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Wittman's Weekly: My 2020 Priorities

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Washington, January 11, 2020 | comments
As we start the new year, I am looking forward to what we can accomplish together. Serving the constituents of the First District is my number one priority and I want you to know that I have listened – I have listened to the problems you are having at home and I am working to bring you real results.  In 2020, I will be working to expand broadband in rural areas, fix our broken health care system, increase opportunities for students, and fix our dysfunctional budget system in Washington.

As you know, one of my top priorities in Washington is expanding access to broadband service for folks in rural areas across our region and the Commonwealth. In 2019 we made great strides towards closing the digital divide. I held another meeting of my First District Rural Broadband Task Force, as well as three field seminars across the district to educate localities on the grant options available to them. Just this week, the USDA announced that it will be investing $48 million in improving broadband in rural Virginia – including King and Queen County. This is great news, but there is still more we can do to improve service in the First District. As co-chair of the House Rural Broadband Caucus, I will be working with my colleagues to improve current maps, promote public-private partnerships, and increase available funding to localities.

I believe lowering the costs of prescription drugs is a critical component to fixing our broken healthcare system. As I travel throughout the First District, I hear constantly from folks about the high cost of health care. Lowering prescription drug prices and increasing access to effective medical treatments for all Virginians is very important to me. Reforms should focus on increasing accessibility, lowering cost, and improving choice. I support the Lower Costs, More Cures Act, a bill which will increase price transparency, lower the out-of-pocket costs for folks on Medicare Part D, and overall lower drug costs by encouraging low-cost options for patients. I look forward to working with my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to achieve a realistic solution that reduces drug prices.

A majority of the jobs of the future will not require a four-year degree, but instead detailed knowledge in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). I want to make sure our kids have every opportunity to succeed, which is why I advocate so strongly and promote Career and Technical Education (CTE) and STEM programs as a way to cultivate the skills needed in the workforce. Last year, I hosted the inaugural meeting of my First District CTE Task Force, which works to bring educators and industry together to encourage teamwork in establishing apprenticeship and internship programs in addition to formulating curriculum to best prepare students to enter the workforce. I will continue working with my Task Force and my colleagues in Congress to help our students succeed.

As we move into the fiscal year 2021 budget season, I will be working with my colleagues to fix our broken budget process. The answer is simple: Members of Congress should be held accountable for their inaction. That’s why I have introduced two pieces of legislation called the No Budget, No Pay Act and the Stay on Schedule Resolution. These provisions would hold members to the highest standard so that if they don’t do their jobs – to pass a budget and fund the government on time-- they won’t get a paycheck or August Recess, which many Members use as a vacation. If we don’t fulfill one of our most basic responsibilities, frankly, there is no time for vacation. I also have a bill in called the Inaction Has Consequences Act that goes one step further to say that if Members don’t complete appropriations bills by the end of the fiscal year, their pay is withheld. By getting back to regular order, we can eliminate waste, introduce new, innovative programs, and avoid shutdown scenarios.

I am committed to getting real results for the people of the First District, by working with my colleagues – regardless of party – federal agencies, and localities to get the job done. President Gerald Ford once said that “unless both sides win, no agreement can be permanent.” We are able to get more done together, than apart – and I am looking for long lasting solutions. I am consistently inspired by the good women and men of the First District, and this year, I again look forward to serving you.
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