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Barack Obama's AMAZING Legislative Record in the US Senate:

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Barack Obama's AMAZING Legislative Record in the US Senate:


Ethics and Lobbying Reform
Throughout his political career, Barack Obama has been a leader in fighting for open and honest government. During his first year as an Illinois State Senator, he helped lead the fight to pass Illinois' first ethics reform bill in 25 years. As a U.S. Senator, he has spearheaded the effort to clean up Washington in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Senator Obama is one of the authors of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (S. 2180). The bill would lengthen the cooling off period to two years for lawmakers and staff who seek to become lobbyists, and it would require immediate disclosure as soon as any job negotiations begin. The bill would open conference committee meetings to the public and require that all bills be posted on the Internet for 24 hours before they can be voted on by the Senate. Finally, the bill would end all lobbyist-funded gifts, meals, and travel and strengthen the Senate office that monitors lobbyist disclosure forms.

In addition, Senator Obama has sponsored three other ethics-related bills:

The Congressional Ethics Enforcement Commission Act (S. 2259)
The bill would create an outside ethics commission to receive complaints from the public on alleged ethics violations by members of Congress, staff, and lobbyists. The commission would have the authority to investigate complaints and present public findings of fact about possible violations to the House and Senate Ethics Committee and Justice Department. By taking the initial fact finding out of the hands of members of Congress, who are often reluctant to investigate their colleagues, the bill ensures prompt and fair disposition of public complaints.

To avoid manipulation of the commission for political purposes, any person filing a complaint that they knew to be false would be subject to a fine and/or imprisonment. No complaints could be filed against a member of Congress for 30 days before a primary election and 60 days before a general election.

The bill has been widely endorsed by reform groups. According to Common Cause, "this legislation would do more to reform ethics and lobbying than any other piece of legislation introduced thus far because it goes to the heart of the problem: enforcement." Public Citizen praised Senator Obama "for having the courage to challenge the business-as-usual environment on Capitol Hill and introduce far-reaching legislation." Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington stated: "This is the first bill that deals seriously with the lack of oversight and enforcement in the existing congressional ethics process. . . . This bill will help restore Americans' confidence in the integrity of Congress.

The Transparency and Integrity in Earmarks Act (S. 2261)
The bill would shed light on the almost 16,000 earmarks that were included in spending bills in 2005. Under the bill, all earmarks, including the name of the requestor and a justification for the earmark, would have to be disclosed 72 hours before they could be considered by the full Senate. Senators would be prohibited from advocating for an earmark if they have a financial interest in the project or earmark recipient. And, earmark recipients would have to disclose to an Office of Public Integrity the amount that they have spent on registered lobbyists and the names of those lobbyists.

The Curtailing Lobbyist Effectiveness through Advance Notification, Updates, and Posting Act (The CLEAN UP Act) (S. 2179)
The bill aims to improve public access to information about all legislation, including conference reports and appropriations legislation, in particular after hurried, end-of-session negotiations. Conference committee meetings and deliberations would have to be open to the public or televised, and conference reports would have to identify changes made to the bill from the House and Senate versions. Finally, no bill could be considered by the full Senate unless the measure has been made available to all Senators and the general public on the Internet for at least 72 hours.

Health Care
The United States is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, yet more than 45 million Americans have no health insurance. Too many hard-working Americans cannot afford their medical bills, and thus, health-related issues are the number one cause for personal bankruptcy. Too many employers are finding it difficult to offer the coverage their employees need.

Promoting affordable, accessible, and high-quality health care was a priority for Barack Obama in the Illinois State Senate and is a priority for him in the United States Senate. He believes firmly that health care should be a right for everyone, not a privilege for the few.

Preserving and Improving Medicare and Medicaid
Medicare and Medicaid represent America's commitment to take care of the elderly and the poor--some of our most vulnerable citizens. Senator Obama has voted to preserve and strengthen these programs at every opportunity. He has voted to restore funding to these programs and has voted against budgets that cut these programs.


Some 42 million American seniors are served by Medicare, including 1.7 million in Illinois. Medicare is a promise we have made to our seniors, and along with Social Security, it is essential to a dignified and financially sound retirement. Cuts to Medicare will seriously harm those who have worked all their lives, paid into the system, and need medical care.

