Reed More Cautious in Committing Troops to Afghanistan

After posting a video earlier in the month questioning why the US is adding troops in Afghanistan, particularly as many in Rhode Island are being called up to serve, (see video here), I am very pleased to see today that Senator Reed is helping to urge more caution in this commitment. From the Projo:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — “The burden of proof” will be on military leaders if they ask President Obama in the coming days to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, Sen. Jack Reed said Tuesday, as the political lines of battle on the issue sharpened.

But Reed stopped short of the declaration by his longtime ally, Senate Armed Services
Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Michigan, that a further increase in U.S. combat troops should not be undertaken until the military attempts a vigorous training program to boost the numbers of Afghanistan’s own security forces.

Levin thus put himself at odds with Admiral Michael G. Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told the committee in forceful terms that the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, is likely to ask soon for additional combat U.S. troops — on top of the 17,000 that Mr. Obama ordered into the war effort in March.

Obama’s Stimulus and RI’s Education Needs

I managed to join on Wednesday to drop off some 600 petitions from Rhode Island residents asking for Senator Reed to support the Obama stimulus plan. The message from Reed’s staffer was that the Obama stimulus plan could be passed “in the next few weeks.” That seems like a hopeful sign, as long as the plan is properly vetted and the necessary “teeth” of accountability are in there.

In Rhode Island, however, there might be particular problems with getting the money of the stimulus into the right places. Why? Because as Tom Sgouros explains in this excellent analysis of the Governor’s budget (and as Paul Krugman has also warned about) most states are cutting back just as the stimulus is coming through, meaning that much of the stimulus will need to be applied to fix the devastating cuts that “little Hoovers” like Carcieri are proposing such as the cuts to public transportation and RITE Care.

In addition, Pat Crowley explains in this post that education funding for Rhode Island from the Obama stimulus may also be a problem because we don’t have an education funding formula. The General Assembly could choose not to use any of the stimulus to help with our lack of state funding for education this year.

We are the only state in the entire country that does not have an education funding formula. State Senator Hanna Gallo of Cranston has proposed one, but the bill cannot seemingly get anywhere. Now we will find out if the General Assembly can come up with a fair way to allocate some of the stimulus funding to education, or whether other priorities beat education out and our schools will continue to be starved into deficits.

Fogarty Gets National Leader Endorsements

From the Projo:

Reed, Whitehouse, Langevin endorse Fogarty

CRANSTON Democratic mayoral candidate Cynthia M. Fogarty has been endorsed by U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman James R. Langevin.

Reed, in a news release issued yesterday by Fogarty’s campaign, said: “Cindy has a strong reputation for working to create a better future for Cranston. She has been vocal on issues of finance, education and health care, and knows how to listen and respond to the needs of the community.”

Whitehouse called Fogarty “a smart, tough, experienced leader who will put local government to work for Cranston families. I’m confident that she will work hard to make one of Rhode Island’s largest cities a great place to live, work, and raise a family.”

Langevin, whose 2nd Representative District includes Cranston, said, “Cindy has a great track record as an advocate for the taxpayers and residents of the city of Cranston. As a member of the City Council, Cindy demonstrated strong skills as a communicator and a fierce determination to implement real change.”

Is Barack Obama Inevitable?

I’m still holding off on my Barack Obama endorsement. I don’t really know why — it seems inevitable. It’s like when I was a first-time mother and I tried to resist getting Barbies for my daughter because they are too stereotypical and her body proportions are impossible. My older, wiser sister with two daughters said, “Kiersten, just give in. Barbie is inevitable.” That’s how I’m feeling about Barack Obama. He’s kind of inevitable, but in the complete opposite way from the way Barbie is inevitable. People want someone fresh and real, and he is that someone.

At some point, I will be offline for a while today as the cable service gets changed over. Yes — we, too were seduced by the lure of the free TV. Just hope FIOS is as fast or faster than Cox. But ultimately, similar to choosing a candidate to vote for in the Presidential primary, I am happy to know that we have some viable Democratic contenders in both Hillary and Obama.

