Friday, July 25, 2008

Visit to Durbin's Office: July 15, 2008

I suppose this is second in a series...a write-up my RESULTS lobby visits to my members of Congress...

After Obama's office we trotted over to Senator Richard Durbin's office to meet with 2 of his aides. His office is much different than Obama's. A little fancier in the furnishings...a flat screen TV showing CSPAN-2 in the lobby which houses two receptionists instead of one. When we walked in, Senator Demint was speaking against the existing Lantos-Hyde global health bill and in support of one of the amendments...I forget which. The three of us gathered around the TV making various grumbling noises. One receptionist politely offered us seats and we all said "NO!, we mean, we're fine...we're good...umm...that's our bill they're talking about...sorry..."

We were admitted in to speak with two foreign policy aides who work together. Very nice and warm people. We gave our thank you's for Durbin: Global Poverty Act support, general support for fighting against TB, and I couldn't resist throwing in a Farm Bill thank you as well since I had written an LTE in the Wash Times about that. We gave him the same requests about Lantos-Hyde and appropriations (see yesterday's post) and asked him to speak to his colleagues in support of the GPA. The conversation with these aides was much more back-and-forth than with Obama's aide. They asked about what requests we would make of the representatives we'd be seeing later, so we told them about a micro-finance letter to the World Bank that would be circulating for the reps to sign. We'd be asking for them to sign onto that and to co-sponsor a Congressional Medal for Mohammed Yunus for his micro-finance work. This was my favorite part of the meeting. One of the aides asked for our help on that Medal ask since it was his job to contact all the IL reps office's on behalf of Durbin to convince them to sign on. It felt really good to be able to do that aide a a real working relationship. Perhaps a small thing, but I like to think we are working with them in partnership!

Anyway, we hustled out of there right after the meeting ended and got up to the top of the Senate as quickly as we could. I feel so lucky that we got there in time to see Durbin giving his closing remarks on a speech in support of Lantos-Hyde and specifically in support of fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa. It was a mere hours before the vote. He was speaking to a largely empty room on the floor unfortunately, but anyone watching CSPAN-2 was getting it! We couldn't say anything of course, but had he looked up into the gallery, he would have seen our silent applause and fist pumping at the end. I feel so lucky to have Durbin as my senator!

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!