Senator Obama is concerned about the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program and its effect on our nation's elderly and disabled. In particular, he is concerned with the difficulty enrolling and choosing among a large number of plans (more than 40 in Illinois), the restrictions on changing plan selection after enrollment, the prohibition against negotiating for the best drug price or discounts, and the high costs of the program for seniors.

Senator Obama is a cosponsor of the Medicare Informed Choice Act (S. 1841), which would extend enrollment without penalty until the end of 2006. This bill would also allow all Part D beneficiaries to change their plan once during 2006.


Medicaid is the nation's health safety net. Over 53 million Americans of all ages, including 2 million Illinoisans, rely on Medicaid for their health care. As a member of the Senate's Medicaid Working Group, Senator Obama will continue the fight to strengthen Medicaid, as well as help providers who care for large numbers of poor and uninsured patients.

Improving Quality of Health Care
Senator Obama is pursuing legislative initiatives to help improve health care quality.

He helped draft and introduce the National MEDiC Act (S. 1784), which promotes patient safety initiatives, including early disclosure and compensation to patients injured by medical errors. He also introduced the Hospital Quality Report Card Act (S. 2359), which will use federal hospital quality reporting requirements to inform and assist patients and other consumers in making their health care decisions.

Senator Obama strongly believes that greater use of health information technology can contain costs and improve the efficiency of our health care system. He introduced the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program Efficiency Act (S. 2247), which would leverage the federal government's purchasing power to encourage increased adoption of technology by participating health plans.

In 2005, Senator Obama spoke at the commencement of the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine about the importance of health information technology. Click here to read that speech.

Avian Flu
Avian influenza - or bird flu - is a potentially grave health threat to the U.S. and other countries around the world. Senator Obama was an early leader in bringing this problem before Congress and pushing for greater funding to improve preparedness.

Starting in March 2005, he obtained $25 million for international efforts to combat the avian flu and called for an inter-agency task force to immediately address this issue. This funding is now being used to mitigate the effects of the pandemic in Southeast Asia.

Senator Obama introduced the Attacking Viral Influenza Across Nations Act (S. 969), which calls for collaboration and cooperation at the state, national, and international level to ensure preparedness in the event of pandemic influenza. Such preparedness includes the procurement of antivirals, development of effective vaccines, and improvement of the public health infrastructure and medical surge capacity in hospitals.

Senator Obama also worked to push $7.9 billion through the Senate to help the U.S. prepare for the possibility of an avian flu pandemic.

Environmental Health
Senator Obama is deeply concerned with the hazards of lead poisoning. Almost 400,000 children have elevated blood lead levels, including many in Illinois. Over the past year, one of his legislative priorities has been highlighting the problems associated with elevated blood lead levels in children. As a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Obama pressured the Environmental Protection Agency to issue long overdue rules for home remodeling and renovation that could prevent 28,000 lead-related illnesses each year, resulting in an annual net economic benefit of more than $4 billion.

In 2005, Senator Obama introduced the Lead Free Toys Act (S. 2048), requiring the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to ban any children's product containing lead.

He also introduced the Healthy Communities Act (S. 2047) to identify and address problems in communities that are at high risk from environmental contaminants. In addition, recognizing the contribution of housing, parks, trails, roadways, and public transportation to healthy lifestyles, Senator Obama introduced the Healthy Places Act (S. 2506) to assess and support improvements to the built environment.

Genomics is the study of how a person's genetic makeup affects propensity for disease and response to treatment. Research in this area has the potential to predict which people will get sick, diagnose illnesses earlier, and screen patients to determine which drugs will be safe and effective. In August 2006, Senator Obama introduced the Genomics and Personalized Medicine Act of 2006 (S. 3822), which would increase funding for research on genomics, expand the genomics workforce, provide a tax credit for the development of diagnostic tests that can improve the safety or effectiveness of drugs, and reaffirm the need to protect genetic privacy.

As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Obama has worked to ensure our nation's environmental laws and policies balance America's needs for a healthy, sustainable environment with economic growth.

Since coming to Washington, Senator Obama has made the elimination of childhood lead poisoning one of his top priorities.

