The things we should do to make us safer, healthier, and more economically secure.
The beginning of this year, the GOP assumed control of all three branches of government. Since then, I along with hundreds of thousands of people in Oregon and millions across America have been fighting to protect our countries’ values and ideals. This resistance is critical as we face assaults on health care, the environment, and vulnerable communities – and continue to get to the bottom of serious questions that remain unanswered about Russia.
At the same time, there are important areas that we need to keep pushing forward to make progress.
Every day through the House’s five-week in-district work period, beginning on July 29, I will share on this page one issue area that we should address to make sure our community – and communities across America – are safer, healthier, and more economically secure.
#1: Establishing health care for all
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was the most important health care accomplishment since Medicare. It has led to the lowest uninsured rate in history and the slowest growth in health care costs in 50 years. I will continue to fight against its repeal, and work to improve it. It has become increasingly clear, however, that the ACA alone will not resolve health inequality or guarantee access to care. The United States needs a truly universal, single-payer health care system – similar to the less costly and more effective systems in Western Europe, Australia, and Canada. We must recognize health care as a right, not a privilege. Ultimately, we need a universal system that covers everyone from cradle to grave. This is a starting place. We all need to help refine our approach and build public understanding. That is why I’ve helped introduce H.R. 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, which establishes a single-payer health care system. I will continue to support a single-payer system and urge my colleagues in Congress to provide health coverage for all Americans.
#2: Making prescription drugs more affordable
Drug companies have been taking advantage of Americans for too long. As drug prices have risen at an alarming rate, we need to protect the affordability of necessary medical treatments. New drugs for cancer and rare diseases can cost more than $100,000 a year, causing many to choose between their health or their family’s financial security. Even generic medicines for chronic conditions, such as insulin, have seen prices triple or more between 2002-2013. Big Pharma continues to get rich while Americans are being gouged. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is currently the only agency that is allowed to use the power of the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies. We must also allow Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate drug prices to get a better deal on behalf of patients. I am a strong supporter of the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act, which would legalize these negotiations and lower drug prices for Medicare and Medicaid patients.
#3: Improving and expanding Medicaid
The ACA provided health care to millions of people across the country. In Oregon, the ACA helped drop the state’s uninsured rate by 65 percent, granting access to affordable healthcare to nearly half a million people. We need to continue reducing the number of uninsured and find ways to improve Medicaid. This is not only about flexibility—it’s about expanding coverage in exchange for better performance. In states that didn’t expand Medicaid, a family of three earning just $8,870 a year makes too much to qualify for the program, but too little to qualify for a subsidy to purchase coverage on the health care exchange. This is a glaring gap in coverage for those who need it most. It’s crucial to give these so called “non-expansion” states more flexibility to expand Medicaid past this arbitrary line. In Oregon, the expansion of Medicaid was coupled with reforms to better coordinate health care and cover social services. As a result, Oregon covered more people while spending less. We need to allow more states to follow Oregon’s lead, and invest in reforms that expand coverage to aid more children, women, seniors, and people with disabilities. This will take us one step closer to expanding Medicaid for more Americans, in hopes of one day providing health care for all.
#4: Protecting women’s reproductive rights
Government should not interfere between health care decisions made between women, their families, and medical care providers. Throughout my career, I've worked to protect, support, and expand women’s reproductive rights. I have repeatedly voted against attempts to undermine a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion, and I strongly oppose efforts to limit access to reproductive health services and defund Planned Parenthood. I am proud to represent Oregon, which recently passed legislation to protect a woman’s right to abortion care. Oregon insurers are also required to cover contraception, prenatal and postpartum care, screenings for reproductive cancers and STIs, and counseling for survivors of domestic violence. These comprehensive services should be available and affordable for all women and families in the United States, without burdensome costs and requirements or arbitrary waiting periods. As a member of the Pro-Choice Caucus, I’ve worked with my colleagues to introduce the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Woman Act and the Women's Health Protection Act. Together, these bills would repeal the Hyde Amendment, which currently prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion, and prohibit states from imposing strict and costly barriers on abortion providers and the people they serve. I also strongly support the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act, which would permanently block the Global Gag Rule, also known as the “Mexico City policy.” This current misguided policy, reinstated by the Trump Administration, bans federal funds for foreign non-governmental organizations that provide abortion services or that merely provide information about abortion as part of comprehensive family planning services. Making sure the federal government is a stronger ally and partner to women and supports their reproductive rights is essential to a safer, healthier, and more economically secure America.
#5: Improving mental health care
We see more and more evidence that individuals in our community aren’t receiving critical, necessary mental health services. Emergency rooms and jails, sadly, are becoming primary sites of care for individuals in the midst of a mental health crisis. We must find better, more compassionate ways to help our most vulnerable who suffer from severe and persistent mental illness. I was proud to help pass the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act last year. This legislation was a starting place for expanding federal resources and removing barriers towards mental health treatment. But more must be done. We need to invest in prevention, funding treatment, and building tools to provide care and healing for individuals with mental illness. Mental health treatment can be difficult to find. Oftentimes patients who seek help are placed on waiting lists or turned away for a lack of space or providers. There simply aren’t enough providers or mental health facilities. To address this, I support the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment Accessibility Act, which would provide more funding and better loans to create new mental health and substance abuse treatment clinics. I also support the Medicare Mental Health Access Act, which would expand the types of mental health providers who can treat Medicare beneficiaries. Finally, I’m a strong advocate for the Medicaid Bump Act of 2017, which would increase funding for state Medicaid programs in order to provide more mental and behavioral health services. Together, these bills will help increase the number of clinics, providers, and incentives for states to provide services. I will continue to fight in Congress for better resources for mental health systems. These are issues that affect us all in our communities – it’s far past time that we stop ignoring them and find solutions that promote healing.
