Mobile Casework Hours Next Week, Protecting IG's Independence, Combatting Vaccine Hesitancy
Next week, I am hosting two Mobile Casework Hours sessions. The first, on Tuesday, July 6 from 11:30am-12:30pm at Bushwick Inlet Park, and the second on Thursday, July 8 from 2-3pm at the Steinway Street Station at the corner of 34th and Steinway.
This week, the House passed my bill, H.R. 2662, IG Independence and Empowerment Act, by a bipartisan vote or 221-182 and I introduced my Overdraft Protection Act. On Thursday, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis held a hearing on the need to overcome vaccine hesitancy during which I spoke with actress and activist Sophia Bush and Dr. Katy Milkman on ways we can better encourage younger Americans to get vaccinated.
On Monday, I had the opportunity to meet with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to discuss the next phases of building the Second Avenue Subway, investing in a proposed passenger station at Sunnyside Yard, and electrifying the postal fleet.
More on all these and other updates below.
And, in case you missed it, you can read this week’s NY-12 COVID-19 Vaccination & Recovery Update here.
IG Independence and Empowerment Act
On Tuesday, the House passed my bill, H.R. 2662, IG Independence and Empowerment Act, with a bipartisan vote of 221-182.
This bill is a comprehensive package to increase the independence of Inspectors General (IGs), protect IGs from political retaliation, and provide IGs the tools needed to perform thorough investigations. It includes a critical reform that would restore and enhance IG independence by requiring that an IG can only be removed for a documented cause, based on a defined list of nonpartisan reasons such as a knowing violation of the law, abuse of authority, or gross mismanagement.
You can read more about the bill here.
Also on Tuesday, I held an Oversight Committee mark-up on several other good governance bills to strengthen whistleblower protections and transparency of political appointees. Among the bills passed by the Committee were my Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act and the Periodically Listing Updates to Management (PLUM) Act. You can read more about the committee markup here.
Vaccinating Young Americans
On Thursday, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing held a hearing on the need to overcome vaccine hesitancy. During that hearing, I spoke with actress and advocate Sophia Bush and Dr. Katy Milkman about importance of vaccinating younger Americans, what we can do to help make that happen, and New York’s successes in offering vaccination incentives.
You can watch my full exchange with Sophia Bush and Dr. Milkman here.
Meeting with Sec. Buttigieg on Top Priority Infrastructure Projects
I was thrilled to meet with Secretary Buttigieg on Monday to discuss the next phases of building the Second Avenue Subway, investing in a proposed passenger station at Sunnyside Yard, and electrifying the postal fleet.
It took 100 years to build the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway, and we can’t afford to wait another 100 years for the next phase. The new Q Train has helped to reduce overcrowding on other subway lines and spurred economic growth.
As we finish up East Side Access – an $11 billion project – to finally bring the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) to Grand Central, we need to ensure that Sunnyside Yard meets the current and future needs of Queens residents. LIRR, Amtrak and NJ Transit are already coming into Sunnyside Yard, and with Penn Station Access bringing Metro North through the Yard, it would be shortsighted to allow so many transit systems to converge without providing station access for passengers.
Lastly, as Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, I have been working with my colleagues to electrify the Postal Service’s vehicle fleet. The Postal Service currently owns and operates one of the world’s largest civilian vehicle fleets, composed of more than 228,000 vehicles. All federal government fleets should be moving to electric, zero emissions vehicles, and with the Postal Service poised to purchase new vehicles, these new vehicles should meet that criteria.
Introducing the Overdraft Protection Act
On Wednesday, I was joined by consumer protection advocates to announce the introduction of my Overdraft Protection Act of 2021. This bill will crack down on predatory overdraft fees and would establish fair and transparent practices for overdraft coverage programs.
Overdraft fees are predatory and hit hardest those who can least afford them — cash-strapped hardworking Americans and college students who are struggling to pay their bills, keep a roof over their heads, and food on the table. Making matters worse, even during the pandemic – when our country and the world was in the throes of both health and economic crises, banks charged billions of dollars in overdraft fees. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) found that the average consumer pays a 17,000 percent interest rate by overdrafting their account. It’s not right for a $10 sandwich at a bodega to cost nearly $50 because of a $35 overdraft charge – the Overdraft Protection Act stops this.
You can read more about the bill here.
Establishing a Select Committee to Investigate January 6th
On Wednesday, the House voted to establish a Select Committee to investigate the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol. Ahead of the vote, I spoke on the House floor in favor of Speaker Pelosi’s resolution.
Over the past five months, the Oversight Committee, which I chair, along with several other House Committees, have made substantial progress in investigating the attack on our Capitol.
We have asked why our nation’s law enforcement agencies failed to anticipate a domestic terrorist threat that was planned out in the open, and why critical assistance took so long to arrive during the attack.
This Select Committee will be critical to fully understanding the root causes of the attack on the Capitol, and to passing reforms to ensure that an insurrection never again reaches these halls or threatens our democracy. But our work is far from done, and we must continue to seek the truth about the January 6th domestic terrorist attack. I look forward to supporting the Select Committee in its investigation and working together to secure our democracy.
You can watch my full speech here.
