Thursday, July 24, 2008

Visit to Obama's office: July 15, 2008

On July 15, I had the honor and privilege of visiting the offices of 6 members of Congress with my IL colleagues from the RESULTS advocacy group. RESULTS is a citizen's group that advocates against hunger and the worst aspects of poverty. The first office we visited was of our very own jr senator, the Honorable Barack Obama.

I'll break the suspense right here. We didn't meet him. Nor did we expect to. I rather hoped he'd fly in and out as the Lantos-Hyde global health bill was to be voted on that day, but he may have been privy to knowledge that I didn't have (duh!) and known that it was to likely to pass by a large majority. So, he wasn't around, but we had an appt with ne of his foreign policy aides as our focus was on global poverty.

I'd never been to a senator's office before. Much smaller and less glamourous than you might think. Good for a taxpayer to see :) We were not the only visitors. A US soldier was there picking up a flag for a family member along with some tourists complete with 2 little girls all dressed in red, white, and blue from their dresses to their hair ribbons. His lobby is filled with Chicago pics and literature. My partners were disappointed it was all Cubs stuff, but hey...I'm north-sider. I didn't mind. But...down to business

After profuse thank you's for the Global Poverty Act support, our first order of business was the mentioned Lantos-Hyde act. It's main purpose was to expand US resources to fight three diseases of poverty around the world: TB, HIV/AIDS and Malaria. Our exciting, breaking news to talk about was a point of order that came up the day before that could have killed the whole $50 billion proposal! We were there to urge that it be waived and to oppose the 10 amendments that were meant to weaken the bill. We had no idea whether or not he would be in town for the voting, so we did our pitch as if he were. Obama supported the bill anyway, so we were only following up on the breaking news. Going further in our requests, we asked him to support the Education for All Act (S 1259) which seeks to provide basic education for all children around the world by: authorizing $3 billion by 2012, requiring the president to prioritize basic education funding and strategies for the most disadvantaged kids (child laborers, girls in remote areas, orphans, the disabled, etc), eliminating school fees, funding for refugee camps, etc. Obama is NOT a co-sponsor as of 7/10/08 and we urged him to become one. Clinton was the original sponsor...could that be why he was previously not on her bill? Well, if that's the reason, it's done with, so we want him on it now. There was an appropriations ask as well to speak to other senators on our behalf since the State and Foreign Ops committee was to consider its spending bill on 7/17.

So those were the issues on the table. We still don't know why he isn't a Education for All sponsor, but we'll follow up on that later. His aide was polite, but busy and it was a good experience to start the day. We also got gallery passes there so we could go into the Senate chamber during the Lantos-Hyde debate...which was pretty dang cool since Durbin was speaking in support of it when we were there. Later that evening, one of his aides showed up at a banquet RESULTS threw, which was an extremely nice gesture for his office to make!

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