Notes From The Capital: February 2019

Fighting to Extend Humanitarian Protections for Liberians in Minnesota
Starting in the late 1980s, Liberia went through one of the bloodiest civil wars in Africa’s modern history, forcing thousands to flee the country. Many of them came to Minnesota. We’re now home to one of the largest Liberian-American communities in the country, some 30,000 people strong. Minnesota is their home.

Unfortunately, the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), a program that’s allowed many of these Liberians to live legally in the United States for decades, is set to expire on March 31. These neighbors do important work—especially in health care. They pay taxes and contribute to our communities. Forcing them to return to the country they had to flee decades ago would break up families and devastate the communities here in Minnesota, where they have made their homes.

I’ve met with Liberian DED holders—including some who live in Minnesota—and am pressing the Trump Administration to extend their protections. And we should take the next step and make sure they have the opportunity to become citizens. It’s the right thing to do.

Learn more here

Securing Health Benefits for Veterans 
One of our most solemn duties is to take care of the men and women who serve in our armed forces. And a big part of that means ensuring they get the health care they need, both during and after their service.

The American service members who cleaned up the radiation-exposed Marshall Islands—where more than 40 nuclear tests took place in the 20th century—have been fighting for proper care for a long time. Many of the service members who participated in the cleanup between 1977 and 1980 suffer from high rates of cancers due to their exposure to radiation and nuclear waste. But they aren’t eligible for the same care as a lot of other veterans in similar situations. That’s wrong and I’m trying to fix it.

So I’ve reintroduced bipartisan legislation with Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina to fix this. I’m encouraged by the strong support this bill has in the House and the opportunity for that support to grow. More than 80 representatives have already signed on, including House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano.  It’s long overdue that we come together and pass it into law.

Learn more here.

Continuing the Fight to Lower Prescription Drug Costs 
Too often, I hear from families who are stuck between being able to afford their medications and other things like rent or groceries. Patients are going without essential medicines at a time when pharmaceutical companies are hauling in huge profits, and drug company executives are paid millions of dollars. On top of what they’re already making, the 2017 tax law provided these pharmaceutical companies with massive windfalls—dollars that could be used to bring down costs for consumers.

I don’t work for big pharma executives—I work for the people of Minnesota. That’s why this month I backed bipartisan legislation to stop brand-name pharmaceutical companies from blocking lower-cost generic drugs to market. I also recently helped introduce legislation to help prevent price hikes for prescription drugs. 

These bills are important opportunities for me and my colleagues to make it possible for people to get the life-saving medication they need at a lower cost. I’m working to get these bills over the finish line for the families across the country who are struggling to pay for the vital medication they need to live full lives.

Learn more here and here

Making Sure Minnesotans’ Voices are Heard in Washington 
If I had to describe my time in Minnesota this month, “snow” is one of the first words that comes to my mind. And lots of it. But that didn’t stop me from meeting with Minnesotans across the state. Here’s a rundown of how I spent some of my time and who I met:

I visited the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank to discuss the challenges Minnesotans face in accessing affordable child care and housing, and ways to spur economic development in Indian Country. I’m excited about my new seat on the Banking Committee and look forward to working with the Federal Reserve to keep our economy strong and stable.

At Red Lake Nation’s State of the Band Address, I heard Chair Seki of the Red Lake Band speak about what a harm the federal government shutdown was to this tribe, and tribes all over the state and all over the country. I helped introduce a bill to provide advance appropriations for critical programming in Indian Country because we need to make sure tribal nations have budget certainty for health care, education, law enforcement, and other essential programming.

I traveled to Bemidji State University to hear how it’s working to boost access to higher education and close the skills gap. When I help rewrite the Higher Education Act as a member of the Senate Education Committee, I’ll be paying special attention to improving college affordability and investing in workforce education.

And I met with leaders from the Mille Lacs Band and Bois Forte to discuss violent crime and jurisdiction issues that happen on Tribal lands, such as gender-based violence, gang violence, and drug trafficking issues. An alarming number of Native people endure violence in their lifetimes. We must be 100% committed to addressing this problem.

Now I’m back in Washington, gearing up for a busy March. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s an honor to represent you in Washington, D.C.