On July 11, I voted against H.R. 6079, a bill which would repeal the Affordable Care Act. Americans are already benefitting from consumer protections included in the law, and millions more will see benefits in 2014 when additional provisions kick in. Some of the provisions I voted to protect include:
o Young adults can now remain on their parent's health insurance plans until they turn 26.
o Significant discounts on brand-name and generic drugs for seniors, closing the infamous Medicare "donut hole".
o Insurance companies can no longer put lifetime caps on benefits, protecting people with cancer and other chronic diseases.
o $11 billion in new funding for Community Health Centers, to provide care in rural and underserved areas.
o New investments in primary care, nursing and public health training programs.
o Free preventive care.
o Free immunizations.
o Tightly restricts annual limits on insurance coverage and completely eliminates them by 2014.
o Small-group plans must spend at least 80% of premiums on health care. For large-group plans, that requirement is 85%. Insurance companies that fail to meet this goal must provide rebates to consumers.
o High Risk pools, created to offer immediate insurance for people dropped from their prior plans because of a pre-existing condition.
On July 12, I joined colleagues in a letter to the FDA, urging them to strengthen the proposed standards for the use of antibiotics in animal feed. Research has clearly shown that feeding low doses of antibiotics to healthy animals contributes to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. I believe that the FDA should ensure clear guidelines and firm, consistent monitoring in order to end the misuse of antimicrobial drugs. To that end, I am also a cosponsor of H.R. 965, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act.
On July 17, I signed on to a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, urging the Secretary to officially clarify that DHS rules allow the practice of including LGBT relationships in the definition of "family relationships" for immigration purposes. Lesbian and gay individuals should not be at more risk of being deported and separated from their families simply because of their sexual orientation. I asked DHS to stand up against this form of discrimination and clarify that the "family relationship" definition explicitly includes all families.
On July 20, I joined 78 of my colleagues in a letter to the House Leadership, urging them to bring a full 5-year Farm Bill to the floor in time for it to be thoroughly debated before the expiration of the current Farm Bill on September 30. America's farmers depend on the certainty of a five-year bill, especially in a time of drought.
On July 23, I joined my colleagues in the Congressional Progressive Caucus in sending a letter to every U.S. governor, asking them to support the expansion of Medicaid in their states. While Massachusetts is lucky to have a governor who understands the benefit of Medicaid, there are many who do not. Medicaid expansion will protect millions of struggling Americans from health risks and financial uncertainty, and I will continue to urge its nationwide expansion.
On July 25, I voted against H.R. 6082, a highly partisan bill to open up every piece of public land to drilling. Not only was this the 11th drilling bill considered in 18 months, it also has almost no chance of becoming law. Given the very real challenges facing the country at this moment, Congress ought to be focused on finding innovative and sustainable solutions to our energy concerns, not passing "messaging' bills.
On July 25, I also joined with 24 of my colleagues to send a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, urging the Justice Department to fully investigate any senior bank officials who participated in manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate (commonly referred to as Libor) and to aggressively proceed with criminal prosecution wherever it is found that these officials broke the law.
On July 31, I became a cosponsor of H.R. 3612, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2011. This bill would include the surrounding seas as part of Vietnam for purposes of the presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure by veterans to certain herbicide agents while in Vietnam. Veterans who were exposed to these chemicals ought to be provided the best care possible, whether that exposure happened on land or off the coast.
On July 31, I also cosponsored H.R. 4122, the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act of 2012. This bipartisan bill would ensure that tigers, lions, and other powerful and dangerous big cats do not threaten public safety, diminish global conservation efforts, or end up living in sub-par conditions where they could be subject to cruelty and mistreatment. These animals are currently kept as pets in alarming numbers in the United States, to the detriment of their wellbeing and human safety.
On July 31, my colleagues and I also wrote to Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy, to urge his support for fusion ignition at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. I continue to believe that fusion energy is one of our greatest hopes, both for re-affirming the United States as a global leader in scientific innovation and for making energy inexpensive and renewable for future generations.
On August 1, I voted against H.R. 8, a bill that would extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans at a cost of nearly $1 trillion over the next ten years. In an environment where some of my colleagues are talking about cutting Medicare and other essential programs because of our long-term debt, it is clear that the extraordinary cost of these tax cuts for the richest 2% will eventually have to come out of other Americans' pockets. Instead, I voted for a Democratic alternative that would provide tax cuts for 98% of Americans, maintan the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit at current levels, create barriers to tax haven abuse, and raise capital gains rates on those making more than $250,000 a year so that wealthy Americans no longer pay a lower tax rate than the middle class.
On August 1, I also became a cosponsor of H.R. 5903, which would classify recipients of the Korea Defense Service Medal as war veterans, thus allowing Americans who give charitable donations to these individuals to receive a tax deduction on these contributions. It is important to recognize all of our Nation's veterans, regardless of when they served.
On August 3, I became a cosponsor of H.R. 6241, the Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act, which would require anyone wishing to buy ammunition to purchase it from licensed sellers using a photo ID. These sellers would be required to report to law enforcement any sale of more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition over the course of five days. The suspect in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting reportedly purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition in preparation for his assault.
On August 3, I also joined 10 colleagues in a letter to Rwandan President Paul Kagame expressing alarm at evidence recently reported by the UN that Rwanda has been supporting armed groups that have destabilized the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo in recent years. The letter made clear our view that the violence in the DRC puts the gains Rwanda has made in the last 18 years at risk.
On August 3, I also joined my colleagues in a letter to over 5800 college and university presidents. The letter asks institutions of higher education to provide voter registration information and voting guides for first year students during their registration or orientation, as well as encouraging them to educate students on requirements for voting.
On the Transportation front this month, I was pleased to see that the Governor of California took a significant step towards building the United States' first high speed rail line capable of speeds over 200 mph. He signed a bill that releases $2.6 billion in state bond funds in order to match federal grants funded through the Recovery Act and the 2010 Transportation Appropriations bill. We've worked hard over the last four years to fund improvements to our outdated passenger rail system and I hope this proves to be only the first step in creating a truly modern system.