TIME Congress

3 Surprising Facts About Senator Harry Reid

Harry Reid
Douglas Graham—Roll Call/Getty Images Harry Reid on July 10, 2000

There's more to the retiring Senate Democratic leader than meets the eye

When Harry Reid retires in 2017, he will have served as the Senate Democratic leader for 12 years—longer than all but two other senators in the country’s history.

But while he’s well-known inside Washington, the Senate Majority Leader is a distant figure to many Americans. His dry speaking style and low-key persona has kept him from becoming a household name, even as he’s led Democrats and at times the Senate itself.

But whether you approve of the job he’s done or not, Reid is actually fairly colorful. Here are three things you should know about the man from Searchlight as he heads out the door.

His mother used to do laundry for a brothel

Reid had a tough upbringing, growing up in “tiny wood shack with a tin roof’ as the “son of a hard-drinking gold miner, who eventually shot and killed himself,” according to a TIME 2004 profile. In 2011, Reid called for Nevada’s brothel industry to be outlawed, recalling stories of his mother taking laundry in from some of the 13 brothels that his hometown had at one point.

“Nevada needs to be known as the first place for innovation and investment–not as the last place where prostitution is still legal,” Reid told the state legislature then. “When the nation thinks about Nevada, it should think about the world’s newest ideas and newest careers—not about its oldest profession.”

He once tried to choke a man who tried to bribe him

Reid was an amateur boxer and later paid his way through George Washington University as a night-shift Capitol police officer, so he knows how to crack heads, literally. That came in handy when he was chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission from 1977 to 1981. While he worked there he received “repeated death threats from the mob,” according to his biography, and had at least one instance where a man attempted to bribe him. Bad move. Per a 2005 New Yorker piece:

In July of 1978, a man named Jack Gordon, who was later married to LaToya Jackson, offered Reid twelve thousand dollars to approve two new, carnival-like gaming devices for casino use. Reid reported the attempted bribe to the F.B.I. and arranged a meeting with Gordon in his office. By agreement, F.B.I. agents burst in to arrest Gordon at the point where Reid asked, ‘Is this the money?’ Although he was taking part in a sting, Reid was unable to control his temper; the videotape shows him getting up from his chair and saying, ‘You son of a bitch, you tried to bribe me!’ and attempting to choke Gordon, before startled agents pulled him off. ‘I was so angry with him for thinking he could bribe me,’ Reid said, explaining his theatrical outburst. Gordon was convicted in federal court in 1979 and sentenced to six months in prison.

He inspired a character in a Martin Scorsese film

Few bureaucrats can say that their work was fictionalized by Scorsese. In 1978, Reid held a hearing as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission that was later used in the 1995 film Casino. Dick Smothers’ character spouted some of Reid’s statements during the scene where Robert De Niro’s character freaks out after the commission rejects his application for a license to operate a casino, according to Slate.

TIME 2016 elections

Harry Reid Says He Will Retire at the End of 2016

Harry Reid
Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. adjusts his glasses as he speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 24, 2015.

The senator said he didn't want to use Democratic resources that could be put to better use in other elections

Sen. Harry Reid says he will not seek reelection in 2016, bringing an end to his decades-long career in Congress as one of the longest serving Democratic leaders ever.

The former majority leader says becoming minority leader after Democrats lost control of the Senate in November had nothing to do with his decision, nor did his rib-breaking exercise accident in January. Reid, 75, said that he did not want to make use of Democratic funding to be reelected when that money could be better used in other races, citing tough battles in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

In a statement, Reid also said his accident, which broke bones in his face, had given him and his wife “time to ponder and to think,” leading him to the conclusion that it would be best to hand over the reins.

Reid has already endorsed New York Sen. Chuck Schumer as his replacement over other potential successors like Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. In an interview on a Nevada public radio station Friday, Reid cited Schumer’s work helping Democrats take control of 2006.

“I’ve never been a shrinking violet,” said Reid of his decision to name Schumer so early. “I think it’s very important that we have continuity in our leadership and I’ve done everything that I could to avoid a fight for leadership during all the time I’ve been in the Senate…He will be elected to replace me in 22 months. I think one reason that will happen is because I want him to be my replacement.”

“Schumer is a brilliant man from New York and he’s been a tremendous asset to me,” he added.

