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Talking it Over
October 25, 2000
Over the past five years, I have written nearly 300 columns, many of them about issues I have cared about and worked on for 30 years. As I look back over the list, I'm struck by the extraordinary opportunity this column has afforded me to bring these important topics to national and even international attention.
Only a few days remain in the 106th Congress, after which members will return to their districts to campaign. Unfortunately, Congress has not yet acted on several important fronts: Members have failed to provide Americans with a Patient's Bill of Rights; they have not passed targeted tax credits for long-term care givers; and they have yet to pass the appropriations bill that would fund our education and child care proposals.
Congressional action has shown, though, that the spirit of bipartisanship can lead to the passage of important legislation, much of which I have written about in this space.
One example is the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act, an important bill passed by Congress last week, aimed at ending two heinous practices: trafficking and violence against women. At my request, members of my staff led an interagency effort to win passage of this bill, which will ensure vital assistance for victims, and provide important new tools and resources to help bring an end to the sale of women and children.
Congress also reauthorized and strengthened the Violence Against Women Act, adding new protections and assistance for battered women, reauthorizing the domestic violence hot line, and helping to improve interstate enforcement of protection orders.
In June, when VAWA was winning scant attention on Capitol Hill, I stood with a group of law enforcement officers and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to urge its passage. Since then, my staff has worked tirelessly with members of the administration and lawmakers to make sure that ending violence against women stayed at the top of their agenda, ultimately ensuring not just the bill's survival, but also its new and stronger provisions.
On the health front, Congress passed legislation expanding the Medicaid treatment options for low-income, uninsured women with breast or cervical cancer. For eight years, I have worked with the National Breast Cancer Coalition, first to create a National Action Plan on Breast Cancer, and then later with the President, to bring much-needed federal support to the fight against cancer.
Many of our children will be healthier and better off thanks to passage of the Children's Health Act. Signed by the President last week, this bill includes grants to improve the safety and health of children in day care. In 1997, the President and I hosted the first-ever White House Conference on Child Care, an event that highlighted the critical shortage of high-quality, affordable day care in this country. The following January, the President, in his State of the Union address, unveiled a child care initiative similar to the one he signed last week. Like the President's proposal, the Children's Health Act includes funds to train child care providers, improve health and safety standards, and strengthen enforcement mechanisms.
Parents hoping to adopt will also be pleased by recent Congressional and administration efforts on their behalf. Earlier this month, the President signed the Intercountry Adoption Act, based on a Hague Convention negotiated by the U.S. and 65 other countries. In response to abuses in the foreign adoption process -- including the trafficking of children -- and, in light of the rapidly increasing numbers of foreign children being adopted by American families, I have been a strong supporter of this convention. It establishes important protections for internationally adopted children, as well as for their birth and adoptive parents.
Congress also passed important legislation that will continue and expand microcredit assistance for the world's poorest entrepreneurs, many of whom are women. My enthusiasm for microcredit dates back to my years in Arkansas, when my husband and I introduced some of the first microenterprise programs in the United States. I have spoken out on microcredit many times, and my enthusiasm has infected my staff, who have worked hard to secure passage of this bill.
Finally, our children and arts education got a boost from lawmakers. A longtime arts supporter, I am a true believer in the importance of arts education, so I was pleased to see approval of the first significant increase in the National Endowment for the Arts budget since the Republican takeover of Congress six years ago.
Over the past seven years, we have seen partisan politics scuttle important legislation -- even a bill as popular as the President's proposal to keep guns out of the hands of children. In these last few days of the 106th Congress, I hope the spirit of bipartisanship is the spirit that prevails -- and that our lawmakers use this time to pass legislation that matters to the American people.
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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