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@MyKitchenTable: Friday April 1, 2022

News from Representative Upton

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Dear Friend:

“Hold up your head! You were not made for failure, you were made for victory. Go forward with joyful confidence.” – George Eliot

I know I sent you all a Kitchen Table earlier this week, but we’ve had another busy week – enough for Part 2.

RUSSIA-UKRAINE*

*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 unprovoked Russian invasion at the very moment this is read. I encourage all to view reliable news sources to stay up to date and avoid misinformation in this time of constant change.
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I am deeply moved by the outpouring of support for Ukraine my office has received from across the southwest Michigan community. This week, I received a message from a South Haven couple volunteering in Lesko, Poland who are regular readers of my KT updates. They are volunteering at a supply center where refugees come in daily to obtain food and personal items and they live alongside Ukrainians who have been forced to leave behind nearly all possessions and they know. Nearly 4 million Ukrainians have been forced to evacuate their home country, and many of these folks have become refugees in their neighboring country, Poland.Image As you may know, Ukraine State Border Guard announced that men ages 18 to 60 were prohibited from leaving the country asofFebruary25. For many who wish to stay near their loved ones, taking refuge in cities like Lesko, which is about 30 minutes west of the main border crossing, allows these families to stay as close to each other as possible. God bless these folks from South Haven and the life-saving work they’re doing in this time of conflict and crisis.

MILITARY SUPPORT TO UKRAINE

Today I joined a bipartisan letter to President Biden requesting that we do more to help Ukrainians defend their country. Specifically, we called for the US to resupply stinger missiles (a request the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus suggested weeks ago to the President), provide Long-Range SAM Systems, equipping the Ukrainian Air Force with aircraft, provide more drones, provide tactical radar and counter fire systems, and provide electronic warfare systems to counter Russian drones and jam communication lines.

This is an increasingly bloody invasion and Russia has made it clear there are no limits to their destruction. The only way to save Ukraine is to provide them with every tool in the toolbox and face Russia head-on in the midst of the largest military aggression towards a sovereign nation since World War II.

CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFINGS

This week I participated in two briefings on Ukraine. On Wednesday I attended a classified bipartisan Member-only briefing and on Tuesday I participated in a roundtable with members of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s national legislative body, hosted by the Congressional Ukraine Caucus. There, I heard from,

  • Lesia Zaburanna – Chair of the delegation, member of the Servant of the People party, Chair of the Budget Sub-Committee on Public Expenditures.
  • Yevheniya Kravchuk – member of the Servant of the People party, Deputy Chair of the Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy.
  • Anastasia Radina – member of the Servant of the People party, Chair of the Committee on Anti-Corruption Policy.
  • Maria Ionova – member of the European Solidarity party, member of the Committee on Foreign Policy and Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation.
  • Oleksandra Ustinova – leader of the Golos Faction, member of the Law Enforcement Committee.

These representatives discussed life as a mother, a refugee and an advocate for their country’s freedom.

Our bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus met with Al Kelly, CEO of VISA as he described their efforts to suspend operations in Russia (4% of their sales). As a frequent participant with the Aspen Institution, I also had breakfast with former US Ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor along with nearly 40 of my colleagues discussing the possible options and predictions as to how this horrible chapter may end.

CNN’S STATE OF THE UNION WITH UKRAINIAN LEGISLATORS SUNDAY

On a final note regarding Ukraine, one of the Ukrainian legislators I have really connected with, Anastasia Radina, will be on State of the Union with Jake Tapper and Danna Bash on CNN this Sunday at 9am and noon. Anastasia is a member of the Servant of the People Political Party and is also the Chair of the Committee on Anti-Corruption Policy in Ukraine. She is the mother of a two-year-old still in Ukraine and her iPhone app attached to air-raid sirens rang three times Tuesday morning. She is a well-spoken and passionate Ukrainian and you’ll want to see her Sunday morning.

MAKING INSULIN AFFORDABLE

Yesterday I voted for, and the House passed, the life-saving Affordable Insulin Now Act. We all know so many people struggling with the high price of insulin and I carried their stories with me as I cast my vote. This is truly a life-or-death matter. The act caps insulin prices at either $35 a month or 25% of an insurance plan’s negotiated price – whichever is the most affordable for the patient. A similar episode occurred a few years with epi-pens. We’ve seen many states move to cap insulin costs, and clearly diabetes is an issue that affects many in the nation, yet there is currently no federal cap on out-of-pocket spending for insulin. Americans spend an average of $334 to $1,000 a month on insulin. No one should have to spend perhaps as much as a third of their take-home pay on a drug developed 100 years ago. The Affordable Insulin Now Act will help thousands of patients get their prescribed medication at an affordable rate. You can read more about the act HERE.

THE MORE ACT

Friday, I voted against the MORE Act. It passed the House 220 to 204. This flawed bill would throw open the floodgates on marijuana and make our communities – and our kids – less safe. The MORE Act completely delists marijuana as a controlled substance while also not setting limitations on the amount of THC in marijuana and its extracts or requiring labeling on items like candy or baked goods that contain marijuana. It also fails to set limits on flavors that target kids. You may recall a few years ago the Trump administration correctly banned flavored nicotine vapes as minors had been lured to using these dangerous products and we saw a large upswing in youth nicotine use.

