Thursday, December 02, 2010

New Report: 32,861 New Mexicans in Danger of Losing Unemployment Benefits

Multitudes of out-of-work Americans, including New Mexicans, are in danger of losing their already meagre unemployment benefits thanks to the craven political tactics of Republicans in Congress. Working every minute and with all its might to preserve the Bush tax cuts for our wealthiest citizens, the GOP is saying publicly that they will stop every single piece of legislation -- including the extension of unemployment benefits -- until they get their way.

It should be clear to everyone by now that the GOP has two goals and two goals only -- to protect moneyed interests and stop Obama and the Democrats from passing anything that can be considered a "victory" of any sort. In other words, they are playing with the economic survival of American workers and families in order to satisfy their greedy donors and their own selfish political ambitions. They are essentially attempting to blackmail Democrats -- and the nation -- by refusing to deal with our pressing problems until they force us to protect the tax status of the rich, no matter the cost. Has anyone ever witnessed a modern political party being as devoid of honor and compassion as the Republicans in Congress are right now?

Pump Up the Fierce
What we need now from the President and our Dem members of Congress is a very public, repetitive and passionate response to Republican obstructionism. We need to see them bring the fight to TV and print media hour by hour, day by day, until all Americans can see just how craven and venal the GOP is behaving in the face of widespread economic suffering. Meek statements about supporting an extension are not enough -- we need to see some righteous anger to match the righteous anger that is roiling out beyond the Beltway bubble as middle class families, workers, seniors and the jobless feel increasingly abandoned in favor of political gamesmanship by those who are supposed to represent them.

Hey President Obama, there's a bully pulpit there awaiting your use in marshaling the forces of the nation to call a spade a spade and shame the Republicans into backing down. Hey Senators and Representatives -- get out there in the mainstream media and show some gumption, some guts, some balls in fighting for what's right for ordinary Americans. Enough is enough. If you don't, I don't see how we can get anywhere on the pressing problems we face -- or how the Democrats will be in any position to win elections in 2012. It's that bad.

The Facts on Unemployment
In the meantime, the White House Council of Economic Advisors has released new data that demonstrate clearly that a failure by Congress to act on extending unemployment benefits will have stark consequences for New Mexico residents and others nationwide.

Over the course of the next year, nearly seven million workers across the country -- including 32,861 in New Mexico -- will lose the temporary support that helps them keep food on the table and make ends meet while they search for a job if Congress fails to act.

“Extending this support to those hardest hit by this crisis is not only the right thing to do, it's the right economic policy,” said CEA Chairman Austan Goolsbee in a statement released today. “Letting millions more Americans fall into hardship will hurt our economy at this critical point in our recovery and immediately undermine consumer spending.”

Without extended benefits, New Mexico would have had 3,083 fewer jobs as of September 2010, and failure to act to extend benefits again could cost the state 2,899 jobs by the end of next year.

Obviously, benefits for the jobless are particularly important during the holiday season. In addition to providing support for families when they need it most, the positive effects of the program on the economy are likely to be greater since American families tend to spend more during the holiday season. In December alone, two million Americans will lose their coverage if Congress fails to act, the report finds.

To view the full report, including more state-by-state numbers, click HERE (pdf).

December 2, 2010 at 02:48 PM in Children and Families, Economy, Populism, Jobs, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Administration, Republican Party, Right Wing | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Guest Blog: Urge Action on the Obama Tax Cuts

This is a guest blog by Jim Hannan, a long-time progressive grassroots activist who lives in Santa Fe.

With six weeks left before the mid-term elections, it’s time for the Democrats to seize the day and pass tax relief for all American taxpayers. This means that our congressional delegation, all Democrats, should work hard to make sure that the Obama tax cuts are voted on in the next two weeks.

President Obama has proposed tax cuts for all single taxpayers making $200,000 per year or less and families making less than $250,000. This is following up on his campaign pledge to not raise taxes for this group of taxpayers, 98% of all taxpayers. Tax rates for incomes over these two amounts will revert to the Clinton era rates, going from the current 35% to 39.6%. However, high income taxpayers (2% of taxpayers) will still get a sizeable tax cut on the first $200,000 or $250,000 of income.

