INVESTING IN LOCAL FIRE DEPARTMENTS
— Blumenthal joined Connecticut firefighters to celebrate the passage of the Fire Grants and Safety Act, which reauthorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, and the U.S. Fire Administration. AFG and SAFER provide hundreds of millions of dollars of assistance to fire companies across the country each year.
Blumenthal also announced a $927,333 Assistance to Firefighters Grant for West Haven’s Center Fire District to purchase new radios.
“The Fire Grants & Safety Act would provide hundreds of millions of dollars for critical equipment, training, & recruitment. We are blessed in CT with fantastic fire departments like West Haven & yesterday’s $927,333 grant will be put to lifesaving use.”
HOLDING BIG TECH ACCOUNTABLE FOR HARMS TO KIDS ONLINE
— Blumenthal held a roundtable with Hartford middle school students, clinicians, and advocates to discuss the dangers young people face online and urge the importance of passing the Kids Online Safety Act. The Blumenthal-led comprehensive, bipartisan legislation would empower young people and parents with the tools and safeguards they need to protect themselves online and would hold Big Tech accountable for harms to kids.
Blumenthal plans to reintroduce the Kids Online Safety Act with Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) in the coming days. Blumenthal and Blackburn first introduced the Kids Online Safety Act in February 2022 following reporting and after spearheading a series of five subcommittee hearings with social media companies and advocates on the repeated failures by tech giants to protect kids on their platforms and about the dangers kids face online. In July 2022, the Kids Online Safety Act passed the Commerce Committee on a unanimous, 28-0 vote. The Kids Online Safety Act is supported by hundreds of advocacy and technology groups.
PROTECTING ACCESS TO MIFEPRISTONE & SAFE ABORTION CARE
— Blumenthal released the following statement after the Supreme Court temporarily halted restrictions imposed by lower courts on access to mifepristone – a commonly used drug approved by the FDA more than twenty years ago for miscarriage management and abortion care:
“We can exhale for now—access to medication abortion remains legal, but the danger to women’s health care is unabated. It’s a relief from a Sword of Damocles that hangs over women seeking reproductive care in America.”
“This temporary reprieve does not reverse the monstrous, misguided District Court decision that overrules two decades of medical experts’ findings that mifepristone is safe and effective.”
“We must continue this fight with undiminished resolve. Tonight, the Supreme Court issued no ruling on the merits of these highly destructive decisions. There is no hint on what the Court’s final opinion may be. It simply preserves the status quo while litigation continues.”
“Make no mistake, the suspense around this decision shows how compromised and diminished the Court has become in protecting basic rights.”
— Blumenthal and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) cosponsored legislation to protect abortion providers in states like Connecticut—where abortion remains legal—from Republicans’ attempts to restrict their practice and create uncertainty about their legal liability. The Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act would ensure that doctors can continue to safely provide legal abortion care and protect health care providers from being held liable for providing services to patients from other states.
“The ongoing attacks on women’s health care further underscores the need to safeguard and protect abortion providers from out-of-state extremists. In states like Connecticut – where abortion remains legal – doctors should not have to fear prosecution for doing their jobs and providing critical care to patients. Reproductive care is essential for women’s health, and we must do everything we can to protect providers from attempts to restrict their practice,” said Blumenthal.
OPENING THE COURTHOUSE DOORS TO CONSUMERS & WORKERS
— Blumenthal and U.S. Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA) led a group of 37 senators, including U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), and more than 80 members of the House of Representatives in introducing legislation to stop the use of unfair forced arbitration clauses, which are widely used to limit Americans’ access to justice. The FAIR (Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal) Act would eliminate forced arbitration clauses in consumer, antitrust, employment, and civil rights cases, and would allow consumers and workers to freely choose arbitration after a dispute occurs.
“Forced arbitration is unfair and un-American. Workers forced into a rigged arbitration system have lost one of the most powerful tools they have to hold employers accountable for gambling with their safety: access to justice,” Blumenthal said. “But workers aren’t the only ones at risk – nearly every American been stripped of their basic right to justice, whether they know it or not. One of the fundamental principles of our American democracy is that everyone gets their day in court. Forced arbitration deprives Americans of that basic right. The Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act simply rights that basic wrong.”
Forced arbitration clauses restrict Americans’ access to justice by stripping consumers and workers of their right to go to court. Instead, consumers and workers are forced into an unfair arbitration system where corporations can write the rules; everything can be done in secret, without public rulings; discovery can be limited, making it hard for consumers to get the evidence they need to prove their case; and there’s no meaningful judicial review, so consumers and employees are often unable to appeal a decision even if the arbitrator gets it wrong.
SUPPORTING OUR ALLIES IN UKRAINE
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and U.S. Representatives Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Steve Cohen (D-TN) in introducing the Ukraine Victory Resolution. The measure affirms it is the policy of the United States to see Ukraine victorious against the Russian invasion, holds that the peace brought by victory must be secured by integrating Ukraine into NATO, and declares that the United States must work with its allies and partners to secure reparations, reconstruction, justice for Russian war crimes, and accountability for Russian leaders.
“Ukraine will win the war—and win the peace—if America continues its steadfast support as this resolution strongly states,” said Blumenthal. “True victory means stopping Russia’s murderous assault, imposing accountability for crimes against humanity, and rebuilding Ukraine at Russia’s expense. To our NATO allies as well as Ukraine, our message must be that we’ll have your back in this fight for freedom and democracy—yours and ours together.”
FUNDING PUBLIC HEALTH AMERICORPS IN MIDDLETOWN & WATERBURY
— Blumenthal and Murphy joined U.S. Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Jahana Hayes (D-CT) in announcing Middletown’s Community Health Center and Waterbury’s Health360 will receive $4,749,240 in Public Health AmeriCorps funding from AmeriCorps, the federal agency for national service and volunteerism.
Public Health AmeriCorps, a partnership between AmeriCorps and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, supports the recruitment, training and development of a new generation of public health leaders. Underpinned by a five-year, $400 million investment from the American Rescue Plan Act, Public Health AmeriCorps will help meet public health needs of local communities while also creating pathways to public health-related careers for members who reflect the communities they serve.
“These fund awards mark a solid investment in overcoming Connecticut’s severe healthcare worker shortage. Our state needs many more of these healthcare heroes who serve and sacrifice unstintingly every day. Not only 100 workers now, but a next generation going forward, will be trained and sustained by these grants. I’m proud to be an ally and supporter of these brave, skilled professionals as they deliver lifesaving care to our state,” said Blumenthal.
RATIFYING THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT
— Blumenthal joined his colleagues at a press conference calling on the Senate to eliminate the long-passed ratification deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment.
“Women & girls still face horrendous, life-changing barriers & challenges because of sex discrimination. The Equal Rights Amendment deserves a permanent place in the Constitution. Congress needs to step up & protect equality—now. I am voting YES on the ERA.”
MODERNIZING OUR FOOD LABELING SYSTEM
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) in introducing the Food Labeling Modernization Act, legislation to update front-of-package food labeling requirements, require updates to the ingredient list on packaged foods, and apply consumer friendly labeling requirements.
“This legislation will reform antiquated labeling rules that undercut efforts to buy healthy food,” said Blumenthal. “Consumers deserve straightforward, easily accessible information about the ingredients and nutritional value of products they want to buy. With front of package labels, clearly marked allergens, and clarified guidelines to deter misleading claims, our measure will bring transparency and simplicity to Americans’ shopping experience.”
In the United States, obesity and diet-related disease are responsible for hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year, as well as increased health care costs. However, food labeling requirements do not always provide families with the information they need to make healthy choices. The majority of the food labeling provisions of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act have not been updated since 1990 and in some cases have not been changed since 1938. As a result, labels do not provide the information that today’s consumers need to evaluate and compare products in order to make healthy choices.
To help consumers select healthy products, the Food Labeling Modernization Act would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish a single, standard front-of-package nutrition labeling system in a timely manner for all food products required to bear nutrition labeling. The bill would also strengthen current law to address trends in marketing that confuse or mislead consumers when they are attempting to compare food products. Specifically, the legislation will require new guidelines for the use of the word “healthy.”