#6: Improving end-of-life care
Every patient should be empowered to receive health care consistent with their values, goals, and informed preferences and to have those care decisions honored by their family and providers. During passage of the ACA, I saw an opportunity to apply lessons learned in Oregon with its landmark comprehensive palliative care programs, which give patients more of a say about the medical treatment they want at the end of life. I worked to make sure that Congress included a payment for doctors to talk to patients and families about advance care planning in the ACA. Unfortunately, this provision wasn’t included in the final legislation due to a breakdown of the legislative process. After years of advocacy, Medicare finally designed a benefit allowing doctors to receive reimbursement for voluntary advance care planning conversations with their patients. Last year, for the first time, Medicare paid for these critical doctor-patient discussions in the same way it pays for any other medical service. My work to improve end-of-life care, however, is far from over. This year I introduced the bipartisan Patient Choice and Quality Care Act of 2017. This legislation builds on our successes and will provide high-quality care for individuals with advanced illnesses and enhance training, resources, and tools for providers, patients, and their families. I’m proud to represent Oregon, which pioneered the death with dignity movement. Oregon law allows terminally-ill Oregonians to choose to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications prescribed by a physician. Patients and their doctors should have the ability to make these personal and private end-of-life decisions without federal interference. Everyone deserves to have their wishes for care understood, respected, and enforced.
#7: Advancing a thoughtful & compassionate approach to immigration reform
I’ve long supported a more rational, compassionate approach to immigration, including: 1) Comprehensively reforming our immigration system: We need comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the 11.3 million people currently living in the United States without documentation, providing them a clear path to citizenship. This is something that three-quarters of all Americans support, for undocumented residents who are law-abiding, tax-paying, and already part of the fabric of American life. 2) Keeping our commitment to DREAMers: Because of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children were protected from deportation and able to work for a specified period of time. I have personally met many of these DREAMers, and they are some of the most determined, brave, and inspiring people I’ve ever known. They put their faith in us by registering for this program. We need to keep our commitment to them. Immigrants have always added to the diversity, character, and economic vitality of our communities. This diversity is what makes our country great. A compassionate and thoughtful approach to immigration reform is long overdue. I will continue working to make such reform a reality.
#8: Encouraging innovation in health care
As we debate changes to our overall health care system, there are things that we can do now to bring health care costs down and improve care. How we deliver care to patients with kidney disease – specifically end-stage renal disease (ESRD) – can be improved. Most patients suffering from kidney failure visit dialysis clinics three times a week. These visits are time-consuming, and typically are not the only medical services dialysis patients require on a weekly basis. I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation to let kidney disease patients receive primary care and other necessary health services while they’re at dialysis clinics – improving their care while saving valuable time and money for patients and providers. Often, it’s not necessary to spend more money to deliver care. Rather, we need to spend our dollars more wisely to improve the value of care delivered. I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation to implement Value-Based Insurance Design (V-BID) in our health care system. This legislation would lower or remove out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs and services for patients with chronic conditions, helping to reduce long-term costs and improve health overall. It is an efficient, common-sense way to provide an economic incentive to help more people receive the care they need. Congress needs to challenge conventional thinking to develop innovative, cost-effective, and compassionate policies that make a real difference for patients across the country. Kidney care and Value-Based Insurance Design are just two examples and a good start.
#9: Addressing income inequality & ensuring a living wage
It’s no secret that income inequality is a major issue plaguing America today. The richest 400 Americans have more money than the combined wealth of the bottom 61 percent of the country, more than 194 million people. It is clear that we need to create a more equitable society, where every American earns a living wage for their honest work. In 2016, nearly 48 million people earned an annual income of $15,000 or less. That’s barely enough to live on, and certainly not enough to support a family. Today’s federal minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour. It’s out of date with the modern economy, and it’s not keeping up with inflation. Raising the minimum wage would help lift American families out of poverty and encourage spending, investment, and economic growth. It’s promising to see individual cities and states – including Oregon – take steps to help workers, but Congress must act as well. That’s why I joined Reps. Keith Ellison and Bobby Scott to introduce the Raise the Wage Act, which would increase the federal minimum wage incrementally to $15 an hour by 2024. People also need to be compensated fairly for overtime work. I support reducing the exceptions to overtime pay requirements in the Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA requires businesses to pay workers time and a half if they work more than 40 hours in a week. But employees with a salary over $23,660 aren’t eligible for overtime pay, a figure that has not been adjusted for inflation or revisited since 2004. This needs to change. Another way to lift living standards and worker’s pay is to increase and expand the earned income tax credit (EITC). This tax credit is targeted to increase the wages of the lowest income workers, particularly those with children. It is simple, effective, and has bipartisan support. It’s time to raise and expand the EITC, using the tax code to help people who deserve it most. In addition to these steps, we must once and for all fix our broken tax code to ensure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share of taxes.