Over 400,000 children in the U.S. suffer from lead poisoning. Lead is a highly toxic substance that can produce a range of health problems in young children including IQ deficiencies, reading and learning disabilities, reduced attention spans, hyperactivity, and damage to the kidneys, brain and bone marrow. The most common source of lead exposure is lead paint in older housing.

During his first year in office, Senator Obama successfully fought to get the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to publish long-overdue rules for how contractors involved in the renovation and remodeling of homes should deal with lead paint hazards. To force EPA to issue the rules, Senator Obama threatened to block the confirmation of an EPA official and passed an amendment to stop EPA from delaying the rulemaking process. When the rules are eventually finalized, they will prevent 28,000 lead-related illnesses each year, resulting in an annual net economic benefit of more than $4 billion.

Lead is also present in many children's products. In 2003 and 2004, nearly 150 million pieces of toy jewelry were recalled because of toxic levels of lead. To address this problem, Senator Obama introduced the Lead-Free Toys Act (S. 2048) to require the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ban any children's product containing lead.

Senator Obama is also an original cosponsor of the Home Lead Safety Tax Credit Act (S. 2053), which would provide tax credits to property owners who eliminate or contain paint hazards in homes where low-income young children or women of child-bearing age live.

Great Lakes
The Great Lakes store one-fifth of the world's surface water, and Lake Michigan alone provides drinking water for an estimated six million residents in Illinois. The Great Lakes are also important for recreation, transportation, and economic development. To preserve this national treasure, Senator Obama has been a strong supporter of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration and is a cosponsor of the Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Act (S. 508).

One of the greatest threats facing the Great Lakes is aquatic invasive species. Senator Obama was successful in ensuring that Illinois receives adequate federal funding to operate a barrier to prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan and disrupting the balance of the lake's ecosystem.

Global Climate Change
In addition to protecting the quality of the air we breathe, Senator Obama believes the U.S. needs to do more to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. He is a cosponsor of the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act (S. 1151), which was introduced by Senators McCain and Lieberman.

More info: Senator Obama's speech to the Associated Press in April 2006 on climate change.

In December 2005, the Chicago Tribune published an in-depth report on the extent of mercury contamination in the fish eaten by Americans. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can cause serious developmental problems in children, ranging from severe birth defects to mental retardation. As many as 630,000 children born annually in the U.S. are at risk of neurological problems related to mercury. In adults, mercury can cause major neurological problems affecting vision, motor skills, blood pressure and fertility.

Sampling conducted by the Tribune showed surprisingly high levels of mercury concentrations in freshwater and saltwater fish purchased in the Chicago area. The Tribune series also reported on how existing programs at the Food and Drug Administration and EPA have failed to adequately test and evaluate mercury levels in fish.

To address this problem, Senator Obama introduced two bills - the Mercury Market Minimization Act (S. 3627) and the Missing Mercury in Manufacturing Monitoring and Mitigation Act (S. 3631). These bills would significantly reduce the amount of mercury that is deposited in oceans, lakes, and rivers, which in turn would reduce the amount of mercury in fish.

With the nation facing unprecedented threats, our military needs to remain the world's best. We must adapt the Pentagon to face 21st century threats such as global terrorists and loose nuclear weapons in the former Soviet states. Senator Obama is working to ensure that the nation's defense capabilities are strong, agile, and prepared and that our troops are provided with the equipment they need.

Destroying Surplus and Unguarded Conventional Weapons
Small arms have caused four out of five casualties in recent conflicts. There are countless caches of older mortars, antipersonnel landmines, and other weapons spread across the globe. These caches are minimally secured and make attractive targets for terrorists. For instance, shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles have hit more than 40 civilian aircraft and killed more than 600 people since the 1970s. The U.S. government's current response to threats from conventional weapons stockpiles is underfunded and divided.

Senator Obama has partnered with Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Dick Lugar (R-IN) to address this looming security vulnerability. In 1991, Senator Lugar helped craft the sweeping Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program to enable the former Soviet Union to safeguard and dismantle its enormous stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, related materials, and delivery systems. The program has deactivated or destroyed 6,760 nuclear warheads.