It is imperative that the Democrats act now on this tax cut. It is expected that the Democrats will lose both Senate and House seats in six weeks. If this happens, the Reppublicans will claim a mandate to extend the Bush tax cuts in their entirety. The high end tax cut will cost all of us $700 billion over ten years.

Some progressives may be taking the position to just let the Bush tax cuts expire. This will not happen. A new tax bill will be passed either in the lame duck session or in January. If the Bush tax cuts expire, withholding will increase on January 1st, and everyone’s paycheck will go down. The pressure will then be intense to pass a tax cut bill, and it will not be the Obama plan.

Take Action Now
Please contact our House members and Senators. Tell them to vote now, within the next two weeks, on the Obama tax cuts. And tell Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall to support a Senate tax bill under the reconciliation rules. This will allow the Democrats to pass a new tax bill with 50 votes, and not allow the Republicans to filibuster. The Republicans used exactly the same process in 2001 to pass the Bush tax cuts.

This is a guest blog by Jim Hannan. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left hand corner of the page.

September 14, 2010 at 10:38 PM in Economy, Populism, Guest Blogger, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Administration, Taxes | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Egolf and Wirth Fight to Defend Energy Programs Against Federal Bureaucratic Overreach

State Representative Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe-47) and State Senator Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe-25), are urging Congress to overturn a directive from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) that threatens to undermine residential renewable energy programs. Egolf and Wirth are asking New Mexico’s delegation to Congress to join them in opposing what they are calling "a vast bureaucratic overreach into renewable energy programs and states’ rights."

In a letter addressing New Mexico’s U.S. Congressional Delegation, Rep. Egolf and Senator Wirth write, “New Mexico, like many other states, has enacted legislation designed to help homeowners finance the costs of installing solar or other sustainable energy systems. We were the authors of the two new laws, House Bill 572 and Senate Bill 647, in the 2009 session of the New Mexico Legislature. These programs have multiple benefits: homeowners can save money on utility bills and increase the value of their homes; designers and installers of sustainable energy systems gain more business; and we all benefit from a decreased dependence on fossil fuels.”

You've Got To Be Kidding Me
Earlier this month the FHFA claimed that these programs pose an unspecified threat to the financial health of the mortgage banking industry. Rep. Egolf and Senator Wirth call this an overreach in areas that are traditionally the purview of the states: property taxes and energy delivery. Both say that by throwing up barriers for Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) funding, the FHFA has infringed on important areas of states’ rights to self-govern and has extinguished an opportunity to create jobs and improve the quality and health of our natural environment.

“New Mexico’s PACE programs are some of the best ways to get New Mexicans back to work, and I am extremely disappointed that Washington bureaucrats have slowed down our effort to create jobs here in New Mexico," Egolf said in a statement released today. "The carpenters, electricians, plumbers and solar installers who would get work under PACE programs can’t wait any longer. It is time for Washington to get out of the way and let us do what we think is best for our local economy.”

Representatives Antonio Lujan (D-Doña Ana-35), Mimi Stewart (D-Bernalillo-21), Antonio Maestas (D-Bernalillo-16), Gail Chasey (D-Bernalillo-18), Eleanor Chavez (D-Bernalillo-13), and Nathan Cote (D-Doña Ana, Otero-53) are joined by Senators Dede Feldman (D-Bernalillo-13), Steven Fischmann (D-Doña Anna & Sierra-37), and Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Bernalillo-12) in urging U.S. lawmakers to reverse the FHFA’s decision in order to save opportunities to expand renewable energy and promote local economic development.

If you'd like to join these legislators in urging our members of Congress to oppose the new FHFA directive that threatens PACE funding in New Mexico, click for contact info:

July 22, 2010 at 12:55 PM in Energy, Environment, Finance, Investments, NM Congressional Delegation, NM Legislature 2009, Regulation | Permalink | Comments (7)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bill To Name Dept. of Interior Building After Former Secretary Stewart Udall Advances In U.S. House

A bill sponsored by Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) to name the building that houses the Interior Department in Washington, D.C. after the late Stewart Udall cleared its first hurdle in the House of Representatives today. H.R. 5128 was unanimously approved by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Download the bill.

