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Liz Jacobs, RN, 510-273-2232 or Michael Lighty, 510-273-2242
Challenging policymakers to heed the advice of America's registered nurses to guarantee healthcare for all, National Nurses United (NNU) is sending a message to House Speaker John Boehner and other members of Congress and the administration.
"The message is simple," says Jean Ross, co-president of NNU, "Our taxes pay for Congressmembers' healthcare, our taxes pay for seniors' healthcare; let's use our taxes to pay for our healthcare."
NNU, the nation's largest organization of direct-care RNs, announced the launch today of a national online advertising campaign that calls on nurses to reach out to voters in Boehner's Ohio congressional district, Michele Bachmann's Minnesota district, and a California political swing district in the Central Valleyrepresented by Jeff Denham, where thousands go without health insurance. As the campaign rolls out, dozens more districts will be added.
Ross, an RN who lives in Minnesota, put it succinctly: "Since everyone needs healthcare, we need to guarantee that everyone has it."
"Our taxes pay for Congressmembers' healthcare," said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of NNU. "Every other country in the world, where U.S. corporations build factories and sell services, uses taxes to pay for their public healthcare. All Americans deserve that same kind of care."
As the New York Times recently reported, these countries with tax-funded national health systems have dramatically lowered costs for medical procedures and devices.
According to NNU, the tax subsidies to buy insurance under Obamacare mostly move money around to pay for private insurance for some that don't have it, and allow the insurance companies to take 20 cents off the top of each dollar spent. Nurses say it would be more efficient to uses taxes to pay for everybody's healthcare directly, eliminating the middleman and the shell game. The current approach sets up a healthcare system based on ability to pay.
"You get only the healthcare you can afford, which leaves tens of millions uninsured, the wealthy with access to better care, poor people at the mercy of states who may or may not want to expand Medicaid, workers dependent on their employers, and employers stuck with the bill," said Ross.
"As numerous reports have documented, that bill for everyone keeps going up, as the price of healthcare keeps rising without any relationship to quality of care," said DeMoro. "The U.S. has the most expensive health system in the world with worse health status and health outcomes than dozens of other advanced countries."
As a result, Jean Ross says, "Registered nurses see and treat an ongoing patient care crisis: patients who forego medical treatment or diagnostic tests they've been prescribed. We see directly the impact of concern over bankruptcy, and the higher risk of heart attacks and strokes because of money worries."
Reinforcing that view, a July 2012 Kaiser Family Foundation survey of the U.S. found 52 percent of men and 64 percent of women delaying or skipping care.
Now as Congress goes home, without passing a budget or creating more jobs, stuck in gridlock, but having made sure they still get taxpayer-funded healthcare, it's time for them to listen to nurses.
"Our patients are at risk," said Ross. "Some big employers are reducing workers' hours to avoid providing health insurance, and the insurance companies are charging whatever they want, yet it would be so simple to cover everybody if we just used our taxes to pay for our healthcare."
"These lobbyists are not getting hired to advocate for American energy consumers—they will push an agenda that benefits the new majority's donors no matter what it costs taxpayers."
An analysis published Friday by the nonpartisan watchdog Accountable.US revealed that numerous former fossil fuel lobbyists are being hired to work for the Republican-controlled 118th Congress, including in high-level positions on the House Natural Resources Committee.
"As the Republicans majority begins the new Congress, former oil industry lobbyists will have new and growing influence as top staffers for congressmen on key committees," the analysis states.
Accountable.US detailed the close ties between Nancy Peele—chief of staff to House Natural Resources Committee Chair Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.)—and fossil fuel interests.
"It's no surprise that Big Oil is infiltrating the halls of Congress after spending millions to elect some of the most extreme legislators in American history."
Peele's history includes:
Majority Leader Steve Scalise's [R-La.] Chief of Staff Megan Bel Miller came to Scalise's office straight out of working as an oil and gas lobbyist... Miller lobbied Congress on behalf of National Oceans Industry Association, a group representing the offshore oil and gas industry. Bel Miller advocated for polluting industry interests on numerous conservation issues, including the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and offshore leasing. Majority Whip Tom Emmer's [R-Minn.] new Policy Director Ian Foley is an energy and mining lobbyist. In 2022, Foley lobbied Congress on behalf of the uranium mining industry and public utilities with oil and gas portfolios.
