Last week, I did something that I had never done before--I wrote my Senator. You know, I spend so much time bitching about politics that I finally put my money where my mouth is (btw, money tastes kinda gross).
I was so pissed that the House version of the economic stimulus bill did not contain that family planning provision (you know the one where the GOP said the money would be used to pay for contraception and therefore they would not vote for the bill, yet, the provision doesn't pay for contraception and they still didn't vote for the bill when the provision was removed?) that I became very concerned about the public health provisions in the Senate version. Gosh darn it, states are having some financial crises of their own and they need help funding medicaid and the unemployed would probably appreciate some help with covering COBRA costs! But what do I know? I'm just a constituent.
However, I am a constituent (yes, I realize I said that, but I removed the just) and I helped put some people in office and I demand that they take my interests into account. So I emailed Mark Warner (Junior Senator of VA) and I told him Don't you dare cut a dime of public health spending in the Senate stimulus! I voted for you and you owe me, dude!
Or something to that effect. The actual wording used might have been a bit less harsh.
Anyway, I expected my email to be part of the masses that a senator would receive on a daily basis* but amplified by the fact that this stimulus bill would affect many and everyone wants to get something out of it therefore they would more inclined to speak up. So imagine my reaction when I actually got a reply two days later.
If you guessed open-mouth Shock followed by Awe followed by warm fuzzies because I'm a constituent and I deserve to be heard...then you would be CORRECT!
The email said this:
Thank you for contacting me about public health funding as part of the economic stimulus package. We have been receiving a number of requests from across the Commonwealth about what should be included in the economic stimulus package. President Obama, as you know, has announced publicly that he will not accept a package that includes specific earmarks. Senator Webb and I have sent the attached letter** to the Senate Committee leaders who are devising the stimulus package. In the letter, we set out priorities that you and others have underscored that we hope are included in any final package.
As this bill moves through the process we will continue to look for programs and initiatives that will benefit Virginia. Again, thank you for your input. Please do not hesitate to contact me about other issues of concern to you in the future
**And yes, there was an attachment containing a letter written by both Sen. Warner and Sen. Jim Webb expressing their support for several provisions, including the public health-realted ones I want.
Granted, I get that the email didn't actually come from Sen. Warner. It was probably written by some poor, overworked staffer or it's a form letter done as an email merge (it was personalized with my name, so I'm guessing mail merge). But for a few minutes, I felt like my opinion mattered to somebody and was being taken into account as the Senate debates the stimulus.
Not to worry though. I'm sure my political cynicism will return in a couple of days, if not by the end of this post.
*The link above is very eye opening and I recommend that you click. And no, I do not get any money if you do so.