2018-02-14 / Political Page

I On Politics

CROWLEY AT DEM CAUCUS CONFERENCE: ‘WE MUST STICK TOGETHER’: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley, (D-NY) addressed members of Congress and guests during the 2018 Democratic Issues Conference on the evening of February 7.

Below are highlights from Chairman Crowley’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Since January 20 of last year, this caucus, and our nation, have been faced with a barrage of negativity. For us here, it can be easy to forget the most basic of truths: Politics is about doing good things. We want to accomplish more than just blocking what’s bad. No. We want our legacy to be: We made things better. If we stand strong, if we double down on our values, if we take our case to the American people, we will meet at this same time next year and have 40 new colleagues, and a Democratic majority!

If. And only if we do two things. First, we have to stick together. Second, we have to be more than just anti-Trump. We know we have to fight President Trump, but we also need to recognize that it’s not just about President Trump himself— it’s what his presidency shows about the difference between us and them, Republicans and Democrats.

Donald Trump and I both grew up in Queens, not too far from each other. He was raised in Jamaica Estates. A neighborhood full of tree-lined streets, and big houses. I grew up in Woodside, which the Trumps would have considered the other side of the tracks (my New Yorkers know it was actually just the other side of the LIE). In Woodside, we got to know our neighbors. We mostly came from working-class families—but we felt lucky for the richness of our community. See, this is the tale of two people from Queens and the two very different worldviews that have come to define our national parties.

Donald Trump’s Queens was an enclave, closed off from the world. Mine was open to it. In Trump’s Queens, you looked out for yourself. In my Queens, we looked out for each other.

In Trump’s Queens, success could only come at the expense of others. In my Queens, it wasn’t success unless it was shared by others. See, people tend to think of Trump as an aberration. A category of one. But that tale of two people from Queens—isn’t that really Democrats and Republicans?

Trump’s brand of politics—smallness, meanness, survival of the richest, disdain for diversity— it’s not all that new. It’s been the Republican platform since Nixon. For many years, it was dog-whistled, or spoken quietly. Trump has merely decided to shout it out. But our beliefs have always been there, too.

Today you saw just some of the richness of diversity that we represent… and that represents us. You met one of the first Sikh American mayors in US history. You met the first Hispanic mayor of Topeka, Kansas. They’ve inspired so many of us because of who they are: powerful, path-blazing, history-making individuals. But remember, they didn’t win solely because of who they are; they won because of what they are for.

What we are for: Putting people back to work, with good jobs and good benefits. Strong, safe communities. A country that leads the world in innovation. And one that leads the world, period.

Sticking together isn’t always easy. We’re a big tent. We’ve got some differences. But they’re not as big as you’d think. Look at our economy: Cedric Richmond and the CBC—one of the things you advocate for is expanding access to full and fairly-compensated employment. Jim Himes and the NewDems—you talk about “strengthening our middle class with a new prosperity.” Raul Grijalva, Mark Pocan and the Progressive Caucus, you outline the need for “economic justice and security for all.” Are there policy differences in there? Sure there are. But are they bigger than the ones between us and Paul Ryan? Or, us and Donald Trump? Absolutely not. I could go issue by issue, or member by member.

Our reality is the same: Our individual goals won’t make much difference if we don’t achieve our shared goal: Winning the majority. We’re going to get focused. And united.

Because there’s another thing that connects us: We see beyond ourselves. The small business owner, risking everything for an idea; we aspire with her. The LGBTQ kid in high school, bullied by his peers; we hear him. The DREAMer living in fear of being deported from the only country she’s ever known; we see her. The single mother who takes three buses to two jobs; we know her. The veteran trying to rebuild his life… the list goes on and on. None of us is all of these people. But, as Democrats, we see them. We hear them. We dream with them. And we champion them. When each of us in this caucus walks into the House chamber, we do so with these people in mind.

And the way we do that? We stick together! We fight together. And we win, together. So let’s get these important conversations started. Let’s make this a year to remember.

CROWLEY, LARSON URGE TRUMP TO SUPPORT MORE FUNDING FOR THE SOCIAL SECURITY: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Congress Member John B. Larson (D-CT), the ranking member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, along with 107 Democratic members of the House, sent a letter to President Donald Trump on February 5 urging him to support higher funding for the Social Security Administration to “reduce the unconscionable delays Americans are facing to receive the benefits they have earned.”

Over the past 7 years, Social Security’s operating budget has fallen by more than 10 percent after adjusting for inflation. At the same time, the number of individuals who are eligible for benefits has increased by nearly 15 percent as the baby boomer generation retires. Without proper funding, the skyrocketing wait times Americans are experiencing will only worsen, the lawmakers explained.

Delays in receiving earned disability benefits are already at unprecedented levels. Workers, many who are gravely ill or injured, must wait nearly two years for a decision on their disability appeal. Additionally, due to an insufficient budget, the SSA has been forced to close offices and reduce the hours of operation for those left open, and it has been unable to replace all of the employees who retire or leave for other jobs. The majority of callers to SSA’s 800-number give up without getting through—they either get a busy signal, or hang up after lengthy waits, they continued.

President Trump pledged he would not cut Social Security or Medicare, yet in his first budget, he proposed more than $60 billion in cuts to Social Security benefits, and an inadequate amount for SSA’s operating expenses, Crowley noted.

“Social Security is the cornerstone of economic security for American retirees, families who have lost a breadwinner, and workers who have suffered a career-ending injury or illness,” the lawmakers wrote. “Given the importance of Social Security, it is imperative that we increase the agency’s budget, to ensure that Americans can receive their earned benefits, on time and in full.”

