Pushing Washington to Address Suburban Needs

Most of us in the Congress represent suburban communities -- home to over half of all Americans. While we need urgent solutions to problems like the war on terror and immigration, there are other issues that also demand attention in Washington. Last week, I joined over 50 Cembers of the House of Representatives to introduce the Suburban Agenda, a set of legislative initiatives developed in response to concerns voiced by suburban families from across the United States.

Our families are focused on keeping their kids safe, securing a strong financial future, preserving the natural beauty of their community, and ensuring healthcare coverage. This agenda represents a grassroots, common-sense set of solutions for families in suburban communities. The Caucus will work to move these bills through the House and will welcome Democratic support.


Shift in Relations with Libya Welcomed

The Administration today announced that the United States is establishing full diplomatic relations with Tripoli and removing Libya from our official list of state sponsors of terrorism. As the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee and a leading voice in Congress for normalizing relations with Libya since it began taking steps in December 2003 to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction, I am delighted that we have finally taken these steps.


Removing Unfair Labor Practices to Improve Immigration

At the heart of it, this is an economic debate. As long as corporations continue to push wages down in their race to the bottom, and seek out cheap and undocumented workers, no amount of troops, or border patrol agents will be able to stop the flow of immigrants to this country.True immigration reform will only come when we remove the cheap labor economic incentive from corporate America. To strengthen our immigration policies, we need to enforce basic worker's rights-fair wages, fair benefits and a safe work environment.


Restoring Healthy Forests

People use wood - to build homes, to make paper - and that wood needs to come from somewhere.  We can use wood from trees that are dead or dying, or from trees that are alive and healthy.  We can responsibly harvest wood here at home, abiding by environmental protections and creating jobs, or we
can get our wood from clear cuts in equatorial rainforests where the environment is far more fragile and environmental protection and labor laws are far weaker or even nonexistent. 

The Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act is a responsible, bipartisan bill that will enable - not require - federal land managers to utilize dead timber and responsibly restore the health and diversity
of our forests after a catastrophic event like a wildfire or hurricane.  It has been endorsed by organized labor, scientists, forestry professionals, firefighters, and conservation groups alike.  And according to a recent CBO estimate, it will actually save taxpayers $23 million over ten years.

Telecom Consumer Privacy Should Be Honored

The revelation that several telecommunications carriers are complicit in the NSA's once-secret program, raises the question as to whether these carriers are in violation of Section 222 of the Communications Act and the Commission's regulations implementing that section.  As you know, one of the principal purposes of Section 222 is to safeguard the privacy of telecommunications consumers.  I am aware of no exception in that statute or in the Commission's regulations for 'intelligence gathering purposes,' or any other similar purpose, that would permit the wholesale disclosure of consumer records to any entity.

For a copy of the letter sent to Chairman Kevin Martin of the Federal Communications Commission, check out  http://markey.house.gov/

Felons, Recidivists Should Not Be Permanent Residents

We have a right as a sovereign nation not only to protect our own borders, but to make sure the American people are not exposed to extraordinary danger that might occur if criminals are given a free ride, inadvertently, in this bill.

I don't believe the authors of this bill intended that felons, persons who were guilty of three successive misdemeanors, people who are under final orders of deportation or criminal absconders should receive
amnesty. I do not actually believe the authors of this bill intended to grant an amnesty or to forgive those crimes or to welcome those people into the United States. I believe these individuals, by virtue of the crimes they have committed, should not be accepted into the United States--and we certainly have a right to control who comes and who does not come, and I think these people have disqualified themselves by virtue of their criminal activity.

Protecting The Property Rights of Musicians

The constitutional protection for inventions and creative works has  allowed American innovation to thrive, fueling our economy and leading to the production of products that enrich our lives. It is the obligation of the United States to carry out the vision of our forefathers by continuing to foster an environment that respects and protects intellectual property rights.   While I strongly support technological innovation, the e-commerce marketplace only works if copyrights are protected and the creators and rightful owners are compensated.  The Perform Act addresses this issue by ensuring that
as technological innovation thrives, copyright laws are respected and the creators of content are fairly compensated.

Trained Agents, Not Troops, Solution To Controlling Border

As a 26 ½ year veteran of the U.S. Border Patrol, I have firsthand knowledge of the challenges of controlling the border. Placing U.S. troops on the border is not the right solution. For years, even the Department of Defense has opposed amendments to the annual Defense Authorization bill to place troops on the border.  To solve this problem, we need professional, trained Border Patrol agents who know the challenges we face on the border, we need to provide the Border Patrol with the technology and resources they need, and we must enforce existing immigration laws, including ending the policy of  catch-and-release and getting serious about interior enforcement

Part D Should Benefit Seniors and Not Drug Companies

Because President Bush and Congressional Republicans stubbornly refused to extend the arbitrary enrollment deadline, one million beneficiaries will be denied coverage this year and millions will have to pay financial penalties that will increase throughout their lifetimes.  With a benefit that was constructed by and for the drug companies, all beneficiaries continue to pay unnecessarily high prices under their plans.  We must now fix Part D by creating a uniform benefit that requires Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies for lower prices, like the VA does.

Improving the Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a vital asset for working  families.  FMLA currently protects a worker’s job and continuation of  health insurance coverage while allowing up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new child or a seriously ill child, spouse, or parent. 

Unfortunately, FMLA does not cover part time employees. In 2005, two-thirds of the 24.7 million people working part-time were women, many of whom fulfilled essential family responsibilities in addition to their employment.  The Family Fairness Act would cover these employees and allow them to take the leave necessary to care for their family.  It is a much needed, overdue improvement to the FMLA.