THE COMPLETE 16 PERCENT: Pardon Our Holiday Interruption, Again

The full rundown from our December 23, 2020 newsletter.

Chanikarn Thongsupa

LBJ Library

Brendan Smialowski, Agence France-Presse

The Blog
The Blog

THE COMPLETE 16 PERCENT: Pardon Our Holiday Interruption, Again

Nanette Diaz Barragan (D; CA- 44)

It’s the Environment, Stupid

Being from California, access to water and environmental protections are a big issue for Nanette. She has been vocal the last couple weeks on various environmental concerns. First, Nanette joined her colleagues to pass the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020. This legislation makes critical investments in the nation’s ports, inland waterways, flood protection, ecosystem restoration, and other water resources infrastructure. As well, she led 28 other House members in a bipartisan letter urging House leadership to include a one-time emergency investment of $500 million for local parks in any future economic stimulus or infrastructure package. AND we must give her a quick congratulations on being the Number 2 position for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Jason Crow (D; CO-4)

Diversity in Arms

43% of the people in the U.S. armed forces are people of color. This stat, which is not publicized enough, led Jason to introduce legislation that would mandate a more rigorous diversity training program for troops, civilian staff, and contractors at the Defense Department. President Trump tried to eradicate some diversity training programs in the federal government, including the Pentagon, which has inspired Jason to push to update the current diversity programs. Jason is a former Army Ranger of the Iraq war and member of the House Armed Services Committee – presumably he has experienced how this training could help. Not everyone is on board with it though and some have said there is enough diversity training. We are not sure where Jason’s bill will end up, but we wonder if a year where race has been front and center will help or hurt his cause.

Antonio Delgado (D; NY-19)

Looking Out for his Own

Antonio has been one of the more engaged politicians with his constituents completing his 50th town hall meeting! He talks about issues affecting his constituents and recently talked with Harvard Business journal about race and identity in politics. When he’s not zooming with constituents, Antonio has seen two of his bipartisan bills to support veterans pass the House and Senate this past week. The Fairness for Local Veteran Cemeteries Act ensures county-run veteran cemeteries in states without state-run veteran cemeteries are eligible for federal funding. The Improving Benefits for Underserved Veterans Act directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to publish a report on veteran’s benefits based on sex and minority group member status. If you remember your School House Rock, there’s still a long process before either of these bills become a law, but given that veterans benefits tends to be a bipartisan issue, we’re wishing Antonio the best!

Ruben Gallego (D; AZ-7)

Not Forgetting the Often Forgotten

Ruben has two resolutions that passed the House to ensure Native Americans and veterans get access to health care they deserve during COVID-19. The first was introduced with fellow Political Playlist leader, Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), and would expand health coverage to urban Indian health organizations and give urban programs a desperately needed boost in resources as they suffer shortages, closures, and financial hardship. The second resolution, the Native American Veteran Parity in Access to Care Today (PACT) Act assists homeless veterans and improves women’s access to the VA, enhances benefits to veterans and their families, and helps student veterans who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While it’s easy to grow frustrated with our dysfunctional government, it’s a slight glimmer of hope to know that proposals like this are out there trying to help.

Josh Harder (D; CA-10)

Every Little Bit Counts

After losing a loved one, many military families have suffered financial penalties for bills related terminating phone, cable or internet contracts. Josh introduced the bipartisan Protecting Families of Fallen Servicemembers Act, which allows the families of fallen and critically injured servicemembers to end their phone, cable, or internet contracts without being financially penalized. “The last thing these folks want to have to worry about is negotiating contracts or changing service after a loved one dies” Josh said. This bill just passed the Senate and is awaiting signature by the President! As well, Josh was elected to sit on the powerful Appropriations Committee which will mean more focus on water, agriculture and health care needs for rural communities in his central California district.

Ro Khanna (D; CA-17)

New Stature in the US India Caucus

Ro was just elected as the new Democrat vice-chair of US Congress’ India Caucus. This is the first time this position has been created since the founding of this caucus in 1994. Ro has always been a strong proponent of India and U.S. ties, but has come at odds with the conservative Hindu Indian Americans who think he is a ‘political opportunist.’ The caucus is a major player in improving the relationship between the United States and India. We are looking forward to seeing Ro make his mark in this caucus.

Mike Levin (D; CA-49)

Get Your Safety Helmets On

Congress is expected to pass two bills before the end of the year that will bring millions to Mike’s region for local construction priorities. The Water Resources Development Act is a “critical piece of legislation” for the 49th District because it includes an authorization for a flood protection project in Oceanside and for a Del Mar bluffs shoreline project. As well, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the Fiscal Year 2021, includes $152.5 million for construction projects on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Not only did Mike get some much-needed federal funds for his district, but he also introduced legislation to strengthen and expand services for veterans which include VA health care services, supporting women veterans, increasing VA oversight, and more.

