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.

Resisting the Trump Administration

I am inspired by the many I represent who are committed to creating a more respectful and inclusive community, resisting hate and intolerance.

Our President has tried to pervert both FBI independence and integrity in its investigations, and is clearly looking out for just himself. But the beauty of this country is that we never only look out for just ourselves. We look out for each other and we stand together. And while our adversaries will remain creative in seeking new ways to impair and interfere with equality, we must remain equally determined to defeat every barrier they attempt to impose.

We need to march every day, not just on the streets, but in our daily lives. We must continue to promote equality, to preserve our democracy, demand accountability. We will never yield to those who would drag us backward into a past that we will never accept.

Together, we will advance equal rights and social justice. We must use every nonviolent oppositional tool available to resist hypocrisy and hate, and keep hope alive.

Passing Commonsense Gun Safety Legislation

Common sense gun safety laws are at stake with this Administration. In Washington, I participated in a 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

In a prior Congress, I passed legislation in the House to ensure that wounded veterans returning from service are not forced to choose between keeping their job at home and getting the treatment they need from their injuries on the battlefield. 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 many Texas veterans, the most frequent comment I hear is that the VA is providing quality care, often provided by fellow veterans, but that wait times are too long and veterans sometimes have to travel long distances for certain services. Those who have dedicated their lives to protecting our families have earned timely, accessible service. We must work to improve the VA, not to end, “privatize” or dismantle the system.

Promoting Affordable Healthcare

The Affordable Care Act helps ensure doctors and big insurance companies treat families fairly, from finding a doctor, to receiving a diagnosis, to receiving treatment. It’s not right that high medical bills are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the U.S., so I am working to ensure that affordable health care will always be there for American families that need it the most.

Republicans offered a “Trumpcare” health plan, attempting to replace Obamacare with “I don’t care.” Instead of repealing Obamacare, Congress needs to work together to ensure insurance and health care remains affordable. My resistance to “NothingCare” continues.

President Obama 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. Similarly, 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.

Combating Global Warming

Our planet is at stake, now more than ever with a climate change denier in the White House. Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement was a historic mistake. 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 that reach100 degrees or more annually—what a world we are bequeathing to our 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. We need an agenda governed by sound science. Renewable energy will drive not just a greener planet, but also a greener economy.

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 have supported 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, including tax law simplification and protecting individuals and small businesses from bearing the burden of multinational corporations. A CBS News 60 Minutes segment 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 Wall Street Reform. I supported the Consumer Protection Act, which helps end bailouts and puts a cop on the Wall Street beat to protect families from corporate greed.

Protecting Vulnerable Children

As one of the senior Democrats on 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 at 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 hold in Congress and the White House. 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 four 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

UNESCO has designated the five San Antonio Missions as World Heritage sites. This respected designation marks the first time that a Texas site has been recognized for “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 dreaded disease or condition is too often a prognosis for financial ruin or hardship, even for those who have insurance. I lead the 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 Republican Congress, I urged the President to use his existing legal authority to provide much-needed relief. For example, when pharmaceutical companies use taxpayer-funded research to develop budget-busting drugs, the Administration should use existing law to ensure that people 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 that they worked a lifetime to earn. AARP honored me recently with its Champion Legislative Leadership Award for my efforts to strengthen seniors’ access to healthcare.

In the wake of 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 fear mongering; he didn’t settle for the “every person for him or herself” 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.

Students’ futures are at stake. The cost of higher education continues to grow higher and higher, and if Republicans have their way, the amount of student financial assistance will shrink until it disappears. 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 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 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students and their families may now use earlier tax data to complete the FAFSA, and the form is now available in October instead of January.  These improvements mean that applications may be filed months earlier than previously possible, making applying for aid easier and more reliable. Recognizing the need for further simplification, I introduced the Equitable Student Aid Access Act, which proposes important changes to the federal aid model.

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.