VICKY'S VIEW: Getting a Grip on the Opioid Crisis
Getting a Grip on the Opioid Crisis
Bipartisan agreement has been difficult to come by in Congress, but all sides have come together to confront the opioid crisis. A House-Senate conference committee has combined the many opioid-fighting bills both chambers passed this summer and come up with a final package that addresses the opioid addiction crisis through expansion and creation of programs that address prevention, treatment, and recovery.
Additionally, this week we approved more dollars to address the opioid crisis, including over $6.7 billion to address substance use and mental health, opioid abuse, and heroin abuse. This amount includes $1.5 billion in state opioid response grants and $120,000,000 for the Rural Communities Opioids Response Program.
Opioids are killing tens of thousands of Americans each year. I am pleased to support these robust efforts to combat this tragic crisis. I look forward to working with our local communities to help access and utilize these funds for Missouri.
Pentagon Priorities for 2019
For the first time in 20 years, the Department of Defense (DoD) will have its budget passed on time due to action this week. In addition, the Department will have more money than ever before. Our nation is finally prioritizing our national defense. I’m glad to have been a part of this effort as a leader on the House Armed Services Committee. This bill also funded the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Education.
My work on the bill includes the following provisions:
Fully funds a 2.6 percent pay raise for our troops – the largest in nine years.
Provides funding for 24 additional F-18 Super Hornets to address the Navy’s strike fighter shortfall.
Fully funds the B-21 program, which will eventually replace the B-2 at Whiteman Air Force Base.
Supports funding for critical B-2 modernization programs to ensure the bomber fleet maintains its long-range strike capability until the B-21 is operational.
Provides funding for A-10 modifications to guarantee that the A-10 fleet, including those at Whiteman, will continue to be operational.
Increases the Army’s active duty end strength, which means more soldiers will be trained at Fort Leonard Wood.
Supports funding for engine upgrades for the C-130H fleet, including the 139th Airlift Wing at Rosecrans Air National Guard Base.
Provides much needed support for the Army’s Ammunition Production Plant like the one at Lake City.
Directs funding for congressionally directed medical studies in Alzheimer’s and Tuberous Sclerosis Complex research impacting our men and women in uniform.
Provides $2.3 billion for Alzheimer’s research.
Funds mental health and efforts to combat opioid and heroin abuse at $6.7 billion.
Increases funding for Career, Technical and Adult Education.
Provides critical funding for TRIO: federal programs providing support services to disadvantaged students to promote achievement in postsecondary education.
Directs additional funding for Impact Aid, which is allocated to local schools on military bases to help offset costs incurred in heavy military communities. This is especially important to the Waynesville and Knob Noster School District, which has a high percentage of students from military families.
I was so pleased to vote for this bill to rebuild our military, which has been at the mercy of overused machinery and last-second funding for too long. Our military strength affects not only our defense against the enemy, it affects our economic and diplomatic power as well. We have peacemaking influence and the ability to exert pressure on international human rights abusers in large part because of the size and strength of our military. As a Chairwoman of the Oversight & Investigation Subcommittee on the House Armed Services Committee, and as a representative for Missouri’s Fourth District which includes Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood, I couldn’t be more proud that we’re taking steps to give our military the certainty and funding it needs. I’m also happy to see critical funding for the opioid crisis in this bill, as well as important funding for health, labor, and education.
Lowering Health Costs, Targeting Trafficking, and Training our Workforce
The House passed a number of bills this week that just make sense.
S. 2553, Know the Lowest Price Act of 2018, prohibits a prescription drug plan under Medicare or Medicare Advantage from restricting a pharmacy from informing an enrollee of any difference between the price, co-payment, or co-insurance of a drug under the plan and a lower price of the drug without health-insurance coverage.
S. 2554, Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act, is a companion bill that ensures health insurance issuers and group health plans do not prohibit pharmacy providers from providing certain information to enrollees. One of the big drivers of our high health care costs is discrepancy in the pricing of prescription drugs. Knowledge is power and it is time to get this cost driver under control.
H.R. 6729, the Empowering Financial Institutions to Fight Human Trafficking Act of 2018, protects qualified non-profit organizations wanting to share information with financial institutions, associations of financial institutions, their regulatory authorities, and law enforcement agencies regarding individuals, entities, organizations and countries suspected of possible human trafficking or related money laundering activities. The protection afforded these organizations is a safe harbor that shields them from liability, making it easier to identify and report trafficking activities.
H.R. 6847, the Preventing Child Exploitation Act of 2018. In essence, this will expand and strengthen federal sex offenses, to reauthorize certain programs established by the Adam Walsh Child Protection Act of 2006. Adam Walsh was a 6-year-old who was kidnapped from a Florida department store in 1981 and subsequently murdered.
H.R. 5509, the Innovations in Mentoring, Training, and Apprenticeships Act, was passed this week. This good piece of legislation will direct the National Science Foundation to provide grants for research regarding approaches to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education and the STEM-related workforce. The fact is that many of the jobs in our fast-paced world require STEM skills, and we must make sure our children have the skills to fill those jobs that are in high demand.