Rep. Heinrich, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, introduced H.R.5128 on Earth Day last week to honor Secretary Udall’s legacy. The bill, which awaits a full vote in the House, would rename the Department of the Interior Building the "Stewart Lee Udall Department of the Interior Building.”

“There is no question that Secretary Udall’s immeasurable impact on our nation will continue to be felt by Americans through the magnificent National Parks and public lands that he dedicated his life to preserving,” said Rep. Heinrich.

“The fact that this bill is moving forward so quickly indicates that there is strong support in Congress for honoring Secretary Udall’s legacy,” said Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) who introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

There are currently 28 cosponsors of H.R.5128. Seven colleagues from the New Mexico and Arizona House delegations were the original cosponsors of the bill including: Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM-3), Rep. Harry Teague (NM-2), Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-8), Rep. Raúl Grijalva (AZ-7), Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-1), Rep. Harry Mitchell (AZ-5), and Rep. Ed Pastor (AZ-4).

Stewart Udall, the father of U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), was the U.S. Interior Secretary from 1961 to 1969, serving in the cabinets of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. He also served in the U.S. Congress from 1955 to 1961. Stewart Udall died last month.

April 29, 2010 at 12:31 PM in History, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

NM Congressional Delegation Celebrates Earth Day by Honoring Stewart Udall

You might want to watch Earth Days, part of the PBS American Experience series, which includes an extensive interview with the late Stewart Udall.

Stewart-udall Members of the New Mexico congressional delegation today celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day by introducing legislation to name the U.S. Department of Interior building after the late Stewart Udall, according to a statement released by the delegation.

Stewart Udall, the father of U.S. Senator Tom Udall, was the Interior Secretary from 1961 to 1969, serving in the cabinets of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Stewart Udall died last month.

U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman introduced legislation in the Senate that would name the building that houses the Interior Department in Washington, D.C. the “Stewart Lee Udall Department of the Interior Building.” U.S. Representative Martin Heinrich led the effort in the House to honor Stewart Udall’s legacy, with U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján and Harry Teague co-sponsoring the measure.

“Stewart Udall was instrumental in the passage of virtually all of our nation’s landmark environmental laws,” said Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “In the 161-year history of the Department of the Interior, there have been many exceptional individuals who have served as Secretary of the Interior. Stewart Udall certainly ranks among the best of them. In recognition of his lifetime of work pursuing the common good and protecting our nation’s public lands and waters, and in particular his achievements as Secretary of the Interior, I am proud to have introduced this legislation in the Senate.”

“Stewart Udall’s public service and leadership were a true inspiration to me personally and I was honored to know him,” said Heinrich. “There is no question that Secretary Udall’s immeasurable impact on our nation will continue to be felt by Americans through the magnificent National Parks and public lands that he dedicated his life to preserving. Our nation is deeply indebted to him and today, on Earth Day, it is appropriate that we name the federal building, which contributes so significantly to his lifetime mission, the Stewart Lee Udall Department of the Interior Building.”

“Throughout the country, from our pristine wilderness to clean rivers, we can see Secretary Udall’s influence,” said Luján. “It would be fitting for the United States Department of Interior building to carry his name and legacy as well.”

“Secretary Stewart Udall’s contributions to the people of our state will live on as we continue his work to protect our public lands and enjoy the benefits of our wilderness areas and National Parks,” said Teague. “It is only appropriate that his memory be immortalized on a Department of Interior building, the agency that is charged with the care of some of his greatest accomplishments.”

Cosponsors in the Senate are Mark Udall (D-CO), John McCain (R-AZ) and Harry Reid (D-NV). Cosponsors in the House are Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-8), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-7), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-1), Harry Mitchell (AZ-5), and Ed Pastor (AZ-4).

April 22, 2010 at 12:30 PM in Environment, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, March 22, 2010

NM Democrats Comment on Passage of Health Insurance Reform

A number of Democratic officeholders have issued statements commenting on the passage of historic health insurance reform legislation by the U.S. House yesterday -- H.R. 3590 – Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and H.R. 4872 – Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010. See below the fold to read them.