All Americans pay into Social Security during their working lives, and nearly 62 million Americans are currently receiving the benefits they have earned. For 6 out of 10 retirees, Social Security provides the majority of their income.

BILL CALLS ON TURKEY TO RESPECT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, reintroduced on February 7 a resolution calling on Turkey to cease its violations of the rights and religious freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. “The resolution, H. Res. 732, calls on the Turkish government to respect religious freedom and rights as defined by the European Union—to which Turkey has sought membership for over a decade—as well as by international law.

“Not only is religious freedom a pillar of American democratic society, it is also critical for global peace and understanding,” said Rep. Maloney. “Religious persecution in any form is inexcusable. As co-founder and co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus, I have long called on the Turkish government to respect the right of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and reopen the Halki Seminary. Persecution against Christians and other religious minorities around the world is a security crisis and the US government must remain vigilant in its monitoring and response.”

“The United States must remain consistent in enforcing the expectation of shared democratic values from our so-called allies, including the demonstration of a consistent respect for religious freedom,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12). “I will continue to join my colleagues and speak out for those whose voices are silenced until the day in which this injustice is rectified,” he added.

PHEFFER AMATO: LAVERN’S LAW ENSURES MORE PATIENTS CAN SEEK JUSTICE: Assembly Member Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-South Queens) announced that legislation she helped pass, known as Lavern’s Law, will be signed into law by the governor. This new law will give patients whose cancer was misdiagnosed or not detected more time to pursue just compensation in a court of law (A.9633-A).

“Misdiagnosing or failing to diagnose cancer isn’t simply a mistake, it’s a matter of life and death,” Pheffer Amato said. “New Yorkers should be able to trust that their doctors and hospitals are correctly identifying the cause of their pain or illness, and if something is missed, they should be able to seek recourse. Lavern’s Law will go a long way in ensuring New York’s malpractice statutes are fairer to those who have been harmed.”

Previously, victims had to file a legal claim within 30 months of the date of alleged malpractice or misdiagnosis for private entities, within 24 months for state providers and within 15 months for local government providers—even if patients didn’t discover the mistake until years later. It precluded victims of medical negligence from going to court even if they had no basis to know that the negligence had been committed.

Lavern’s Law fixes this for cases involving a failure to diagnose cancer or a malignant tumor and gives patients and their families 2 1/2 years to file malpractice claims from the time the victim discovers the failure to diagnose—rather than at the time of the negligent act—and within seven years of the alleged malpractice. The law also provides a six-month window to file an action or claim for people where the statute of limitations expired within the last 10 months. Before now, New York had been one of only six states that started the clock at the moment of misdiagnosis rather than discovery.

The law is named in memory of Lavern Wilkinson, a mother who died in 2013 of a treatable form of lung cancer. The hospital she attended three years earlier failed to notify her of a suspicious mass in her chest X-ray. By the time she was diagnosed with cancer it had spread throughout her body and the deadline to seek justice in court had already passed.

Wilkinson is survived by her daughter, Micalia Squires, who has a severe form of autism and requires extensive care. The settlement agreed upon by the hospital and the city is only a fraction of what the family could have been awarded from a medical malpractice suit—vital funds that would have greatly helped the family care for Micalia.

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ZERO TOLERANCE FOR FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) released the following statement on February 6 in recognition of International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation:

“Female Genital Mutilation is an illegal and horrifying practice that violates the human rights of girls and women. More than 200 million girls and women around the world have experienced the horrors of FGM, and in the United States, more than 513,000 women and girls have been harmed. This must stop.

“Today, on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, we call for zero tolerance for this violent practice, reinforce our commitment to investing in strategies to end FGM, and to promoting the rights and dignity of all women and girls.”

GOVERNMENT FUNDING BILL: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement on the government funding bill the House will vote Thursday afternoon:

“The Republicans’ latest effort to keep the government funded fails to make the investments this country needs and deserves. People want to be put back to work in good-paying jobs with good benefits. They want us to create strong and safe communities. They want us to lead and innovate. None of these things can or will be achieved through this bill.”

MALONEY PLANNING TO VOTE ‘NO’ ON BUDGET CAPS BILL: Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) released the following statement explaining her plan to vote “no” on the budget bill:

“I cannot not, in good conscience, vote for this bill without a guarantee from Speaker Ryan that he will allow a bipartisan process on a proposal to secure a future for our nation’s DREAMers. His refusal to allow regular order and willful disregard of the wishes of the American people is an insult to the House of Representatives and our democratic process. If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could do it, so can Speaker Ryan.”

HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE AGREES TO INVESTIGATE NASSAR SCANDAL: The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on February 9 agreed to Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney’s request last month to launch an investigation into the Larry Nassar scandal. Rep. Maloney (D-NY) joined Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-VA), and Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) in sending letters to the US Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, Inc. Michigan State University, Twistars USA Gymnastics Club and Karolyi Ranch.

“Our nation’s preeminent athletic association and a leading university allowed one of the worst child abusers in history to get away with horrific crimes against young girls for nearly 20 years. That’s why I called for this investigation and I’m pleased the committee has agreed to launch one.

“Mr. Nassar’s trial was only the first phase in finding justice. We owe to each of his victims, and every young athlete in these programs, a thorough and comprehensive investigation, independent from the US Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. While Mr. Nassar has been brought to justice, albeit belatedly, we must investigate the systemic failure that enabled him to commit these horrific abuses over so many years, and ensure that necessary reforms are made to protect all students, athletes, and patients in the future.”

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