THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - February 8, 2019

Feb 10, 2019

In this issue:

Child care help for veterans

VA benefits counselor next week

The Blue Wave was a White Wave

Equal pay for equal work

Raise the wage

Empowering nurse practitioners

Time for a Green New Deal

Governors lead on climate change

Tell your typhoon story

Meeting Miami students

107 cosponsors for sharks

Honoring Chinese railroad workers

Comment on build-up plans

Governor supports status

Speaking on immigration reform

Welcome, Hannah

Opportunities

Legislative Highlights

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Child care help for veterans

To make it easier for veterans to get mental health and other intensive health services, H.R. 840 provides for child care while vets are receiving treatment. On Friday, the House passed H.R. 840, the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act, by a vote of 400-9. I offered an amendment during debate to clarify that veterans receiving telemental health services, like that available at the VHA Saipan office, are also eligible for child care assistance. Most parents are not going to use the mental health services the VA provides, if it means leaving their kids home alone. And worrying about their children will only worsen the mental stress for veterans in need of care. My amendment was adopted unanimously and H.R. 840 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Equal pay for equal work

Fifty-five years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, barring pay discrimination “on the basis of sex,” a woman still makes only 80 cents, on average, for every dollar earned by a man. To address this continuing injustice, I have introduced The Paycheck Fairness Act, along with 237 of my Democratic colleagues and a lone, brave Republican. Our legislation:

1. forces employers to prove that any pay disparities exist for legitimate, job-related reasons,

2. bans retaliation against workers for discussing their wages, and

3. removes obstacles for workers seeking to bring a class action lawsuit. 

The bill also improves the Department of Labor’s wage discrimination data collection abilities and assist businesses with their equal pay practices.

Raise the wage

Minimum wage in the Marianas has doubled to $7.25 per hour during my term in office and people’s lives are better. But minimum wage in the rest of America has been frozen over that time. On Thursday, the Education and Labor Committee took testimony on legislation to begin raising the national wage to $15 per hour. We heard from economists pro and con, but most compelling to me was the testimony of Mr. Terrence Wise. He and his fiance both work to support their family. But they still rely on food stamps and Medicaid—paid by the taxpayers—because their employers pay so little. I am a cosponsor of the Raise the Wage bill, H.R. 582, along with 195 of my Democratic colleagues. Of course, the Marianas just finished a huge increase in the minimum wage and our small economy is much more fragile than the national economy. So, the timing and size of future increases for our islands have to be carefully managed, just as I did through legislation to time the increases that brought us to $7.25. But my goal is that those who work earn what they need to care for their families. Everyone deserves that dignity.

Time for a Green New Deal

Back-to-back typhoons in the Marianas, one of which was the second most powerful storm ever to the strike America, are stark reminders that the climate is changing and action is needed. With 67 of my House colleagues and 11 in the Senate yesterday I introduced the bold vision of how to address climate change that is the Green New Deal. Authored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) H. Res. 109 lays out guiding principles that should be applied to all the work we do in Congress in recognition that almost all aspects of life are impacted by and have an impact on climate change. Rebuilding the infrastructure that Super Typhoon Yutu knocked out, so our power and water and transportation systems can withstand storm damage, is one example of how we can apply the Green New Deal to the Marianas. Following through on the goals the Commonwealth has already set in law to reduce dependence on fossil fuels is another. I will be working to help our islands and all America achieve the goals set in the Green New Deal.

Tell your typhoon story

We are continuing to collect Typhoon Stories from constituents who lived through Typhoon Mangkhut and Super Typhoon Yutu. To make it easier, we have set up a short survey that aims to capture the Marianas’ journey to recovery: how people sought aid, life in the aftermath of the storms, and the difficulties throughout. Please take time to fill out this survey. Your answers will help improve federal response for the Marianas during future disasters. To take the survey, click here. If you would still like to tell your story via email, email typhoonstories@mail.house.gov.

107 cosponsors for sharks

The number of cosponsors for our Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2019 has hit the century mark and continues to grow. There are now 21 Republicans among the 107 cosponsors. Saving sharks and protecting our ocean ecosystem is a bipartisan issue. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the House Natural Resources in moving the bill forward in the coming weeks.  And many thanks to organizational leaders such as Humane Society Legislative Fund's Sara Amundson who recently penned a Letter to the Editor of the Saipan Tribune in support of the legislation.