#10: Ensuring paid family leave
Americans should not be forced to choose between taking care of a sick family member or earning an income. Whether it’s taking care of an aging parent, a sick spouse, or a newborn, paid family leave creates a positive work-life balance. We are the only industrialized country to not have paid family leave on the national level, and that is an embarrassment. I support the FAMILY Act, which would ensure that workers can take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for a pregnancy, the birth or adoption of a child, to recover from a serious illness, or to care for a seriously ill family member. Having a family member who requires extra assistance is a heavy responsibility on its own, and with the added stress of balancing a job, it can be entirely overwhelming. We should not require employees to choose between their familial responsibilities and their paycheck.
#11: Holding Wall Street accountable
The 2008 crisis was among the greatest challenges that our country ever faced. Eight million jobs were lost. Housing values crashed, leaving millions of families faced with foreclosure, bankruptcy, and homelessness. Billions of dollars of retiree savings were wiped out, while massive taxpayer-financed bailouts were implemented. The crisis also ushered in a financial anxiety that threatened the entire world’s financial system. The resulting panic hindered growth and negatively impacted the global economy for over six years. To make sure that a crisis like this doesn’t happen again, we should regulate, prosecute, and defend. We need to reinstate Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era bank regulation that helped promote stability in the financial industry. Not only would it remove unnecessary complexity from the financial markets, but it would also limit some types of risky bets that contributed to the Great Recession. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) was created to rein in Wall Street, end taxpayer bailouts of big banks, and protect consumers. Among the most important provisions of this legislation is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Just as American consumers are protected from products that can cause serious physical harm, they should also be protected from products that can cause financial ruin. Extending homeowners the same financial status in bankruptcy as speculators is another simple protection we should put in place. People who speculate in multiple real estate properties can use bankruptcy laws to alter their loan balances and interest rates. If homeowners were treated similarly, we could have kept hundreds of thousands of people in their homes and forced banks to be more responsible lenders. We should prosecute wrongdoers. Sending people to jail will send a message. All of the people in U.S. prisons collectively have not stolen as much with guns as the American public, pension funds, and businesses lost in the near meltdown of the economy. Every time someone illegally profits from a financial transaction, someone else loses. Crooks, whatever the color of their collars, should be held accountable. Finally, we must defend the progress we made during the Obama administration, and block the concerted effort by some in the finance industry to hijack consumer protections and rebuild them in their favor. Regulation like Dodd-Frank and regulatory agencies like the CFPB protect people from irresponsible business practices and ensures that they do not pay the price for others’ illegal actions.
#12: Accelerating to a clean energy future
Climate change is the biggest environmental challenge of our time, and the United States is a major contributor to this problem. We have an obligation to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and lead in clean energy development. That’s why I’m fighting to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency in Congress. I’m proud to represent Oregon, long recognized for cutting-edge development and support of renewable energy industries, energy conservation, green building, sustainable transportation, and smart growth. My state, along with others, is committed to acting on climate and upholding the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Congress should heed these examples and continue America on the path toward a clean energy future. Whether through tax provisions that level the playing field for renewables, increasing energy efficiency, or pricing carbon, our ultimate goal should be a 100% renewable energy economy. I support legislation that lays the groundwork for this transition, as well as legislation that invests in energy efficiency upgrades for our schools and public buildings. I strongly support taxes on carbon emissions to ensure that polluters pay their fair share and that renewable energy industries have a chance to thrive on a level playing field. The renewable energy sector is growing faster than ever, but we have no time to waste. We must invest in these technologies and complementary initiatives to move our economy toward 100% clean, renewable power. Let’s lead the world in conservation and clean energy production.
#13: Putting a price on carbon emissions
As a nation, and as a world, we are far too reliant on burning fossil fuels for energy. Consuming this wasteful, expensive energy source degrades our environment and creates harmful greenhouse gas emissions. The scientific evidence and consensus behind the impact of these emissions is clear – climate change is bringing record temperatures, erratic and dangerous weather patterns, social disruption, and more severe ocean acidification, drought, disease, and wildfires. We have a moral responsibility to reverse this trend and drastically limit the carbon pollution from our energy sector. It’s past time for the federal government to put a price on carbon emissions. A carbon tax is a starting point to reduce emissions and support a more rapid transition to a clean energy future in a straightforward, cost-effective manner. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation that would impose a fee on America’s biggest polluters. Making sure that fossil fuel companies pay their fair share helps level the playing field by pricing dirty energy accurately – so clean energy can better compete. To ensure that the American people aren’t hurt by this price on carbon, part of the fee would be returned to the public every year as a refundable tax credit. Additional funds would be used to help vulnerable communities who might be impacted by higher heating and electricity bills. Another portion of the revenue would be used to help us avoid the looming Social Security crisis. When paired with investments in public transit, affordable housing, and clean energy jobs, particularly in those communities most impacted by climate change, this bill can kick-start much-needed climate action. A carbon tax could generate trillions of dollars, replacing expensive and often conflicting energy subsidies. We could reduce the threat of climate change while making the tax system simpler and fairer. This is a non-partisan, non-ideological, widely-supported and critical step forward. Instead of debating policies of division and denial, it’s time for us to come together and support a carbon tax that can solve multiple problems and meet our obligations to future generations.
