The Leahy Letter - June 24, 2010

Senator Patrick Leahy's Update from the Nation's Capital

Wall Street Reform Bill Nears The Finish Line - Negotiations Are Continuing Into The Night

Today is the last scheduled day of the House-Senate conference on the Wall Street reform bill. As one of the 12 Senate conferees, Senator Leahy used Vermont's seat at the table to increase transparency, tougher criminal penalties for Wall Street fraud, and curb abuses such as unfettered derivatives. Cleaning up Wall Street abuses will help build confidence in the economy and continue the progress toward economic recovery.

The bill will end taxpayer bailouts for Wall Street. It will stop financial institutions from growing 'too big to fail' and putting the entire economy at risk. It will shed light on the $600 trillion derivatives market for the first time. It will add closer oversight over hedge funds. It includes strong consumer protections for financial products and loans. And it will, for the first time, have fair and reasonable swipe fees on debit and credit cards.

Other Leahy reforms added in conference will offer protections to whistleblowers who come forward to report financial fraud and abuse.

The House and Senate are expected to consider the final bill next week. Once approved, it will be sent to the President to be signed into law.

Leahy Expresses Concern About The Road Ahead In Afghanistan

After replacing General McChrystal with General Petraeus this week, President Obama declared that the U.S. policy in Afghanistan will not change and that American troops could remain there in significant numbers well after the President's withdrawal timeline begins next summer. At this point, seven months into the surge, there is little evidence yet that adding tens of thousands of troops is beating back the Taliban or that the Karzai government is any more capable of governing.

At a recent Senate hearing, Senator Leahy told Secretary of Defense Gates that Americans want to see Al Qaeda and the Taliban defeated, but that many Americans are concerned about the need to have clear, achievable goals. To read more about Afghanistan, click here.

Tightening Laws To Hold Big Oil Accountable

Since April 20, when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, Congressional inquiries continue to reveal more about how it happened. Now, more needs to be done to keep it from ever happening again.

Senator Leahy has introduced two reforms -- one that will help families of victims who perish on the high seas, and one to establish and enforce stronger sentences for those who commit environmental crimes. The Environmental Crimes Enforcement Act (ECEA) would increase sentence guidelines for oil companies and other corporations that damage the environment, by mandating restitution for criminal violations of the Clean Water Act. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed this Leahy bill today.

The Survivors Equality Act will ensure that the survivors of those who were killed, and future victims killed in international waters, will be entitled to equal justice under the law. Right now, families of wrongful death victims killed at a job site on land are able to recover for losses that include loss of care or companionship damages, but those killed at sea may not. The Leahy SEA bill will remedy that disparity.

For up-to-date information on all related legislation currently before Congress and to learn about what Senator Leahy is doing to protect the environment and families of victims, please see Senator Leahy's webpage devoted to the oil spill here.

Supreme Court Hearings Begin June 28

Senator Leahy will chair the confirmation hearings on the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to be an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Judiciary Committee has received an unprecedented amount of information in connection with the nomination. The hearings will begin on Monday, June 28.

You can watch video remarks on this nomination or find out more information about the hearings here.

What Does Health Care Reform Mean For Vermonters?

On Senator Leahy's website, you can find extensive information on what the new health care reform law means for Vermonters, including fresh details regarding the new Patient's Bill of Rights. The website includes information explaining how the law works for early retirees, seniors, small businesses and veterans, as well as answers to frequently asked questions. This page is updated frequently so please check back often to find out what this means for you and your family. Visit the Health Care Reform page.

Leahy Takes Action For The Men And Women Of The National Guard

As a Co-Chair of the Senate National Guard Caucus, Senator Leahy has again teamed up with Co-Chair Senator Kit Bond (R-Mo.) to look out for the equipment needs of the men and women serving in the National Guard. Senators Leahy and Bond have asked the Senate Appropriations Committee for an additional $870 million to help the National Guard and Reserves address critical equipment shortfalls. The two senators asked for added funds for the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account, to be included in the Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2011. The resources would go toward equipment needed for both domestic and overseas missions. Senator Leahy and Senator Bond both are also senior members of the Appropriations Committee.

Senator Leahy launched Postcards From Home in April as a way to send video greetings to the dedicated Vermonters in the armed services who are currently serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other locations across the globe. Already there have been many video responses from Vermont veterans, school groups, and family members. You can learn more about this project on Senator Leahy's website, or you can watch some of the videos on YouTube here.

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693