After visiting weapons stockpiles in Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan, Senators Lugar and Obama introduced S. 2566, which would expand the cooperative threat reduction concept to conventional weapons. The Lugar-Obama bill would energize the U.S. program against unsecured lightweight anti-aircraft missiles and other conventional weapons and would strengthen the ability of America's allies to detect and interdict illegal shipments of weapons and materials of mass destruction. Funding would be provided to eliminate unsecured conventional weapons and assist countries in improving their ability to detect and interdict materials and weapons of mass destruction.

Respect for the Nation's Armed Forces
American troops are serving admirably overseas. Senator Obama believes that we need to give them the resources they need when in combat, and the support and services they earned when they return home.

Military Funding
Since arriving in Washington in 2005, Senator Obama has been a strong supporter of defense funding. He has supported the annual Defense Department appropriations bills and supplemental appropriations bills that fund American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senator has also supported pay raises for the troops, efforts to improve military readiness, and the acquisition of new weapons systems.

Senator Obama backs efforts to expand TRICARE eligibility and reduce TRICARE premiums so that our nation's service members, Guard members, reservists, and their families can have improved access to health care.

Armored Vehicles
During consideration of the 2005 Defense Department authorization bill, Senator Obama voted to provide additional funding for add-on armor for military vehicles and for additional up-armored military vehicles to help keep our troops in combat safe. According to a report by the New York Times, roughly half of the Army's 20,000 Humvees are fitted with improvised shielding that leaves the underside unprotected, while only one in six Humvees used by the Marines is armored at the highest level of protection.

Health Care
Senator Obama successfully passed legislation in the Senate to force the Pentagon to work towards an efficient electronic medical records system that will help ensure better care for our nation's troops. It is Senator Obama's goal for each separating service member to receive a secure electronic copy of his or her military and medical records at the time of discharge to smooth the transition to the Department of Veterans' Affairs health care system.

Traumatic Brain Injury
As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Senator Obama has been tracking the high incidence of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) among the veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. TBI is being called the signature injury of the Iraq war. Often caused by the shock wave of improvised explosive devices, TBI can result in permanent brain damage. In order to ensure that these returning heroes receive appropriate medical attention, Senator Obama passed legislation in the Senate that requires all soldiers to be assessed for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) after they return from deployments.

Protect Troops from Avian Flu
In 2005, Senator Obama passed legislation that would require the Department of Defense to issue a plan to protect our troops from an avian flu pandemic.

As we transition to an increasingly global economy, many Americans are at risk of being left behind through no fault of their own. Among those most affected by these changes are senior citizens, many of whom are on fixed incomes. We need to modernize our social safety net to help senior citizens meet these new challenges, but we also must preserve those elements, such as Social Security and Medicare, that have enabled us to fulfill our moral commitments to our parents and grandparents.

Social Security
Social Security is more than just a retirement plan; it is also a program of social insurance. And it has been one of the most successful government programs in our nations history. Senator Obama has fought to prevent the privatization of Social Security, which provides a vital safety net to tens of millions of seniors and Americans with disabilities.

Prescription Drugs
The U.S. is the largest market for pharmaceuticals in the world, yet our seniors pay the highest prices for brand pharmaceuticals. The Medicare Part D Program was supposed to address this problem but instead created a doughnut hole which limits drug benefits for seniors with more than $2,250 in annual costs. (Senator Obama was not in the Senate in 2003 when Congress passed the Part D program but would have opposed it.) For many seniors, this is a particularly devastating example of "bait and switch." A truly meaningful prescription drug program should provide a benefit that seniors can understand and count on, and reduce the cost of these drugs. To help lower the cost of prescription drugs, Senator Obama has supported efforts to allow American seniors to purchase prescription drugs in Canada and bring them back to the U.S. He also has supported giving Medicare the ability to negotiate lower drug prices.

Veterans Benefits
Illinois has a large proportion of aging veterans. Unfortunately, Illinois ranked 50 out of 53 states and territories in disability benefits for at least 20 years. As a result of Senator Obamas involvement, the VA has increased the number of claims reviewers in the Chicago office, providing for a speedier processing of claims. The VA has also increased training which will ensure more consistent decisions. He has worked with Senator Durbin to require the VA to provide veterans in six states, including Illinois, with notification of their rights to appeal any benefit decisions. As a result of these appeals, Illinois veterans are starting see larger benefit checks.

