PROTECTING REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS
— U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) joined reproductive rights groups and veterans at a press conference to oppose the Republican-led Congressional Review Act resolution to disapprove of the Department of Veteran Affairs’ interim rule on reproductive health care.
“Senate Republicans are trying to revoke a veteran’s right to get an abortion in cases of life-threatening emergency, rape, or incest. I’m standing shoulder to shoulder w/our brave vets to stop this attack. We won’t let the right wing break their word & deny vital care.”
— Blumenthal also called for mifepristone to remain accessible to all.
“Mifepristone is as safe & effective as common medicines found at the pharmacy. Most important, safety & efficacy judgments should be entrusted to medical professionals & the FDA, not judges or politicians.”
STRENGTHENING ETHICS STANDARDS FOR SUPREME COURT JUSTICES
— Following reports that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has failed to disclose gifts and a real estate deal with Republican megadonor Harlan Crow, Blumenthal called on Thomas to resign.
“Justice Thomas should resign—to uphold the Court and American justice. The unavoidable, sickening appearance of impropriety stains trust & credibility in our whole judiciary.”
“A full, fair investigation is essential. If the Judiciary refuses to do its own investigation - through something like an independent special inspector general, as I’ve repeatedly urged—Congress must act.”
“It’s a trust issue—Clarence Thomas has betrayed it, judges need it, accountability must restore it. Trust is the judiciary’s prime calling card. If Thomas were on a lower court, an investigation would already be underway—to uphold trust.”
“Justice Thomas’ cascading ethical violations & excuses raise serious questions. Who else gave gifts? Did any of the gift givers have Court connections? Is there undisclosed or misreported income from other sources? Are his tax returns consistent w/financial disclosures? Clearly there is a lot to still be uncovered. Any investigation must answer these questions. Follow the money.”
— Blumenthal also praised Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin for inviting Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to testify at an upcoming hearing.
“Senator Durbin’s invitation to Chief Justice Roberts is a good first step. I hope the Chief Justice will accept the invitation & testify. The Court's credibility & his own legacy are at stake if he fails to meet the moment & adopt an effective Code of Ethics for the Court & address glaring ethical violations. If the Chief Justice doesn't act it shows that the Court sees itself as above the law & makes clear Congress needs to act to pass a Code of Ethics with a real enforcement mechanism.”
RECOGNIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF LOCAL NEWS
— Blumenthal joined 14 of his Senate colleagues in introducing a resolution designating April 2023 as “Preserving and Protecting Local News Month.” The resolution recognizes local news as a public good that serves an essential function in the democracy of the United States.
“Local news organizations are priceless pillars of our communities and absolutely essential to our democracy. As disinformation has run rampant across the internet and social media platforms, local news has been a steady drumbeat fighting against this scourge and keeping people informed. I am proud to introduce this resolution honoring local news organizations and the essential public service they provide,” Blumenthal said.
According to research, the overall employment in newspaper, television, radio, and digital newsrooms in the United States fell by 26 percent, or 30,000 jobs, from 2008-2020. More than 100 local newsrooms were forced to close during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 30 percent of local television stations reporting budget cuts and staff reductions. The resolution affirms the significance of local news in increasing civic engagement and strengthening democratic norms and practices, and acknowledges the valuable contributions of local journalism toward the maintenance of healthy and vibrant communities.
PREVENTING DEATHS BY SUICIDE ABOARD NAVY SHIPS
— During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Blumenthal questioned Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael M. Gilday, USN, on what steps are being taken to prevent deaths by suicide aboard the U.S.S. George Washington.
“We are at the one year anniversary of the death of one of those sailors, Master of Armed Seaman Recruit Xavier Mitchell Sandor, and [I] want to suggest that one way to alleviate, and I know you’re taking steps on the U.S.S. Stennis to alleviate some of those issues that were involved in those suicides, [is] to maybe procure housing on the open market when ships are in maintenance for many years using the [Basic Allowance for Housing],” Blumenthal said.
Sandor, a Connecticut sailor from Shelton, was one of three U.S.S. George Washington crew members to die by suicide in April 2022, while the ship was undergoing extended Refueling and Complex Overhaul at a Virginia shipyard. During this time, crew members were subject to frequent interruptions of electrical power, heating, air conditioning and hot water for weeks at a time and no access to welfare or recreation services. Sailors also often experienced a two months long backlog for mental health screenings.
In January, Blumenthal, along with U.S. Senator Chris Murphy sent a letter to Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, calling on the Navy to take swift action to remedy the situation aboard the U.S.S. George Washington.
CELEBRATING QUINNIPIAC HOCKEY’S NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
— Blumenthal joined the Connecticut congressional delegation in announcing resolutions congratulating the Quinnipiac University men’s ice hockey team for winning the 2023 NCAA Division I Championship. The resolutions recognize the Bobcats for claiming their first national title in school history with an overtime win over the University of Minnesota in what was the most watched Frozen Four final in over a decade. They also honor Rand Pecknold, the head coach of 29 years, for guiding the Bobcats, “from a Division II program to a national Division I powerhouse.”
In a letter to President Biden, the delegation also requested that the team be honored at the White House.
“The rise of Quinnipiac hockey mirrors the similar growth in academic excellence and prestige of Quinnipiac University, growing into a multi-campus, highly regarded higher education institution with national rankings in university quality, best colleges for veterans, and best educational value,” the members wrote to President Biden. “As proud members of the Connecticut delegation, we join the entire state in celebrating the Quinnipiac Bobcats on their historic season and extraordinary victory. We hope you are able to honor the Bobcats at the White House in recognition of their incredible achievements.”
PROVIDING COMMUNITIES WITH CLEAN DRINKING WATER
— Blumenthal joined clean water advocates to announce $73.5 million for Connecticut to ensure drinking water is free from contaminants like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), lead and other pollutants.
In March, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new regulations for six PFAS chemicals that would establish enforceable national drinking water standards. This $73.5 million from the EPA will help protect Connecticut communities from the harms of PFAS contaminated drinking water.
PFAS have been used in the United States for decades in household, commercial and industrial products and are linked to kidney and testicular cancer, increased cholesterol levels, immune system problems, as well as decreases in childhood growth and development. In Connecticut, PFAS has been detected in drinking water across the state, as well as in the Farmington and Hockanum Rivers.
QUESTIONING THE DHS SECRETARY ON THE FUTURE OF PLUM ISLAND, REUNITING FAMILIES SEPARATED AT THE BORDER, & NIL RULES FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENT ATHLETES
— Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, questioned Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on efforts to preserve Plum Island, which is home to many endangered and vulnerable species and two locations on the National Register of Historic Places. The island currently hosts a DHS facility which is being relocated to Kansas. Last August, Blumenthal called on the Biden administration to permanently protect the island from development.
“I'd like your commitment that DHS will commit to working with me and my colleagues to find a long-range conservation outcome for Plum Island. Particularly, if possible, it would be designated a national wildlife preserve of some kind, either national park or similarly designated so that it can be preserved,” said Blumenthal.
“Senator, you have my commitment,” said Mayorkas.
— Blumenthal questioned Mayorkas on the Department’s efforts to reunite children and parents who were separated at the border under the Trump administration’s family separation policy.
“I read recently about the very substantial numbers of children who are still separated from their families. They were separated as part of a Trump administration policy that struck me, and I think the entire nation, as cruel and unfounded. And yet, they are still unable to rejoin their families,” said Blumenthal. “What is being done to reunite them?”
“We have reunited more than 600 children with their families,” Mayorkas responded. “This is an effort that we are not undertaking alone as a government. We are working with the nonprofit organizations that began to identify separated families before we assumed office in January of 2021. They're doing extraordinary work. We will not cease doing this work until we complete the task of reuniting the separated families.”
— Blumenthal followed up with Mayorkas about efforts to reform visa rules that prevent international student athletes from benefitting from NIL. Blumenthal also questioned Mayorkas about this effort last month, citing the unfair restrictions facing athletes like UConn’s Adama Sanogo and Aaliyah Edwards.
“He is unable to realize any benefits from his great performance, his really enormous contribution to the team,” Blumenthal said of Sanogo. “And that is because of a rule that I think you said you are going to review very, very soon. Have you reviewed it and what was your conclusion?”
“Senator, I have directed the review of that rule because of the concern that you expressed. I will have to circle back with my colleagues and report back to you with our status,” said Mayorkas. “We will deal with it with due urgency, because we do owe you a response and I understand the predicament it places on athletes, such as the one you mentioned.”
