Issues

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 2022.

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.

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

I remain committed to fighting for equal rights for all Americans. 

With ruthless attempts by the GOP to undermine our democracy with racist voter suppression bills, we must push back and ensure our voices are heard at the ballot box. The House passed the For the People Act, but Senate Republicans have blocked the bill’s passage. 

As an original co-sponsor of the Equality Act, a bill that would ban discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity, I am encouraged by the bill’s passage in the House, and I recognize there is much work to be done to protect our LGBTQ+ neighbors from discrimination.    

Since the onset of the pandemic, I have worked to ensure business owners, artists and musicians, public schools, families, and working people receive the help they need as we recover from the devastating and unequal effects of COVID-19. As Chair of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, I gaveled in our first hearing featuring an Austin physician focused on ensuring vaccines are delivered faster and more equitably.

With my support, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act which has ensured more vaccines, unemployment assistance and critical funds for those in need. As part of this plan, which not a single Republican voted to support, parents began receiving direct payments in July through an expanded child tax credit, which will help reduce child poverty.

When Governor Abbott refused to release federal funds to public schools, I led the Texas congressional delegation in urging the Administration to ensure the money is spent as direct — to support our students and teachers. 

So many of our neighbors are still 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 including the American Rescue Plan and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds.

I worked to provide significant support for our public health system and health care workers, including legislation approving over $20 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:

  • On May 3 2021, I advocated for a TRIPS Waiver to enable swift, affordable global vaccine production. 
  • On February 26, 2021 I gaveled in a hearing as Chair of the Health Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee to discuss vaccine transparency, access, and equity. We heard from the local Director of Advocacy and External Affairs at Ascension Seton, who discussed the importance of equitable distribution of vaccines. 
2020: 
  • 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. 
  • In June 2020, I gaveled in a hearing as Chair of the Health Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee to discuss the disastrous regulatory rollback that left nursing homes vulnerable and ill-equipped to protect their residents from COVID-19. The hearing featured an Austin woman who lost her brother to COVID-19 while he resided in a nursing home.

An overwhelming majority of Americans made their choice clear, Trump, a constant threat to our values, lives and democracy, had to go. I voted to impeach Trump. Twice. I am inspired by the many I represent who are committed to creating a more respectful and inclusive community, resisting hate and intolerance.

Trump lowered the high office daily. But the beauty of our Nation is that we never only look out for just ourselves. We look out for each other and we stand together. While some will seek new ways to divide us, we must work together to defeat the many challenges we face.

Trump could not get away with his misconduct — one outrage after another — without the unflinching support of his many Republican enablers in Congress.

More than just defeating Trump, we must defeat Trumpism. We need to march, not just on the streets, but find ways in our daily lives to promote change. We must continue to promote equality, to preserve our democracy, and demand accountability. We will never yield to those who would drag us backward into a past that we will never accept. 

With a Democratic majority in the House, I worked with my colleagues to pass H.R. 1446, background checks bill. But too many Republicans, backed by the gun lobby, continue to block action in the Senate. Republicans are making almost every place we go less safe.  

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. Following a May 2019 Health Subcommittee hearing I convened on the predatory practice of surprise medical billing, the No Surprises Act, which was modeled off of my End Surprise Billing Act, was signed into law in December 2020 and will take effect in January. 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.

It is unacceptable that Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents, and shameful that GOP leaders will not expand access to Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. That is why I recently introduced the COVER Now Act, a bill that would allow counties to access federal funds in states that refuse to expand Medicaid. 

I have also authored legislation to expand Medicare coverage to include hearing, vision, and dental care. Because I believe health care is a right, not a privilege, I support Medicare for All and endorse approaches to build toward that goal, including lowering the age for Medicare. I also filed the Stop the Wait Act, fighting for fairness for people with disabilities and ending burdensome waiting periods before collecting disability payments and receiving Medicare coverage. 

The Republicans’ repeated attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act risk the health of American families. While the Department of Justice sought to destroy the entire ACA, I 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.

The pandemic has shown us that we need more, not less health care access. I convened a hearing on the benefits of telehealth featuring an Austin physician. I will soon introduce a bipartisan bill to ensure patients who have benefited from expanded telehealth access during the pandemic can continue to use it. 

Texas Republicans are interfering with individuals’ constitutional right to make their own health care decisions. I have a 100% pro-choice lifetime voting record. From your body to your ballot, your right to choose is under attack. We must defend reproductive freedom.

Our planet is at stake, now more than ever. 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. I am pleased that the Biden/Harris Administration has reversed course. This is a necessary step to reducing our carbon emissions and restoring American leadership on climate change. 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, which Republican leaders have weaponized.

During the Trump years, my vote was always: not one more dime for Trump’s wretched anti-immigrant policies.

We are a nation of immigrants and immigration has always made us stronger. Immigration reform will grow our economy as more individuals start small businesses and more students complete their education. It will also continue to culturally enrich our state and country. 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.

As we work to rectify the injustices of Trump’s cruel and inhuman treatment of immigrants, we must pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for Dreamers who have been living in uncertainty. The House passed the American Dream and Promise Act; now the Senate must act. 

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 lowering the price of prescription drugs a top priority as Chairman of the House Ways & Means Health Subcommittee. My first hearing as Chair tackled the topic of rising drug costs, and I continue to hold hearings and conduct oversight on this pressing issue. I authored the Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act, the most comprehensive and bold prescription drug reform legislation in Congress, which has been endorsed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus and dozens of consumer groups. At Senator Sanders’s request, I also filed companion legislation to his Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act and have partnered with him for years in working to rein in Big Pharma monopoly power. I also founded and chair the Prescription Drug Task Force, which is working to stop prescription drug price gouging like the outrageous hike in the cost of EpiPens.

I have filed several other bills to shed light on the cost of development and pricing practices, to end pay-for-delay deals, and filed a bill with Senator Warren to ensure reasonable prices on taxpayer-funded drugs.

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. Partnering with Senator Warren, 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.

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 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 America Great Again.” It wasn’t through stirring hate or fear mongering; he didn’t settle for the “every person for themself” 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.   

During the pandemic, students have experienced many challenges. I worked with my Democratic colleagues to secure federal funding to public elementary, secondary schools and universities to help cushion the pandemic’s blow.

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 (AOTC) 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. I also introduced a bill removing a major financial and logistical barrier to students securing higher education opportunities. My Tax Free Pell Grants Act expands the usage of Pell Grants on a tax-free basis and improves coordination with the AOTC.

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 businesses 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.

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 are providing support for our local small businesses.

In 2020, millions of Americans joined together to protest racial injustice and make it clear that Black lives matter. I am an original sponsor of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House but remains blocked by the Republican obstruction in the Senate.
In 2018, 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.

 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.

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