Op-Eds

01.07.11

A plan to mend filibuster, not end it

by Sheldon Whitehouse

Many Americans remember Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," standing at his desk on the Senate floor, mounting a filibuster - reading from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bible. "Democracy's finest show," Frank Capra has one character say, "the right to talk your head off ... the American privilege of free speech in its most dramatic form ... one lone and single American holding the greatest floor in the land ... bleary-eyed, voice gone." Americans today … Continue Reading


11.01.10

Judicial activism

by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

Once again, the first Monday in October has brought another term at the U.S. Supreme Court. And once again, the Court has taken up questions of constitutional and statutory law that deeply affect the lives of all Americans. As the new term proceeds, it's a useful time to consider "judicial activism," and what this charge means. For years, we've heard about liberal judicial activism, a term leveled by conservatives so repeatedly that it is now in the common parlance, but without any clear meanin… Continue Reading


10.29.10

Why We Need a Foreclosure Moratorium

by Sheldon Whitehouse

Following an all-too-brief period of public scrutiny, Bank of America announced last week that it's back to business as usual, resuming 102,000 foreclosures in 23 states. Like several of the other large mortgage servicers, the bank had voluntarily frozen foreclosures earlier this month in light of revelations that its agents had not followed proper procedures in foreclosing on homeowners. With voluntary efforts to stem the foreclosure crisis falling short time and again, we now should consider a… Continue Reading


10.13.10

A foreclosure nightmare

by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

The Wall Street Journal's projection this week that investment banks will pay out a record $144 billion in bonuses this season shows that Wall Street has recovered from the recession. The homeowners whose mortgages were securitized and used to fuel the Wall Street bubble, however, are not doing nearly as well. Foreclosures remain epidemic in harder-hit states like Florida, Nevada, and my home state of Rhode Island, and our economies are slow to recover as a result. Elected officials have heard … Continue Reading


09.23.10

Creating Jobs by Investing in Infrastructure

by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

When President Obama took office, the economy was in a tailspin the likes of which we have not seen since the Great Depression. Back in January of 2008, we were losing 700,000 jobs per month and things appeared to be getting worse. In response to this crisis, President Obama worked with Congress to pass the Recovery Act, which stemmed the bleeding by creating or supporting an estimated 3 million jobs to date, including 11,000 in Rhode Island. While we can never know exactly how bad things mig… Continue Reading


09.03.10

Cyber self-defense can help U.S. security

by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, Barbara Mikulski, and Olympia Snowe

Recently, we completed an intensive, bipartisan six-month study on cybersecurity and presented it to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Although the nature of our study requires that most of it be classified, one of our key findings is entirely unclassified, and we hope it will change the way the country acts in cyberspace. Simply put, computer users must practice active cyber self-defense. This means that if users would allow automatic, and generally free, software updates and maint… Continue Reading


07.18.10

It’s crucial to extend jobless benefits

by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

Rhode Island businesses are working hard to recover from the Great Recession, but more than 71,000 people in the state remain unemployed through no fault of their own. Our unemployment rate now stands at 12.3 percent. It has been at more than 8 percent for nearly two years, at double digits for more than a year. I hear from constituents all the time who are eager to get back to work, but the jobs simply are not there. Through the recession and its aftermath, Congress has done the right thing a… Continue Reading


06.29.10

Jobs missing, not motivation

by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

As America continues to recover from the Great Recession, millions of people remain out of work through no fault of their own - including more than 71,000 people in my home state of Rhode Island. Through the recession and its aftermath, Congress has done the right thing and extended unemployment benefits to ensure that families can make ends meet during unusually long job searches. Unfortunately, these emergency programs expired earlier this month, and Senate Republicans are obstructing further… Continue Reading


06.17.10

Climbing Out of the Doughnut Hole

by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

This week marked the beginning of the end for the dreaded Medicare Part D "doughnut hole," which hurts an estimated 15,100 Rhode Islanders each year by stripping them of much needed prescription drug coverage. Starting on Thursday, the federal government began distributing checks for $250 to anyone currently in the doughnut hole and lacking prescription drug coverage. And, thanks to this year's health care reform legislation, the doughnut hole will be closed entirely by the year 2020. This is g… Continue Reading


05.18.10

Restore a historical safeguard

by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

As the Senate completes debate on historic Wall Street reform legislation, it needs to address a problem that has caused severe stress for so many American families: runaway interest rates on credit cards. Credit card companies now charge rates that, until recently, would have been illegal in most states. Rates of up to 30 percent are not uncommon. Yet states are powerless to stop the practice. Currently pending before the Senate is a bipartisan amendment to the Wall Street reform bill that wo… Continue Reading


