The 108th Congress has adjourned for the year, and I thought it was a good time to update you on the past twelve months. It has been an active
session full of challenges and opportunities.
Like many of you, my top concerns this past year were economic security, homeland security, and national security. At the same time, I have continued
to fight on other vital fronts, concentrating on efforts to improve health care, promote education, and protect the environment. It has been a tough
battle. But I have been working hard to represent the state of New York and fight for the interests of New Yorkers.
Unfortunately for New York State and the Nation, our economic troubles have continued. What little recovery we have seen has been called a "jobless
recovery." Again this year we watched as both manufacturing and white collar jobs moved out of our state and out of the county. However, there is
hope on the horizon. In town after town and city after city, New York communities are coming together to plan for our future economic prosperity.
This year we helped bring people together all over the state, including the meeting between Broome County businesses and Defense Contractors in
Binghamton; the Farm-to-Fork meeting in Syracuse; the Microcredit launch in Albany; and most recently, the Broadband conference in Delhi.
As part of the continuing effort to spur economic growth, I have worked on forward-looking initiatives. I co-sponsored the 21st Century
Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, which is now law. New York State is a leader in nanotechnology, and these funds hold the promise of more
high-tech jobs across the state. I also joined with Senator Burn (Mont.) on a bill that will encourage rural broadband access.
Of course, I know many New Yorkers live in towns where there are few jobs. To assist the long-term unemployed, I helped win an extension of
Unemployment Insurance on the first day of the 108th Congress. And I have called for an additional extension to help New Yorkers weather the weak job
I am also an enthusiastic supporter of a private sector venture called "New Jobs for New York." This not for profit effort, headed by my friend
Roger Altman, is designed to attract new investment to communities throughout our state. Roger asked me to chair the New Jobs for New York Advisory
Board and I gladly accepted. I look forward to helping this organization in any way I can and am excited about its potential for creating new
opportunities for New Yorkers throughout the state.
There is much more to be done on the economic front. I look forward to working with all New Yorkers - citizens and business leaders, labor and trade,
non-profits and government - to address these issues that are so fundamental to our livelihood.
Like all New Yorkers and Americans, I will never forget the lessons we learned on September 11th, 2001. One such lesson is that our first responders
need to be properly equipped so that they can respond to potential attacks. I have worked quite hard to win the resources needed to guard against
future attacks. And I have worked equally hard making sure funds meant for our first responders actually arrive.
I began the 108th Congress calling for direct, increased, and threat-based homeland security funding for our communities and first responders. To
fully understand this issue, my office conducted two comprehensive studies that looked at the needs of first responders and the efficiency of federal
fund distribution. To our disappointment, both reports - one in January, one in October - concluded that first responders had many unmet needs and
New York communities were not receiving federal homeland security funds in a timely manner. The information in these reports illustrated the need for
changes in our homeland security funding program. (To read my reports, please go to: clinton.senate.gov...
We all must remain vigilant when it comes to our domestic security. I will continue to fight for new resources, and work to make sure that current
funds go to the first responders.
Defense And Our Veterans
This past Thanksgiving, I visited our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. I went on the trip, along with Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), to show support for our
men and women in uniform and to see first hand the challenges they face. I was honored to spend the holiday talking with servicemen and women from
the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum and the 914th Airlift Wing, out of Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. (For a detailed account of my trip,
please go to: clinton.senate.gov...
I was proud to honor these young men and women. I believe, however, that support for our troops should not end when their tour of duty is over. Nor
should that support be solely limited to support of military action. This year, I wrote Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld objecting to the
proposed closure of schools and commissaries on military bases, including the school at West Point and the commissary at the Stratten Air National
Guard base. I also joined with fellow Armed Services Committee members to co-sponsor the National Guard and Reserves Reform Act for the 21st Century,
a bipartisan bill designed to benefit members of the National Guard and Reserves.
In early November the Senate approved legislation to provide increased access to the military health care system, known as TRICARES, for members of
the National Guard and Reserve. I co-sponsored this bipartisan effort because I firmly believe that at a time when we are increasingly relying on the
services of our National Guard and Reserve we should not be denying them access to health care. Under this legislation, all members of the Guard and
Reserve who do not have access to health insurance through their civilian employer will be able to enroll themselves and their families in the TRICARE
To safeguard our veterans, I co-sponsored the Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2003, part of ongoing efforts to fix a law that prevents disabled
veterans from receiving both retirement pay and disability pay. I have fought for veterans' health care by working to prevent the closure of V.A.
hospitals in Canandaigua, Montrose, and Manhattan.
Health Care, Labor, Environment, and Education
When we talk about health care over the past year, I feel like a doctor walking into the room with a distressed look on her face. When we began 2003,
seniors were in dire need of a comprehensive prescription drug plan. As the year ends, the President has singed a bill that gives a cursory drug
benefit at a huge expense. As I said before, this bill was a wolf in sheep's clothing. (To view my complete floor statement against this bill,
please go to: clinton.senate.gov...
) If left untouched, it will change Medicare as we know it and leave many
seniors with less coverage than before. I fought against these changes and will continue to pursue a real, comprehensive drug benefit for seniors.
However, I assure you, it is not all bad news. Among other initiatives, I pushed for legislation known as the "Pediatric Rule," which assures that
medicines needed by children will be studied for safety and effectiveness on children. This rule was adopted in the Clinton Administration. But the
current Administration wavered on the rule. Now, thanks to the bipartisan support of my colleagues, the "Pediatric Rule" is again law. I also
pushed for research that compares the effectiveness of alternative drugs for the same condition. This will assure that seniors and others know which
drugs are the most effective, not just the most advertised.
In many ways, what we do in Washington is measured by the bills we pass. Often, however, our greatest victories come in the changes we prevent. One
such change was the Administration's attempt to limit overtime pay. I co-sponsored the amendment that stopped the Department of Labor's attempt to
deny overtime pay to 8 million Americans.
I also fought the Bush Administration's plans to weaken the Clean Air Act, and spoke out against changes in mercury regulations, and helped stall the
energy bill (For my floor statement against the energy bill, please go to: clinton.senate.gov...
). As I have
said before, the environment is one of our most important fronts, not only due of its inherent link to the health of our nation, but because it is the
area most under assault from the current administration.
Some other important accomplishments this year include: co-sponsoring legislation that continues the Adoption Incentives program I helped develop as
first lady; fighting for the establishment of the National Museum of African American History and Culture; pushing to provide $100 million to meet the
AmeriCorps funding shortfall; and introducing The Hydrogen Fuel Cell Act of 2003, which calls for an all-out commitment of national resources to
develop hydrogen fuel cell technology.
I would like to conclude this update by telling you about an innovative, yet simple program that helps both New York students and apple farmers.
Teaming with General Mills this summer, we launched the "Apples for Education Program." Students across New York State can "harvest" stickers
from New York State apples and place them on posters in their school cafeterias. Schools redeem the posters for cash through General Mills' "Box
Tops for Education Initiative." This program exemplifies what we can do when we work together: industry and education, business and government,
students and farmers. It shows us that together, we can all prosper.
The past year was filled with challenges and opportunities. I am certain that 2004 will be as well. There is much to do for New York State and for
New York families. I hope you will join me in making our New York community the best it can be.
Hillary Rodham Clinton