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Udall still pushing for passage of For the People Act

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall hasn’t given up hope of the For the People Act passing the Senate.

The two-term Democrat is pushing the legislation because he believes the nation’s democracy is at a crisis point.

“In all my years in public office, I have never been more concerned,” Udall said in a release. “Today, in this country, there is a deep disconnect between what the American people are demanding from their leaders and what the president and Congress have been giving them… We are a representative democracy – yet the people are not being represented.”

The senator held a forum on the bill at Central New Mexico Community College last weekend where he discussed his efforts to enact legislation that he said will fight corruption, fix broken politics and make government work for all Americans.

“I’ve been working on these reforms for years,” Udall said. “And I’m now leading the charge in the Senate, where I introduced the For the People Act… These reforms will help bring political power back to the hands of everyday Americans, where it belongs.”

Udall’s effort has won the praise of Common Cause executive director Heather Ferguson, Max Feldman, counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, and New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics President John House.

“This fight is the difference between big dark money versus people power, and this change is going to come from the people power,” Ferguson said.

The bill would allow voter same-day registration nationwide, restore ex-inmates’ right to vote and set up a public financing system for congressional campaigns. It would require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns and Election Day would become a holiday for federal workers.

The House version of the bill, co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., passed the House, but faces hurdles in the Senate where the Republicans hold the majority.

State Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce calls the legislation an “overreach,” and the White House called it micromanaging the electoral system.

HEINRICH INTRODUCES AI LEGISLATION: U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., told the Journal he was impressed with the advances in artificial intelligence technology following a tour of Booz Allen Hamilton’s Albuquerque operation.

The senator participated in a virtual demonstration during his tour, and said he was focused on the use of artificial intelligence for defense and intelligence as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, introduced the Armed Forces Digital Advantage Act last week, which would modernize the Department of Defense workforce by adding a recruitment focus and establishing military career tracks for digital engineering.

“Whether it is artificial intelligence, 5G telecommunications services, or cloud computing, transformational digital technologies will present new opportunities and challenges for the Department of Defense,” Heinrich said.

LOWER COSTS FOR PRESCRIPTION DRUGS SOUGHT: Haaland and fellow U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Xochitl Torres Small voted in favor of the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act on Thursday, a package of seven bills that seeks to protect and expand access to affordable health care and lower prescription drug costs.

“In New Mexico, and across the country, too many hardworking Americans are having to make the hard decision between buying food for their families or buying them medicine they need,” Torres Small said.

Luján said the House was focused “on lowering the price of prescription drugs, cracking down on junk plans.”

Haaland said “no one should have to break the bank to stay healthy.”

“This package of health care bills that we passed in the House will provide some relief by removing barriers so lower-cost generic drugs are available in the over the counter market earlier, reducing costs for New Mexicans,” Haaland said.

The act passed the House on a 234-183 vote.

Scott Turner: