December 20, 2006
I hope you are having a restful and happy holiday season. As I reported in my last e-update, the 109th Congress has adjourned. When I return to Washington in January, it will be as a member of the majority for the first time in my Congressional career. I am very much looking forward to finding out exactly what this all means for me and for my constituents.
Thank you for signing on as a subscriber. Please keep the feedback coming - we are always interested in hearing from you about this service and the issues that most concern you. We thought you'd be interested in a brief end-of-the-year report before I start updating you as a member of the Majority Party.
As you know, Speaker-Designate Nancy Pelosi asked me in November to head the day-to-day transition as Democrats prepare to move into the majority. It was an honor to be chosen for this assignment and it has kept me in Washington for much of the past six weeks. I have learned so much in this position and have had an opportunity to work closely with Speaker-Designate Pelosi on a whole host of issues, from staffing and room assignments, to rules packages and committee activities. We have made a great deal of progress and will continue working out all the logistics for a smooth January transition.
Committee on Organization, Study and Review
In June, I was named chair of the Democratic Caucus's Committee on Organization, Study and Review (OSR) by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Jim Clyburn. This Committee is tasked with reviewing the rules of the Democratic Caucus and revising where necessary. Committee members and I have conducted a thorough review of the existing rules and we are now examining them in the context of serving in the Majority. It is my hope that the work of the OSR Committee will be ready for review by the Democratic Caucus, and in turn, the House, when the 110th Congress convenes.
Perhaps the biggest local issue of 2006 was the tragic July death of Milena Del Valle as a result of falling ceiling tiles in a portion of the Big Dig. My thoughts and sympathies are with her family during this holiday season. As a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, I have been working very hard to get the answers that her family and the traveling public deserve: is this project safe and why did this tragedy occur? In an effort to get at those answers, I asked the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in July to investigate the accident. The NTSB had no prior involvement in the Big Dig and they are a highly respected organization with the expertise to conduct a thorough investigation of the accident. I also asked the Department of Transportation's Office of the Inspector General (DOT IG) to oversee and monitor the numerous investigations surrounding the ceiling collapse. Both agencies are in the midst of their work and I have been encouraged thus far by their diligence. I think it will be many months before a final report is issued but I have confidence that the NTSB and the DOT IG are committed to getting the answers that we need.
I am continuing to do everything I can to end the genocide in Darfur and deeply regret that the news here is not better. Despite the efforts of many good and dedicated people, the atrocities continue. In February, I traveled to Darfur with Rep. Nancy Pelosi and later met with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to urge that United Nations peacekeepers be moved into the region. I was also successful in securing an additional $50 million for the African Union Mission in Sudan. I will continue making this issue a priority and hope that in 2007 we can truly say that we have put an end to the genocide.
Racial Health Disparities
Health care is always a major issue in the Commonwealth and 2006 was no different. As you are likely aware, evidence continues to mount that racial health disparities are still pervasive in the United States. These disparities are simply unacceptable. One federal program geared towards reducing racial health disparities is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's REACH program. When the Bush Administration tried to cut REACH this year, I joined with the Boston Public Health Commission, which has been a leader in working to eliminate health disparities, in fighting this cut. I am happy to report that Boston's REACH grant has been restored to its previous level. When the 110th Congress convenes, I will continue working with groups around the 8th District, and in DC, to strengthen the REACH program and focus the federal government's attention on this national problem.
I continued my efforts to advance housing issues in 2006 through the House Financial Services Committee. As always, this was a difficult task and my colleagues and I often found ourselves working to prevent cuts to already underfunded housing programs instead of working on new initiatives. In January, my colleague and friend Rep. Barney Frank will take the gavel of the committee and I am confident that we will finally be able to make some progress on housing. The landscape will not change overnight because the federal government has not given housing issues the attention they deserve for years, but we will finally have the ability to make some progress.
Through my post on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, I have been working to ensure that the over $5 billion in transportation funding allocated to Massachusetts during the last reauthorization is available as local projects become ready for funding. This is an ongoing process that will result in improved public transit and transportation infrastructure throughout the Commonwealth. I will continue these efforts in the new Congress.
The new Congress will convene on Thursday January 4, 2007.