#14: Protecting our public lands
America’s public lands are national treasures, and we all share responsibility for their conservation. Millions of acres have been set aside to protect cultural resources, wildlife habitat, water quality, outdoor recreation opportunities, and more. These public lands – mountains, rivers, forests, deserts, and cultural sites – belong to all Americans and should be preserved for the use and enjoyment of future generations. From defending our National Monuments to supporting the Land and Water Conservation Fund to advocating for more Wild and Scenic Rivers and other conservation designations, I am working to protect special and wild places. Our public lands should be kept in public hands, and Congress should expand designations to protect wildlife habitat, water quality, outdoor recreation, and cultural resources.
#15: Banning offshore drilling
The United States must act to protect fragile and vulnerable areas from offshore drilling. We need to preserve natural ecosystems across the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans, which is why I strongly support permanently protecting these waters from drilling that could irreversibly damage habitat, impact water quality, and affect natural processes in our oceans and on our shores. My colleagues and I have developed legislation to ban offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans and off the U.S. West Coast. We must protect our oceans. Rather than drilling in some of the most ecologically sensitive regions in the world, we should support programs that reduce pollution and quickly transition our economy and energy sector to a clean, sustainable future. Our legacy should be one of conservation, careful investment in preservation of precious natural resources, and protection of human health and our fragile climate.
#16: Making housing affordable for EVERYONE
America has enjoyed a resurgence of urban centers and increased demand for walkable and livable neighborhoods. But communities, including my hometown of Portland, have struggled to keep pace with building and preserving affordable housing as market forces drive up prices and fuel redevelopment. This hits seniors, low-income people, and even middle-income families, especially hard. This requires a swift, decisive, and comprehensive response. I will continue to strongly support efforts to help struggling homeowners and improve access to affordable housing. We need to give communities the tools to incentivize building low-cost housing and protect or even expand Section 8 housing vouchers. We all must continue supporting programs like the Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnership Program. These investments are particularly important for the Portland metropolitan area. Housing, just like highways and schools, is critical infrastructure. It requires maintenance and development. I worked with the Federal Transit Administration to make it easier to build affordable housing along transit routes so that livable communities are accessible to people of all income levels. I’ve also sponsored legislation to improve the Low Income Housing Tax Credit to better leverage private investment and spur affordable housing development. With the right combination of ingenuity and resources, we can solve this problem. Both citizens and government need to take an active role in developing affordable housing.
#17: Making college affordable
With rapid changes in technology and the relentless pace of automation, now more than ever, Americans want a college degree to compete in the global economy. That said, the skyrocketing cost of tuition puts college out of reach for too many people. Nationally, the average student attending a four-year college leaves with over $30,000 in student debt. This should be unacceptable. This crisis is why I support the College for All Act, which eliminates tuition and fees at public colleges and universities for families making under $125,000 a year. It also allows Americans to refinance their student loans, and prevents the government from profiting from student loan programs. I will continue to advocate for strong and consistent federal support for education and initiatives that invest in the next generation. This also means we must reign in for-profit colleges, which often leave students with mountains of debt, worthless degrees, and little to no transferrable skills to get a job. Every American should have the opportunity to get an education, regardless of socioeconomic status. Access to a quality public education is critical to create a level playing field for all and a stronger America.
#18: Establishing more rational nuclear policies
I’ve worked throughout my career to reduce the development and threat of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are dangerous, costly, and don’t help us deal with the strategic challenges we face today. For the sake of our safety, global stability and fiscal sanity, and for future generations, we need a more rational approach: 1) The decision to use a nuclear weapon should never be made by one person alone. Earlier this year, I joined Representative Ted Lieu to introduce H.R. 669, legislation prohibiting any president—including the present one—from conducting a first-use nuclear strike without prior authorization from Congress; 2) Our defense budget is already bloated, yet we’re going to spend over $1 trillion dollars over the next 30 years on upgrading our entire nuclear arsenal. We need to stop this madness. The United States already has enough of these weapons to destroy the earth multiple times. This nuclear weapons escalation will build a force far beyond what we need, can afford, or should use. I introduced the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act to reduce or eliminate redundant nuclear weapons programs, while saving the United States more than $100 billion over the next 10 years. This money would be better spent on helping veterans and supporting our troops, not to mention on roads, bridges, schools, and education; and 3) The United States should also lead efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, not encourage proliferation. We must support key international treaties that hold countries accountable and lead by example. Establishing more rational nuclear policies is the best expression of American leadership for a more peaceful future.
#19: Ensuring people are rewarded—not punished—for pursuing higher education
Over 44 million Americans are faced with student loan debt. With rising tuition prices, students are struggling to pursue an education without jeopardizing their future. In Oregon, over 40,000 students take out need-based loans every year, and the average college student’s debt is $14,000. Students graduate, hopeful for their future, but are burdened by an overwhelming amount of student debt they may never be able to pay off. We need to increase support for higher education and grants for students, but that’s not enough. While banks and businesses can refinance public and private loans at a lower rate, students cannot refinance student loans. I support the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act to allow students to take advantage of lower interest rates and save money. I also support the Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act to encourage employers to provide educational assistance, including loan repayment, for employees. This way, individuals can both make a living and pay off their debt in a reasonable time. Educational debt is holding back an entire generation. Congress must do everything within its power to change the system so that young people will be rewarded, not punished, for pursuing a higher education.
