the average person. Now is the time to remember that lesson. 

Cross-posted from Huffington Post

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How the GOP gets its mojo back (Rep. Tom Price)

Few New Years have come in with as much contempt for the past year as 2010.  While so many were promised change in 2009, the futility of runaway government crippled our national productivity.  Unbridled spending led only to rising unemployment; unchecked intervention into our financial system gave us frozen markets; all while those in charge in Washington were immovably preoccupied with a massive and intrusive health plan that Americans simply do not want.

Two thousand nine may just, however, end up as the year that served as the catalyst to a great political revolution that will mark a return of conservatism, founding principles, and positive solutions in place of a power-obsessed and partisan Congress.  In their overzealous reach for permanent government expansion, the Democrats running Washington have inspired a remarkable rebellion of the American people that provides Republicans an historic opportunity to be given the privilege of leading the House of Representatives once again.

Recapturing the more than three dozen seats needed for a Republican majority is an enormous task.  However, with the American people starved for leadership and solutions, and a team able to provide both, nothing is out of reach.  If we are to succeed, though, it will require an aggressive effort that shines light on the failure of our current course, demonstrates how prosperity is actually created, and reaches far with a bold platform. And, as we all make a renewed commitment to the basic principles that we know created our nation’s great success, this effort must include outreach to the folks who have joined the Tea Party movement.

To set the stage for a 2010 victory, first, Republicans must stay on offense.  A party that was considered dormant just one year ago now leads Democrats on the generic ballot test.  That isn’t because we’ve been timid.  House Republicans, most notably my colleagues in the Republican Study Committee, led a fight in 2009 to hold Democrats accountable and provided contrast with bold solutions of our own.  Wherever taxpayers and freedom are being sacrificed in the name of bigger government and liberal social goals, Republicans, in and outside the beltway, must again be vocal and take the principled fight to the Majority.

Providing a check on Washington’s runaway agenda is a basic step toward renewal, however, simply being the opposition is inadequate to bringing about a real political revolution.  Speaker Pelosi and President Obama have done a great job reminding Americans why they dislike Democrat policies.  Now we must demonstrate why Republicans are worthy of the public trust once again.

In the coming months, Republicans must lay out a new agenda for the American people.  This platform must speak to the real challenges people are facing and the policies that will help solve these problems.  We must rally around common sense ideas like a more fair and simplified tax structure that allows Americans to keep more of their hard earned money, an end to the bailout culture, a streamlined government that does not strangle our job producers with mandates, taxes, and bureaucratic red tape, and a smaller budget that respects Americans’ wallets and recognizes the dire threat of a bankrupt Washington.

Our new commitment to America must not be limited only to traditional Republican territory. As the health care debate has shown, when our fundamental principles are applied to any issue and communicated effectively, the American people will choose conservative solutions, because conservative solutions are American solutions.  America remains a center-right nation, and we must not be afraid to put forth a positive vision for all issues that concern families, like education, housing, health care, energy, values, immigration, and the environment.  By embracing fundamental American principles, we will be able to communicate that Republicans are once again a national party of broad and dynamic solutions.

Just as our solutions need not be limited to base Republican issues, neither should our communications be limited to traditional Republican constituencies.  The solutions we propose benefit all Americans, so we should embrace opportunities to present them to all Americans, including younger voters, the African American, Hispanic, and Jewish communities, and so many others.  The concerns of these communities – the economy, health care, security – are no different than those of any other Americans, and our solutions are no less appropriate.  It is said power goes to those who show up and lead, and it’s time we show up in places outside of our comfort zone.

Reaching new audiences, however, does not mean we back away from the ideas through which we have become the greatest nation in the history of the world.  And no group understands better than the Tea Party movement that certain principles, not political parties, solve problems.

If we are to bring conservatism back to the Capitol, Republicans must embrace all who are committed to those common principles, including the Tea Party movement.  The energy, enthusiasm, and commitment they exhibit are virtually unprecedented and should inspire us to champion our roots.  To ignore, or do battle with, a group that has shown such a remarkable ability to turn out in the fight for freedom would be tragically unwise.  Instead, we should work together to promote our common ideas.  We must be able to fight for what makes us Republicans – limited government, lower taxes, and greater freedom – if we are expected to follow through on our broader commitment to America.

The course for a Republican resurgence in 2010 cannot be perfectly charted in January, but we know it must be guided by this commitment.  If we are to achieve what one year ago was considered by most to be impossible, we must engage early and often with the American people who today crave new bold leadership and real solutions.  Through hard work, outreach, and principle, we can make next New Year a time of celebration of American principles and conservatism, rather than a time of regret.

Rep. Tom Price is a Republican Member of Congress from Georgia and chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

Cross-posted from The Daily Caller

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The Big Question: What will be the fallout after Reid's 'Negro' remark?

John Feehery: Politicians react poorly when they smell blood in the water...blood is in the water over this silly comment .


Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

How will Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's recently revealed "Negro dialect" remark affect his leadership of the Senate and his reelection race?

