Unfortunately, issues aren't always black and white, nor are the bills and amendments I am asked to cast my vote on. Right after I took office, there was a proposal to expand the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which I support. However, the proposed expansion was funded with a cigarette tax increase. I worked with my colleague, Senator Jim Webb from Virginia, to offer an amendment which would reduce the impact on North Carolina's tobacco industry and create an alternate and more equitable funding stream. Unfortunately, we were not able to garner enough support from our colleagues to pass that amendment. Ultimately, we were asked to vote on the entire package. As a mother of three, and with the health and vitality of 10 million of our nation's children at stake, I could not in good conscience vote against the bill.
The stimulus bill and its amendments were the topic of discussion for weeks prior to the final vote. I reviewed the bill myself, and was briefed by my staff, throughout the process. In short, no one disagreed that something needed to be done. The question was, what needed to be done? I was unhappy with the version originally passed in the House of Representatives, and I supported the Nelson-Collins amendment that slashed more than $100 billion in spending from the initial proposal. There were absolutely no earmarks in the stimulus bill, which I believe was an important factor in securing its passage with the support of 60 senators from both sides of the aisle.
Please accept my sincerest apologies and I certainly appreciate your patience during this transition period in my office.
We have received thousands of letters and e-mails and we are responding to them in the order in which they were received. As we continue to hire more staff in my Washington, D.C., and state offices, we will be able to respond to letters in a more timely manner.
I take constituent service very seriously. It was a hallmark of my office in the state senate, and my constituents should expect nothing less from me here in the U.S. Senate. Once I am in my permanent office space in Washington, D.C., I will be hosting "Carolina Coffees" on Wednesday mornings when Congress is in session so that North Carolinians can stop by to chat with me and my staff while they are in Washington. When back in the state, I plan on having open office hours in my state offices as well as in other cities and towns.
On my Web site, http://hagan.senate.gov, you can read about what I've been doing and saying on the issues of the day. You can also see when I will be holding public events in your area (I get back to North Carolina as often as possible). I ran an open and accessible campaign – to the public and to the press – and I intend to be open and accessible as your U.S. Senator.
I agree that we in Congress need to set an example at times like these. Congress recently passed legislation freezing salaries for members of Congress for the next year, and I am proud to have co-sponsored a measure that will permanently eliminate automatic pay increases for members of Congress.
I am a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, as well as the E-Verify program. The amendment to which you are referring was attached to the Omnibus Bill, which would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year and already included a provision to extend E-Verify for another year. Passing the Omnibus Bill was a necessity, since not doing so could have resulted in a government shutdown. Instead of loading up the bill with amendments which would impede its passage, I would support a stand-alone bill that would further extend the E-Verify system.
The Employee Free Choice Act simply allows employees, not their employers, to decide if and how they would like to organize at their workplace. I support EFCA as a way to level the playing field for working families. Importantly, and contrary to public opinion, EFCA does not take away the secret ballot – it allows the employee the right to choose how they cast their vote. They may still choose to cast their vote by secret ballot or by signing cards. I agree with you that decertification should follow the same procedures as certification. I will be supportive of reasonable changes to the National Labor Relations Act to clarify that this is the case.
Governor Perdue and governors across the country are facing difficult budget decisions. There are no good answers. While I would pursue every other viable alternative before pulling money from education, I believe that Governor Perdue is doing what she believes to be in the best interests of North Carolina.
I support comprehensive immigration reform and I do not support allowing illegal immigrants into North Carolina colleges and universities.
We need to work toward a practical solution that is fair to taxpayers and addresses the problem at its roots. We must strengthen our borders, enforce and upgrade laws that crack down on employers who knowingly hire illegal workers, and eliminate the shadow economy that drives down wages and working conditions.
Less than a month into my service in the U.S. Senate, I was faced with a difficult choice, in which the health of our state's children was at odds with a key industry in North Carolina. North Carolina employs 65,000 people in the tobacco industry – from the large tobacco companies to the distributors and, particularly in eastern North Carolina, the tobacco farmers. These people, and this industry, were tapped to shoulder more than their share of the burden for the expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health care for our nation's neediest and most disadvantaged children.
Furthermore, I am staunchly opposed to the proposal being advanced by some of my colleagues to have the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate tobacco. As recent reports about the contamination of peanuts would confirm, the FDA already has their plate full. Recently, Senator Burr and I introduced the Federal Tobacco Act of 2009, which would require full disclosure of the ingredients in cigarettes, but would not allow the government to mandate what actually constitutes a cigarette. We believe this to be a reasonable alternative that does not, once again, unfairly burden tobacco farmers and the industry.
In the North Carolina State Senate, I helped to extend health insurance to uninsured children, expand preventive and primary care for uninsured patients in rural North Carolina and end insurance discrimination against mental health care. In these tough economic times, Americans are fighting to maintain their health care coverage as premiums and drug prices rise, insurance covers less and health plans discriminate against those with chronic conditions. I believe we must focus on expanding affordable, quality health care access for North Carolinians and all Americans. We need to invest in higher quality and more efficient care, focus on keeping people healthy instead of only treating them when they are sick and streamline the system to cut down on costs and waste.
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