Anna’s Weekly Update and End of the Year Report
Weekly Report From Your Congresswoman
It was a historic and somber week in Congress, with the House adopting two Articles of Impeachment against the President, only the third time in our nation’s history to do so. This will be my last E-Newsletter of the year because the House has adjourned for the remainder of the year. I’ve also included accomplishments in 2019.
Highlights of What I Did in Congress This Week
Voted YES on two Articles of Impeachment
On Wednesday, the House passed two Articles of Impeachment against the President. The first Article accuses the President of abusing his power by withholding congressionally approved security assistance to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into his political rival. In doing so, the President undermined our national security and the integrity of our elections to support his own political interests. The second Article accuses the President of unprecedented obstruction of Congress by defying subpoenas and directing agencies not to cooperate with the investigation.
As I cast my vote for the Articles, I was guided by my oath of office to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The Constitution is the soul of our nation, and by defending it, we are saying we will not be soulless. To review a timeline of the impeachment inquiry and related documents, visit my website.
Voted YES on the Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act
The 2017 Republican Tax Bill took a sledgehammer to the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction by limiting it to $10,000 annually for both individuals and married couples beginning in tax year 2018. Prior to this harmful cap, 194,160 of my constituents claimed an average SALT deduction of $63,083 in 2017. More than half of all taxpayers in our District claimed this credit, and half of these taxpayers earned between $75,000 and $100,000 annually.
I’ve consistently stated that capping the SALT deduction represents an assault on the middle class which is why I cosponsored and voted for the Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act to eliminate the marriage penalty this year and the SALT deduction cap altogether in 2020 and 2021. The measure passed the House by a vote of 218 to 206.
Voted YES on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Implementation Act
The House passed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Implementation Act after months of tough negotiating. Democrats secured critical changes to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) for American workers, delivering an agreement that is stronger than the first draft of USMCA that the Trump Administration put forward. The USMCA now has the strongest enforcement mechanisms of any U.S. trade agreement, as well as critical victories for workers, lower prescription drug costs, and environmental protections.
Voted on Spending Bills
This week the House considered two spending bills to provide funding for the federal government for 2020. I voted ‘Yes’ on the first spending bill, which increases funding for important investments in public health, housing, education, child care, clean energy, infrastructure, and foreign aid. Importantly, the legislation includes $25 million split between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health to study the public health impacts of gun violence, the first time such funding has been provided in more than 20 years!
I voted ‘No’ on the second spending bill because it failed to significantly reduce funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and hold them accountable for their inhumane treatment of migrants at the border. The legislation also fails to limit the Trump Administration’s ability to transfer funding from other accounts to pay for his misguided wall on the southern border. While there were other good provisions in this bill, I could not in good conscience vote for legislation that does not hold the Trump Administration accountable for cruel immigration policies.
Legislative Accomplishments of 2019
The first year of the new Democratic Majority has been highly productive. The House passed over 450 bills, with 330 of them being bipartisan. We tackled the important issues to strengthen health care, implement background checks for firearms, protect our environment, and secure election security and voter rights. Below are some highlights of the 452 bills I sponsored and cosponsored this year.
Passage of 31 Bipartisan Bills by the Health Subcommittee which I Chair
On January 15, 2019, the Democratic Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee elected me as the first woman ever to serve as Chair of the Health Subcommittee. In my first year as Chairwoman, my Subcommittee passed 31 bills to:
- Lower drug prices
- Strengthen the ACA
- Fund critical public health programs and workforce training programs
- End surprise billing
- Address the maternal health crisis
- End the youth e-cigarette epidemic
Each of the 31 bills passed by my Subcommittee received bipartisan support, either through bipartisan cosponsors or bipartisan votes in the Committee or in the full House.
To review a full list of the hearings and legislation we passed, click here.
Passage of H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act
The House of Representatives passed H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act to address the high cost of prescription drugs in the U.S. For the first time in the history of Medicare, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will be able to directly negotiate the price of the most expensive drugs in the country, including insulin. The lower prices will not only apply to Medicare beneficiaries, they will apply to everyone who has private insurance. Manufacturers will no longer be allowed to hike prices faster than the rate of inflation, and very importantly, it caps the out-of-pocket costs of seniors for their prescription drugs at $2,000 annually.
Among several significant policies, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act:
- Lowers drug prices and out-of-pocket costs for all Americans by allowing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate directly with drug companies. The lower prices and cost-sharing will apply to Medicare and ALL private insurance plans.
- Stops drug price hikes by requiring manufacturers who raise the price of any drug that is covered by Medicare (including generics) above the rate of inflation to lower the price or pay the entire price above inflation back to the government.
- Limits out-of-pocket costs on prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries. For the first time in the history of the Medicare Part D program every senior will have their out-of-pocket costs capped at $2,000. Today, some seniors pay up to $5,100 in out-of-pocket costs and some pay more.
- Increases NIH funding to research and develop new cures. It provides $2.895 billion for the FDA to ensure the safety of our drugs; invests in our community health centers; and directs $10 billion to address the opioid crisis.
- Adds vision, hearing, and dental coverage for Medicare beneficiaries, as well as colonoscopies and lymphedema treatment.
Passage of a Resolution to Recognize the Armenian Genocide
After fighting for 27 years to end the official U.S. silence regarding the first genocide of the 20th century, I led the effort to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide, and the House passed a resolution to do so on a bipartisan vote. Between 1915 and 1923, 1.5 million Armenians, and hundreds of thousands of Assyrians, Greeks, Syriacs, Arameans, Maronites, and other Christians were systematically slaughtered at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. There is a historic parallel today as Turkey is once again engaging in ethnic cleansing, this time against the Kurds in Syria. The resolution we passed not only honors and commemorates my Armenian and Assyrian ancestors and all those who perished in the first genocide of the 20th century, but it also serves as a timely reminder that we must remain vigilant to prevent similar atrocities today. 100+ years of official U.S. silence ended on October 29th with a bipartisan vote of 405 to 11. The Senate passed the Resolution last week on December 12th. The U.S. has now joined the 49 U.S. states and over 2 dozen countries, including 14 NATO allies, that have passed Armenian Genocide resolutions.
Introduction of the Online Privacy Act, the Strongest Privacy Bill in Congress
Every American is vulnerable to privacy violations with few tools to defend themselves. Too often, our private information online is stolen, abused, used for profit, or grossly mishandled. In November, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) joined me to introduce the Online Privacy Act. Our legislation secures individuals’ privacy, encourages innovation, and restores trust in technology companies. It protects our privacy by:
- Creating User Rights – The bill grants every American the right to access, correct, or delete their data. It also creates new rights, like the right to impermanence, which lets users decide how long companies can keep their data.
- Placing Clear Obligations on Companies – The bill minimizes the amount of data companies collect, process, disclose, and maintain, and bars companies from using data in discriminatory ways. Additionally, companies must receive consent from users in plain, simple language.
- Establishing a Digital Privacy Agency (DPA) – The bill establishes an independent agency led by a Director that’s appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for a five-year term. The DPA will enforce privacy protections and investigate abuses.
- Strengthening Enforcement – The bill empowers state attorneys general to enforce violations of the bill and allows individuals to appoint nonprofits to represent them in private class action lawsuits.
Our bill received strong endorsements from public interest organizations, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) ranked our bill the strongest of nine privacy bills in Congress.
Passage of the Presidential Tax Transparency Act as a part of H.R. 1, the For the People Act
The House passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act, to restore trust in our government. The legislation addresses corruption, strengthens our democracy, and returns power to the people of our country. I’m proud to have one of my bills included in H.R. 1 that requires sitting presidents, vice presidents, and major party nominees for both offices to disclose their 10 most recent federal income tax returns to the public. Presidents and presidential candidates should be required by law to inform the American people of their finances so we can determine who will best make decisions in the interest of our country.
Passage of the TRACED Act to End the Scourge of Robocalls
Americans received an unfathomable 48 billion robocalls last year and a near-record 5.5 billion calls in October of this year, but relief is on the way! The House and Senate passed the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act. The bill will bring much needed relief to all of us who are subjected to abusive robocall practices. This legislation requires that phone carriers implement call authentication technology and offer call blocking services to consumers at no additional charge. Importantly, it requires the FCC to enact safeguards so companies cannot abuse robocall exemptions, and ensures the FCC has the authority and the tools to take strong, quick action when it tracks down robocallers. The bill awaits the President’s signature.
Three of My Health Bills Passed the House, Two of Them Were Signed into Law
Pandemic and All-Hazards Advancing Innovation Act
My bipartisan Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act (PAHPA) was signed into law to strengthen and improve U.S. national preparedness and response for public health emergencies, including infectious diseases such as Ebola and measles, natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires, and manmade disasters. The legislation provides essential funding to bolster our defenses against bioterrorism and public health emergencies.
