Senate Democrats

Groups Across the Country Support the Advancing America’s Priorities Act, But Republicans Say No

The legislation that makes up the Advancing America’s Priorities Act has garnered support from groups across the country. Health care groups, mental health advocates, trade associations, state and local governments, and many others strongly support the legislation that has been held up by Republican obstruction and have urged passage of this bill. This collection of bills would improve the treatment of diseases and medical conditions, boost conservation efforts, improve economic development programs, and improve America’s ability to respond to disasters. But despite the broad support for this bill across the country, and the wide bipartisan support this legislation has received in the House and in Senate Committees, Senate Republicans continue to say no. It’s time for Republicans to stop standing in the way and work with Democrats on this important bill.

Support for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act

‘Unite 2 Fight Paralysis’ Says Provision Would Advance Initiative to Nearly Eliminate Paralysis and Improve Quality of Life for Paralysis Survivors. “On behalf of all of us at Unite 2 Fight Paralysis (http://www.u2fp.org), I would like to thank you for your work to sponsor and advance the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act (S.1183).  We cannot begin to tell you what your support means to paralysis survivors across the nation.  As you know, this important bill will, for the first time, advance legislation specific to paralysis, impacting the lives of the nearly 2 million survivors in the United States.  It holds great promise for advancing initiatives to virtually eliminate permanent paralysis and improve the quality of life for our paralyzed citizens and their families.  Several key spinal cord injury researchers from across the country delivered a briefing to Congress on April 15, 2008.  During the briefing, entitled ‘Rapid Advancements in Paralysis Research’, we heard how close curative therapies are on the horizon, merely slowed down by lack of funding and key infrastructures in place to rapidly move them from bench to bedside.”  [Unite 2 Fight Paralysis letter to Senator Tom Harkin, 7/22/08]

Support for the Stroke Treatment and Ongoing Prevention Act (STOP Stroke Act) 

American Heart Association Supports Act; Says Provision Would Take Steps to Increase Quality of Stroke Care.  “On behalf of the American Heart Association, our American Stroke Association division, and our more than 22 million volunteers and supporters nationwide, we strongly urge you to support the Stroke Treatment and Ongoing Prevention Act (STOP Stroke) when it is considered by the Senate later this week as part of The Advancing America’s Priorities Act.  As our nation’s No. 3 killer and a leading cause of long-term disability, stroke takes an enormous human and financial toll on stroke survivors, their families and our country as a whole….The STOP Stroke Act will help to address some of the key barriers to quality stroke care by raising awareness among the public about the need to treat stroke as a medical emergency and authorizing resources to states or regions to develop stroke systems or care to improve the quality of care that stroke patients receive.”  [American Heart Association Letter to Sen. Ted Kennedy, 7/23/08]

Support for the ALS (Lou Gherig’s Disease) Registry Act 

‘Public Citizen’ Stresses Importance of Creating a Database to Find a Cure for Lou Gehrig ’s Disease. “You will soon face the choice of voting for Senate civility or voting against, for example, creating a centralized database to help find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease. We strongly encourage you to choose Senate civility and support cloture and passage of the Advancing America’s Priorities Act.” [Public Citizen’s letter to US Senators, 07/25/08]

Support for the Melanie Blocker-Stokes MOTHERS Act and Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act

American Psychiatric Association Supports Act; Says Act Would Ensure Adequate and Timely Treatment of Mothers at Risk for Postpartum Depression.  “On behalf of the 148,000 members and affiliates of the American Psychological Association (APA), I am writing to urge your support of the Melanie Blocker-Stokes MOTHERS Act, which is included in the Advancing America’s Priorities Act (S. 3297). This critical legislation takes an important step forward in education, research, screening and treatment of postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.   Postpartum depression (PPD) is a serious mental health problem that can have significant consequences for both the new mother and family.  For mothers, PPD can affect their ability to function in everyday life and increases their risk for anxiety, cognitive impairment, guilt, fear, sleep disturbance, and thoughts of hurting oneself and one’s child… The Melanie Blocker-Stokes MOTHERS Act would ensure that women at-risk for or with PPD are provided adequate and timely prevention and mental health services.”  [American Psychiatric Association letter to Senator Harry Reid, 7/23/08] 

