May 23, 2022
@MyKitchenTable: Monday May 23, 2022
“There is no greater honor for the elected leader of the people who created democracy than to address the elected representatives of the people who founded their country on the Greek model and have promoted and defended democratic values ever since.” - Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece
BABY FORMULA SHORTAGE
Following up on myearlier KT update, this formula shortage continues to be a panic. Across the country moms are having to take their infants to the hospital to get a can of formula. There is a WIC program that allows families to purchase formula at a discounted price, but that does not resolve the bigger issue of the supply shortage. That is why I am arranging a meeting at Abbott Nutrition in Sturgis to discuss the situation with folks on the ground there. Following my conversation with them earlier this month, I also spoke with Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf, and he informed me that the FDA just doesn’t have the resources to respond to the crisis in a timely manner. Last Wednesday, the House passed $28 million to help the FDA better respond to the crisis and hopefully provide the resources required to ensure the safety of ALL our infant formula production sites here and abroad. This week the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a virtual hearing on the issue, and I intend to participate. I also joined Michael Patrick Shiels on Michigan’s Big Show to discuss the crisis further, which you can listen toHERE.
As many of you may know, I introduced Cures 2.0 late last fall with Rep. Dianna DeGette (D-CO). Within Cures 2.0 is legislation that will establish the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health. Last Tuesday, I spoke in favor of moving this bill through Congress as quickly as possible. This act would establish an organization similar to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that would focus on very risky, but possibly game-changing health research. Like DARPA, ARPA-H will focus on producing breakthrough research and advances on products that may be too risky for the private sector and will be able to move at a faster pace than our current federal structure allows. I cannot discount the possibility of failures along the way, but its successes will have the potential to be groundbreaking and cure diseases faster.
JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS WITH THE GREEK PRIME MINISTER
Last Tuesday, I attended a joint session of Congress where we heard from His Excellency Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic. The Prime Minister reflected on the long-standing US-Greek relationship based on trade, defense and our economies. He also spoke on the importance of having a united front against Russia for its continued invasion of Ukraine and noted the important role that NATO plays. The prime minister said he was concerned more about “internal fragmentations” than the “threat of arrogant despots.” Quoting my former boss President Reagan, as well as President Lincoln, the prime minister said that "democracy is never more than a generation away from extinction” and that the work of a democracy is "unfinished.” I spent time with him in Greece discussing Ukraine and energy supply issues as the top GOP on the bipartisan Energy and Commerce delegation over Easter. You can watch the complete joint sessionHERE.
Earlier last week I met with Members of the Ukrainian Parliament. Two of them are moms and another is in the military and returned this week to fight the Russians. The Parliamentarians shared with me that the war is leading to population concerns. Among them, captured Ukrainians and other prisoners from neighboring countries not being returned home, lost and orphaned children, and families being forced out of their homes. The Ukrainians shared with us that some children who have been imprisoned by the Russians without their parents are being “adopted” by Russians and are unlikely to see their biological parents again.
The pictures we see, many now up in the Capitol Gallery, are absolutely haunting. The thousands killed, the utter destruction of Mariupol, which was a major industrial hub. I voted for the $40 billion in Ukraine assistance that was approved by the Senate last week and signed into law over the weekend. We also must watch for major food issues in the coming months. Ukraine’s ports are closed creating the potential for global food shortages when you consider Ukraine is a top-10 provider of the world’s grain.
FINLAND AND SWEDEN
You may remember in my last KT report, I met with Ambassadors from several Nordic countries, including Norway, Finland and Sweden. This week I sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Top Republican James Risch (R-ID) and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Robert Menendez (D-NJ) urging cooperation between the executive and legislative branches to speed Finland and Sweden’s applications for NATO membership. Both countries have advanced economies and strong democratic institutions that align with the founding values of the US and NATO. Both are members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace and are Enhanced Opportunity Partners. Additionally, these Nordic countries have sizable militaries and are well-equipped with their own defense capabilities.
Admitting two of our allies to NATO as Eastern Europe continues to face the fallout of Russia’s ruthless invasion of Ukraine is important. Additionally, an increasingly aggressive posture of cyberattacks and drone operations from Russia targeting both countries makes speedy consideration by the administration and Senate critical. The Senate is likely to soon approve such membership. In addition to the letter, I have urged House Leadership to pass legislation endorsing the move, such as a Sense of the House Resolution, since we as House Members have no formal role in treaty approvals.
UPTON AMENDMENT ON PEER SERVICES PASSES COMMITTEE
On Wednesday, the full Energy and Commerce Committee held a markup of six different bills. My amendment to H.R. 2929, the Virtual Peer Support Act, was approved by the committee with near-unanimous support (Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) was the only “no” vote). It expands upon private sector efforts to provide access to peer support services, including virtual peer support, to help individuals with similar life experiences, especially veterans and those who have experienced homelessness, connect and support each other. Research and real-world evidence have shown that engaging with a trained mental health peer specialist in individual and group settings can help maintain wellness, lead to better connectedness with mental health treatment, and assist individuals in crisis obtain needed care. This program is like one that was authorized under the SUPPORT Act for individuals living with a substance use disorder. As I’ve said before, the easiest vote I can cast is one for our veterans – it's especially important that we give back whenever we can to the brave folks who have given the most.
THIRD ROUND OF FREE COVID TESTS
This week it was announced that households across the country can receive an additional eight COVID tests free of charge. Unfortunately, COVID cases continue to climb across the country. The best thing you can do for yourself, and others, is take a test if you have been exposed to COVID or if you aren’t feeling well. It sure seems like COVID cases are on the rise among my Michigan friends, family, and neighbors. You can get your free testsHEREand read more about this most recent round of free testsHERE.
WEST COAST CHAMBER
Last week, I spoke to the West Coast Chamber in Holland. I talked about the importance of bipartisanship and the work we’re doing in the Problem Solvers Caucus, of which I am vice chair. I gave an update on Ukraine, including the co-delegation I led with Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) in April of this year and the $40 billion in humanitarian and military funding I mentioned earlier. You can read about the co-delegationHERE. We also discussed the formula shortage, Cures 2.0 and possibly linking it with ARPA-H.
ACTIVE SHOOTER ALERT ACT
Many of my avid readers may remember back in February Rep. David Cicilline and I introduced the bipartisan Active Shooter Alert Act. Unfortunately, we’ve all got a story of someone we know or even ourselves that have stared danger in the face. To wrap up Police Week, Rep. Cicilline and I were joined by Reps. Nancy Mace (R-SC) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) to speak about our bill to provide our law enforcement folks with another safety measure to alert businesses and neighbors of impending danger and to take cover and allow our law enforcement professionals to do their jobs. We saw what happened in Buffalo, and we saw it in Kalamazoo in 2016. Alerting people to help prevent them stumbling into a violent situation is a commonsense way to save lives. You can read more about this actHERE.
On May 14, I was happy to once again join St. Joe’s Blossomtime Parade after the pandemic put the entire festival on hold for two years. Before the pandemic, the last time the parade was cancelled was during World War II. It was exciting to be a part of the more than 100 cars, marching bands and floats that came to downtown St. Joe to join in the festivities. Special thanks to my superb driver, cousin Ben!
RIBBON CUTTING AT THE CHARLES & LYNN ZHANG COMMUNITY SENIOR CENTER
On Friday, I joined Charles and Lynn Zhang with our Governor in celebrating the opening of the new Community Senior Center in Portage named in their honor. This new 36,000 square foot center will be a “living room” for generations to gather, which is so important now as we move forward post-pandemic. It will include a coffee café, fitness room and large kitchen. There also will be rooms for additional activities like yoga and book clubs.
PALISADES NUCLEAR PLANT
You may have heard the news Friday that the Palisades Nuclear plant in Covert closed for good a week or so early. Though there was $6 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill signed into law last year to keep older nuclear facilities like this one online, I asked a good number of questions that required answers before I could support using taxpayer funds to transfer the facility to another entity. Additionally, many of the employees had found new jobs elsewhere and the fuel rods needed to be replaced (yes, there is a supply issue here as well, with many of the new rods coming from ... Russia). Knowing that the long-planned closure had been scheduled for May 31, it was not economically feasible to make the required repairs for only a week or so of operation. Still, safe nuclear power plays a critical role in American energy independence, and I am proud to have had one of our country’s many nuclear facilities right here in southwest Michigan. You can see the full Herald Palladium storyHERE.
ECONOMIC CLUB OF GRAND RAPIDS
Today, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and I spoke at the Grand Rapids Economic Club in a discussion moderated by Hank Meijer. We had a great conversation on civility with excellent audience participation and a clear quest to find common ground.
The House is now out of session until June 7, so don’t look for a KT ‘til then. I have activities all throughout the district, and again will be participating in a number of Zooms this week as well. Thank our veterans for the job well done and remember those that made the ultimate sacrifice – and remember those family members that grieve their lost loved ones too.
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