Reid was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1982, and then to the Senate in 1986. He wrote in his statement that as a boy, he’d dreamed of playing professional baseball. “But the joy I’ve gotten with the work that I’ve done for the people of the state of Nevada,” he wrote, “has been just as fulfilling as if I had played center field at Yankee Stadium.”

Barack Obama joined Reid on the radio show Friday as a surprise caller and called Reid one of his “best partners and best friends.”

“Harry’s going to be doing a lot of work over the next 20-something months but I think that when the story is written and all is told, you’re going to have somebody who has done more for Nevada and for this country as anybody who has ever been in the Senate,” said Obama. “And I could not be prouder of him. He did an unbelievable job on a whole bunch of really tough issues, saving this country from a depression, making sure millions of people had health care, making sure that young people are able to go to college. And he’s been one of my partners, best friends and I’m really honored to have served with him.”

“Well I’ll be damned,” responded Reid when Obama took the line. “What a guy.”

Read next: Congress to Solve Problem It Created 18 Years Ago

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TIME Rand Paul

Rand Paul Proposes Boosting Defense Spending

Sen. Rand Paul Vaccine
Bill Clark—CQ-Roll Call,Inc./Getty Images Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during a news conference on Jan. 27, 2015.

His amendment would add $76.5 billion to the defense budget

Just weeks before announcing his 2016 presidential bid, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is completing an about-face on a longstanding pledge to curb the growth in defense spending.

In an olive branch to defense hawks hell-bent on curtailing his White House ambitions, the libertarian Senator introduced a budget amendment late Wednesday calling for a nearly $190 billion infusion to the defense budget over the next two years—a roughly 16 percent increase.

Paul’s amendment brings him in line with his likely presidential primary rivals, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who introduced a measure calling for nearly the same level of increases just days ago. The amendment was first noticed by TIME and later confirmed by Paul’s office.

The move completes a stunning reversal for Paul, who in May 2011, after just five months in office, released his own budget that would have eliminated four agencies—Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Energy and Education—while slashing the Pentagon, a sacred cow for many Republicans. Under Paul’s original proposal, defense spending would have dropped from $553 billion in the 2011 fiscal year to $542 billion in 2016. War funding would have plummeted from $159 billion to zero. He called it the “draw-down and restructuring of the Department of Defense.”

But under Paul’s new plan, the Pentagon will see its budget authority swell by $76.5 billion to $696,776,000,000 in fiscal year 2016.

The boost would be offset by a two-year combined $212 billion cut to funding for aid to foreign governments, climate change research and crippling reductions in to the budgets of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Commerce and Education.

Paul’s endorsement of increased defense spending represents a change in direction for the first-term lawmaker, who rose to prominence with his critiques of the size of the defense budget and foreign aid, drawing charges of advocating isolationism. Under pressure from fellow lawmakers and well-heeled donors, Paul in recent months has appeared to embrace the hawkish rhetoric that has defined the GOP in recent decades. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in February Paul warned of the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). “Without question, we must now defend ourselves and American interests,” he said. Asked about federal spending, he added, “for me, the priority is always national defense.”

The amendment was filed on the same day as House Republicans overwhelmingly supported a plan to alter their budget to give billions more to the Pentagon.

It’s not the first time that Paul has adjusted his position on a foreign policy matter to find greater appeal within his own party. Early in his Senate career, Paul advocated for the elimination of all aid to foreign governments, including Israel, but after criticism has since backtracked on that proposal.

Paul’s change-of-heart on the budget highlights the importance of the funding document to many likely presidential candidates. In addition to the increased defense spending, Rubio provided a roadmap to his all-but-certain presidential campaign, introducing over 25 amendments stating his desire to deliver weapons to Ukraine, create education tax credits, strengthen pro-life legislation, weaken collective bargaining agreements and ensure Medicare wouldn’t be “raided” by Obamacare.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is considering a presidential run, pointed to Rubio’s measure to increase defense spending as an example of how budget votes will impact the 2016 race. “That’s a great amendment,” says Graham, one of the Senate’s preeminent foreign policy hawks. “I think if you voted against Marco’s amendment you’d be probably on the outside of most people in the primary.”

Outside of Congress, other GOP presidential candidates have used the budget process to insulate themselves from tough political questions. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has relied on his outsider status to avoid commenting on everything from immigration to the gas tax. In New Hampshire earlier this month, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush dodged a question on securing the border by pointing toward dysfunction in Washington.

