Weekly Update: Mobile Casework Hours, Abortion Rights, Funding the Government
I am hosting Mobile Casework Hours this Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. My staff and I will be there to answer questions and provide help with federal agencies.
This week, I joined with my colleagues to introduce the Protecting Our Democracy Act, voted against the bloated and wasteful National Defense Authorization Act, voted to keep the government open, and voted to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act – legislation that will statutorily protect the right to abortion care nationwide.
You can read more about these and other updates below.
In case you missed it, you can read this week’s NY-12 COVID-19 Vaccination and Recovery Update here.
On Tuesday, I joined with Speaker Pelosi and the House Committee Chairs to introduce the Protecting Our Democracy Act — a sweeping package of reforms that will strengthen America’s democratic institutions against future presidents, regardless of political party, who seek to abuse the power of their office for corrupt purposes. This comprehensive bill will restore the government’s system of checks and balances, strengthen accountability and transparency, and protect America’s elections from foreign interference.
It’s no secret that for four years former President Trump blatantly abused the power of the presidency to benefit himself and his political allies. The American people witnessed brazen efforts by the former president to intimidate and silence the voices of those who spoke truth to power. The Protecting Our Democracy Act would improve accountability and transparency in our government and strengthen protections for those who courageously report illegal or unethical behavior.
Watch my remarks at our press conference introducing this bill here.
Voting Against the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act
While I could not in good conscience vote for this version of FY2022 NDAA, I am pleased that the final bill included my Periodically Listing Updates to Management Act (PLUM) Act, legislation to increase the transparency and accountability of senior leaders in the Executive Branch by providing timely and transparent information about those who are making decisions impacting millions of lives. We should be making our government more transparent for the American people, and more representative of everyone in our country. The PLUM Act would shine a light on who is and isn’t at the table.
It is also critical that this legislation includes fundamental changes to how cases of sexual assault are handled within our Armed Forces, finally gives D.C. control of its National Guard, and increases pay for servicemembers, among other Democratic priorities.
However, even with these important provisions, I could not vote for legislation that continues to promote bloated and wasteful spending in the Pentagon’s budget while millions of Americans are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The spending increase above and beyond the President’s budget request is even more unacceptable in the wake of the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) recent report detailing how the Department of Defense is still failing to identify and fight fraud in defense contracts.
This failure to safeguard taxpayer dollars is completely unacceptable, and I am urging the Biden Administration to quickly and fully implement GAO’s recommendations and put the Defense Department on a path to operate more efficiently and effectively and with the confidence that it is not spending money on fraudulent contracts.
We need to be investing in our schools and strengthening social safety net programs – not lining the pockets of defense contractors. We must push back against this increase and instead use these funds to directly invest in our communities, improve our children’s futures through education, and protect our environment from climate threats like hurricanes and heatwaves.
I will never vote for blanket increases to defense programs without a clear national interest in mind.
Securing Emergency Disaster Relief and Keeping the Government Open
This week, I voted to pass H.R. 5305, the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act, critical legislation to secure emergency funding to help New York rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Ida, provide funding to help resettle Afghan refugees, and keep the federal government open. H.R. 5305 would also raise the debt ceiling, preventing the United States from defaulting on our national debt, which would have a catastrophic impact on the American economy.
Voting to keep the federal government open and to prevent a default is the responsible course of action as our economy continues to rebound from the COVID-19 crisis. We cannot afford to derail our economic growth and put the livelihoods of American families at risk. Also included in this must-pass legislation is key funding to help New York and other communities in the wake of Hurricane Ida and for Afghan refugees. Senate Republicans need to quit holding the American economy hostage and join Democrats in swiftly passing this commonsense bill.
Getting Answers for the 9/11 Community
On Monday, I asked New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to release the City’s files on the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to help provide injured and ill 9/11 responders, survivors, and their families a better understanding of what the City knew at the time about the likely scope of the health crisis and when they knew it.
