Hitting the Ground Running to Get Our Economy and Our Government Working Better for the American People
Hello, folks -
Last week, I was honored to represent our region at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
It was an extraordinary event with a lot of memorable moments. Watching Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotoymayor, the first Latina Member of the Supreme Court, administer the oath of office to the country’s first Black, Asian, and female Vice President. Hearing Lady Gaga perform the national anthem (for the record, I was prepared to do a duet of Shallow with her but apparently my offer got lost in the mail). Hearing Garth Brooks sing Amazing Grace and inviting all Americans to sing along. Listening to Amanda Gorman, America’s youngest ever inaugural poet recite the extraordinary “The Hill We Climb.” Witnessing Joe Biden take the oath of office on his family’s 127-year-old Bible. And hearing him call for America to come together.
With the COVID-19 pandemic raging and the failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol just two weeks earlier, security was high and the crowd was extremely limited. But, despite the limited attendance, it was still an awesome sight.
I’m grateful that a peaceful transition of power—a hallmark of our representative democracy—ultimately prevailed.
On their first day in office, this new Administration got right to work—taking action on a number of fronts to deliver relief for families across our region who are struggling in the face of converging crises. Let’s get into the details.
Getting Right to Work
Ramping-Up Against COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic is the largest health and economic crisis of our generation. That’s why on Day 1, President Biden issued a number of executive orders to help change the course of the pandemic and support working families.
Those actions included moving to restructure and improve the federal government’s coordinated national response to COVID-19. I’d sponsored and supported legislation pushing for a more active federal role so that we didn’t have a re-enactment of the Hunger Games where states are left to their own devices, with limited support from the federal government and stuck competing for limited vaccines and personal protective equipment.
Additionally, President Biden moved to re-engage with the World Health Organization to better coordinate the international response to COVID-19 and prepare for future epidemics and pandemics and launched a “100 Days Masking Challenge” to encourage folks to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Furthermore, President Biden took action to help alleviate some of the problems we know working families are facing – actions I’ve been calling to be taken as this pandemic has persisted.
For example, we know that 1 in 5 renters and 1 in 10 homeowners with a mortgage are behind on payments – so President Biden acted to extend the eviction mortarium through the end of March and called on Congress to provide more aid to renters.
We know that borrowers owe over $1.5 trillion in federal student loans – so President Biden directed the Department of Education to extend the payment pause for federal student loan borrowers until at least October 2021, giving nearly 42 million student loan borrowers a break.
And, we know that 1 in 7 households, and more than 1 in 5 Black and Latino households, report that their household is struggling to secure the food they need. In response to these challenges, President Biden called on Congress to provide additional support to ensure Americans have access to healthy, affordable groceries by extending the 15% Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit increase, investing $3 billion to help women, infants and children get the food they need, and increasing access to nutritious food for children missing meals due to school closures, among other measures.
These steps make a lot of sense and are broadly supported by Democrats, Independents, and Republicans.
Though Congress was able to get a targeted stimulus bill passed and signed into law before the end of the year, I hear every day from folks in our region that more help is needed. I’m hopeful that in the coming days, Congress can come together and work with President Biden to provide additional targeted relief that can give folks on the front lines the resources they need to combat the virus and distribute the vaccine, and help folks in our region get back on their feet as we seek to recover.
Tackling the Climate Crisis
There’s no denying it: climate change is real, and the federal government has a moral obligation to act. This is an issue that involves not only protecting our environment, but also protecting our economic interests, our communities, and our national security. It’s a challenge our entire world is facing – and one that has to be solved together – and the United States should be an active participant and a leader in the battle to combat climate change.
That’s why I’m glad that President Biden acted to do something I’ve long been calling for – to get the United States back in the Paris Climate Agreement. This international agreement would help put us on track to achieve significant carbon emissions reductions and hold nearly every other nation in the world accountable with us in the effort to combat the climate crisis. We simply can’t sit afford to sit on the sidelines any longer.
President Biden also took a number of first steps to address the climate crisis, while creating good-paying jobs and advancing environmental justice. That includes directing all executive departments and agencies to immediately review and take appropriate action to address federal regulations and other executive actions taken during the last four years that were harmful to public health, damaging to the environment, or unsupported by the best available science.
