News from Representative Speier

   
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February 8, 2020

The Senate impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump ended this week with an acquittal, leaving an indelible stain on the legacy of our great Constitution. The President is a clear and present danger to our democracy and our national security interests, and yet he will remain in office despite committing high crimes and misdemeanors for which Senate Republicans admitted there was ample evidence. As we saw with the President's Friday night massacre, he has emerged from this dark chapter not chastened, but emboldened to commit even higher crimes. Trump cheated to win the 2016 election, he’s cheating to try to win the 2020 election, and any rational person would expect more violations of our Constitution and the rule of law before Election Day this November.

The House Managers presented incontrovertible proof that President Trump abused his power when he attempted to bribe an ally for dirt on a political rival and then worked to coverup his crimes, justifying his removal and disqualification from office. Nevertheless, Senate Republicans failed in their duty to be impartial jurors when they voted down the motion to seek additional witnesses and evidence—even as new evidence emerged during the trial that tied the President personally to the Ukraine pressure scheme more than two months before he asked Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate his political opponents in the July 25 call.

Senate Republicans voted almost entirely along party lines—with an exceptional and courageous vote to convict from Republican Sen. Mitt Romney—to let the President off the hook. I pray for brighter days for our democracy, although I fear that we do not yet realize the grave damage wrought by this shameful abdication of duty by Senate Republicans. A sham trial cannot provide a legitimate acquittal, and so this will forever be an impeached President and the Members of the Senate who failed in their duty will be complicit with his crimes from this day forward. 

It was a truly dispiriting week in many respects, but there were also many high points that give me the conviction and hope to move forward. That includes the House's unanimous passage of my bill to provide $25 million in federal funds each year for five years for the restoration of the San Francisco Bay. I also had the honor of having Courtney Wild as my guest to this year's State of the Union (SOTU). Courtney's courage in breaking the silence on the abuse she suffered at the hands of sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein and her fight to ensure that she and other survivors receive the justice they were initially denied inspired me to name one of my bills after her. I also proudly led the effort with my Democratic Women's Caucus co-chairs to wear suffragist white to this year's SOTU, in honor of the centennial of the 19th Amendment. Our brilliant white outfits that stood out among a sea of dark suits sent a clear message to the President and the country that we will persist in our fight for true equality.

There was far more that happened, as you will see below, and be sure to keep an eye out for the next DC Dashboard as we move onward and upward into 2020.


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Legislative Highlights

Passed the San Francisco Bay Restoration Act in the House of Representatives

On Wednesday, the House passed my bill, the San Francisco Bay Restoration Act, by voice vote. I’ve introduced this legislation every Congress since 2010, and the threat to our Bay’s health has only worsened. Climate change, pollution, and human activity have caused an alarming 90 percent of the Bay’s wetlands to be destroyed. The San Francisco Bay is not only a national treasure, but also home to over 100 types of endangered species. It brings in $370 billion in goods and services annually and is home to over 3.5 million jobs. But between 2008 and 2016, the federal government invested a meager $45 million – far short of the $126 million in grant requests received by San Francisco Water Quality Improvement Fund (WQIF).

ImageThe San Francisco Bay Restoration Act authorizes $25 million each year for five years to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fund water quality improvement projects, wetland and estuary restoration, endangered species recovery, and adaptation to climate change. We know that by 2030, the damage to our Bay will be irreversible. This increased federal funding will go a long way toward saving our Bay for our communities today and for future generations.

Voted to Table House Republicans’ Pathetic Attempt to Censor a Powerful Woman

This week, House Republicans introduced a resolution disapproving of Speaker Nancy Pelosi for ripping her copy of President Trump’s State of the Union remarks. The resolution claims that the Speaker’s action “degraded the proceedings of the joint session,” when it was clear to those watching that the State of the Union was degraded by the barrage of mistruths and bloviations the President performed during his game show of a speech. This resolution is a blatant attempt to curry favor with a mercurial President who rewards sycophantic loyalty with political support. I relished the opportunity to vote against such shameful pandering to Trump’s ego and support a Speaker who refuses to be silent in the face of an existential threat to American democratic values and truth.

Voted for Resolution Condemning the Trump Administration’s Attacks on Medicaid

On Thursday, I voted in favor of House Resolution 826, expressing disapproval of the Trump Administration’s harmful actions towards the Medicaid program. In January, the Trump Administration announced a new waiver authority for states, laughably dubbed the “Health Adult Opportunity” program. This new authority provides anything but opportunity, as it would undermine crucial protections for some of the most vulnerable populations in our communities.

