H.J. Res. 25, a constitutional amendment to address the Citizens United Ruling
The 2012 election was the most expensive in our nation’s history and spending by super PACs and wealthy individuals was out of control. Watchdog organizations report that more than 1,200 super PACs raised and spent more than $970 million dollars in the 2012 cycle. The Sunlight Foundation reported more than $123 million in anonymous spending. All told, the price tag for the 2012 election was $7 billion according to the Federal Election Commission.
I, along with House Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), continue to push a constitutional amendment that would reverse the flawed Supreme Court decision in Citizens United.. H.J. Res. 25 would give specific authority to Congress and the states to regulate corporate expenditures on political activity by imposing content-neutral regulations and restrictions on the expenditure of funds for political activity by any corporate entity. Our nation has long recognized the need to protect our political process from the corrosive effect of corporate money, and the asymmetrical influence of wealthy individuals. We cannot allow super PACs to dominate our politics, our public policy, or our elections—to do so would undermine American democracy.
H.J. Res. 119, a constitutional amendment to limit money in politics
In the Supreme Court’s 1974 decision in Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court held that campaign finance regulations are permissible only to prevent corruption and its appearance. This allowed limitations on contributions to candidates and parties to target quid pro quo corruption, but struck down limits on election spending. In 2010, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission expanded that reasoning to strike down limits on corporations, unions, and other artificial entities to spend unlimited amounts in our elections and hide the sources of those funds. This year, in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the Court struck down aggregate contribution limits to allow wealthy individuals to spread their influence across every race in the country. Together, these three decisions make it harder for everyday Americans to have their voices heard, and make it impossible for the public to demand transparency and integrity.
Because the Supreme Court has continued to erode the people’s ability to keep money out of politics, we are left with no other choice but to amend the Constitution. This summer, the Senate will take a historic vote on a constitutional amendment by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) that would clarify in the Constitution that money does not equal speech, effectively reversing U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which have unraveled campaign finance regulations and handed undue influence over elections to corporations and wealthy donors. In the House of Representatives, I joined Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) in introducing this companion amendment to overturn Buckley, Citizens United, and McCutcheon to prevent wealthy individuals from drowning out the voices of all other Americans. Together, we can restore reasonable limits on financial contributions and expenditures intended to influence elections.
H.Res. 619, Women’s Heart Health resolution
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for women in the United States, causing 1 in 4 female deaths each year. For the past three decades, the number of deaths from heart disease for women has exceeded those for men. I am concerned that heart disease claims the lives of more than 400,000 women each year and almost half of all African-American women have some form of cardiovascular disease. Meanwhile, awareness among Latinas that heart disease is the leading cause-of-death remains at just 34 percent.
That is why I joined Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) in introducing H.Res. 619, the Women’s Heart Health resolution, which recognizes the risks of cardiovascular disease and promotes the importance of providing basic, preventative heart screenings to women wherever they seek primary care. I believe the burden of women’s heart disease can be reduced in the United States by ensuring that wherever women seek care they get a basic, preventive heart disease screening. This bipartisan resolution encourages women and doctors across the country to increase discussions about heart disease, and ultimately save lives.
H.R. 650, the Working for Adequate Gains for Employment in Services (WAGES) Act
Restaurant workers, including waiters, waitresses, bussers, and other servers, are the largest group of tipped workers, who have been hit hard by the erosion of their minimum wage. Since 1991, tipped workers have seen their wages frozen at $2.13 and are a reason why living standards continue to fall for this segment of our workforce. I reintroduced H.R. 650, the WAGES Act, which would raise the minimum wage of tipped employees from the current level of $2.13 per hour to $3.75 per hour three months after enactment. This bill then raises the minimum wage of tipped employees to $5.00 per hour one year after enactment, and 70% of minimum wage, but no less than $5.50 per hour, two years after enactment.
I am also an original cosponsor and strong supporter of H.R. 1010, the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10, in three steps of 95 cents, setting an adequate base before implementing automatic adjustments to keep pace with the rising cost of living. This legislation also includes my proposed increase in the tipped minimum wage for the first time in 20 years. America’s minimum wage earners work hard every day and deserve a decent wage.
H.R. 2616, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2013
Maryland’s dedication to a broad number of aerospace issues, including human spaceflight, aviation, satellite communications, and robotics, has allowed our state to foster sixteen of America’s top 25 aerospace companies and 70 of the top 100 defense contractors. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is critical to Maryland, the country, and our economic strength. Last year, as Ranking Member of the Space Subcommittee, I introduced H.R. 2616, the NASA Authorization Act of 2013, which would reauthorize NASA for three years, beginning in Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) with an authorization level of $18.1 billion and increasing at about 2 percent a year to a level of $18.87 billion by FY16. This fiscally responsible bill enhances NASA’s strength as a multimission agency, establishes a clear and inspiring goal for NASA’s human spaceflight program, and provides for robust science, aeronautics, and space technology programs.
NASA is recognized across the world as a symbol of our greatness as a nation and for leadership in science and technology. In Maryland, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center supports more than 15,000 civil service and private sector jobs, including highly skilled occupations such as engineers, technicians, mathematicians, and scientists. NASA also collaborates extensively with Maryland’s high-tech business sector. These collaborations encourage the expansion of the skilled workforce that has made Maryland a leader in research and technology and grown our state’s economy.
On June 29, the House passed H.R. 4412, the NASA Authorization Act of 2014, with a bipartisan Palazzo-Edwards agreement that builds on the support that Congress has given NASA as a multi-mission agency with programs in space and Earth science, aeronautics, human spaceflight, and exploration. The bill updates the previously committee-approved bill to reflect the funding agreement reached in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. It supports the development of the Space Launch System and the Orion Crew Vehicle to push the boundaries of human exploration, and focuses NASA’s efforts to develop a capability to access low Earth orbit and the International Space Station so that America can once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. This legislation provides important policy direction that will strengthen our nation’s space program in Maryland and across our country. I look forward to Senate action and getting this to the President to sign this bill into law.
H.R. 2617, the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act
In 1969, American ingenuity changed history as humanity took a giant leap forward on the surface of the moon. That history, as preserved on the lunar surface, is now in danger, as spacefaring commercial entities and foreign nations begin to achieve the technical capabilities necessary to land spacecraft on the surface of the moon. A July 2011 report entitled “NASA’s Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities: How to Protect and Preserve the Historic and Scientific Value of U.S. Government Lunar Artifacts” highlights that increasing activities on the moon by commercial entities and other nations could place at risk the important artifacts on the moon. Some of these artifacts continue to collect information and data that could be helpful to our understanding of the moon.
With this background in mind, I introduced H.R. 2617, the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, which would expand and enhance the protection and preservation of the Apollo lunar artifacts while providing for greater recognition and public understanding of this achievement for generations to come. The Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act will ensure that the scientific data and cultural significance of the Apollo artifacts remains unharmed by future lunar landings. This Act will endow the artifacts as a National Historic Park, thereby asserting unquestioned ownership rights over the Apollo lunar landing artifacts. The legislation will additionally require the Secretary of the Interior to pursue nominating the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing site, where humanity left its first steps on the moon, as a World Heritage Site. To view a Time article that further discusses this issue, please click here.
H.R. 3449, the Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act of 2013
Water quality throughout the United States is being threatened by stormwater runoff from highly urbanized areas that carries pollutants into surface waters. If we do not address this problem, water-quality gains made over the last forty years will evaporate. Innovative stormwater infrastructure is a proven set of strategies and techniques that can help address this challenge. These stormwater solutions, such as permeable pavement, natural drainage swales, and green roofs, offer an effective alternative to conventional stormwater infrastructure that has both the flexibility and economic viability to address the challenges of polluted runoff, flooding, and sewer overflows. Unlike traditional stormwater infrastructure, this approach protects, restores, and replicates the natural hydrology of the landscape.
Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and I introduced H.R. 3449, the Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act (ISIA) of 2013, to contribute to the management of this growing crisis facing the nation’s clean water. This bicameral legislation promotes innovative infrastructure designed to address stormwater management in a way that enhances the natural environment and is economically cost-effective. Specifically, the ISIA would: promote the use of innovative stormwater solutions within the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water and related programs and provide technical assistance to states, local governments, and the private sector; establish up to five Centers of Excellence in various regions of the United States that would conduct research, develop recommendations, and provide training and technical assistance for implementing management practices for stormwater control and management; invest in planning, development, and implementation grants for community-based stormwater control projects; and promote public-private partnerships to create jobs in the design and construction of innovative stormwater control infrastructure. I strongly believe the ISIA will move our country forward in developing and implementing technology and innovative infrastructure strategies and techniques that are more economical, increase property values, and promote jobs to design and implement them.
