Weekly Update - Week of February 1st, 2021

February 8, 2021
E-newsletter
 
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This Week in Washington
 
Met With Members of the NY National Guard
Yesterday, I was humbled to meet with and thank members of the New York National Guard who have been stationed in Washington, D.C. It was great to talk with the group, many of whom are native Northern New Yorkers. I thank them and their families for their continued service to our country. It is an honor to represent them in Congress.
 
On Tuesday, I lead a letter from every member of New York's Republican Congressional Delegation to Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson requesting the Department of Justice immediately issue subpoenas for Governor Cuomo, the Secretary to the Governor, the New York State Commissioner of Health, and their staff on all documentation and communications related to their nursing home policies during the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to a thorough update on the Civil Rights Division's inquiry into New York State's handling of the COVID-19 crisis in nursing homes. My colleagues and I continue the fight towards justice for the people of New York. We will work to ensure that Acting Attorney General Wilkinson and President Biden support this pursuit for the truth about Governor Cuomo and his administration, considering the scathing evidence presented in Attorney General James' recent report. Tens of thousands of innocent people in our great state died, and unlike the Governor, we care. Read more here.
 
On Monday, I introduced a resolution, co-led by Congresswoman Ashley Hinson (IA-1), and co-sponsored by several House Republicans, to oppose any plans by the United States Department of Defense to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay detention facility (GITMO) and detained during operations conducted during the Global War on Terrorism until all Americans have had the opportunity to be vaccinated; and asserts that efforts by the United States Government to provide vaccinations for COVID-19 should prioritize United States citizens. The resolution follows the Biden Administration's order to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to GITMO detainees. After bipartisan scrutiny and increased pressure to rescind the order, the Pentagon stated it will pause the plan for further review. This resolution effectively states that no terrorist shall receive a COVID-19 vaccination before any American citizen. "It is inexcusable and un-American that President Biden is prioritizing vaccines for terrorist detainees over American citizens, including veterans, first responders, 9/11 first responders, and seniors. Every American should have access to vaccines before these heinous terrorists. Read more here.
 
This Week in The People's House
 
H. Con. Res. 11 - Establishing the congressional budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2021 and setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2022 through 2030 (Passed 218-212; I voted No)
 
H. Res. 72 - Removing a certain Member from certain standing committees of the House of Representatives (Passed 230-199; I voted No)
 
H.R. 447 – National Apprenticeship Act of 2021 (Passed -; I voted No)
 
 
On Tuesday, I  sent a letter, co-signed by Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, to the Biden Administration asking the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to immediately update their guidance to ensure cancer patients have priority access to the COVID-19 Vaccination. I was deeply disheartened to learn that some of my constituents in the North Country, who are cancer patients or have a history of cancer, were left out of the initial distribution tiers for the COVID-19 vaccine. Doctors, scientists, and patient advocates have stated that individuals with an increased risk for severe COVID-19 associated illness, like cancer, must receive priority access. I am calling on the Biden Administration to immediately update the guidance surrounding high-risk populations, so the most vulnerable among us can undoubtedly receive the vaccine as soon as possible. Read the full letter here.
On Wednesday, I announced the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is awarding a $4,000,000 grant to support mental health and substance abuse disorder programs in New York’s 21st Congressional District. The COVID-19 pandemic has sadly perpetuated the mental health crisis in our country, and it’s more important than ever that our local mental health, substance abuse, rehabilitation centers and programs have the funds and resources they need to keep our community members healthy and safe. I am so proud to announce this substantial grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, and will continue finding ways to deliver solutions for those suffering mentally and emotionally during this difficult time. Read more here.
This week, I cosponsored the United States Postal Service (USPS) Fairness Act, bipartisan legislation that would repeal the burdensome mandate forcing the USPS to prefund their retiree healthcare decades in advance. No other enterprise in the United States faces the requirement, and it costs the USPS more than $5 billion dollars each year. Estimates suggest the USPS would have been deficit-free for the past six years if it were not for this one mandate. The USPS Fairness Act passed the House in the 116th Congress with strong bipartisan support. The USPS provides essential services for our North Country communities, families, veterans, and seniors. The urgent financial issues that it faces must be addressed to ensure it can continue operating smoothly. I am proud to cosponsor the USPS Fairness Act and offer a tangible solution that will put the USPS on a solid path to greater fiscal stability and a stronger future.
 
This legislation also came on ‘National Thank a Mail Carrier Day,’ and I want to take the opportunity to express my gratitude to the hardworking men and women of the USPS. Postal Service workers are some of the most hardworking individuals in our communities. I have met with many USPS workers since taking office, and am continually impressed by their commitment to their essential work. Today and every day, let us share our gratitude to our local mail carriers who ensure we have what we need!
 