I notice that we had a small squad (well, two) of pro-Hillary commenters on the blog last night. Welcome! You have some fellow Hillary supporters in the community here, I’m sure. I know Hillary is kind of getting run over by the Obama Moe at the moment, but I would most certainly still vote for her over any of the Republican offerings, and I do appreciate that she has all those years of experience. But in this election year, those years of experience in Washington may be more a liability than an asset.

I was surprised and pleased to hear that the Dallas Morning Star, a Belo-owned newspaper like the Projo, endorsed Barack Obama for President. That seems like a direct slap in the face to George Bush, a message of extreme dissatisfaction from his home state. People are lunging toward Barack Obama like he is the last viable political candidate on earth. Five-hundred people showed up last night to volunteer for his campaign in RI. This is no doubt in delayed reaction to these many years of Bush screwing up the country beyond belief.

The thing that impresses me at the moment about Barack Obama is that it seems like he is talking about a new kind of WPA (Works Progress Administration) that would be “green collar.” Hillary has put this idea out there, too, but somehow, Obama’s plan seems more tangible and exciting. It’s the attraction of the unknown — something the American voters have never experienced in this way.

Plus I like that Obama is not good at paperwork. I don’t like paperwork either, although in my professional life as a social worker, I’m actually known for being pretty good at it. It’s important to write some stuff down, but the truth is we don’t have to put much on paper anymore. We have electronic systems that can do it much better.

The big news from the Barack Obama campaign in Rhode Island is that they are going to announce a “key endorsement” in a conference call with reporters at 11 am. I wonder who it will be. Jack Reed seems like a likely candidate, although I would imagine he has some Clinton loyalty issues. Jim Langevin is also a possibility — I don’t believe he made his endorsement yet. Feel free to make your guesses below. I’ll try to update later in the day with the answer.

UPDATE: As noted by Nomi in the comments, the mystery endorser was Lincoln Chafee. RI Future blog has the scoop, as well as a long list of other notable Rhode Islanders endorsing Obama.

Reed Fights for Kids with Cancer

Senator Jack Reed has achieved success in getting a bill moved forward that will provide $150 million in funding for pediatric cancer prevention, research, treatment, and tracking. From Reed’s office:

Reed’s Bill to Expand Childhood Cancer Research Clears Major Hurdle

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee today gave its stamp of approval to Jack Reed’s (D-RI) Conquer Childhood Cancer Act of 2007. This legislation authorizes $150 million over five years to expand childhood cancer research, create a national childhood cancer registry to track pediatric cancer, and increase services to patients and families affected by the disease.

“I am pleased that the HELP Committee approved this critical legislation. While we have made great steps in treating cancer, there is still much more to be done. The Conquer Childhood Cancer Act will deliver much needed hope and support to children and families battling cancer and more resources for vital pediatric cancer research programs,” said Reed, a senior member of the HELP Committee.

Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among U.S. children. There are about 9,500 new cases of pediatric cancer each year, and the incidence of cancer in children is increasing. The causes of childhood cancer are largely unknown.

Just a few weeks ago, the Director of the National Cancer Institute said that a barrier to fighting cancer is finding the resources to invest adequately in research. Declining funding for pediatric cancer clinical trials has stopped promising clinical trials. At a recent NCI meeting, pediatric cancer researchers were told to expect another 5 percent cut in funding this year.

Also of interest is this video created by parents of children who have suffered from cancer:

The script for the video notes:

Research has improved cure rates, but not enough.

Funding for research has been cut.

This could result in 20 new studies being put on hold.

400 kids will not be able to participate in clinical trials next year… leaving better treatments further from reach.

If it was YOUR child, would this be acceptable?

You can help…

Write your representatives in Congress. Urge them to pass the Conquer Childhood Cancer Act and restore funding.

For the thousands fighting today… and the thousands yet to begin their fight.

