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. I will file for reelection and hope to earn your vote in 2020.
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 and White House 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, please contact me and let me know your priorities.
So many of our neighbors are struggling—some with disease, some to make ends meet, but none are without worry and concerns. I am working to respond to individuals and small businesses to ensure access to needed resources.
I worked to provide significant support for our public health system and health care workers, including legislation approving $6.5 billion to develop vaccines, treatments, and cures. I continue working to prevent monopoly pricing for these life-saving pharmaceuticals developed at taxpayer expense. Here are just a few of my actions I took to respond to COVID-19, including before it was called a pandemic:
- Throughout January and February, as Trump falsely assured us that the federal government had coronavirus “under control,” I urged stronger action. On February 13, I along with Rep. Castro contacted the CDC seeking information about the precautions being taken at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, where infected patients were being held. I was deeply concerned about the lack of communication or support from the federal government. The CDC failed to address these concerns, and erroneously allowed a patient who had tested positive to leave the base and enter the San Antonio community, putting residents in danger.
- On February 20, after HHS Secretary Azar refused to promise that a vaccine developed with taxpayer dollars would be widely accessible, my colleagues and I raised concerns about the affordability of a vaccine developed with the private sector. A week later, the administration reversed course and directed its teams to ensure that anything resulting from partnerships with the private sector would be made accessible.
- When it came to my attention that the Department of Commerce was encouraging the export of medical supplies that we knew would be in critically short supply in the case of an outbreak, I asked Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross for an explanation as to why these critical supplies were being exported when we would need them here in the United States.
- On February 26, Trump said, “we’re testing everybody that we need to test. And we’re finding very little problem.” However, on March 5, Vice President Pence stated that the administration would not be able to deliver on a promise that FDA Commissioner Hahn made to Congress regarding coronavirus testing. I was alarmed by the administration’s complete failure to ramp up testing as cases and deaths grew and knew Trump’s statements were false. On March 6, I led a letter to FDA Commissioner Hahn requesting a more accurate timeline and estimates regarding urgently needed testing. That same day, I wrote Secretary Azar seeking estimates of the costs of coronavirus testing. I was concerned that tests developed with taxpayer dollars in public-private partnerships would be out of reach for many Americans and leave us all without the protection of widespread testing.
- On March 13, I led an effort urging Secretary Azar to establish a Special Enrollment Period for Affordable Care Act Marketplace coverage. I knew that our ability to combat the coronavirus rested on our ability to provide care that tens of millions of Americans could not afford.
- Speaking to Governors on March 16, President Trump said, “respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment – try getting it yourselves.” I was disturbed by this lack of initiative and disregard for vulnerable States. On March 17, I joined colleagues asking about specific Department of Defense resources that had not been utilized in our coronavirus response, urging use of the Defense Production Act.
- On April 1, I urged Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Rettig to reconsider their decision not to send payments to Social Security and Supplemental beneficiaries automatically and instead require them to submit a tax return before receiving funds. Millions of beneficiaries do not normally file returns, which unnecessarily created a substantial delay for the most vulnerable Americans.
- On April 9, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and I urged Vice President Pence, Secretary Mnuchin, and Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Vought to act on troubling provisions in the coronavirus relief bill. These provisions sheltered large amounts of income and would reduce government revenue by almost two hundred billion dollars over ten years, constituting massive tax giveaways. Even more troubling is the fact that the provisions may have been designed to help Trump’s businesses and those of his associates who have influence in the White House. We requested communications and analyses regarding these provisions in order to understand why the administration would have pushed for such provisions during a time when Americans are in need of financial support.
- After learning of widespread testing inaccuracies, Representative DeLauro and I sent FDA Commissioner Hahn a letter on April 9 asking for information about the FDA’s response and policy aimed at ensuring test accuracy.
- On April 23, I urged Secretary of Education DeVos to help insure that students are able to continue seeking federal funds for college with the FAFSA, the Free Application for Student Aid. The economic recession triggered by the coronavirus is forcing millions of students to reevaluate their options, and the guidance we urged from the Department of Education will help them better navigate the challenging situation.