Stephanie Murphy (D; FL-7)

Combating Online Predators

Stephanie led bipartisan legislation to increase penalties on adults who stalk or harass children in person or online. The Combat Online Predators Act will increase the maximum penalty by 5 years when the defendant is an adult and the victim is under 18 years of age. The bill was approved by the House and is about to be signed by the President. Stephanie proudly said, “It will help deter adults from stalking children and ensure those who do commit this terrible crime receive the punishment they deserve.” It’s hard to fight and name an enemy that hides in the shadows of the internet, but online predators are real and we’re seeing more and more attention to regulating and punishing bad actors on the internet.

Ilhan Omar (D; MN-5)

Hey There, I’m Talking to You!

There is no surprise that Ilhan does not like President Trump. Earlier this week she blamed the President for the death of her father from complications from COVID and called his handling of the crisis “criminal neglect.” She also termed the President’s Iran policy as a “spectacular failure,” for doing nothing to bring Iran to the negotiating table. Not only has she been critical of Republicans, but also the Democrats, for “caving” to Republicans demands on the COVID relief package. Some might write this off as noise, but Ilhan published an op-ed that outlines her 2020 accomplishments to try and curb the haters.

Elissa Slotkin (D; MI-8)

Cyberattacks and COVID Relief

We all heard the news about the Russian cyberattacks and even Trump tweeted that it could have possibly been China. We are not sure either, but Elissa, a former CIA analyst, understands the brevity of these attacks and she used this as an opportunity to emphasize the urgency for the President to sign the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), saying that “it is the most significant cybersecurity bill to ever hit the President’s desk… So, the President should end his veto threats and sign that bill.” With a new year approaching that is sure to hold a whole new set of domestic and international challenges, this call seems more important than ever.

Haley Stevens (D; MI-11)

Real World: Congressional App Challenge

Did you know there is a Congressional App Challenge? We didn’t either! Haley announced the 2020 winners of the challenge for high school seniors in Michigan 11th district. Michelle Hua of Troy won the competition for “Coach AI,” a smart fitness app that uses artificial intelligence-based human pose detection and recognition to provide real-time coaching for users while they exercise. The Congressional App Challenge is a nationwide event that is designed to engage student creativity and encourage their participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education fields. Well, if you have an idea…now you know where to apply!

Xochitl Torres Small (D; NM-2)

Broadband Coming to a Theater Near You

Well, this is exciting news if you are from New Mexico. The New Mexico delegation composed of Xochitl, along with Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) announced that 18 cable companies, satellite businesses, electrical cooperatives, and wireless providers in New Mexico have won nearly $165 million from the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction. The utilities received the funding for a 10-year period to provide broadband access in 64,170 locations in New Mexico. The program incentivizes them to build out to all locations as fast as possible. More attention has been turned to expansion of rural technological access, so it’s exciting to see a groundbreaking start in New Mexico!

Kelly Armstrong (R; ND)

Wheeling and Dealing Before Year’s End

Kelly has been part of two major developments in the last week. The first being the decision to expand the available oil and gas leasing in the Little Missouri National Grasslands. The North Dakota delegation was instrumental in getting the U.S. Forest Service to issue a decision to expand energy development to an additional 216,000 acres of Forest Service land. The plan offers protections for sage grouse, rare plants and bighorn sheep during lambing season, but conservationists are frustrated by a provision allowing oil wells near roads in certain pristine areas. The second is Kelly’s involvement with The Crisis Stabilization and Community Reentry Act of 2020, which would help law enforcement partner with mental health providers to provide incarcerated individuals community care as they transition back into society. The partnership with mental health care providers could be a gamechanger for many individuals. The bill is headed to the White House to be signed!

Dan Crenshaw (R; TX-2)

Hero Reloaded

As one of the most well known younger Republican leaders, Dan is used to getting a lot of media noise. Two weeks ago, we highlighted his ‘Georgia Reloaded” video that received a lot of…let’s say positive and negative news. As well, Dan fell into some hot water with a couple left-leaning veteran groups, Common Defense and Vote Vets who have called for his resignation. He allegedly helped a top Trump administration official collect discrediting information about a female veteran who said she was sexually assaulted. Dan served in the same command unit together with her. Dan’s team has come out saying that this is a “smear campaign” and even Republican House leader, Kevin McCarthy, dismissed the claims and reminded everyone that Dan is a “hero to this nation.” It is hard to know the truth on this one, but the stories are worth a read to form your own opinion.

Anthony Gonzalez (R; OH-16)

Foreign Companies, We’re Watching You

The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act – led by Congressmen Gonzalez and Sherman (D-CA) and Senators Van Hollen (D-MD) and John Kennedy (R-LA) was signed into law. The Act ends the practice of companies based in China, some fully controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, from taking advantage of a loophole in securities law to fund their enterprises. Anthony said, “Simply, if a company wants access to US capital markets, they should follow US securities laws.” Also, keep an eye out, the Supreme Court said they will hear an antitrust case against the NCAA that could upend the business model for college sports by allowing colleges to compensate student athletes. Stay tuned because we know Anthony will be heavily involved in this case.

Trey Hollingsworth (R; IN-9)

PPP Forgive Me

Trey spoke with Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce about COVID and the next PPP program, explaining how he wants to focus on small and medium sized businesses. There is still $130 billion available from the first COVID bill and Trey thinks the money should be allocated to the businesses that lost the most revenue. On the same subject, Trey fell into some hot water when a story broke that Trey’s father’s company received over $500,000 in a PPP loan. However, Trey mentions he has no affiliation with his father’s business and a report showed that the money was used to pay employee salaries. It is also worth noting that Trey is one of the top 10 wealthiest members of Congress with an estimated net worth of approximately $50 million.

Brian Mast (R; FL-18)

Wake Up Congress!

Brian helped write a series of provisions that extend more benefits to veterans. The Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020 (what a name!) a) extends wartime veteran benefits (including veteran pension and health care), b) helps veterans recover during natural disasters, c) assists with legal services of homeless veterans and d) ensures that widows and widowers of Medal of Honor recipients receive the same support that was given to the veteran. In other news, Brian issued a scathing statement about how Congressional members are getting the vaccine first, saying “Congress needs to stop treating itself as a special political class.”

Elise Stefanik (R; NY-21)

No Retirement Funds for You

We love seeing two Political Playlist leaders work together like Elise and Jason Crow (D-CO) who introduced bipartisan legislation to prevent a Member of Congress from collecting their taxpayer-funded retirement annuity if they are convicted of sexual abuse. The Prohibiting Annuities for Sexual Abusers in Congress Act would add felony sexual abuse to a list of offenses including bribery, perjury, and conspiracy which are grounds for the denial of pensions for Representatives and Senators under the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. Kind of insane to think that Members of Congress were still able to collect retirement funds if there were convicted of sexual abuse!

William Timmons (R; SC-4)

F-16 Heaven

Greenville, South Carolina is celebrating after the Air Force and announced it will be building the first F-16 industry depot in their city. A 10-year, $900 million contract awarded to Lockheed Martin will maintain and upgrade F-16 fighter jets. William and the rest of his South Carolina delegation were instrumental in securing this contract. This will be the first project of its kind on U.S. soil, although there are others overseas. William also mentioned that the contract would create between 50-80 new jobs. Sounds like a few bottles of champagne should be popped for this win!

Josh Hawley (R; MO)

No Stimulus Checks???

Josh is probably fuming after his push for standalone stimulus checks was shot down by fellow Republican Senator Ron Johnson (Wisconsin). In a surprising collaboration, Josh teamed up with Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont) to push for the second round of $1,200 stimulus checks – talk about a strange turn of events. Eventually, Congress settled on $600 checks. Despite working aggressively on the COVID stimulus bill, the Senate passed Josh’s bipartisan bill, the Duck Boat Safety Enhancement Act, to improve the safety of duck boats following the 2018 tragedy on Table Rock Lake which killed 17 people. We wonder how Josh’s relationship will be with his fellow Senator Ron Johnson after this hiccup.

Pete Aguilar (D; CA-31)

The Dwindling American Dream

Owning a home used to be the hallmark of the American Dream, but has now become increasingly unattainable for many people. Pete wants to help. He has just introduced the FHA Fairness Act which would adjust the ways that some prospective home buyers can obtain Federal Housing Administration low-interest loans. Buying a house is unnecessarily complicated and the loan process is no exception, so let’s try to simplify this. FHA loans are distributed based on a formula calculated by the median home price. However, in districts like Pete’s home prices can vary widely. His bill would allow for certain areas to access higher loan limits – directly affecting prospective buyers in higher-cost areas. The adjustment is simple, according to Pete, so we look forward to seeing if he can help some of his constituents get a little closer to that dream!

Brendan Boyle (D; PA-2)

The Unluck of the Irish

You need look no further than Brendan’s name to know his Irish heritage and he has been one of the leading voices in Congress to address US-Ireland relations. Recently, he spoke about the US-Britain relationship post-Brexit – namely that the Biden administration will prioritize a deal with the EU over the UK because the EU economy is so much larger. Brendan previously expressed strong opposition to a US-UK trade deal if Brexit violated the 1998 Belfast Agreement (which settled the relationship between Ireland and Northern Ireland and led to peace in Northern Ireland after over 30 years of violence). This violation looks unlikely now, but Brendan is still hoping for a special envoy to Ireland in the Biden administration… perhaps an ideal role for the only member of Congress with an Irish-born parent??

Joe Cunningham (D; SC-1)

Crack Open a Cold One

In a move that you can’t help but smile at, Joe pulled out and cracked open a beer during his farewell address to the House (he sadly didn’t take a sip, as alcohol is not allowed on the House floor). But the beer was simply emblematic of the rhetoric that accompanied it. Joe called for political civility. He called out many of his GOP colleagues for loathing President Trump in private, but praising him in public. He noted the significance of his victory two years ago in a “ruby red and gerrymandered district” that had been held by Republicans for FORTY YEARS. He stated his pride at having two of his bills signed into law during his two-year term and at being ranked the fourth-most bipartisan member of Congress. Goodbye, Joe. We hope you get to enjoy that beer!