U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman:

“For years our health care system has been broken. New Mexicans have been forced to pay increasingly higher insurance premiums -- in some cases only to learn that their coverage is very limited or that they have been dropped for a preexisting condition,” Bingaman said. “Hundreds of thousands more New Mexicans have had to live without insurance, putting their health and their families’ financial stability at risk.”

“Congress has been talking about fixing our health care system for decades. Indeed, we have made adjustments around the edges, but they haven’t fixed the problem. Premiums have continued to rise, health care costs have spiraled out of control and quality care has suffered,” Bingaman said.

“The legislation Congress has passed and can now send to the president contains the help New Mexico families need,” Bingaman said. “It will help contain rising costs, improve the quality of care, expand coverage to the uninsured and do so in a way that significantly reduces our national deficit. This is a very good bill for New Mexico and the country.”

Note: As the only Democrat serving on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, Bingaman played a unique role in crafting the legislation with an eye toward meeting New Mexico’s needs. When the bills are enacted, Bingaman estimates that as many as 96 percent of New Mexicans will have health insurance.

U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM):

“As the state with the second-highest uninsured rate in the nation, New Mexico can’t afford the status quo when it comes to health care. Too many New Mexicans today are struggling to find insurance, or are struggling to afford or to hold onto the insurance they already have. The legislation approved by the House would change that. With this vote, we move another important step closer to giving every New Mexican -- and every American -- access to quality, affordable health care.

“This legislation won’t solve all of the problems we face as a nation regarding health care. But it will help us meet many of the most acute challenges that we face today. It will extend coverage to 32 million Americans; close the prescription-drug doughnut hole for seniors; prevent insurance companies from discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and gender; and reduce the deficit by $143 billion in the first 10 years.

“The bottom line is this legislation puts American families and small business owners -- not insurance companies -- back in control of their own health care. As we begin our work this week, it would serve all of us well to remember this: Americans have waited generations for health care reform. They are ready for us to act. I look forward to our work in the Senate this week, and to sending this package to President Obama to sign into law.”

U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich (D, NM-01):

“Today’s vote to reform our broken health insurance system defines who we are as a nation.

“My vote today puts an end to insurers rejecting you because you have a pre-existing condition. My vote today closes the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole. My vote today gives small business owners tax credits so their employee coverage will be more affordable. My vote today reduces the deficit by $1.3 trillion over the next two decades. My vote today holds insurance companies accountable.

“This debate has been long, thoughtful, and emotional. And even though we have seen statistics manipulated, misinformation encouraged, and the very patriotism of our fellow citizens called into question, I am confident that my vote today falls on the right side of history.

“The benefits of reform will be large and immediate for New Mexicans, and our nation will be stronger and healthier because of it.”

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D, NM-03):

“Today, Congress passed historic health insurance reform that will make coverage more affordable and secure for those with insurance, extend coverage for those without insurance, and hold insurance companies accountable,” said Rep. Luján. “Health insurance reform stops insurance companies from denying people for pre-existing conditions. It provides more choice. It lowers costs and reduces our deficit. It stops insurance companies from dropping people who are sick. It helps small businesses by giving them tax credits. It helps seniors by making prescription drugs more affordable. While this legislation does not solve every problem facing our health insurance system, it does make important steps toward reforming our broken health insurance system, and I’m proud that we were able to pass legislation that will put the people of New Mexico ahead of health insurance companies.”

State Rep. Dede Feldman (D, Albuquerque 13):

"The passage of federal health care reform is an historic step forward for families in New Mexico," said Sen. Feldman. "I am proud to stand with the more than 1,000 other state legislators from around our great nation who worked together over the past year to support health care reform. State legislators have long been on the front lines of the battle for accessible, affordable quality health care for their constituents, and the effort of the White House Working Group of State Legislators for Health Care Reform was critical to making this victory for American families possible.”

“Now that federal reform has passed, I intend to work just as hard to make sure that it is implemented effectively in our state, so that quality health care becomes more affordable and more accessible for all of our families.”