The Administrations approach to handling veterans health care ignores the reality of rising demand on the VA, and it places additional burden on veterans. Three years ago, the Administration established a means test for VA health care eligibility, and it has banned hundreds of thousands of veterans some who make as little as $30,000 a year from enrolling in the system. That affects both older and younger veterans. Senator Obama has opposed these changes and has fought for greater funding for veterans health care.

Housing Assistance
President Bush has proposed a 25% reduction $190 million in the Section 202 senior housing program, which provides affordable housing to senior citizens in developments owned by nonprofit organizations. The Section 202 senior housing program allows seniors to live with dignity and self-determination. There are about 286,000 Section 202 units serving very low-income seniors across the county, and an additional 15,800 units serve low and moderate-income seniors. Senator Obama has supported greater funding for the Section 202 program. He has also worked with Senator Stabenow to increase funding for housing for grandparents raising their grandchildren.

Heating Assistance
Senator Obama has been a strong supporter of greater funds for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps senior citizens in many Northern and Midwestern states pay their winter heating bills.

Food Assistance
About one in every five elderly Americans is at risk of hunger during the year. For that reason, Senator Obama has opposed President Bushs proposal to cut food supports, such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, that sustain vulnerable families, children, and senior citizens.

Emergency Preparedness
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Senator Obama introduced legislation to prevent another tragedy in which the poor and elderly are left behind during a natural disaster or terrorist attack. His proposal, which was included in the recent port security law, requires states and localities to have emergency evacuation plans in place that take into account the special needs of senior citizens.

Senator Obama is a strong proponent of tougher measures to fight crime, in particular the growing problem of methamphetamines, which has ravaged many communities in Illinois. He has also advocated providing more resources to local law enforcement officers.

Fighting the Spread of Methamphetamines
Senator Obama cosponsored the Combat Meth Act (S. 103) which provides more money for fighting methamphetamines, tightens up control on the sale of meth ingredients, and provides assistance to children of meth abusers. The legislation would limit access to cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, the primary ingredient used to make methamphetamine. This bill passed the Senate on September 15, 2005, and was signed into law.

Senator Obama has supported greater funding to fight meth through the use of Byrne Justice Assistance Grants. The Byrne Grant program provides important funding to many local Illinois law enforcement groups. For example, the Southern Illinois Enforcement Group (SIEG), a meth taskforce that polices 31 Illinois counties, pays for 5 of its 12 agents through Byrne grants. During Senate consideration of the Department of Justice funding bill, Senator Obama cosponsored an amendment to raise Byrne funding to $900 million in 2006; the amendment passed the Senate.

Support for Local Law Enforcement
Senator Obama has been a strong supporter of efforts to increase funding and support for our local law enforcement. He supported the reauthorization of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program in the 109th Congress (PL 109-162) and supports efforts to increase COPS funding. The COPS program provides local law enforcement funding for: (1) hiring and training law enforcement officers; (2) procuring equipment and support systems (3) paying officers to perform intelligence, anti-terror, or homeland security duties; and (4) developing new technologies, including interoperable communications and forensic technology. Since 1994, the COPS program has funded more than 5,800 additional police officers and sheriffs deputies in Illinois and over $45 million in crime fighting technology assistance.

Sex Offenders
Senator Obama cosponsored Dru's Law (S. 792) which creates a nationwide sex offender database and requires greater monitoring of sex offenders upon their release from prison. The bill passed the Senate on July 28, 2005.

He also cosponsored the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. This bill increases the penalties for sex crimes against children under the age of 12, and creates a national Internet site known as the National Sex Offender Public Registry. The bill will also provide grants to local law enforcement to assist in preventing and investigating sex crimes against minors.

Violence Against Women Act
Senator Obama cosponsored extension of Violence Against Women Act (S. 1197), which passed the Senate on October 4, 2005, and was signed into law. The Act provides increased funds to law enforcement to combat violence against women. It also establishes a sexual assault services program and provides grants for education programs to prevent domestic violence and encourage reporting of abuses.

