Our Valentine's Day cake

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I still remember the call in the middle of the night.

I was in a deep sleep, and I didn’t wake up enough to be alarmed about a call at this hour.  

My brother was on the line. It was bad news. My mother was dead.

I still wasn’t alarmed. I was just confused. How could she be dead? We’d just seen her early that day. She’d been in the hospital for some surgery, but everything was great and she was going home in the morning. No, she was going home this morning.  

A few days later the doctor called. He said the autopsy showed she’d had a massive heart attack. The happenstance of her being in the hospital with a team of doctors and nurses nearby meant that she’d had terrific care from the instant she’d felt the pain, but the doctor explained, "There was no hope." She died immediately.

Then he explained that my mother had advanced heart disease and that there was evidence of old damage.  He said her heart was barely functioning.  

Advanced heart disease?  

She had been to doctors. Shoot, she’d had a full medical work up a few weeks before the surgery. But no one had ever considered heart disease because, back in the 1990s – just like in the 1890s – heart disease was a "man’s disease."

Today, women get more complete medical care. And they need it. Coronary heart disease is the Number One killer of both men and women. And certain heart diseases are far more likely to affect women than men.

We do better now in treating women because of medical research, including a lot of work supported by the National Institutes of Health. Not only have they raised awareness of the problems of heart disease in women, they have also worked on prevention efforts. For example, we know that low dose aspirin therapy impacts women’s health differently than men’s because of the Women’s Health Study – a 10 year initiative conducted by researchers at the Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston. We know that taking hormone replacement therapy after menopause does not protect women’s cardiovascular health because of findings from several studies, including the Women’s Health Initiative. And we better understand cardiovascular risks and causes of cardiovascular disease because we have been collecting data on women’s and men’s heart health since 1948 through the Framingham Heart study – a collaboration between the NIH, Boston University, and the people of Framingham Massachusetts.

My mother was born on Valentine’s Day, and when I was a kid I started baking her a heart shaped cake each year. I still have the pans and I still bake a cake. This year, my granddaughter and I worked on it together. But now I do something more: I fight for more funding for NIH research so that other mothers will get earlier treatment and live longer, healthier lives – and they can celebrate more birthdays with their children and their grandchildren.

Fighting for more NIH research: It seems like the right way to remember someone you love.

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What would you do if you got hit by a bus?

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What would you do if you got hit by a bus tomorrow and couldn’t work for the rest of your life? How would you pay the rent or put groceries on the table? What would happen to your family?

For millions of Americans, this isn’t just some sort of “what if” nightmare that keeps them up late at night. In fact, a young worker today has a 1 in 3 chance of either dying or needing disability income before reaching the full Social Security retirement age.  

I know, this is a dark way to start an email. But it raises an issue that should matter to everyone in this country.

Social Security is a critical part of our country’s safety net to keep people out of poverty. And instead of trying to strengthen that safety net, Republicans are manufacturing a Social Security crisis so they can attack benefits for millions of disabled Americans.

We are Americans – and we don’t turn our backs on the promises we’ve made to our families, our friends, and our neighbors who need our help the most. Raise your voice to tell the Republicans to keep their hands off Social Security benefits that help America’s most vulnerable.

Here’s the background: the Social Security system has two separate funds – one for seniors and survivors, and one for people with disabilities. Over the years, Congress has routinely shifted tax dollars back and forth between the funds.

It’s never been a big deal – until last month when House Republicans passed a technical rules change to prevent Congress from moving money from the old-age fund to the disability insurance fund.

We’ve known for years that Social Security Disability Insurance is set to run low in 2016, and most people assumed that another bipartisan reallocation was coming. But now, thanks to the Republican ideological war on our most important national safety net, disabled Americans could suddenly face a 20% cut in their Social Security checks next year.   

The bottom line is clear: Republicans want to dismantle Social Security inch by inch, even if it means concocting a crisis to pit America’s seniors against America’s disabled.

Join us now to tell Republicans: Protect Social Security for our seniors AND our disabled Americans.

