November 10, 2021
@MyKitchenTable: Wednesday November 10, 2021
“Nobody elected him to be F.D.R., they elected him to be normal and stop the chaos” – Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus
Anyone who follows Congress knows that last week was pretty busy. Probably about 40 votes on the House Floor at all hours of the day (I made ‘em all) with some huge issues now resolved and some to come.
Anyone reading my KT report the last number of months or listening to one of my weekly radio interviews or TV appearances knows well my involvement in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan hosted about 25 GOP and Democrat Senators, Governors, and House members last April to discuss a bipartisan infrastructure bill. The National Governors Association participated as well.
We defined and limited our infrastructure needs and agreed it should be paid for (unlike the Trump or Biden COVID bills) without raising taxes as proposed in the original Biden $3.5 trillion proposal, known as the Build Back Better plan. That blueprint was debated at length in the Senate as members there tried to add and subtract to it. It ultimately passed 69-30 in mid-August.
Speaker Pelosi brought the House back from our traditional August district work period and promised to conclude the vote by September 27th….which came and went. After much debate, this same Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (BIF) passed 228-206 this past Saturday morning and it is expected that Biden will sign it into law as early as next week. You can see the elements that were included HERE as prepared by the bipartisan, bicameral “No Labels” organization where I am an active member. Basic infrastructure needs like roads, highways, broadband, energy security, ports, replacing lead water service lines, and PFAS were included which is why the US Chamber of Commerce, Farm Bureau, Business Round Table, and Home Builders were actively supporting the bill.
Though former president Trump opposed the Senate version of BIF (his most loyal US GOP Senator Lindsey Graham voted yes in August), his own proposal last year was nearly double in size ($2 Trillion) and contained no pay fors…and it went nowhere. He asked that the Congress wait for a better bill that he would promote after the 2024 election…I will let you connect the dots.
One of my colleagues then used her social media to share my office phone number and asked folks to call from across the country, and call they did. My office received more than 1000 calls (making it a bit tough to answer constituent inquiries) and some pretty nasty and threatening messages (by far most of those were not Michiganders). We shared a couple of those nasty calls with the press and law enforcement. Not at all right for folks to threaten my family or staff…this madness has to stop. Healthy debate and different perspectives are the hallmark of our democracy. If you can stomach really vulgar language where most of it was “bleeped" out, you can watch my CNN interview from Monday night with Anderson Cooper HERE.
I would also note that the Progressive Caucus (commonly known as ‘The Squad’ led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) of New York and a few others) also opposed the BIF as they no longer could hold it “hostage” hoping to ram through the much larger Build Back Better (BBB) bill that started at $3.5 trillion. The two bills are NOT connected and for a host of reasons I am opposed to passing the BBB. Senator Manchin (D-WV and a member of the bipartisan No Labels) has voiced his opposition to a number of BBB provisions and was constructive working with other moderate House Democrats to insist on a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score on the BBB which could be available next week when Speaker Pelosi attempts to pass the BBB in the House. Stay tuned.
A SALUTE TO OUR HEROES
There’s no question that our veterans – including the 630,000 Michiganders who have served our country – are some of the best among us. For sure, we owe them and their families a great debt of gratitude for their tremendous sacrifices and honorable service to our nation at home and abroad – not just today, but every day.
This morning, I had the honor to speak to several of our local vets at the St. Joe High School Veterans Breakfast. Their stories and memories are pretty incredible. We really can never thank them enough for their service.
I know all of our families are so proud of their veteran family members stretching back to the Civil War. My relative Gen. Emory Upton graduated from West Point with George Custer and later was the Commandant there after surviving battles at Fredericksburg, Antietam, and Gettysburg (has a statue of him on Little Round Top). My 97-year-old dad fought in the Battle of the Bulge and lots of relatives stretching back to the Revolutionary War. Tomorrow is a day that we need to think of the family members who also were stressed knowing that their loved ones were someplace other than home and bore those fears too.
MY DAY IN BENTON HARBOR WITH MAYOR MARCUS MUHAMMAD
By now, we’ve all seen the news of the serious crisis that Benton Harbor is facing re: lead lines and contaminated drinking water. On Monday, Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad and I saw firsthand the hardworking crews excavating dirt and replacing lead water lines thanks to a $5.6 million grant I helped secure through the EPA (this funding was granted more than a year ago and is the first money to replace some 800 lead lines to residents that exceed the federal lead standard). This really is an "all-hands-on-deck" effort to ensure folks in Benton Harbor and across the country have access to clean water. You can read more HERE from the Herald-Palladium who also snapped the picture above.
On Friday, my Michigan colleague Debbie Dingell and I also sent a letter to EPA Administrator Regan requesting urgent answers to some basic questions, including a summary of the EPA’s work with Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) from 2018 to now and funding that the EPA has provided to the city and state for bottled water, water filters, and water infrastructure enhancements – particularly replacing lead lines. I’ll be sure to let you know what we hear. See more HERE.
You’ll remember that the BIF provides some $15 billion for lead pipe replacement across the country – including in Southwest Michigan. These investments really will make a difference for so many folks, and I hope to see more shovels in the ground very soon.
SMALL BUSINESS ASSOCIATION OF MICHIGAN LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
Yesterday, Debbie Dingell and I were in Lansing speaking to some 100 folks from the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM). We touched on the real labor shortages that small businesses are facing, the BIF (which SBAM supported), vaccine mandates, record inflation, and bipartisan efforts to reduce healthcare costs and expand medical research – particularly my 21st Century Cures 2.0 bill that will be introduced next week! We also spoke about the real need for civility and good, common-ground policy in Congress. Now especially, we need to return to a higher standard of civility and respect in our political discourse. I would certainly hope that we could have healthy debate on the many issues facing our state and nation moving forward.
MY VISIT TO THE SOUTH HAVEN KIWANIS CLUB
Great to speak with the good folks at the South Haven Kiwanis Club on Monday. We covered the BIF, 21st Century Cures 2.0, the ongoing lead water crisis in Benton Harbor, and of course, the real divisiveness in Congress. Also had the opportunity to talk to a number of bright young folks who had many great questions about Congress and my work in D.C. Without a doubt, they’ll be some of our country’s next leaders and scholars.
BIG NEWS FROM PFIZER
Pfizer announced last week that it has virtually developed the cure for COVID. The new pill – which is administered over a 5-day period – is 90% effective at preventing infection and dramatically reduced the rate of hospitalizations and deaths in clinical trials. Even more reassuring, every person who participated in the trials was unvaccinated – incredible results, for sure. You can read more about Pfizer’s new treatment HERE.
LETTER TO HOUSE LEADERSHIP ON FULL COST OF THE PARTISAN RECONCILIATION PACKAGE
Last week, virtually every House Republican joined a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi requesting an accurate price tag by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the Democrats’ partisan reconciliation spending package (BBB). Five of my Democratic colleagues, who are also members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, sent a similar letter requesting a CBO score on the overall cost of this massive package before they could commit to supporting it. Some reports have estimated that the BBB could add roughly $3 trillion to the national debt, plunging the country more than $30 trillion into debt. The bottom line is that spending an additional $2 trillion on top of the nearly $5 trillion we have already approved in just the last year is reckless and premature. Inflation is surging, gas prices are spiking, and folks in Michigan want us to turn off the printing presses. We need to focus our efforts on passing legislation that grows the economy, spurs local investment, lowers taxes on middle-class families and small businesses, and addresses the labor shortage. It’s my hope that we can get an accurate CBO score that will reflect the real costs of this massive package on future generations and our ever-growing national debt. You can read the full letter HERE.
HEALTH SUBCOMMITTEE PASSES DR. LORNA BREEN HEALTH CARE PROVIDER PROTECTION ACT
Exciting news out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week as the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which I am co-leading with a number of my colleagues, passed the Health Subcommittee last week. Dr. Lorna Breen was a physician from Charlottesville, Virginia, who worked on the frontlines of the pandemic in New York and died by suicide in April of 2020. There have been too many examples of healthcare heroes suffering from enormous pressure as they fight the worst public health crisis in 100 years. This is a comprehensive, bipartisan bill that will help reduce and prevent suicide and support mental and behavioral wellness for our healthcare heroes. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic our nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers in Michigan and nationwide worked around the clock to save lives. We need to have their backs, and this legislation does just that. You can read more about this HERE.
MY LETTER TO THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION ON $450,000 PAYMENTS TO UNDOCUMENTED MIGRANTS
A few weeks ago, a story emerged from the Wall Street Journal that the Biden Administration is seeking a court judgement that would authorize paying $450,000 to individuals who illegally crossed our southern border in 2018. These payments, which could amount to one million dollars per family and cost hardworking American taxpayers billions of dollars, exceed the federal government’s payments to Gold Star families and some 9/11 victims’ families. This is completely unacceptable. In response, I led 75 of my Republican colleagues in sending a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in strong opposition to this misallocation of funds. There’s no question that we need to work on real, bipartisan immigration reform, but we must continue to enforce the process of legal immigration, secure our border, and prevent policies that encourage people to illegally enter our country by traveling though some of the most dangerous, crime-ridden parts of the world during a deadly global pandemic. You can read the full letter HERE. On a follow-up note, President Biden indicated the other day that he was “perfectly comfortable” with $450,000 to illegal immigrants. I strongly disagree. Stay tuned on this front.
FORAGE FISH CONSERVATION ACT
Last Monday, I joined my Michigan colleague Debbie Dingell and my Florida colleague Brian Mast in reintroducing the Forage Fish Conservation Act. This is bipartisan legislation that would strengthen protections for small fish – like herring, anchovies, sardines, and shad – that support the larger marine food chain in the Great Lakes and beyond. In particular, it directs the Secretary of Commerce to establish specific guidelines for regional fishery management, protect endangered fish populations, and set annual catch limits for forage fish species. Protecting vulnerable fish populations – especially those in the Great Lakes – is a top priority for me, conservationists, fisheries, fishermen, and the many birds, fish, and other animals that rely on these tiny creatures for food. You can read more about this legislation HERE.
A BEAUTIFUL TRIBUTE TO THE LATE SERGEANT RYAN PROXMIRE
In August, Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Proxmire tragically lost his life in the line of duty. Last week, his hometown of Three Rivers honored him with an engraved bench at the local Armstrong Park. This was a beautiful tribute to a real hero who gave his life defending his community. We owe him, and his family, our deepest gratitude for his sacrifice and his service for many years with both the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety and the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department. This bench will honor his memory for many years to come. You can read more about this HERE.
PROBLEM SOLVERS CAUCUS MEETING WITH TONY BLAIR
Last Tuesday, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus (PSC) heard from Tony Blair who was the Prime Minister of England from 1997 to 2007. It was a great conversation as we discussed American-British relations, Brexit, and a whole host of other topics relevant to our strong alliance with the United Kingdom. I also asked him about the Five Eyes – an intelligence alliance between the U.S., U.K, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand – and its importance to global security, economic prosperity, and mutual cooperation.
On another note, the PSC officially endorsed two pieces of bipartisan legislation that we hope to move through the Congress ASAP. You’ll remember I’ve mentioned the Ocean Shipping Reform Act in past KTs, which reached the required 75% approval from the full Caucus and is another tool in the toolbox to alleviate the many supply-chain bottlenecks we’re seeing at our ports from coast to coast. This bipartisan legislation will ensure that American goods have full and equal access to foreign markets and that any fees currently being applied to American truckers and ports for delays caused by ocean carriers themselves are rightfully waived. We also endorsed the Hamas International Financing Prevention Act, which is an important effort to really address the growing threat of terrorism in the Middle East. It sanctions the very folks who are contributing to continued instability and terrorism in the region and holds Hamas accountable for their blatant human rights violations and real efforts to finance global terrorism.
The House resumes with votes Monday and Tuesday. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and I finally plan to introduce our bipartisan “Cures 2.0” legislation which builds on “21st Century Cures” which I sponsored and was enacted in 2016 expediting the approvals of drugs and devices (the COVID vaccine was probably available 8-10 months earlier than it otherwise would have been because of Cures). One of the big items will be ARPA-H…a new entity within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to advance breakthrough therapies particularly for rare diseases. This update will be a big focus in next week’s KT.
All the best,
P.S. If you do not regularly receive @MyKitchenTable email updates and you would like to, please click here to sign up.