News from Representative Speier

   
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November 24, 2019

This week, the House Intelligence Committee heard more explosive testimony regarding Donald J. Trump’s shakedown of Ukraine in exchange for dirt on a political opponent and the numerous steps taken before and afterward to cover-up his criminal and corrupt acts. Witnesses called by Democrats and Republicans made clear that military funding passed by Congress for Ukraine was being conditioned on investigations of the Bidens and was released only after the whistleblower came forward and the President came under intense media scrutiny and was forced to do so.

Despite the President's continued lies, his chosen Ambassador and major political donor, Gordon Sondland, made clear that Ukraine knew they would get the funds Congress had voted to provide for their fledgling Democracy only if they gave in to Trump's bribery scheme. Sondland testified under oath, “I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a `quid pro quo?’ As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

Nonpartisan, lifetime civil servants who testified this week and last week also corroborated the whistleblower's accounts of the President's scheme, providing firsthand evidence of the following facts: The President’s conduct was a violation of the law, his oath of office, and the Constitution; a gross abuse of power; and it presented a national security threat at the time and for our election security in 2020.

That was far from the only business to be conducted in the House, as you will see below. We also passed a continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown on Thursday and legislation to address workplace violence for health care and social service workers, ban the practice of selling shark fins, and stand with Hong Kong protestors.

Next week is the Thanksgiving holiday, which means the House will not be in session, though we will be working in our districts. And be sure to check your email the first week of December, when we return to Washington for the next edition of Jackie’s DC Dashboard.


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Votes and Legislative Highlights

Passed Continuing Resolution Averting Disastrous Government Shutdown

Just a few years ago, a last-minute deal to maintain government funding within 24 hours of a critical deadline would have been the top news on Capitol Hill. This week, the House voted on just such a deal without almost no fanfare, sending a short-term spending bill to the Senate to keep the government running until December 20th.

ImageDespite some Republican rumblings, the continuing resolution was passed by the Senate, including urgently-needed 2020 Census funding and extended funding for impactful health services and education. Without this legislation, the flow of money would have stopped at midnight Thursday. Now, appropriators in the House and Senate, facing challenges because of the President’s insistence on funding an unnecessary border wall and his xenophobic immigration policies, must hash out a final budget deal so that federal agencies can enter 2020 with budgetary certainty and get on with business, which includes avoiding an end-of-year government shutdown.

Voted in Support of Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers

On Thursday, I voted to pass H.R. 1309, the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act. Our nation depends on caregivers, like nurses and social workers, who support some of the most vulnerable populations in our communities.

Currently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides no enforceable standards that would require employers to implement a workplace violence prevention program for health care and social services workers. Employees in these industries are four times as likely to experience workplace violence, and that number is even worse for public employees in the field. Over the last ten years, workplace violence incidents for the health care and social service sectors has increased by 69 percent. In hospitals, violence grew by 123 percent, and in psychiatric settings, by 201 percent. H.R. 1309 represents a critical step forward by requiring OSHA to develop workplace violence prevention programs and by providing other vital protections for our nation’s caregivers. We owe a great debt to health care and social service workers. And like all Americans, they are entitled to a safe and dignified workplace environment.

Passed Legislation to Stand with Hong Kong Protesters

This week, the House and Senate voted to support Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters and oppose China’s authoritarian crackdown. For the last several months, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents have protested China’s attempts to diminish Hong Kong’s autonomy and suppress pro-democracy efforts. China’s response has involved violent repression of protests and the use of financial influence to constrain vocal support of Hong Kong across the world. The two bills we passed Wednesday, S. 1838 and S. 2710, would support Hong Kong’s democratic aspirations, prevent certain munitions from being sold to the Hong Kong police, sanction individuals in charge of extraditions from Hong Kong to China, and ensure the President changes the U.S. economic and diplomatic relationship with Hong Kong if it loses its autonomy. The bills are now with the President, although he has not indicated whether he will sign them into law. I hope that these bills will make China more hesitant to suppress Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedom.

Voted to Ban Sales of Shark Fins

On Wednesday, I joined my colleagues in passing the bipartisan H.R. 737, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, to make it illegal to own, buy, or sell any products with shark fins in them. Despite the importance of sharks in maintaining healthy oceans, fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up in the global fin trade each year, and some species have declined by more than 90 percent. In 2013, California led the nation in the fight to end shark finning by passing the first state law to ban the sale of shark fins. I am thrilled that the House has decided to follow California’s lead and prohibit the purchase and sale of shark fins.

Where’s Jackie? 

Investigated the President’s Bribery Conspiracy in Public Impeachment Hearings.

This week, I participated in the impeachment investigation hearings being conducted by the House Intelligence Committee. As a senior member of the Committee, I have long been concerned about the ways in which President Trump’s actions and words have weakened our national security. After many hours of open hearings, the public now has evidence of the President’s attempt to use his public office in exchange for personal benefit. This unprecedented solicitation for a bribe is illegal, in violation of our Constitution, and damages our national security and, as every witness testified when I questioned them on the topic, strengthens Russia to our own peril. It also threatens the security and integrity of our 2020 elections.

