December 3, 2021
@MyKitchenTable: Friday December 3, 2021
"This has been one of the darkest and most painful weeks our state of Michigan has had in recent memory. In that momentary flash, four innocent teenagers - students with their entire lives ahead of them - were taken from us in yet another senseless act of violence. And make no mistake, every single student, parent, family member, and community member in the greater area now has wounds that you can't see, the wounds that affect the head and the heart." - Rep. Elissa Slotkin, Oxford, Michigan
A TRAGIC DAY FOR MICHIGAN
By now, everyone has seen the horrific news that four innocent students were killed and many more were wounded in a terrible shooting on Tuesday at Oxford High School some 50 miles northwest of Detroit. Last night, I joined my Michigan colleagues in a moment of silence on the House floor for those who were ruthlessly killed and injured. Our hearts ache for their fellow classmates and their families. These tragedies really do remind us of how precious our kids truly are and the compassion that each of us feels towards those families who lost a loved one. We mourn with them and share their grief. God bless them all.
Until COVID, I visited a school in our district virtually every week and once served on the Education Committee. I remember well the hearing we had with some of the Columbine survivors and know well that our kids can’t learn if they feel unsafe and have helped lead multiple efforts to achieve better school safety working with our local law enforcement. Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard has been a personal friend and thank goodness his team was well prepared to prevent even further loss.
ENERGY AND COMMERCE COMMITTEE HEARING ON RECORD OVERDOSE LEVELS
Yesterday, the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held a hearing on the devastating opioid epidemic that plagues our country to this day. Last year, more than 100,000 Americans died from a drug overdose, and sadly, almost every family knows someone whose life was cut too short as a result. We need to do everything we can do stem this epidemic and save lives.
I noted that I was particularly troubled that the Biden Administration is proposing to weaken penalties for drug traffickers who cross our border illegally and flood our communities with dangerous opioids. Those who supply these lethal substances must be held accountable. The rule of law must – and will – prevail. You can watch my remarks HERE.
PROBLEM SOLVERS CAUCUS MEETING WITH GOOGLE CEO SUNDAR PICHAI
On Thursday, the Problem Solvers Caucus met with Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai foran “off-the-record” conversation. We discussed a number of bipartisan priorities from Artificial Intelligence and cybersecurity to domestic chip manufacturing and technological innovation right here in the United States.
You’ll remember that some months ago, the Colonial Pipeline, which stretches from Texas all the way to New York and supplies gasoline to 50 million folks in the South and on the East Coast, suffered a terrible cyberattack that shut it down for nearly a week. Some 12,000 gas stations simply couldn’t get the gas they needed causing prices to spike and shortages to linger. That’s why securing our energy infrastructure is a top priority for me and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that was signed into law a few weeks ago provides billions of dollars to modernize our power grid and stem similar attacks from occurring in the future.
KEEPING THE GOVERNMENT FUNDED THROUGH FEBRUARY
News broke late last night that a deal was reached on a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through February 18, 2022 at existing spending levels. Knowing full well that a compromise would be reached, I voted against the CR in the House for a few reasons. For one, it was not bipartisan at all. My Democratic colleagues never picked up the phone or reached across the aisle in the time between the last CR (which I supported some six weeks ago) and the CR that passed the House last night to discuss the legislation with their GOP counterparts. We just can’t keep kicking the can down the road. We need to roll up our sleeves and work together to get critical government appropriations bills, whether they be defense spending or healthcare funding, across the finish line rather than just “kick the can.”
So many folks back home are tired of the dysfunction in Washington, and I wasn’t going to be a part of continuing that same dysfunction. Let’s get work and get the job done – finally. I learned long ago that if you want folks in on the landing, they need to be on the takeoff.
COVID SURGE IN MICHIGAN REMAINS PERSISTENT
As many of you know, Michigan has the highest per capita rate of COVID cases in the COUNTRY. This is alarming, for sure. Our hospitals are full, our healthcare workers are overwhelmed, and what’s worse? Unvaccinated folks are needlessly dying from COVID. I continue to speak to our local health providers every week and they reported that upwards of 90% of their COVID patients are unvaccinated and are facing far more negative outlooks when it comes to being discharged from the hospital on their own two feet.
In an effort to curb the COVID surge in Michigan, my colleague Debbie Dingell and I sent a letter to President Biden requesting urgent assistance and more resources for our hospitals and healthcare workers to care for folks and save lives. But we can’t do it alone. We need everyone to do their part, talk to their doctor, and get vaccinated so that we can finally put this awful pandemic in the rearview mirror. You can see our letter HERE and read more about our efforts HERE.
MY INTERVIEW TODAY WITH THE WASHINGTON POST
This morning, I participated in a conversation with the Washington Post on a number of importanttopics. We started by rehashing the real need for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (BIF), which is now law, so that we can finally start delivering on the promises folks have heard for decades that we were going to rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges, highways, and ports. As I’ve stressed for some time now, the BIF passed the Senate 69-30 in August and I was one of 13 Republicans to support it in the House. Even Lindsey Graham, one of former President Trump’s top allies, voted for the BIF. Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi failed to hold a vote in the summer, and as a result, progressives held the bill hostage as they tried to couple it with the “everything including the kitchen sink” Build Back Better social spending extravaganza that, at one point, equaled $3.5 trillion. We really could have had a significant number of Republicans support the BIF had we set aside politics and worked together from the get-go.
