Working for You

I have always sought to be a voice for those without a lobbyist or political action committee, focusing my efforts on matters that make a real difference in the lives of our neighbors. By listening, I seek to make the most important priorities of your family, my own priorities.

When your family is counting on something — an affordable home, a good job, or secure retirement plan–we should not let big government get in your way, but neither should we let other powerful forces interfere – like Wall Street banks, insurance monopolies, or predators taking advantage of the weak or vulnerable.

Where we cannot move a failed Congress to act, I work at least to help individuals, who have problems with the federal government, to obtain information and relief – whether related to veterans, Medicare, Social Security, or small businesses.

If you do not see an issue important to you addressed here, just contact me, and let me know your priorities.

Passing Commonsense Gun Safety Legislation

Commonsense gun safety laws are at stake this election. In Washington, I participated in our creative way to draw attention to the issue, joining my friend and colleague, Selma March leader and civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis for a House sit-in. During our protest, House Republicans fled Washington to avoid any action on gun safety, leaving behind so much unfinished business. Everyone who owns a gun knows, sometimes you need to keep the safety on. It is time to put the safety back on in gun safety legislation. It is long past time to reach a compromise on real reform.

Serving those who served for us: Our Veterans

I successfully passed legislation in the House to ensure that wounded veterans returning from service are not forced to choose between getting the treatment they need from their injuries on the battlefield and keeping their job back at home. I have also worked to expand veterans’ health facilities, so Texas veterans don’t have to drive long distances for the basic health care they have earned from their service.

As I have visited with veterans and veteran leaders in Texas, the most frequent comment I hear is that the VA is providing quality care, often provided by veterans, but that wait times are too long and veterans sometimes have to travel for certain services. Our goal needs to be to fix the VA, but not to end or dismantle the system. More timely, efficient service is what is needed for those who have dedicated their lives to protecting our families.

Promoting Affordable Healthcare

With the goal that every person has access to a family doctor, my work remains to improve on the foundation we built. The Affordable Care Act helps ensure Big Insurance companies treat families fairly. It’s not right that high medical bills are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the U.S., and I am working to ensure that affordable health care will be there for American families that need it the most. My “End Surprise Billing Act” would help stop end the practice of patients getting an unexpected medical bill from an out-of-network provider who works at an in-network hospital. Republicans offer a “NothingCare” health plan, replacing Obamacare with “I don’t care.” Instead of repealing Obamacare, Congress needs to work together to ensure insurance and health care remains affordable.

The President signed my AARP-endorsed NOTICE Act into law. The NOTICE Act requires hospitals to provide meaningful written and oral notification to patients who are in the hospital “under observation” for more than 24 hours. Providing this notice can help Medicare patients avoid thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket, unexpected expenses.

Combating Global Warming

Our planet is at stake in this election. Normally, Texas weather is either hot or hotter. Increasingly, we just have hotter. By the turn of the century, Texas can expect about 100 days of 100 degree plus weather annually—what a world we are bequeathing your children and grandchildren. Action now could make their world so much more livable. If we want to change the climate, we need to change the political climate.

A warming planet will overwhelm our Gulf Coast, expand the Sonoran desert into much of Texas, and hasten the spread of disease such as the Zika virus, only the latest threat to which the Republicans obstruct action. We need an agenda governed by sound science. Renewable energy will drive a greener economy and greener planet.

Enacting Campaign Finance Reform

As a sponsor of several campaign finance reform bills, I am working to reform a political system awash with secret corporate money, which distorts congressional priorities. We will not be able to enact real reform on a number of fronts until we pass effective campaign finance laws. I support a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case.

Closing Corporate Tax Loopholes and Policing Wall Street

I have been a strong advocate of tax reform to simplify our tax laws and to see that more of the tax burden is not shifted by multinational corporations to individuals and small businesses. A CBS News 60 Minutes segment, by Lesley Stahl, featured my efforts to address these tax abuses.

Pfizer, for example, sought to renounce its citizenship in order to pay modest taxes in Ireland, while continuing to charge American consumers more than ten times what it charges Irish consumers on some of its drugs. I worked to stop that scheme and introduced a bill that imposes an “exit tax” on corporations that abandon our country.

I voted against all the Big Bank bailouts and for the Wall Street Reform and the Consumer Protection Act, that helps end bailouts and puts a cop on the Wall Street beat to protect families from corporate greed.

