It is time for Congress to stop playing politics with people’s healthcare. All Americans deserve affordable healthcare to ensure quality of life and to make sure small problems don’t become big problems. We need to focus on preventative health and not punish people for preexisting conditions. Republicans in Congress have decided to stop trying to repeal the ACA, and, instead, they use their administrative power to undermine its effectiveness. We need to immediately repair the Affordable Care Act, stabilize the marketplace and provide a Public Option to expand coverage while we work towards health care for all.
We must address the outrageous price of prescription drugs, and work with providers to make them affordable for everyone. No one should have to decide between paying for their medications or their heating bill. We already spend more per person as a percentage of GDP than any other advanced nation in the world. Solving these problems isn’t just the compassionate thing to do, it's the fiscally responsible thing to do.
Congress must take concrete steps to ensure mental health parity. We need to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health by providing accessible coverage and affordable care by treating mental health issues alongside physical issues. Substance abuse takes lives, destroys families, devastates the community, and damages the economy. Addiction is a disease, and if we want to combat it, we must treat it as such.
- Earned Benefits - Medicare & Social Security
Make no mistake, when Republicans passed their $1.5 trillion tax give-away for the rich, they knew what they wanted to do next: make deep cuts to earned benefits like Social Security and Medicare. That was always their plan, and I will fight against any attempt to take the money you paid into the system your entire working life. Earned benefits are a promise to the American people that when you’ve reached old age and are unable to work any more, we’re going to look out for you. We cannot break that promise.
Roughly ten thousand more Baby Boomers retire every day and that will continue for the next decade. For far too long, Congress has raided the earned benefit trusts, and as America ages we need to take action to restore the long-term vitality of Social Security and Medicare.
- Job Creation, Better Wages, and The Economy
We need good jobs that pay enough to support a family and provide a fair return on our work. Families all across Southwest Washington continue to struggle every day while the super-rich reap the benefits of a rigged economy. That’s wrong. Instead of hoping something will trickle down, we need to build an economy that works for everyone. Our tax code must be reformed to benefit the real job creators: middle class families with money in their pocket.
Small businesses need our support to continue creating family-wage jobs that help us all thrive. We need business and industry to relocate to our region and expansion and growth for businesses that are already here. We must support policies that encourage growth and innovation, and advocate for living wages or our diverse and skilled workforce. And we must be smarter about regulations so that small businesses have an easier path to entry and success.
- Veterans Affairs
As a country, we have a moral responsibility to take care of those who have risked their lives to defend us. We must work to establish a seamless transition from military service to civilian life by matching skills learned during active duty to available jobs in the area. More than just thanking our veterans for their service, we need to provide educational opportunities and job training, and take action to end chronic homelessness and suicide. We owe it to those who serve and have served this country to support them all along the way.
We must preserve the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program. Providing education and job training is the least we can do for the small percentage of those who answered the call.
We must address the problems that plague the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that every veteran has timely access to high-quality health care and that all veterans receive the veteran-centric care they need.The Choice Program fills a need, and should be continued, but we also need to protect the VA from privatization, and attempts to defund and undermine the VA’s capacity.
Many returning veterans are unaware of the services and benefits available to them when they come home. Far too often those that would benefit the most from VA services are the least likely to seek them. We must embrace our returning troops, do away with the stigma of receiving or asking for assistance, and do our best to inform and encourage them to leverage what they have earned and deserve.
- Campaign Finance Reform
The Supreme Court’s decision to favor the role of corporations in politics was expected, but regrettable. Let’s lead the effort to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. When corporations have the same rights as people, big money drowns out the voices of the everyday American. We need campaign finance reform to diminish the role of special interest groups and big money donors. The influx of corporate and private-interest money in our elections is destroying our democracy. All Americans, regardless of their income, should be able to meaningfully participate in the political process. It’s time to say enough is enough and instead amplify the voices of the American people!
We must require significantly more disclosure and transparency in order to remove the influence of secret, unaccountable dark money. We need to eliminate super PACS and outside spending abuse, while strengthening the Federal Election Commission to enforce and reinforce campaign finance law.
- The Opioid Epidemic
According to the CDC, an average of seven people died from drug overdose every hour in 2016. Twenty thousand people alone died last year from Fentanyl overdose (a powerful synthetic opioid), and the problem is only getting worse. Every one of us likely knows at least one person affected by this epidemic. We need to start treating addiction like the disease it is, and not a moral failing. Favoring treatment and diversion strategies instead of prison for offenders saves taxpayers money and decreases relapse and recidivism. Criminalizing and stigmatizing people’s suffering only further separates them from society and deprives them of a chance to recover and be a contributing member of society.
In particular, opiate and meth abuse are tearing rural communities apart and contributing to the struggle of small town economies everywhere. We must provide adequate resources for these communities to address and treat addiction. And, we need to make sure our first responders receive the training and resources they need to reverse an overdose and save a life.
- Gun Violence
I support Americans’ 2nd Amendment right to bear arms; however, we must treat the epidemic of gun violence like the public health crisis that it is. We have a duty to seek bipartisan solutions that will have an effective, lasting impact on gun violence. Policies like expanded background checks, funding CDC research into gun violence, and closing the gun show loophole already have wide bipartisan support and we owe the thousands of victims of gun violence action instead of words.
Our Washington is leading the way with sensible gun laws and the other Washington should follow our lead. We are saving lives with laws that temporarily restrict firearms from domestic abusers and those that have been adjudicated mentally ill. Congress needs to take action and enact these kinds of laws at the Federal level.
All too often, the debate on guns focuses only on homicides when, in fact, over 60% of gun deaths are suicides. The research is clear: guns allow people to kill themselves much more easily than other methods. Families need to have the ability to work with law enforcement and mental health professionals to prevent tragedy and save lives.
The people of Southwest Washington need clean water to drink, clean soil to farm and clean air to breathe. We have been blessed with a pristine corner of this state and we must work hard to be good stewards of it. We must defend common sense regulations that protect our environment and support the restoration of sound policies ended by the current administration.
Climate Change is real and it is a human-caused crisis that requires immediate action. We must work for a just transition to renewable energy sources so future generations will benefit from energy independence and robust clean energy industry. We can protect the natural resources and industries of Southwest Washington by working hard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the board.
The EPA and Department of the Interior are responsible for much of this work, yet this administration has been working to transform both of these vital institutions into ineffectual husks, too understaffed to do much of anything except repeal policies that have been protecting our environment for years. We need to fight back. We need to restore the EPA and the Department of the Interior so that future generations may enjoy the beautiful Southwest Washington we know and love.
Improving our infrastructure will create jobs and give our community members real opportunities to succeed here at home.
An investment in fixing our crumbling infrastructure is an investment in our people, our communities, and our local businesses. Years of neglect have led to greater wear and tear on vehicles and increased travel times to and from work -- which hinders productivity, hurts small businesses, and robs people of precious time with their families. We need to put the needs of our community first. Investments in our infrastructure now will pay dividends for years to come. Billions of dollars in goods move up and down the I-5 corridor, and we can’t sit around waiting for aging bridges to fail. Congress needs to be proactive and work together to fund critical infrastructure projects like an I-5 Bridge replacement.
Infrastructure development isn’t just about roads and bridges. Southwest Washington will only thrive in today’s economy with robust and wide reaching access to high speed internet. We also need to invest in improving and modernising our utility grid to provide diverse clean renewable energy including wind, solar, and hydroelectric power.
As an educator of over 22 years, I know first-hand the importance and value of a high-quality public education. We all know that strong communities depend on a well-educated workforce, and our representatives have a duty to work together for our children’s future. Teachers shouldn’t have to choose between spending massive amounts of their own money and leaving students without the resources they need. We have to do better to close the achievement gap and support underserved communities so that every child has the same opportunity to achieve their dreams.
The cost of higher-education has spiraled out of control and we must find immediate solutions to make it more affordable. Every year I watch my students graduate and instead of building a family, buying a house, or starting a business, they are left with immense monthly student loan payments. Every dollar that goes to paying off excessive student loans is a dollar that isn’t being spent right here in our community. In fact, after 22 years, I’m still paying off my student loans. Things have to change.
But college isn’t for everyone,so we must invest in and support the expansion of apprenticeships and internships for students. Programs like those offered at Cascadia Tech Academy in Vancouver provide new graduates with a foot in the door and help businesses find the quality employees they need for success.
Our immigration system is broken and all too often draconian and dehumanizing. All immigrants deserve the same respect and dignity that we show to each other. We need an orderly, legal immigration process, not the broken system we have now. People who work hard, pay taxes and contribute to our communities should have a legal path to citizenship.
We need to put an end to the for-profit immigration detention system and put a stop to the militarization of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We must reform our immigration system to help reunify families, recruit workers to fill critical gaps in our workforce, and provide refuge for those facing persecution and certain death. ‘Dreamers’ that were brought to this country as children often know no other home, and we should expand and pass a clean DREAM Act to provide them a pathway to citizenship.
We must look for modern, cost-effective solutions that secure our borders without wasting precious taxpayer dollars on useless walls.
- National Security & Foreign Policy
Ensuring the safety of the American people is our government’s highest duty, but for too long we’ve put our service members in harm’s way without any clear definition of victory. Never ending interventions have ballooned the Department of Defense budget beyond any semblance of fiscal responsibility. Instead, we should be investing in keeping our country safe here at home. Here in Washington, we need to improve security along the Canadian border and better equip local law enforcement, the Coast Guard, and U.S. Customs to secure our international ports. We must hold Russia accountable for meddling in our elections, and it is imperative that we take immediate and decisive steps to defend against future cyber warfare.
Congress must reassert its authority in the arena of foreign affairs and act as a constitutional check on this President. Our Constitution clearly gives Congress the power to declare war, and the American people have a right to a debate and a vote to decide how and when we go to war. We should strive to exhaust all diplomatic solutions and avoid reckless and destabilizing foreign policy. Being tough isn’t enough; we must be smart and restore relationships with our allies to improve our readiness and capabilities.
The people of Washington have spoken on cannabis and the federal government should respect that decision. Cannabis business owners across Washington are contributing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue every year, and we should protect them from federal interference. It’s time to lift restrictions on cannabis research so that we can better understand the therapeutic benefits and the risks of long term use.
We should consider industrial hemp production as a means to revitalize small farms and agricultural communities struggling to survive. Due to the negligible THC content, the Department of Agriculture rightfully recognizes that hemp is not a drug, and we should treat it as such. It’s time to expand industrial hemp programs beyond exclusive research programs and put America back to work growing a clean, versatile, and profitable crop.