“I think that Congress needs to pass a budget and put conservative priorities on the table,” he said at a house party. “And in that budget there are ways that you could show the opposition to the use of executive orders, and so I hope they do that, and I hope they fully fund the department of homeland security…because how else are we going to secure the border. This is the only way that we can do it.”

“I think we need to increase spending on defense and homeland security,” Bush added.

Read next: Why Rand Paul is Attacking Ted Cruz

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Congress

Congress to Solve Problem It Created 18 Years Ago

House Republicans Vote On A New Majority Leader To Replace Cantor
Pete Marovich—Bloomberg/Getty Images U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, speaks during his weekly news conference at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 19, 2014. Boehner said terrorism has spread "exponentially" during President Barack Obama's administration and that Obama needs an "overall strategy" to stem the rise of terrorism in the Middle East. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress is on the verge of permanently solving a problem it created for itself 18 years ago.

The House expects to pass a major health care reform bill Thursday that would solve a recurring headache: a flawed formula for Medicare payments for doctors. For years, Congress has passed short-term patches—17 in all—temporarily fixing the problem just before doctors were slated to see their reimbursements drop suddenly.

Now, ahead of an April 1 deadline that would slice the Medicare payment rate by 21 percent, House leaders have struck a compromise that would permanently resolve the issue, roughly splitting the costs between beneficiaries and providers. The deal has garnered support from both progressive budget groups and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist.

“It’s time we did this,” says House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers. “We’ve been crutching along on one cane for all these years and finally we’re facing up to the responsibility of getting it over with.”

Negotiated by Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, the House bill would make wealthy seniors pay up to 15% more in premiums beginning in 2018 and extend for two years funding for community health centers and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which faces its own spending deadline this fall. The bill would cost $141 billion over the next ten years, which will peel away support from some deficit hawks, even though it’s about a billion less than just kicking the can down the road.

“That’s pretty darn impressive,” says Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch of the deal, which was easier to make than in years past as Medicare spending on physician services has dropped.

“It looks like to me it solves a problem that has been out there for about 18 years now, of a pay for that clearly was a phony pay-for,” adds Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt. “It was a pay-for that was never going to work that Congress has never been willing to go to because it didn’t make sense.”

The question now is whether the Senate can pass the bill by Friday, when Congress plans to leave for a two-week recess. In the event that it can’t, the Senate will once again pass a short-term patch. “I just don’t know how you get it done before the end of this week in a way that’s befitting a review by the United States Senate and House,” says Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin. “It normally takes more than a few minutes to consider major legislation. … We’re not going to finish the budget until Friday morning.”

Democrats in the Senate have been more tepid in their support than their House colleagues, raising concerns over abortion provisions that have been countered in part after further negotiations. Several Democrats, including Sens. Chuck Schumer, Chris Murphy and Sherrod Brown, told TIME that they are concerned that the funding extension for CHIP is two, rather than four, years. But those concerns haven’t led them to state public opposition to the bill and it’s likely that there’s enough support among Senate Democrats to pass it. President Obama said Wednesday he’s got his pen “ready to sign a good, bipartisan bill.”

“We have a golden opportunity to accomplish something that people thought couldn’t be accomplished with this amount of toxicity, if you will, to the atmosphere,” says West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.

“Getting the ‘doc fix’ done once and for all is a positive development,” adds Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats and is “inclined” to support it. “I wish that it had four years for the CHIP program, but as Mick Jagger once famously said, ‘you don’t always get what you want.'”

For the bill to come up in the upper chamber by Friday, every senator would have to agree to skip procedural hurdles to vote on the bill. After a drawn-out fight over the Keystone XL pipeline and the delay in what was once an easy, bipartisan anti-human trafficking bill, top Republicans are worried that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and the Democrats will slow down or kill the process. Reid has said that he will give his opinion of the deal once it passes the House.

“The incentives are there,” says Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming. “Now it just comes to whether Harry Reid is once again going to obstruct the workings of the United States Senate.”

In an ironic twist, just as Congress looks to relieve itself from a perennial headache, reports have emerged defending the so-called ‘doc fix’ for doing what it was supposed to do: keep Medicare spending in line. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, an anti-deficit group, wrote last year that Congress paid for its delays 98 percent of the time with much of the savings coming from health care programs.

