PROTECTING REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS
— U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) led 47 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, including Chris Murphy (D-CT), in introducing the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2023, federal legislation to guarantee access to abortion, everywhere across the country and restore the right to comprehensive reproductive health care for millions of Americans.
The bill’s introduction follows the Supreme Court’s misguided decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which repealed Roe v. Wade. This decision has stripped access to abortion care for millions of Americans and denied individuals the freedom to make their own health care decisions. Since the Dobbs decision, 14 states have already implemented near-total abortion bans, leaving one in three American women without access to safe, legal abortion care. Additionally, state legislatures across the country have introduced hundreds of bills to include medically unnecessary restrictions that limit access to abortion care.
The Women’s Health Protection Act creates federal rights for patients and providers to protect abortion access and creates federal protections against medically unnecessary restrictions that undermine Americans’ access to health care and intrude upon personal decision-making.
“The Women’s Health Protection Act would reverse the death sentence handed down to American women when the Supreme Court overturned fifty years of precedent in Roe,” said Blumenthal. “The heart of the Women’s Health Protection Act is reproductive justice – the fundamental right to safely choose if or when to have children, and the freedom to make that choice no matter who you are or where you live. It will reverse the draconian and devastating bans and restrictions that fall on all women, and disproportionately on Black and Latina people, individuals with lower incomes, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, and so many others who face barriers to care. This issue is about more than health care; it is about women’s rights, individual rights, and human rights.”
— Blumenthal also spoke on the Senate Floor urging his colleagues to pass the legislation.
“This measure is now necessary to protect the rights of all people to seek the health care that they need and deserve,” said Blumenthal. “I trust women. I trust women to make decisions about their own future. I trust women more than I do elected officials or judges or government bureaucrats to decide what is right for them individually.”
“This measure is necessary to stop all of the bans, prohibitions, medically unnecessary restrictions that have no purpose except to cut off care and stigmatize women seeking health care services and the dedicated health care providers who serve them,” Blumenthal continued.
Blumenthal discussed the disproportionate impact these harmful bans have on communities of color.
“Black, Latina, Indigenous, and other people of color have always faced inexcusable inequities in health care access and outcomes due to discrimination, racism, and oppression,” said Blumenthal. “This bill is critical for communities which are disproportionately harmed by the bans and medically unnecessary restrictions that the Women's Health Protection Act would prohibit. It supports those that face the greatest barriers to care.”
— Blumenthal also called on pharmacies across the country to provide their patients with access to mifepristone, a safe and common abortion and miscarriage management medication that is legal in every state. The letters come after Walgreens’ announcement last week that they will not sell mifepristone in 21 states after threats of legal action from those states’ Republican attorneys general.
Blumenthal said Walgreens has, “capitulated to Republican attorneys general,” and urged pharmacies to, “not back down – legally or morally – in providing your patients with access to mifepristone, a drug that is legal in every state and is prescribed for use independent of abortion.”
The threat from Republican attorneys general comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s January announcement that it would allow pharmacies to offer mifepristone – which has been FDA-approved and safely used for over two decades – to be dispensed both in store and through mail, a move that Blumenthal said would, “expand access to the most common form of abortion care for millions of people throughout the country.”
Despite this step in the right direction, Blumenthal said the threat by Republicans was a move to, “bully and intimidate pharmacies into denying their patients the right to access the medication they need and are entitled to receive.”
“During this moment of crisis for access to reproductive rights, health care providers such as your company should be using every tool at its disposal to assure everyone access to care no matter where they live,” Blumenthal concluded.
The letters were sent to Albertsons, Costco, CVS, Kroger, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and Walmart.
— Blumenthal also joined U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) in sending a letter to Walgreens CEO Rosalind Brewer, expressing concern regarding recent reports that the company would not dispense medication abortion – even when legal.
“As of March 2023, at least 17 states have eliminated all or some access to abortion, with additional states expected to implement new bans this year,” wrote the lawmakers. “These measures endanger millions of Americans and limit access to other essential health care services, such as care for miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and other complications, in addition to banning or limiting abortion care.”
“Given this ongoing attack on access to abortion care, we had grave concerns about reports that Walgreens had decided not to dispense medication abortion in states where it remains legal, viewing it as yet another limit on access to crucial care,” the lawmakers continued. “Such action would have been a disservice to your patients, and inconsistent with Walgreens’s purpose, ‘to champion the health and well-being of every community in America.’”