Honoring Chinese railroad workers

Over 12,000 Chinese immigrant workers played a vital role in the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad, which transformed the way Americans traveled and how goods were distributed. As we come upon the 150th anniversary of the completion of the railroad, I joined my colleagues in a letter to the U.S. Postal Service’s Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee recommending the issuance of a commemorative stamp to honor these hard working, brave Chinese workers. Chinese railroad workers were given the hardest and most dangerous jobs and nearly 1,200 died from work-related accidents while being paid less than their non-Chinese coworkers. In 2014 the workers were honored by induction into the U.S. Department of Labor Hall of Fame; a stamp depicting their efforts in building the railroad would be an appropriate way for us to reflect on their contributions to our nation.

Comment on build-up plans

Everyone now has an opportunity to say what they think about the environmental impact statement for the Navy’s plans to train and test in the Mariana Islands. The Navy has issued a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (EIS/OEIS) this week and the next step is public comment. In the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS, the Navy reassesses the potential environmental impacts associated with conducting ongoing and future military readiness activities at sea and on Farallon de Medinilla. Copies of the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS are available for public review online and at the public libraries on Tinian, Rota, and Saipan. A public meeting will be held on February 27, 2019 at Kanoa Resort, Seaside Hall in Saipan from 5:00 to 8:00 pm with Navy representatives available to provide information and answer questions. Comments not submitted at the public meeting must be postmarked or received online by March 18, 2019, Chamorro Standard Time, for consideration in the Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS. For more information and to submit comments, go to https://mitt-eis.com/.

Governor supports status

Governor Torres supports improved status for those impacted by the Trump administration decision to end humanitarian parole. His January 25 letter reached the congressional office this week. The Governor also said he supports status for those who lived and worked in the Marianas before federal immigration law was extended to include our islands. Both these goals are part of legislation, H.R. 560, that I introduced on January 15. I appreciate the Governor’s words of support. He also recognized the legislation has a much better chance of passage now that Democrats control the U.S. House of Representatives. I agree and have scheduled a hearing for February 27 on my bill and the recent immigration policy decisions by the Trump administration that hurt the Marianas. Invitations to testify went out this week to the Governor and federal agencies.

OPPORTUNITIES

Grants:

Jobs:

  • Do you want to work on Capitol Hill for a House Democratic Member of Congress? Enter your information into the official resume bank for House Democrats: https://www.majorityleader.gov/resumes. Your submission will be visible to current House Democratic staff only.

Public Comment:

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS

THIS WEEK

On the Floor

  • ·H.R. 840 – Veterans’ Access to Child Care
  • H.R. 450 – Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act of 2019 (Passed, 417-0)
  • H.R. 494 – Tiffany Joslyn Juvenile Accountability Block Grant Program Reauthorization Act of 2019 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 507 – Putting Trafficking Victims First Act of 2019 (Passed, 414-1)
  • H.R. 752 – Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 876 – Pacific Northwest Earthquake Preparedness Act of 2019 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 866 – Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act of 2019 (Agreed to by voice vote)

Legislation I Cosponsored

  • H.R. 397 – Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act
  • H.R. 550 – Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2019
  • H.R. 693 – PAST Act
  • H.R. 824 – To provide back pay to Federal contractors, and for other purposes
  • H.R. 934 - To amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to include certain retirees in the Multiemployer Health Benefit Plan, and for other purposes 
  • H.R. 947 – To extend the supplemental security income program to Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa, and for other purposes 
  • H.R. 1014 – To amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to apply to territories of the United States, to establish offshore wind lease sale requirements, to provide dedicated funding for coral reef conservation, and for other purposes
  • H.R. 1073 – To increase the rates of pay under the statutory pay systems and for prevailing rate employees by 3.6 percent, and for other purposes
  • H.R. 1074 – To amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to expand coverage under the Act, to increase protections for whistleblowers, to increase penalties for high gravity violations, to adjust penalties for inflation, to provide rights for victims or their family members, and for other purposes
  • H.R. 1092 – To amend title 38, United States Code, to expand health care and benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs for military sexual trauma, and for other purposes
  • H.Res. 109 – Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal. 

NEXT WEEK

On the Floor

  • Conference report on FY 2019 appropriations
  • H. J. Res. 37 – Directing the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress

Committee Activity

Tuesday, February 12

  • Committee on Education and Labor Hearing on “Underpaid Teachers and Crumbling Schools: How Underfunding Public Education Shortchanges America’s Students” 

Wednesday, February 13

  • Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Business Meeting
  • Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Hearing on “VA 2030: A Vision for the Future of VA”