“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.” – Psalm 34:14-15 (KJV)
*Please note that while I do my best to provide the most up-to-date information as possible, the situation in Ukraine continues to change by the minute and thus the following information may not reflect the status of the Russian invasion at the very moment this is read. I encourage all to read reliable news sources to stay up to date and avoid misinformation in this time of constant change.
Unfortunately, this week was not very different from the last few. The unprovoked Russian invasion goes on, and yet the Ukrainian people continue to fight to their dying breath for their home. We are living right now a defining moment for the free world. This now, is the beginning of the end of Putin’s regime. As I have done in my last few KT’s, I will be covering a few of the many points of interest in this developing situation. As a Member of the Ukraine Caucus I am meeting Tuesday with a number of their legislators in DC and will participate in another classified briefing Wednesday.
MINISTRY OF ECONOMY OF UKRAINE ROUNDTABLE
Last Tuesday, I participated in a virtual briefing from the Ministry of Economy of Ukraine facilitated by the International Trade Council. I heard from Deputy Ministers Alexander Griban and Taras Kachka, live from Ukraine, on how we can best aid our ally. In order to properly react, we must understand that the Russian threat is greater than just one country, it is a threat to the United Nations, NATO, and the post-WWII world order. Time and time again, Russia has tried to weaken the West as they have evaded consequences for decades of attacks on democratic countries. Deputy Minister Taras Kachka emphasized the need to completely cut off Russian oil. This is not the time for political bickering. We are faced with the question, “Who is next?” Ukraine is fighting and dying for us, yet we are all in it. You can watch the full conference HERE. We also know that Ukraine is truly a breadbasket for northern Africa and much of Asia, and just like our farmers are preparing for this year’s crops, they are now delaying “going into the field” whether it be soybeans, corn, wheat, or other commodities.
BIPARTISAN AID AIRLIFT
Last week I sent a bipartisan letter to President Biden and administration officials urging them to organize an international humanitarian aid airlift to quickly deliver urgently needed nonmilitary supplies such as food, water and medicine, to the Ukrainian people. Last Thursday, the White House announced the U.S. would be taking in 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. But what can we do for these innocent people currently holed up in bomb shelters and waiting in breadlines in their home country? During last Tuesday’s briefing, Deputy Minister Alexander Griban noted an immediate need for long shelf-life food such as pasta, cereals and canned goods. These folks aren’t asking for much, just enough to keep their kids from going to bed hungry as they run for their lives. We all know and understand the need to provide for our children and I find it deeply disturbing that the Administration drags its feet to supply our ally with the most basic necessities. You can read more on our letter HERE.
UKRAINIAN SOVEREIGNTY ACT
Last Thursday, Rep. Dingell (D-MI) and I introduced the Sovereignty with Ukraine Act which will you allow Ukrainians to use the U.S. judicial system to hold Putin and his cronies accountable for damages. Millions of Ukrainians have been forced to leave behind their homes and a life’s worth of work behind as they flee the Russian invasion. When and if they are able to return, many of these folks will find rubble and ash where they once called home. And now, with the welcome announcement of the U.S. accepting 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, thousands of these folks will find restitution and hopefully, be able to rebuild their lives after the Russian invasion. You can read more HERE.
BIDEN MEETS WITH NATO
Last Thursday, President Biden called for Russia to be removed from the G-20, the intergovernmental forum that represents 20 of the world’s largest economies, as concerns of Putin employing chemical weapons rise. He then went on to suggest that if it’s impossible for Russia to be removed, to at least allow Ukraine to observe the G-20 meetings from here on out. We saw a similar exclusion of Russia from the G-8, now the G-7, after the Kremlin annexed Crimea in 2014.
President Biden also encouraged our allies in the E.U. to strengthen the eastern flank against Russian advances and to increase their defense spending to support Ukraine. President Zelensky addressed the G-7 virtually and reiterated his request for Ukraine to be able to purchase even just one percent of tanks from the G-7. He did not request a no-fly zone or revive his appeal for NATO membership.
The U.S. announced last Thursday that it is imposing a new round of sanctions on more than 400 political figures, oligarchs, and 48 Russian companies fueling this unprovoked invasion. I have long supported sanctioning Russian politicians and oligarchs individually and I helped introduce H.Res. 945,to Condemn and Sanction Duma Members last month with Rep. Peter Meijer (MI-R). These newest sanctions will also cover the lower house of the Russian parliament and 17 board members of Sovcombank, a prominent Russian financial institution.
I also spent time Tuesday with a number of Ukrainian legislators, one of which I recognized from her TV interviews, recalled the story of her two-year old still in Ukraine and she had her iPhone programmed with the air-raid sirens when they sound in her community. It went off three times in the last five hours as they appeal for more Soviet-style ammo and training to defend their country.
RECOVERING FROM COVID-19
Two weeks ago, I tested positive for COVID-19. Thankfully, I am fully vaccinated and boosted so I only experienced mild symptoms (runny nose – no fever, chills or loss of taste/smell). I followed doctor’s orders and self-quarantined for five days. When I next tested negative, I restricted my activities wearing a mask for another five days. I’m back in the saddle now and had a fellow GOP colleague cast proxy votes under House rules for me all last week. So continue unbroken voting streak.
WHITE HOUSE TO ANNOUNCE SECOND WAVE OF BOOSTERS
On the topic of COVID-19, the White House will be announcing a second wave of vaccine boosters for Moderna or Pfizer in the coming days for older Americans. The White House will face many obstacles in getting this latest wave of boosters out which you can read more about HERE.
NORTHSIDE ASSOCIATION OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
Last Friday, I joined the Northside Association of Community Development (NACD) to announce $2 million in federal funding to support further developing affordable single-family homes and the NACD Neighborhood-Based Technology and Skilled Trades Center in the Northside Neighborhood. The Trade Center will be located close to public transit, making it accessible for folks across the city. NACD Director Mattie Jordan-Woods has worked day-in and day-out to make Kalamazoo a better place for all. Many Kalamazoo leaders were in attendance gratefully acknowledging the continued Northside leader, Mattie.
KALAMAZOO GOSPEL MISSION GRAND OPENING
Also last Friday I joined Pastor Brown with 300 supporters of the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission in celebrating the grand opening of a new women’s shelter. The 47,000 square-foot building will fill a hole that was left after the previous women’s shelter was uninhabitable due to two fires in summer of 2018. Since then, women and children have occupied the second floor of the men’s shelter in downtown Kalamazoo and in order to make up for the lost space, many have been sleeping on mats rather than cots or actual beds. Now, this new space will serve as a safe haven for families in the Kalamazoo area escaping violence with a cot or bed for each individual. And rather than a large communal room filled with many beds, there are smaller rooms to offer greater safety and well-deserved privacy for families. God bless Pastor Brown, all who work at the Mission, and all who enter through its doors.
BIDEN’S 5.8T BUDGET PROPOSAL
President Biden’s budget was unveiled Monday (when I worked with President Reagan the budget always came out at the start of the calendar year) and includes massive double-digit increases in every department often even higher than 25%! His proposal will now initiate the process in the House and Senate Budget Committees as they try and move legislation to their respective Floors. The final product only needs an agreement between the House and Senate and by design never reaches the President’s desk for signature or veto. If a conference agreement is met, it then triggers “reconciliation” which avoids the 60 vote Senate threshold where tax or spending changes reflecting the budget agreement can be accomplished. That reconciliation process extends many months and does require the President’s signature. See HERE for a description.
MICHIGAN RECEIVES $4.8 BILLION FROM THE BIF
You may remember that late last fall I voted for the bipartisan Infrastructure Innovation and Jobs Act, also known as the BIF, initiated by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. Now, just a few short months later, we’re seeing shovels in the ground and lead lines being replaced included in to the BIF. Faithful readers will remember that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan hosted about 25 GOP and Democrat Senators, Governors, and House members last April to discuss such a bipartisan infrastructure bill with the National Governors Association participation. 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. You can read more about Michigan’s new funding HEREand HERE.
The House is in session every day this week and I am more than eager to be back to work in person representing southwest Michigan at the federal level.