While House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) sits on all potential legislation such as immigration reform, non-discrimination, etc., the rest of the world is moving forward to make life better for people. Here are some recent actions:
The Sacramento Superior Court defended California’s clean energy economy by upholding California’s cap-and-trade program. Business interests opposed the law, but the court supported the state’s position that auctioning carbon permits holds polluters accountable for making an adverse impact on the climate. The first four “auctions” raised $395 million for the state, and the fifth one is due this coming week.
In two different cases, Mutual Pharmaceuticals v. Bartlett (2011) and Pliva v. Mensing (2013), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that makers of generic drugs could not warn people of the dangers associated with their drugs because they had to copy the brand-name drug label, per FDA mandates. The FDA policy and Supreme Court decisions eliminated any incentive for generic drug makers to investigate and report safety problems related to their products, about 84 percent of the medication market, by giving them total immunity.
Recently, differences between generics and brand-names, such as Wellbutrin and its generics, resulted in several generics being pulled from the market because the generics are not equivalent to the brand-name drugs. For example, stories about problems surrounding Wellbutrin generics were in the media for at least six years before the FDA ruled that the generic was not equivalent.
The good news: After extensive petitioning, the FDA proposes revising its 1992 ruling to requiring changes in generic drug labels listing dangers not provided in labels for brand-name drugs. If generic drug makers present a valid case for changes in the labeling, the FDA may permit this information on the labels. Generic drug manufacturers could also distribute “Dear Health Care Provider” letters. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce expressed concern that the change would create new liability standards for generic drug manufacturers under the same failure-to-warn standards that have resulted in huge fines for many branded drug manufacturers. The FDA is providing 60 days for public and industry input regarding the changes in the rules before they could go into effect.
Public Citizen, which worked to petition the FDA regarding labeling rules, has also issued a report about the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in Oklahoma and Texas just weeks before the 485-mile-long pipeline is supposed to have 700,000 barrels of diluted bitumen pumped through it daily. Members of Public Citizen who walked a 250-mile stretch documented and photographed engineering code violations and approximately 125 “anomalies” of dents, sags, peeling patches, and other problems.
Public Citizen has called for a U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) investigation into its findings. The organization has also requested that Congress and the White House delay any pipeline use until a government investigation is complete.
Martin Bashir has called out Sarah Palin about her comparison between slavery and the national debt. Although right-wingers accuse Bashir of being a misogynist, I think he’s a hero for his history lesson, using the diary of plantation overseer Thomas Thistlewood to describe the brutality and inhumanity of slavery in Colonial America.
In 1756, Thistlewood recorded that a slave named Darby “catched eating kanes had him well flogged and pickled, then made Hector, another slave, s-h-i-t in his mouth.” The overseer’s punishment became known as “Darby’s Dose.” The diary also described treatment for a man he called Punch. “Flogged punch well, and then washed and rubbed salt pickle, lime juice and bird pepper, made Negro Joe piss in his eyes and mouth.”
The liberal wing of the Senate is moving forward while GOP senators filibuster the three women nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit: Nina Pillard, Patricia Millett, and Caitlin Halligan. GOP senators accused the women accused of “militant feminism” because of their work for women’s rights. (Misogyny?)
Democratic senators have introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013 that would prevent states from passing TRAP laws. Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers attempt to stop abortion access in 45 states by creating frivolous regulations such as specific dimensions for clinic restrooms and mandates that doctors performing abortions have privileges at nearby hospitals. These state laws, some of them overturned by courts, have closed 54 women’s clinics, 12 of them in Texas. That state’s reduction in funding closed another 50 family planning clinics.
Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (CT), Barbara Boxer (CA), Tammy Baldwin (WI) introduced the bill in the upper chamber. Reps. Judy Chu (CA), Marcia Fudge (OH), and Lois Frankel (FL) brought the bill to the House. The last time that Congress passed proactive legislation protecting abortion access was the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act in 1994.
Another Senate bill extends the life of Social Security and improves its benefits. Democrats Sherrod Brown (OH),Tom Harkin (IA), Brian Schatz (HI), and Mark Begich (AK) are sponsoring the Strengthen Social Security Act of 2013:
Strengthen Benefits by Reforming the Social Security Benefit Formula: By changing the way that SS benefits are calculated, the average increase per person would by about $70 per month with those in low- and middle-income levels targeted.
Ensure that Cost of Living Adjustments Adequately Reflect the Living Expenses of Retirees: A change in the calculation of Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) would also create an increase in SS benefits. At this time, the COLA is tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation, using items that do not correctly reflect purchases that seniors make, such as medical care. The bill bases future COLAs on the CPI for the Elderly (CPI-E), an experimental index that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has been keeping since 1982.
Improve the Long Term Financial Condition of the Trust Fund: According to the most recent Social Security Trustees report, the Trust Fund can pay full benefits through 2033, another 20 years. The proposed change is phasing out the current taxable cap of $113,700 so that the wealthiest Americans contribute to the program the same share of their income as the middle class.
Republicans may not vote for these bills, but they’ll be forced to show that they vote against women and senior citizens.