“During the session, we passed my Senate Joint Memorial 1, which will set up a Health Care Reform working group to iron out implementation issues, under the leadership of the state Insurance Commissioner. We need to do our own reconciliation -- making sure state insurance regulations square with the new ones in the federal reform, and preparing our high risk pool and Medicaid program to receive federal funds.

“With the second highest percentage of uninsured in the nation, we have lots of opportunities to take advantage of,” said Feldman.

“I particularly want to thank Sen. Jeff Bingaman, whose work on the Senate bill resulted in many unheralded benefits to New Mexico,” said Feldman, ”particularly in addressing our shortage of health care providers and supporting many of the pilot programs here to encourage prevention and primary care, which will bring down costs in the long run.”

March 22, 2010 at 12:10 PM in Healthcare, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Health Care Reform, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bill Would Fast Track Cleanup of Old Uranium Sites, Create Jobs in New Mexico

This week, Congressmen Harry Teague (NM-02), Ben Ray Luján (NM-03) and Martin Heinrich (NM-01) introduced legislation (H.R. 4817) to make all Surface Mine and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) funds eligible for the remediation of old uranium mines and mills. If the bill were to pass, it would make $14.5 million in existing SMCRA funds available for use to clean the 137 uranium sites across the state that need remediation, according to a statement released by the Congressmen.

“Cleaning up the legacy of the uranium mines and mills is something we owe to our land, our people and our water,” said Congressman Harry Teague, who represents all of Cibola county and part of McKinley county where many of the sites in need of remediation are located. “Making these funds available for uranium site remediation would create jobs in areas where people need to be put back to work, and we would be able to do it using existing funds.”

“Accessing SMCRA funds to reclaim abandoned mining and milling sites creates jobs for New Mexico and begins the long process of restoring our lands and making them accessible to future generations,” said Congressman Ben Ray Luján.

“These contaminated uranium mine and mill sites in New Mexico need to be cleaned up,” said Congressman Martin Heinrich. “This action will create clean-up jobs and protect New Mexico’s most important assets—the health of our citizens and our water.”

According to the Department of Interior, a state cannot use certain SMCRA funds for uranium site remediation until the state has certified that all coal remediation has been completed. Congressmen Teague, Luján and Heinrich introduced the legislation to make all SMCRA funds available to uranium sites immediately because uranium clean-up is a bigger need in the state.

March 12, 2010 at 09:06 AM in Environment, Mining, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Uranium | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Reps. Luján, Heinrich, Teague Cosponsor Bill to Strip Anti-Trust Exemption from Health Insurance Industry


Rep. Luján discusses health insurance abuses and anti-trust exemption at rally for Santa Fe Mayor David Coss on Sunday

Great news for consumers: Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM-03), Martin Heinrich (NM-01) and Harry Teague (NM-02) announced that they've cosponsored legislation to repeal the special anti-trust exemption for health insurance companies. A vote is expected on the legislation, H.R. 4626, later today. The measure would end special treatment for the insurance industry that allows them to fix prices, collude with each other and set their own markets without fear of being investigated. New Mexico's House delegation agrees that it's time to force insurance companies to compete under the same rules as every other industry in the United States. Major League Baseball is the only other entity that enjoys broad anti-trust protections.

“For too long health insurance companies have enjoyed an anti-trust exemption that encourages monopolies and prevents competition,” said Rep. Luján in a statement released today. “We must end noncompetitive practices and force insurance companies to compete with each other in the open market, and we can do that through this commonsense bill. It’s time to take on the insurance companies and stand up for the people of New Mexico.”

“It is about time we start cracking down on the insurance companies who for years have gotten away with raising premiums on hard working New Mexicans,” Rep. Teague added. “This bill will crack down on the worst corporate insurance practices and put some of the power back in the hands of the New Mexican families struggling to keep up with rate increases.”

Under the legislation, health insurers will no longer be protected from liability for price fixing, dividing up market territories or bid rigging, a joint statement by Luján and Teague explained. In the last 14 years, there have been 400 mergers among health care insurers so that 95 percent of health insurance markets are “highly concentrated,” which means consumers have little or no choice between insurers. This non-competitive market has led to health insurance premiums having more than doubled in the past decade. The legislation was introduced yesterday by Representatives Tom Perriello (D-VA) and Betsy Markey (D-CO).

