Sheldon Whitehouse

Save Our Seas 2.0 tackles global marine debris crisis
To save our oceans, there’s no time to waste

OPINION — We may have plenty of political differences, but we come from coastal states. That means we have a front-row seat to the peril of plastic waste and marine debris flowing into our oceans at the rate of around 8 million metric tons per year. We understand what it will mean for our fishing and tourism industries when the weight of plastic in our oceans equals the weight of fish in the sea — something projected to happen by mid-century. We don’t have a moment to lose in confronting this problem.

That’s why we built a coalition in Congress and gathered input from environmental and industry stakeholders alike. Despite a divided Washington, that work resulted in a bill that won broad, bipartisan support. When the Save Our Seas Act became law last October, it was a moment of bipartisan progress on a vital issue — one to be celebrated.

The unglamorous job of federal budgeting
New budget reform legislation would help restore a broken process

OPINION — It is no secret that a vast majority of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing. Too often our political debates are characterized by hyperpartisanship, rather than achieving meaningful outcomes for the American people. Nowhere is this problem more acute than when it comes to our inability to address our country’s unsustainable fiscal course.

Our current budget process is broken, as evidenced by mounting debt and deficits, a patchwork of temporary spending bills, government shutdowns, and budgets that, if passed at all, are quickly ignored. While process reforms alone won’t solve our fiscal challenges, we believe that realigning incentives, creating a more predictable budget pathway and encouraging active engagement in fiscal outcomes are steps in the right direction.

Are Some Special Interests Too Big for Justice?
Big oil’s position on climate change is reminiscent of tobacco companies' on smoking risks

Have some special interests grown so big and powerful that they can stare down the Department of Justice? You’d hope not, because once bigness and power become an excuse to operate outside the law, we will end up seeing a lot more lawless behavior by the big and powerful. In a nation built on the rule of law and the principle of equal justice before the law—that’s not good.

But once you get big enough, staring down law enforcement becomes a credible strategy. Mighty defendants who can mount “blizzard defense” strategies can put immense pressure on even government plaintiffs. When I brought suit as attorney general against the lead paint industry for poisoning thousands of Rhode Island children, the industry lawyers listed multiple dozens of trial witnesses. It would be malpractice not to depose your adversary’s trial witnesses, so all over the country we went to take depositions. At trial, the industry called exactly zero of those witnesses.   It had been a wild goose chase to exhaust our resources. And that is only one among many heavy-handed maneuvers big defendants can afford.

Breaking the Cycles of Addiction and Recidivism | Commentary

Some issues transcend political divisions.

Breaking the Cycles of Addiction and Recidivism | Commentary

Some issues transcend political divisions. How best to prevent drug addiction before it starts and provide treatment to those who want to turn their lives around is one of those issues. Over the last few decades, we’ve learned a lot about what works — and what doesn’t — when it comes to preventing and treating drug abuse. And while we’ve made some significant strides in our fight against addiction, we can do even better.

Whitehouse: Let’s Shine a Light on Big Money in Politics

The American people are making it clear that they’re fed up with a system that gives special treatment to special interests while middle-class families suffer.

Everywhere they look, it’s the same story: a tax system that allows multimillion-dollar earners to pay a lower tax rate than a truck driver or janitor; a banking system that allows credit card companies to ignore local laws and charge sky-high interest rates to consumers; and, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, a campaign system that allows corporations and billionaires to spend unlimited amounts of money anonymously in our elections.

Lack of Health IT Shows Market Failure

Our health care system is in serious trouble. I have heard from countless Rhode Islanders struggling to pay for health care and afraid of losing insurance coverage on which they and their families depend. I have met nurses frustrated and heartbroken that they must spend so much time filling out paperwork and so little time caring for patients. I have talked with families whose lives and health were shaken by terrifying medical errors — misplaced paperwork, mistaken diagnoses — that should have been avoided.

And despite all of this, despite a system that produces embarrassingly low life-expectancy rates, embarrassingly high obesity and