Protecting Vulnerable Children

As the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the House Ways and Means Committee, I successfully authored the “Protect Our Kids Act,” which created the National Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect. After holding its first field hearing in San Antonio on my request, the Commission held field hearings around the country to create a coordinated national strategy to ensure every child has a happy, healthy upbringing and earlier this year, released its comprehensive report. For my efforts, I was honored with the “Congressional Champion for Real and Lasting Change” Award from Save the Children.

Achieving Pro-Family Immigration Policy

Immigration reform will grow our economy as more individuals start small businesses and more students complete their education. Passing comprehensive immigration reform should have been accomplished years ago, but remains stalled with the Republican majority in Congress. In addition to blocking progress on the DREAM Act, Republicans have introduced a string of anti-immigrant bills. As a frequent sponsor of the DREAM Act, I believe exemplary young people willing to work hard deserve a chance to succeed in college.

It has been more than two years since the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill to fix our broken immigration system. Instead of allowing a vote on this legislation, House Republican leaders stall. The House needs to act so that those who are willing to pay a fine and play by the rules can be afforded a path to citizenship.

Boosting San Antonio Tourism

The five San Antonio Missions were designated as World Heritage sites by UNESCO. This respected designation marks the first time that a Texas site has been deemed of “outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity.” The Spanish Missions, of which the Alamo is best known, are truly exceptional. My bill to enlarge our Missions National Historical Park has become law.

Lowering the Price of Prescription Drugs

Because of pharmaceutical price gouging, a diagnosis of cancer or other dread disease or condition is too often a prognosis for financial ruin or hardship, even for those who have insurance. I lead the House Democratic Caucus Prescription Drug Task Force, which is working to stop prescription drug price gouging like the outrageous hike in the cost of the EpiPen.

As pharmaceutical drug prices continue to soar, we need federal legislation to reform the broken system of incentives and loopholes that allow companies to get away with sky high prices. But since there’s no pill we can take to cure the obstructionism of the Congress before the election, I am turning to the Administration and exploring ways it can use its existing legal authority to provide much-needed relief. For example, when pharmaceutical companies use taxpayer-funded research to develop budget-busting drugs, the Administration could use existing legislation to ensure that we are given access to the medicine at a fair, reasonable price. After all, an unaffordable drug is 100% ineffective.

Ensuring Retirement Security

Your retirement nest egg faces many threats. I am working to ensure seniors can enjoy a safe and healthy retirement they worked a lifetime to earn. AARP honored me this year with its “Champion Legislative Leadership Award,” for my efforts to strengthen seniors’ access to healthcare.

After the 1929 stock market crash and bank failures, President Franklin Roosevelt actually understood how to “Make American Great Again.” It wasn’t through stirring hate or fearmongering. He didn’t settle for the “every man for himself” approach. Instead, he established that pillar of retirement safety, Social Security. In more than eight decades, Social Security has never been a day late or a dollar short.

Despite these benefits, the drive to dismantle Social Security remains a real threat. Some see privatization as an option, a tantalizing prize for a host of Wall Street financial interests. But privatizing will only reduce solvency and endanger benefits for millions of current beneficiaries.

My longstanding efforts to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards were finally successful. The “Medicare Identity Theft Prevention” Act will ensure more seniors are protected from identity theft.

Supporting Education

Students should be able to receive all the education for which they are willing to work. We need a stronger commitment to education from pre-K to post grad. Our economy and democracy depend on it.

In this election, students’ futures are at stake. The cost of higher education grows higher and higher. And if Republicans have their way, the amount of student financial assistance will shrink lower and lower. Between 2004 and 2012, the average Texas student debt balance grew by 61 percent. This must change.

I authored the successful American Opportunity Tax Credit that provides a tax cut of up to $10,000 over four years to reimburse higher education expenses for students and their families. For the first time since higher education tax credits were created, my tax cut expanded the definition of a “qualified education expense” to include textbooks, making them more affordable.
As a strong advocate for student debt reduction, my work has resulted in simplifying the FAFSA form for student aid and now families can use earlier tax data to complete the FAFSA. This improvement means that applications may be filed months earlier than previously possible, making applying for aid easier.

I remain a strong supporter – and sponsor – of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act.” Senator Warren, a former UT Law professor, is a friend committed to reform. Her student loan bill would have directed the Secretary of Education to refinance the unpaid principal, accrued unpaid interest, and late charges on some Direct Loans and Education Loans. Participation is fully voluntary. This would have been paid for by closing tax loopholes for the wealthiest few.