Abby Finkenauer (D; IA-1)

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far

In her farewell address to Congress, Abby invoked her love for her family and the values instilled in her as the reason she chose to run for public office. She recalled the example of her firefighter grandfather who “just showed up and he helped people and he did his job”. Abby, a self-proclaimed workhorse, introduced many bipartisan bills and had one of them signed into law by the president earlier this month. She also became the youngest woman to have a bill passed by the House. Her focus lied heavily on worker protection, collective bargaining, rural infrastructure and economic development – values that reflect her blue-collar upbringing. These hallmarks have led to her name being floated for Biden’s Secretary of Labor, so keep an eye out for what Abby has next up her sleeve!

Jared Golden (D; ME-2)

Hardline on Tradition

As a veteran, voices like Jared’s are important to listen to when it comes to the issue of national defense. And a couple weeks ago, when Biden nominated General Lloyd Austin III for Secretary of Defense, he didn’t immediately fall behind the Democratic president-elect. Austin’s experience has been widely praised, but the controversy around his nomination is due to fact that he has not been out of active military service for at least seven years, which is the traditional requirement for the post to ensure civilian control of the military. Jared invoked James Mattis’s nomination four years ago in which a waiver was approved by Congress for the same reason – “I am skeptical that Congress should – for the second time in four years – erode this requirement, but the president-elect and his nominee have the right to make their case for why they believe such action is necessary.”

Kendra Horn (D; OK-5)

Mold, Mold Go Away

There has been a lot of news about this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support this week. Despite having been voted out of office, Kendra is proud to leave her mark in the NDAA by including a notable provision that improves on-base housing for families after mold was discovered at an Air Force Base in her district. The Act will reimburse families for lost personal property due to substandard housing and create a mold mitigation guidance working group in the Department of Defense. Kendra thanked the military families who brought this issue to her attention, and we’re happy to see Kendra delivering for her constituents in her last weeks in Congress.

Andy Kim (D; NJ-3)

The Vaccine 411

Andy serves on the bipartisan House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis and has introduced several pieces of legislation to assist individuals and businesses during the last (holy crap) 9 months. Most recently, he introduced the Covid-19 Vaccine Awareness Support Act of 2020, which would authorize a public advocacy campaign to promote vaccine participation and provide science-backed information about it. Funds from the bill would also go to the Dept. of Health and Human Services and the CDC to provide grants for most public awareness campaigns. “Earning the public’s trust is key to putting an end to this pandemic,” Andy said.

Grace Meng (D; NY-6)

Help Thy Neighbor

Since 2005 there has been a special grant program for nonprofits and religious institutions to help increase security as hate crimes and attacks have been steadily increasing. Grace led the charge in the recently-passed Covid relief bill to increase this funding for at-risk institutions. She noted the acts of violence that have occurred across the nation on synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship who are still in need of assistance. She put it simply – “We can never take a backseat to safety.”

Joe Neguse (D; CO-2)

Only WE Can Prevent Forest Fires

Joe’s district was home to the largest wildfire in Colorado history this year – it burned for 3.5 months and affected 208,913 acres. He has now started the bipartisan Wildfire Caucus in the next Congress. “Wildfire mitigation and response must be a year-round priority,” he said. Joe and his Republican co-founder, Rep. John Curtis of Utah will use the group to advocate for the needs of local fire crews. Other goals include promoting science-based wildfire mitigation strategies and boosting federal resources to communities subject to fire damage. If you live in a state affected by wildfires, this is an effort to be applauded and watched that can hopefully change the disastrous course we’re on.

Chris Pappas (D; NH-1)

Let’s Go to the Back of the Line

Though the U.S. Capitol could be, as the Washington Post described it ‘a nursing home’ (with the average age of the House at 57 and the Senate at 62), many citizens are watching with a confused and angry expression as members of Congress are among the first to get the Covid vaccine. Though the technical reason lies in a National Security Council directive that gave lawmakers priority to make sure there’s continuity of governance, it still doesn’t sit well with many frontline workers and other at-risk individuals. Chris, along with the Republican governor of New Hampshire and fellow Political Playlist leader Brian Mast (R-FL) , is siding with the people on this one. “I’m not going to take one because I feel that the supply is limited… I’m going to wait until the general population has access to this,” he said. Where do you fall on this controversial step by Congress?

Darren Soto (D; FL-9)

Do These Numbers Add Up?

The reporting of deaths from Covid-19 is no admirable task, but it’s an important number to follow, and one the public should have faith in. That faith has been put into question in Florida where Darren and fellow Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) have asked the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to investigate possible inconsistencies in the state’s reporting of Covid deaths around the time of the November election. They cited a report by a Florida newspaper and alleged that the Florida Department of Health excluded backlogged deaths in daily tallies from Oct. 24th-Nov 17th. If true, this tally would have resulted in significantly lower death tallies right before the election.