ImageOn Tuesday, Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, Director for Ukraine policy at the National Security Council, testified about the July 25, 2019 call between President Trump and President Zelensky in which President Trump demanded a personal political favor. I was disgusted and appalled by the Republicans’ character assassination attempts against LTC Vindman, a purple heart recipient who wore his dress uniform and spoke of our country with great pride and patriotism. These attacks and the threats LTC Vindman has received as a result of testifying truthfully before Congress are reprehensible.

Jennifer Williams testified that in addition to critically needed military aid other official acts, such as the Vice President’s attendance at President Zelensky’s inauguration, were also withheld by the President as part of his shakedown of Ukraine.

Despite being witnesses for the minority, Ambassador Kurt Volker confirmed that the investigations demanded by Trump were preconditions for official acts needed by Ukraine. After hearing the July 25th phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky, National Security Council Russia Advisor Tim Morrison recognized the damaging potential of the call’s contents and advised that the transcript be “locked down” to prevent others from seeing it.  
 
In critical testimony hear on Wednesday, Gordon Sondland described how President Trump had personally tasked him to work with Rudy Giuliani to get a promise from the fledgling Ukraine government of President Zelensky for an announcement of investigations into Burisma. Sondland admitted that the President was less concerned about whether or not the investigation actually occurred, and only with there being a public statement that the investigation was being conducted. Furthermore, he provided evidence that Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were well informed of the scheme to coerce announcements about the investigations from Ukraine by using official acts.

Also on Wednesday, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and Eurasia Laura Cooper spoke about confusion for the hold placed by the White House on security assistance even though the Defense Department certified that Ukraine should get the aid in May. David Hale confirmed that the removal of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch from her position in Kyiv was not in any way tied to the performance of her duties. 

After decades of developing expertise in Russian strategy, Dr. Fiona Hill gave powerful testimony of the ways in which the investigations President Trump was demanding were in keeping with Russian efforts to weaken Ukraine. These investigations had no foreign policy benefit for the United States or its long-term objectives in the region.

David Holmes was a first-hand witness to the President’s own words confirming his demand for an announcement of investigations by a foreign power into the President’s political rival. He confirmed that by the summer of 2019, there was little doubt among the diplomats and national security professionals charged with executing U.S. policy in Ukraine that the President was unwilling to take necessary and important steps to demonstrate U.S. commitment to Ukraine without the personal “favor” being performed. At the close of Thursday’s hearings, it was obvious that the President himself was ordering these corrupt actions. 

The evidence has laid bare the President’s craven, self-interested actions which I believe a gross abuse of power and violation of law. During these hearings, I was proud to represent the concerns of so many of my constituents who have contacted my office to demand that this President be held accountable for violating his oath of office. In contrast to his self-dealing treachery stands the example of many of the brave witnesses who testified at personal cost to themselves and their families. They did this, as Dr. Hill put it, because of “a legal and moral obligation” to tell the truth. These individuals made clear that they serve the American public, not any one individual in office, and they are an inspiring example to us all.

Met with Verily about Health Care Innovation

This week, I had the opportunity to meet with Verily, a constituent company and the health care and life sciences arm of Alphabet, about their use of technology and data science to drive innovation. We discussed the need to expand access to clinical trials for women and minorities, as well as their initiative, Project Baseline, to map human health by collecting detailed data so that we can better predict when a person will become ill. I look forward to hearing more about their efforts to radically improve health by being on the cutting-edge of technology.

Meetings with Jackie

Met with Verily about Health Care Innovation

This week, I had the opportunity to meet with Verily, a constituent company and the health care and life sciences arm of Alphabet, about their use of technology and data science to drive innovation.

ImageWe discussed the need to expand access to clinical trials for women and minorities, as well as their initiative, Project Baseline, to map human health by collecting detailed data so that we can better predict when a person will become ill.

I look forward to hearing more about their efforts to radically improve health by being on the cutting-edge of technology and appreciate all those who come to my offices, whether in Washington San Mateo, to provide their insight and updates to issues that directly my constituents and the country.

 

Voices of California’s 14th District


ImageEach week, hundreds of my constituents reach out to my San Mateo and Washington, D.C. offices to express their concerns and support for issues and get information about legislation and policies. Every constituent who writes in receives a personal response.

Here are some issues raised this week:

• 178 constituents expressed support for animal welfare. As a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, I am a strong advocate for stricter animal protection laws. There is never an excuse for inflicting needless harm upon an animal. I will continue to support legislation that protects animals and advocates for humane treatment.

• 65 constituents expressed their concern for surprise medical bills. It is vitally important that every American, regardless of their economic status, can access quality, affordable health care. I will continue to work on improving our health care system so that financial burdens no longer impede access to critical services or further hurt patients and their families.

• 44 constituents expressed their support for climate smart infrastructure. It’s imperative that climate smart policies are incorporated into any major infrastructure reform. We cannot keep adopting policies from the past. You have my word that I will be a vigorous advocate for bold action to solve this climate crisis. The fate of our planet and future generations depends on it.

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