Republicans want to pretend this fight is all about dollars and cents. But at the end of the day, this is about a lot more than accounting: It’s about our values.

I’ll say it again: We are not a country that turns our backs on people with diseases like multiple sclerosis or terminal cancer while extending tax break after tax break for the rich and powerful. We do not believe that people who suffer devastating accidents or struggle with debilitating mental illnesses should be left in deep poverty while Congress keeps the perks flowing to the big banks and anyone else who can afford to hire an army of lawyers and lobbyists.

I believe we honor our promises, we make good on a system that millions of people paid into faithfully throughout their working years, and we support the rights of people to live with dignity.

Join me now – and fight back – by signing up to protect Social Security from the latest Republican onslaught.

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My new bill: A swear jar for the drug companies

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Over the past 50 years, America’s medical innovations have transformed the health of billions of people around the world.

One way we’ve done that? Blockbuster drugs. Today, about 100 different drugs are used by so many people that each brings in more than a billion dollars a year in revenue. Just 10 drug companies generate more than $100 billion in sales for drugs that treat high cholesterol, diabetes, HIV, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, breast cancer, colon cancer, and leukemia. Those drugs do a huge amount of good, but they also produce huge profits; over the past 20 years, profits for S&P 500 companies have been in the 5-10% range, while profits for the blockbuster drug companies have been in the 18-24% range.

Those very valuable blockbuster drugs don’t just appear overnight as if by magic. They are the end result of generations of huge taxpayer investments, principally through the National Institutes of Health. Drug companies make great contributions, but so do taxpayers. Put simply, the astonishing scientific and financial successes of the pharmaceutical industry have been built on a foundation of taxpayer investment.

With revolutionary new treatments and a giant drug industry built on blockbuster drugs, this should be a moment of great triumph. But in recent years, the American engine of medical innovation has begun to sputter. Why?

  • Government funding. Congress used to work in a non-political, bipartisan way to expand NIH funding. But instead of increasing the NIH budget at the pace of potential scientific innovation, budget cuts, sequestration, and other pressures mean that the NIH budget over the last decade hasn’t even kept up with the pace of inflation.
  • Drug companies. Over the last ten years, some of our wealthiest drug companies – the ones with those blockbuster billion-dollar drugs – have found another way to boost profits. In addition to selling life-changing cures, some of these companies are increasingly making money by skirting the law. They’ve been caught defrauding Medicare and Medicaid, withholding critical safety information about their drugs, marketing their drugs for uses they aren’t approved for, and giving doctors kickbacks for writing prescriptions for their drugs.

Between these two problems – shrinking government support for research and increased rule-breaking by companies that have blockbuster drugs – lies a solution: requiring those big-time drug companies that break the law to put more money into funding medical research.  

That’s why I’m introducing the Medical Innovation Act to substantially increase federal funding for the National Institutes of Health.

Here’s how it works: Just like the big banks, when blockbuster drug companies break the law, they nearly always enter settlement agreements with the government, rather than going to trial.

Under the proposed Medical Innovation Act, those blockbuster drug companies that wanted to settle legal violations would be required to reinvest a relatively small portion of the profits it they have generated as a result of federal research investments right back into the NIH.

This isn’t a tax. This is simply a condition of settling to avoid a trial in a major case of wrongdoing. If a company never breaks the law, it will never pay the fee. If an accused company goes to trial instead of settling out of court, it will never pay the fee – even if it loses the case. It’s like a swear jar – break the law and pay something forward that benefits everyone.

If this policy had been in place, over the past five years, NIH would have had about six billion more dollars every year to fund thousands of new grants to scientists and universities and research centers around the country. That’s nearly a 20% increase in NIH funding.  

The Medical Innovation Act would substantially increase federal support for medical research without increasing the deficit or cutting other critical programs. Sign up now to show your support.

With too many in Congress willing to sit by and watch the NIH starve – and too many in pharmaceutical industry willing to make a quick buck by breaking the law, it’s easy for cynicism to set in – and it’s easy for us to forget the commitments that we’ve all made to each other.  

