This week I worked with my colleagues on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to mark up S. 982, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The bill will give FDA the authority it needs to regulate tobacco products and work to prevent our children from smoking and beginning potentially life-long and life-threatening habits. The House of Representatives has already passed its version of the bill in April and the HELP Committee successfully voted it out of Committee on Wednesday evening, by a vote of 15-8. Senator Reid has indicated that the full Senate will take up the bill after the Memorial Day recess. I look forward to passing this bill in the Senate and seeing it signed into law.
Did you know that 18,400 children and teens in Pennsylvania start smoking every year, and 20,000 adults in PA die each year from tobacco-related causes? Please visit the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids at www.tobaccofreekids.org for more information about preventing youth smoking, and follow the progress of the bill at www.thomas.gov (search for “S. 982”).
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I had the opportunity to raise two foreign policy issues of particular concern to me. I first asked the Secretary about the Administration’s approach to dealing with the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. The Secretary and I agreed that we must use all tools at our disposal, from diplomacy to robust economic sanctions, to convince the Iranian regime to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons. I support President Obama’s plan to engage Iran diplomatically, and along with Senator Brownback of Kansas I recently introduced the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2009, legislation to authorize state and local governments to divest their pension funds of assets held by companies that continue to do business with Iran.
Secretary Clinton and I also discussed the escalating crisis in Pakistan. The Pakistani military is engaged in heavy fighting with the Taliban insurgency, which has captured territory within 60 miles of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. What is particularly troubling from the perspective of United States national security is the prospect of a Pakistani nuclear warhead ending up in the hands of the Taliban, Al Qaeda or other extremist groups. A terrorist group acquiring nuclear weapons would pose a grave threat to the world. The Secretary assured me that she and other senior U.S. officials are confident that Pakistan’s nuclear material is adequately secure. I will continue to work with the Administration to help counter the Taliban threat in Pakistan.
Click here to read my floor statement on our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I had the pleasure to drop by Williamsport on Monday to see some exciting developments happening there. The downtown is often the heart of a community. Many downtowns across Pennsylvania, including Williamsport’s, have faced difficult challenges over the years. But that city’s leaders are working hard to stabilize and strengthen the downtown with three projects that I had an opportunity to tour yesterday. It was a beautiful sunny day in Williamsport, and I joined Williamsport Mayor Gabe Campana, Lycoming County Commissioner Ernie Larson, State Representative Rick Mirabito and other local officials on a walking tour of a four-block area in downtown.
We looked over the sites of three future revitalization projects that will include construction of a Kohl’s Department Store, relocation of a local bank, expansion of Wegman’s Market, additional parking, and expansion of the Trade and Transit building. Revitalizing a downtown is more than aesthetic – it also means retention and creation of jobs. These projects can provide a much-needed boost to the economy of the region.
I want to extend my congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins for advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. I would also like to wish them good luck as they take on the Carolina Hurricanes in the Conference Finals! Let's go Pens!
Under President Obama's initiative, the United States has initiated the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq. The Iraqi government will face many challenges to protect its citizens and ensure the country’s stability. One of those challenges will be dealing with a refugee crisis that has affected the lives of nearly five million Iraqis. Since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003, over two million Iraqis have been forced to relocate indefinitely to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and other countries in the region. Two million more have been forced from their homes and are stuck in camps for displaced persons inside Iraq. The majority of them are unable to return home because their old neighborhoods are unsafe. In addition, many do not have any prospects for employment. At the moment, the Iraqi government does not have the capacity to reintegrate such a large number of people back into society.
The United States has a moral obligation to assist these people whose lives have been turned upside down as a consequence of the war. I am pleased that the White House is committed to providing over a hundred million dollars of assistance and plans to increase the number of Iraqi refugees who will be resettled in the United States. In a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing that I chaired on this topic and in subsequent exchanges with senior Administration officials, I have encouraged the Administration to devise a comprehensive strategy to deal with this crisis.
Click here to read my opening statement from the hearing on the Iraqi refugee crisis.
Refugees International Iraq