Tax Reform 2.0
The House has taken an important step toward implementation of the second phase of the tax reform package that was passed by Congress last year and implemented earlier this year. My colleagues and I have approved what is known as Tax Reform 2.0 – legislation intended to build on the economic successes of the original Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
This second wave of tax reform will make permanent the tax cuts for middle-class families, individuals, and small businesses from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It also contains provisions to help local businesses provide retirement plans to their workers by allowing them to join together to create 401(k) plans more affordable and by making the rules for participation in employer plans easier to navigate. Additionally, this latest group of reforms will allow families to access their retirement savings as they see fit when they welcome a new child into the family, whether by birth or adoption.
According to an estimate from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, this latest phase of tax reform will provide more than $140 billion in annual tax relief for middle-class families, boost American GDP and investment, and create at least 1.1 million new jobs. These new employment opportunities will add to the 1.7 million jobs that have been created under the current tax reform law.
Perhaps best of all, this legislation will make the tax cuts permanent for hard-working American families.
Our Goals in Syria
On Wednesday I chaired a hearing as Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee Chairwoman on U.S. strategy in Syria. The situation there is complex, and the hearing examined our goals in the country. For years, the regime governing Syria has been known for its support of terrorism and multiple human rights abuses, including the likely chemical gassing of its own citizens, systematic rape, sexual violence, and torture. Significant territory has been regained from ISIS in eastern Syria since March 2017, but the group continues to pose a threat and could recapture lost territory.
In the hearing, we reviewed and affirmed the United States’ objectives in Syria, which include defeating ISIS and al-Qa’ida, detering the use of chemical weapons, and countering Iran’s destabilizing influence in the region. We heard from witnesses that our defense role in Syria is limited, and that we are seeking to leave a relatively small military footprint by relying on local partners. Our witnesses also shared that they believe our objectives will be most effectively pursued through a resolution of the Syrian conflict and humanitarian crisis.
Protecting the Homeland
I spoke on the House floor about the recently passed FAA Reauthorization Bill, which includes provisions from my bill the Safeguarding American Skies Act. Click here or on the image above to see my speech.
The final version of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bill passed the House this week, and I am pleased to share that it included provisions from my Safeguarding America’s Skies Act to allow federal agencies to intercept drones that pose a national threat. Currently most federal agencies are prohibited from even engaging with drones, even though they often are used to transport drugs across the border, smuggle contraband into prisons, and across the globe serve as weaponized vehicles to target U.S. and coalition partners. It is long past time that we update our laws to reflect this new threat so we can successfully combat it. To learn more about my original bill authorizing federal agencies to track, detect and destroy threatening drones, you can read about it on my website here.
Photos of the Week
Tuesday I happily recognized my Angel in Adoption honorees from Missouri’s 4th District, Darrel and Shonette Koebel. Darrel and Shonette have 11 kids: 4 biological and 7 adopted from foster care and Ukraine. Darrel and Shonnette have devoted their lives to giving children a loving family, and I am so thankful for them!
At a Wednesday House Armed Service Committee Republicans hearing, we talked about the connection between having a strong military and a strong economy and diplomacy. We need to be reminded of what is at stake when it comes to funding our military on time.
Later that afternoon I sat down with American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) representative Laura Butkievich to discuss ways pharmacists can help reduce the cost of health care and improve patient outcomes.
I enjoyed talking with the Equipment Dealers Association Wednesday afternoon about renewable fuels, crop insurance and rural broadband investment.
I chaired an Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee hearing (as part of the House Armed Services Committee Republicans) on U.S. strategy in Syria. We discussed our objectives in Syria, which include defeating ISIS and al-Qa’ida and deterring the use of chemical weapons.
I enjoyed meeting with the President and Vice President of Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis to discuss its mission, monetary policy, and our current economic conditions.
How Tax Reform is Working for You
I am happy to share with you news of one more Missouri business that is benefiting from tax reform: Sun Solar. This company, which installs solar panels to help homeowners cut utility bills, is adding about 30 jobs because of tax reform. Sun Solar was one of the first Show Me State businesses to announce it would invest in business growth and expand because of the tax cuts, and it plans to invest about $300,000 of growth in the Kansas City area. Yet more proof that tax cuts are good for America!
Weekly Dose of Good News
A new Gallup survey published in the Washington Examiner indicates Americans are pleased with the booming U.S. economy and job market, so there’s a good chance you are too.
The same survey shows 55 percent of Americans say the economy is getting better, with a near-record high 64 percent saying now is a good time to find a quality job. The poll shows workers also remain upbeat about their job security.
According to the survey, just 12 percent of respondents named “economic issues” as a top problem, which is even lower than in 2000, when the dot-com rage was boosting stocks to record highs.
The message is clear: Americans are satisfied with the U.S. economy!