Who does your Senator turn to for children’s health advice?
It’s Spring Break right now in the U.S. Senate. And while most Senators are likely to keep their shirts on (thankfully) and avoid the revelries associated with the college version, some at least are engaged in antics that are more consequential and unsavory. Is your Senator among them? You may find out next week.
Back when the Safe Chemicals Act passed committee last year, the Republicans on the committee opposed it and Senator David Vitter of Louisiana announced that he would write an alternative bill. Now that process is reportedly finished and the Senator is preparing to introduce something as early as next week.
He and his backers in the chemical industry are hitting the pavement to find other Senators willing to join in his effort. Should they?
Only a small group of chemical lobbyists and legislative staff have seen the legislation, but it’s possible to discern where they’re headed. First, Senator Vitter has been holed up with a relatively small group of chemical companies – led by Dow and ExxonMobil. He hasn’t solicited input from a single health organization that I’m aware of and I know most of them. Could this imbalance be affecting his judgment? There are some troubling signs.
The Environment and Public Works committee released its official report on the Safe Chemicals Act earlier this year. Senator Vitter oversaw the Republican comments in the report and they staked out extreme views. For example, his comments deride the safety standard in the Safe Chemicals Act, which closely follows the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (along with every other health or science organization.) He derides the very idea that new chemicals should have safety reviews. He even calls for the abolition of state programs on chemicals as the price for a national one.
Will the legislation follow this outline? Will it swap the standards of pediatricians for those of Dow and ExxonMobil? Will these companies, in effect, through Senator Vitter, write their own rules and get rid of pesky state rules in the bargain? And isn’t that kind of thing that everyone hates about Washington?
Could your own Senator possibly go along with something like that?
Well, you should find out. For what the chemical industry lacks in public credibility it makes up for in political money and duplicity. Right now your Senator may be among those subjected to an extremely slick lobbying campaign to get them to join Senator Vitter in his phony reform effort. The fact that the chemical industry spent at least $49 million on elections last year – including millions in gauzy “issue ads” for favored politicians -might be in the back of their minds as they decide what to do.
And that presents a choice: will your Senator work to protect children from toxic chemicals, following the recommendations of our nation’s health authorities, or will they work to protect Dow and ExxonMobil from a world where people increasingly question the safety of their products?
You can help remind them of what’s important.
Call or visit your Senators right now. Or send them a personal email through their website. (It has to be this week while they’re on break.) Tell him or her that Dow and ExxonMobil don’t get to write their own rules. Tell them you want them to protect families from toxic chemicals, not the other way around. Tell them to oppose Senator Vitter’s phony reform bill.
If your Senators listen to you, you will have potentially denied them some campaign riches, but you will have saved them from having their name associated with Washington’s latest special- interest embarrassment.
Click on your state below to leave a personal message for your Senator: