Anna's Weekly Update
This week I attended an unclassified briefing for Members of Congress on the ongoing coronavirus outbreak by leadership of:
- CDC (the Centers for Disease and Prevention),
- ASPR (Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response)
- NIH (National Institutes of Health)
- FDA (Food and Drug Administration)
- DHS (Department of Homeland Security)
- State (Department of State)
- DOD (Department of Defense)
My questions to the professionals were about the steps federal agencies are taking to separate airplanes that have arrived from international destinations from those flying domestic routes and what steps all airlines have been instructed to take to disinfect the airplanes to mitigate further transmission of the disease. Since almost all generic drugs are manufactured in China, I asked yet another question about our nation’s drug supply and whether the Administration is anticipating any shortages.
This week we learned a.) the second person-to-person transmission in the United States was reported in Northern California and yesterday and b.) the Food and Drug Administration announced the first drug shortage of a generic drug product as a result of circumstances on the ground related to the coronavirus outbreak in China. I have previously raised concerns about the resiliency of our nation’s drug supply and our overreliance on foreign manufactured medical products. While these developments are alarming, rest assured I’m tracking these issue and other issues related to the coronavirus outbreak closely and I am working with the federal agencies responsible for our nation’s response to ensure they have the resources they need to treat and protect all Americans.
According to the CDC, the risk to the general American public remains low. For the latest information about the coronavirus, you can visit the CDC’s website. Reminder, washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze, and staying home when you are sick continue to be important prevention steps.
Election Security Town Hall Meeting
Thank you to everyone who attended our Election Security Town Hall Meeting on February 20th. It was an honor to host California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), and we are all grateful to the President of San Jose State University, Mary Papazian, for everything she and her team did to make our meeting such a successful one. If you couldn’t make the Town Hall Meeting in person, you can watch the event here. There was highly instructive information shared on the many issues that surround the security of our election systems.
Highlights of What I Did in Congress This Week
Hearing on the Coronavirus Response and HHS Budget
As Chairwoman of the Health Subcommittee, I held the first hearing on the Administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, formally known as COVID-19, and the President’s proposed budget cuts to key health agencies, including those that are critical to responding to the virus. Our witnesses included Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar; National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci; FDA Commissioner of Food and Drugs, Dr. Stephen Hahn; HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Dr. Robert Kaldec; and CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield.
The HHS Secretary sits atop the National Institutes of Health, Federal Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and because of these critically important and broad responsibilities, I grilled him on why the Administration has proposed $1.13 billion in cuts, especially as we face the crisis regarding COVID-19. The President’s budget cuts include:
- Approximately $700 million in cuts to the CDC;
- $430 million in cuts to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases budget focused on infectious diseases.
The President’s budget also cuts essential health programs including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. In total, the Administration cuts $1.6 trillion in funding for health care programs, jeopardizing the health of 150 million Americans. As Chairwoman I demanded the swift advancement of a strong, strategic funding package that addresses the scale and seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak.
You can watch video of my opening statement HERE.
Hearing on Communications Networks to Help Americans During Emergencies
I requested a hearing to review the state of our telecommunications during disasters, and on Thursday, February 27th the Communications and Telecommunications Subcommittee examined legislative proposals to improve the resiliency of communications networks during disasters, including my legislation, the WIRED Act. The bill allows states to require wireless companies to deploy resilient infrastructure so that cellphone networks can withstand disasters. For example, California would be empowered to require wireless companies to include backup power at cell towers in case power is cut during wildfires or power shutoffs. An improved infrastructure would help strengthen wireless communications during disasters and save lives. To watch the hearing, click HERE.
Voted YES on the Protecting American Lungs and Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act
It was exciting to vote for the Protecting American Lungs and Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act to combat the increase in youth tobacco use. This legislation originated in my Health Subcommittee where we raised the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21 years, and we extended restrictions on tobacco marketing, sales, and flavors to e-cigarettes. The legislation also closes the tax loophole for e-cigarettes by establishing tax parity with current tobacco taxes. E-cigarette use among young people is threatening to ensnare an entire generation of young Americans in nicotine addiction, and today the House passed this critically important bill to stop kids from using tobacco and e-cigarettes.
Legislation Anna Introduced and Cosponsored this Week
Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act
Every year the world produces over 335 million tons of plastic and this volume is increasing annually. By 2050, global plastic production is projected to triple and will account for 20 percent of global oil consumption, and nearly two-thirds of plastic produced becomes waste. To reduce plastic waste, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act will:
- Require producers of packaging, containers, and food-service products to design, manage, and finance waste and recycling programs;
- Create a nationwide beverage container refund program similar to the one we have in California;
- Ban certain single-use plastic products that are not recyclable;
- Ban single-use plastic carryout bags and charge a fee on the distribution of remaining carryout bags.
Meeting with Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN)
It was wonderful to welcome PanCAN to my Washington D.C. office to talk about advancing legislation to improve outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients. Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest of cancers, and I’ve worked with PanCAN to invest in more research to make progress toward a cure. As Chairwoman of the Deadliest Cancers Caucus, funding at the National Cancer Institute for recalcitrant cancers has increased by nearly 50 percent.
Privacy and Tech Experts Announce Support for the Online Privacy Act
This week 15 additional privacy advocates, civil rights groups, consumer rights advocates, public interest groups, nonprofits, think tanks, academics, former senior government officials, technologists, private sector leaders, and authors announced their support for the Online Privacy Act, comprehensive privacy legislation I introduced with Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. Of the privacy bills introduced in the House and Senate, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) ranked the Online Privacy Act the strongest bill and gave the bill its only ‘A’ rating. To look at a full list of the bill’s supporters and learn more about the legislation, click here.
In the Words of My Constituents
Every week hundreds of my constituents call and write to me to express their concerns, share their passions, and ask questions regarding legislation and policies. Over 13,067 constituents have contacted me in 2020. I actually read every communication and every constituent receives a personal response to their specific questions and comments from me. This week, 1,353 constituents contacted our office about issues including:
- 181 constituents wrote to me in opposition of fracking
- 61 constituents wrote to me in support of eliminating the time limit on the ERA ratification
- 50 constituents wrote to me in support of the Banning Toxic Pesticides Act
Anna's Recommended Reading and Watching
I frequently read articles or see videos that I think my constituents would benefit from.
SJ Mercury News Opinion (2/26/2020) – “Trump’s budget puts coronavirus response at risk”
This is an Op-Ed I wrote which was carried by the San Jose Mercury News about health professionals’ vital work in the aftermath of outbreaks like the novel coronavirus. I also draw attention to the President’s dangerous budget cuts to the health agencies that are charged with responding to the outbreak.
U.S. Census Job Openings
The U.S. Census Bureau needs to hire more workers in the Bay Area for the 2020 Census. They have temporary supervisory, outreach, and recruiting positions available, the pay is competitive, and the work is critical to obtaining an accurate count for next year’s census. You can find more information on available positions HERE.
NSGP Application Webinars
California’s Office of Emergency Management is holding application workshops and webinars for nonprofits interested in applying for the NSGP. Eligible nonprofits must apply for the workshops by March 23, 2020. You can find the dates and locations HERE.