One child lost is one too many.

One child saved… can change the world.

Reed Unveils No Child Left Inside Act

If more children grow up valuing a safe and healthy environment, think of what a different world we could be living in 50 years from now. From Senator Reed’s press office:

Reed Launches Effort to Improve Environmental Education and Reconnect Students with Nature

PROVIDENCE, RI — On Friday, October 12, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) will join with Mayor David Cicilline, Loki the hawk, Teco the owl, and elementary school students from Providence and East Greenwich to unveil The No Child Left Inside Act, a new $100 million a year initiative to strengthen environmental education programs and reconnect more kids with nature. The event will take place in Roger Williams Park Zoo’s new Feinstein Junior Scholar Wetlands Trail, a haven for native plants and wildlife and a living classroom that connects kids with the natural world around them.

Reed’s No Child Left Inside legislation would authorize $500 million over five years to states to train teachers in environmental education and operate environmental education programs. It will also provide new funding to states that create environmental literacy plans.

The Zoo and other member organizations of the Rhode Island Environmental Education Association (RIEEA) are lending critical support to Senator Reed’s efforts to increase environmental education not only in Rhode Island, but across the country.

In addition to the press conference, the event will feature wetland exploration activities for local school children led by RIEEA members and animal encounters with Teco (an Eastern Screech Owl) and Loki (a Red-tailed Hawk). Both birds are native to the region and are rehabilitated animals that were injured in the wild. Unable to be re-released, these birds now serve as ambassadors for their species and visit schoolchildren throughout southeastern New England as part of the Zoo’s interactive educational programs.

WHO: U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a senior member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee; Mayor David Cicilline; John Palumbo, Chair, Rhode Island Zoological Society Board of Trustees; Kate Douton, incoming President, Rhode Island Environmental Education Association (RIEEA); Fourth grade students from Harry Kizarian Elementary School; Fifth grade students from Our Lady of Mercy Regional School; Loki, a Red-tailed Hawk; Teco, an Eastern Screech Owl

WHAT: Press conference to unveil Senator Reed’s “No Child Left Inside Act�

WHEN: Friday, October 12 at 10:00 a.m.

WHERE: Roger Williams Park Zoo, 1000 Elmwood Avenue, Providence, (401) 785-3510

Investing in environmental education is a great way to plan for the future of our nation and planet.

Reed Calls Bush SCHIP Veto Threat Spiteful

Jack Reed spoke on the floor of the Senate yesterday, calling for the President to support health insurance for children in the US. Behind him in the picture are John Kerry (D-MA) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

Floor Statement by U.S. Senator Jack Reed

September 26, 2007

MR. REED: Thank you, Mr. President.

Mr. President, I rise to speak in strong support for the renewal of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

It is an issue that is fast upon us. The House of Representatives passed this legislation last evening. We will, I hope, do the same and send it to the president.

This is an issue that is not just an economic issue, it is also a moral imperative.

If we cannot assure children in this country have the access to good health care, then we cannot assure that we keep faith with the basic notion of this country — opportunity for all.

Health care and education together is the engine that moves this country forward — it gives children the chance to use their talents, develop their talents, then go on to contribute to this great country.

It also makes tremendously sound economic sense.

As we invest in children’s health care we hopefully will ensure throughout their life they have healthy lifestyles and the advantage of a good start so their efforts can be directed toward contributing to their community, contributing to this economy.

We understand the cost of health care is skyrocketing. For many families, they have to make the choice to forego it, to leave their children vulnerable, without access to good primary care, without access to specialized care when they need it.

We also understand that these children, when they get sick, they ultimately find their way to the emergency room, and we end up paying much more.

Because a child that can be seen on a regular basis, that can have access to preventative care, arriving at the emergency room with a serious condition requires a great deal more resources than seeing a child before that condition becomes serious, becomes an emergency.

So, we should be, I think, smart as well as morally responsive to the issue before us. That directs me to my strong support of the legislation.

