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.


Defensive medicine driving up healthcare costs (Rep. Michele Bachmann)

Last week, in four different public venues across central Minnesota, I heard firsthand the people’s concerns about the future of their health care. While there was certainly a mixed bag of opinion from every part of the political spectrum, fear of and opposition to a government takeover of our health care system was most evident. And understandably so.

Regardless of your political party or ideology, one thing we can all agree on is that reforms must be made to our health care system. We’ve got top-notch medical professionals and high-quality treatments, but too many Americans can’t access that care because of high costs. It's important that we do not get lost in the glamour of big overhauls and look past meaningful reforms, like association health plans that let small businesses bond together to reduce coverage costs or health savings accounts that let you save for care tax-free. Bigger is not necessarily better.


THE BIG QUESTION -- Monday, Dec. 16

The Big Question is a feature where influential lawmakers, pundits and interest group leaders give their answers to a question that's driving discussion in news circles around the country.

Today's Big Question is:
What's the next step for the GOP on the path back to electoral competitiveness?

See responses below from Hudson Institute President Dr. Herbert London, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), NDN President Simon Rosenberg and ATR President Grover Norquist.

Dr. Herbert London, president, Hudson Institute said:
The GOP has a real challenge before it. The way back is to develop ideas and a sense of vitality that appeared to be lacking in the last presidential effort. Read the full response

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said:
The results of the 2006 and 2008 elections have forced the GOP to refocus their efforts to restore the conservative brand. Instead of just talking about fiscal responsibility (yet acting contrary to this message), we must once again restore the trust of the America voter through action. Read the full response

Simon Rosenberg, president, New Democratic Network said:
Absent huge Democratic mistakes in the next few years, the Republican Party's road back could very well be a long one. They just suffered their worst Presidential defeat in 44 years, and have now suffered crushing defeats two elections in a row, a rarity in American history. Read the full response

Grover Norquist, president, Americans for Tax Reform said:
Republicans and conservatives have accomplished step one in rebuilding: they refused to panic, get depressed or turn left as instructed by the establishment press in 1964, 1974, 1992 and again in 2008. Read the full response


I Will Be Ready to Hit The Ground Running (Resident Commissioner Elect Pedro Pierluisi)

I swear in on January 6th but I’m already in Washington because so many things are happening that I have to be around.

It’s been nonstop since I got elected. I got elected by a very wide margin, larger than anytime in the last forty years in Puerto Rico. First, I participated in the freshman orientation and I met with the leadership. Then, I went back home for a couple days and then came up for an optional training we had at Harvard University at the Institute of Politics and that was very rewarding and interesting.

Thompson Will Continue to be a Leader (Sen. Bob Corker)

During the course of the campaign, Fred Thompson spoke plainly and directly to the American people about the challenges facing our country and how best to meet them.  His willingness to take on tough issues like how to fix social security and reform the tax system helped invigorate the policy debate.  As my friend Fred Thompson departs the presidential race, I know he will continue to contribute to our country's efforts to move ahead in a positive way.

Clinton to Win Nevada Caucus (Rep. Maurice Hinchey)

This primary is heavily contentious but as the case is everywhere, the people of Nevada are focused on who is likely to be the best candidate and the most successful president.  Based on that analysis we believe that Senator Clinton is going to win in Nevada.