Eric Swalwell (D; CA-15)

The Spy Who Duped Me

After information about a suspected Chinese spy who had ties to Eric’s office was leaked, Republicans immediately called for his removal from the House Intelligence Committee, and even from Congress itself. While the report specifies that when Swalwell became aware of this woman six years ago he helped the FBI, the report still raises questions about what information the woman obtained and how she obtained it. Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy were briefed on the woman’s involvement with Eric’s campaign and office. McCarthy emerged, doubling down on the Republican call to remove Eric from the Intelligence Committee, while Pelosi said she remained unconcerned about Eric’s integrity. With temperatures regarding China are reaching a boiling point, this news, beyond the political implications, rings concerning.

Lauren Underwood (D; IL-14)

Hackers: 1, Government: 0

You may have heard about the, let’s just say, concerning news that Russian hackers have managed to breach a whole host of federal networks. Cool… Well, not to rain on this already sad parade, but new evidence was announced that hackers may have been able to breach networks through other means than the original SolarWinds Orion software that was previously identified. Lauren joined a group of her House colleagues to begin investigating the incident. In a letter, they note a briefing from cyber security officials stating it could take weeks or months to understand the full scope of the breach. The letter from Lauren and others emphasizes that even while agencies are investigating the breach, it’s important for Congress to understand the implications on national security. This is, well, a bit of a shitshow.

Jim Banks (R; IN-3)

Zoom And Gloom

After voting ‘no’ on the recent covid relief bill, Jim has turned his attention to a recent news item pertaining to everyone’s favorite (or not so favorite) video platform – Zoom! It’s been reported that a Zoom executive in China was sending US users’ data to the Chinese Communist Party – something that is, in fact, required by the Chinese government of most Chinese tech companies. This revelation opens up a can of worms for Jim and other members of Congress who are hard on China and looking for ways to mitigate the security threats that the country poses to our national security. We’re not saying this is an excuse to stop Zooming, but… maybe?

Matt Gaetz (R; FL-1)

Hail Mary

Sick of election talk? It’s only going to last a little bit longer, but keep an eye on Matt and a small group of House Republicans who are looking to their last opportunity to challenge November’s results. On January 6th the House will validate the electoral college results, which declared Joe Biden winner of the presidential election. Matt and others are holding out hope for a grandstand, which is expected to be a mostly symbolic loyalty test, to challenge the results from states they deem had ‘unfair elections’. Though there is still no evidence of wrongdoing, the House GOP members are trying to rally a counterpart in the Senate to make the challenge official and force a vote on it. Gaetz, a double-down loyalist, made his position clear“I’m not going back to yesterday’s Republican Party. I’m not going back to losing politely, with Mitt Romney. I’m not going back to the Bushes or the Cheneys.”

Lance Gooden (R; TX-5)

Surveillance State? Not So Much

A recent email from Lance to his constituents sparked concern from public health officials. The email asked – “Would you feel comfortable taking a Covid-19 vaccine if the federal government required registration and contact tracing in order to receive it?” Officials from various health agencies have called out this potentially fear-stoking language, noting that there is not a federal vaccine registry and that confidence in the vaccine is of the utmost importance in this pivotal moment. While skepticism of government oversight is baked into the fabric of American culture, did Lance take it too far? With many Americans still weighing whether or not to get vaccinated, is his concern about the surveillance implications helpful cynicism or harmful rhetoric?

Dusty Johnson (R; SD)

Let the People Decide

As one of the members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, Dusty is no-doubt breathing a sigh of relief over the new Covid relief bill. He’s turned his attention to the questions raised in the public about lower risk members of Congress getting access to the Covid vaccine this past week. Rather than making a simple yes or no decision about whether to get the vaccine now or wait until it’s more publicly available, Dusty has taken a more democratic approach. He enlisted a poll of his constituents to vote on whether or not he, the lone member of the House from South Dakota, should get vaccinated. Nothing like a good online poll about your elected leader’s health and safety!

Markwayne Mullin (R; OK-2)

Speed Reading Required

Markwayne was one of the 53 members of the House to vote against the recent Covid relief package. While he understands why most of his colleagues voted to pass it, Markwayne cites the expedited timeline as his main reason for voting NAY. Given the emergency nature of the bill, once the language was agreed upon by leaders in both parties, members of Congress only had a few hours to understand what it contained before voting on it. This, for Markwayne, was unacceptable – “It’s $5,593 pages and we only had a few hours to read it before we were forced to vote on it. We should govern better than this.” Also citing the bill’s inevitable increase of the national debt, Markwayne just couldn’t get behind the measure in time.

Bryan Steil (R; WI-1)

I’ll Take That as a No?

Speculation usually doesn’t get us anywhere, but since Bryan has yet to issue a statement as to why he voted against the most recent Covid relief package we’re doing our best to get to the bottom of his reasoning. What is abundantly clear is that Bryan’s main goal was to focus on individuals and not larger entities like state and local governments, which Democrats were fighting hard for. “What I would like to see is us tailor this to those people who have been negatively impacted through no fault of their own, rather than the true broad brush strokes that we saw in the original coronavirus relief package,” Bryan said. Considering the final package did include some relief for local and state governments, we’re going to guess that led to a big ol’ NAY from Bryan.