Since Michigan legalized marijuana, I continue to hear from local law enforcement about the danger impaired drivers are causing on our roads and the difficulty police and prosecutors have to hold intoxicated drivers accountable. Unlike a breathalyzer test for alcohol – which are accurate to 0.001% – common tests used by law enforcement to determine marijuana impairment are only accurate about 2/3rds of the time making it difficult to hold these reckless individuals accountable and our roads safe.

Finally, this bill will retroactively eliminate the convictions of those currently incarcerated for marijuana offenses. These include members of transnational drug cartels and criminals who used illegal firearms while in commission of their crime.

SECOND WAVE OF COVID-19 BOOSTERS

This week the FDA approved another round of COVID-19 boosters for folks over the age of 50 who received their first booster at least four months ago. Yes, I’m over 65, so I got my booster yesterday. Last month I tested positive for COVID-19, and it was because I am fully vaccinated and boosted that I only experienced mild symptoms (runny nose, no fever). These boosters are the only way to get back to normalcy and finally end COVID-19. The CDC found that those who were boosted were 21-times less likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those who were unvaccinated during the latest wave of Omicron. An additional mutation of the Omicron variant, the BA.2 subvariant, has been identified worldwide and in the US. The BA.2 variant is 40-80% more contagious but so far has equivalent severity to the BA.1. Its clinical features and response to therapies have not been much different than its parent BA.1.

Fortunately, coronavirus vaccines remain highly effective, extremely safe, and offer excellent protection from severe consequences of coronavirus infection. Additional research has demonstrated the powerful sustained benefit of vaccination during the omicron variant coronavirus surge that reduces the risks of hospitalization and death substantially among the vaccinated and boosted. Sustained Effectiveness of Vaccination During Omicron Surge.Other studies indicate that a booster dose is essential for protection from omicron related coronavirus variants. mRNA Vaccines Protect Against Omicron Variant. National efforts to promote primary coronavirus vaccination among unvaccinated individuals remain critical, particularly considering the omicron variants. Although a recent CDC study indicated recovery of natural infection provided protection against Delta agent infection, the degree and duration of protection from Omicron variant infection (99% of US cases) is unknown.(COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations by COVID-19 Vaccination Status and Previous COVID-19 Diagnosis). Individuals previously relying on recovery of natural infection should receive coronavirus vaccination at the earliest opportunity. Protection fades with increased time from booster administration(Booster Vaccination Protection Against Symptomatic Infection Fades). Preliminary studies suggest that vaccination can reduce the risk of long-COVIDImagesyndrome significantly Long COVID risk and Vaccination.

While COVID cases here in southwest Michigan are still low in comparison to previous years, they are still not zero. The latest wave of omicron accounts for a large percent of these newest cases, and the new BA.2 variant will likely do the same. Getting this second booster is bringing southwest Michigan one step closer to defeating COVID-19. I continue to check-in with many of our health care facilities and recognize that many of the counties I represent are below the state average for 1st and 2nd vaccinates and well below the boosters available and recommended since last September. You can see those county averages HERE.

PREGNANCY AND COVID

A new report was issued that pregnant women who are vaccinated are nearly twice as likely to get COVID as those who are not pregnant. The analysis was based on the medical records of nearly 14 million US patients finding that pregnant women have the greatest risk of developing COVID among a dozen medical states including organ transplant and those having cancer. The study also showed the increase of pregnancy complication thus the incentive to get the vax before or during pregnancy to lessen the harmful effects. You can see more on this in a Washington Post story HERE.

UPDATE ON THE SOUTHERN BORDER

I have long sought true immigration reform including border security. I believe this Biden reversal from the Trump asylum policy requiring folks to remain in their home country or Mexico while applying for asylum is a huge mistake but without any legislative changes, any Administration can indeed issue Executive Orders reversing previous Executive Orders which is what Biden has now done. Trump challenged the Congress to do our job and enact legislation but despite the Problem Solvers Caucus (PSC) moving forward and doing so, the Senate failed to offer any legislation and thus nothing happened. Very disappointing. You can read moreHERE.

CHIPS UPDATE

The House appointed conferees to go to Conference with the Senate on legislation giving the US a better footing with China trade. Frankly, the House bill was bloated with more than $100 billion in additional spending over the Senate. Both bills contain $50 B in new incentives to restore Chip domestic manufacturing that we so desperately need for auto, appliance, medical device and communication devices as the US market share has slipped from 35% to about 12% the last few years and has had a dramatic negative impact on the supply chain.

Next week my Energy and Commerce Committee is holding two important hearings. One on gas prices and the other on mental health needs. I know a number of us will focus on the need for greater energy production here in the US as the price at the pump is directly related to supply and demand. For months the prediction was that we would hit $4 and $5 gas by spring and yet production was being curtailed and that was before the Russian energy sanctions were imposed. I would note that it is my understanding that our Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, declined to testify on behalf of the administration.

Votes again on Monday so a quick trip to Michigan tonight and back in D.C. for another week.

All best,


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Fred

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