A Functioning Congress

The Federal Government Shutdown of 2013 was an embarrassing reminder of how broken our political system is. Too many politicians are beholden to special interests or to their own stubbornness, and when our elected representatives play this game of chicken, they do it with the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Virginians. Stopgap measures to ensure pay for federal employees and service members in the event of a shutdown can lessen the impacts locally, but these measures don’t solve the actual cause of our problems. I pledge that I will work to ensure that Congress stops playing this reckless game with our government and our economy. The businesses and workers of our district have enough challenges to tackle without adding this uncertainty. There is always a compromise to be made – so ego and reelection need to be left at the door.

Infrastructure: Investing in our District

The American Society of Civil Engineers has given our nation’s infrastructure a D+ grade. The United States cannot expect to be competitive with crumbling roads and bridges, inadequate rail service, and countless water and sewer lines on the verge of collapse across the country. One solution is the creation of the Infrastructure Bank that can provide loans, loan guarantees, and other forms of credit enhancement to states and municipalities.  The bank would focus on projects of regional and national significance, emphasizing investments in complex multi-modal projects like freight and port improvements, and in projects to modernize our energy, water, broadband, and transportation systems in urban and rural communities. The bank will operate with prevailing wage standards and domestic sourcing requirements for project materials.

How bad is the problem? In the D.C. area, has been determined that keeping the region’s transportation, utility, safety, and energy infrastructure in a state of good repair over the next 15 years will require $58 billion in funding, according to a report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. This is not just a challenge for this region, but rather a priority for our nation.

Veterans Affairs

Let’s face facts – red tape kills. The problems associated with today’s Veteran’s Administration are serious, systemic and unacceptable. Veterans continue to wait months for care at some VA facilities as they languish in the claims and appeals process. In Congress, I will support efforts to transform the VA into a collaborative care model that integrates physical health, mental health, and substance abuse services. In addition, there needs to be increased assistance for families caring for veterans. The best care begins at home and we need to make it easier for military family members to provide care for their loved ones.

Campaign Finance Reform

We are at the point where money has become poisonous to politics. Politicians are more concerned with raising enough money for the next election than addressing the needs of the people. After the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision, unlimited money has led to unlimited corruption. When billionaires can buy elections, they silence your voice.

To fix this, we first need legislation to require outside groups to publicly disclose political spending. This will help eliminate the threat of “dark money” and its influence. Next, we need to require publicly traded companies to disclose political spending to shareholders. Companies are ultimately controlled by shareholders, and those shareholders need all of the information they can get when they evaluate how the management is doing and if their actions are in the best interest of the company. In addition, I would support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision. That decision wrecked the bipartisan McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation and opened the floodgates to dirty money. It is hurting our democracy, and it must be stopped.

Family and Medical Leave

The ability of any man or woman to work hard and achieve the American Dream should not be hurt by deciding to have children or coping with an illness. In Congress, I will support legislation to give working Americans 12 weeks of paid family leave per year. The United States is the only developed nation that does not provide paid family leave. Our workers are left with a financial burden without this benefit at a time when dealing with health challenges at home should be the top priority.

Even more troubling is that the United States and Papua New Guinea are the only two nations that do not provide benefits to women during maternity leave. New mothers are feeling financial and personal pressure to get back to work very quickly, often within days or a few weeks after giving birth. Two-thirds of American women are employed during pregnancy and 33 percent took no formal time off at all, returning to their jobs almost immediately. Many women who have sick leave burn through all of it for maternity leave. You should use sick leave when you are sick. Having children is not a sickness.

Education

Kids are engaged in school when the work itself is engaging. Forcing teachers to simply “teach to the test” robs our children of the opportunity to get the most out of their educational experience. We also need to stop tying federal funding to standardized test results.

In addition, we have a serious issue in this country of inequality in education and policymakers need to recognize that problems in schools usually stem from problems at home. Working to solve those problems at home will go a long way to improving education for every child. We need to make sure that no child suffers from hunger in the classroom. Adequately funding school lunch and summer lunch programs will ensure that these kids are focused on the next quiz and not the next meal.

LGBT Rights

Our friends in the LGBT community must have the same rights to work, live, and spend their money like all Americans. Those rights are under threat from discriminatory laws that seek to relegate them to a second class role in our society. Bills like HB2 in North Carolina and SB101 in Indiana are blatant attempts by some Republicans to earn electoral success by attacking the LGBT community. I stand against any attempt to limit the rights of LGBT Americans We must ensure that the rights that they have fought for are preserved.

Also, I will oppose any attempt to pass a constitutional amendment that restricts the marriage rights of same-sex partners in any way. We are not going to alter the US Constitution to insert this discriminatory language.

Women’s Reproductive Choice

A woman’s personal health decisions are her decisions to make. I will fight back against any attempt to restrict access to quality, affordable reproductive health care. I will defend access to affordable contraception, preventive care, and safe and legal abortion.

Immigration Reform

I support comprehensive immigration reform. Immigrants are a vital component of the US workforce. We need to provide undocumented workers and their family members an opportunity to earn legal immigration status. In short: stop breaking up families, protect DREAMers, do a better job with integration into our communities, and also promote naturalization.

Combating Gun Violence

What needs to occur is an open and honest national conversation about gun violence and we need to all recognize that there is a problem. Our response to these tragedies is always the same: thoughts, prayers, and inaction. We are a defeated people if we believe that we can find no solution to this epidemic of gun violence. There is something inherently wrong with the notion that we have to accept this as inevitable.

Every attempt to have a national conversation about gun violence is thwarted by the NRA. The NRA sends the word out to their puppets in Congress that even entertaining the idea of putting in place the most common-sense of laws will lead to a lower “lawmaker rating” or fewer campaign donations. This includes universal background checks and closing the “gun show loophole.” This includes a restriction on the high-capacity magazines used in Orlando, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, and countless other attacks. This includes legislation to prevent those who commit domestic violence or have been judged to be mentally incapacitated from getting a gun. This includes legislation to prevent those on a terror watchlist or a no-fly list from buying a gun. In Orlando, we experienced the worst terror attack on American soil since 9/11, and the NRA’s biggest worry is that a terror watchlist may not be perfect and may contain some people not suspected of terrorism. Guns have a place in our society, and most gun owners recognize the problems we face. Their opinions, along with the opinions of gun control advocates, are meaningful. If the NRA wants to obstruct any and every attempt to even talk about gun violence, then they show us they have nothing to offer to the conversation. We all need to stand up for our right to live in a society where mass murder isn’t commonplace and stand up against the politicians that the NRA has bought. Your votes are powerful and together we can fight gun violence in America.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

I oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership. While I do appreciate the geopolitical strategic significance of the deal, we cannot sign on to a deal that puts so many American jobs at risk. Developing countries generally have much lighter protections on labor and American jobs are going to be moved abroad where workers earn less than $1/hour and are often mistreated. That is unacceptable. The TPP also has environmental protections that are largely unenforceable and the proposed investor-state dispute settlement clause could create an issue where foreign corporations could threaten American laws and regulations.