The time has come for a full accounting of the history of 9/11. President Biden’s ongoing review and declassification of documents related to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s possible involvement in the 9/11 attacks were a critical first step in this accounting. Providing full transparency on what the government knew about the health risks at Ground Zero and how they potentially covered up that information will finally provide transparency to a too-often overlooked aspect of the attack’s history.
Read the full letter to the Mayor here.
The Iron Dome is Crucial for Saving Lives
On Thursday, ahead of the House’s vote to pass H.R. 5323 – Iron Dome Supplemental Appropriations Act I spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives to urge all my colleagues to support the bill.
The Iron Dome is a purely defensive system – one that has saved countless innocent lives. Its whole purpose is to save lives and pursue peace.
I strongly support Israel’s right to defend herself. Since its formation, Israel – our closest ally in the Middle East, has been under attack by terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah that deny its right to exist. The Iron Dome is crucial to protecting lives against these terrorists who continue to fire thousands of rockets into Israel.
I am proud of the work that Israel and the United States did together to develop this successful defensive system and believe that support for its funding should be a totally bipartisan effort.
You can watch my floor speech here.
Demanding Answers from PMG DeJoy on USPS Service Standards Changes
On Monday, I joined with Congressman Gerald Connolly (D-VA), Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-MA), and Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) in sending a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the United States Postal Service (USPS) Board of Governors demanding answers on proposed service standard changes from the “Delivering for America” plan. The plan modifies existing service standards for First-Class Mail Letters and Flats from a current one-to-three-day service standard within the continental United States to a one-to-five-day service standard.
These changes will slow down mail service for millions of Americans and risk further undermining the competitive position of the Postal Service. On July 20, 2021, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) issued an opinion raising grave doubts about whether these changes will allow the Postal Service to uphold its commitment to providing reliable mail service. The Postal Service is not an ordinary business, but an indispensable public service recognized by the Constitution as vital to the American people and to our democracy.
Read our full letter here.
Fighting for Abortion Rights
Today, the House of Representatives took a crucial step to safeguard the right to access abortion care in the United States. Accessing abortion has been recognized as a constitutional right for nearly half a century, yet this right is now under sustained attack by anti-choice state legislatures and a hostile Supreme Court.
Next week, I will hold a hearing in the Oversight Committee to examine the grave threat to abortion rights and access in Texas and across the country. Next week’s hearing will show why my colleagues in the Senate must pass the Women’s Health Protection Act immediately to protect the fundamental right to access abortion regardless of a person’s zip code or income. We must not go back. The time for action is now.
You can watch the Oversight Committee hearing on threats to abortion rights and access on Thursday, September 30 at 10am here.
Making Prescription Drugs Affordable for Every American
Yesterday, I unveiled a new Oversight Committee staff report revealing that taxpayers could have saved more than $25 billion on just seven drugs over a five-year period if Medicare had been able to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices, the way other federal health care programs do. The staff report analyzes new internal data from drug companies to estimate the savings lost because of the prohibition on Medicare negotiation. These findings underscore the urgency of enacting reforms in the Build Back Better Act to empower Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies and rein in skyrocketing drug prices.
For years, drug companies have deliberately targeted the pocketbooks of Americans in need of life-saving medications. This report lays bare the billions of dollars taxpayers could have saved if Medicare had been able to negotiate directly for lower drug prices. The lost savings highlighted in this report are likely only a fraction of what taxpayers could save if we empower Medicare to negotiate. It’s time for Congress to step up and pass reforms in the Build Back Better Act to finally give Medicare the tools to secure a better deal for patients.
Read the full report here.
Holding Border Patrol Agents’ Accountable for Abusive Conduct Towards Migrants and Deportations to Haiti
On Thursday, I sent a letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) demanding a briefing and answers regarding press reports of the inhumane treatment of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, by Border Patrol agents on horseback.
Such abusive conduct is unacceptable and raises troubling questions about culture, training, and discipline within CBP. In addition, reports that thousands of migrants are being deported to Haiti despite turmoil in that country raise serious concerns about whether the federal government is failing to treat migrants—including those fleeing violence, political instability, and natural disasters—with respect and dignity and affording them a meaningful opportunity to seek asylum. I urge immediate action by CBP to address these concerns.