#20: Keeping dark money out of politics
“Dark” special interest money is a direct threat to our democracy. The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC was a radical step toward unraveling the modest campaign finance controls that were in place, and escalated the campaign spending arms race. Citizens and their issues are drowned out by hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent on political campaigns, with no limits, transparency, or accountability. The numbers don’t lie. In the 2008 election cycle, before the Citizens United ruling, outside spending accounted for $338 million. In 2016, six years post-decision, outside spending was at $1.4 billion. That’s a 300 percent increase. Corporations are not people. We must keep dark money out of politics, and make elections and campaigns about the people’s issues. That is why I am a strong advocate for the following three critical bills: H.J.Res. 48: Amends the U.S. Constitution to provide that the rights extended by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons only, not corporations. H.J.Res. 31, the Democracy for All amendment: Amends the U.S. Constitution to reverse highly controversial Supreme Court decisions, like Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC, which have given corporations and America’s wealthiest donors the right to buy unlimited influence in our elections. H.R. 1134, the DISCLOSE Act: Requires all corporations, unions, and Super PACs to report to the FEC within 24 hours of making a $10,000 campaign expenditure and requires that corporations paying for public communications and advertisements are publicly disclosed. We need to make sure that people have faith that their government works for them. Without rolling back Citizens United and enacting broader campaign finance reform, this will be difficult to achieve.
#21: Expanding access to the ballot
The individual right to vote, the cornerstone of our representative democracy, is under threat across America. In 2016, 14 states had new restrictions on voting in place for the first time in a presidential election – disproportionately targeting minority and low-income voters. I’m working to remove barriers to voting by promoting Oregon’s successful automatic voter registration and vote-by-mail systems at the national level. Senator Ron Wyden and I introduced the Vote By Mail Act to expand automatic voter registration and vote by mail to all. I also joined Rep. David Cicilline to introduce the Automatic Voter Registration Act. Automatic voter registration and vote-by-mail are commonsense solutions that are highly effective, reduce opportunities for cheating and mistakes, cost less, and provide more reliable voting results. Oregon voters are given almost four hundred hours to examine the issues and return the ballot either by mail or in person, leading to some of the highest voter turnout in the nation. With the implementation of automatic voter registration in Oregon in 2016, voter turnout among eligible young (age 18-29) voters increased by 7 percent since the 2012 election – evidence that this reform is useful in increasing access to the ballot for these highly mobile new voters. More and more states are following Oregon’s lead. It’s time to expand these programs nationally. We must protect voting as a fundamental right – and any attempts to undermine it must be stopped.
#22: Publicly funding campaigns
“Dark” special interest money has infiltrated our campaigns in the wake of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United v. FEC decision. It is critical that we make our elections about the people, not about ultra-rich special interests. One way to reduce special interest influence is to publicly finance campaigns. I joined my colleagues to introduce the Government By the People Act. This legislation would substantially reduce the influence of dark money, diversify the pool of political candidates, and encourage campaigns to build bases of small donors and real people. By publicly funding campaigns, along with other reforms, we can ensure that money does not act as a barrier to democracy. Everyone should have an equal chance, regardless of support of secret mega donors.
#23: Rebuilding and renewing America
One of the few areas of agreement in American politics is the need for dramatic investment in rebuilding and renewing America. No wonder. America is literally falling apart while we are falling behind our international competitors. One of the major problems is that we are trying to meet the challenges of infrastructure in 2017 with 1993 funding. The gas tax has not been increased in 24 years, and the federal partnership is not being maintained with our state and local communities and the private sector. I have introduced the first gas tax increase since 1994. My legislation would raise the gas tax, index the gas tax to inflation, and then replace the gas tax with a more sustainable and equitable funding system for the future. Our needs are not just roads, bridges, transit, and bikeways – what’s under the surface is in worse condition than what’s on the surface. I’ve introduced legislation that will establish a dedicated water infrastructure trust fund to invest in safe drinking water systems so there aren’t more communities that face dangerous levels of lead in their drinking water. Our inland waterways, electrical grid, schools, and other public buildings are too in need of serious attention, funding, and a vision for planning and constructing more effectively. I have assembled a broad coalition of supporters who understand that the quickest way to create millions of family wage jobs for a wide range of skillsets is to deal with the funding and the vision. It is a priority we can all support and one that I’m committed to ensuring aggressive action in this Congress.
#24: Bringing our infrastructure into the 21st century
Urbanization, changing travel trends, new modes of transportation, and the rapidly approaching revolution of autonomous vehicles (AVs) all will lead to a radically different mobility landscape. Since the last century, the American way of life was designed around the automobile—a huge part of our economy—and culture will change. We have a rare opportunity to use these changes to solve problems rather than create new ones. Whether we have market-ready AVs in five years or 25 years, there is no question they will have a large impact in shaping communities of all sizes. AVs will affect the employment of more than 4 million drivers, the largest source of jobs in more than half of the states. It will also change the car repair and car insurance industries. Integrating AVs with ridesharing and carsharing services will only further disrupt employment trends. Driverless cars will also affect the built environment by making many parking garages and wide traffic lanes obsolete, opening spaces for affordable housing, businesses, bike lanes, and parks. Without proper planning and policies, our infrastructure will fall into further disrepair, and we will squander an opportunity to have smarter, more sustainable cities. Fleets of AVs will be largely electric, contributing little in traditional transportation user fees, like gas taxes, parking fees, and traffic fines. I’m working with my colleagues in Congress to develop forward-thinking legislation to provide for more stable, equitable transportation funding alternatives. This funding can be invested into rebuilding and renewing America to create jobs and build smarter cities to bring our infrastructure into the 21st century.