Passing the INVEST in America Act
On Thursday, I voted to pass H.R. 3684, the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act. This legislation makes transformational investments in America’s highways, roads, bridges, transit, rail, and water infrastructure to create jobs, modernize our infrastructure and reduce carbon pollution. It also puts some of the key pieces of President Biden’s infrastructure vision into legislative text.
For far too long, New York’s critical infrastructure needs have not been met. The INVEST in America Act is a crucial step in changing that and creating good paying, green jobs. This bill will help us get more funding to the MTA for much needed repairs, creates a new reduced-fare pilot program to improve access for low-income riders, and, most importantly, prioritizes investments that will enable the MTA to make our subway system more accessible to riders with disabilities. Currently, only 29% of NYC subway stops are ADA-accessible – it should be 100%. I am also very excited about the increase in funding for passenger rail and Amtrak, including $13.5 billion for the Northeast Corridor, which will make critical investments so we can finally bring high speed rail between NYC and Boston. This will be a huge boost to our city’s economy as we work to rebuild after the pandemic.
Investigating Biogen’s Alzheimer’s Drug Aduhelm
Late last week, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and I announced that the Oversight and Reform and Energy and Commerce Committees will examine the approval and pricing of Biogen Inc.’s Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm.
We have serious concerns about the steep price of Biogen’s new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm and the process that led to its approval despite questions about the drug’s clinical benefit.
We strongly support innovative treatments to help the millions of Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, but Aduhelm’s approval and its $56,000 annual price tag will have broader implications for seniors, providers, and taxpayers that warrant close examination.
Our Committees will be investigating this matter so Congress and the American people can better understand why this drug was approved, how Biogen set its price, and what impact this will have on research for future Alzheimer’s treatments and federal health care programs.
You can read more here.
$22 Billion in Economic Impact Payments to New York State
This week, the IRS published data showing that New Yorkers have received nearly 10 million Economic Impact Payments totaling more than $22 billion in 2021 as part of the American Rescue Plan.
This $22 billion helped keep families and small businesses afloat, but we still have work to do to make a full economic recovery. I remain committed to keeping hardworking New Yorkers in their homes, businesses open, and seeing our city come back even better and stronger than before. Thanks to New Yorkers’ unmatched resilience, we are on the road to a full recovery – now, we need to focus on making sure everyone gets vaccinated so that we can keep everyone safe as we fully reopen.
Reintroducing the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act
On Tuesday, I joined with Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL), Bradley Schneider (D-IL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), and Val B. Demings (D-FL) and Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to reintroduce the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act, legislation to prohibit the online distribution of blueprints and instructions that allow for the three dimensional (3D) printing of firearms.
The idea of untraceable, undetectable guns available to anyone, even violent criminals and domestic abusers, with the click of a mouse is utterly terrifying. More than 90% of Americans support universal background checks for gun purchases, yet the online distribution of blueprints and instructions allow anyone to download and print a firearm without scrutiny! Preventing these deadly blueprints from being distributed online is simple common sense and will save lives.
You can read more about this legislation here.
Urging the Biden Administration to Speak Out Against Turkey’s Illegal Actions in Varosha
On Thursday, I led a group of bipartisan members of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues in urging the Biden Administration to speak out against the unilateral and illegal actions of the Republic of Turkey concerning the reopening of Varosha on Cyprus.
As we stated in our letter to Secretary of State Blinken, the Republic of Turkey’s continuing unilateral actions on Cyprus makes a mockery of the rules-based international order that is crucial to maintaining global peace and prosperity, and which President Biden’s administration has consistently held up as vital to U.S. interests across the world.
You can read the full letter here.
DOJ Should Oppose the Bankruptcy Plan That Lets Sackler Family Evade Responsibility for Opioid Crisis
On Wednesday, I was joined by senior Oversight Committee Member Rep. Mark DeSaulnier in sending a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to vote against the plan of reorganization Purdue Pharma has proposed as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Under Purdue’s proposed plan of reorganization plan, members of the Sackler family would contribute $4.2 billion — less than half of the fortune they amassed from the company — to resolve all legal claims related to their role in the opioid epidemic and obtain immunity from current and future opioid-related lawsuits.
You can read the full letter to AG Garland here.
Demanding the Navy Suspend Cuts to Naval Audit Service
Early this week, I sent a letter to Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker urging the Department of the Navy to immediately suspend its ongoing cuts to the budget and staff of the Naval Audit Service (NAS).
According to public reports and the Navy’s fiscal year 2022 budget request, the Navy intends to reduce the NAS budget over the next two fiscal years by about 70% and downsize its personnel strength from about 290 people to just 85. The Navy has begun encouraging NAS employees to retire early or risk being reassigned to alternate positions, leading to the resignation of approximately 75 NAS personnel this fiscal year alone.
You can read the letter here.
Snapshot from NY-12
Last Sunday, I was honored to have joined with my government colleagues and dear friend Dr. Neeta Jain as we celebrated nonviolence and peace - two cornerstones of Indian culture – with the Consulate General of India, NY and the International Ahimsa Foundation.
As always, your concerns still and always remain my top priority. Please do not hesitate to email me through my website.