We also discussed the Cures 2.0 legislation that my Colorado colleague Diana DeGette and I have recently introduced and hope to schedule hearings in the Energy and Commerce Committee where we both serve. From past KTs, you’ll remember that this bipartisan legislation will provide our nation’s top scientific minds with the resources they need to find cures to some of the world’s cruelest diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s. It will also ensure that folks can actually benefit from these discoveries by expanding healthcare coverage for Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) recipients.
A number of other provisions include increased access to telehealth, training for at-home caregivers, clinical trial diversification to ensure that any new drugs are safe and effective for a greater and more representative portion of the population, conducting a nationwide study of long COVID effects, and developing a national testing and vaccine distribution strategy for future pandemics. You can read more about Cures 2.0 HERE and HERE.
You can watch the full Washington Post interview HERE.
I spoke to a rare disease conference earlier this week with Republican and Democratic colleagues acknowledging real cures that are now being approved to save lives.
URGING FULL FUNDING FOR ISRAEL’S IRON DOME
Last week, I joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues led by Problem Solvers Caucus Co-Chair Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) in sending a letter to President Biden urging full funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system to protect innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives. Israel is a longtime American ally and must always have the resources it needs to defend itself from terrorist attacks and regional threats. This is a bipartisan priority that cannot fall by the wayside and I hope to see this critical funding signed into law soon. You can read our full letter HERE.
PROBLEM SOLVERS CAUCUS ENDORSES BIPARTISAN MOBILE HEALTH CARE ACT
On Tuesday, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus officially endorsed the Maximizing Outcomes through Better Investments in Lifesaving Equipment for (MOBILE) Health Care Act. Expanding access to quality healthcare in rural and underserved communities is a top priority for me, particularly as we look to put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. Investing in mobile health centers is an important step to ensure that folks can be treated for any number of illnesses right in their communities instead of traveling long distances to receive care. The MOBILE Health Care Act is a bipartisan win for Michigan families and a real step forward in expanding healthcare to folks no matter where they live.
In particular, this bipartisan bill expands the allowable use criteria in the New Access Points Grant program (NAP),run by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA),to include part-time mobile clinics and renovation, leasing, acquisition, and new construction of health centers within the program to increase access to affordable, accessible, quality health care services in rural and underserved communities. You can read more HERE.
A NEW MANUFACTURING DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN
Earlier this week, we received the great news that Hydro, a huge industrial manufacturing company, will build a state-of-the-art recycling plant as part of the world-class, 234-acre Southwest Michigan Advanced Research and Technology (SMART) Park, an industrial business development, in Cassopolis. This $140-million manufacturing investment will create plenty of good-paying jobs and grow the economy in Southwest Michigan – an important mission I have always supported. You can read more about this development HERE.
Months ago, a request I made through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Economic Development Initiative was included in the House Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee’s FY 22 appropriations bill at some $2 million. These dollars would directly support the construction of the SMART Park and help redevelop downtown Cassopolis. Back in September, the Dept. of Commerce also awarded Midwest Energy & Communications (MEC) a $6 million grant to construct the needed road, sewer, and water infrastructure for this development. Particularly with the closure of the Palisades Nuclear Plant fast approaching, the construction of the new SMART Park will create jobs, attract private investment, and keep families rooted in Cassopolis. I am certainly glad to see that this worthy business and manufacturing center is already keeping jobs right in Michigan and will positively impact the local community. You can read more HERE.
A BIG TEN MATCHUP: MICHIGAN VS. IOWA
For those of you who support the Big Ten Conference, you’ll know that the conference championship game is tomorrow in Indianapolis between my Michigan Wolverines and the Iowa Hawkeyes. One of my Iowa colleagues, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, proposed a fun wager ahead of the game. If Michigan wins, she has pledged to make a donation to the Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor – a worthy organization, for sure. And if Iowa were to unfortunately win tomorrow, I have pledged to make a contribution to the University of Iowa and get her a bottle of Journeyman’s whiskey from Three Oaks. Regardless of the outcome, it’s sure to be a great game. Go Blue!
HONORING THE LATE KALAMAZOO SERGEANT RYAN PROXMIRE
It would serve us all well to end today’s KT on a good note. Michigan State Rep. Julie Rogers, who represents Kalamazoo, introduced a bill to designate part of US 131 the “Sergeant Ryan J. Proxmire Memorial Highway.” What a beautiful tribute to a real hero who was taken from his family far too soon. Sergeant Proxmire faithfully served the Kalamazoo community for years and made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty – one that will never be forgotten. You can read more HERE.
The House will return for legislative business next Tuesday with a healthy end-of-year laundry list to complete – a Defense Authorization bill (which has already passed the House and waiting for “conference” once the Senate passes it) as well as a debt-ceiling extension to prevent a U.S. Government default. I’m also pushing to ensure we don’t have across-the-board reimbursement Medicare provider cuts of perhaps 10% by the end of the year. I am a cosponsor of bipartisan legislation to prevent such and we need to pass it on the House Floor next week.
Stay tuned for my report next week. Have a great weekend!
All the best,
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