#25: Making sure everyone has access to safe drinking water
From Flint, Michigan to schools in Portland, access to safe water is increasingly one of the most pressing challenges we face today. Too often out of sight and out of mind, our water systems are literally falling apart while we ignore the problem. Congress should do more to meet our desperate need for water infrastructure investments. While there is no single solution to this problem, I’ve introduced the Water Infrastructure Trust Fund Act to create a dedicated source of revenue for the replacement, repair, and rehabilitation of wastewater and drinking water systems. The fund would support investments in aging sewer systems and water treatment plants, as well as address the systemic challenges affecting access to safe water in low-income populations. In addition to funding, we need regular, rigorous, and transparent testing for lead and other contaminants – especially as our water infrastructure continues to age. Last year, after my community was shocked to learn of widespread lead contamination in drinking water at our schools, I joined Rep. Jackie Speier to introduce the No Lead in School Water Act, legislation that would help schools test for lead contamination and then fund remediation to get rid of it. It’s past time we take action. We must do more to fix our crumbling water infrastructure—the safety and health of everyone depends on it.
#26: Establishing more visionary, equitable, and cost-effective food & farm policies
The Farm Bill is the most important, yet under appreciated, piece of federal legislation that impacts every American. Hopelessly complex and needlessly expensive, it sets priorities for federal investment in our food and agricultural system, and impacts many sectors of our economy. Unfortunately, the bill gives too much to the wrong people to grow the wrong food in the wrong places. These misguided investments benefit large agribusiness, while undermining human health, nutrition, carbon reduction, economic development, land conservation, and animal welfare. Reforming this costly yet inefficient bill is one of my top priorities. I will soon introduce comprehensive food and farm legislation to refocus federal resources on those who need it most, foster innovation, encourage investments in people and the planet, and ensure access to healthy foods. You can learn more here. I’ve spearheaded an effort to unite people cheated by the current Farm Bill to discuss the ways we can make it work better for everyone. I’ve written a report that outlines these recommendations, Growing Opportunities, which is available here. In Oregon, we’re working with thousands of people who understand that they have a stake in what Congress does as it reauthorizes the next Farm Bill in 2018. In a time of deep partisan division and rancor, this is an area where people can unite with common interests to ensure a sustainable future for our nation’s food and agricultural system.
#27: Reforming outdated cannabis laws
Federal cannabis laws need to be changed. More than 95 percent of Americans now live in states or territories that permit, to varying degrees, legal access to medical marijuana and/or cannabis derivatives. Marijuana, however, is still treated the same as heroin at the federal level. This makes no sense. Earlier this year, I established the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, a bipartisan forum for members to discuss, learn, and work together to establish a better and more rational approach to federal cannabis policy. This caucus is the first of its kind, and another sign of progress being made on Capitol Hill. I’ve also worked with Senator Wyden to introduce the most comprehensive marijuana legislation to date that would bring the federal government in line with the will of the American people. These bills would protect state marijuana laws and offer a responsible pathway for the legalization and regulation of marijuana. Without congressional action, the discrepancy between state and federal law will continue to create a confusing patchwork of laws that trap businesses, patients, and state regulators in the middle. It’s time to reform our cannabis laws at the federal level.
#28: Ending the failed War on Drugs
It’s past time to end the failed War on Drugs. Our country has spent more than a trillion dollars at home and abroad to stem the tide of drugs coming into our country. What did we get? The world’s largest prison population, a broken criminal justice system, and rampant opioid addiction in communities large and small. The drug war has been used as a tool to militarize the U.S. border, fuel racial profiling, and increase detentions and deportations. We don’t need more of the same. We need to reform our current drug laws, starting with the legalization of marijuana. We don’t need more punitive measures, but instead greater access to drug rehabilitation to help people struggling with addiction. While the United States is home to less than 5 percent of the world’s population, we have nearly 25 percent of its prisoners, due in large measure to the convictions of non-violent drug offenders and mandatory minimum sentences. The consequences of any drug conviction are life-long, severe, and disproportionately affect African Americans and Latinos. We need to end the failed practice of mandatory minimums and reform sentencing laws. We must also end the practice of civil forfeiture. This policy was designed to seize the property of drug kingpins. In reality, it allows law enforcement to seize private possessions without due process. Even before a guilty conviction, government agencies can legally confiscate property, and then keep it. In fact, under federal law (as well as many state laws) property can be seized and forfeited even when criminal charges are never filed against a property owner. I support H.R. 1551, the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act, which reforms civil forfeiture laws and holds agencies accountable for the property they seize. This is an important step toward a more equitable criminal justice system.
#29: Closing the wage gap
Pay equity has been the law since 1963, yet women are still only paid 77 percent of men's salaries. In fact, a recent study of college graduates showed that in their first year after graduation, women earned only 80 percent as much as male graduates. Pay disparity continues to be discriminatory and only worsens over time. The numbers are more disturbing for women of color. African American women, on average, earn 63 percent of the salary of a white man – and Latina women make only 54 percent of their white male counterparts, losing more than a million dollars over a 40-year career. We must address the lost income over a lifetime and its devastating impact on the lives of women and their families. I was proud when President Obama was elected and we passed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to make it easier for women who have been discriminated against to make their case for equal pay in court. This was a small, but impactful step in the battle for gender equality. Now, I’m fighting for the Paycheck Fairness Act to further address the unfair and unjust wage gap that persists.