LOWERING AMERICANS’ PRESCRIPTION DRUG COSTS
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Peter Welch (D-VT), and 22 of their colleagues in introducing legislation to boost Medicare negotiation of drug prices to lower prescription drug costs for consumers. The Strengthening Medicare and Reducing Taxpayer (SMART) Prices Act would give the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) enhanced authority to negotiate for Medicare Part D. This legislation builds on provisions included in the Inflation Reduction Act that empowered Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices for the first time, unleashing the power of Medicare’s 50 million seniors to help lower drug prices for all Americans.
“Expanding Medicare’s ability to negotiate prescription drug prices will save patients billions of dollars,” said Blumenthal. “The Inflation Reduction Act took historic steps to protect Americans from the crushing burden of health care costs that forces many to ration critical medication or go without food and other essentials. Our legislation strengthens these measures to prioritize families and seniors over drug companies’ profits.”
PROTECTING VETERANS & LOW-INCOME FAMILIES FROM HOUSING DISCRIMINATION
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and U.S. Representatives Scott Peters (D-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) in reintroducing the Fair Housing Improvement Act to protect veterans and low-income families from housing discrimination. 2.3 million veterans and low-income households use Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) to pay rent, but there are no federal protections to prevent individuals from being denied housing based on source of income. Many veterans and low-income families have reported discrimination from landlords when using vouchers to pay their rent in states and cities where there are no source of income protections.
REMOVING BARRIERS TO ACCESSIBLE RURAL TRANSPORTATION
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and a group of their colleagues in a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) concerning access to rural and tribal transit services for older adults and people with disabilities. As federal agencies begin to distribute tens of billions of dollars for public transportation from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the senators are asking the GAO to identify and examine accessibility gaps in rural and tribal transit service so that Congress and the federal government can eliminate barriers to public transportation for older adults and people with disabilities in rural communities.
“Older adults and people with disabilities are more reliant on public transportation to socialize, shop, and access critical services, such as health care… Rural transit that is accessible for older adults and people with disabilities can therefore provide a vital link for maintaining the mobility of those populations. Without transportation options, older adults in rural and tribal communities may not receive medical care and are at risk of social isolation, depression, and malnutrition,” the senators wrote.
HONORING MASTER SERGEANT RODDIE EDMONDS
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and a group of their colleagues in introducing bipartisan legislation to posthumously award a Congressional Gold Medal to Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, who put his life on the line to protect Jewish-American soldiers. Edmonds was captured by Nazi forces and spent over 100 days in captivity at a Nazi prisoner of war camp. When the Germans directed Edmonds to order all Jewish-American soldiers of the camp to assemble outside of their barracks, he coordinated a mass formation where all 1,275 of his men stood outside their prison barracks in unity. Even when held at gunpoint, Edmonds still refused to reveal their identities.
“The bravery of Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds saved hundreds of Jewish-American soldiers from certain death,” said Senator Blumenthal. “His leadership – along with the courage of more than 1,200 American POWs – united servicemembers of all backgrounds to resist the Nazi’s horrific orders. Awarding Edmonds with the Congressional Gold Medal will honor his selfless service and commitment to protecting his fellow troops. I’m proud to join my colleagues in this measure,” said Blumenthal.
RECOGNIZING RUSSIA’S WRONGFUL DETENTION OF VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA
— Blumenthal, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) joined a group of their colleagues in introducing bipartisan Senate resolution urging the Biden Administration to designate Vladimir Kara-Murza as wrongfully detained under United States law. Kara-Murza, a permanent resident of the United States, was arrested by Russia a year ago for condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine. Kara-Murza was charged with “spreading deliberately false information” about the armed forces of Russia, which was criminalized when Russia passed a law after their full-scale invasion of Ukraine. On April 17 of this year, Kara-Murza was convicted of treason and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison.
Kara-Murza’s wrongful imprisonment is similar to those of other Americans, including Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. The senators demand the immediate release of Kara-Murza, Whelan, Gershkovich, and all other United States citizens wrongfully detained by Russia.