“It always gets derided because it’s annoying and it’s flawed,” Loren Adler, the group’s research director, told Bloomberg recently. “It doesn’t work as intended, it’s a little bit silly in some ways and it’s a lobbying bonanza. That being said, it’s accomplished what was intended—it’s controlled the cost of Medicare.”

TIME Rand Paul

Why Rand Paul is Attacking Ted Cruz

US-VOTE-REPUBLICANS
Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images US Senator Ted Cruz( R-TX) smiles at the crowd while delivering remarks announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for US president March 23, 2015, inside the full Vine Center at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va.

Rand Paul has his sights set on Ted Cruz.

As his Lone Star colleague, Sen. Ted Cruz, announced his candidacy Monday, Paul took to Twitter, asking his following to retweet a two part message: “Stand with … Rand.” His supporters at Virginia’s Liberty University got it, trolling the cameras in red shirts with Paul’s mantra.

Several hours later, Paul went on Fox News’ The Kelly File, which aired an hour before Cruz appeared on Sean Hannity’s show. Paul attacked Cruz for being unable to spread his message past his speech’s largely favorable Christian audience, which, as Paul noted at least twice, were composed of students “required” to attend.

“Ted Cruz is a conservative, but it also goes to winnability,” said Paul, noting that he’s traveled to liberal redoubts like Berkeley, Calif., and spoken at historically black colleges. “I’ve spent the last couple years going places Republicans haven’t gone and maybe not just throwing out red meat but actually throwing out something intellectually enticing to people who haven’t been listening to our message before.”

“That’s the way you win general elections,” he added.

Paul’s double-barreled Internet and TV attacks came before he officially enters the race — he has scheduled a major announcement on April 7 followed by a tour of the early primary states. But they show his primary problem: he is largely competing for the same slices of conservative voters with Cruz even as he tries to expand the traditional Republican electorate.

“I didn’t find much I disagreed with,” said Paul of Cruz’s speech on Fox. “We kind of come from the same wing of the party and if you look at our voting records you’ll find that we’re very, very similar.”

The two conservative senators approach politics through different ideological frames: Paul’s a libertarian who wants a bigger tent in the GOP; Cruz is a conservative who wants to turn out more of the base. “Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting,” he said in his campaign announcement. “They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.”

Read More: Full Text of Sen. Ted Cruz’s Campaign Launch


But in the Senate, their different paths have often led to the same destination. Both wish to “abolish the IRS,” rein in the National Security Agency, remove the chain of command in military sexual assault cases, pass a flat tax, see states scale back Common Core education standards, reform mandatory minimum sentencing, secure the borders before any type of immigration reform, repeal Obamacare and oppose aid to Syrian rebels. In 2013, several months after Cruz supported Paul’s filibuster over U.S. drone policy, Paul supported Cruz’s 21 plus hours of an anti-Obamacare tirade.

The main differences between the two are stylistic. Paul is running a freewheeling campaign, trying to appeal to constituencies Cruz isn’t addressing, while bucking the GOP leadership on foreign policy issues like normalizing relations with Cuba. But Paul has worked the Senate chamber much better, lining up support from fellow Kentuckian Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while Cruz has failed to do the same from his Texas colleague, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn. Both of those members of the leadership team are still incensed with Cruz’s strategy protesting the implementation of Obamacare in 2013 that led to a government shutdown, which briefly battered the party’s image.

The fight between the Tea Party senators extends from the same voters to the same staff. A few top operatives in Cruz’s backyard have jumped to Paul, including Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri and Cruz’s digital strategist, Vince Harris, who orchestrated the nifty little trick of popping up Rand PAC ads every time you searched “Ted Cruz” on Google Monday.

But just Tuesday the New York Times reported that Cruz has recruited three Iowa leaders from Paul’s libertarian base. The polls for the next presidential election don’t close for another 595 days, but the early jockeying between the two colleagues has already begun.

TIME Marijuana

Uncle Sam Will Buy $69 Million Worth of Pot From Ole Miss

Legally-grown marijuana grows at a dispensary in Denver on May 8, 2014.
Brennan Linsley—AP Legally-grown marijuana grows at a dispensary in Denver on May 8, 2014.

The NIH will continue its exclusive deal with the University of Mississippi

Uncle Sam has awarded the University of Mississippi $68.8 million to grow marijuana and analyze it.