Today we are choking off support for projects that could lead to the next major breakthrough against cancer, heart disease, Ebola, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, or other deadly conditions. We’re starving projects that could transform the lives of our children on the autism spectrum. We’re suffocating breakthrough ideas that would give new hope to those with ALS.

That’s not who we are. We are not a nation that abandons the sick. We are nation of people who invest in each other – because we know that when we work together, we all do better. We’ve done it for generations – and for generations, we have led the world in medical innovation.

It is time to renew our commitment – our commitment to our children, to our parents and to ourselves. I hope you’ll stand with me in this fight.

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I'm supporting Kamala

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Barbara Boxer has been my friend and mentor in the United States Senate, and I’m very sorry that we’ll be losing her strong leadership when she retires in 2016.

But it is also true that I’m really excited about what’s in store for California and our country.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris is a smart, tough, and experienced prosecutor who has consistently stood up to Wall Street. Yesterday, she announced her candidacy for the United States Senate, and I’m happy to support her campaign.
 
Let’s help Kamala Harris build the grassroots team she’ll need to stand up to the powerful interests and win in California in 2016. Will you help us raise $25,000 for her Senate campaign right now?

Elizabeth Warren - Kamala Harris

Let me take just a moment to tell you what makes Kamala Harris so special.

When the housing market crashed in 2008, California was hit hard. Home prices had shot through the roof, and families that were desperately afraid they might be priced out of housing forever took on big mortgages. But those weren’t just standard, here-are-the-payments mortgages. No, millions of people ended up with mortgages that were loaded with tricks and traps, sold by both big banks and fly-by-night mortgage lenders. When the market collapsed, these people couldn’t pay their mortgages, they couldn’t refinance, and they couldn’t sell their homes.

Attorney General Kamala Harris demanded real accountability from the lenders. She wasn’t intimidated by the big banks. When the negotiations in the National Mortgage Settlement weren't tough enough on the banks, Kamala took a bold move. She said that her job was to protect the people of California, not help the big banks, so she pulled out of the group negotiations and later secured $20 billion in relief for struggling California homeowners. And to help prevent another crisis from happening again, she fought for a new California Homeowner Bill of Rights – one of the most comprehensive sets of foreclosure reform laws in the country.

I worked with Kamala, and I saw up close and personal that she is tough, she is principled, and she fights hard.

We need more leaders in Washington who are willing to fight for a level playing field for working families. Kamala came to Massachusetts to help our campaign in 2012, and I’m doing what I can to make sure Kamala Harris makes it to the United States Senate in 2016.

Donate now to Kamala Harris’s campaign so she can fight by my side for America’s middle class.

We lost this time

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Washington is rigged for those who can hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists. Last week, we got a close look at what really goes on.

House Republicans slipped a provision into the must-pass, omnibus budget package in a secret, closed-door deal. Citigroup lobbyists literally wrote the provision to weaken the new rules on Wall Street and make it easier for the biggest banks to get bailed out again in the future. JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon personally called up members of Congress to lobby for their votes.

Nobody likes bailouts. Democrats don’t like bailouts. Republicans don’t like bailouts. But Wall Street proved again that with enough money and enough power, they can tilt the playing field in Washington a little more in their favor.

I fought my heart out against that provision last week. So did tens of thousands of people who signed petitions, who called their representatives, who tweeted and Facebooked, and who spoke out about it.

We lost this time. But here’s what I want you to remember: It’s better to fight and lose than not to fight at all.  

It’s better to fight because if you don’t fight, you can’t win. Besides, even when you don’t win, you can change the game. Here’s a snippet from an article in The Hill newspaper earlier this week that shows what I mean:

“One senior financial industry executive said the dust-up over the funding bill has forced the industry to recalibrate its lobbying priorities for the coming year. Given Warren’s megaphone, the executive said, getting through the next Congress without new restrictions on large banks would constitute a win.”