February 24, 2010 at 12:12 PM in Business, Healthcare, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Rep. Mimi Stewart Joins Nationwide Effort Calling for Clean Energy Jobs

RepMimiStewartSmall Rep. Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque), is one of more than 1,200 state legislators from across the country calling on the U.S. Senate this week for action on clean energy jobs legislation. Rep. Stewart has sponsored House Joint Memorial 29, which was passed by the House, and requests Congress to adopt clean energy legislation that heightens national energy and economic security, promotes innovative energy development and jobs and addresses the consequences of climate change. Rep. Stewart called on Senator Jeff Bingaman in particular to support pending legislation that will bring jobs and economic opportunity to New Mexico.

"New Mexico is moving forward to grow jobs and increase our energy security, but we also need the federal government to be our partner," said Rep, Stewart in a written statement. "It's time for Congress to act to grow jobs, strengthen national security, and make America a leader again in the global economy."

A letter signed by more than 1,200 legislators was sent to Congress and President Obama this week. Lawmakers from coal states, representing urban and rural economies, from the East Coast, the West Coast, and the plains states, raised one collective voice this week urging swift, decisive action from the United States Senate. Lawmakers say action is necessary for the future of America and the recovery of our economy.

The letter calls on the foresight and innovative spirit of America’s top policymakers, reading: “The United States has never backed down from a challenge of this scale, and we urge you to again place our country at the forefront of innovation and prosperity. We, the undersigned state legislators, call on you to enact comprehensive clean energy jobs and climate legislation that relies on continued close collaboration between state and federal governments. We pledge our support in pursuit of a more prosperous, more secure, and more energy independent America.”

Rep. Stewart says that legislation at the federal level will strengthen nation-leading energy policy reforms made in New Mexico in recent years.

February 4, 2010 at 01:21 PM in Energy, Green Economy, NM Congressional Delegation, NM Legislature 2010, Sen. Jeff Bingaman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

NM Dem Responses to President Obama's State of the Union Speech

SOTU-2

The Democratic Party of New Mexico, as well as all but one of our U.S. Senator and Repesentatives, have released statements in response to President Barack Obama's 70-minute State of the Union address to Congress last night. A compliation of their responses are below the break. I also had an opportunity to speak by phone with Rep. Martin Heinrich and I'll be reporting on the content of that conversation later today.

What did YOU think of the President's speech?

Senator Jeff Bingaman:
Bingaman said President Obama’s State of the Union address laid out an ambitious agenda to bolster the economy in the short and long term -- creating jobs, reining in health care costs and expanding educational opportunities.

Bingaman also applauded the president’s call for the creation of a task force aimed at reducing the nation’s deficit and getting the country back on solid economic ground.

“President Obama laid out a very strong agenda for the Congress. In the coming months, we will focus on strengthening the economy in a way that helps American families educate their children and obtain adequate and affordable health care. We’ll be working to create good jobs, including those in the clean energy sector – an area that shows great promise for New Mexico. And we’ll be adopting practices to reduce the deficit and get us back to the balanced budget we had a decade ago,” Bingaman said.

“I know that New Mexicans continue to struggle in these difficult economic times. In his speech, it was clear to me that the president understands that, as well. That is why I believe this is the right agenda for New Mexico and the country, and I will work hard to help the president enact it.”

Senator Tom Udall:
“Tonight President Obama outlined an aggressive strategy for getting our economy back on a sustainable path for growth. With initiatives like the economic recovery package, President Obama has made strides during his first year in office and our economy is stronger than it was a year ago at this time. But as President Obama rightly acknowledged, Americans are frustrated, and understandably so. They are depending on us to make our economy work again for the middle class.

“That means creating good-paying, stable jobs. It means new incentives to encourage entrepreneurs and support small businesses. It means expanding access to health care and creating the clean energy jobs of the future. And it means making a quality education a right and not a privilege. The plans President Obama outlined tonight will help us build upon this foundation.

