June 10, 2022
@MyKitchenTable: Friday June 10, 2022
“It’s not what you know that counts… It’s what you don’t know that you don’t know that matters.” – David Thoreau (One of Amey Upton’s favorite quotes)
Only last fall we lost four bright teens right here in Michigan in a school shooting at Oxford High School. Nearly ten years after the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary and only ten days after eleven were shot at a grocery store in Buffalo, we witnessed another awful act of violence that took nineteen young students and two heroic teachers from devastated family members. You can read my initial statement on this horrible shootingHEREand watch an interview in which I discuss the shooting on Channel 3HERE.
I have heard from hundreds of folks encouraging me to support common-sense gun safety measures recently and I’ve also met with a number of shooting survivors over the years – even my own relative was at the Las Vegas shooting in 2017 where the “bump-stock” was used. I carried their stories and many of your concerns with me as I voted for meaningful gun safety bills this week, including raising the age to 21 to purchase semi-automatic rifles, banning bump stocks and ghost guns (meaning all firearms must have a serial number on them), and establishing federal red-flag laws. It’s important to note that these bills will honor our right to bear arms and due process while making our schools and communities safer.
I have been encouraged by the ongoing bipartisan Senate negotiations on gun safety and anticipate they will reach a compromise soon; one with broad support that can get to the President’s desk.
BABY FORUMULA SHORTAGE
This week Abbott Nutrition restarted production here in Sturgis after many months of waiting for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. In Abbott’s statement, they estimate EleCare and other specialty products will be back on the shelves later this month. To be clear, the facility was closed longer than it should have been, and this shortage should not have happened. I have heard from many worried parents, including many friends and family members, pleading with me to please help get formula back on the shelves during these dire times that have been dragging on for far too long. We’ve also all seen the national news of infants admitted to the hospitals for treatment as their families were unable to locate formula – some of it specific and absolutely essential for their nutritional needs.
As I mentioned in mylast Kitchen Table, I spoke with FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf aboutthis massive shortage and we discussed possible solutions to prevent delays like this from happening again. I also met with the Abbott team when I visited the plant late last month to see the improvements for myself. Following my visit, I brought up my findings and encouraged Dr. Califf to approve the Abbott facility for production in an Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight hearing which you can watchHERE. Abbott will continue to ramp up production in order to get safe formula to families across the country as soon as possible.
Commissioner Califf and I have had a good relationship since we worked together when I was Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee enacting 21st Century Cures. One of the components of that legislation was more resources (i.e., $) for the FDA to do its job if staff shortages were slowing down drug and device approval. One of Dr. Califf’s comments to me was that the FDA did need more resources to oversee the safe inspection of infant formula both here and abroad. The House, with my support, passed $28 million for the FDA to inspect these facilities. We still wait for the Senate to complete action.
JANUARY 6TH SELECT COMMITTEE HEARING
The first televised hearing of the January 6th Select Committee was held last night, and I know everyone can get the details from their favorite news source on their own. I was on WSJM this morning commenting and confirmed that the members of the Select Committee had not shared the video or details prior of their hundreds of interviews with non-members of the Select Committee, so it was the first time for me watching their work as well. Of course, I was there that fateful day and had been on the House Floor earlier that morning but not during the time when the Capitol was breached. Because of COVID, the Speaker asked that the full House (440 Members) not be on the Floor until the votes occurred should a State’s electoral votes be challenged by both a House and Senate Member (this did occur but not until evening once the Capitol had been cleared). I chose to watch the House proceedings on C-SPAN from my Rayburn Office across the street where I have a long balcony (facing west) and watched the protesters march down Independence Avenue to the mall and back to then attack the Capitol. With Independence Ave later closed to all traffic, the noise from the attack was loud. Once the Capitol was cleared at about 6PM, I took the tunnel to the Capitol to the House Floor and Rotunda where I thanked the SWAT team members who had helped protect the Members and staff….and the process then moved forward with recorded votes later that evening as our forefathers intended.
Though a number of my Michigan colleagues demanded a vote to challenge the Michigancertifiedvote (154K vote difference), no Senator agreed, and the 16 electoral votes were then counted for Biden. There was also testimony last night from one of the Capitol Police who was left unconscious while trying to maintain her position. I later met one member of the Capitol Police who hails from Benton Harbor who described his heroic actions as well. I also witnessed the “body-cam” footage from another officer who was beaten unconscious where one can hear the protesters yell “shoot him with his own gun” as he was hauled into the melee from the west front Capitol doors. Bottom line for me…we were indeed minutes away from a slaughter of Members and staff without the heroic action of the Capitol Police who were completely overrun.More public hearings to resume. The next televised hearing is this Monday at 10AM and the third hearing will be this Wednesday also at 10AM.
LEAD LINE REPLACEMENT IN BENTON HARBOR
Late last month I joined Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator DebraShore for a progress report regarding removing the lead pipes in Benton Harbor. We also discussed water delivery services for folks who still have not yet had their lead pipes replaced. We heard from local crews and supervisors firsthand about the work they’ve continued over the last few months to get us to the halfway point and what’s left to do to make sure everyone has access to clean drinking water. According to the City of Benton Harbor’s service line replacement dashboard, 56.6.% of lead service lines have been replaced so far. You can review the dashboardHERE. Original estimates suggested that replacing all the lead lines across the city would take about twenty years due to a lack of funding. Many of you may remember in October 2021 the City of Benton Harbor was selected to receive a $5.6 million grant to remove these lead service lines and support a study to optimize the city’s lead corrosion control treatment to improve public health in Benton Harbor. This grant was procured through my work with then-EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and makes up a significant amount of the funding needed to get this project across the finish line and ensure everyone has access to clean water.
UPDATE ON CHIPS
Many of you dedicated readers may remember that I have been heavily involved in procuring standalone funding for semiconductor chips. On Tuesday, I spoke with Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves about moving such funding along. There is no doubt that the US desperately needs chip funding to boost domestic production of everything from cellphones and electronics to the cars we drive as the ongoing shortage contributes to this unprecedented inflation. I look forward to the negotiations between the House and the Senate and the coming resolution in the near future.
DIABETES LEADERSHIP COALITION
On Wednesday, I spoke to the Diabetes Leadership Coalition about Cures 2.0 and how it improves the daily lives of the millions of Americans diagnosed with diabetes. Specifically, Cures 2.0 ensures a coordinated FDA approach on digital health technologies across the agency and improves FDA-CMS communication regrading transformative new therapies. Cures 2.0 also extends telehealth flexibilities and increases diversity in clinical trials. I serve on the Energy and Commerce Committee and we will have a markup on this legislation soon.
UPDATES ON 131 SPUR
This week a member of my district staff met with several local legislative leaders from across southwest Michigan including state Rep. Julie Roger’s staff and state Senator Sean McCann’s staff in addition to representatives from Governor Whitmer and Senator Stabenow’s offices to discuss the progress of ongoing construction on 131. Among other things, the subjects of funding, identifying risks and prioritizing certain improvements were discussed in depth at the meeting hosted by Southwest Michigan First. This is an incredibly important project that reflects our growing communities and local industries.
BRINGING HOME THE GOLD
This Wednesday, one of our great Michiganders won a gold medal at the Special Olympics USA Games in the 5000-meter run. At twenty-five years old, Julian Borst finished the race in only 16 minutes and 38 seconds. A Kalamazoo native, this is not the first time he’s raised the bar for athletes across the country as well as our state. In fact, Julian was the first Special Olympics Michigan athlete to qualify for the Boston Marathon when he was only twenty-two in 2017. Congratulations, Julian! You can read more about our local OlympianHERE.
Earlier this week Pfizer announced it is planning to invest another $120 million into its facility here in Portage. The expansion is in reaction to the company’s widely successful COVID treatment pill known as Paxlovid. Paxlovid is not a preventative measure, but instead lessens the effects of COVID. In turn, this remarkable pill can keep hospital beds clear and folks off ventilators and allow our hardworking healthcare workers to also feel some relief. You can read more about PaxlovidHERE.
This investment includes 250 new well-paying jobs at the facility itself and hundreds more local jobs to carry out the expansion project. Already our largest employer in southwest Michigan, Pfizer’s growth is a direct product of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) – the first major overhaul of the tax code in more than thirty years. The TCJA has changed the trajectory of the economy for the better – creating more jobs, bigger paychecks, and increased investment which we are seeing right here in southwest Michigan. Before the TCJA, the US had the highest corporate tax rate in the world, forcing companies to leave the US and take their jobs with them. You can read more about Pfizer’s expansionHEREand my statement on itHERE.
I took a call from the former CEO of Pfizer shortly after President Trump signed the tax cut legislation back in 2017. He told me that because of that legislation, they would spend many hundreds of millions expanding the Portage facility rather than push that expansion likely overseas. His successor has followed through with this new announcement!
I will return to Michigan this weekend and then back for Floor votes on Monday. I am encouraged that the Senate can agree on a bipartisan package on guns that can then move back to the House for consideration perhaps before the July 4 holiday.
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