Read more here.
This week, I was appointed to two new subcommittee assignments on the House Armed Services Committee for the 117th Congress. Since my first year in Congress, I have proudly served on the House Armed Services Committee, successfully delivering results to the men and women in uniform of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, North Country military families, and veterans. I am honored to announce my appointment as the Ranking Republican on the Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems Subcommittee, and as a member of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee. These subcommittees will focus on critical issues that will be essential to securing America’s national security at home and abroad in the years ahead.
 
The importance of the newly created Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems Subcommittee is critical to our future national security. The subcommittee has jurisdiction over the policies and capabilities related to cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, spectrum (i.e. 5G) information technology and information operations, and defense-wide research, development, test and evaluation. These issues will be at the forefront of our national defense strategy and policy in the 21st century. Through legislation introduced in this subcommittee, the United States will challenge China’s technological rise and improve our economic competitiveness, as history has shown that technological capabilities developed at the Department of Defense—such as the internet and GPS—have a game-changing effect on our economy and everyday life. The most recent incident under this subcommittee’s jurisdiction, the SolarWinds cyber-hack, demonstrates the importance of providing our cyber forces the resources and support necessary to defend our country’s institutions and infrastructure.
 
I am also honored to be appointed to serve on the Strategic Forces Subcommittee. This subcommittee has jurisdiction over America’s nuclear weapons, missile defense, space policy and operations, and arms control and non-proliferation. During my time in Congress, I have successfully worked to ensure that Fort Drum is the designated location for a future East Coast Missile Defense site. This subcommittee appointment will allow me to better advocate for future missile defense at Fort Drum. This subcommittee is also a critical component to advancing deterrence against our adversaries. Rogue nations like Iran and North Korea are building increasingly sophisticated nuclear and missile capabilities, and arms control regimes with our peer adversaries in China and Russia continue to be strained, especially with the advent of new capabilities and technologies like hypersonic weapons. This subcommittee is essential to protecting against these threats to the homeland and advancing America’s interest of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
 
I am proud and excited about these new assignments, and ready to work on the critical issues within their jurisdictions that are essential to the security of the United States. Through this work, I will continue to ensure that the North Country has a seat at the table at the highest levels, and I will continue my role as the chief advocate in Congress for the Fort Drum community.
Today, I gave remarks on the House Floor on my amendment to improve H.R. 447 - National Apprenticeship Act. I offered an amendment to encourage both the deployment of an apprenticeship program that is responsive to the demands of the 21st century workplace, accessible to job-creators in emerging industries, and encourages both employers and workers to participate by reducing red tape and burdensome regulations. Watch my full remarks here and above.
 
On Monday, I co-signed a letter to leadership requesting they immediately bring 13 bills focused on addressing mental health to the floor. Each of the bills passed in the 116th Congress with bipartisan support. Many concerning studies show that America is sadly facing a mental health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The American people are suffering and as their Representatives, we must provide them with resources and support. I am proud to have co-sponsored and helped pass a few of these important bills addressing mental health last congress, and I join my colleagues in calling on leadership to bring them to the floor once again.
 
In the 116th Congress, I proudly co-sponsored H.R. 1646, the HERO Act, and H.R. 5572, The Family Support and Services Act. The other bills I request be moved forward without delay are:
  1. HR 1109, the Mental Health Services for Students Act (Grace F. Napolitano, D-CA-32)
  2. HR 2466, the State Opioid Response Grant Authorization Act (David J. Trone, D-MD-06)
  3. HR 2519, the Improving Mental Health Access from the Emergency Department Act (Raul Ruiz, D-CA-36)
  4. HR 3539, the Behavioral Interventions Guidelines Act (Drew A. Ferguson, R-GA-03)
  5. HR 4564, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act (John Katko, R-NY-24)
  6. HR 4585, the Campaign to Prevent Suicide Act (Donald S. Beyer, Jr., D-VA-08)
  7. HR 4861, the Effective Suicide Screening and Assessment in the Emergency Department Act (Gus. M. Bilirakis, R-FL-12)
  8. R 5469, Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act (Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-NJ-12)
  9. HR 5619, the Suicide Prevention Act (Chris Stewart, R-UT-02)
  10. HR 5855, the Bipartisan Solution to Cyclical Violence Act (C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-MD-02)
  11. HR 7293, the STAND UP Act (Scott Peters, D-CA-52)
 
Read the full letter here.
 