Lee Zeldin (R; NY-1)

Infrastructure Funds to the Rescue

With the virus upending every element of our lives, it can be hard to recognize just how widespread that effect can be. One area that might not come to mind unless you’re directly involved, is infrastructure. The virus delayed or paused many important projects and, of course, the jobs that went along with them. Lee recently worked with Congressional leaders and the White House to secure an extension on funds that were directed towards local sewer projects in his district for an extra year. The funds, which were from grants that had been established after Hurricane Sandy, were being used to improve disaster preparedness projects in the area. With the extended timeline, the critical projects will continue uninterrupted. This move that probably would never make it into national news, is an important reminder to think about how far reaching the effects of the virus have been.

Kyrsten Sinema (D; AZ)

Vaccination Station

As one of the members of Congress who opted to receive the Covid vaccine, Kyrsten did not take the symbolism of her decision lightly. She took to social media to not only document the administration of the vaccine, but also checked in with followers and constituents afterwards to update them on any side effects. For Kyrsten, there wasn’t much to report other than a nice long and healthy outdoor run the day after. She also laid into a now-reversed decision by the Department of Veteran Affairs that would have wasted excess doses of the Pfizer vaccination from vials that were over-filled, calling the potential move ‘outrageous’.

Colin Allred (D; TX-32)

Newborns Ride Free

It’s that time of year where the congressional stockings are typically stuffed with omnibus bills of lavish government spending, and necessarily so with the recent deal on a new Covid relief package. Colin was not only busy fighting for a deal, but he was also working on passing the VA Newborn Emergency Treatment Act, a bill he sponsored that was included in the year-end veterans legislative package. The measure closes a gap in coverage for veteran women in need of emergency newborn transportation, now requiring the VA to cover such costs. The bill gained bipartisan support, cleared both chambers of Congress and now awaits the President’s signature. Thanks Colin for looking out for our Vets!

Anthony Brindisi (D; NY-22)

Work While You Wait!

We swear, we’re not doing this on purpose… but we STILL can’t call the race for the 22nd district of New York! If you’ve been following Anthony, then you know he’s been trailing Claudia Tenney by a sliver—it’s come down to literally 19 individual votes—and a judge has now ordered a recount of a few thousand absentee ballots. But in the meantime, Anthony is still in the job and there’s still work to be done, and we’re happy to report that he secured the passage of his 11th bill. The Chuck Osier Burial Benefits Bill, honoring a late veteran from Anthony’s district, expands VA benefits for Veterans opting for non-traditional burials. The bill cleared both chambers of Congress in a bipartisan fashion and heads to the president’s desk for his signature into law.

Sharice Davids (D; KS-3)

A Dynamic Duo

Some weeks back we told you about Sharice throwing her support behind congresswoman Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior, and her pitch to the incoming administration was heard and headed. Sharice and Deb are the first two Native American women elected to congress so Sharice celebrated what she hopes to be the first appointment of a Native American in the President’s cabinet upon Deb’s confirmation. One of Sharice’s main objectives in her role on the infrastructure and transportation committee is to push for new and productive initiatives in the fight against climate change. With the appointment of Deb at the helm of the interior, Sharice can confidently say that these climate change priorities will once again be at the forefront of their work. And rightfully so!

Lizzie Fletcher (D; TX-7)

Energizer Lizzie

Lizzie was among the 359 in Congress who voted in favor of the much-needed stimulus package, and if she wasn’t busy enough with reading all 5,593 pages of the bill, she also happens to chair the House Energy Subcommittee on Science, Space and Technology. There, she led the bipartisan effort to pass critical energy provisions within the year-end appropriations bill aimed at ensuring her district in Houston remains a current and future leader in energy. The bills will modernize pipeline infrastructure, promote energy technology innovation and support carbon capture utilization and storage technology. In other words, incentivizing current energy processes to invest in cleaner and safer processes of the future.

Josh Gottheimer (D; NJ-5)

Gridlock No More

Josh took an arguably deserved victory lap after the passage of the $900 billion Coronavirus relief bill, which many feel is nothing more than a band aid on a gunshot wound at this point. But what Josh was calling attention to was the fact that it was the Problem Solvers Caucus that laid the groundwork for this bill—a caucus he happens to co-chair. He highlighted that it was this bipartisan group of 43 congresspeople, which includes 15 of our under-45ers, that spent months hashing out the framework of the compromise in order to allow the leadership of both parties to then sell the deal to their caucus. With so much partisan gridlock in Washington, it does offer a glimmer of hope when we see things as important as this bill finally become reality.

Joe Kennedy (D; MA-4)

Teeing Up His Exit

Having made the tough choice not to seek reelection in order to challenge sitting Senator Ed Markey in the primary, Joe is not returning to congress next year. While he joined in the “yes” vote for stimulus relief, Joe has also been busy making the customary goodbye rounds throughout the hallways of the capitol, which include one last opportunity to publicly address the House Chamber. He used his farewell remarks to deliver a powerful speech in which he remarked on the inequality that is sown into the fabric of this country, and urged the future generations of young Americans to continue to build and fight for a fairer country. It’s a speech worth watching for sure, but it also loudly begs the question: what’s Joe going to run for next?