The final bill that will come before us will invest $35 billion in our nation’s children and their future.

It preserves coverage for 6.6 million children. But it will also reduce the number of uninsured children by 4 million.

In fact, the final bill improves upon the senate bill I supported weeks ago. It provides quality dental coverage to all children enrolled. That is critical.

I can recall listening to a foster mother with six different foster children. What was her big complaint? Couldn’t get a dentist. Not enough. They would not see her because she did not have dental coverage. Her complaint to me was, really, just a repetition of what her child said to her in so many words which is “what do I do, how do I take care of a toothache or go to school when I cannot concentrate because of the pain?”

For most of us, that is a simple call to the dentist and a trip to the dentist and immediate relief. And for their children also. But for many that is not the case.

I think it’s going to be an important step forward.

I am particularly proud because the architect of this program ten careers ago was Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island who pushed for the adoption of the children’s health care program and it is a legacy to him. A vibrant legacy which we in Rhode Island cherish and hope we can extend through this legislation.

The final bill that will result, we hope, in passage and signature by the president, will give Rhode Island an increase of federal funding. From $18 million to $93 million. It will prevent future shortfalls.

Just last November on the floor of the Senate before we went out I was insistent we could not leave until we provided help to states that already ran out of their SCHIP funding. We did that. But those stop-gap measures at the 11th hour don’t provide for the kind of planning and predictability that is essential to keep the costs down and keep the program going.

I do think, again, that this is a bill that is worth all of our efforts and all of our support.

If we can afford to spend $12 billion a month in Iraq, we must be able to afford to spend a fraction of that to give children health care in this country.

I just left the Appropriations Committee hearing. Secretary Gates urges $50 billion more funding for Iraq. That is quite a bit more than we’re asking over five years to the children’s health care program – and that is just for several months in Iraq.

The American people, I believe, will demand we pass this legislation.

If we can find the resources overseas, we have got to be able to find the resources here for this compelling issue.

The other aspect of this, is this legislation is fully paid for.

Unlike the spending in Iraq which is a deficit spending which we are, literally, sending forward to the next generation of Americans to deal with, this is fully paid for by an increase in the cigarette tax. Sound fiscal policy as well as sound public policy.

Now, we have heard a lot from the president, particularly about why he is proposing to veto this legislation.

Frankly, I find it hard to discover any logic at all. And it’s full of misrepresentations. The bill does not cover children up to 400% of poverty. In fact, about 80% of the newly insured children are from families below 200% of poverty, the new children to be enrolled. This bill is well targeted and provides incentives to ensure the lowest income children are insured first and it doesn’t federalize health care or socialize it.

In fact, in Rhode Island the health care program is run by private health insurance companies. And that is a very effective and efficient approach this health care.

What I have noticed in the last few years, is not that private health insurance has expanded dramatically in this country and this legislation would constrain that, quite the opposite.

Private health insurance, the number of insured Americans have increased. They are losing private insurance. It is too expensive. So the idea this somehow is going to throttle the attempts of the private insurance industry to ensure these children is, on its face, I think preposterous.

These children will not be insured because their parents can not afford to pay the coverage and because private companies work on a profit and do not extend coverage if they don’t feel like it. This expands coverage and protects children and the way to invest in our future.

This is the way to do it in a fiscally responsible manner by offsetting the cost, by increasing the cigarette tax. It makes sense on every ground.

So, the president’s suggestion that he is vetoing it has to be something other than common sense. In fact, it strikes me as slightly spiteful.

This is something on a bipartisan basis we have done for 10 years. Something on a bipartisan basis that we will continue to do. And to be frustrated by a presidential veto I think would add insult to the injury of not having children insured in this country.

So, I call on the president to reconsider this veto threat.

I call on the president to join us to insure the children of America, provide them health insurance, provide them a foundation for their education, provide them the foundation to proceed forward as good citizens, good workers in this economy, contributing members.

Health care for children makes sense for the basic prosperity of our nation.