The contract awarded Monday by an arm of the National Institutes of Health will go to a marijuana research lab at Ole Miss, which has been the sole producer of federally legal marijuana since 1968. The project is ramping up to grow 30,000 plants, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In its solicitation, the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse mandated a “secure and video monitored outdoor facility of approximately 12 acres” that could handle the “cultivation, growing, harvesting, analyzing, and storing of research grade cannabis,” according to a listing posted on a federal government website. “The indoor facility must be at least 1000 square feet, having controls for light intensity, photo cycles, temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide concentration,” it added.

MORE: The Rise of Fake Pot

The government said it’s interested in developing new methods for growing plants that contain a variety of different levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical most responsible for pot’s psychological “high” effect, and cannabidiol, a nonpychoactive ingredient claimed in high-profile anecdotes to effectively treat medical disorders like epilepsy.

When the contract solicitation was posted online in August, an NIDA spokeswoman told TIME that the agency was simply starting a new bidding competition since its existing marijuana farm contract was set to expire in 2015.

There are 23 states with laws allowing access to medical marijuana and 18 states that have decriminalized pot, including four states — Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska — that have legalized the drug for recreational purposes. Federal law still classifies marijuana as a drug on par with heroin, LSD and ecstasy.

TIME White House

Obama Administration Unveils New Fracking Rules

Mody Torres (L) and Josh Anderson of Select Energy Services connect hoses between a pipeline and water tanks at a Hess fracking site near Williston, North Dakota Nov. 12, 2014.
Andrew Cullen — Reuters Mody Torres (L) and Josh Anderson of Select Energy Services connect hoses between a pipeline and water tanks at a Hess fracking site near Williston, North Dakota Nov. 12, 2014.

Tightens use of chemicals on federal land

The Obama Administration announced Friday the first major nationwide hydraulic fracturing safety rules since the technology sparked an energy boom in the U.S.

Under the rules, companies drilling on federal land must publicly disclose what chemicals they use in “fracking” — a mining technique by which rocks are fractured by pumping a liquid compound deep underground — within 30 days of operations. The regulations also tighten standards for collecting wastewater and keeping the groundwater protected.

The Interior Department said that meeting the new regulations would cost companies less than one-fourth of 1 percent of the estimated cost of drilling a well.

The new rules apply to the over 100,000 oil and gas wells on federal government and American Indian lands and exclude some major drilling areas with their own ordinances. Only around 11 percent of U.S. natural gas production and 5 percent of oil production is produced on public lands, according to Bloomberg.

The Republican-led Senate has already introduced a bill to stop the regulations from coming into force, arguing that states alone should have the right to regulate hydraulic fracturing. Some environmental groups also oppose the regulations, arguing they don’t go far enough. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) legislative rep, Madeleine Foote, said the proposal was a “missed opportunity.”

 

 

 

TIME Gadgets

Fitbit CEO: Wearables Aren’t a Cancer Concern

Fitbit Inc.'s Fitbit Flex wireless activity and sleep wristband sit on display at the Wearable Expo in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015.
Bloomberg/Getty Images Fitbit Inc.'s Fitbit Flex wireless activity and sleep wristband sit on display at the Wearable Expo in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015.

Fitbit's CEO pushes back against a controversial new story

Fitbit CEO James Park is rebuking a recent high-profit report raising health concerns in the use of wearable technology.

“In general, cell phones are definitely a very different beast than the low powered wearables,” Park told TIME. “The transmit energies are orders of magnitude higher. So if people are comfortable wearing Bluetooth headsets, I think wearables are even less of a concern because Bluetooth headsets are also close to your head. Wearables are not, unless you happen to sleep right on top of your wrists. For us we feel, again, whatever the studies might show, the overall health benefits of fitness trackers probably vastly overweighs the risks of any type of RF [radio frequency] issues.”

Earlier this week, The New York Times published an article—originally titled online as “Could Wearable Computers Be as Harmful as Cigarettes?”—that discussed the potential links between cellphone radiation, cancer and modern wearable devices. While the report noted that wearables like the Apple Watch or Fitbit’s fitness trackers should be fine since they don’t have a cellular connection, the overall carcinogenic concerns raised and sources used were widely derided. While the author stands by his Times report, the Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote that the article “clearly needed much more vetting” and that a careful interpretation of the facts was “lacking.”