“Putin’s brutality in Ukraine is only matched by his vicious repression inside of Russia: Vladimir Kara-Murza, a longtime human rights advocate and opposition leader, will serve decades in prison after publicly condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine. The State Department should designate Kara-Murza as ‘wrongfully detained’ and designate Russia as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. These measures will allow the United States to more forcefully advocate for Kara-Murza’s release, respond to Russia’s unlawful war of aggression against Ukraine, and counter its global assault on freedom and democracy,” said Blumenthal.
PROTECTING OUR WASTEWATER INFRASTRUCTURE
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and U.S. Representatives Mary Peltola (D-AK) and Lisa McClain (R-MI) in introducing the Wastewater Infrastructure Pollution Prevention and Environmental Safety (WIPPES) Act. This bipartisan, bicameral bill aims to address heath, ecosystem, and wastewater infrastructure concerns caused by the flushing of non-flushable wet wipes.
Many of these products are composed of manufactured plastic fibers or other strong fibers. While these products are not marketed as flushable, consumers often assume that they are and frequently flush them into sewer systems as a means of disposal. Due to their strong fibers, these types of wipes do not break down as they travel through the sewer systems. Instead, the wipes become magnets attracting fats, oils and grease and become obstructions in sewerage systems pipes that clog pumps, block sewer collection systems, and jam motors that lead to sewage backups and treatment equipment failures. They also contribute to the harmful proliferation of microplastics in our water systems.
IMPLEMENTING THE BAN ON MENTHOL CIGARETTES & CIGARS
— Blumenthal joined Merkley and 19 of their Senate colleagues in a letter to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert Califf urging the FDA to promptly finalize its April 28, 2022 announced proposed rules to end the sale of menthol flavor in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars.
“We urge the FDA to act with urgency to solidify and enforce the ban on these harmful products,” wrote the senators. “The harmful effects of these products on public health have been well-understood for several years and cannot be overstated. In 2013, your agency released a report that found that menthol cigarette use is associated with increased smoking initiation among youth and young adults, greater signs of nicotine dependence, and less success in smoking cessation.”
In March 2019, the FDA announced that it was considering removing flavored cigars that were on the market as of August 8, 2016. And a year ago, in April 2022, the FDA announced its intention to ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes, and all flavored cigars. The senators called attention to delays in the comment period for these rules—the original deadline was pushed from July 5, 2022 to August 2, 2022. Now, a year after the proposed rule was issued, the rulemaking is still not resolved. Despite these repeated overtures, the FDA has yet to issue a final rule on these topics, much less begin enforcement.
“While we appreciate the need for thorough, well-informed rulemaking, it is clear that these products pose significant and persistent threats to public health,” they continue. “The longer these products are allowed on the market, the more harm consumers and the American public will face.”
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.
“No better way to mark Earth Day—celebrating $73.5 million for safe, clean drinking water free from PFAS. This investment is a major milestone in our continuing fight against this insidious forever chemical scourge.”
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.
STRENGTHENING ETHICS STANDARDS FOR SUPREME COURT JUSTICES
— Blumenthal reacted to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ refusal to testify before Congress about the Court’s ethics standards.
“Chief Justice Roberts dodging responsibility in declining to appear before our Committee is another example of the Supreme Court thinking it doesn’t have to answer to anyone. Now you own the Court’s betrayal of public trust.”
— Blumenthal reacted to reports that Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch sold property to a lawyer whose firm had cases pending before the Court.
“The repeated drip of deficient disclosures—now about Justice Gorsuch—makes a Code of Ethics more critical than ever to the Supreme Court’s credibility. Chief Justice Roberts has no choice—for the Court’s sake & the country’s—to accept our invitation to appear before the Judiciary Committee. The marble pillars of the Supreme Court & platitudes about its independence no longer provide refuge. He must face the nation.”
HONORING THE LIFE & LEGACY OF STEW LEONARD SR.
— Blumenthal reacted to the passing of Stew Leonard Sr.
“Deeply saddened to learn of Stew Leonard, Sr.’s passing—a true CT icon. Through ingenuity, inventiveness, & determination he built a lasting, beloved CT institution. My thoughts are with his family & loved ones during this difficult time.”