05.11.10

Closing the "doughnut hole"

by Sheldon Whitehouse

When I ran for the United States Senate in 2006 and during my travels around Rhode Island since then, I met countless seniors who are frustrated and confused by Medicare's prescription drug program, called "Medicare Part D." Specifically, Rhode Islanders are too often blindsided by the Part D coverage gap, or "doughnut hole," which exposes seniors to the full cost of prescription drugs after yearly drug expenses exceed $2,830. Drug coverage doesn't resume until they spend $6,440 for the year -… Continue Reading


05.10.10

We need to act on cybersecurity

by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

There is an important debate unfolding across government and the private sector over a critical national security issue: how to secure America's information networks from cybersabotage, espionage and attacks. Cyberassault, from criminal organizations of unprecedented scale and sophistication, and from powerful nations and their proxies, is relentless against American strategic and commercial interests. As an example of the scale of the threat, one American company had 38 terabytes of sensitive … Continue Reading


05.09.10

Protecting Consumers from Unchecked Interest Rates

by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

As we continue to fight in the Senate to reform Wall Street regulation and establish an independent consumer protection agency, I hope to also address a problem that has caused considerable pain for so many American families: runaway credit card interest rates. Credit card companies charge interest rates that until recently would have been illegal in most states, but states are now powerless to stop it. It was not always this way: For the first 202 years of our Republic, each state had the abil… Continue Reading


04.22.10

Celebrating 40 Years of Earth Day

by Sheldon Whitehouse

It's been 40 years since Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin created Earth Day to focus America on the responsibility we share to care for our planet. Since then, we've made great strides to meet that responsibility, but we still have a long way to go. The year of the first Earth Day also marked the birth of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and launched an era of commitment by America to better protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we call home. Many landmark e… Continue Reading


04.01.10

What health-care reform means for R.I.

by Sheldon Whitehouse

For more than a century, progressive leaders from Theodore Roosevelt to Edward Kennedy have fought against powerful interests to ensure that every American has access to affordable, secure health insurance. On March 23, when President Obama signed landmark health-reform legislation into law, that fight was finally won. The real winners will be the countless Rhode Islanders I've heard from in the last year for whom the status quo was not working. So what does health-care reform mean for you? St… Continue Reading


03.10.10

Corporate justice at our expense

by Sheldon Whitehouse

The Supreme Court's recent slim majority decision in Citizens United has opened floodgates that long prevented corporate cash from drowning out the voices of American citizens in election campaigns. Those who care about the integrity of the American political process view this decision with concern and astonishment. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing about this misguided decision Wednesday. The ruling continues an increasingly clear pattern of the court's activist conservative b… Continue Reading


01.08.10

Closing the Medicare 'Doughnut Hole'

by Sheldon Whitehouse

During my travels throughout Rhode Island, I have met countless seniors who are frustrated and confused by Medicare's prescription drug program - Medicare Part D. Specifically, Rhode Islanders are too often blindsided by the Part D coverage gap, or "doughnut hole," which exposes seniors to the full cost of prescription drugs after yearly drug expenses exceed $2,700. Drug coverage doesn't resume until they spend $6,154 for the year - an extraordinarily high threshold. This sudden rise in prescri… Continue Reading


12.17.09

Rx for those bankrupted by medical crisis

by Sheldon Whitehouse and Elizabeth Edwards

When 3-year-old Finnegan Burns fell ill with complications from cystic fibrosis, his parents did what any loving parents would do. Kerry and Patrick Burns put their lives on hold to see their son through his medical travails. Surgery after surgery, hospital after hospital, they remained by their child's side as he fought to recover. This past March, at age 4½, Finnegan lost his battle with this terrible disease. Following the indescribable anguish that comes with the death of a child, … Continue Reading


12.13.09

Time for health insurers to compete

by Patrick Leahy and Sheldon Whitehouse

As the Senate considers historic reforms to health care and the health insurance industry, it should repeal the health and medical malpractice insurance industries' exemption from federal antitrust laws. The exemption, enacted nearly 65 years ago, has served the financial interests of the insurance industry at the expense of consumers for far too long. Meaningful reforms to our health-care system must protect consumers and promote competition. Just as we believe that a strong public option will… Continue Reading


08.31.09

Official Torture

by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

The prosecutor is often first presented with a case as a "corpus delicti" - a bullet-riddled body in the street, for instance. That ordinarily is enough to justify investigation. Through investigation, the evidence may prove that there was not in fact a crime (it was a suicide or an accident) or that the fatal acts were privileged or enjoy a legal defense (self-defense or justifiable shooting by an officer of the law). But one begins by investigation. The judicial branch (which, under Marbury v… Continue Reading

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