These are but a handful of the many examples of the revolving door between Big Oil and Congress highlighted in the analysis.
"It's no surprise that Big Oil is infiltrating the halls of Congress after spending millions to elect some of the most extreme legislators in American history," Accountable.US energy and environment director Jordan Schreiber said in a statement. "These lobbyists are not getting hired to advocate for American energy consumers—they will push an agenda that benefits the new majority's donors no matter what it costs taxpayers."
Underscoring the analysis' findings, the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed legislation that would require the federal government to lease a portion of public lands and waters for fossil fuel extraction for each non-emergency drawdown of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The bill was introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee and was the top recipient of oil and gas PAC money in the House Republican caucus during the last election cycle.
\u201cNEW: MAGA Republicans in Congress just passed a bill that would obstruct one of @POTUS\u2019 only powers to protect consumers from Big Oil\u2019s price gouging\u2014letting oil companies get rich at Americans\u2019 expense. https://t.co/pcwPGdVkIs\u201d— Accountable.US (@Accountable.US) 1674844979
"We grieve for all this unthinkable loss. And with our grief, we also rage," said Jewish Voice for Peace. "The Israeli government's domination and oppression of Palestinians is the root cause of each of these senseless, tragic deaths."
Human rights defenders condemned a Friday attack outside a synagogue in an illegal Israeli settlement by a Palestinian gunman who murdered at least seven people—a massacre that followed the killing of 10 Palestinians by Israeli forces during a raid in the occupied West Bank Thursday.
TheTimes of Israelreports the unidentified gunman shot and killed seven people and wounded three others during the Friday evening attack in Neve Yaakov in East Jerusalem. Friday is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The attacker was shot dead during a gunfight with police as he attempted to flee into the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Hanina. An ambulance service said the deceased ranged in age from 20 to 70.
In a statement, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, said the U.N. chief "strongly condemns today's terrorist attack by a Palestinian perpetrator outside a synagogue in Jerusalem, which claimed the lives of at least seven Israelis and injured several others."
"It is particularly abhorrent that the attack occurred at a place of worship, and on the very day we commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day," Dujarric added. "There is never any excuse for acts of terrorism. They must be clearly condemned and rejected by all."
\u201c\ud83d\udea85 #Israelis killed & 5 wounded in a shooting attack near a synagogue in the Neve Yaakov settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.\n\nViolence begets violence begets violence....\n\nPeople don't understand how close the occupied territories are to a full disastrous explosion!\u201d— Muhammad Shehada (@Muhammad Shehada) 1674846498
Tom Nides, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, tweeted that he is "shocked and disgusted at this heinous terrorist attack on innocent people, including children. Praying for all of the victims and their loved ones."
The synagogue massacre came one day after Israeli occupation forces killed 10 Palestinians including an elderly woman and wounded around 20 others during an early morning raid on the Jenin refugee camp. Israeli forces then bombed Gaza early on Friday morning after Palestinian resistance fighters fired two rockets at Israel.
The Jenin raid was part of Operation Breakwater, a nine-month campaign targeting Palestinian resistance in the camp and nearby Nablus. Human rights groups say 30 Palestinians, both fighters and civilians, have been killed so far by Israeli forces in 2023. Last year was the deadliest year for West Bank Palestinians since the second intifada—or general uprising—a generation ago, with 150 people including 33 children killed. Another 53 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in Gaza in 2022.
\u201cInstead of linking today's terrible attack in Jerusalem to Holocaust Remembrance Day, which it has nothing to do with, you might connect it instead to the 30 Palestinians that have been killed by Israel just this month. This is a cycle of violence borne of Israeli apartheid.\u201d— Arielle Angel (@Arielle Angel) 1674851482
In a statement following the synagogue murders, the U.S.-based group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) called the attack "the inevitable, horrifying outcome of decades of Israeli apartheid"
"We grieve for all this unthinkable loss. And with our grief, we also rage. The Israeli government's domination and oppression of Palestinians is the root cause of each of these senseless, tragic deaths," JVP contended.
"The violent, racist speech coming from the Israeli government makes it clear that the Israeli military will continue to escalate its violent attacks on Palestinians. Already the Israeli army has invaded Palestinian neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem," the group said.