- When FDA Commissioner Hahn failed to respond to our April 9 inquiry, Congresswoman DeLauro and I followed up on April 29 in writing. We asked that the FDA revise its oversight policy regarding the manufacture of coronavirus testing. The FDA has ceded regulatory authority and decided to waive steps that ensure medical products on the market are safe and reliable, putting patients at risk and allowing faulty tests to stay on the market. We requested information regarding testing accuracy, the FDA’s current oversight, and specific action plans to rectify inaction.
- In response to the Texas Workforce Commission’s inability to address unemployment claims in a timely manner and deliver relief to desperate Texans, my Democratic colleagues from Texas and I urged Governor Abbott on April 28 to waive the two-week recertification requirement, which would make the system more efficient and provide for the more than 1.4 million Texans who have lost jobs due to the coronavirus.
- Again, Rep. DeLauro and I took steps to ensure the affordability of coronavirus drugs. On April 30 we urged HHS Secretary Azar to provide a breakdown of expenditures and sources of funding which the federal government has spent on the research and development of remdesivir, a possible new coronavirus treatment. We asked for transparency to ensure that a drug developed with taxpayer money would be available to everyone and better mitigate the spread of the virus.
- On May 4, I urged Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day to provide information regarding the production, distribution, and pricing of remdesivir, a possible new COVID-19 treatment. We pointed out that remdesivir would not have been developed without taxpayer dollars and sought information that will help us hold Gilead accountable and ensure that the treatment is available to all who need it.
I am inspired by the many I represent who are committed to creating a more respectful and inclusive community, resisting hate and intolerance. I voted to impeach Trump.
Trump lowers the high office daily. 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. 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.
Trump could not get away with his ongoing misconduct, with one outrage after another, without the loyal support of his many Republican enablers in Congress. To end his reign of fear, we must do everything possible to get not only a new President but new elected officials in Texas, who show respect for all instead of sealing their lips and sitting on their hands in the face of injustice.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. We are engaged in a vital struggle for America’s future at a time in our history when democracy has seldom been so imperiled.
Common-sense gun safety laws are being blocked by this Administration and its Republican enablers. Inspired by the many people who have been tragically affected by this issue, I have partnered with groups like March for Our Lives and Moms Demand Action to bring attention to this crisis and pass solutions. With a Democratic majority in the House, I sponsored H.R. 8, a background check bill. But too many Republicans, backed by the gun lobby, continue to block action in the Senate.
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. We must keep weapons of war out of our communities and prevent dangerous individuals from obtaining firearms. Short moments of silence followed by long moments of inaction are insufficient.
In a prior Congress, I helped passed legislation in the House, the Wounded Veteran Job Security Act, to ensure that wounded veterans returning from service are not forced to choose between keeping their job at home and getting needed treatment. As I visit with Texas veterans, I understand the need for prompt, nearby care, which is why I worked to expand veterans’ health facilities so Texas veterans don’t have to drive long distances for the basic health care they have earned. We must work to improve the VA, not to end, “privatize,” or dismantle it.
The Affordable Care Act helps ensure doctors and big insurance companies treat families fairly in everything from finding a doctor to receiving a diagnosis and receiving treatment. It’s not right that high medical bills are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. As Health Subcommittee Chairman in the House Ways & Means Committee, I am working to ensure that affordable health care will always be there for American families that need it the most.
President Obama signed my AARP-endorsed NOTICE Act into law, which 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 end the practice of patients getting an unexpected medical bill from an out-of-network provider who works at an in-network hospital.
The Trump Administration’s repeated attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act place the health of American families at risk. While the Department of Justice seeks to destroy the entire ACA, I have opposed Republican efforts to sabotage health care. Republicans merely offered a “Trumpcare” health plan, attempting to replace Obamacare with “I don’t care.” I firmly opposed Republicans’ “NothingCare” proposals. Instead of repealing Obamacare, Congress needs to work together to ensure health care is affordable.
Our planet is at stake, now more than ever, with the climate-change-denier-in-chief in the White House. That is why I have joined as a sponsor of the Green New Deal – a resolution offering important broader goals, with the hope for continued work to implement its provisions into legislative language.
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 reach 100 degrees or more annually — what a world we are bequeathing to our children and grandchildren.
We need to act now at all levels to keep our world livable. That is why I introduced the Green Transportation Act, which directs cities and states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Because many parts of the country are not accounting for transportation emissions, this represents an important step in seeking to reduce pollution by mandating the tracking of emissions and creation of local plans to reduce them, while providing federal support.