The Suicide Prevention Action Network Supports Act; Says Act Would Give Attention to Commonly Undiagnosed Postpartum Depression and Disproportionately High Prison Suicide Rates.  “SPAN USA supports the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act because it will provide immediate attention and resources towards one of the most commonly undiagnosed conditions after childbirth, postpartum depression. The bill prioritizes postpartum depression and psychosis by expanding research and establishing grants…. SPAN USA also supports the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act of 2008. More than 400 inmates die by suicide each year. It is estimated that the rate of suicide in prisons and jails is approximately five times greater than for those not in prison or jail. The bill includes important provisions to provide for the development of specialized receiving centers to assess individuals in the custody of law enforcement personnel for suicide risk. It also includes a provision for the Bureau of Justice Affairs to develop models for training law enforcement personnel in procedures to identify and respond appropriately to incidents in which the unique needs of individuals with mental illnesses are involved, including suicide prevention.” [Suicide Prevention Action Network Letter to Sen. Harry Reid, 7/23/08] 

The Arizona Council of Human Service Providers Says Act Will Provide Much Needed Assistance to Mothers, Juveniles. “On behalf of the 75 member agencies of the Arizona Council of Human Service Providers, I am writing to offer our strong support of the Advancing America’s Priorities Act. …The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act (S.1375) would benefit women and families affected by postpartum depression.  Our agencies that provide mental health services understand the devastating impact of untreated postpartum depression.  S. 1375 will fund education and outreach activities to help providers identify women suffering from postpartum depression, and will provide much needed funding to help assure access to needed care.” [Arizona Council of Human Service Providers Letter to Sen. Harry Reid, 7/22/08]

Arizona Council of Human Service Providers Supports Provisions for Mentally Ill and Juvenile Offenders.  “The Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act (S 2304/HR 3992) is designed to facilitate collaboration among the criminal justice, juvenile justice, mental health and addiction treatment systems and to improve access to effective treatment for people with mental illnesses, including co-occurring substance use disorders, involved with the justice system.  We need more treatment for children with behavioral health problems in order to keep them out of the juvenile justice system and in facilities where they can be treated and not drawn further in to criminal behaviors.  With over 70% of inmates in Arizona jail and prisons reporting substance use, we need more funds for treatment.”  [Arizona Council of Human Service Providers Letter to Sen. Harry Reid, 7/22/08]  

Mental Health America Says MOTHERS Act would Provide Necessary Grants and Effective Community Assistance to Women Dealing With Postpartum Depression. “The ‘Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act’ would enable communities to    more effectively assist new mothers experiencing postpartum depression through grants that would promote critical treatment opportunities for new moms and result in safer and healthier postpartum periods for both mothers and children.  The public education campaign and increased research on postpartum depression called for by this legislation would raise awareness and understanding, as well as reveal optimal prevention and treatment strategies for this serious condition.” [Mental Health America’s letter to Senator Reid, 07/23/08]

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Supports the MOTHERS Act. “This bill would advance two bills important to women’s health: S. 1375, the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act, and S. 1810 the Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act. The MOTHERS Act would bring postpartum depression out of the shadows through a national campaign to educate the public about this condition, and develop better ways to detect and treat the one in ten women with postpartum depression, so new moms can get the care they need. The Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act would help families who receive a diagnosis of Down Syndrome or other serious conditions.” [American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ letter to Senator Reid, 07/28/08]

‘Postpartum Support International’ Supports the MOTHERS Act. “‘Advance American Priorities Act’ is a most appropriate title for the bill’s new legislative package as The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act represents a long overdue response to the public health crisis that is postpartum mood disorders.  Americans have indicated their support of this legislation for years, more recently resulting in the passage of its predecessor, The Melanie Blocker Stokes Research and Care Act last October in the House of Representatives by a nearly unanimous bipartisan vote.” [Postpartum Support International’s letter to Senator Reid, 07/23/08]

Postpartum Support International Recognizes’ Depression as a Critical Issue that can be Addressed by the MOTHERS Act. “For over ten years our elected officials have sought to legislate a multi faceted response to this pro-social issueconsisting of more research, education for healthcare providers and funding for programs and services which treat these disorders. Americans do indeed consider this a critical issue as evidenced by the enormous bipartisan support which propelled the passage of its predecessor.  We hope the Senate will respond to this sound national confirmation of need by its timely passage of the legislation this week.” [Postpartum Support International’s letter to Senator Reid, 07/23/08]

