AP NEWS

D.C. Buzz: Esty stays busy on the way out

September 26, 2018

WASHINGTON — With bombs dropping all over Washington, you couldn’t blame Rep. Elizabeth Esty for hunkering down in her office and quietly packing up mementoes one-by-one for her planned exit from Congress come January.

But hunkering she is not. Esty is beaver-busy getting legislation passed and adding to her office wall collection of bills enacted and the presidential pens that signed them into law.

There are 13 on the wall now, and soon No. 14 will join them: The Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act of 2018.

Some of Esty’s previous bills may seem a bit less than sea-changing — encouraging careers for women in NASA, women’s entrepreneurship, to name a few.

But the burn-pit bill could be different. It increases focus and funding for research into the toxic after-effects of burn pits used by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan to incinerate everything from human waste to tires to batteries.

Military personnel load the pits up and set them ablaze with jet fuel, sending toxic fumes into the air. Anyone breathing in this toxic cocktail could suffer cancer, neurological and reproductive effects, respiratory toxicity, and cardiovascular toxicity.

“I’ve heard from veterans throughout Connecticut who are suffering - or know other service members suffering - from serious health complications that were likely caused by burn pits,” Esty said in a statement. “The courageous men and women of our military who endure toxic exposure and risk their long-term health on our nation’s behalf deserve the very best health care.”

The best may not be yet to come as Esty counts down the days to her departure, forced out by revelations in March that she bungled the exit of her office chief of staff amid accusations of abuse of a female colleague.

But Esty doesn’t appear fazed. Bill No. 15, her Promoting Women in the Aviation Workforce Act, could be on the wall soon enough.

House odds

In the Democrats’ bid to retake the House amid deepening dissatisfaction with President Trump’s volatile tenure at the White House, Connecticut’s five House seats are pretty much a wash.

The five who hang their hats part-time in Washington are all odds-on favorites to return, with one exception: Esty, a Democrat, is likely to be replaced by Jahana Hayes, a Democrat, teacher of the year from Waterbury making her first run for office.

But fear not, Connecticut Republicans. Connecticut may not be your battleground, but there are enough seats in the question-mark zone to defy pundit-pollster predictions of Democratic retaking the House after Election Day 2018.

“It is true the Democrats are excited, but a reluctant Republican vote counts just as much as an excited Democratic vote,” said Rep. Steven Stivers, R-Ohio, chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, which oversees GOP candidates in House races.

He noted that in nine special elections to fill vacant House seats this year and last, Republican candidates won eight of them.

In a briefing with regional reporters here in D.C., Stivers said he’s focused on 23 GOP-incumbent seats in districts that went for defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“They won ... because they have an independent identity with the voters,” Stivers said. “So while Democrats are excited, this isn’t Vegas. I don’t need to cover the spread, I just need to win those races.”

So how many seats do Democrats need to win back from Republicans to retake the House? Twenty-three. So, exciting times, no matter what party you’re in. Stay tuned.

dan@hearstdc.com

AP RADIO
Update hourly