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@MyKitchenTable: Friday December 10, 2021

Washington, December 10, 2021 | Billy Fuerst (202 225 3761)
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December 10, 2021

@MyKitchenTable: Friday December 10, 2021

Dear Friend:

“There has been a lot of talk about what it will take to heal our country. We have heard many of our leaders profess ‘bipartisanship.’ But we must remember that bipartisanship is the minimum we should expect from ourselves.” - Senator Bob Dole

A GREAT AMERICAN

On Sunday morning, our country lost a great American hero, veteran, and bipartisan leader in theImageSenate for decades, Bob Dole. As a White House staffer during the Reagan Administration, I worked out of Dole’s Capitol office for years and witnessed firsthand his leadership to get things done with both sides of the aisle. He was a prominent member of the Greatest Generation and used every fiber of his body to help those who served. His enduring love for our country served as an inspiration for those of us who were fortunate to witness his true character.

Months before his death, he wrote a brief opinion piece on the need to work together that ran in the Washington Post on Tuesday. One excerpt that I particularly like (and noted above) is this: “There has been a lot of talk about what it will take to heal our country. We have heard many of our leaders profess ‘bipartisanship.’ But we must remember thatImagebipartisanship is the minimum we should expect from ourselves.” You can read his piece HERE.

Current Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell remarked that Dole once said, “If I had known Republicans would be in the Majority, I would have insisted that we recruited better candidates!” I remember going to his 90th birthday and the person ahead of me in the receiving line told Dole he would attend his 95th to which Dole replied…“Better eat your vegetables.”

The first picture on the right is of Bob Dole greeting our Kalamazoo Honor Flight at the WWII Memorial in 2015. The second is of Bob Dole and former Kalamazoo Mayor Al Heilman.

BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION TO SUPPORT HEALTHCARE WORKER MENTAL HEALTH PASSES HOUSE

On Wednesday night, the House passed, by a wide, bipartisan vote, the Dr. Lorna Breen HealthCare Provider Protection Act; bipartisan legislation I helped shepherd through the Energy and Commerce Committee. All of our healthcare workers – particularly in this COVID-19 pandemic – are true heroes. All of us know many of these workers. They are our neighbors and friends, and each of us has heard their cries of woe as they do their jobs 24/7 day after day. We can’t imagine how they do it. Watching so many folks suffer as they try to help them from their hospital beds, passing on the sad words that they’ve passed away to their family members, and thinking of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died from this awful disease – let alone the many more who have died across the globe. One of those healthcare heroes was Dr. Lorna Breen, a physician who worked on the front lines of the pandemic in New York City and sadly took her own life in April of last year. I remember watching the national news and this tragic story at the time.Image

The story of Dr. Breen’s death outlined the severe stress the pandemic has put on our healthcare workers, and the need for more resources to help them cope. The demands that our healthcare heroes are facing have not changed. They’ve been asked to care for communities in Southwest Michigan and across the country 24/7 as the pandemic continues. This bill helps us have their backs.

I talk to our health providers and hospitals in Southwest Michigan every week and the common refrain we’ve heard throughout Michigan is that our hospitals are still strained to their breaking point. Staff shortages are severe, which you can read more about HERE. There have been too many examples of healthcare workers suffering from enormous pressure as they fight the worst public health crisis in 100 years. This legislation will help promote mental and behavioral health for health professionals, improving their overall wellbeing and, perhaps, even saving their own lives. I’m glad that we passed this important, bipartisan bill and I look forward to seeing it signed into law. We can’t wait another day. You can watch my full House Floor speech HERE.

INTRODUCTION OF BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION TO COMBAT OPIOID EPIDEMIC

On Wednesday, I helped introduce the Halt All Lethal Trafficking (HALT) Fentanyl Act, which is bipartisan legislation that would permanently list fentanyl-related substances (FRS) in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, simplify the registration process for Schedule I substance research, and provide for exemption of individual FRS from Schedule I when evidence demonstrates it is appropriate. It would also prevent any attempts to remove federal mandatory minimum sentences for fentanyl possession and unlawful distribution. Tragically, too many families know the pain firsthand of losing a loved one to a drug overdose. Last year alone, 100,000 Americans died from an overdose; numbers that are just heartbreaking. We must continue to work together to support treatment options for vulnerable folks, remove dangerous opioids like fentanyl from our communities, and hold violent drug traffickers accountable for flooding our country with life-threatening drugs. You can watch my remarks in the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on the fentanyl epidemic HERE and the press conference introducing the HALT Fentanyl Act HERE.

BIPARTISAN CONVERSATION ON CURES 2.0 WITH THE MILKEN INSTITUTE

Had a good conversation with my Colorado colleague Diana DeGette and the Milken Institute on our bipartisan Cures 2.0 legislation, which we recently introduced in the House as H.R. 6000 (we have more than 60 bipartisan cosponsors as of writing this on Friday morning). For those of you who followed our original 21st Century Cures Act, it was H.R. 6 and was the last bill that President Obama signed into law in 2016. Because of 21st Century Cures coupled with the real success of Operation Warp Speed, the COVID vaccines were developed and deployed some 8-10 months earlier than otherwise expected, saving hundreds of thousands of American lives. You can read a column I wrote earlier this year on the success of 21st Century Cures and the development of the COVID vaccines HERE.

As I noted during the interview, I worked with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) back in the 90s to double the National Institutes of Health (NIH) health research budget, and thanks to the first iteration of Cures, we added an additional $45 billion to the NIH health research budget – an important effort, for sure. Then Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) told us that we had to pay for it – and we did.

You’ll remember from past KTs that Cures 2.0 establishes the independent Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), which will do important work to take on high-risk, high-reward disease research projects that could very well help us find the cure to cancer, Alzheimer’s, you name it. The good news is that appropriators have already funded some $3 billion to run ARPA-H through the FY ’22 HHS appropriations bill, and we could see even more funding for this initiative down the road. This week, researchers at the University of California-Riverside have said they may have found the cause of Alzheimer’s, which you can read about HERE. These are the types of discoveries we want to see now and in the future with ARPA-H and Cures 2.0 as a whole.

Ultimately, with Cures 2.0, we want to find those “out of the box” breakthrough therapies that otherwise may never be discovered due to bureaucratic red tape and unnecessary delays. It would also expand genetic testing, particularly for pediatric illnesses, and incentivize R&D for antimicrobial resistance. We further have an emphasis on Real World Evidence (RWE) particularly for very rare diseases that often do not have the large subset of folks needed to conduct larges clinical trials. With the use of RWE, we can really track and study the efficacy of these new drugs and treatments.

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.

The fact of the matter is that venture capital for new drugs and devices had long been shipped overseas to China and other places. We want these investments to be made right here in the United States for the good of innovation and health discoveries for Americans and their families. Cures 2.0 will continue to build upon this mission.

You can watch the full interview HERE.

A SECOND COMPANY ANNOUNCES MOVE TO SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN SMART PARK

More great news for the SMART Park – a new business and manufacturing complex – in Cassopolis! EQ United, an Indiana-based logistics and distribution company, announced that it will set up shop in Cassopolis as part of the world-class SMART Park. This new facility will employ some 175 folks and generate $6.2 million in economic activity right here in Southwest Michigan. This is another important step as we look to bring manufacturing and good-paying jobs BACK to Michigan and the United States. You can read more HERE.

You’ll remember in last week’s KT that Hydro, an industrial manufacturing company, also recently announced plans to expand its operations in Cass County within the SMART Park, which is one of the biggest job creations since the founding of Southwestern Michigan College. This complex really is a prime location to recruit talent and create jobs. You can read more HERE.

TALKING THE BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE BILL

On Wednesday, I participated in a summit on rebuilding American infrastructure, and, of course, talked about the importance of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (BIF), which President Biden signed into law some weeks ago. I noted that China spent more in three years on cement than we’ve spent in 100 years. If we want to emerge at the end of the century as a global leader on trade and economic might, we better get with it on infrastructure. From broadband and energy security to roads and bridges, rebuilding our infrastructure is the least we can do. You can listen to the full interview HERE(my segment starts at 1:29:43). As a quick reminder, the BIF will provide Michigan alone $7.3B to repair our roads, $1.3B to replace lead water lines and support water infrastructure improvements, $1B for public transport, $1B to protect and preserve the Great Lakes, $563M to rebuild our bridges, and $100M to expand broadband in rural and underserved communities. And all of the new spending was combined with “off-sets” – not raising a dime in taxes.

Remember, the BIF is COMPLETELY detached from the “everything including the kitchen sink” Build Back Better social spending extravaganza that originally equaled $3.5T. Senator Manchin (D-WV) has voiced his real concerns with high gas prices, inflation, and the ongoing supply chain crisis. Though it passed the House with every Republican voting “no,” it is mired in the Senate. Stay tuned.

MEETING WITH ADVOCATES FOR THE GREAT LAKESImage

On Tuesday, I met with folks from the International Joint Commission (IJC), which is a bi-national organization created by the United States and Canada to advance our common interests – one of those, of course, being the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes are the pride and joy of Michigan. They are home to a wide range of plant and animal species, generate more than $3.1 trillion in economic activity, support hundreds of thousands of jobs, and underpin Michigan’s flourishing fishing, boating, and tourism industries. The long-term preservation of these natural treasures remains a top priority for me and the entire Great Lakes Caucus. We can never allow hazardous waste or invasive species to poison our lakes. And, we have the former mayor from Sturgis, Rob Sisson, as a member of the IJC (pictured on the far left).

KALAMAZOO NATIVE AND PEARL HARBOR VICTIM’S REMAINS RETURNED TO WEST MICHIGAN

On December 7th, 1941 – a day that will live in infamy – Kalamazoo native and Seaman First Class Joe R. Nightingale was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He had just enlisted in the service a year earlier. A life cut far too short, for sure. But, in a bit of good news, the remains of his body were returned back home to West Michigan on Tuesday where his family received him for the last time. He will be buried at Ft. Custer National Cemetery in Augusta. You can read the full story HERE.

It really is hard to believe it’s been 80 years since our country was plunged into World War II. More than 2,400 folks were killed and nearly 1,200 were wounded. We owe our deepest appreciation and gratitude to those Americans in the Greatest Generation who fought and died for a freer, safer, and more secure world. We can never truly repay them and their families, but we will always honor their service and sacrifice. I remember my Mom relating hearing the news on the radio way back when.

WRAPPING UP END-OF-YEAR LEGISLATIVE BUSINESSImage

Next week, the House will be back in session expecting a vote to raise the debt limit pending Senate passage later this week. As of now, we still do not have a firm schedule heading into next week. Stay tuned.

Have a nice and safe weekend!

All the best,


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Fred Upton

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