August 24, 2009
The House is in the midst of a District Work Period and I have had the opportunity over the past three weeks to attend a number of local events as well as catch up on meeting requests with constituents and local organizations. The House is expected to return for votes on Tuesday September 8th.
As you are aware, the House adjourned without casting a vote on health care reform and a bitter national debate is raging during our recess. At this point, it is premature to be for or against “the bill” . There are currently three separate health care bills in the House and the Senate is crafting its own legislation. As you can imagine, there are differences of opinion and competing priorities on a whole host of issues. It is not clear how the House bills will be merged or when a package will be ready for a floor vote.
One major aspect of the debate over health care reform concerns whether or not to include a public insurance option. I strongly support a public option but there are many who are just as strongly opposed to this approach. Even amongst those of us who want a public option, there are significant differences of opinion over the design and funding of a public plan. Another equally difficult question is how to pay for health care reform. Initial estimates are high and many avenues are being explored to bring down costs, but we are still a long way from satisfactorily resolving that issue.
Last week I had the opportunity to welcome U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to the 8th Congressional District. Secretary LaHood toured the Volpe Transportation Center in Cambridge to get a firsthand account of some of the innovative work being done right here regarding transportation safety research and technology. The Secretary then hosted a Town Hall style meeting with over 300 employees of the Volpe Center to talk with them about their work. Secretary LaHood is a former colleague, having represented the 18th Congressional District of Illinois in the House of Representatives until his retirement in 2009. I was pleased when he accepted President Obama’s offer to serve as Transportation Secretary and enjoyed the opportunity to show him some of our district and talk about transportation policy.
Earlier this month, I wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding my grave concern over the future well being of several thousand Iranian dissidents currently living in Camp Ashraf in Iraq. Several of my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, also signed the letter. In 2004 the United States recognized them as “protected persons” under the Geneva Convention. At the end of July, we received reliable reports that the residents of Ashraf were being attacked by Iraqi forces, against the express assurances of the Iraqi government that they would be “treated humanely” and that they would not, in contravention of the Geneva Convention, be forced back to Iran where they would surely face grave danger. We asked Secretary Clinton to further engage the Iraqi government on the safety of these individuals before it’s too late.
I recently met with representatives from several agencies involved with affordable housing in Massachusetts: the Massachusetts Communities Action Network (MCAN), the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance (MAHA), the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC), and Fairness in Lending to discuss community reinvestment issues. These organizations help constituents with housing development, they conduct first time home buyers classes and participate in other key processes relating to the housing industry.
We talked about their work as well as their views on legislation impacting affordable housing, including provisions to strengthen the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and efforts to update the Community Reinvestment Act.