“In addition to focusing on our economic recovery, keeping America safe from those who would do us harm remains a top priority – one that was underscored by last month’s Christmas Day bombing attempt. While we still face challenges in this regard, I was pleased to hear President Obama again highlight his commitment to preserving our strong national security while improving our standing around the world.”

Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01):
“Despite the partisanship we’ve seen, President Obama appealed to us as Americans. He made clear that we must continue to support small businesses and provide much needed relief to working families. I am committed to doing all that I can to strengthen our economy, reduce the deficit, and create good jobs in New Mexico.”

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM-03):
“Over the past year, I have traveled across our state and have witnessed first-hand both the great spirit of New Mexicans and the challenges that so many are facing in a difficult economic climate. Tonight, President Obama spoke of this spirit and these challenges. In the days ahead, we have the opportunity to renew our efforts to stand up for families, our communities, and our nation.

“Over the past year in Congress, we have made progress towards reversing eight years of putting banks and corporations ahead of people and have begun putting our families first. We’ve passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help get our economy back on track and to make broad investments in our future. We’ve given 95% of working families a tax cut and also cut taxes for small businesses, homebuyers, college students, and parents. We’ve taken on credit card companies by enacting a Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights to protect New Mexican families from abusive and predatory credit practices. And in the House, we’ve passed reforms to protect individuals from unfair insurance company practices such as denials based on pre-existing conditions and removed the anti-trust exemptions that insurance companies have enjoyed for too long. We’ve also passed legislation to create clean energy jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and save billions of dollars to consumers over the long term.

“In the year ahead, I hope to join with the President and my colleagues on the many important issues that remain to be addressed. We must continue to help create more American jobs by enacting the Jobs for Main Street Act that we passed in the House at the end of last year. We must ensure that credit will be extended to small businesses and entrepreneurs to create jobs, put people back to work and rebuild our economy. We must get to the President the House’s plan to finally hold Wall Street accountable for engaging in the risky financial practices that jeopardized so many American families and lead to the bailout of the ‘too big to fail’ banks. We must make legislation I cosponsored, PAYGO, or pay-as-you-go, into law to bring needed fiscal responsibility to Washington.

“From the conversations I’ve had across the 3rd District—with school teachers and doctors, seniors and those on active duty and our veterans—I know we share a commitment to renewing the promise of the American economy. By providing the necessary investments we need to create new jobs and move our economy forward, we can empower New Mexico to recover from these difficult times. I am encouraged by the President’s vision tonight and I look forward to working with him, my colleagues, and fellow New Mexicans to address the challenges that lie ahead.”

Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairman Javier Gonzales:
"Tonight, New Mexicans looked to the President to lay out a bold vision to help our families, create jobs and end the partisanship that has dominated Washington - and the President has succeeded on each count.

"The President's plans include supporting New Mexicans by reducing costs of higher education, tax breaks for small businesses and supporting community banks that will help working families. And while we still have a long road ahead of us, we have made significant progress in the last year. Under President Obama's leadership, great measures have been taken to strengthen our economy. We passed the Lilly Ledbetter Act, guaranteeing women equal pay for equal work. We have expanded health care to an additional four million children under the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). We passed the Recovery Act, which saved and created millions of jobs across the country and right here in New Mexico. And we have made tremendous progress towards passing meaningful health insurance reform - a fight that is not finished.

“The President offered a hand of bipartisanship to Congressional Republicans who, we hoped after a year of obstruction and hyper-partisanship, would have accepted it and pledged to work with Democrats to help turn our economy around. Unfortunately, the Republican Party’s response echoed the same old divisive attacks and offered no real vision or solutions.

“The President passionately told us tonight he “won’t quit” on the American people or the challenges we face. Inheriting the worst economy since the Great Depression, and one that was losing between 700,000 and 800,000 jobs a month, he reminded us that change is not only difficult but sometimes it doesn’t come quickly enough.”

"I'm confident that under the President's leadership, we will continue to move our economy forward and secure a better future for New Mexico families," said Gonzales.

