This week, Barbara Boxer, one of the best-known senators in the United States, announced that she will not seek reelection when her term comes to an end in 2016. Having served in Congress since 1983, Boxer has built quite a resume as a public official. In honor of her political career winding down, let’s look at some of her biggest accomplishments.
1. Taking Care of Young People Who Need Extra Support
Though Boxer certainly didn’t invent the concept of afterschool programs, in 2001, she definitely ensured their survival, particularly in underserved areas that normally lack the funds to give children proper care. Her legislation now secures more than a billion dollars in federal funds to provide safe, stimulating care for children whose parents are still at work when the school bell rings. Additionally, she looked out for young adults when she penned the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. Instead of forcing foster kids to exit the system as soon as they turn 18, her law provides extra services (and necessary support) for these young adults until the age of 21.
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2. Stopping Bank Bailouts
In 2010, following a period of corporation-brewed economic turmoil, Congress looked to pass some sensible legislation in order to prevent a similar situation from happening again in the future. Hoping to push the laws even further, Boxer offered up an important amendment to the bill: a ban on using taxpayer money to bail out failing banks. “If there’s one thing we should all be able to agree on, it is this: The American taxpayers should never again have to bail out Wall Street firms that gambled away our savings and wreaked havoc on our economy,” said Boxer. While this single amendment may not have come close to ending Wall Street and the government’s unhealthy codependency at the expense of the average citizen, at least there are more obstacles in place to prevent Uncle Sam from throwing money at corporations it declares “too big to fail.”
3. Increasing Public Safety
So many of Boxer’s victories are smaller efforts that benefit people in ways they don’t even realize. Amongst the safeguards that Boxer played a large role in making or keeping legal are:
- Forbidding lead (even trace amounts) from being permitted in drinking water
- Defending an attack on existing mercury standards
- Putting choking warnings more clearly visible on toy packages
- Improving federal authorities’ ability to investigate child trafficking
- Blocking pesticide use near places where children learn and play
4. Standing Up for Our Service Women and Men
Boxer has taken a particular interest in the military, including the ongoing concern over sexual assault. Two years ago, she succeeded at stopping anyone who has been convicted of sexual assault from joining the military, a type of felony that was typically “waived” by the military prior to this law. Later in the year, she also introduced a subsequently approved amendment that blocked military bigwigs from punishing/intimidating soldiers who report sexual assault as was pretty much the protocol up until that point.
5. Creating the Climate Action Task Force
Even out of office, Boxer’s legacy will live on in the form of the Climate Action Task Force she created with fellow senator Sheldon Whitehouse — yes, that’s his real name. “The goal is to wake up Congress,” Boxer said, listing the group’s goals as putting a price on carbon emissions and building a coalition of the 60 Senate votes necessary to ensure the passage of meaningful climate change legislation. Given how critical addressing man-made climate change is for the future of human survival, the further development of this task force may be one of the country’s most important tools in tackling the problems at hand.