The proposal would allow states to receive a waiver to block grant their Medicaid programs for adults in the expansion population, which translates to lower quality of care for fewer people. The Trump Administration argues that block grants would provide states more flexibility, but federal law already gives states significant flexibility – that’s why the Medicaid program in Alaska looks vastly different than Medicaid in California. This proposal is yet another attempt to weaken the Affordable Care Act and would come at the expense of millions of Americans and their health care. 

Voted for H.R. 5687, to provide additional emergency aid to Puerto Rico

On Thursday, I voted in favor of providing emergency supplemental aid to Puerto Rico. In the past several weeks, thousands of Puerto Ricans lost their homes after several large earthquakes rocked the island. Schools, roads, and infrastructure were destroyed, wiping out any progress since Hurricanes Maria and Irma. H.R. 5687 would provide an additional $4.67 billion for disaster relief and long-term recovery.

President Trump has been dangerously slow in providing Puerto Rico with its federal disaster aid, and it’s clear that even more support and oversight is needed. Consequently, the emergency supplemental also includes accountability measures to address the Trump Administration’s illegal withholding of Puerto Rico relief and includes several tax-related provisions that will support families and encourage economic growth. The Senate and President must now move expediently to approve these funds so that our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico can recover and rebuild.

Voted for the PRO Act to Protect the Basic Right to Join a Union and Collectively Bargain

This week, I had the honor of voting for the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act to protect workers’ rights. The PRO Act will safeguard our basic right to join a union by introducing meaningful penalties for companies and executives that violate workers’ rights, 
expanding workers’ collective bargaining rights and closing loopholes that corporations use to exploit workers and strengthening workers’ access to fair union elections and requiring corporations to respect the results.

The American economy is increasingly stacked in favor of large corporations at the expense of working families and the middle class. Over the last 40 years, average incomes for the bottom 90 percent of households increased 1.1 percent, while average incomes for the top 1 percent increased by more than 180 percent. This is wrong, and it’s in no small part due to the decimation of workers’ rights to join a union and collectively bargain. I’m proud to have voted for such pro-worker legislation and will continue to fight our nation’s skyrocketing income inequality.

Where’s Jackie?

Organized Democratic Women in Wearing Suffragist White to the State of the Union and
Brought Epstein Victim Courtney Wild as My Guest

ImageThe Democratic Women’s Caucus, which I Co-Chair, wore suffragist white to the State of the Union in honor of the centennial of the 19th Amendment. It is with this right, and through record engagement and activism, that the women of this country helped deliver the Democratic Majority and the most diverse Congress in history. We have been at the forefront of the fight for affordable health care, including reproductive health care, equal pay, and freedom from violence and discrimination. Our suffragist white also sent a strong message to those at home that we will persist in fighting for the people and refuse to give up our hard-earned rights.

ImageFor Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, I brought as my honored guest Courtney Wild, who was victimized for years by serial sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein in Florida when she was just 14 years old and still in braces. Since 2008, after Epstein’s prosecutors pushed through a sweetheart plea deal for the serial predator, Courtney has fought in court for the rights of victims not to be totally trampled in the criminal process – a fight that continues to this day on an appeal of that case in the Eleventh Circuit. Inspired by Courtney’s bravery and dignity in the face of unthinkable treatment by those who should have been fighting for her and the other Epstein survivors, I introduced legislation to strengthen crime victims’ rights, improve the judicial and administrative processes for victims to assert their rights, and to provide grant funding for victims’ legal assistance. I named H.R. 4729 in Courtney’s honor—the bipartisan Courtney Wild Crime Victims’ Rights Reform Act. You can read more about my legislation here.

Chaired DWC Hearing Honoring #MeToo Silence Breakers with Action

This week, I had the honor of hosting a hearing with brave silence breakers and experts to highlight the cultural shift we have seen with the #MeToo movement, the progress made, and the changes and legislation still needed to prevent and address workplace harassment. Our distinguished speakers included Drew Dixon, who is featured in the On the Record documentary about her sexual violence allegations against Russell Simmons; Kim Lawson, a McDonald’s worker and Fight for $15 leader; Liz Giorgi, the CEO of Soona; Gillian Thomas, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project; and EEOC Commissioner Charlotte Burrows.