Mental Health America Supports the Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act of 2008. “We are concerned as well that Congress reauthorize the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTRCRA) this year to continue and accelerate efforts to end the criminalization of people with mental illness.  S. 2304, included in ‘Advancing America’s Priorities Act.’ would reauthorize and increase authorized funding levels for collaborative adult and juvenile program grants as well as for mental health courts, and would establish new grant authority to assist law enforcement in responding appropriately to individuals with mental illnesses.” [Mental Health America’s letter to Senator Reid, 07/23/08]

Support for the Disaster Mitigation Grant Program 

Elected County Officials and Emergency Managers Say Provision for Disaster Mitigation Saves Money and Benefits Communities.  “We are writing on behalf of the Nation’s elected county officials and the city and county emergency managers to support the reauthorization of the FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program (PDM)… Reauthorization of PDM has strong support in the Congress and in the communities we serve.     We were very pleased to see the findings of the Congressionally requested report by the Multi-Hazard Mitigation Council released in December of 2005 which stated that mitigation saves society an average of four dollars for every dollar spent.

The study further stated that mitigation results in significant net benefits to society as a whole—to individuals, to states and to communities—in terms of future reduced resource losses and savings to the Federal Treasury.” [National Association of Counties and International Association of Emergency Managers letter to Sens. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, 7/24/08]

National Emergency Management Association Says Provision Prevents Damage, Saves Money, and Saves Lives.  “As the President of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), I am writing on behalf of the emergency management directors from the states, the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.  NEMA supports your efforts to reauthorize the Pre-disaster Mitigation Program in Section 6302 of S. 3297.  As you are aware, the Pre-disaster Mitigation Grant Program provides valuable grants to state and local governments to mitigate against disasters before they occur.  The program helps to reduce the costs of disasters to taxpayers, reduce the loss of life in disasters, and protects property from damage. The reauthorization of the Pre-disaster Mitigation Program is critical, as the current program is due to sunset on September 30, 2008.  A strong all-hazards authorization amount in your bill means that all states would be able to take advantage of the findings by the Multi-hazard Mitigation Council that show that every dollar invested in mitigation yields $4 in cost savings to the taxpayer.” [National Emergency Management Association letter to Sens. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, 7/24/08]

National League of Cities Supports Disaster Mitigation as Cost-Effective Way to Prepare for Disaster Relief.  “On behalf of the 19,000 cities and towns represented by the National League of Cities, I am writing to express our support for reauthorizing the Predisaster Mitigation Program in Section 6302 of S. 3297. This grant program has proven a cost-effective means of preparing our hometowns before disaster strikes through funding hazard mitigation planning and implementation of mitigation projects. As a federal investment, mitigation has proven extremely effective. A 2005 congressionally-mandated study found that every dollar spent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency on mitigation prevents a loss averaging four dollars. Ultimately, the predisaster mitigation partnership puts localities in a better position to endure disasters, leading to less reliance on federal assistance through disaster declarations.” [National League of Cities letter to Sens.  Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, 7/25/08]

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Supports Disaster Mitigation for Reducing Loss of Life During Disasters.  “As you are aware, PDM [Pre-Disaster Relief] provides valuable grants to state and local governments to mitigate against disasters before they occur.  Electric cooperatives are able to partner with state and local governments using PDM to strengthen critical infrastructure, including the distribution and transmission lines which are vital to bringing electricity to the communities we serve.  In many ways, PDM helps reduce the costs of disasters to taxpayers, reduce the loss of life in disasters, and protect property from damage.” [National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, 7/28/08] 

Support for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation Act

Small Business Exporters Association of the United States Supports Overseas Private Investment Corporation Act.  “On behalf of the 22,000 small business exporters of the US-made goods and services that we represent, the Small Business Exporters Association of the United States asks for your assistance in reauthorizing the Overseas Private Investment Corporation….No other agency in Washington has done so much in so short a time to help finance American small business in international trade.  And OPIC has done it by backing sustainable, community-based SME projects abroad – projects carefully chosen to support employment both there and in the US.  OPIC has done all this at no net cost to American taxpayers.  Yet this remarkable success story is now at great risk.  The agency’s Congressional authorization has lapsed and its project approvals are grinding to a halt.  Small companies seeking project financing are being told to wait.  So are overseas allies of the US that are trying to build orderly market economies from the ground up.” [Small Business Exporters Association of the United States letter to Senator Harry Reid, 7/22/08]

