Gearing Up for the Next Congress
The 114th Congress is now in the final lap, with only two more weeks left for votes. This week, we had a big win with the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which will provide billions for medical research over the next 10 years. Soon, we will be voting on an appropriations bill, probably a short-term extension of the current spending levels. It is also likely that the Republican majority in charge may hold off voting on certain legislation until next year, when there will also be a Republican president, in order to have a better chance of advancing specific policy priorities, such as privatizing Medicare and Social Security, weakening the EPA, and so on.
So that brings us to the next 2-year congress, the 115th, starting in January. Obviously, we will have Republican majorities in the House and Senate and a Republican President. That being the case, I will keep moving forward on my legislative goals, which I have outlined below.
I will do everything I can to protect the California Delta. This will be a major challenge since the Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy from Bakersfield, is determined to destroy it, and we won’t have the Obama Administration as a backstop. I’m not talking about the twin tunnels project, which I don’t think has much of a chance because of the cost and other associated problems. I’m talking about the Valadeo Bill, which will weaken the Endangered Species Act enough to allow increased shipments of water from the Delta through existing plumbing/pipes. This is what House Republicans have been pushing for the past decade, and may well now have the muscle to do. Senator Feinstein seems to want to compromise on this issue, and although her plan isn’t as bad as the House Republican plan, it does weaken the Endangered Species Act and would allow more water to be exported to the detriment of the Delta. I will fight any effort to increase exports of water from the Delta. But, I want to do more than just say NO! I am preparing a forward-looking water infrastructure bill to be released early next year that will change the way we produce, conserve, and recycle water. If adopted and implemented, it will help make the western United States regionally self-sufficient so that we don’t have to depend so much on our precious natural water resources such as the Delta and the Colorado River.
I am committed to getting the VA Clinic at French Camp started with a ground breaking and construction beginning in late 2017 or early 2018. I will continue to work on economic opportunities for veterans. I met with the Vets In Tech organization a couple of weeks ago and was very impressed with their efforts to provide veterans with training and employment opportunities in the tech industry. I’m hopeful that the Veterans Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the subject of job training and job opportunities in the private sector for veterans. This is something I will work on in the next Congress.
I will retain my seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee. This will put me in a position to have a strong voice in telecommunications issues such as encryption, access to broadband, internet privacy and security. I intend to be fully engaged on these issues. I will also be able to play a significant role in helping shape energy
policy, which has been a passion of mine since college. This means advocating for clean energy and energy security. The United States has an important role to play in the global energy field, and good energy policy will help make our domestic economy stronger – creating good jobs in this country. The E&C Committee also has jurisdiction over environmental policy. I intend to be a strong voice in protecting environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act, which have truly cleaned up our nation’s environment.
My longer-term goals start with efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with more efficient energy use, smart grid development, and renewable energy development. This will take more R&D, investment incentives, as well as policies to reduce carbon emissions. None of this will be possible without a bipartisan consensus, and I will work to see what can be done to address the obvious changes that are taking place in the earth’s climate system.
I will continue working to develop policies that improve our local economy, such as creating local empowerment zones and bringing money for infrastructure development back to my district. I have also been involved in developing federal policies to make our streets safer, such as securing money to hire additional police officers and providing evidence-based grants to improve police training for dealing with mental health crises and impaired driving assessments. I am also interested in finding ways to transition the war on drugs to a health care issue, to help reduce criminal gangs and help people with addiction.
I have also been deeply involved in Campaign Finance Reform. My proposed Constitutional Amendment, H.J.Res31, was very ambitious, and although I will propose something similar in the 115th Congress and would love to see it adopted, I realize that more consensus is needed to have any chance to improve the badly broken campaign finance system. To this end, I have formed a bipartisan Congressional Campaign Finance Reform Caucus and will be exploring bipartisan ideas such as complete transparency and giving the Federal Election Commission real enforcement capabilities to be able to carry out its intended function.
Again, I thank the people of California’s 9th Congressional District for placing their faith, hopes, and confidence in me to represent them in Washington, and will do my very best to live up to your expectations.