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Pennsylvania's Joe Lieberman (Rep. Joe Sestak)

This is what happens when we play politics instead of standing up for our principles.

After the House passed health care reform with a strong public option to provide real choice and savings for Americans, Joe Lieberman has killed the public option in the Senate and threatened reform as a whole. He's even refused excessive compromises, including a public option "trigger" and allowing Americans to buy into Medicare at age 55 -- a position he advocated only months ago.

It's a shame that the most important piece of the Democratic agenda has been hijacked by a member of the Democratic Caucus representing a solidly Democratic state, but it's not surprising.

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Lesson learned from the pilgrims (Rep. Michele Bachmann)

Credit to Scott Johnson at Powerline for a great Thanksgiving day post featuring the work of Professor Paul Rahe, "one of the academy's foremost authorities on the history of republics." Reflecting on Thanksgiving, Rahe points to the Pilgrims as an example of how we today can better understand how socialism thrwarts hard work and innovation while discouraging what should otherwise be a productive and fruitful society:

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The politics of 'yes' (Sen. Michael Bennet)

When it comes to health care reform -- when it comes to lowering costs and finally doing something about the millions of people in this country who live just one medical emergency away from financial ruin -- "no" is not a serious response.

So when John King from CNN asked me if I would vote for health care reform, even if it meant losing my job, it was easy for me to answer.

I said "Yes."

There is no reason we should buy the political scare tactics of opponents who say supporting health care reform is a one-way ticket out of office.

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D.C. takes up same day registration, so should Congress (Sen. Russ Feingold)

Today, Virginians will turn out to elect their new governor. Unfortunately, Virginians who are eligible to vote but missed the October 5th registration deadline will not be able to play a role in this important process.

It would be a different story if these Virginians lived in our states, Wisconsin and Minnesota, or any of the seven other states that allow citizens to register and vote on the same day. If they did, merely missing a deadline some 30 days before Election Day -- deadlines that vary widely from state to state -- would not prevent them from exercising their constitutional right to vote.

In 2007, two states, Iowa and North Carolina, adopted Same Day Registration (SDR) proposals. Both states experienced their highest level of voter turnout in decades. Today the DC City Council is scheduled to vote on an omnibus election reform bill that will allow SDR in our nation's capital.

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The Big Question: The Scozzafava effect?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

Dede Scozzafava drops out of the special election in New York's 23rd district and endorses the Democratic candidate.

What does it all mean? Are there national implications for this weekend's events in New York?

Rep. Michael E. McMahon (D-N.Y.) said:

“This weekend’s events seem to be another example of a growing trend -  that moderate, centrist voices are perceived as not being welcome in the Republican party."

Rob Richie of Fair Vote said:

Most observers are naturally focused on the implications of the battle between Dede Scozzafava and Doug Hoffman for what means about the future  of the Republican Party and how large its tent may be the in the future. But, combined with Chris Daggett's surprisingly strong poll numbers in the New Jersey governor's race, what grabs me about Hoffman's rise and Scozzfava's fall is its implications for voter frustration with the major parties. Hoffman's poll numbers grew large enough to crash through the glass ceiling that can so often suppresses potential third party votes. Daggett seems to have fallen short of that goal ,but in 2010 we may well see more cases of strong independent and third party challenges if the major parties continue to have problems getting the people's business done in Washington. That's healthy for our democracy, as it increases accountability for both individual incumbents and the major parties in general -- we just need voting reforms like instant runoff voting to accommodate increased voter choice.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), said:

Democrats are more mainstream and represent middle Americans more effectively as opposed to the conservative Republican that is not in accord with the majority of Americans. This is a clear indication that the Republican party has yet to rebuild itself to represent and address the issues of mainstream Americans in an efficient manner.

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), said:

“What it means is that Dede Scozzafava believes that Bill Owens would be a better member of Congress for the 23rd Congressional District than Doug Hoffman. It means the right-wing candidate in the race is for rolling back policies that would create jobs, improve healthcare and increase our energy security. And it means that there are people, like Dede, in the Republican Party who want solutions to our problems.

...when you consider that for a long time, this seat has been safely in the hands of the Republican Party. The implication is that the President’s messages on health care reform, job creation and clean energy policy are resonating in every corner of the country, and that’s why a democrat is enormously competitive in this race.

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit said:

It means that the Republican establishment blew it.  It also formed a rallying point for the Tea Party movement which — by getting Scozzafava to drop out — has already won a victory regardless of what happens on Tuesday.

Whether it's a Pyrrhic victory or not depends not on who wins tomorrow, but on how the GOP establishment, and the Tea Party movement, act afterward. If they reconcile and work together, it's good news for the GOP. If they engage in extended infighting, or if we see the Tea Party movement turn into a third party, then it's probably good news for the Democrats.