If we want to change the climate, we need to change the political climate. Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement was an historic mistake. 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 that truly reflects the consequences of inaction. Together, and by reaching out to our neighbors, we must act now to create a sustainable, green economy, reduce carbon emissions, and increase renewable energy.
As a sponsor of several campaign finance reform bills, including House Democrats’ broad reform package, H.R. 1, 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.
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. I voted against the Republican tax scheme because it hurts middle-class families and opens more loopholes to exploitation by multinational corporations, as I explained in this PBS NewsHour Interview.
To take just one example, Pfizer 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.
As one of the senior Democrats on 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.
I was horrified by the Trump Administration’s decision to tear children from their mothers at the border, treating young infants whose families were legally seeking asylum with intentional cruelty. I vigorously fought family separation as a policy, and I worked to respond to many of the heartbreaking individual stories which came to me from the border. Our humanity and compassion toward vulnerable children should know no borders.
There is a crisis on our border. It is a true humanitarian crisis. It is not due to a lack of resources, but only to a lack of humanity. It is a deliberate Trump-created crisis—a crisis that has weaponized the love of a mother for a child, weaponized strong family bonds as a way to deter asylum seekers from entering our country, and most recently to misuse wretched conditions for children as a justification for giving Trump a blank check to fund his anti-immigrant policies.
The strong, fortified borders that we most need are strong borders to restrain a president who respects no boundaries on his authoritarian impulses. So, along with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, I voted no on the recent weak border spending bill. My vote was and remains: not one more dime for Trump’s wretched anti-immigrant policies.
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.
Instead of working toward these solutions, President Trump has spent his energy shutting down the government and declaring a phony emergency to fund his wasteful wall. Call it a wall or a barrier, build it with concrete or steel – in any name and in any form, I have opposed Trump’s wall. I also joined a resolution condemning Trump’s declaration of a fake emergency, and I continue to oppose this unjust power grab.
I do agree with Trump that we need a zero-tolerance policy, but the zero-tolerance policy that I support is zero tolerance for bigotry, zero tolerance for anti-immigrant hysteria, and zero tolerance for cruel and inhumane treatment.
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.
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 have made this issue a top priority as Chairman of the House Ways & Means Health Subcommittee. My first hearing tackled the topic of rising drug costs, and I have introduced a bill, the Drug Price Transparency Act, which would use the American principles of competition and negotiation to help drive drug prices down. I also 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. I have 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.
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.
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 would be fully voluntary, and would have been paid for by closing tax loopholes for the wealthiest few
Small businesses are the driving force in our Nation’s economy and we need to clear the highway for them, I have supported legislation making it easier for small business to raise capital and cut some of the red tape that makes it harder for start-ups to get off the ground. I have voted against tax schemes that favor multinationals at the expense of small businesses—I seek a level playing field. I also support Small Business Development Centers, including UTSA’s International Trade Center, which has previously been honored by SBA as Center of the year. These centers have aided thousands of small businesses. The New Markets Tax Credit is another important tool for attracting capital to underserved communities that badly need it. As a member of the Congressional STEM Education Caucus, I know the key role that science, technology, engineering, and math play in enabling the U.S. to remain the economic and technological leader globally. Finally, on behalf of small business and entrepreneurs locally, I work to obtain federal funding to supplement important local efforts. I voted for several coronavirus relief packages that would provide support for small businesses.
Last December, with my support, Congress passed the First Step Act to reform federal sentencing guidelines and invest in rehabilitation efforts, including vocational and job readiness training, addiction treatment, and trauma care services. But as it was named, this was merely a first step. Since taking the majority, House Democrats have held four hearings on a range of criminal justice topics: women and girls in the criminal justice system; restorative justice; reform of marijuana laws and racial justice. We have also held three hearings on hate crimes and the scourge of white nationalism.
Our criminal justice system is far too broken to freeze at the First Step. Sentencing guidelines still tie the hands of judges and disproportionately impact communities of color. For-profit companies still own much of our prison system as well as detention facilities separating immigrant families and abusing young children. As part of our commitment to criminal justice reform, we must ensure the safety and fair and humane treatment of those who are in prison or detained. I am an original sponsor of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House but remains blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate.
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