REFORMING TECH’S LEGAL IMMUNITIES
— Blumenthal, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, convened the first hearing of this session on reforming Big Tech’s legal immunities in light of the Supreme Court argument in Google v. Gonzalez.
“I think what we are seeing is…an emerging consensus that something has to be done,” said Blumenthal in his opening remarks. “Section 230 dates from a time when the internet was a young, nascent, startup kind of venture that needed protection if it tried to weed out the bad stuff. And now, it’s used to defend keeping the bad stuff there.”
“This so-called shield has been long outdated, as we enter an era of algorithms and Artificial Intelligence, which were unknown and perhaps unimaginable on the scale that they now operate, when Section 230 was adopted,” Blumenthal continued. “And the case law, and I’ve read it, the Gonzalez court addressed it, simply doesn’t provide the kind of remedy that we need quickly enough and thoroughly enough.”
Blumenthal highlighted the rampant harms to users online, including parents like Kristin Bride who lost her son Carson to online bullying, and Saanvi Arora and Anastasia Chaglasian, young women who had pictures of their sexual abuse transmitted on anonymous platforms, and emphasized the need for Congress to take action, stating: “Section 230 actually was designed to promote a safer internet, plainly it’s doing the opposite right now.”
Blumenthal also referenced instances of unchecked housing discrimination on platforms like Craigslist and Facebook, stressing: “For any other company, these would be violations of the Fair Housing Act, but Section 230 shut the door on accountability for them, and in so many other instances, the case history on Section 230 is clear. When Big Tech firms invoke it, those being denied justice are often women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, or children, and the victims and survivors of sexual abuse.”
SUPPORTING THE AUKUS NUCLEAR SUBMARINE DEAL
— Blumenthal released the following statement in response to Australia’s decision to purchase U.S. nuclear powered submarines to modernize their fleet.
“I am enormously proud to see apparently reliable reports that Australia will purchase U.S. submarines - once again proving the world-class talent of our workforce in Groton constructing these vessels. They are truly without peers. The Navy now must work harder to expand and extend our submarine industrial base, especially this unique workforce sector, as we continue to build two VA-class boats a year in addition to any potential future work associated with the Australian purchase,” Blumenthal said.
CONFIRMING JUSTICE MARIA ARAÚJO KAHN TO THE SECOND CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS
— Blumenthal applauded the Senate’s confirmation of Justice Maria Araújo Kahn to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Kahn’s nomination was approved in a bipartisan 51-42 vote.
“Maria Kahn epitomizes public service,” said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “She’s the real deal—with unexcelled breadth of experience—and will bring to the federal bench truly extraordinary expertise and intellect. Dedicated to opening the courthouse doors to underserved communities, she also has qualities of compassion and empathy which so deeply impressed me and my Senate colleagues. She’s an exceptional jurist and human being.”
CRACKING DOWN ON MOVING SCAMS & FRAUD
— Blumenthal called on the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to take swift action to curb rising scams and frauds related to the moving industry.
Moving fraud takes many forms – from deliberately underestimating a moving cost to misrepresenting a package’s weight and more. But one of the most egregious moving frauds perpetrated against consumers is a hostage load, which occurs when a mover refuses to relinquish a consumer’s goods until the consumer agrees to pay a revised cost of moving that is significantly higher than the initial, agreed-upon estimate.
In a letter, Blumenthal urged DOT and FMCSA to strictly enforce penalties against these bad actors and take steps to curb this widespread fraud.
BREAKING GROUND ON THE RENTSCHLER FIELD LOGISTICS CENTER
— Blumenthal joined state and local officials for a groundbreaking ceremony on the site of the East Hartford Logistics Center at Rentschler Field. The project, led by National Development, is expected to create up to 400 construction jobs and, once completed, generate over 1,000 permanent positions and $4 million in new tax revenue annually. In addition to the logistic facilities, a future phase will include 200,000 square feet of High Tech and/or Specialty Manufacturing space.
FUNDING THE GUILFORD HARBOR DREDGING PROJECT
— Blumenthal announced $500,000 in federal funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to dredge silt from the Guilford Harbor. The federal funding is needed to maintain appropriate access channel depths for navigation and passage to Long Island Sound.
