Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Urging New Mexico Congressional Delegation to Support Electrify Africa Act

In March of 2008, former State Health Secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham and City Councilor Martin Heinrich were among four Democrats seeking to replace Republican Rep. Heather Wilson, who was leaving her post to run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Pete Domenici. I caught up with Lujan Grisham and Heinrich and the two other candidates at an informal forum and asked them about their thoughts and solutions to address global poverty. Oh, and I gave them each ONE white band.  Read their comments.  

Heinrich won the primary and served two terms in the House before running and winning the seat vacated by Sen. Jeff Bingaman. Lujan Grisham was elected to the Bernalillo County Commission, and when Heinrich left his seat in Congress, she threw her hat in the ring. And she defeated four other candidates to win the seat in Congress.

Wearing a ONE band in 2008
Lujan Grisham among 297 supporters in House
Fast forward to 2014. Lujan Grisham is completing her first term in the House, and Heinrich has served two years in the U.S. Senate. Both have been strong allies in our efforts to address hunger and poverty in our country and overseas. While in the House, Heinrich cosponsored the Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009,  As a senator, he joined with Sen. Tom Udall and 22 other senators to call for emergency help to support food banks. Lujan Grisham has been steadfast in opposing cuts to domestic nutrition programs, especially food stamps. 

Which brings us to a recent piece of  legislation endorsed by ONE.  The initaitive, HR 2548  Electrify Africa Act of 2014)  requires the Administration to develop a comprehensive, multi-year strategy to achieve energy access goal in sub-Saharan Africa.

This bipartisan proposal was approved by an overwhelming margin.  And Rep. Lujan Grisham was one of 297 Yay votes.  But we already had an inkling that Rep. Lujan Grisham was going to vote this way. 
The basic premise is to make sure that it’s a priority, that we recognize that…the poverty of another nation puts us all at risk. -Michelle Lujan Grisham, March 2008
Incidentally, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan also voted in the affirmative, while Rep. Steve Pearce was one of the 117 Nay votes. See votes for full House.

“Today, both parties came together and passed a bill that not only promises to save and improve millions of lives, but offers a new way forward for assisting Africa – government working with private sector investment – at no cost to US taxpayers," said ONE CEO Tom Hart.
Then-candidate Heinrich in 2008
Attention turns to Senate
The strong bipartisan support for the legislation bodes well for the Senate. However, as of mid-May,, there hadn't been any legislation introduced in the upper house.  My sense is that both Sens. Heinrich and Tom Udall are likely to support this initiative. Sen. Udall's support is especially important because he sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
I think it's just a matter of priorities. We need to realize that when we do invest in developing nations and in reducing poverty, that has such an enormous impact on how people feel about us as a nation." -Martin Heinrich, March 2008

Sherif Aboubakr and Jielin Pan staff ONE table at UNM​
Local advocates are not taking the support of the two New Mexico senators for granted once the legislation is introduced in the Senate. On a recent Thursday afternoon in April, a group of student volunteers for ONE set up a table at the international fair at the University of New Mexico to gather signatures urging Sens. Udall and Heinrich to support Electrify Africa.

According to Mekdim Weldegiorgis, a ONE volunteer leader at UNM, the effort produced 20 letters to Sen. Heinrich and 30 to Sen. Udall.

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