#30: Ending the use of private prisons
The United States—with more than 2.2 million people behind bars—incarcerates more of its population than any other country. Mass incarceration destroys lives, families, and communities. We need a criminal justice system that is fair and humane. We need reform. We can start by eliminating the use of private prisons—which are driven by increasing their profit margin, and where humane treatment of inmates is seldom a priority. Studies show that private prisons have higher recidivism rates and can be more expensive than public prisons despite their shortcomings. That’s why I support the Justice Is Not for Sale Act, which would prohibit federal, state, and local governments from contracting with private prison companies. This legislation is an important step to reforming our criminal justice system.
#31: Protecting animals
The way we treat animals reflects the values that we hold as a society and has a tremendous impact on the livability and vitality of our communities. As co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, I’m working on a bipartisan basis to advance a strong, pro-animal legislative agenda. We need to crack down on animal abuse and cruelty, protect imperiled species, defend farm animals and require they receive compassionate and humane treatment, and ensure responsible research and testing. Our legislative agenda has wide support and could be passed in this Congress, including legislation to: prohibit the domestic slaughter, trade, and import of dogs and cats for human consumption; strengthen laws against shark finning; prohibit the manufacturing or sale of cosmetics that have been tested on animals; end animal cruelty and torture; end horse soring; and more. Learn more about our efforts here. Protection of animals is one of our core values. Congress should accelerate our efforts to protect their welfare.
#32: Improving road safety through Vision Zero
More than 40,000 Americans were killed last year in crashes on our roadways. This carnage is preventable and must stop. Our most vulnerable road users—bicyclists and pedestrians—make up a disproportionate share of these deaths, with pedestrian fatalities increasing by 16 percent from 2009 to 2014 and another 9 percent from 2015 to 2016. We need a different, more effective approach to road safety. Communities across the country are recognizing that there is only one number of acceptable deaths on our streets: zero. Cities from Portland to Fort Lauderdale are implementing interagency Vision Zero plans to connect engineering, education, and enforcement to end transportation deaths and serious injuries. Despite horrific national statistics, Vision Zero is already making a difference at street level. Congress should encourage this innovative approach to transportation safety, which is why I recently introduced the Vision Zero Act of 2017. This bill creates two competitive grant programs to plan and implement a Vision Zero framework, giving local communities access to funding and best practices to set and reach safety goals. Passage of the Vision Zero Act would help communities of all sizes develop and implement innovative, effective strategies to end the carnage on our roadways and reverse the disturbing trend of rising traffic deaths.
#33: Putting an end to gun violence
From Roseburg, OR to Sandy Hook, CT and Orlando, FL, we have seen too many horrible acts of violence happen across the country. Gun violence in the United States is not inevitable, nor should Americans accept it as the status quo. We need to address this issue for what it is: a public health crisis that threatens the well-being and peace of mind of communities across the country. It’s past time we take action. There are commonsense steps we can and should take to keep our communities safe, including: 1) Keeping guns from the most dangerous users by closing the “private sale loophole” and implementing comprehensive and uniform background checks; 2) Having law enforcement follow up with each person who fails the background check; 3) Restricting assault weapons and high capacity magazines that are unsafe in any public space; 4) Removing barriers to research on gun violence to allow us to fully understand the impact and implications of current policies; 5) Making sure guns are tested and regulated to ensure consistency and that they operate as intended; 6) Empowering health care professionals to discuss all matters that affect their patients’ health, including gun ownership; 7) Ensuring better regulation for gun dealers and focusing compliance on the few unscrupulous gun dealers; 8) Enforcing existing gun laws by not letting the gun lobby undermine enforcement agencies; 9) Requiring that people purchasing a gun have liability insurance; 10) Improving our mental health system to make it more accessible and available and enhancing our capacity to help individuals with mental illness; and 11) Providing resources for first responders, schools, and public facilities personnel to deal with active-shooter situations.