Conor Lamb (D; PA-17)

A VOW To Vet Families

Between helping draft the stimulus framework on the Problem Solvers Caucus, to taking his state’s Republican Senator Pat Toomey to the woodshed over his 11th hour threat to tank the deal, Conor has had a busy close to the year. But one thing that jumped out was that he co-sponsored a worthy bill called the Veteran’s Valuing our Widows and Widowers (VOW) Act along with under-45er Brian Mast (R; FL) which now awaits the President’s signature. Part of a larger Veteran’s Health Care package, the VOW Act ensures that widows and widowers of Medal of Honor recipients receive the same support that was given to the veteran. And as a former marine, Conor knows the importance of financial security for the families of those who served. Speaking of family, Christmas came early for Conor and his wife Haley, who welcomed a newborn son Matthew this week.

Seth Moulton (D; MA-6)

Start ‘Em Young!

Many may recall the famed New England town of Gloucester, Mass as the site when audiences first glimpsed “Fisherman Clooney” in The Perfect Storm, but this fishing hub also happens to fall in Seth’s district. Since 2017, Seth has been trying to pass the Young Fishermen’s Development Act, which he recently reintroduced along with fellow under-45er Jared Golden. The bill creates a national grant program to support the training and education of the nation’s next generation of commercial fishermen, to the tune of up to $200K! Despite all the understandable distractions of late, the bill has passed both the House and Senate with only minor discrepancies, and once those are rectified, it will head to the President’s desk for signature. Fish on, America!

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D; NY-14)

Wait, My Squad’s Not Coming With Me?

Never one to shy away from headlines, Alexandria has been on both offense and defense this week. She first lashed out at Congress over what she described as “hostage taking” when Congress was only given a few hours to read the 5,593 page Stimulus Bill before they needed to vote, only to ultimately pass the bill. Ironically, some critical progressives like Rashida Tlaib joined some Republicans who eventually voted no on the package. Then, Alexandria shifted to defense, fending off much criticism from the likes of Ilhan Omar and Matt Gaetz for receiving the Covid 19 vaccine despite being young and healthy. She returned to swipe with an IG video explaining the continuity of governance law enacted by President Eisenhower. While this argument about Congress getting vaccinated rages on, if YOU have the chance to get the vaccine, take it.

Max Rose (D; NY-11)

Bright Lights, Big City

Having served in Afghanistan as an Army platoon leader, it’s safe to say Max knows how to pivot—or rather, not sweat the small stuff, like losing his congressional seat in a squeaker. That’s why Max has quickly turned his sights over the river and through the traffic to City Hall he now looks to go, having just launched an exploratory campaign for a New York City Mayoral run. Max has unabashedly branded himself as a young underdog who wants to dig the big apple out of the hole that the bureaucrats have left it in, long before any covid lockdowns began. We’re certainly excited to see where this leads Max, and hey—we just might have to start a young Mayor’s playlist!

Abigail Spanberger (D; VA-7)

The Work Is Never Done

Abigail played an important part in the drafting of the Covid Relief bill framework through her role in the Problem Solvers Caucus, but what caught our eye in the maelstrom of DC chaos was a small but important piece of bipartisan legislation she just introduced called the Pregnancy Assistance Act. Currently, there is only one federal entity—The Pregnancy Assistance Fund—that provides essential services to pregnant mothers, parenting youth, and other women who were pregnant due to sexual assault, but funding for this lapsed in September of 2019. So Abigail’s new bill would essentially restart five more years of funding for this little known, yet vital resource. With everything going on that’s covid related, it’s so easy to overlook the smaller, darker corners of our government but this is a good reminder of how in government, the work is never done.

Rashida Tlaib (D; MI-13)

Take That–Woopssshhh!

After the recent, and long overdue stimulus package was passed, there was almost an instant cacophonous outcry regarding its inadequacy. Leading that chorus is Rashida, who called the bill “woefully inadequate in addressing the needs of the people,” while others referred to its shortcomings as a slap in the face. Rashida took to twitter to declare that she didn’t feel this bill was the meaningful change her district has waited for and thus was a NO vote. While it may not be ideal, it is something at a time of need. Given the circumstances, how do you think you’d vote on this?

Justin Amash (I; MI-3)

I’m Over This Fam!

Even though Justin is on his way out, duty still dictates he cast his vote, which was a big thumbs down for the second round of covid relief. His reasoning seemed to echo that of the 7 Senate Republicans who voted against the bill, as well as a point others have made regarding the bill’s physical page-count. Justin seized on that by taking to Twitter and lamenting that the Congress hadn’t even had time to read the whopping 5,593 pages of the bill it then celebrated passing, and that this sort of behavior was an acceptance of nothing more than Oligarchy masking as government. He tried to change this behavior from inside of Congress, so how do you think he’ll try to now reform it from the outside?