— As 88,000 Afghan refugees near the end of their two-year parole status in the United States, Blumenthal questioned Mayorkas on the Department’s permanent resettlement efforts and urged the Secretary to support the Afghan Adjustment Act to allow for additional vetting and applications for permanent legal residency.
“The Afghan Adjustment Act, which I strongly support, would address the anomalous situation of this Afghan refugees. Our former translators and guards, security people who worked with us put their lives on the line and have been brought to this country in a parole status, which unfortunately now is ending. I'm urging you to extend the parole status of Afghan evacuees and do it enough time to advance the expiration of that status to avoid uncertainty and anxiety…They live in this world of immigration status where it’s difficult for them to make plans, to get jobs, and even to even get housing” said Blumenthal.
“Operation Allies Welcome, which we alleged in a coordinated effort across the government, is a great source of pride for us to bring to safety in the United States individuals who stood alongside our armed forces in Afghanistan,” said Mayorkas. “We support the Adjustment Act and we are indeed looking at the period of parole, its upcoming expiration, and whether indeed that should be extended.”
— Blumenthal asked Mayorkas about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) response to natural disasters in Puerto Rico, such as Hurricanes Maria and Fiona. Last year, Blumenthal and Murphy led a letter to FEMA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Department of Energy calling on the agencies to reconstruct the energy infrastructure with long-term solutions that promote sustainability.
“Do you commit to ensuring that FEMA will rebuild that infrastructure on the island of Puerto Rico with renewable resources and resiliency in mind?” asked Blumenthal.
“Senator I do. I know that FEMA administrator Criswell traveled to Puerto Rico with Jennifer Granholm, the Secretary of Department of Energy. And I've spoken with Governor Pierluisi of Puerto Rico and you have my commitment,” said Mayorkas.
FULLY FUNDING TITLE I & SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS
— Blumenthal and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) joined U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) in introducing the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act, legislation to put Congress on a fiscally responsible path to fully fund Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) on a mandatory basis.
Title I, which gives assistance to America’s highest-need schools, is a critical tool to ensure that every child, no matter their zip code, has access to a quality education. However, it has been deeply underfunded, disadvantaging the most vulnerable students living in poverty. According to the National Education Association, the Title I funding gap for school year 2020-2021 was $30.6 billion.
Similarly, IDEA calls on the federal government to fund 40 percent of the cost of special education, but Congress has never fully funded the law. According to the National Education Association, IDEA state grants are funded at less than 14 percent.
“Fully funding the education of students with disabilities and low-income students should be nonnegotiable. School districts and educators deserve adequate resources to provide all students with a meaningful classroom experience. By bolstering Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, our legislation ensures our students are supported rather than shortchanged,” said Blumenthal.
IMPROVING INVESTIGATIONS OF ONLINE CHILD EXPLOITATION
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in introducing the Project Safe Childhood Act, which would make improvements to the investigation and prosecution of online child exploitation.
“Increasing collaboration between federal, state, and local law enforcement is critical to addressing the scourge of online child sexual exploitation,” said Blumenthal. “By modernizing the Project Safe Childhood initiative, our bipartisan legislation will hold predators accountable and provide victims with the care and protection they need. These crimes must be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
PROTECTING HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS FROM WORKPLACE VIOLENCE
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Joe Courtney (D-CT) in introducing bipartisan, bicameral legislation to protect health care and social service employees from workplace violence. The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Worker Act directs Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue a standard requiring health care and social service employers to write and implement a workplace violence prevention plan to prevent and protect their employees from violent incidents.
Health care and social service workers were victims of 76 percent of all nonfatal injuries from workplace violence in 2020. While workplace violence trends were increasing before the pandemic, recent research suggests the problem has worsened considerably, contributing to staffing shortages. Half of nurses surveyed in 2022 reported increased workplace violence, more than double the previous year.
REINTRODUCING THE GREEN NEW DEAL RESOLUTION
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in celebrating the reintroduction of the Green New Deal Resolution. The Green New Deal proposes to tackle the climate crisis with a 10-year mobilization that puts millions of Americans to work in good-paying, union jobs. Similar to FDR’s New Deal, these jobs would be focused on strengthening the nation’s public infrastructure as well as tackling pollution and climate damage.
“The Green New Deal—dismissed by many as unachievable four years ago—now seems more realistic and necessary than ever,” said Blumenthal. “Modernizing the grid, building housing, creating green jobs—all are doable and affordable, along with numerous other measures to save the planet. I’m proud to be an original and steadfast supporter.”
FULLY FUNDING THE U.S.-ISRAEL MISSILE DEFENSE COOPERATION PROGRAMS
— Blumenthal and U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) joined 40 of their colleagues in a letter calling for $500 million to fully fund U.S.-Israel cooperative missile defense programs in the Defense Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2024. Israel’s missile defense system is made up of four operational layers: Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow 2 and now Arrow 3. In addition to contributing to ballistic missile defense, these systems play an important role in countering hostile unmanned aerial systems.
“Continued support of the U.S.-Israel collaborative defense programs is critical to meeting the United States’ and Israel's national security needs,” wrote the senators. “In addition to ballistic missile defense, this $500 million in federal funding will continue critical work on these air defense systems that can help counter hostile unmanned aerial systems. Together, these programs confront the compelling challenges facing both Israel and the United States and represent the enduring friendship of our nations.”
RECOGNIZING THE UNLAWFUL DETENTION OF VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) and more than 70 Members of Congress in a letter to the U.S. State Department urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to designate U.S. Legal Permanent Resident and Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza as “unlawfully and wrongfully detained” under the Levinson Act (22 U.S.C. 1741 et seq.). The legislators also called upon the U.S. government to use its resources to free Kara-Murza, who was arrested by Russian police in April 2022 and was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison. Kara-Murza is reportedly in poor health after suffering complications from two previous Kremlin-directed poisonings.
“Since his arrest in April 2022, Mr. Kara-Murza has suffered from unjust treatment. His health has declined, and he has lost 40 pounds. As a result of two poisonings President Putin inflicted on him during trips to Russia in 2015 and 2017, he had already been diagnosed with polyneuropathy. He has now lost feeling in both feet and one arm… It is very likely he will die soon unless he is released,” the legislators wrote.
The legislators cited Kara-Murza’s strong support of human rights and his anti-war speech in their call for his release.
“His only crime is using his voice to oppose Putin’s evil. It is in the U.S. national interest to save his life and liberate him from Russian captivity,” the legislators wrote.
PROTECTING DISPLACED SALVADORANS & HONDURANS
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX), and over 100 Members of Congress in a letter calling on the Biden Administration to continue to protect displaced Salvadorans and Hondurans by redesignating El Salvador and Honduras for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Established by the U.S. Congress through the Immigration Act of 1990, TPS is a temporary, renewable program that provides relief from removal and access to work permits for eligible foreign nationals who are unable to return safely to their home countries due to natural disasters, armed conflicts, or other extraordinary conditions.
“We urge you to redesignate Honduras and El Salvador for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), as it is unsafe for the nationals of these countries to be returned at this time due to severe environmental damage caused by successive hurricanes and climate change-related catastrophes, combined with human rights violations and cascading political crises exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Both El Salvador and Honduras face separate but equally devastating realities that prevent individuals who have fled these countries from safely returning,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
REQUIRING PRICE TRANSPARENCY IN PRESCRIPTION DRUG ADVERTISEMENTS
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in reintroducing the bipartisan Drug-price Transparency for Consumers (DTC) Act, a bill that would require price disclosures on advertisements for prescription drugs, in order to empower patients and reduce spending on medications. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report on the impact of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising which found that prescription drugs advertised directly to consumers account for 58 percent of Medicare’s spending on drugs. The DTC Act would require DTC advertisements for prescription drugs and biological products to include a disclosure of the list price, so that patients can make informed choices when inundated with drug commercials.
STANDING UP FOR OUR ALLIES IN UKRAINE
— Blumenthal praised the decision to deny Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the Russian UN delegation U.S. visas.
“Absolutely the right move—no business as usual with a country committing crimes against humanity. Denying visas to Lavrov & cohorts recognizes Russia is a pariah. After denying visas, next declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. Lavrov’s boss, wanted for arrest by the ICC, has amply earned that ‘distinction.’”