Support for Improved Washington DC Transit Bill 

Amalgamated Transit Union Supports Act; Says Act Would Provide Aid to Old and Strained DC Transit System.  “On behalf of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689, representing more than 10,000 workers at Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), and the millions of commuters who rely on ‘Metro’ Each day, I am writing in strong support of S.1446, which has been inserted into S. 3297.  Four major disruptions on Metro within the last month – including fires, blackouts, and a derailment- underscore the strains facing WMATA, the nation’s only major transit system without a significant source of dedicated funding.  Old stud bolts and track fasteners are among the millions of pieces of infrastructure the 32-year old transit agency needs to replace, but cannot afford….Metro is being forced to consider cuts in service.  If gas prices reach $5 per gallon, or beyond, the agency is seriously concerned that the system could be overwhelmed by a massive move of commuters from driving to transit.  Public transportation needs to be part of the solution – not the victim – of high gas prices.”  [Amalgamated Transit Union Letter from ATU International President Warren George to Sen. Harry Reid, 7/23/08]

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Supports Metro Funding.  “The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) expresses appreciation for your leadership on dedicated funding for Metro, as advanced by S. 1446, the National Capital Transportation Amendments Act of 2008, and incorporated into S. 3297. COG urges swift approval of this legislation by the Senate.”  [Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Letter to Senator Harry Reid, 7/23/08]

AFL-CIO Transportation and Trades Department Says Provisions Would Support Stable, Good Paying Jobs in Time of Economic Hardship. “On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I want to express our support for provisions in S. 3297 which provides funds for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)…It must also be remembered that Metro provides thousands of stable, good paying jobs at a time when our nation’s economy is suffering. These dedicated employees in turn provide public transportation to millions who rely on the service to get to their jobs. Metro is a key component of the region’s transportation network and an important part of the area economy. The funding provided in this bill will enable WMATA and its thousands of employees to meet the public transit nee needs of the national capital region while addressing the fiscal constraints of skyrocketing fuel costs.” [Transportation Trade Division, AFL-CIO, Letter to Senator Harry Reid, 7/24/08]

Greater Washington Board of Trade Says Provision Necessary for Long Range Metro Planning. “Thank you for your leadership in introducing legislation to secure dedicated funding for Greater Washington’s Metro system. The Greater Washington Board of Trade supports bill S3297 and the inclusion of S1146 in the “National Capital Transportation Amendments Act of 2008” and encourage the Senate’s adoption of this package… The Metrorail system is a major component of the evacuation capability of the Capital.  From a business point of view, we have a ready understanding of the necessity of dedicated funding for Metro.  Dedicated funding enhances the ability of a transit system to do long-range planning for maintenance, procurement, and infrastructure renewal and improvements.  Dedicated funding supports a higher credit  rating for a transit system, which would reduce burdens on both taxpayers and paying passengers.  Froma business point of view also, we endorse the provision in the legislation that would solidify management improvements at Metro and enchance federal oversight of the system.” [Greater Washington Board of Trade letter to Senator Harry Reid, 7/22/08] 

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Stresses Importance of Metrorail to Safety and Operation of Federal Facilities.  “Congressional legislation authorizing federal funding, contingent on state and local dedicated funding acknowledges how vital Metro is not only to the region but also to the federal government. Metro is a unique federal/regional partnership created in 1966, primarily to serve the federal government.  Nearly half of all Metrorail stations are located at federal facilities and nearly half of peak ridership consists of federal employees.  A safe, secure and reliable Metro system is also a critical component for ensuring the continuity of federal government operations during an emergency  Federal emergency evacuation and recovery plans rely heavily on transit and Metro played a key role on September 11th, 2001….The Metro system is in critical need of dedicated long term funding to address the dual challenges of an aging system faced with rapidly increasing demand for its services.” [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority letter to Senator Harry Reid, 7/24/08] 

Virginia Governor and Transportation Secretary Support Increased Metro Support.  “On behalf of Governor Timothy Kaine, I want to thank you for your support of dedicated and increased funding for Metro through the introduction of a Senate companion bill to HR 401.  We greatly appreciate your leadership and commitment to solving the region’s transportation mobility challenges.  As a primary transit service to the region’s thousands of federal employees, this special fuding for the regional transit system will be invaluable to their safety and mobility.  Governor Kaine just this month signed legislation authorizing the matching funds required by HR 401 and your companion legislation.”  [Letter from Virginia Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer to Sens. John Warner and Jim Webb, 5/22/07]

