With the 111th Congress coming to a close, now is a good time to look back at the track record of success that President Obama and the Democrats had over the past two years. And what a track record it has been. Contrary to the conservative media’s portrayal of the Democrats as being ineffectual and spineless, the reality is that President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and the rest of the Democratic caucus successfully enacted significant progressive legislation and executive policies that are critically important to our country and that will hopefully be with us for decades to come.
As you read the list of progressive highlights from 2009 and 2010 below, keep in mind that much of the public still remains unaware of how much strong, progressive legislation the Democrats got through and how popular such legislation is. So, it would be quite valuable to write letters to the editor of your local newspapers in order to thank the Democrats for all of the progress they made over the past two years, and to encourage Republicans not to try to rescind the progress we have made so far. Here are links to national papers, and to newspapers in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Also, send us an email if you know of any additional progressive victories from the past two years that we should add to the list
2009-2010 Democratic Progressive Accomplishments
* Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – ends official discrimination against LGBT Americans who wish to serve their country in the military
* START Treaty Ratification – reduces deployed nuclear weapons by 1/3 and ensures that we are able to continue nuclear weapons inspections in Russia in order to verify reductions and help keep nuclear materials out of the hands of rogue nations or terrorists
* Affordable Care Act (health care reform) – expands access to affordable health insurance to 32 million more Americans, ends numerous abusive health insurance industry practices, provides significant tax credits to make health insurance affordable for families earning less than $88,000 per year and for small businesses, and creates health insurance exchanges overseen by the government or non-profit entities.
* Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act - Increases student aid by at least $65 billion over next decade by shifting funding from private student loan companies to students who need assistance affording college.
* Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act - raises nutritional standards for school lunches and increases school lunch program funding by $4.5 billion over the next 10 years – expands access to school lunch program for at least 115,000 students
* Fair Sentencing Act – reduced the sentencing disparity between crack and cocaine, which has a significant disparate impact on African Americans, from 100-1 to 18-1. Eliminates mandatory five-year prison sentences for first time crack possession convictions.
* Wall Street reform, which enables government to step in to liquidate failing financial institutions in order to prevent additional future bailouts, creates a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to curb abusive lending practices by credit card companies and payday lenders, and regulate derivatives trading
* Serve America Act - reauthorizes and expands federally-funded national service programs, such as AmeriCorps and VISTA
* Children’s Health Insurance Program (“CHIP”) – reauthorized and expanded CHIP from providing health insurance for 7 million children to providing health insurance for 11 million children, and allows states to extend benefits to legal immigrants
* Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act - helps ensure equal pay for equal work by enabling people to challenge unequal pay in court even if the fact that their pay is unequal is not discovered by the employee for a long time
* Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act - gives the Food and Drug Administration regulatory authority over production and marketing of tobacco products. Also limits advertising that targets children, requires disclosure of ingredients and gives FDA authority to ban some ingredients in cigarettes, and requires larger warning labels on tobacco products.
* American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - A $787 billion economic stimulus package that stabilized our economy, prevented a second Great Depression, created 3.3 million jobs, and avoided greater declines in GDP. The stimulus legislation included:
*$14 billion in funding for energy efficiency programs, including weatherization of low-income housing, state and local governments, and federal building energy efficiency retrofits
* $25.8 billion in funding for health information technology development
* a 65% subsidy for the cost of continuation of health insurance under the COBRA program for individuals who lost their jobs
* $2 billion for Community Health Centers
* $15.6 billion increase in Pell Grants
* $2.1 billion for Head Start
* $19.9 billion for the Food Stamp Program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
* $8 billion for high-speed rail development
* $6 billion for development of energy smart-grid
* Established meaningful limits and oversight for the use of Troubled Asset Relief Program (“TARP”) funds, thereby ensuring that virtually all of the $700 billion in TARP funds were repaid to the U.S. Treasury.
* Ended major combat operations in Iraq, and began to bring our troops home from the Iraq War more quickly than the schedule that President Obama had campaigned on
* Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act – restricts credit card companies from raising interest rates or charging penalty fees, and requires increased disclosure of credit card terms and conditions
* Increased automobile fuel efficiency standards to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016
* FDA Food Safety Modernization Act – upgraded food safety procedures in the U.S. for first time since the 1930s
*Matthew Sheppard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act - authorizes the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute hate crimes and to aid state and local law enforcement in doing so
* Established by Executive Order pollution reduction and efficiency standards for federal government buildings, vehicle fleets, and purchasing
* Issued an Executive Order prohibiting torture of prisoners of war, requiring compliance with Geneva Conventions, and rescinding any previous inconsistent Executive Orders
* Established by Executive Order strict new ethics standards for federal employees or those seeking federal employment to help end the revolving door between lobbying shops and government agencies
* Claims Resolution Act – authorizes funding for the Pigford II Settlement, which provides $1.15 billion in federal funding to settle approximately 80,000 claims by African American farmers of discriminatory loan practices in the 1980s by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Cobell Settlement, which provides $1.9 billion in federal funding to settle claims regarding U.S. Government mismanagement of trust funds and water rights for Native Americans
* Equal Hospital Visitation Rights - issued a Presidential Memorandum requiring that all hospitals accepting Medicare or Medicaid funding to provide equal hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients
* Federal Benefits for Same-Sex Partners – issued a President Memorandum extending federal benefits for same-sex partners to all employees of the Executive Branch and the Foreign Service
* Have started us on the path toward closing the entire Medicare prescription drug coverage doughnut hole by 2020
* Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act - reforms Pentagon procurement policies to prevent billions of dollars in wasteful spending over the next decade
* American Opportunity Tax Credit - $2,500 tax credit for working families and students attending college – included in stimulus bill and extended through the recent unemployment benefits/tax cuts compromise
* Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act - expands health care services, including mental health services and counseling, available to our veterans
* Ended the unnecessary F-22 fighter plane project, saving taxpayers $4 billion
* Have put in motion a plan to trim $100 billion in wasteful military spending over the next five years
* Saved the U.S. auto industry through an emergency auto industry rescue package
* Lifted President Bush’s restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research
* Repeated extensions of unemployment benefits, the most recent of which will prevent 7 million Americans from losing their safety net