Security for Federal Judges
After the horrific murder of an Illinois federal judge's mother and husband, Senator Obama and Senator Durbin worked together to beef up security at our federal courthouses. The Illinois senators secured $12 million to improve security for federal judges. Senator Obama also joined Senator Durbin in requesting a Government Accountability Office investigation into additional steps that can be taken to protect judges.

Greater Funding for Chicago
Senator Obama has voted in favor of distributing federal homeland security funds to states and cities most at risk of a terrorist attack. In 2006, Chicago obtained a $52.5 million grant for training and equipping emergency first responders, up 16% from the previous year's $45 million grant.

Senator Obama shares the growing public concern about illegal immigration in the United States. The challenge facing President Bush and Congress is how to effectively stop the flow of illegal immigrants across our borders, better manage immigration flows going forward, and deal with illegal aliens who are already living and working in this country.

The Department of Homeland Security recognizes that identifying and deporting 11 million undocumented workers currently in this country would be both logistically impossible and highly disruptive to the American economy. Instead of mass deportations, Senator Obama believes that Congress must pass comprehensive, compassionate reform that reaffirms the rule of law and brings the undocumented population out of hiding.

The Senate Immigration Bill
Senator Obama played a key role in the crafting of the immigration reform bill that the Senate passed in May 2006. The bill, which President Bush supports, would provide more funds and technology for border security and prevent employers from skirting our laws by hiring illegal immigrants. The bill also would provide immigrants who are now contributing and responsible members of society an opportunity to remain in the country and earn citizenship. But not all illegal immigrants would be guaranteed the right to remain in the U.S. under this proposal; they would first have to pay a substantial fine and back taxes, learn English, satisfy a work requirement, and pass a criminal background check.

Senator Obama offered three amendments that were included in the Senate bill. The first amendment strengthens the requirement that a job be offered at a prevailing wage to American workers before it is offered to a guestworker. The second amendment makes it simple, but mandatory, for employers to verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the United States. And the third amendment authorizes $3 million a year for the FBI to improve the speed and accuracy of the background checks required for immigrants seeking to become citizens.

A final consensus bill must now be negotiated to work out the differences between the House and Senate immigration bills. Senator Obama appreciates the serious ramifications of this issue for American workers, Illinois communities, and immigrant families. He will continue to work with President Bush, his colleagues in Congress, and the citizens of Illinois to improve the effectiveness of our immigration laws and strengthen border security.

Chemical Plant Security
Illinois has at least 10 facilities where a large-scale chemical release could threaten more than a million people, and an additional 20 facilities where such a release could threaten more than 100,000 people. Despite this, there are currently no federal standards to require chemical plants to protect against terrorist attacks. While a number of plants have taken important voluntary steps to improve security, there are still major gaps, and there has never been a comprehensive security assessment of chemical plants across the country.

Senator Obama, working with Senator Lautenberg, introduced tough legislation to drastically improve security at our nation's chemical plants. The Chemical Safety and Security Act (S. 2486) would establish a clear set of federal regulations that all plants must follow. Plants that are considered a high risk to large population areas or critical infrastructure would face more stringent standards. The bill requires chemical facilities to take steps to enhance security, including improving barriers, containment, mitigation, and safety training, and, where possible, using safer technology, such as less toxic chemicals or safer procedures.

Transit Security
Senator Obama is deeply concerned about the safety of the millions of Americans who use our nation's public transportation systems everyday. Unfortunately, non-aviation security has been under-funded since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, and our subways and buses remain vulnerable. Only days after the July 2005 bombings in London, England, Senator Obama cosponsored and voted for an amendment that would have increased rail and transit security by $1.2 billion. Although that amendment was defeated, Senator Obama remains committed to improving rail and transit security.

Disaster Response
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, improving our nation's emergency planning and response capacity has become a priority for Senator Obama. He has introduced legislation to ensure that the mistakes witnessed before and after Katrina are not repeated in the future. Senator Obama's legislation includes provisions to establish a national family locator system for missing persons, a mobile corps of volunteer health professions, and mandatory planning for the emergency evacuation of people with special needs, including low-income individuals, the elderly, and the disabled.

Terrorism Risk Insurance
Senator Obama cosponsored the extension of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (which became Public Law 109-144). The Act provides important protections to real estate in large cities such as Chicago.

