Increasing Civility and Collaboration
Hello Folks -
Since I’ve been your representative, I’ve sent out these email newsletters every couple of weeks. Sometimes I write with good news. Sometimes I write with bad news. But I always try to give you my honest take about what’s happening in our nation’s capital.
This week, my newsletter is perhaps my most solemn update during my time in service. As you likely know, the House has begun a formal impeachment inquiry into the actions of President Trump.
While there were a multitude of concerns raised by the Mueller Report, the news of the past ten days has been far more shocking and concerning. Specifically, the President - by his own admission and based on notes from his call with the Ukrainian President - asked a foreign leader to dig up dirt on a political rival. Following a long period of Ukraine asking for assistance from our country to defend against Russian aggression, the President responded by asking for a political “favor.”
Asking a foreign government to interfere in our elections is not OK. Indeed, it is worthy of the investigation that has now begun.
This is not a process that I am gleeful about. None of us should be. These are divided times and this process may likely harden those divisions.
But at some point, the rule of law needs to mean something. The integrity of American elections needs to mean something.
I’ve heard from a few folks with a handful of concerns to which I’d like to respond.
First, some have asked, “why not just wait until the election next November?”
Honestly, that is more difficult when the questionable conduct is specifically focused on a president’s effort to manipulate the 2020 election. In addition, our national security is impacted when any president uses his office to ask a foreign government for political help. In fact, a bipartisan group of over 300 national security experts agree - writing in a letter last week that the President’s actions should be considered a “profound national security concern.”
Others have asked, “why doesn’t Congress focus on stuff to make our lives better?”
Honestly, I agree that Congress needs to focus on legislating to make life better for folks in our region and around the country. But it should not come at the expense of the Constitution. If Congress were to ignore the whistleblower’s detailed reports of abuse of presidential power (which I think everyone should take a few moments to read), it might as well vote to eliminate impeachment from the Constitution altogether.
Congress will absolutely need to demonstrate the capacity to walk and chew gum at the same time. In fact, in the same week that the House was opening an impeachment inquiry, you saw a major bill introduced to reduce prescription drug prices. You saw continued negotiations on the US - Mexico - Canada Trade Agreement. You saw a hearing to examine opportunities for increased civility and collaboration in Congress. And you saw the House Natural Resources Committee pass my bill to help tribal communities on our coast. Read on for details.
Helping Coastal Tribes
Last week, I was excited to see the House Natural Resources Committee pass a bipartisan bill I authored called the Tribal Coastal Resiliency Act. This bill provides dedicated resources to Native American tribes living in coastal areas to support their efforts to mitigate threats caused by climate change and sea level rise. Specifically, it would expand the Coastal Zone Management Act to provide the necessary tools tribes need to protect their people and landmarks from changing landscapes and weather events.
Washington state has over 3,000 miles of marine coastline, on which many reservations or fishing grounds are located. The challenges of severe storms and increased flooding are affecting communities throughout our state, and in our region alone, there are four tribes that are actively moving to higher ground. These coastal tribes are increasingly confronting persistent flooding, mold damage, and erosion - not to mention the threat of tsunami.
My bipartisan bill recognizes tribal sovereignty by amending the Coastal Zone Management Act to allow tribal governments to directly apply for Coastal Zone Management Grants, instead of requiring them to petition states to prioritize their projects. This parity is essential given the severe challenges tribal governments face in implementing coastal and shoreline measures that support public safety, public access, and cultural and historic preservation.
I am grateful for the Committee’s bipartisan and unanimous support of this bill and am hopeful that the House of Representatives will move to advance this legislation in the weeks ahead.
I’d like to thank Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation, for testifying in support of the bill in Washington, D.C. earlier this year. The News Tribune also did a great editorial on this important issue that you can read here.
Increasing Civility and Opportunities for Collaboration
Perhaps lost in the media shuffle on Capitol Hill last week was a hearing held by the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (aka the “fix Congress” Committee which I’m chairing) to examine opportunities to promote civility and build a more collaborative Congress that can better solve problems for the American people. If need a break from cable news, I encourage you to watch our hearing - it might give you a little more hope.
I wholeheartedly believe that the best way to find common ground is to seek it - and I’m a big believer that when Democrats and Republicans make the effort to understand one another’s perspectives, we have a better shot at making progress on key issues facing the American people.
During the hearing, the Committee heard testimony from professors, think tank heads, and even a former cabinet secretary. They shared interesting ideas and practical advice to help shape how Congress can foster more collaboration across party lines - ideas like establishing an annual bipartisan goal-setting meeting, enhancing new-Member orientation so that members aren’t immediately segregated by political party, and adjusting the congressional schedule so that representatives have more time to spend engaging in policy deliberations and build bipartisan consensus on solutions.
Over the course of the first nine months of the Committee’s existence, civility has emerged as one of the most discussed topics in this Committee. Together, we are zeroing in on recommendations to make Congress work better and produce more results.
Supporting Rural Hospitals
Earlier this month, I was excited to see the decision of a federal judge to overturn a policy from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) known as “site neutral reimbursement.” The policy would have the effect of cutting Medicare reimbursements by up to 60% for multi-campus regional hospitals, like Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles, that provide services through a network of clinics that are intended to make health care more accessible to patients.
This court ruling is great news for hospitals seeking to provide affordable care in rural communities, especially in areas where we already face a shortage of care providers. Hospitals should be encouraged to bring their services closer to the people they care for, not be penalized for it. That’s why earlier this year, I introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that regional hospitals, like Olympic Medical Center, can continue to make health care more accessible to more people. This decision will help maintain access to care in rural regions and keep jobs in rural communities.
Working For You
Creating More Economic Opportunity
In the 2017 tax bill, one of the few bipartisan provisions included was the creation of a new tax incentive called Opportunity Zones. This designation is intended to direct investment into economically distressed communities (we have 27 of these zones in our region). My office organized a conversation with folks from throughout our region to discuss how to leverage these designations to grow jobs, help people, and ensure a positive social impact. We've got a lot more work to do, but I'm confident we'll get there together.
One of the best parts of my job is getting to visit with organizations and people that are doing big things. I really enjoyed the opportunity to visit with Leslie Mayne and Jimmy Hatch who, through the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation, are helping redefine PTSD.
Recognizing the Crisis Surrounding Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
I was honored to join my colleagues and advocates from across the nation for a moment of silence to recognize the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. I will continue to fight to ensure Congress acts to address this tragic epidemic.
Visiting our Region’s Largest Employer
I work for the people I represent and it’s important to me that I hear directly from you - so it was great to be at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to hear your ideas, thoughts, and concerns. Thanks to the employees at the shipyard for the work you do!
Seeing New Living Spaces Take Shape
I’m very appreciative of the entire team at GenCare for giving me a tour of their soon-to-come Point Ruston community in Tacoma! Dedicated to their mission of delivering a first-class experience, GenCare is working hard to ensure all folks can live with dignity. Can’t wait to see the finished project!
Fighting to End Alzheimer’s
Did you know that, in the last five years, there's been a four-fold increase in research funding to end Alzheimer's? That's a testament to the engagement of amazing partners who show up and speak up. I've been honored to be their partner through my role on the Appropriations Committee. And I was pleased to join some of those awesome partners for the Walk to End Alzheimer's in Tacoma. Thanks to everyone who braved the rain and showed up!!!
OK - that’s it for now, folks. As always, I’m honored to represent you. Please reach out if I can ever lend a hand.
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