ENSURING AIRPORT SERVICE WORKERS EARN LIVING WAGES & BENEFITS
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and U.S. Representative Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-IL) along with union leaders and airport service workers to announce the reintroduction of the Good Jobs for Good Airports Act, legislation to provide airport service workers — a predominantly Black, Brown, and immigrant workforce — with the wage and benefits that they deserve after serving on the frontlines of the nation’s aviation system during the COVID-19 pandemic, climate disasters, and busy travel seasons. By increasing the pay of airport service workers, this legislation would also improve airports services and security, a victory for workers and passengers.
“Our measure will ensure airport workers across the country get the living wages and benefits they deserve,” said Blumenthal. “These essential workers—including security personnel, service vendors, and baggage handlers—are a true backbone of our transportation network. Providing airport workers with fair compensation and protections is long overdue.”
SAFEGUARDING VETERANS FILING BENEFIT CLAIMS
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in introducing legislation to hold unaccredited entities that target men and women who served in uniform accountable for their predatory practices. The Governing Unaccredited Representatives Defrauding (GUARD) VA Benefits Act would reinstate criminal penalties for unaccredited claim representatives who charge unauthorized fees while helping file a disability claim.
Current law prohibits unaccredited individuals and businesses from charging a fee for assisting a veteran in the preparation, presentation or prosecution of a VA benefit claim. However, the VA and other federal agencies are limited in their ability to enforce the law because criminal penalties were eliminated from the statute nearly 20 years ago.
“This legislation is needed because unaccredited claims representatives often extract exorbitant profits from veterans,” said Blumenthal. “Predatory scammers who exploit our heroes must be held accountable – which is why the GUARD VA Benefits Act makes strong bipartisan sense. By strengthening the VA’s enforcement authority, we can protect our veterans charged for benefits they’ve rightfully earned.”
MAKING ELECTIONS MORE SECURE & ACCESSIBLE
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and U.S Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) in introducing an updated version of the Vote At Home Act to ensure American voters can vote more conveniently and securely at home. The bill would allow all American voters to vote at home, provide pre-paid envelopes to return ballots and automatically register citizens to vote at DMVs.
The legislation follows the successful expansion of voting at home and by mail in recent years. In 2022, 39 million people voted at home - 35% of ballots - a major increase over 2018, when only 25% of voters used vote-at-home ballots. Nearly 50 percent of voters used a vote-at-home ballot in the November 2020 election, an all-time high in federal races. For the 2020 general election 30 states adopted or changed their laws, allowing voters to cast their ballots from home in order to provide greater accessibility and to protect public health.
— Blumenthal issued the following statement on the death of Karen Hobert Flynn.
“Karen was a dedicated defender of democracy, whose principles and commitment to public service and public trust were unrivaled. Under her steadfast and unflinching leadership, Connecticut passed landmark public finance, ethics and disclosure laws that became a model for states across the nation. I am deeply saddened to learn of her passing and send my heartfelt condolences to her loved ones. Connecticut, and our nation, has lost a champion today,” Blumenthal said.
— Blumenthal attended St. Patrick’s Day events in Stamford, Waterbury, New Haven, and Norwich.
“Wonderful to be with long-standing friends like Tim Curtin at the St. Patrick’s Day Grand Marshal Dinner in Stamford. Sold out & high spirited—proud to be there.”
“Wonderful Waterbury St. Patrick’s Day Ceremony & Parade—cool & windy but warm-hearted. Grateful to a great Irish American community!”
“Hugely successful Associated Irish Societies Ball supporting the New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade—6th oldest in the nation, & one of the biggest. Proud to march every year.”
“Norwich paints the town green—at least in spirit—with a rousing St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Perfect weather, big crowds, great joy.”
— Blumenthal attended a Black history and heritage event at the Mount Zion Church in Hamden.
“Amazing celebration of Black History & Heritage at Mount Zion Church in Hamden last night. Awesome music, poetry, essays, & much more—a lot presented by incredible young people. Thank you for sharing!”
— Blumenthal attended the Bushnell Ovations Gala.
“The Bushnell is back, big time, as shown by its Ovations Gala & steadily growing audiences. Grit, guts & hard work from staff, board, donors, artists & employees enabled it to weather the pandemic storm. Proud to help lead the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, which helped too.”
— Blumenthal attended Melissa Marottoli Hogan’s Gala for a Cure.
“Strong support for cancer research is one of Melissa Marottoli Hogan’s lasting legacies—10 years after her tragic passing—due to the courage, generosity & grace of her family & friends. Sold out, Gala For A Cure, in Branford last night drew hundreds to fight this disease.”