Nuclear Waste
Within the past five years, three nuclear power plants have reported missing spent fuel. Senator Obama introduced the Spent Nuclear Fuel Tracking and Accountability Act (S. 1194), which would establish specific and uniform guidelines for tracking, controlling, and accounting for individual spent fuel rods or segments at nuclear power plants, including procedures for conducting physical inventories. These provisions were included in S. 864, which passed the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee on June 8, 2005.

Drinking Water Security
Senator Obama drafted an amendment, which was included in the Safe Drinking Water Act, which passed the EPW Committee on July 20, 2005. The Obama amendment would provide $37.5 million over the next five years to protect the country's drinking water from a terrorist attack. It also instructs Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control to develop the tools needed by drinking water systems to detect and respond to the introduction of biological, chemical, and radiological contaminants by terrorists.

Obama is committed to providing every American with the opportunity to receive a quality education, from pre-kindergarten to college or vocational school to job retraining programs.

Technology has created a quiet revolution by breaking down barriers and connecting the world's economies. Businesses have the ability to move jobs wherever there is an Internet connection. Countries like India and China start schooling their children earlier, keep them in school longer, and have a strategic emphasis on math, science, and technology. The importance of educating American children for the global economy was the subject of a commencement address that Senator Obama delivered in June 2005 at Knox College.

Senator Obama believes that we must do the same here in America. States and local school districts, as well as parents, teachers, and students must take the lead. The federal government must fund its mandates and assist in identifying and expanding the best programs.

However, there is no substitute for strong parental involvement. Because education begins at home, parents must set high standards and inspirational examples for their children. As a father, Senator Obama believes we need to find the time and the energy to help our kids love learning. Parents can read to their children, discuss what they read, and make time for this by turning off the TV.

Early Education
Head Start is the major Federal program supporting early education. In Illinois, Head Start provides tens of thousands of children with a safe learning environment, while encouraging parents to be involved in their children's education. Senator Obama believes that Congress must increase overall funding for the program, especially funding for Early Head Start and teacher education. He will also work to preserve the essential role of Head Start parents.

Primary & Secondary Education
Local public schools not only educate our students, they often provide a focus for community activity. Local school districts often serve as laboratories for innovation in education, but too often this innovation remains localized. Although the federal role in education is limited, one way the federal government can make the most of its scarce resources is by fostering innovation - identifying the best programs and practices, and helping expand them around the country.

Senator Obama has introduced the Innovation Districts for School Improvement Act (S. 2441). Under this initiative, school districts would submit plans on how they would become centers of reform. Twenty districts nationwide would be selected based on the best plans to increase achievement for all students and put effective teachers in all classrooms. These districts would receive substantial federal resources but would be required to implement systemic reforms and show convincing results.

Differences in learning opportunities during the summer contribute to the achievement gaps that separate struggling poor and minority students from their middle-class peers. Senator Obama introduced the Summer Term Education Programs for Upward Progress Act (STEP UP) (S. 2149) to address the achievement gaps among schoolchildren in the early grades. STEP UP establishes a grant program to support summer learning opportunities to be offered by local schools or community organizations.

Post-Secondary Education
Senator Obama believes that every high school graduate should have the opportunity to go to college or vocational school. Student loans provide critical financial aid for many Americans. Not long ago, financial aid was primarily in the form of grants. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Graduates now have more and more difficulty keeping up with loan payments. At a minimum, our government has the responsibility to ensure that the most affordable and sensible loans are available to our students. But government and students are not the only ones who need to act. Tuition costs have been rising at an average rate of 8% per year, well above the overall rate of inflation. Colleges and universities must also do their part to rein in costs and pass those savings on to students.

To address this problem, Barack Obama's first bill as a U.S. Senator was the HOPE Act (Higher Education Opportunity Through Pell Grant Expansion Act) (S.697), which would help make college more affordable for many Americans. The bill would increase the maximum Pell Grant from the current limit of $4,050 to a new maximum of $5,100.

As a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Senator Obama is committed to helping the heroes who defend our nation today and the veterans who fought in years past.

