WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed a bill requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve maternal health for vets, legislation Illinois Democrats Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Lauren Underwood championed, earning enough GOP support that it was waved through the House and Senate.
“It’s an important step in making sure we meet the needs of American mothers who have served,” Biden said at a bill-signing ceremony Duckworth and Underwood attended.
Getting a stand-alone bill passed is fairly tough. Most often the guts of a single bill, if it is on track to advance, is absorbed as a section of a larger piece of legislation. Even if the proposal is not controversial, it’s fate often depends on other matters in the broader bill.
Biden signed the stand-alone “The Protecting Moms Who Served Act of 2021” along with three other veteran-related bills on Tuesday.
The Senate passed the “protecting moms” measure on an expedited “unanimous consent” basis, meaning there was broad agreement it should pass, so the Senate didn’t need to take up time with a roll call vote. The House approved it on a voice vote .
Underwood and Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fl., were the original co-sponsors in the House, and Duckworth teamed with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine in the Senate.
Underwood, a nurse, has made issues relating to maternity, especially among Black women, a centerpiece of her legislative agenda. Duckworth is an Iraq war vet, on the Armed Services Committee, a former top official in the VA and an ex-director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
The bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to launch a maternity care coordination program “with respect to the unique needs of pregnant and postpartum veterans, particularly regarding mental and behavioral health conditions in relation to the service of the veterans in the Armed Forces.”
The Government Accountability Office will study, for the first time, maternal death rates and illness of pregnant vets, “with a focus on racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes for veterans.”
Biden said, “We recognize that women veterans — and there are more than half a million women veterans in this country under the age of 40 — they face additional maternal health challenges.”
“They frequently have other health risks that can complicate pregnancy. For example, expecting moms with physical disabilities or with mental illness are much more likely to experience pregnancy-related complications and have their children prematurely.”
UNDERWOOD RECOVERING FROM SURGERY
Underwood, from Naperville, traveled to the White House for her first bill-signing ceremony even as she continues to recover at home from surgery at the University of Chicago Medical Center to remove uterine fibroids, non-cancerous growths of the uterus.
CASTEN, SCHNEIDER ON UNITED AIRLINES CLEANER FUEL FLIGHT
On Wednesday, Democratic Illinois Reps. Sean Casten, from Downers Grove - who attended the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow - and Brad Schneider, from Deerfield, will be on the first passenger flight using what is called sustainable aviation fuel.
It’s a United flight from O’Hare to Reagan National Airport. The CEO of the Chicago-based United, Scott Kirby, will also be on the trip.
According to the Energy Department, low-carbon sustainable aviation fuel has “the potential to deliver the performance of petroleum-based jet fuel but with a fraction of its carbon footprint, giving airlines solid footing for decoupling greenhouse gas emissions from flight.”
MORE ON RODNEY DAVIS
On Tuesday morning, GOP Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, from Taylorville, officially opted out of run for governor and announced the backing of two GOP House incumbents from Illinois, Darin LaHood, from Peoria and Mike Bost, of Murphysboro and former U.S. Rep. John Shimkus in his re-election bid. That’s in addition to 31 of the 35 county chairs in the new Illinois 15th District and 14 GOP state lawmakers also in the district.
All this is intended, perhaps, to give pause to freshman GOP U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, from Oakland - an avid promoter of former President Donald Trump and Trumpism - as she takes her time deciding on her next political move. That Miller did not stake a claim in a district made it much easier for Bost and LaHood to endorse Davis.
Now she faces a Republican primary with an established incumbent if she seeks another term, no matter the district she runs from.
Democratic state mapmakers drew three solid GOP districts in the new congressional map. Bost, LaHood and Davis have each announced 2022 re-election bids.
What do Underwood and Miller - political opposites, to say the least, - have in common? Both were raised in suburban Naperville, even though Miller now lives on a farm in southern Illinois.