Michael Cloud (R; TX-27)

…The Messy “What Else”

Michael took to twitter to acknowledge the passing of the recent Covid Relief bill, highlighting his past support of various programs like PPP assistance, but went on to lament that sadly he could not support this bill. He said he would have supported this bill had it been just a covid relief bill. But it was not. It was a messy omnibus spending package, and this rushed, compromised process to pass the bill is exactly the reason Congress is broken. In subsequent tweets, Michael went on to criticize Democratic leadership for negotiating this bill behind closed doors, which in actuality is not entirely the case as the bill’s framework was drafted by the Problem Solvers Caucus and then both Democratic and Republican Senate and House leadership hashed out the nitty gritty. And while he’s entitled to hold strong to his principles, it begs the question: At what expense?

Mike Gallagher (R; WI-8)

Can I Switch Back To Tradition?

Mike recently wrote an Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal weighing in on President-elect Biden’s naming of retired General Llyod Austen to lead the Pentagon, in what has now become a controversial nomination. A law stipulates anyone assuming the top military role must have been out of the military for at least seven years, unless a special waiver is obtained. A Marine Corp veteran himself, Mike jumped at the chance to allow General Jim Mattis to obtain such a waiver and be confirmed, a vote Mike now believes was a mistake. He has returned to the thesis behind the law which suggests that proper civilian oversight must be at the helm of the Pentagon, and that seven years is the necessary amount of time to regain the civilian objectivity needed for a cabinet level position. Do you think General Austen should get a waiver or would you join Mike in opposing the nomination?

Jaime Herrera Beutler (R; WA-3)

Hey–Money Is Money!

The latest Congressional trend in vogue this week seems to be complaining about all the shortcomings of the recent stimulus relief bill passed. And while there are strong arguments to make for its shortcomings, or how we even freakin’ got here, Jaime chose to celebrate the things it actually does: put money in the hands of her constituents and their small businesses! Sure, it’s not exactly Santa’s err—Pelosi’s Wishlist but Jaime, who helped build the framework of the deal on the Problem Solvers Caucus, instead highlighted a few of the new improvements for restaurants like enhanced access to PPP and enhanced loan size forgiveness. Do you know someone struggling to keep their business or restaurant a lot? Maybe swing by with this positive news, and buy a beer from them while you’re at it!

Adam Kinzinger (R; IL-16)

Don’t Follow The Leader

If you’re a Republican and you support Adam along with President Trump, then you’re likely aware of the incoming Sophie’s Choice moment drawing nearer to you. To recap, Adam has caused ire within his party for calling the President’s attempts to overturn the election baseless, and has urged Republicans to move on. This tit-for-tat seems to ratchet up each day as Adam called out the President on twitter for conflating the omnibus (government spending package) with the covid relief bill. He reminded us it was the President’s OWN TEAM that negotiated the combining of the two, and now he’s unhappy about it? Adam released a thorough statement on his reasons for a YES vote on the bill and all the benefits it includes. In this day and age, it’s refreshing to see a Congressman not afraid of their party.

Guy Reschenthaler (R; PA-14)

I’ll Take “How To Stop Recidivism” for a $1000 Please

A new bill, co-sponsored by Karen Bass and this GUY from Pennsylvania was just unanimously passed in the House. Who is Reschenthaler? Having worked previously as a district judge, Guy knows first-hand the ins and outs of the criminal justice system and particularly when it comes to recidivism, which is the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend. The One Stop Shop Community Reentry Program Act will help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reenter society by establishing resource and reentry centers for the roughly 600K Americans released from prison each year. Guy said “It’s time to end the revolving door between prison and the streets” and we couldn’t agree more.

Greg Steube (R; FL-17)

Thank You, No.

Most Congresspeople in the voting minority rejecting the recent stimulus relief bill lamented its page count on twitter, or that the deal was brokered behind closed doors. But Greg took the bill to task in a lengthy press release succinctly detailing the reasons for his “No” vote. He sets the stage by pointing out its blatant politicization due to the fact that by dragging this to the last minute, Democrats killed all the allotted time for meaningful debate and compromise. He lays out the laundry list of Democrat agenda items he says this bill shamelessly helps, all while unnecessarily contributing to soaring federal spending. Ultimately, Greg wanted a strictly covid-centric relief bill, not this behemoth of a handout. How would you have voted?

Tom Cotton (R-AK)

Bringing Home The Bacon…to Arkansas

While the critics of the Covid relief bill chastised its size and scope of included pet-projects and unnecessary spending, Tom released a statement celebrating its many positive inclusions, both for the country and for his state. Among the highlights he notes are the increased funding for the poultry, timber and livestock industries, increased access to Medicaid and hospice, as well as funding support for a few foreign policy matters like the Taiwan Assurance Act, which bolsters our relationship with the East Asian country. Indeed, when you unpack all the things included in this bill, you’re left to wonder if this is all unnecessary government spending, or if the tentacles of this pandemic really have had such widespread impact. Perhaps, a little of both.