On June 10, 2014, President Obama signed into law H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. Included in the new law for the first time are provisions that I have long championed: the use of innovative, green, and low impact technologies. We required that green infrastructure, water recapture and reuse, and cost-effectiveness be part of the selection criteria for grants under both the State Revolving Fund and new Innovative Financing Pilot Projects. These types of projects are usually less expensive, require less operations and maintenance, and reduce risk. In addition, they may provide ancillary benefits to habitat, recreation, and the environment.
H.R. 3537, the 21st Century Investment Act of 2013
Innovation and a return to domestic manufacturing are critical components to long-term economic growth in this country. Businesses want to create skilled, high-wage jobs domestically and the economic environment is ripe for them to do so. However, in terms of research and development (R&D) tax incentive systems, the United States is now 27 out of 42 nations studied in the amount we invest in general R&D according to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation. This is down from 23rd just five years ago. Other countries, including Brazil, Canada, China, France, and India, have implemented R&D tax incentive systems that far exceed that of the United States in generosity.
As President Obama stressed during the annual State of the Union address, we need to aid our nation’s manufacturing community through investments in R&D. I have reintroduced H.R. 3537, the 21st Century Investment Act, which would amend the Internal Revenue Code to increase permanently the R&D tax credit from 20 to 25 percent. The legislation couples it with an increase in the domestic manufacturing tax credit from 9 to 15 percent, incentivizing the location of R&D with domestic manufacturing. We can implement simple solutions that will result in positive growth for our manufacturing and innovation sectors, leading to good-paying jobs right here at home.
H.R. 3597, the Safety, Efficiency, and Accountability in Transportation Projects Through Public Inspection Act of 2013
Historically on transportation projects, the construction inspector is the eyes, ears, and voice of the public. Inspectors ensure that construction standards are met, that projects meet safety requirements, and that the materials used will stand the test of time. In short, they are there to ensure that the motoring public gets what they pay for, and public safety and the public interest are protected. Unfortunately, across the nation, some departments of transportation are outsourcing public inspection with poor results. Outsourcing inspection threatens public safety, increases project cost, and delays project completion.
I introduced H.R. 3597, the Safety, Efficiency and Accountability in Transportation Projects through Public Inspection Act of 2013, to require public employees to perform the inspection and related essential public functions on all state and local transportation projects. This bill is intended to ensure that public safety is protected, transportation funds are not wasted, and projects are delivered in a timely manner.
H.R. 3738, the Broadening Opportunities Through Education Act
Education is the key to building a workforce prepared to meet the needs and challenges of the 21st Century global economy. However, every year more than 1.2 million students drop out of high schools across the United States. Students who drop out of high school not only reduce their opportunity to learn, but also tend to earn less over the course of their life and are often less prepared to compete in the workforce. Adults who drop out of high school and do not receive their GED earn on average 41 percent less than their counterparts who completed high school. Over the course of a lifetime, high school dropouts earn $300,000 less than high school graduates, amounting to nearly $320 billion in lost earning potential.
As Congress continues to work on strategies to address our deficit and grow our economy, we cannot forget that our greatest asset is the knowledge base of our workforce. I have reintroduced H.R. 3738, the Broadening Opportunities through Education Act, which provides additional resources to states that raise the age of compulsory school attendance through age 17. These resources are designed to improve secondary schools and ensure that students at risk of dropping out receive the support they need to reach their fullest potential. This money can be used to expand work-based programs that integrate academic, career, and technical training. The Broadening Opportunities through Education Act is essential to fulfilling the obligation to provide our students with a quality education that prepares them for a 21st Century global economy. By providing additional resources to our states, we will keep students in school longer, reaping significant economic benefits for them and our country.
H.R. 3739, legislation to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to equalize the exclusion from gross income of parking and transportation fringe benefits
Transportation is the second largest household expense for American families, and currently Congress provides a tax credit to commuters to help account for parking and transit costs. Under federal law in 2013, employers could offer their employees an option of up to $245/month in pre-tax parking or transit benefits. This tax credit directly benefits American commuters and their families. Businesses have also enjoyed a tax break from this commuter benefit. In 2010, participating transit riders across the country saved their bosses about $300 million in payroll taxes. However, because Congress did not act to further extend the transit benefit before it expired at the end of 2013, the transit portion of the commuter benefit dropped to $130/month on January 1, 2014. Meanwhile, due to an automatic cost of living increase, the monthly limit for the parking portion of the commuter benefit rose by $5 to $250 per month for 2014, which has further exacerbated the disparity between the transit and parking benefits. In addition to increasing commuters’ taxes, the federal tax code now distorts individual’s choices in a way that increases congestion, time spent in traffic, and wear and tear on the roads.
