With the urgency of trying to get cosponsors for H.R. 2139, this was an opportunity we couldn't pass up! We had to try to talk to them about considering the possibility of cosponsoring this important piece of legislation, also known as the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009. In a nutshell, the bill asks President Barack Obama to overhaul our foreign policy structure to make sure our development policies are more effective.
Our Bread members in New Mexico had been making calls to the offices of Rep. Martin Heinrich, Rep. Harry Teague and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan all week, but as of the end of the week none of the three were among the 11 members of the House who had signed on to this bill.
Here's what Bread for the World President David Beckmann said just three days earlier.
Additional cosponsors will demonstrate that there is broad support in Congress for foreign assistance reform to make it more effective in reducing poverty. The next eight days are criticalSo we had our work cut out. We had to find another way to get their attention. And what better way than to bring up the issue directly.
Rep. Harry Teague
Mr. Teague doesn't usually travel to Albuquerque because his congressional district comprises mostly southern New Mexico. But it so happens that the Duke City is an important starting point for our still fairly new commuter train, the Rail Runner Express, and Mr. Teague is promoting legislation that would extend this great rail system all the way down to Las Cruces. At present, the train runs between Santa Fe and Belen, which is just a few miles south of Albuquerque.
As part of his campaign, Mr. Teague decided to ride the train from Albuquerque to Los Lunas and Belen, two stops that are in his district. We caught up with him in Albuquerque, where we had a few minutes for an extremely brief chat. We handed him a copy of H.R. 2139 and asked (on behalf of Bread members in Las Cruces) to consider cosponsoring the bill. He promised he would look at the initiative closely.
LaVerne Kaufman, our Bread coordinator in Las Cruces, was going to ensure that we could reinforce the message from the district. She was going to contact that folks who hadn't called about HR2139 and asked them to picked up the telephone on Monday.
Rep. Martin Heinrich
It was with great delight that we discovered that Rep. Heinrich was holding "office hours" in the deli section of Talin World Market. This store started as an Asian supermarket, but has expanded its scope to include foods from the Caribbean, Italy, Egypt, and other regions. What better place to discuss a bill on international issues with our member of Congress?
I spent a little more time with Mr. Heinrich than I did with Mr. Teague. He gave me almost as much time as we get during our Lobby Day meetings in Washington. The difference here is that we were surrounded by meat and food cases and wonderful smells! I also handed Mr. Heinrich as copy of the text of the H.R. 2139, and had a few minutes to discuss how we felt this initiative would be a good step to improving our poverty-focused development assistance efforts. He agreed that the current foreign-aid structure was cumbersome and promised to consider this bill very closely. He couldn't promise at that point that he would cosponsor H.R. 2139, but directed the staffer sitting at his side to have the legislative aide in Washington who covers this area begin to look at the bill.
But wait! I wasn't the only Bread member who talked to Mr. Heinrich on that Saturday. Marjorie Williams came by later in the day to discuss H.R. 2139. Marjorie said she was encouraged that our congressman thinks very highly of the lead sponsor of the bill, Rep. Berman.
So we hope these visits translate into cosponsorships. Letters and phone calls and e-mails will continue pouring into Washington next week, not only to the offices of Rep. Heinrich and Teague, but also Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (We didn't know of any public event for him--or we would have been there too)!.