Sure, that’s just one person’s opinion. There are a lot of other people who work for big banks on Wall Street and in Washington who are salivating right now, making perfectly clear they view this as the beginning of a larger assault on financial reform. But without our fight, they would be looking at a much easier path to more bank handouts.

We know that our job is going to get tougher in 2015. Mitch McConnell has been saying for months – both out in the public and in secret meetings with the Koch brothers – what his plan will be when Republicans take control of the Senate: use every trick and political game they can think of to undermine President Obama and grind the government's work to a halt.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to fight back for working families. To fight back for people who couldn’t get health insurance for years and don’t want Republicans to take their new insurance away. To fight back for Social Security and Medicare so seniors can retire with dignity. To fight back for the environment so our grandkids will be able to breathe the air and drink the water. To fight back for accountability and a level playing field so nobody steals your purse on Main Street, or your pension on Wall Street.

That’s why we’re here: To fight the big fights. We won’t always win, but darn it, we’re going to try.

I wanted to take a moment to say thank you. Thank you for your support, for your time, for your voice, and for your fight. We’re a team, you and I. I never forget that.

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Stop the Republicans' Wall Street giveaway

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People are frustrated with Congress. Part of the reason, of course, is gridlock. But mostly it’s because they see a Congress that works just fine for the big guys but won’t lift a finger to help them.

And now the House of Representatives is about to show us the worst of government for the rich and powerful.

The House is about to vote on a budget deal – a deal negotiated behind closed doors that slips in a provision that would let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money, and once again get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system.

These are the same banks that nearly broke this economy in 2008 and destroyed millions of jobs. The same banks that got bailed out by taxpayers and are now raking in record profits. The same banks that are spending a whole lot of time and money trying to influence Congress to bend the rules in their favor.

I’m urgently calling on Congress to withhold support of the deal today until this dangerous giveaway is removed from the legislation. Join me right now to stand up to Wall Street.

You will hear a lot of folks say that the rule that will be repealed in the Omnibus is technical and complicated, and that you shouldn’t worry about it because smart people who know more than you about financial issues say that it’s no big deal. Don’t believe them.

Actually, the rule is pretty simple. Here’s what it’s called – the rule that the House is about to repeal – and I’m quoting from the text of Dodd-Frank – “PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS OF SWAPS ENTITIES.”

We put this rule in place after the collapse of the financial system because we wanted to reduce the risk that reckless gambling on Wall Street could ever again threaten jobs and livelihoods on Main Street. We put this rule in place because people of all political persuasions were disgusted at the prospects of future bailouts.

And now, no debate, no discussion, Republicans in the House of Representatives are threatening to shut down the government if they don’t get a chance to repeal it.  

That raises a simple question – why? If this rule brings more stability to our financial system, if this rule prevents future government bailouts, why in the world would anyone want to repeal it, let alone hold the entire government hostage in order to ram through the repeal?

The reason, unfortunately, is simple. It’s about money, and it’s about power. Because while this legal change could pose serious risks to our entire economy, it’ll also make a lot of money for Wall Street banks.

Wall Street isn’t subtle about this one – according to documents reviewed by the New York Times, the original bill that is being incorporated into the House’s spending legislation today was literally written by Citigroup lobbyists, who “redrafted” the legislation, “striking out certain phrases and inserting others.”

I know that House and Senate negotiators from both parties have worked long and hard to come to an agreement on the omnibus spending legislation. And Senate leaders deserve great credit for preventing the House from carrying out some of their more aggressive fantasies about dismantling even more pieces of financial reform.

But this provision goes too far. Citigroup is large, and it is powerful. But it is a single, private company. It shouldn’t get to hold the entire government hostage – to threaten a government shutdown – in order to roll back important protections that keep our economy safe.

This is a democracy, and the American people didn’t elect us to stand up for Citigroup. They elected us to stand up for all of the people.

We all need to stand and fight this giveaway to the most powerful banks in the country. Join me in calling on Congress to withhold support of this package until this risky giveaway is removed from the legislation.

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I just spoke with Harry Reid

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I just left a Senate Democrats caucus meeting, and I wanted you to know: Harry Reid has asked me to serve as Strategic Policy Advisor to the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

That’s a fancy way of saying that I’ve been asked to join the Democratic leadership in helping decide how we can fight most effectively for the people who are counting on us.

I don’t kid myself. Life is about to get harder in the Senate when Republicans take over control, but this is a seat at the table for all of us – and that matters. It’s a seat at the table to fight for kids who are being crushed by student loan debt. Working moms and dads struggling to make it on minimum wage. Seniors who depend solely on their Social Security checks to keep a roof over their heads. And all of us who just want a level playing field and a fighting chance to succeed.

Washington is a tough place, and it’s not easy to make real, lasting changes. We all know that. But we also know it’s possible, and we know how much it matters. That’s why we’re going to keep fighting for what we believe in.

Thank you for being a part of this and making this possible.

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No matter what, we fight

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The polls just closed here in Massachusetts, and we're all expecting a long night as the results come in across the country. Before we find out the final tally, I wanted to take a moment to say a heartfelt thank you.

In 2012, you defied the odds, helping a first-time candidate raise money from more small donors than any Senate campaign in the history of this country. You've always had my back, and I've worked hard to always have yours.

But here's what I'm most proud about from that historic campaign: You didn't stop when the polls closed on November 6, 2012. You knew that this was never just about me – it's about fighting for what we believe in.

It's about standing up to the big banks when they break the law, and fighting to help our students getting crushed with debt. It's about protecting and expanding Social Security for our seniors, raising the minimum wage, and making sure women get equal pay for equal work and access to birth control.

It's also about fighting for candidates who will stand by our side in the U.S. Senate. This election cycle, our grassroots supporters pulled together to help raise an incredible $6 million for Democratic campaigns and committees across the country. You raised critical funds that our candidates needed if they were going to have a fighting chance against Karl Rove, the Koch Brothers, and all those Super PAC attack ads.

And it wasn't just about the money – it was about our values. I crisscrossed the country to 16 states to fight for the Democratic majority and to talk about who we are as a people, and what kind of country we want to be, and tens of thousands of you volunteered your time to knock on doors and make phone calls.  

We made this about our values and about our democracy. We worked hard to get people to the polls, to encourage those who are losing faith in the political process, to remind everyone that we have power when we vote.

The political pundits wrote us off weeks ago. Shoot, some of them wrote us off months ago. They said the map this year was just too tough – that Democrats should give up and not even try. But when we were up against the ropes, you just fought back harder. You fought for yourself, for your family, and for working families all across the country.   

Change is hard, especially when the playing field is tilted so far against us. But I know that if you don't fight, you can't win – and we fought for every last vote. No matter what happens tonight, be proud of what you've worked for. We're going to keep fighting every day to level the playing field for working families.

Scott Brown

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Back in 2012, New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen came to Massachusetts many times to talk to people about why we needed to beat Scott Brown and protect the Democratic majority in the Senate.

Never in a bazillion years did it cross my mind that Scott Brown would pack up and move to his vacation house in New Hampshire to run against our friend Jeanne. But that's exactly what happened – and with less than three weeks to go, the race is neck-and-neck.

That's why I'm going to New Hampshire next weekend to join Jeanne Shaheen, to make sure our neighbors know as much about Scott Brown's record as the voters of Massachusetts did when they decided to turn him out.

Sure, he's got outside money again – buckets of it – but we can send him a message: The same grassroots team that stopped Scott Brown in 2012 will stop him again in 2014.

If you can, please make a donation to Jeanne Shaheen's campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on the frontlines in New Hampshire.

Scott Brown may claim nowadays that he's a New Hampshire guy through and through, but you and I know that wherever he parks his truck, he's the same Scott Brown.