In addition, he moved to protect some of the most environmentally-sensitive parts of our nation—ordering a review of changes to national monuments and issuing a temporary moratorium on all oil and natural gas leasing activities in the Article National Wildlife Refuge, among other things.
I’m excited that the President is committed to tackling this challenge head-on and I look forward to working with him.
Advancing Racial Equity
Painfully, it is important to note that too many Black, Indigenous, and people of color in this country have not been treated fairly by our federal government. That’s why I’m thrilled that on Day 1, President Biden launched a whole-of-government initiative to advance racial equity and confront systemic racism, and other barriers to opportunity, that persist in federal programs and institutions.
This initiative includes a directive for every federal agency to undertake a review of the state of equity within their agency and deliver an action plan within 200 days to address unequal barriers to opportunity in agency policies and programs – a huge undertaking that will give the federal government real, tangible data for the federal government to act on.
In addition, President Biden worked to reverse some of the Trump Administration’s most harmful policies when it came to immigration. Even before the United States declared its independence, it welcomed folks fleeing their homelands. For centuries, we have been a beacon of freedom for people in need of security and opportunity. It is important to continue that American tradition. That's why I'm glad that President Biden acted on Day 1 to do just that by preserving and strengthening protections for Dreamers and reversing the Muslim Ban. There’s a lot of work that Congress can and should do to reform and modernize our immigration policies, but these actions block some of the most harmful policies under the Trump Administration from continuing forward.
It's a good start for creating a more equitable and more just nation for all who live here.
Supporting our Federal Workers
I’m proud to represent thousands of dedicated federal civilian workers in our region, including those who report for duty each day at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. These workers perform a critical service to our country and help maintain the aircraft carriers, submarines, and other warships that ensure our national security and protect the American people.
Over the course of his presidency, President Trump worked to systematically erode essential rights and protections for these federal workers by undermining collective bargaining rights and eliminating workplace protections for thousands of workers. Before this pandemic, I spoke to the folks who this was impacting to hear firsthand about their experiences – and learn how we could work together to fix it.
That’s why, last year, in order to restore these rights and protections, I introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure adherence to all federal labor-management laws previously passed by Congress and signed into law. And, that’s why earlier this month, I wrote to then President-Elect Biden to encourage his Administration to repeal Trump’s executive actions and restore collective bargaining power and worker protections.
I’m happy to report that the Biden Administration heeded that call – and took immediate action in his first week in office to support federal workers, including those in our neck of the woods, by repealing the harmful, anti-worker actions implemented by the Trump Administration. I’m glad to have the partnership of a new Administration that is committed to ensuring that these workers are treated fairly and justly.
All in all, the Biden Administration had a busy and productive first week in office. But there’s a lot more work to do to beat back this virus and to get our economy – and our government – working better for the American people. I’ll look forward to working with the new administration – and with my colleagues in the legislative branch – to make that happen.
Working for You
Hearing from Local Employers
I appreciated the chance to check in with Platypus Marine Shipyard earlier this month, a full-service shipyard in Port Angeles that specializes in the construction, repair, refit, and maintenance of recreational, government, commercial fishing, and commercial vessels. I’m grateful to them for employing folks in our neck of the woods. I'll keep working to make sure the federal government has their back!
Supporting Our Kiddos
If you're like me, you could use some good news right now. Last week, I had an inspiring discussion with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula! Since the pandemic began, the team there has served nearly 72,000 meals to kiddos in Clallam County!!! Incredible. And, I was able to get a virtual tour of the new Port Angeles Clubhouse (named after the amazing Turner family). It's tremendous and will be an outstanding resource for helping kids meet their full potential in our region for years to come! Thanks for having me, team—and keep up the amazing work.
Creating a More Dynamic Work Force
Earlier this month, I was able to connect with the team at Paneltech, an innovative manufacturer specializing in high-quality overlay production in Hoquiam. We talked about the need for further collaboration to improve local workforce development initiatives. I am proud to partner with them in this pursuit! I’m grateful to them for doing business in Grays Harbor County!
OK – that’s it for now folks. As always, I’m honored to represent you.
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