Friday, January 19, 2007

Thanks for the First 100 Hours, Democrats in Congress – Now’s the Time to Think and Act Big

Before the November elections, the U.S. House of Representatives' Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi pledged that if Democrats won control of the House, they would, in the first 100 hours of business in the new session, make dramatic changes that would set a new direction for the country.
Well, the Democrats won. And they’ve been working frantically to keep Pelosi’s promise: The House pushed forward legislation that increased minimum wage and cut the interest rates on student loans. It’s all been very dramatic. But the Democrats can’t stop working when these now infamous 100 hours are up. They need to set an agenda that looks at the next 100 hours and beyond.
The House Democrats got their way. The federal minimum wage will increase to $7.25 an hour over the next two years. This increase is enough to keep a family of three just above the federal poverty line. Cutting student loan interest rates will ensure that Americans finishing college won’t be buried under a mountain of debt. According to a recent report, the average student loan debt rose to $14,379, and the number of individuals who owe more than $20,000 in student loans is rapidly increasing.
These pieces of legislation, along with a proposed bill that would require companies to negotiate for lower prescription drug companies, show that, at least on the surface, the House cares about the needs of the average American. To move beyond the surface however, the House has to think -- and act -- big.
Healthcare coverage is getting more expensive and so are employer-provided insurance premiums. The number of Americans -- employed and unemployed -- without healthcare coverage is growing. Too many Americans, children and the elderly among them, simply can’t afford the medical help they need. If the House really wants to show this country that it is concerned about the needs of the American people, enacting a much needed universal healthcare plan is the way to go.
It’s this kind of “big” thinking that would push America in the direction it needs to go. Federal legislation that keeps the president’s earlier promise to rebuild the Gulf Coast would also demonstrate just how sincere the members of the House are. In New Orleans, for example, bureaucracy and ineptness are keeping many from returning home and rebuilding.
Families that survived Hurricane Katrina should not have to suffer at the hands of the federal government.
This new, motivated House of Representatives can play a role in alleviating that suffering.
As concerned citizens, we cannot let our elected officials rest once the curtain has closed on the current drama. Write your legislator and request that they push for a universal healthcare and fight for the rights of the Gulf Coast residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Your vote got them into office and gave them control of the House. And your voice can get them to act on behalf of those in need.

Judge Greg Mathis is national vice president of Rainbow PUSH and a national board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. By: Judge Greg Mathis, Special to

No comments: