Americans are reeling from another horrific mass shooting, this time at a high school in Parkland, Florida. A former student is charged with murdering 17 people with a military-style assault rifle he purchased legally, despite displaying clear signs of mental instability. My heart breaks for the victims of this latest in a long line of senseless massacres across the country — striking our schools, churches, workplaces, and more. Yet despite the endless cycle of violence and outrage, those who lead our government continue to do nothing, in part due to moneyed special interests that buy their silence. Congress still has the power and the responsibility to help prevent these tragedies. Our state responded to such incidents in recent years by by passing smart gun safety measures, and our entire country must follow suit. Inaction is simply not an option, and we must work now to save lives.
Throughout last week I worked as always to promote many common-sense Colorado values that Washington should adopt. On Feb. 12, the current President released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2019, and it’s a total disaster, to borrow a phrase from its author. This proposal short-changes important programs affecting the environment, housing, health and more. These include steep and devastating cuts to the EPA, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which funds Colorado’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Meanwhile, as these cuts and more are being made, and as he drives the deficit higher, President Trump is requesting $1.6 billion for his unnecessary and ineffective border wall. I’ll continue working to oppose this bad blueprint for our country.
Congress still has the power and the responsibility to help prevent these tragedies. Inaction is simply not an option, and we must work now to save lives.
Buried in the budget request is a plan to implement what Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s called a “Blue Apron-style” meal delivery service for SNAP recipients. From his perch of privilege, he may think this is a great idea, but it’s really just thin gruel. The packages won’t include fresh produce or meat, instead relying on less-healthy, processed products. It’s also not clear from the data buried in the president’s budget request how the envisioned one-size-fits-all approach would serve those who have allergies or who don’t eat certain types of food for religious or other personal reasons. The only certainty is that the whole plan is practically dead on arrival, given how little thought has evidently gone into it.
I also continue to oppose the Trump administration’s ongoing attacks on women’s health. On Feb. 15, Alex Azar, the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, testified before the Health Subcommittee about the agency’s budget and goals. Among other things, I asked him about reports in the media and from HHS that Scott Lloyd, the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, has intervened to try to prevent at least four undocumented teens from obtaining abortion services — including one who was raped — and that ORR had instructed lawyers for the teens against even discussing abortion access with them. I reminded him that four courts have ruled these reprehensible actions unlawful, and asked if he would work to put a stop to such practices. His vague and noncommittal answers were troubling. Shortly after, I took action with fellow Pro-Choice Caucus co-chair, Louise Slaughter, and sent a letter to Secretary Azar demanding that he fire Director Lloyd. Recently, we were informed that HHS had rescinded the troubling instructions to the Vera Institute of Justice, which was heavily involved in the care of these young women. This is a big victory in our continued fight to protect reproductive rights for every woman.
On the House floor last week, I voted against H.R. 620, a cruel attack on the disabled that undermines the bipartisan Americans with Disabilities Act. This landmark law, passed in 1990, has dramatically improved the everyday lives of people with disabilities, particularly by increasing their access to public spaces, but there is more to be done. We should be aiming to advance this progress, but this bill could prove dangerously regressive. A civil rights attorney in Colorado before coming to Congress, I remain focused on empowering vulnerable Americans and protecting their basic liberties. Although this bill passed on a largely party-line vote, I will continue working to oppose it.
Closing out the week, there was also another stunning development in the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in our elections. On Feb. 16, the office of special counsel Robert Mueller announced indictments for 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for allegedly interfering in the 2016 election. And this news hits close to home: the charges allege that two of the accused traveled to the U.S in 2014, visiting several states, including Colorado, to gather intelligence. Colorado’s status as a purple state made it fertile ground for their research, the documents allege. This news further bolsters the critical need to uncover these possible threats to our democracy. We must continue to support the special counsel’s work and ensure it is free of partisan interference.
Amid all these priorities, the need to protect our Dreamers remains a critical goal, especially after the collapse of bipartisan immigration talks in the Senate. Starting last week, I began sharing the stories of young Colorado Dreamers who could face deportation if Congress doesn’t act soon to provide a solution to the DACA program, which President Trump is ending. They are young men and women of character who are working hard to fulfill big dreams, which are now in serious jeopardy. This week, I honored Maria and Marco, who both came to Colorado at an early age and have thrived here. Follow my official social media accounts to see more “Faces of DACA,” and let’s all work together to support their right to remain active members of our community.
Rep. Diana DeGette, Chief Deputy Whip is serving her 11th term in Congress as Representative for the First District of Colorado.
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