That's why I'm headed to New Hampshire – just to talk about at the facts – the record that Scott Brown ran up in the US Senate:

  • With nearly a quarter of a million people unemployed in Massachusetts – and thousands more out of work in New Hampshire, Scott Brown voted against three jobs bills.
  • With students struggling to get an education, Scott Brown voted to let the interest rates on student loans double and he voted for a budget to cut Pell Grants.
  • With climate change bearing down on us, Scott Brown voted to protect billions of dollars in subsidies for Big Oil – some of the most profitable companies on the planet.
  • With women struggling to help support their families, Scott Brown voted against equal pay for equal work. And just to make clear where he stands on women's issues, he cosponsored a bill to let employers deny women insurance coverage for birth control. And he voted against a pro-choice woman to the US Supreme Court.
  • With big banks crashing the economy, Scott Brown worked to weaken regulations to hold the big banks accountable and then was named to the Forbes list of Wall Street's favorite Congressmen.

I know one more thing about Scott Brown: We can beat him, and we can beat his powerful friends. We've done it before, and we can do it again.

Jeanne Shaheen is working her heart out, and I'm working my heart out for her too, but we can't do this alone: If you can, please give Jeanne and the DSCC the same incredible support you showed our campaign in 2012.

Jeanne has shown me what it's like to be tough, to be strong, and to fight for what you believe in. Now it's our turn to fight for Jeanne.

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I'm going to campaign with Mark Udall, Al Franken and Bruce Braley

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We know what's at stake if we lose the Democratic majority in the Senate.

    • Two years of a Senate that takes vote after vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, weaken the rules on Wall Street, and regulate women's bodies like it's 1954.
    • Two years of a Senate not just filibustering bills on raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, and student loan reform – but refusing to let them be considered at all.
    • Two years of a Senate that fights tooth and nail against any of the President's nominees to the Supreme Court.
    • Two years of a Senate that cuts back further on the critical investments for our future – and uses intimidation tactic after intimidation tactic to stall the Administration and rig the system for the rich and powerful.

We know exactly what's at stake for working families if we lose the Democratic majority. That's why we've pulled hard together, so that our team has already stepped up to raise over $6 million for Democratic candidates and committees this election cycle. It's also why I've criss-crossed the country this year to 15 different states to fight for our Democratic Senate and gubernatorial candidates with everything I've got.

And that's why, with just 22 days to go until the election, I've decided this week to go back to Colorado and Minnesota for Mark Udall and Al Franken, and to go to Iowa for Bruce Braley. Simply put, we need all three of them to win on November 4th – and I'm willing to do whatever it takes.

I'm fighting my heart out to win in Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa, and states across the country to protect the Democratic majority, but I'm hoping you can help too. I know many of you have already helped out many times – and we're all grateful – but if you can help again, please donate directly to Mark Udall, Al Franken, and Bruce Braley's campaigns right now.

On the key issues about fighting for working families – about whether or not this government works for everyone or only for the big guys who have already made it – I know down to my toes that our Democratic candidates are in this together.

 And right now we need to be all in this together for Al, Mark, and Bruce:

    • In Minnesota, some polls show Al Franken's lead may be slipping down to single digits in the final days of this campaign. I'm going to Minnesota because Al won his last election by only 312 votes, and no one's taking anything for granted.
    • In Colorado, one poll shows Mark Udall up by three points, and another shows him down by six to extreme conservative Cory Gardner. I'm going to Colorado to remind everyone that this election is about whose side you stand on, and Mark Udall stands with women and families.
    • And in Iowa, Democratic congressman Bruce Braley is statistically tied with one of the most radical Republicans running for office this year, Joni Ernst. I'm going to Iowa because Bruce Braley shares our values – and working families can't afford to have Ernst's reckless and dangerous agenda strengthened in the United States Senate.  

I'm doing what I can to talk to people about why this election is so important, but it takes a lot of us pulling together. If you can, please donate directly to Mark, Al, and Bruce's campaigns now. Together, we can make a difference.

This election has been a real fight – and it's going to stay a real fight for the last three weeks of this campaign.

But if doing everything we can for 22 days means we'll be able to spend the next two years pressing forward in our fight to give just a little bit of relief to single moms struggling on minimum wage, or to college students getting crushed with loans, or to women who just want access to birth control, then I'm ready for that fight.

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