Benefits Disparities
Following reports in December 2004 that Illinois veterans have for decades ranked nearly last in average disability pay received, Senator Obama led efforts to uncover the reasons for this disparity and to correct it. As a result of this pressure, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) opened an investigation into the matter, agreed to hire a dozen new claims specialists for the Chicago regional office, and agreed to re-examine the claims of Illinois veterans who felt they have been treated unfairly. Senators Obama and Durbin introduced an amendment that became law requiring the VA to notify Illinois veterans about their right to seek a review of their past claims. The resulting outreach to Illinois veterans in the summer of 2006, led to an increase in the number of Illinois veterans getting the benefits and services they deserve.

Greater Funding for Veterans Health Care
As early as February 2005, Senator Obama warned of a shortfall in the VA budget. Four months later, the VA reported that in fact it had more than a $1 billion shortfall. Senator Obama cosponsored a bill that led to a $1.5 billion increase in veterans' medical care. During the debate on the Fiscal Year 2007 budget, Senator Obama cosponsored measures that would have provided additional funding increases for veterans.

In September 2006, Senator Obama introduced the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act (S. 3988) to improve the VAs planning process to avoid budget shortfalls in the future. The bill requires the VA and the Department of Defense to work together and share data so that we know precisely how many troops will be returning home and entering the VA system.

Homeless Veterans
Every year, 400,000 veterans across the country, including an estimated 38,000 in Chicago, spend some time living on the streets. Senator Obama has been a leader in fighting homelessness among veterans. He authored the Sheltering All Veterans Everywhere Act (SAVE Act) (S. 1180) to strengthen and expand federal homeless veteran programs that serve over 100,000 homeless veterans annually. During the debate on the Fiscal Year 2007 budget, Senator Obama passed an amendment to increase funding for homeless veterans programs by $40 million. These funds would benefit programs that provide food, clothing, mental health and substance abuse counseling, and employment and housing assistance to homeless veterans.

In June 2006, Senator Obama introduced the Homes for Heroes Act (S. 3475), which would expand access to long-term affordable housing for homeless veterans by setting aside $225 million to purchase, build or rehabilitate homes and apartments for veterans. The legislation would also greatly expand existing veterans rental assistance programs and create a new office within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to coordinate services to homeless veterans.

Food for Recovering Soldiers
Senator Obama introduced an amendment that became law providing food services to wounded veterans receiving physical therapy or rehabilitation services at military hospitals. Previously, service members receiving physical therapy or rehabilitation services in a medical hospital for more than 90 days were required to pay for their meals.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and TBI
Senator Obama fought a VA proposal that would have required a reexamination of all PTSD cases in which full benefits were granted. He and Senator Durbin passed an amendment that has become law preventing the VA from conducting a review of cases, without first providing Congress with a complete report regarding the implementation of such review. In November 2005, the VA announced that it was abandoning its planned review.

Senator Obama passed an amendment to ensure that all service members returning from Iraq are properly screened for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). TBI is being called the signature injury of the Iraq war. The blast from improvised explosive devices can jar the brain, causing bruising or permanent damage. Concussions can have huge health effects including slowed thinking, headaches, memory loss, sleep disturbance, attention and concentration deficits, and irritability.

Easing the Transition to the VA
Senator Obama passed an amendment that became law requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to report to Congress on the delayed development of an electronic medical records system compatible with the VA's electronic medical records system. DOD's delay in developing such a system has created obstacles for service members transitioning into the VA health care system.

In September 2006, Senator Obama introduced the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act (S. 3988) which would help veterans transition from the DOD health system to the VA system by extending the window in which new veterans can get mental health care from two years to five years. The Lane Evans bill also would improve transition services for members of the National Guard and Reserves. /

Progressive enough for you?
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DeepModem Mom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-28-06 03:47 AM
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Dems Will Win Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-28-06 11:09 AM
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2. We should compile a list of this info so people can see it quickly
What he introduced, what passed etc. Links to the bills and speeches...
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illinoisprogressive Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-28-06 09:59 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Why keep it hidden here???
I have thought of it going on the front page so people can know what he has done.
Especially those who are not sure of him and can see he does get things done.
How can we do this?????
And, thanks for the suggestion Dems will win
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Dems Will Win Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-29-06 11:40 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. I always post my Jesus H. Obama threads both here and in GD...
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jefferson_dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-29-06 12:55 PM
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5. Great! Thanks for posting!
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