Recognizing the Progress We've Made - and the Work We Still Need to Do
Yesterday, we took time as a nation and as a community to honor and celebrate the life and mission of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I was honored to participate in several events in our region where people came together to recognize the progress we’ve made - and the work we still need to do - to, as Dr. King said, “make America what it ought to be.”
We cannot simply honor Dr. King with our words. We need to honor him with our actions.
We honor him when we work to address inequities in the criminal justice system - to make justice truly blind. We honor him when we work to address pay inequities. That’s why I’ve sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act - to embrace a simple principle of equal pay for equal work. We honor Dr. King when we work to combat poverty. That’s why I’ve sponsored a bill to raise the federal minimum wage and a variety of bills to expand access to affordable housing. We honor Dr. King when we work to restore voting rights and remove barriers to the ballot box that still exist in this country. That’s why I’ve sponsored a new Voting Rights Act.
Dr. King famously said, “The arc of the moral universe is long - but it bends toward justice.” But it doesn’t bend on its own. It bends because people of goodwill work for to bend it. So, let’s keep up that work!
You can see my speech from Allen AME in Tacoma here - but now, on to the news!
Supporting our Fishing Communities
In communities across our region, our coastal fisheries are an essential part of local economies. However, in recent years, multiple fisheries disasters on our coasts have wreaked havoc on our fisheries and on the finances of the people who rely on them to make a living.
In response, I worked with a bipartisan group of Members of Congress for over a year and half to successfully secure $200 million in federal funding to support multiple commercial and tribal fishery disaster declarations on our coasts and throughout the Pacific Northwest.
While this funding has been critical to lending a helping hand to our fishing community, there’s widespread agreement that the federal fishery disaster process could be improved. That’s why this month, I introduced bipartisan legislation to do just that.
Our bill - the Fishery Failures: Urgently Needed Disasters Declaration Act (Fishery FUNDD Act) - will improve the process for people applying for recovery funds and make relief accessible for charter boat operators, processors, and other fishing related businesses that are impacted. Importantly, because delays in funding can hurt communities, this bill will also improve accountability by ensuring that when the federal government commits to helping in the wake of a disaster, our tribal, commercial, and recreational fishing communities see these relief and recovery funds on time and in full. Delays can lead to bankruptcies, and the federal government should act with a sense of urgency.
At the end of the day, our fishing communities need to know that when disaster strikes - the federal government will have their backs. With similar legislation already introduced in the Senate and passed out of Committee, I’m hopeful Congress can take action and get this across the finish line soon.
Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination
In 2018, a survey conducted by the AARP found that 3 in 5 workers age 45 and older had seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace. Back in 2009, the Supreme Court overturned decades of legal precedent and made it harder for older workers to hold employers accountable for workplace discrimination. Essentially, these older workers had to prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that age discrimination alone was the decisive, determinative factor an employer used to take an employment action - like firing them or demoting them. That’s a different standard from nearly every other case of discrimination in the workplace, and frankly, it’s just not good policy.
So, last week, the House took action - and passed a bipartisan bill I co-sponsored called the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act. This bill returns the workplace discrimination standards to the pre-2009 threshold - ensuring all victims of workplace discrimination, including older workers, have the same workplace protections. It’s an important bill that passed with strong bipartisan support out of the House - so I hope to see if move forward in the Senate soon.
Last week, the House voted with bipartisan support to reverse a rule by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that would deny debt relief to students defrauded by predatory, for-profit colleges. The federal government should be rolling out the red carpet for students and veterans seeking an education - and providing relief to student borrowers who are defrauded, lied to, and misled by predatory colleges. Check out this video to hear more about why it matters:
Protecting Our Environment
In recent years, you may have heard about local water systems being contaminated by per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances, more commonly referred to as "PFAS." PFAS are a class of man-made chemicals defined by the presence of fluorinated carbon atoms (OK we’re getting technical, fast…). I’m not a scientist - but what I know from actual scientists is that these chemicals are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals” - meaning they’re persistent in the environment and are known to accumulate in humans and wildlife. They’re found in the air, on land, and in water - and have been linked with adverse health effects including cancer, immune system effects, infertility, impaired child development, high cholesterol, and thyroid disease.
