Mike Michaud Working with a New Democratic Congress
by Ramona du
The first week
in the United States Congress with Democrats in control of House and Senate, the
difference was incredible for Congressman Mike Michaud. Legislation that helped the
wellbeing of the American people passed, and business was conducted, "In the light of
day," smiled the congressman.
Before the 2007
elections, Congressman Michaud had only experienced a time when the Republicans held the
power in Congress and in the executive branch. In order to rush through legislation they
thought would be controversial, they would pass it in the middle of the night, when the TV
cameras were off. They became used to ramrodding the democratic process by pushing forward
an agenda that rewarded the ultra-rich and took advantage of everyone else. They regularly
discarded the laws that govern the democratic body, because no oversight committees were
appointed. In control, they thought they could do just about anything. But those were the
very pleased with the work we have been able to do in such a short timeframe. We passed
ethics reform and rules, the minimum wage increase [from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over two
years], a bill that allows us to negotiate for lower-priced prescription drugs, stem cell
research, and the commissions 9-11 recommendations. And they were passed primarily
with bipartisan support. Weve hit the ground running," said Michaud.
reform and rules aim to ensure that Congress uphold the highest ethical standards. The
ethics package begins to sever the connection between lobbyists and legislation, by
banning travel and other gifts from lobbyists ending the abuses connected to
privately funded congressional travel. The rules package restores democracy in the House
committing to a fair and open process for amendments, an end to two-day workweeks,
curbing abuses of voting, guaranteeing time to read legislation, and opening up conference
committees so that the minority is able to participate.
in a full weeks work is far better than spending three days a week. Tuesdays are a
special change for us. In the lame-duck Congress we spent a lot of our time on Tuesdays
naming post offices. Getting legislation passed that helps the American people,
accomplished in the light of day, is a big change. With it comes more predictability and
accountability. Now we are given the bills three or four days before we vote on them.
Its how the system was designed to work. Its great," said Michaud.
the last election cycle the Republicans lost a lot of seats, primarily due to the Iraq
war. The American people are fed up with the deception from this administration. From
seeing the president declaring mission accomplished, in a photo-op on one of
our magnificent carriers, to just last October a month before the election
saying they were winning the war. People are tired and are paying closer attention to what
is happening. The Republicans took a shellacking in the last election. As a result, some
are really concerned about their future and see that they need to change how they are
voting. Theres a change of atmosphere in Washington. Finally, Republicans are
questioning what their administration is doing," said the congressman.
look at the 9-11 commissions recommendations, we had 16 Republicans voting for the
proposal; before the election we couldnt even get a single Republican vote.
election showed that the American people want to change the direction in Washington. The
president doesnt plan on changing direction. He believes in staying the
course. Hes saying its a new direction, but frankly its not. Now
youll see Congress debating the war in Iraq in open and honest discussion. I will
be, once again, cosponsoring the resolution for the withdrawal of the troops in Iraq.
Well have hearings on the legislation, and we will move forward."
resubmit amended legislation that he proposed under a Republican Congress, as well new
legislation for many different issues. The level of success that the congressman achieved
with Republicans in charge even amazes Republicans and drew praise from Maines
bill for Veterans passed in the lame-duck session, as well as his health care clinic for
Veterans, which provides access locally in rural areas for Veterans. He won approval for
the East-West Highway, his Northeast Regional Economic Development Commission took strides
forward, and amongst other measures he secured major federal funding for research and
that the Department of Veterans Affairs has the authority and resources to provide
veterans with the medical care and benefits that they have earned is a mission that will
continue in the next Congress," said Michaud.
Michaud introduced the Homeless Veterans Assistance Act of 2006, comprehensive legislation
to improve the VAs capacity to help homeless veterans recover, rehabilitate, and
return to a fuller life in society.
the authorization for these programs until the end of 2007 is an important first step, but
is it not enough. In our great nation, it is unacceptable that even one veteran should be
homeless and hungry. I plan to reintroduce my bill in the next Congress to help homeless
veterans. We must keep the faith that we can end homelessness among veterans," said
the lame-duck session, I was able to put forward legislation that required Secretary of
Veterans Affairs to put a business plan together for enhanced access to outpatient care,
for primary care, mental health care, and specialty care in the areas of Lewiston-Auburn,
Houlton, and Dover-Foxcroft. Veterans in Maine often drive hours to receive the care that
they have earned and deserve. It is important to extend the VAs presence in the
community, to ensure that veterans have easy access to the high quality health-care
services they need. This bill takes a major step forward in that direction."
At one point
the administration started to prioritize veterans in numerical categories. So depending on
at what number they classified a veteran, that number became the veterans priority
and part of his or her identity. "My feeling is when you sign up to join the
military, you didnt sign up to be in any special category. You signed up to serve
your country, and when you take off the uniform you become a veteran, to be honored and
taken care of by the country you served, equally."
of his duty of attending funerals for those who have sacrificed their lives for the
nation. "Ive gone to too many of these," he said as he felt the pain of
the families. Though he doesnt have to, he calls every family in Maine that has lost
someone in Iraq, and he attends the services. "Its one of the hardest things I
traumatic brain injuries are wounds of war that we dont visually see, but they have
a major effect on not only the veteran but also their families," said Michaud, who
heard from a number of constituents that funding wasnt reaching their health-care
facilities for PTDS and other related health-care issues. Michaud researched the problem.