Kim shared a heartbreaking story of having to move around shifts so she didn’t have to workImage with her harassing manager while being homeless and trying to care for her daughter. Drew spoke of being violently tackled and raped by Russell Simmons, and how that and a subsequent experience of harassment by LA Reid forced her to give up on her chosen passion and 10 year career of creating award-winning music. Liz spoke of her dream of creating a billionaire dollar company, but how it’s not surprising that only 2 percent of venture capital funds go to female-founded companies given the sexual harassment and wildly inappropriate questions she received in trying to raise investments. I will have their testimony forever etched into my brain and will continue the fight to pass critical legislation such as the BE HEARD, EMPOWER and FAIR Acts so that we can better ensure safe and dignified workplaces for all.  You can watch the hearing here.

Chaired MILPERS Hearing on Exceptional Family Member Program

On Tuesday, the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, which I chair, held a hearing on the problems with the military’s Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). EFMP is supposed to help special needs families with military assignments, educational resources, and medical care, but too often falls far short of families’ needs. As a nation we have a duty to ensure that our military families have access to the medical and educational resources that their children need.

The testimony of military parents and advocates highlighted ways the Department of Defense (DOD) is failing these families, despite the availability of solutions.  The DOD must treat this issue with more urgency. Parents focused on finding appropriate care for their kids will be less focused on their jobs. And if we make them choose between their families and jobs, they will rightly choose their families.

I will continue to keep up my vigilant oversight of this problem to ensure that the DOD quickly adopts the changes necessary to bring these programs up to standard.


Roundtable Discussion on Access to Shelter and Housing for Domestic and Sexual Violence Survivors

As Co-Chair of the Task Force to End Sexual Violence, I led a roundtable discussion with experts on the critical need for shelters and affordable housing for domestic and sexual violence survivors. Domestic violence (DV) survivors are four times as likely to become homeless and 84 percent of survivors report needing assistance with housing. The federal government has been woefully behind in developing policies that support survivors and their ability to regain independence after escaping an abusive relationship. Likewise, there remains a nationwide shortage of shelters specifically for domestic violence victims.

Fifty percent of DV survivors report feeling unsafe in a standard homeless shelter – these shelters may not protect their identities or location, risking survivors’ ability to remain safe from their abusers. While community education and resources for survivors has incrementally improved over the years, domestic violence remains a pervasive epidemic that consistently fails to receive the funding and attention it merits. In 2019, one in six homicides in New York were determined to be a result of domestic violence. This is unacceptable. We must reform our shelter systems and affordable housing opportunities to properly address the needs of survivors – lives are on the line.

Meeting with Jackie

Met with Representatives of BOMA from San Francisco

ImageOn Wednesday, I had a sit-down meeting with local representatives of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), leading commercial real estate professionals from the San Francisco Bay Area. We talked about ways Congress can act to help ensure a strong and sustainable economy for the future, including greater federal investment in infrastructure and permanent tax incentives for energy efficiency improvements in buildings.

One of the best parts of my job is meeting with people from my district to hear about their ideas and to share with them the latest information on Capitol Hill. I hold meetings in both my DC and San Mateo offices and travel back home to the 14th District every weekend. I strongly believe that Members of Congress must maintain an open dialogue and keep in constant contact with individuals outside of the Beltway in order to more effectively represent the interests of their districts and communities.

Voices of California’s 14th District

Each 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 receive information about legislation and policies. Every constituent who writes in receives a personal response.
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Here are some issues constituents raised this week:

• 103 constituents expressed support for H.R. 2214, the NO BAN Act. I am a cosponsor of this important legislation that would prohibit religious discrimination in various immigration-related decisions, limit the President’s authority to restrict individuals from entering the United States, require specific evidence of a need for the restriction, and mandate that the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) consult Congress before imposing such a restriction and report to Congress periodically after its imposition.
 
• 99 constituents shared support for conserving endangered species. I agree that we must ensure that endangered species are cherished and protected. While we have made great strides in protecting wildlife, recent efforts to derail the Endangered Species Act are part of a greater trend of politically-motivated assault on science in our country. You have my word that I will fight against these efforts and work to safeguard our wildlife conservation laws.

• 38 constituents expressed support for asylum seekers on the border. We have a vital responsibility to protect immigrants against abuses of authority. Please know that I will continue to use my platform in Congress to combat the erosion of immigrant rights in the United States and fight for a return to respect for human dignity and tolerance.

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