January 28, 2010 at 10:33 AM in NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Administration, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, January 22, 2010

NM House Delegation Urges Speaker Pelosi To Pass Indian Land Settlement Legislation

In a joint statement released yesterday, Reps. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Harry Teague (NM-02) and Ben Ray Luján (NM-03) announced that they sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging her to consider legislation to finalize the Cobell v. Salazar settlement, a long-running class-action lawsuit regarding the federal government's trust management and accounting of over 300,000 individual American Indian trust accounts. The Cobell suit alleged that the federal government, in its role as trustee, failed to pay billions of dollars in royalties to Indians who own land or mineral rights. 

On December 8, 2009, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a settlement in the case that would pay $1.4 billion to Individual Indian Money account holders and set up a $2 billion fund to buy back fractionated land for Indian tribes.

“This settlement begins to bring justice to Native families that have long been shortchanged, and invests in the future of Indian Country by returning fractionated land to tribal control and creating an Indian Education scholarship fund,” said Rep. Martin Heinrich. “I commend President Obama and Secretary Salazar for upholding our nation’s trust responsibility to Native Americans and I urge Congress to act quickly to finalize this settlement.”

“The mismanagement of these funds has long been a dark cloud in our nation’s history. I applaud the Department of Interior for settling this case. Now, it is Congress’ turn to act so that the many members of tribes and pueblos across the nation can begin to receive the payments that they were promised and are entitled to. I urge congressional leadership to make this issue a top priority,” said Congressman Harry Teague, whose congressional district includes the Pueblos of Acoma, Isleta, Laguna, and Zuni, as well as the Mescalero Apache Tribe, and the Navajo Nation Chapters of Alamo, Ramah, and To’hajiilee.”

“The Cobell v. Salazar settlement agreement will correct a long-standing injustice against the Indian people,” said Rep. Ben Ray Luján. “Restoring mineral rights to their rightful owners and correcting past payments will fulfill a federal responsibility and help many who have borne this injustice for too long.”

For the settlement to become final, Congress must pass legislation to approve it.

Click for the full text of the letter (pdf).

January 22, 2010 at 09:05 AM in Land Issues, Legal Issues, Native Americans, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Environment New Mexico Issues Scorecard, Applauds New Mexico’s Congressional Champs

Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall and Representatives Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Congressional delegation voted for the environment 100% of the time in the past year and a half, according to the annual Congressional Scorecard Congressional Scorecard (pdf) on major environmental issues released today by Environment New Mexico.

Environment New Mexico is releasing its annual scorecard as part of its national campaign to pass legislation in Congress to repower our economy with clean energy and cut global warming pollution.

“Both of our senators, as well as two of our representatives, have consistently voted to put the environment ahead of special interests. In the past year and a half they successfully fought to invest an unprecedented $80 billion in clean energy and to protect more than two million acres of wilderness,” said Environment New Mexico Environment Associate Kim McMurray in a statement released today. “These scorecards are an important tool to educate the public about the voting records of their elected officials and to honor public officials like this that have a record of putting the environment first.”

Environment New Mexico scored 7 votes in the Senate ranging from an economic recovery bill that allocates $80 billion in clean energy investment to a bill to cap global warming pollution to protecting our coasts from offshore drilling. They scored 15 votes in the House ranging from a bill to repower America with clean energy and begin to reduce global warming pollution to protecting the Wild Sky Wilderness area in Washington state to investing $80 billion in clean energy to recover our economy to protecting the Great Lakes.

“We applaud our Congressional delegation for being heroes for the environment. New Mexico has only one member of Congress who did not receive a 100 percent score for consistently voting to protect the environment,” said McMurray.

With the help of our delegation the 111th Congress is making progress in several key areas. Already, the House of Representatives has passed a bill to begin to repower the country with clean energy and limit global warming pollution.

Senator Bingaman’s position as chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee puts him in a unique position to champion environmental issues on the national level. "I am fortunate to chair the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee," Bingaman said. "In that capacity, I am able to help protect our nation's special places and better position the country to shift to cleaner energy. We've made some progress already on both those fronts during this Congress and I look forward to continuing to advance these issues in 2010," Bingaman continued.

Environment New Mexico is a nonprofit, nonpartisan environmental advocacy organization.

December 30, 2009 at 12:54 PM in Energy, Environment, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink | Comments (4)