#34: Strengthening disaster preparedness and mitigation
The scenes of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction in Houston and across Texas are heartbreaking, and the damage is severe. And in our own backyard, wildfires – a normal, natural occurrence made worse by climate disruption – are ablaze across Oregon, forcing people to evacuate their homes and impacting air quality across the state. Natural disasters like these, unfortunately, are only increasing in frequency and severity due to climate disruption. As we continue to provide much-needed resources to rebuild these communities, the federal government should also be a better partner in helping communities plan for and mitigate these events. Whether for wildfires, flooding, or earthquakes, advanced planning and investing in resilience is critical to withstanding disasters, saving lives, and recovering more quickly. 1) American infrastructure is already falling apart, which is why disaster readiness must be a priority. I support the BUILD Resilience Act of 2017, legislation that would establish a grant program to help communities invest in resilient infrastructure and prepare for natural disasters. Additionally, now more than ever, we need to protect and strengthen the federal standards for resiliency that we already have in place. 2) We need to continue providing resources for response and relief after a disaster, but we must also invest in prevention and mitigation. Not only will this approach help keep people out of harm’s way, it can save money—$1 spent on mitigation can prevent $4 on future disaster relief costs. My Repeatedly Flooded Communities Act, for example, would proactively reduce flood risk by focusing federal investment on prevention and mitigation. 3) Wildfires are becoming more destructive due to climate disruption, sprawling development that has pushed people into forested areas, and changing forestry practices. However, while most of the floodplains in the United States are already developed, most of the wildland urban interface in the 11 Western states is not. This gives us an opportunity to ensure that the development that does take place is safe. And for help in the short term, I support the Wildfire Prevention Act of 2017, legislation that would provide hazard mitigation assistance in areas affected by wildfire, and the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2017, which would fix the way we budget for wildfire suppression and prevent the devastating practice of “fire borrowing.” 4) On the West Coast and in my district, seismic preparedness is a chief concern. We must continue to fund institutions like the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which does critical research regarding natural disasters through the Earthquake Hazards Program. This program provides funds to transition the Earthquake Early Warning Demonstration Project into a regional network on the West Coast, ensuring that communities have a brief window of time to prepare for an incoming earthquake. Early alerts will save lives, giving people the crucial time to take cover, trigger automated systems to slow down trains and manage the power grid, generators can turn on, and everyone can be better prepared. Congress has a responsibility to ensure that all communities are ready for these natural hazards, now and in the future. It should advance these efforts.
#35: Advocating for LGBTQ equality
The Supreme Court stood on the right side of history in 2015 with its decision to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in all 50 states. It was a critical milestone in helping secure freedoms to which all Americans are entitled, regardless of whom they love. But, the fight for equal rights for the LGBTQ community is far from over. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community is under relentless attack. LGBTQ youth report higher levels of bullying and substance abuse and are at an increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. As adults, transgender individuals face higher rates of poverty as well as housing, healthcare, and workplace discrimination. Members of the LGBTQ community are still forced to navigate a patchwork system of civil rights law, where they can be subject to discrimination in federal education funding, employment protection, and jury service, to name just a few. Discriminating against an individual based on their characteristics, be it race, religion, sexual identity, or any other, is unacceptable and wrong. That’s why I’m a cosponsor of the Equality Act, which extends anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ Americans by amending existing civil rights law to protect sexual orientation and gender identity. No one should lose their housing, job, healthcare – or be denied the opportunity to serve our country – for expressing who they are. In an era where some wish to move civil rights backwards instead of forwards, I’ll continue to work to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation altogether.
#36: Ensuring access to water and sanitation for all
I’ve long worked in Congress to ensure sustainable, equitable access to clean water and sanitation for people throughout the world. The need is clear, and the facts are staggering. 2.1 billion people are without a safely managed drinking-water service, and 2.3 billion people still do not have basic sanitation facilities, leading to preventable disease and premature death. With 263 transboundary lake and river basins that cross two or more countries, water imbalances magnify security and health threats to the United States and our allies. These threats include water-related diseases such as Ebola and cholera, and droughts that lead to famines displacing millions of people. Troublingly, the Gaza Strip is on the verge of a similar crisis. Home to nearly two million people, Gaza is one of the most water-stressed areas on the planet. The water supply, largely groundwater, is being rapidly depleted and polluted. It will soon be unfit for human consumption, as it’s contaminated with sewage from above and with salt-water encroachment into the aquifer from the Mediterranean Sea below. We can all agree that the lack of clean water poses a security threat to Israelis and Palestinians alike, so I’ve led bipartisan efforts in Congress to encourage the administration to prioritize the impending crisis in Gaza. And we’ve seen some progress. In part because of U.S. involvement, the Israelis and Palestinians recently reached two water-sharing agreements. By making progress on water, we can bring people together, build the trust needed for future negotiations, and create better conditions for peace. I’ll continue working to ensure that the United States plays a lead role in addressing the world’s most severe water crises. This will save lives and benefit U.S. strategic interests.
#37: Protecting refugees and individuals fleeing violence
The United States has a proud tradition of offering protection and a new life to those fleeing persecution and war. This is not only important for humanitarian reasons, but for national security. The tradition must continue and the United States must do more. First, I’m advocating for the United States to step up and increase refugee resettlement here at home. Asylum-seekers who are working to start a new life free from violence for themselves and their families are thoroughly vetted with exhaustive background checks involving multiple agencies. We, in fact, make ourselves less safe if we prohibit these individuals from seeking refuge in the United States. I’m also pushing for full funding of critical international assistance programs that provide humanitarian aid to refugees and other vulnerable populations. There is no more fertile ground for terrorist recruits than refugee camps devoid of basic services and educational and economic opportunities. The very least we can do is ensure that these individuals’ basic needs are met when they are displaced from their own country. I’ll continue fighting to support and protect the world’s refugees and work to reaffirm the international leadership our country holds.
#38: Protecting net neutrality
I’ve long supported net neutrality and the right to a free and open Internet. The 2015 Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to treat broadband Internet access as a common carrier service was spot on. That determination would ensure that the Internet remained an open platform where sites are equally accessible to everyone. Without these protections, consumers could face a world where Internet service providers act as gatekeepers, slowing or blocking legal content, and picking winners and losers among applications and services. I recently joined Rep. Keith Ellison and dozens of other colleagues in demanding FCC Chairman Ajit Pai preserve net neutrality, as this new administration works to put Internet service providers back in charge. Americans deserve an open Internet where individuals, small businesses, and large companies are able to equally compete.