And they’re having a big impact on our country - and on our health. According to the Environmental Working Group, 297 military sites across the United States have PFAS contamination and as many as 110 million Americans have been exposed to PFAS contaminated water.
Last week, the House acted to try to fix that - passing the PFAS Action Act with bipartisan support. This bill will stem the flow of these man-made chemicals into the environment, help identify health risks, create new grants and partnerships with states to help with clean-up and remediation efforts at industrial and military sites, and limit human exposure by establishing a safe drinking water standard. It’s an important bill for public health. The bill had bipartisan support in the House and has bipartisan support in the Senate, so I’m hopeful that this will become law soon to protect our environment and our communities.
Reducing the Likelihood of War with Iran
I’ve heard from many folks across our region who are deeply concerned about escalating tensions in the Middle East over the past few weeks. I share that concern. That’s why I’m proud to report that I’m taking action - on two fronts.
First, I voted to support H. Con. Res. 83, a resolution I co-sponsored that makes clear that only Congress can declare war and that Congress has not authorized the use of military force against Iran. The resolution restricts offensive military action unless Congress has authorized it or action is necessary to defend against an imminent armed attack on the United States or America’s armed forces. This action is consistent with Article I of the Constitution, making it clear that if the President wants to start a war, he must get authorization from the representatives of the American people.
Additionally, I joined over 35 lawmakers in a letter to the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and the Acting Director of National Intelligence, demanding answers about the Administration’s strategy to keep America and its allies safe and secure.
The bottom line here is that the American people do not want - and Congress has not authorized - another war in the Middle East. I visited our servicemembers and diplomats in the Middle East less than two months ago. Those brave Americans, and others serving throughout the region, deserve a strategy that keeps them safe, enhances our security and those of our allies, and fosters long-term stability in the region.
In the coming weeks, the House is expected to vote on two additional pieces of legislation that I co-sponsored aimed at reclaiming congressional authority and keeping America safe. One is a resolution to repeal the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). That resolution was focused on Saddam Hussein and should not be used as justification for new military actions 18 years later. The other is legislation to prohibit funding for military action against Iran not authorized by Congress. Both bills reclaim the Constitutional authority of Congress to declare war and authorize the use of military force, an authority that has eroded over the last two decades.
American foreign policy needs to be strong - and smart. I’ll keep pushing toward that end.
Working for You
Combating Climate Change
It was great to join the Climate & Energy Town Hall on Bainbridge Island to talk with folks about the progress I’m working for at the federal level to address this urgent issue. It was also exciting to hear about the work that is being done at the state and local level by my friends Governor Jay Inslee, State Senator Christine Rolfes, and Councilman Joe Deets! Thanks to the organizers from the Citizens Climate Lobby and other groups - and all those who attended for your dedication to this issue.
Investing in Our Ferry System
This month, I was proud to announce that Rep. Pramila Jayapal and I secured a $1.5 million grant from the Department of Transportation for the Seattle-Bainbridge Island Ferry Service to convert one of its two ferries from diesel to hybrid electric drive. I’m proud that the federal government is stepping up to reduce the carbon footprint of one of the most heavily used routes in the Washington State Ferry system. Our region is continuing to lead the way in reducing carbon emissions and growing green jobs. Federal investments to make this route - and our public transportation system in general - more green and more clean are winners for our planet and our economy.
Remembering Bishop Larry Robertson
Before I wrap up, I want to share that, this past week, our region lost a leader who did the important work of bending the moral universe toward justice - who was a servant leader in the spirit of Dr. King.
Bishop Larry Robertson of Bremerton’s Emmanuel Apostolic Church consistently helped people to find light in the darkness, to find purpose, to find their way. He was a blessing for his entire community. Bremerton was blessed to have someone working so passionately to strengthen the community. He worked to provide services to those in need. He pushed for more affordable housing. He was a voice for equal rights. He worked to not only tell our young people to say no to trouble but to give them positive things to say yes to. The work he did to turn the Marvin Williams Youth Center into a reality was a game changer. For me personally, he was a true friend. I offer my sincerest condolences to his extraordinary wife Lillian and to his church family. I will miss him greatly.
That’s all for now folks. As always, I’m honored to represent you.
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