The results of the study show that the federal government had no accountability for where
the money that was allocated to the VA for mental health ended up going. It was gone.
"This all happened under the previous Congresses, where there were no oversight
hearings, no accountability. Things have changed."
change came long-awaited, fought-for funding.
As a result of
Michauds hard work, a substantial boost in funding for veterans health care
was just approved in February. The resolution contains $32.3 billion for veterans
health care, an increase of $3.6 billion over Fiscal Year 2006 levels.
"I am very
pleased that congressional leaders listened to the pleas of our committee and increased
veterans health-care funding," said Michaud. "Past funding shortfalls have
had a real impact on the health care that veterans received. This funding measure is a
positive step forward in addressing the needs of our veterans."
celebrate finally getting adequate VA funding in place for this year, we will now turn our
attention to the administrations budget request for the coming fiscal year. It
remains to be seen whether the presidents budget request will be enough to provide
timely, quality health care to veterans and to streamline the process so that veterans
will not face backlogs and gridlock when they attempt to collect their benefits."
Congressmans work was recognized, and in February he was unanimously elected to
serve as chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health
in the 110th Congress. Michaud works tirelessly for all the people of Maine and has a
special focus on Veterans.
honored and excited to serve as chairman of the Health Subcommittee," said
Congressman Michaud. "I look forward to continuing to work with veterans in Maine and
across the country, the VA, and my colleagues in Congress to fulfill our promise to our
veterans and their families."
Over the past
two budgets, Michaud secured $3.8 million in funding from the federal government,
earmarked by Congress to support the Maine Institute for Human Genetics and Health
MIHGH is a
partnership started two years ago between EMHS, the University of Maine at Orono, and
Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, with the state assisting. The partnership is attracting
internationally ranked scientists, research grants, students and faculty to Maine.
is one of many expected to form in the next decade. The vision is to have this scientific
medical cluster grow and become a center for research in the state, recognized throughout
includes a $42 million Cancer Care facility, on three floors, that will replace the
current cancer treatment center at EMMC in Bangor, and the genetics lab on the fourth
floor. "Its great for not only the economy in the area but also because of the
research being conducted there. Their cancer research could save peoples lives and
save on the cost of health care. This is a project thats very important for the
region, the country, and the world," said Michaud.
also secured $12 million over various budgets for the U.S. Army Center of Excellence
project in Orono, to continue research on advanced structures and composites for force
protection. This funding would develop new construction techniques for bomb-resistant
temporary living quarters for troops in the field.
funding is a testament to all the great work that the University of Maine is doing to help
create materials that use the natural resources of our state and that benefit our
troops," said Michaud.
Congressman Michaud jokes with workers at the Madison paper mill on a
recent visit. The congressman followed a family tradition and worked at the Great Northern
recent hearing on the state of economic development in America, economic development
experts delivered congressional testimony praising Congressman Mike Michauds
proposed legislation to create a Northeast Regional Economic Development Commission. They
were in full support of having the federal government pursue a more regionally based
approach to development, as Congressman Michaud has advocated.
committee should further explore various proposals to create new regional development
authorities ... for example, Representative Michaud has proposed the creation of the
Northeast Regional Economic Development Commission," testified Erik Pages, president
of EntreWorks Consulting.
Regional Economic Development Commission is modeled after the successful Appalachian
Regional Commission (ARC). ARC has reduced the number of distressed counties in its region
from 219 to 100 since 1965. It has cut the poverty rate from 31 percent to 15 percent, and
helped 1,400 businesses create 26,000 new jobs in the region.
arrived in Congress, it became clear that other regions were catching onto a good idea,
but that Maine and the whole Northeast could be missing the boat," said Michaud.
"There is currently no single body focused on the need for jobs and economic
development in the Northeast region. Creating a regional commission would give us the
chance to look at economic development in a whole new way: as a challenge that we can
tackle together as a region."
issues were important in the last election. We have a new freshman class that has been
very vocal on trade deals. Right after the election, Robert Rubin, who worked for
President Clinton on getting NAFTA passed, came to talk to us. The freshman Democrats
hammered him, which he didnt expect. So Im hopeful and pleased the freshman
Democrats will participate in upcoming discussions on trade. Ive been working with
the United States Business and Industry Council on trade issues. Concerned businesses and
citizens are worried.
"The U.S. Chamber of
Commerce, whose board of directors has CEOs of companies overseas, tries to make Democrats
feel they should support all trade deals because if they dont its bad for
business. Well, its bad for business if we do. When countries pay their workers a
dollar a day, theres no way we can compete. Democrats have to wake up and see that
they are not helping businesses by promoting free trade, and that they are hurting the
security of this country. Free trade is not fair trade."