I, along with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), introduced H.R. 3739, legislation that would create permanent parity between the transit and parking portions of the commuter benefit. In addition to encouraging greater transit ridership, which would help lessen congestion on roadways, reduce pollution and conserve energy, providing permanent parity between the two benefits would eliminate the uncertainty surrounding the transit monthly benefit cap and provide workers the certainty they need to permanently change the way they commute to more mass transit friendly options. Enacting permanent parity in the mass transit commuter benefit will also ensure that many working people, including tens of thousands of federal employees that rely on public transportation to get to and from work, are provided with critical economic relief in the form of reduced commuting costs.
H.R. 3740, the Child Care Access and Refundability Expansion Act
Child care expenses have become one of the biggest financial burdens on working families, often exceeding expenses related to housing, transportation, and food. Studies show that the cost of child care for two children is more than housing costs for homeowners with a mortgage in 20 states, and the cost of infant care is more than a year’s tuition at a four-year public college in 31 states. Working families benefit greatly from child care, but rising costs have limited their access. According to a report by Child Care Aware, worker absenteeism as a result of disruptions in child care costs United States businesses $3 billion annually. Giving working parents safe and reliable child care brings peace of mind and stability to families, which increases productivity and maintains our country’s competitive workforce.
Despite rising costs, the rates guiding the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) have not been raised since 2002. I have introduced H.R. 3740, the Child Care Access and Refundability Expansion (CARE) Act, which proposes changes to the CDCTC that reflect the realities of the rising cost of child care. Under H.R. 3740, the CDCTC is made fully refundable, allowing many low-income families to benefit from the tax credit for the first time. The bill also indexes the income threshold and credit rate to inflation to more accurately mirror child care costs. The CARE Act ensures that middle-class families would qualify for more of the credit to help them afford the cost of child care. Helping families afford child care will not only bring greater financial security to our middle-class, but it will also maintain and support a strong workforce and grow our economy.
H.R. 3741, the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2013
In March 2013, the state of Maryland enacted a law to abolish the death penalty for future crimes. Maryland became the 18th state to abolish the death penalty, and the sixth to do so in the last six years. Of the 18 states without the death penalty, 14 have murder rates below the national average. Research continues to demonstrate that the death penalty is not a deterrent to criminal activity, and its administration is racially and socioeconomically biased. Moreover, it marginalizes the United States in the fight for human rights in the international community and is fiscally irresponsible. A recent study by Judge Arthur Alarcon and Professor Paula Mitchell released in 2012 found that if the governor commuted the sentences of those remaining on death row in California to life without parole, it would result in savings of $170 million per year, with a savings of $5 billion over 20 years.
I strongly believe that violent offenders must be punished severely and prevented from committing future crimes. However, capital punishment is not the answer. I introduced H.R. 3741, the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2013, which will put an immediate halt to executions and forbid the imposition of the death penalty as a sentence for violations of federal law.
H.R. 4169, the Stop Overdose Stat (S.O.S.) Act
Nearly 40,000 Americans died from drug overdose in 2010. From 1999 to 2010, there was a 102% increase in deaths, an alarming epidemic that has affected families from San Diego to Boston and all points in between. In my home state, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reports that there were 378 heroin-related deaths alone in 2012. This marks a 54% increase from 2011. Across the nation, states, counties, and local communities are responding to the drug overdose epidemic in their own way. We see the conviction in these dedicated public servants to save lives, but the problem is simply too big to address in a piecemeal approach.
It is time the federal government took action on a nationwide scale to promote and coordinate the treatments recommended by the medical community. That is why I have reintroduced H.R. 4169, the S.O.S. Act, which establishes a federal plan to combat what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declares a public health epidemic. It would support community-based efforts to decrease fatal drug overdose by expanding the awareness and use of naloxone, improving data collection of overdose occurrences, and establishing a coordinated federal plan of action. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) has introduced the Overdose Prevention Act, companion legislation that makes this a bicameral effort. With these bills, we have an opportunity to make a real difference in treating and preventing overdose, and ultimately saving lives. I look forward to working with everyone in Congress to improve our woefully inadequate response to drug overdoses.
