This month marks one year since I was sworn in as the first woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts in 25 years. I wanted to take this opportunity to provide an update on what we have accomplished in that short time, illustrate some of the ways my office can be of assistance to you and examine some of the historic challenges we now face.
As we near the end of 2008, our nation finds itself in the midst of our worst economic crisis in decades. Families across the country are worried about the security of their jobs, homes and savings. The financial recovery plan Congress passed last month was designed to stabilize our financial institutions in the face of a very serious crisis in the credit markets. While passage of this measure was a step in the right direction, much work remains to ensure its effectiveness.
In the coming months, I will be closely monitoring the implementation of the recovery plan, and will be working with my colleagues to tighten regulation of mortgage lending, increase disclosure, establish federal oversight of unregulated financial markets, and continue to seek ways to assist struggling homeowners. The last eight years have demonstrated that it is not a question of big government or small government but effective government.
In addition to the ongoing financial crisis, we continue to face challenges around health care, energy, and on a variety of international fronts. I was proud that the first vote I cast after being sworn in one year ago was to override the president’s veto of a bill to give more children access to health insurance. While we fell short of the two-thirds necessary to override the president’s veto, I remain determined to help make broad health care coverage for children a reality in the next Congress.
While the high cost of oil has recently moderated, gasoline and home heating oil continue to be a principal concern for families throughout our state. I supported historic energy legislation which provides resources to alternative and renewable energy companies in the 5th District and across the country that are developing the technology and products to limit our dependence on foreign oil and grow green jobs. I have also strongly advocated for additional home heating assistance for low-income families who simply are not able to heat their homes this winter. An additional $124 million will be made available to Massachusetts this coming year.
Growing up on military bases across the country and world, I understand that there is a long-term cost of war and if brave men and women are willing to put their lives on the line to fight for us, providing them with the care they need when they return is the least we can do. That is why I strongly supported a G.I. Bill of Rights for the 21st century, which provides a free college education to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the single largest increase in funding for veterans’ health care and benefits in history.
Knowing that thousands of veterans will soon be taking advantage of the new GI Bill, I introduced bipartisan legislation that will help college counselors recognize PTSD and other mental health wounds which may be present among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. And, fulfilling a commitment I made last year, one of the members of my district staff is dedicated to assisting veterans. In addition to setting up the 5th District Veterans Advisory Committee, we have worked to ensure that veterans receive the medals or honors, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in veterans’ benefits, that they earned and were never awarded.
Ensuring that my office is a resource to people who need help working with federal agencies is one of my highest priorities. I have also made accessibility to the people I represent the hallmark of my office, setting up my Congress On Your Corner program in dozens of communities throughout the district at local supermarkets and other venues. I spend almost every day that Congress is not in session visiting with the residents and communities that make up our remarkable district. Your thoughts and opinions are invaluable to me as I represent our district, and I want to hear from you as often as possible.
While I am proud of the work we have done, we have not yet achieved everything we set out to do. With your input and partnership, I am committed to continuing to use the great privilege of this office to advance the priorities of the people I represent in the years to come.