If you know me, you know that domestic violence is an issue that I take very seriously. I worked on the last two 5-year reauthorizations of our nation's Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and just a few months ago, I hosted a meeting with shelter providers in our community to craft a bill that would provide them with the tools they need to serve victims of violence.
Unfortunately, the VAWA bill that reached the House floor for a vote this week did not reflect everything we have learned over the last five years in terms of what works best. Also missing from the bill were protections for women who live on Native American reservations, LGBT individuals, and measures to prevent violence on college campuses.
So, with the support of shelter providers here in Illinois, I wrote an amendment to fix the bill, but it was denied consideration by the Rules Committee. As a result, I could not support the proposal that passed the House this week.
Fortunately, we have time to get it right. The House will begin negotiations with the Senate, where a much better, bipartisan VAWA bill received near unanimous support. I'm confident that we can get a good bill signed into law. After all, anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, and our victim-service providers on the front lines need to know that they can help everyone who comes through their doors.
More than ten months ago, in a rare bipartisan victory, the House approved by a vote of 406-22 my bill to extend and reform the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The bill would reauthorize the program for five years, help pay down the program's $18 billion debt and provide avenues to increase private sector participation in the flood insurance market. Since House passage last July, our reform package has been ignored by Senate leaders. Now, unless Congress acts, NFIP is scheduled to expire at the end of May. As a result, FEMA could be forced to delay payments to flood victims, and the housing market would suffer in flood-prone areas, where an estimated 40,000 mortgage closings per month would be jeopardized.
So, this week, the House approved a 30-day extension that I offered, which would initiate key elements of our bipartisan reform bill. It opens the door to private-sector participation, and the sooner we do that, the sooner taxpayers will no longer have to bear the full expense and risk of an outdated flood insurance program. It also will give the Senate more time to finish its work, and send a long-term reform package to the President.
Senate Action Needed On IL Medicaid Reform
I know that I'm asking more of the Senate than we have learned to expect, but this week I joined my colleagues in the U.S. and Illinois State House in sending a letter to Senate Leaders urging them to pass H.R 5652. The bill would repeal a rule in the President's health law that's preventing Illinois from moving forward on bipartisan Medicaid reform. These state reforms would improve income verification requirements to combat fraud and ensure that Medicaid is being provided to those who truly need it. In 2011, inadequate eligibility and improper payments cost taxpayers an estimated $15 billion.
Good News on Trade
Last October, the President signed into law three long-awaited trade agreements with Colombia, Korea and Panama. This week, the trade agreement with Colombia took effect, and it is expected to increase U.S. exports by $1.1 billion and unlock the potential for substantial job creation here in Illinois. To read more about the tariffs this agreement will eliminate on Illinois products, check out this fact sheet from the U.S. Trade Representative: http://www.trade.gov/fta/colombia/illinois.pdf.
Finally, if you're headed to Chicago over the weekend, be sure to give yourselves extra time in traffic because of the NATO Summit. Here's an informative guide to getting around during the summit. As always, it's an honor to serve you in Washington. Do not hesitate to contact me at (630) 655-2052 if I can be of assistance to you.
Member of Congress