Park said he had not “thoroughly researched” the Times’ claims, but took particular issue with comparing cell phones to wrist wearable devices. Fitbit, whose ubiquitous digital consumer fitness trackers now even claim the wrists of fitness fanatic President Barack Obama, has a 72% market share in its category, according to Park.

 

TIME Gadgets

How Fitbit’s CEO Sees a Future In the Medical Industry

James Park, co-founder and chief executive officer of Fitbit Inc. in San Francisco on Aug. 22, 2014.
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images James Park, co-founder and chief executive officer of Fitbit Inc. in San Francisco on Aug. 22, 2014.

Fitbit looking at making the leap from products you talk about with your coworkers to those you talk about with your doctor

The last time James Park was in Washington, D.C., it was for a sixth-grade field trip. So the fact that the CEO of San Francisco-based Fitbit decided to stop by Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers was surely not solely for pleasure.

In an interview with TIME, Park insisted he was simply here to make some new friends and discuss issues such as privacy and data security, a process paved by his company’s hire of super lawyer Heather Podesta. He said the company doesn’t have any bills or regulations it’s concerned about in the pipeline.

“It’s just mainly about introducing ourselves to people and letting them know that we’re willing to work very cooperatively with policy makers and trying to craft pretty balanced policies,” Park said.

But Park, in a tie underneath a sporty company zip-up, did have an unusual amount to say about an area that could be of interest to Fitbit down the road: the regulation of medical devices through the Food and Drug Administration.

Fitbit is among the most successful fitness trackers aimed at the consumer market, with 72% market share, according to the company. But the next big evolution for the company, founded in 2007, might be to create products you talk about with your doctor instead of those you talk about with your coworkers.

“I think right now everyone is focused on pure consumer benefits and motivating people to change their behavior,” said Park, who spoke with TIME for 40 minutes in its D.C. bureau. “I think there’ll be a next big leap in benefits once we tie into more detailed clinical research and cross the hurdles and dialogue with the FDA about what we can do for consumers and what’s regulated or not.”

As an example, Park noted that some Fitbit products measure your resting heart rate. Some customers have written in to the company to note that they noticed their heart rate went down after they quit smoking, which gave them an added incentive to quit. But for now, that’s an anecdotal argument, and one that Fitbit can’t use in an advertisement without risk.

Park says that consumer-oriented wearable technology produced by companies like Fitbit could further help customers in the coming few years by making sense of data and making “lightweight” medical diagnoses. He also believes that such companies would have an easier time adapting to the medical device industry than those companies already in it flipping around to create the next Fitbit Flex or Apple Watch.

“I would definitely prefer to be in our position where we’ve really focused on the consumer experience,” said Park. “I think most likely the regulatory issues can be learned and addressed over time but having a consumer product DNA is I think something really difficult for medical device companies to replicate. You look at blood glucose meters today, I wouldn’t necessarily say that those are the most attractive or consumer friendly devices. I would say consumer focused companies, whether it’s us or Apple, probably have an inherent advantage in the future.”

“There’s no cool blood glucose meters,” he added.

TIME Congress

Senate Democrats Block Anti-Trafficking Bill, Again

Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2015. From left are, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. Durbin, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nev.
Molly Riley—AP Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2015. From left are, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. Durbin, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nev.

Senate Democrats again blocked a bill Wednesday that would create a fund to help victims of human trafficking over concerns about an abortion provision.

Even Democratic co-sponsors of the bill have backed off of it in the past week, claiming that they did not notice a provision that would bar the fees raised from perpetrators to build the fund to pay for abortions. After failing to nab the necessary 60 votes on Tuesday, Republicans failed to clear a procedural hurdle again Wednesday. Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a member of the Democratic leadership, says “there’s only one way” to now break the impasse.

“They’ve got to take the offensive language out or take the bill off the floor,” he told TIME.

Republicans have blasted Democrats for blocking a bipartisan bill once expected to pass easily. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said before the vote Wednesday that Democrats had made a “historic mistake.”

“Democrats actually filibustered a bill to help victims of modern slavery, apparently because left-wing lobbyists told them to,” he said.

The bill’s delay has pushed back the confirmation vote of President Obama’s Attorney General nominee, Loretta Lynch, who has had to wait around 130 days, longer than the past five nominees combined. McConnell has said that her vote will occur once the sex-trafficking bill is passed.

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