We also asked CBP to end its use of Title 42 to deport migrants to Haiti at a time when the country is still reeling from multiple crises, including the assassination of Haiti’s president this July and an earthquake last month.
You can read our full letter here.
Briefing on Afghanistan
On Wednesday, Administration officials from the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, provided Members of the Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Committee on Foreign Affairs with a classified briefing on the situation in Afghanistan and ongoing efforts to evacuate and resettle U.S. citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and vulnerable Afghans.
President Biden has been clear that our mission to evacuate American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and vulnerable Afghans—particularly women and girls—from Afghanistan will continue for as long as it takes. As Chair of the Oversight Committee, I will continue to conduct rigorous oversight to ensure that the Biden Administration has the authorities and resources it needs to facilitate this effort as safely and expediently as possible, and to protect our long-term national security and counterterrorism interests in Afghanistan.
Bettering Anti-Harassment Policies and Complaint Processes for Federal Employees
On Wednesday, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) and I sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a study on how the federal government’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint process and anti-harassment programs can better prevent and remedy unlawful employment discrimination and advance equal opportunity in the workplace.
As the largest employer in the United States, the federal government should serve as a model employer by processing complaints fairly and expeditiously, holding perpetrators accountable, and providing victims with relief. As a Member of Congress committed to safe and respectful workplaces, I know that the federal government is only as good as its civil servants, all of whom deserve to do their jobs in safety and with dignity. Unfortunately, too often federal employees are casualties of a process that can be convoluted, slow, costly, and unjust.
You can read our full letter here.
COVID Pandemic Highlights Need for Paid Leave for All
At this week’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hybrid hearing, I highlighted the positive impact that providing paid family leave had on American families during the COVID-19 crisis, the need to extend this policy, and the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on low-income and essential workers and communities of color.
The pandemic has underscored the importance of allowing workers in the United States to take time off from work if they get sick or need to take care of a loved one. Early in this pandemic, Congress required many large employers to provide paid sick leave to help slow the spread of the coronavirus and support workers who got sick. In the American Rescue Plan, Congress extended tax credits to small and mid-size businesses that gave workers paid sick leave. Now, we need enact paid family and medical leave for all employees so that no family has to choose between a paycheck and taking care of one another.
You can watch and read my remarks here.
Cyber Ninjas CEO Testimony
Today, I sent a letter with Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) to Douglas Logan, Chief Executive Officer and Principal Consultant of Cyber Ninjas, Inc., requesting his testimony at a hearing on October 7, 2021, regarding Cyber Ninjas’ role in an “audit” of 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County, Arizona in the 2020 election.
This request follows his repeated refusal to produce documents requested by the Oversight Committee regarding this largely privately funded audit. As a result of this obstruction, Mr. Logan’s participation in a Committee hearing is necessary for the Committee to advance the investigation of the questionable audit his company performed and to examine whether this audit is interfering with Americans’ right to vote free from partisan interference.
You can read the full letter here.
Snapshot From NY-12
Earlier this week, I met with Tiffany Caban, Julie Won, Jonathan Forgash, and other leaders to talk about our Western Queens community’s priorities in President Biden’s Build Back Better package.
We agreed that there should be WiFi throughout Western Queens and storm infrastructure with flood control so we are best prepared for the next storm or hurricane, and that we must shut down Big Allis!
The annual Congressional App Challenge for NY-12 has officially begun! All middle and high school students in New York’s 12th Congressional District are eligible to apply.
The CAC accepts computer program apps written in any programming language, for any platform (desktop/PC, web, mobile, raspberry Pi, etc.).
The Challenge’s submission portal is now open. The deadline for student submissions is November 1, 2021. The competition is open to all students who meet the eligibility requirements, regardless of coding experience.
Winners will be selected by panels of judges drawn from the local community and honored by their Member of Congress. Their apps are eligible to be featured on display in the U.S. Capitol building, on house.gov, and on the Congressional App Challenge website.
As always, your concerns still and always remain my top priority. Please do not hesitate to email me through my website.