As your representative in Congress, I am committed to getting real results for the First District. This fall, House Democratic Leadership has been laser focused on one thing: impeachment. As a result, legislative activity has slowed to a crawl. However, I want you to know this week – due to my dedication to reaching across the aisle – we were able to accomplish great things for Virginia.
After months of negotiation, I was proud to sign a bipartisan conference report for the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). A bill that started with unreasonable, partisan riders, became a piece of legislation that I believe does right by our men and women in uniform and provides sound, strong defense policy for the next year. As a conferee, I am extremely happy with the product we signed this week as it will give our armed forces the tools and resources they need to deter our adversaries, support our allies, and respond to threats around the globe.
The conference report includes several of my priorities such as a 3.1% pay raise for our servicemembers, the requirement of 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all federal employees, the repeal of the “Widows’ Tax,” and the establishment of the U.S. Space Force in Title 10 as a separate armed service. The report also contains important improvements from the House-passed FY20 NDAA; specifically, it provides a topline of $743 billion, a funding level much closer to the Department of Defense (DoD) budget request, allows the DoD to deploy low-yield nuclear weapons to close potential deterrence gap, and does not impede border wall construction.
As the Ranking Member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, I am proud to see several provisions our subcommittee championed in the final report. It further commits to rebuilding our fleet to 355 ships by authorizing the construction of new ships and submarines – many of which are built right here in Virginia by our strong industrial base. The final report also includes my provision that creates and authorizes the Cable Ship Security Program. This program will allow the United States to pay an annual stipend to U.S. flagged ships to provide immediate assistance should the cables that physically and digitally connect us to the rest of the world be damaged, destroyed, or tampered with by those who wish to do us harm.
Healthy waterways and fish populations are absolutely critical to providing clean water and sustainable fisheries. This week, two pieces of my legislation, H.R. 1747 and H.R. 3596, passed the House in a larger package of ten bipartisan coastal bills. H.R. 1747 codifies an initiative that aims to achieve measurable habitat conservation results through strategic partnerships that lead to better fish habitat conditions and increased fishing opportunities. The legislation will increase transparency, put power back in the hands of stakeholders, and require accountability to Congress, which will ensure taxpayer dollars go further to conserve fish habitat. H.R. 3596, the Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act, would establish a Working Waterfront Grant Program that would provide matching, competitive grants to coastal states. The grants would go toward preserving and expanding access to coastal waters for commercial fishing, recreational guiding, aquaculture, boat building, and other water-dependent businesses. This bill will protect communities along our coasts by supporting maritime industry, protecting vital jobs, and preserving our natural resources.
This progress was possible because my colleagues and I chose to look past our difference and find where we agree. The results are good policy. I am optimistic for our future as a nation and I will always be willing to reach across the aisle to get things done for the First District. I will continue working to rebuild our nation’s military, fix our crumbling roads and bridges, increase access to high speed internet, ensure veterans receive the benefits they deserve, promote career and technical education programs, cut the red tape hurting our businesses, lower the cost of health care, and get Washington’s spending problem under control. These are the issues Virginians care about, not the partisan bickering. I will not stop trying to work with my colleagues, Republican or Democrat, to get real results for Virginia.