CTIA Wireless Association Supports the National Capital Transportation Amendments Act of 2007 is Essential to Thousands Who Ride the Metro System. “Enactment of S. 1446 is essential to ensure that the many thousands of people who ride the greater Washington, D.C. area Metro system each day will enjoy access to high-quality wireless service from multiple providers…Without enactment of [National Capital Transportation Amendments Act of 2007] S. 1446, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) will continue to lag behind other major metropolitan cities that currently provide multi-carrier wireless service for their subway riders.” [CTIA’s letter sent to Senator Reid, 07/25/08]

Support for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Water Trails Act 

Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development Said Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network Has Improved Education, Restoration and Access to the Chesapeake.  “As Assistant Secretary for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, I am writing to express support for S. 3297.  This package of legislation affects critical National Park Service programs that will benefit the quality of life of all Marylanders and increase tourism investment in our state… Specifically, the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network has leveraged local funds to improve education, restoration and access to the Chesapeake Bay.  This program makes bay tourism and restoration-related projects possible throughout the state.”  [Letter from Hannah Lee Byron, Assistant Secretary for Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, 7/2208]

Caroline County Office of Tourism Said Bill Makes Bay Tourism and Restoration Projects Possible. “As a representative for Caroline County Tourism on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I am writing to express support for S. 3297.  This package of legislation affects critical National Park Service programs that will benefit the quality of life of all Marylanders and increase tourism investment in our state. Specifically, the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network has leveraged local funds to improve education, restoration and access to the Chesapeake Bay.  This program makes bay tourism and restoration-related projects possible throughout the state.  The Star-Spangled Banner Commission will put into action key initiatives to commemorate the War of 1812, attracting new tourist dollars, while improving local communities.” [Caroline County Office of Tourism letter to Senator Harry Reid, 7/23/08]

Friends of Chesapeake Gateways Supports Passage of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Water Trails Act. “The Chesapeake Bay represents one of the most important natural resources in our nation, rivaling the great mountain wildernesses of the American west and the undersea riches of two ocean coastlines… This legislation would ensure a permanent role for the National Park Service to provide its technical expertise and coordinating power to the Network, as it has since 1998.  Beyond simply coordinating the Network, publishing a map and guides, and providing standard exhibits at all Gateways, the National Park Service has helped Gateways with matching grants and expertise for over 190 projects with a total value of more than $12 million. This is a great deal for the Bay – it helps us tell our story better and inspires people to care for the Chesapeake – and it’s a good deal for the Park Service. The Park Service’s budget for the Gateways Network was only $2.5 million in 2007 and it served all 160+ Gateways and their ten to fifteen million visitors. By comparison, the 2005 budget for just one national park – Yellowstone – was $29 million, for a smaller area with one third the visitors.” [Friends of Chesapeake Bay Chair Scott Beatty, letter to Senator Harry Reid, 2008]

St. Mary’s County, Maryland, Supported Passage of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Bill.  “As Tourism Manager for the St. Mary’s County Tourism Division, I am writing to express support for S. 3297. This package of legislation affects critical National Park Service programs that will benefit the quality of life of all Marylanders and increase tourism investment in our state.   Specifically, the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network has leveraged local funds to improve education, restoration and access to the Chesapeake Bay.  This program makes bay tourism and restoration-related projects possible throughout the state.  The Star-Spangled Banner Commission will put into action key initiatives to commemorate the War of 1812, attracting new tourist dollars, while improving local communities.” [St. Mary’s County, MD, Tourism Manager Carolyn Laray, letter to Senator Harry Reid, 7/23/08]

Four Rivers Heritage Area Supported Passage of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Bill. “Specifically, the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network has leveraged local funds to improve education, restoration and access to the Chesapeake Bay. This program makes bay tourism and restoration-related projects possible throughout the state. They are both a major funder and a critical source of support for the heritage sites and organizations in our heritage area and around the Bay. The Star-Spangled Banner Commission will put into action key initiatives to commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, attracting new tourist dollars, while improving local communities. I am supporting the passage of S. 3297 with the inclusion of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails and the Star-Spangled Banner Commission bills.” [Four Rivers Heritage Area Executive Director Carol Benson, letter to Senator Harry Reid, 7/23/08]

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