District Meetings and Events
Held Virtual Roundtable With Voices for Seniors
Today, I participated in a roundtable with constituents and advocates from Voices for Seniors about the stories of their loved ones and the Governor's reckless COVID-19 nursing home policies. I heard direct feedback from seniors advocates about the issues that their families have faced and the reforms that they are seeking. I remain committed to holding Governor Cuomo accountable and pressing the Department of Justice to prompt a full-scale independent federal investigation into this matter. I also remain committed to working at the federal level to ensure that we are taking care of our nation's senior population.
Joined Five County Board of Supervisors Meetings
This week, I joined the Boards of Supervisors from Essex, St. Lawrence, Hamilton, Lewis, and Jefferson counties for their virtual meetings to discuss my work to deliver COVID-19 relief to our communities and my continued support for our working families, small businesses, hospitals, schools, and local colleges throughout the 117th Congress. It is great to hear directly from our local elected officials about issues that are impacting their areas.
On Tuesday, the Lewis County Legislature passed a resolution in support of my legislation, the Protecting Rural Access to Care Act. I introduced this bill last week to ensure financially vulnerable rural hospitals are not at-risk of losing their Critical Access Hospital designation over an administrative policy change. The Critical Access Hospital designation provides hospitals enhanced reimbursement rates to keep essential healthcare services in rural communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented all of our North Country hospitals with challenges, but the challenges our rural hospitals face are unique. I am pleased members of the Lewis County Legislature recognize the need for this important legislation and passed a resolution in support of it.
 
The Protecting Rural Access to Care Act will:
  • Restore the pre-2015 standard permanently for Critical Access Hospitals certified prior to 2015, ensuring the rules don’t change as they seek recertification.
  • Require CMS to engage in a public notice and comment period for any future guidance or regulation changes made to the designation criteria for Critical Access Hospitals.
  • Ensure that unless any formal update to distance criteria is finalized, hospitals seeking Critical Access Hospital certification or recertification will be subject to the pre-2015 standard.
 
Read the full resolution here.
Met with Clarkson University President Tony Collins
This morning, I met with Tony Collins, President of Clarkson University, to discuss the innovative ways that Clarkson is supporting their students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We also discussed the important contributions that the our higher education institutions are making to economic development in the region. I emphasized my support for North Country colleges and highlighted some of the relief that Congress has been able to provide them with. As a Member of the House Education and Labor Committee, I remain committed to advocating for our North Country schools and colleges at the federal level.
In The News
 
 
Every Republican member of Congress from New York signed onto a letter Wednesday asking the acting U.S. attorney general to immediately subpoena Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his team for all documents and communications related to the state’s COVID-19 nursing home policies.
 
This comes after state Attorney General Letitia James released a report last week detailing how Cuomo’s administration had underreported thousands of coronavirus-related deaths in state nursing homes by as much as 50%.
Just hours after James’ report was released, state Health Department officials released new data indicating 3,800, or about 40% more, nursing home residents had died from COVID-19 than was previously reported.
 
The increase did not alter New York’s coronavirus death count. Instead, it reassigned deaths previously counted toward a municipality to the nursing homes those people were residents of.
In the letter, addressed to acting U.S. Attorney General Robert “Monty” M. Wilkinson, the seven House Representatives argue that James’ report exposes how Cuomo and his staff “recklessly and knowingly” underreported deaths in nursing homes across the state after his decision in March of last year to require nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients.
 
They request that Wilkinson issue subpoenas to Cuomo, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, state Health Department Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and staff for all three officials.
 
The Republican House Representatives in August of last year pushed for the U.S. Department of Justice, then controlled by Attorney General William Barr under former President Donald Trump, to investigate the state’s nursing home policy. In their letter, they also requested an “immediate and thorough” update on that probe.
 
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, was a lead signer of Wednesday’s letter.
 
“It’s no surprise this QANON Trump puppet, her treason caucus, and their friends want to talk about anything other than the approaching one month anniversary of the Capitol insurrection that they helped foment and resulted in the death of a police officer,” Rich Azzopardi, senior advisor to the governor, said in a prepared statement Wednesday night. “It’s a naked ploy and New Yorkers see right through it. Maybe someone should investigate what she and the rest of the Trump enablers knew about the organizing and planning of this riot.”
 
The congresswoman has been a vocal critic of Cuomo throughout the pandemic, and has criticized him repeatedly over the state’s nursing home policies during the crisis.
 
“We will work to ensure that Acting Attorney General Wilkinson and President Biden support this pursuit for the truth about Governor Cuomo and his administration, considering the scathing evidence presented in Attorney General James’ recent report,” Stefanik said in a prepared statement. “Tens of thousands of innocent people in our great state died, and unlike the Governor, we care.”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sun Community News:
Stefanik leads federal push for N.Y. nursing home data subpoenas
 
 
 
 
 
 
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