On January 20th, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn in standing in the shadow of the Capitol dome in Washington, DC. Our Republic remains strong, and it is now time to get to work and continue the American tradition of respectful debate and disagreement to achieve results for the American people.
As we start the new Administration, while we may disagree politically, I am looking forward to what we can accomplish together. President Biden has begun carrying out his plan of action for his first 100 days. During the first 100 days and throughout my time in Congress, serving the constituents of the First District is my number one priority and I want you to know that I am listening. In 2021, I will be working on a bipartisan basis to expand broadband in rural areas, fix our broken health care system, increase opportunities for students, and rectify our broken budget system in Washington.
2020 was hard for all of us, but we pushed through it. This year, as we work to overcome the trying first few weeks of 2021, I remain dedicated to working for you in Washington and am even more invigorated to get results for you as we move forward on our road to recovery. Below are the items I plan to work with the new Administration to deliver and my priorities in the 117th Congress.
What is vitally important is ensuring that our nation is firmly on the road to economic recovery. I believe there is common ground for Members of Congress to provide relief to millions of struggling Americans through continued targeted relief for Americans who need it most during these trying times. Additionally, Congress must do more to support our small businesses, the backbone of our local economies. As we continue into the 117th Congress, I will continue calling on my colleagues and House Democratic Leadership to come together and deliver a commonsense, bipartisan solution for hardworking Americans.
We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history; we must decide if the United States will retain its global primacy or if we will concede our position to bad actors like China, Russia and Iran. Our nation faces many national security challenges ahead. As a Member of the Armed Services Committee since I came to Congress in 2007, I have worked and will continue to work to possess a strong national defense. We must be able to defeat the threats facing the United States and to project power around the globe to deter our adversaries.
As you know, another one of my top priorities in Washington is expanding access to broadband service for folks in rural areas across our region and the Commonwealth. This year we made great strides towards closing the digital divide. In 2020, I introduced the Serving Rural America Act(HR 6456), legislation to create a five-year pilot program at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), authorizing $100 million a year for a total of $500 million over five years to expand broadband service to unserved Americans. I also hosted a public Telephone Town Hall on Broadband with Governor Northam’s Chief Broadband Advisor Evan Feinman and constituents of the First District to answer questions related to broadband and connectivity, services, and programs to help close the digital divide for rural Americans. With this same focus and energy, and 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.
After all of the impacts we have seen on our health care system and economy from COVID-19 , I believe lowering the costs of prescription drugs is a critical component to fixing our broken health care system. As I travel around our area, 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’ve supported 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 lower drug costs overall 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 in the 117th Congress through similar, commonsense pieces of legislation.
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 promote and advocate so strongly for Career and Technical Education (CTE) and STEM programs as a way to cultivate skills needed in the workforce. I will continue working with my First District CTE Task Force, which works to bring educators and industry together to encourage teamwork in establishing apprenticeship and internship programs, and my colleagues in Congress to help our students succeed well into the future as our nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we move into the fiscal year 2022 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 put forward my 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, 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 Actthat 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, especially as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am committed to getting real results for the people of the First District, whether that be through working with my colleagues – regardless of party, federal agencies, or localities. President Gerald Ford once 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 for the people of our area as we move down our long road to recovery. I am consistently inspired by the people of the First District, especially as we came together in 2020 as communities to persevere, and I will continue working tirelessly for you in 2021.