\u201c10 killed in #Jenin and now 5 dead, 5 wounded in Jerusalem shooting attack: these are the ENTIRELY PREDICTABLE RESULTS of a vicious extremist #Israeli government that leaves no room for hope, no room for peace, more to come. https://t.co/kQt5NgIMw3\u201d— Sarah Leah Whitson (@Sarah Leah Whitson) 1674845638
What we are witnessing is not a "conflict," a "clash," or a "war" between two equal parties. There is no mistaking the massive disparity of power between the Israeli government and the Palestinians it targets. Backed by $3.8 billion in annual military funding from the U.S. government, the Israeli government controls, dominates, and dispossesses Palestinian lives and lands.
"We are on the side of unconditional commitment to justice, equality, freedom, and dignity for all people, no exceptions," JVP added. "To achieve a future where all are safe and free, we must end the Israeli government's settler-colonial apartheid regime."
"We have sought and aspired to be an example, to uphold international law," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "Instead the administration is making it effectively impossible to seek refuge at our border."
Arguing that the Biden administration's expansion of the Trump-era Title 42 anti-asylum policy is not only immoral but also illegal, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is leading nearly 80 of her fellow Democratic lawmakers in calling on President Joe Biden to instead keep his earlier promise to end the policy that's expelled more than 2.5 million migrants since 2020.
The New York Democrat joined Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) in spearheading a letter signed by a bicameral coalition of lawmakers to "applaud the creation of new legal pathways for Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans" that the Biden administration announced earlier this month, while expressing "great concern" over the restrictions that were paired with those pathways.
"Last year, we welcomed your administration's announcement that it would move to end Title 42, and we continue to support your efforts in the courts to ensure a timely end to the policy," wrote the lawmakers in the Thursday letter. "We are therefore distressed by the deeply inconsistent choice to expand restrictions on asylum-seekers after your administration determined it was no longer necessary for public health. Title 42 circumvents domestic law and international law."
"We urge the Biden administration to engage quickly and meaningfully with members of Congress to find ways to adequately address migration to our southern border that do not include violating asylum law and our international obligations."
The letter was sent three weeks after the administration announced that under Title 42—which was first used by former Republican President Donald Trump to refuse entry into the U.S. to migrants at the southern border during the Covid-19 pandemic, with Trump claiming the policy was needed to protect public health—30,000 migrants from Nicaragua, Cuba, and Haiti will be able to enter the country legally each month through a humanitarian parole program and U.S.-based financial sponsors.
If people from those countries try to enter the U.S. without going through an official port of entry, they will face immediate expulsion to Mexico, with the Mexican government committing to accept 30,000 deported refugees per month.
At a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez said by expanding the Title 42 program, Biden is violating human rights that are "enshrined in domestic and international law."
"We have sought and aspired to be an example, to uphold international law," said the congresswoman. "Instead the administration is making it effectively impossible to seek refuge at our border."
\u201cGreat to see @AOC highlight that Title 42 isn\u2019t just amoral, it\u2019s illegal.\n\n\u201cLast year Pres Biden promised to end Title 42. Instead he's now expanding restrictions on asylum. But the right to seek asylum is enshrined in domestic and international law.\u201d\u201d— Sawyer Hackett (@Sawyer Hackett) 1674781507
The lawmakers also raised alarm about a rulemaking process the Biden administration said it would begin to require migrants to first apply for asylum in a third "transit country" instead of exercising their legal right to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Trump's "third country transit ban" violated U.S. asylum laws which prohibit the government from turning people away if they are not "firmly resettled" in another country where they are safe.
"At the time of this ruling, countries across the Western Hemisphere were unable to meet such requirements," wrote the lawmakers. "There does not appear to be evidence to show that country conditions in transit countries have improved since the relevant appellate decision was rendered as to justify a new third country transit [ban]."
Title 42 was also struck down by a district court in November, but the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the policy to continue for the time being last month. The court is set to hear arguments on the case in February.
The Democrats called on the president to work closely with Congress, which passed the Refugee Act of 1980 and affirmed that people fleeing persecution on "account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion" are legally permitted to seek asylum in the United States.
"We urge the Biden administration to engage quickly and meaningfully with members of Congress to find ways to adequately address migration to our southern border that do not include violating asylum law and our international obligations," said the lawmakers. "When Congress established the right to asylum, it did so without such requirements on where people may have previously traveled through or other pathways available. It is, in fact, necessary that asylum must be maintained and strengthened to ensure that safety is within reach, particularly for the most vulnerable."