ACE Kids Act
My bipartisan legislation with Reps. Castor, Bilirakis, and Herrera Beutler, the Advancing Care for Exceptional Kids Act (ACE Kids Act), was signed into law to improve how care is delivered to America’s children with complex medical conditions on Medicaid. The legislation allows states to opt into a new Medicaid program which will provide complete wrap-around healthcare services for the nation’s sickest children. The ACE Kids Act aims to better coordinate this care while reducing overall Medicaid spending by creating a Medicaid care coordination program. This legislation is based on existing programs that save money by decreasing hospital visits and improving care. Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital was a sterling partner in this effort.
Purple Book Continuity Act
The House unanimously passed my bipartisan Purple Book Continuity Act to make drugs more affordable by bringing transparency to the current patent system. The legislation implements transparency reforms to the Purple Book, a document created by the Food and Drug Administration, which manufacturers use when considering where to invest their research and development dollars. Under my legislation, the Purple Book will be updated more routinely and be made available easily online, informing manufacturers of brand-name biological drug patents that are expiring. This will encourage manufacturers to develop alternatives to high cost drugs, adding pricing pressure to the drug market and saving patients money.
Passage of the Energy Efficient Government Technology Act
The House passed my bipartisan legislation that increases efficiency of federal data centers. The Energy Efficient Government Technology Act directs the Executive branch to harness information and communications technologies to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy use within the federal government.
As the nation’s largest energy user, landowner, and employer, the federal government should lead by example to improve the energy efficiency of its technology equipment and data centers. This legislation will reduce the federal government’s energy use, save taxpayer dollars, and set the standard for the private sector. This legislation is still awaiting a vote in the Senate and I look forward to them taking this up in 2020.
Passage of Key Provisions of the TRUE Fees Act
Cable companies pocket an estimated $28 billion a year from the American people by advertising one price to customers and then tacking on confusing charges and hidden fees to their bills. Congress passed key provisions from my TRUE Fees Act which requires cable and satellite TV providers to disclose an ‘all-in’ price to consumers, including fees and taxes, before consumers sign up for a service; requires that consumers receive a formal notice of fees and ‘all-in’ prices within 24 hours of signing up for a service; and grants consumers 24 hours to cancel after receiving formal notice of fees, without penalty.
Passage of the Save the Internet Act
The House passed the Save the Internet Act to restore bipartisan net neutrality protections for consumers and small businesses. The legislation reverses the Trump Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) wrong-headed repeal of critical net neutrality protections in late 2017. Since the FCC’s decision to end net neutrality, control of the Internet has been taken from the American people and handed over to Internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon, empowering them to generate new profits by restricting access.
The Save the Internet Act is a simple, but powerful three-page bill that wrests control from ISPs and restores the internet as an open platform for content, speech, and information. The Internet is one of the greatest communication networks in human history and an American invention. It’s our responsibility to protect it as a force to drive innovation, expand our economy, and promote free speech in our democracy. Watch my floor speech on the Save the Internet Act here.
Town Hall Meetings
I held 15 Telephone Town Hall Meetings and six in-person Town Hall Meetings throughout our District to give constituents the opportunity to ask me questions and voice their concerns. Thousands of constituents participated in to our Tele-Town Hall Meetings and our in-person Town Hall Meetings. With each Town Hall Meeting, I’m inspired by the deep sense of patriotism of my constituents, and that together we can keep our country a beacon of hope and freedom.
In the first year of the 116th Congress, my office received over 115,000 letters, phone calls, and email from constituents about issues they care about. I appreciate the time constituents take to write to me, and I want you to know that I personally read and respond to every letter my constituents send to me. I never put out ‘group letters’ or ‘canned mail’ and I don’t plan to. I value what my constituents say to me, and I always need your thoughts and benefit from your ideas.
2019 has been a historic year in Congress. It has been stressful and it has been productive and there’s much work to do in 2020. Whether it’s working to meet the challenges of climate change; ensure Americans have access to affordable health insurance; bring down the cost of prescription drugs; strengthen our privacy rights; protect our environment; or save the free and open Internet, I will continue to be an outspoken champion for my constituents and advance impactful legislation in the second year of the 116th Congress.
Should you have any questions or comments, let me hear from you. I value what my constituents say to me, and I always need your thoughts and benefit from your ideas. May the New Year be filled with every blessing for you, your family, and our country. It is an honor to represent you and I pledge to continue advancing policies that will strengthen our democracy, our people, our economy, and our values.