H.R. 5338, the Federal Employee Pension Fairness Act
Federal employees are the backbone of our federal government and agencies. Whether protecting our borders, conducting life-saving medical research, or ensuring our food is safe to consume, public servants perform duties that are vital to the health and safety of the American people. Despite their sacrifices and commitment to service, federal workers have experienced a three-year pay freeze, unpaid furloughs, the elimination of cost-of-living increases, and seen their own contributions to their pensions increase by over 500%. Under current law, recently hired federal employees have been forced by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 to raise their contribution amount to pensions from 0.8% to 3.1% and now to 4.4%. This is in spite of the fact that the main pension fund, the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund (CSRDF), is fully funded.
Over recent years, federal workers have made mandatory contributions of well over $138 billion in order to balance the budget. I strongly believe that federal employees have contributed more than their fair share to deficit reduction. Therefore, I have introduced H.R. 5338, the Federal Employee Pension Fairness Act, which restores federal employee pension contributions from the current 4.4 percent to the original .8 percent, while paying for it by closing corporate tax loopholes for companies that are incorporated overseas, but managed and controlled in the United States, and by tightening tax rules relating to inverted corporations. Congress must stop placing the burden of balancing our budgets on our civil servants. These demands will undermine our government’s ability to recruit and retain talented and highly skilled workers in the future.
Water Resources Development Act
The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is critical for the economic and environmental future of Maryland: creating jobs, meeting unmet water transportation infrastructure needs, and protecting our vital natural resources and public health. Maryland has the fourth longest coastline in the continental United States, the Chesapeake Bay, and several of its tributaries, including the Anacostia, Patuxent, Potomac, and Severn Rivers that flow through the 4th Congressional District of Maryland, and these resources provide billions of dollars in economic activity for our state. Maintaining and modernizing Maryland’s waterways and its ports, including the Port of Baltimore, is essential for supporting and expanding our state’s industries and our economy. WRDA is vital to the public health, the safety, and the economic welfare of our communities and this nation.
I served as a conferee on the Conference Committee to H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development (WRRDA) Act of 2014, where we negotiated successfully the differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation. For Maryland specifically, the conference agreement includes over $2.1 billion in funding for projects including:
• Reauthorization of the 18-year-old Chesapeake Bay Environmental Restoration Program, in which the Army Corps of Engineers works to restore bay ecosystems;
• Reauthorization for the Poplar Island Expansion;
• Restoration of the 75-25 cost-sharing for Poplar Island Expansion;
• Authorization of Mid-Bay Islands;
• Full access to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to allow necessary dredging of the Port of Baltimore;
• Consideration of innovative stormwater infrastructure practices as a part of both the State Revolving Fund and the new Water Infrastructure Finance Innovations Authority (WIFIA); and
• Improvement of the environmental streamlining provisions by limiting provisions only to project studies and ensuring that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is maintained as far as project considerations.
When Women Succeed, America Succeeds: An Economic Agenda for Women and Families
Today, women play an expanded role in America’s workforce, in businesses small and large, and in our homes. Almost half of all workers are women, and 40 percent of working women are the primary breadwinners in their families. The success of our nation relies upon the economic security of women. Unfortunately, women - and specifically unmarried women - are the most economically insecure today. Too many women face financial pressures simply due to outdated policies that constrain opportunities for women’s full participation in our economy. Too many women are faced with the lack of good-paying jobs, the rising costs of education and debt, and the daily challenge to put food on the table.
I, as the Chair of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, along with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and the Democratic Women’s Working Group, launched When Women Succeed, America Succeeds: An Economic Agenda for Women and Families. This program stands on the shoulders of what was accomplished at Seneca Falls, what was achieved by the suffragettes, and what was advanced by activists in every generation, by addressing the economic challenges facing women and families in our time. The agenda is comprised of three pillars: equal pay, work and family balance, and childcare:
• On equal pay, the agenda promotes the passage of H.R. 377, the Paycheck Fairness Act, and increasing the minimum wage (including tipped);
• On work and family balance, the agenda promotes expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and passage of H.R. 3712, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act; and
• On childcare, the agenda supports the President’s proposal of universal Pre-K for 4 year olds and passage of legislation I have introduced: H.R. 3740, the Child Care Access and Refundability Expansion (CARE) Act, which addresses the affordability of childcare for working families.
The When Women Succeed, America Succeeds economic agenda will enable women to achieve greater economic security, raise wages for women and their families, and allow working parents to support and care for their families.