Michelle Bernard, President of the Independent Women's Forum, said:

There are limits to the application of what's happen in New York's 23rd district to the rest of the country: After all, New York is unique in many ways, not least of which is how these nominees are chosen and the opportunity for representatives of third parties to impact races. But both Republicans and Democrats would be wise to consider these possible lessons from the New York special election.

Republicans: especially in a special or off year election, your base is going to drive the race and impact the perception of the candidate. The base isn't going to be satisfied with candidates barely distinguishable from that of the other party. And it isn't about social issues: it's about the size of government, limits to government power, government's burden on taxpayers, and the protection of individual rights. Most importantly, conservatives will take heart that so many independents have expressed support, not for the most "centrist or “moderate” candidate, but for the one who promised to limit the size of our government's ever expanding waste line. In this case, it was the conservative candidate.

Democrats should be concerned about this very same thing: Democrats are losing independents in droves. Runaway spending, runaway government like creating czars that can arbitrarily make the equivalent of law, and a perceived unwillingness to listen to the public (which doesn't want this health care package: see the Independent Women's Forum's last poll to see the tepid support these plans receive from women and Independents) has a heavy price. Independents had believed that the President would govern from the center and truly work with both sides of the aisle. Today, many of them appear to question this. It is quite possible that voters are going to want a check on what this Democratic Congress stands for and this should worry vulnerable Members of Congress.
 

Larry Sabato, Director of the Center for Politics, said:

I’m all for spinning the events in one congressional district (or state) into a national story. It’s good for business. But in the midst of overreaching, let’s secretly remember that NY-23 is an extraordinary case caused by eleven party elites in a back room, picking a liberal Republican as the House nominee. In rare cases when moderate or liberal Republicans are nominated, it is usually a broader primary electorate doing the choosing — and it is harder to generate a rebellion against ‘the will of the people’. Yes, NY-23 will embolden the tea party activists and the GOP right. But conservatives already run the party in the vast majority of places across America.

William Redpath, Chairman of the Libertarian National Committee, said:

It means that, at the end of the day, the two older parties will do anything to protect their own and their duopoly in US politics. Anything and everything else means less to them.

John F. McManus, President of the John Birch Society, said:

Scozzafava's endorsement of the Democrat demonstrates quite dramatically that there is very little difference between establishment Democrats and establishment Republicans. Further, her abandoning the race because of the obvious voter preference for Conservative Party candidate Hoffman indicates that voters are turning once again toward traditional values. Should Hoffman win, his victory will send a large shock wave throughout the nation (her dropping out sent a small shock wave) and signal the shift of momentum away from big government toward the strictures in the U.S. Constitution.

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Unhappy fiscal new year (Rep. Jason Chaffetz)

The federal government's fiscal year begins October 1, and there's little reason to believe this year will be better than the last. Publicly held federal debt is forecast to increase from 56% of gross domestic product to 66% in 2010, driven by a budget deficit of $1.5 trillion in 2010. When debts owed to various government trust funds are included, our debt burden will reach nearly 100% of GDP in 2010. When unfunded liabilities of more than $100 trillion from Social Security, Medicare, and government employee pensions are included, our total debt is several times larger than GDP.

Contrary to what some have told us in the past, deficits and debts do matter, and at the levels these debts have been accumulating, they matter a lot. Excessive government debts eventually lead to higher interest rates, inflation, a reduction in private investment, and a higher percentage of tax dollars being used to pay off interest instead of funding programs or cutting taxes. In 2010, nearly $200 billion will be spent on interest payments, almost half of which will be going overseas. Interest payments are forecast to skyrocket to $829 billion by 2019.

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Congress must act to prevent WMD attack (Former Sens. Bob Graham and Jim Talent)

When Senators Lieberman and Collins introduced the Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2009, they performed a true act of leadership.  They addressed the urgent and the important by taking steps now to prepare for the very real threat of terrorism.

Our Commission unanimously agreed that it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013.  And it is more likely that we would face bioterrorism — unless the world community acts decisively and with great urgency. This bill is a giant step in the right direction.

Many of the Commission’s recommendations are included in this bill: improving biosecurity, ensuring rapid delivery of medicines and vaccines, enhancing intelligence capabilities, and increasing citizen preparedness.  One aspect of the bill could be misunderstood but plays a critical role: enhancing security in U.S. laboratories.

Fortunately, the approach is based on a strategy of risk management.  The bill creates tiers of regulatory oversight for dangerous pathogens. Most resources and oversight would apply to the most dangerous “tier-one” pathogens, a list that includes closer to eight pathogens than the 80 currently regulated.  This means more focus on the greatest risks. Other pathogens need to be tracked and registered, but aren’t in the same league as anthrax, ebola, and plague.

A tiered approach ensures that U.S. laboratories can focus on innovation and not paperwork.  Meanwhile, we can be more secure knowing that labs dealing with the most dangerous pathogens are safer and more secure.

Our Commission work has given us a grave responsibility — to stay focused on terrorist threats to U.S. security and global stability — and ensure America takes steps to reduce the threats we face.  We look forward to helping move this legislation forward and meet our vital mission.

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