Notes From The Capital: June 2018

Pushing The 2018 Bipartisan Farm Bill Through The Senate 
The Farm Bill touches the lives of virtually every American, and it is vital to Minnesota’s economy. It provides important stability and predictability to Minnesota farmers, ranchers, rural communities, and Indian Country while also sustaining tens of thousands of Minnesota jobs.

I’m glad that we are getting very close to passing a bipartisan Farm Bill through the Senate. The legislation includes several measures that I authored and championed—including a legislative roadmap for the energy section of the Farm Bill, and a provision to expand access to much-needed broadband in rural communities in Minnesota and across the country. Beyond that, it includes a provision I championed to create a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) “Rural Health Liaison” who will work with other federal health officials to address rural America’s unique health care needs. The bill also funds my effort to help younger and non-traditional farmers get started in the business, and it responds to my call to preserve the federal Sugar Program, which supports thousands of jobs across the Red River Valley in Northwest Minnesota.

I want to thank the dozens and dozens of Minnesotans from across the state who have met with me and my staff to discuss the Farm Bill—including farmers, ranchers, foresters, researchers, rural community leaders, and tribes. Your input helped me make sure Minnesota’s priorities are in this important, bipartisan bill.

I plan to push hard to get this important measure signed into law.

Learn more here.

Holding the Trump Administration Accountable on Skyrocketing Prescription Drug Prices 
Too often, I hear from families who are stuck between being able to afford their medications and other things they need. Patients are going without essential medicines at a time when big pharmaceutical corporations are hauling in huge profits, and drug company executives are getting paid tens of millions of dollars. And big drug companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to rig the rules and protect these gains. From January through March of this year the drug industry trade group—PhRMA—spent nearly $10 million dollars on lobbying, breaking their quarterly record. That is wrong and I am here to fight back.  

This month I pressed Alex Azar, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about what I see as the Trump Administration’s inadequate plan to address skyrocketing drug prices. It doesn’t do enough to lower drug prices and rein in pharma company profits. In fact, after the President released his prescription drug plan, pharmaceutical stocks soared. None of this is surprising given that a former industry lobbyist was one of the lead White House staffers negotiating the plan. I also urged Secretary Azar—along with Senator Elizabeth Warren—for more information on the Administration’s plan because I’m gravely concerned that the American public has been misled, and the Administration’s plan will do little to bring down out-of-pocket drug costs for American families.

The first bill I introduced would address a loophole that big pharma companies use to keep affordable generic drugs out of the hands of Minnesotans. And more recently, I introduced a bill requiring pharma companies to reveal how they’re using the billions of dollars in tax breaks they received as a result of the recently passed Republican tax bill. I am committed to taking on big pharma to prevent these companies from price gouging patients because this hurts Minnesota families.

Learn more here and here

Working To Reform Our Campaign Finance System 
Super PACs and other dark money organizations spent some $1.4 billion in the 2016 election. The sharp rise of secretive, unregulated money in politics means that we have no idea who is spending money on campaigns and candidates or why. And that is a profoundly troubling problem for our democracy. While there are many causes of the rise of money in politics, perhaps the biggest is the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC. The 5-4 Citizens United decision struck down key limitations on independent expenditures that were enacted on a bipartisan basis in 2002. That decision has had dire consequences for our democracy.

This month I delivered a speech from the Senate floor calling for the enactment of a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision. And in my very first month as a Senator, I cosponsored legislation to do exactly that. A few wealthy donors shouldn’t dominate the political conversation in this country.

Watch my floor speech here.

Fighting to Help Separated Families
The Trump Administration’s separation of children from their families is absolutely horrifying and runs counter to who we are as a country. Our immigration system has failed far too many innocent children—both at the border and in communities across the nation. That’s why I’m taking an active role in restoring basic humanity to our immigration enforcement process.  

I am a proud cosponsor of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Keep Families Together Act, which would outlaw the inhumane practice of unnecessarily separating families at the border. But separating kids from their families isn’t just happening at the border. It happens all over the country to people caught up in immigration raids. That’s why I introduced the HELP Separated Children Act to protect children when their parents are caught up in immigration enforcement actions with commonsense measures, like allowing parents to make calls to arrange for the care of their children and ensuring that kids can call and visit their parents while they are detained.

I’ve also called on the Senate Health Committee to immediately call a full committee hearing to hold the Trump Administration accountable for the negative impacts of separating children from their families at the border. We have to ensure that the more than 2,300 children who have been separated are safely reunited with their families, and receive the care they need as soon as possible.

I hope you’ll keep making your voices heard. We have to stop cruelty from becoming a hallmark of our immigration policy.

Learn more here and here