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House Is At Work While Senate Stalls

January 11, 2020
Op-Ed and Letters
Rep. John B. Larson (CT-01) wrote the following op-ed that appeared in the Journal Inquirer

Most people I’ve spoken with in Connecticut are astounded to learn that the House of Representatives has passed more than 400 bills over this past year.

They’re equally struck by the fact that 275 of those bills were bipartisanly supported.

They were then deeply disappointed to learn that the Senate has not taken any of them up over the past year.

The media coverage, including social media, has been focused on impeachment, a divided Congress, and a divided nation. Is it any wonder then why people have little faith in government and are fed up with the process?

Yet, the truth is much has been done by one chamber, the House of Representatives, while the President and the Senate continue to falsely assert the only thing we’re working on is impeachment.

The summary below indicates what the House of Representatives has passed to help the American people.

Hailing from the state where the activism around the tragedy at Sandy Hook took place, I’m proud that the House of Representatives took action and passed three gun violence prevention bills in 2019. Gun violence is an epidemic that is tearing our communities apart, and we need to make responsible changes now.

Over 300 days ago, the House passed a bill on universal background checks — something the majority of Americans support. Senate Republicans, however, refuse to take up the bill for a vote. They have also refused to vote on renewing the life-saving Violence Against Women Act and a bill that would close the loophole that allowed the 2015 tragedy in Charleston to occur.  

As chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee, I often hear from seniors that they are most worried about their financial security and the high cost of prescription drugs.  We passed H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which would address the rising costs of prescription drugs in our country. H.R. 3 would give Medicare the power to negotiate directly with drug companies, a policy that I have been fighting for, which is included in my Medicare Buy-In at 50 bill.

The negotiated lower drug prices would also be available to those with private insurance. Additionally, the bill creates a new $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries and reverses years of unfair price hikes above inflation across thousands of drugs in Medicare. If enacted, under H.R. 3 dental, hearing, and vision coverage would be included in Medicare Part B coverage for the first time. This is commonsense legislation that addresses an urgent problem. Instead of working with House Democrats to pass this meaningful legislation, Senate Republicans are doing nothing.

In addition to voting to lower prescription drugs, Democrats are also working to protect those with pre-existing conditions and strengthen affordable health care for Americans.

Despite Americans loudly speaking up in 2017 against the Congressional Republicans efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they are still trying to dismantle the law. Congressional Republicans have joined a lawsuit that challenges the Affordable Care Act.  The case is currently in a federal district court in Texas and if it succeeds, it would put 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions at risk. The ACA remains in effect while the lower court reaches a decision.  

On day one of this Congress, I voted to use the full legal weight of the House of Representatives to stand up for the ACA in the courts and protect those with pre-existing conditions. Instead of working with Democrats to keep these protections for millions of Americans, Senate Republicans have stalled on voting on legislation to strengthen the ACA and supported this lawsuit.

I’ve also been fighting to end the double-taxation of Connecticut residents that has occurred since the 2017 Republican tax law capped State And Local Tax deductions at $10,000.

People in Connecticut, especially middle-class families, who thought they were going to get a tax cut from the bill instead saw their taxes increase. Even worse, 83 percent of the benefits from the 2017 Republican tax law went to the nation’s wealthiest 1 percent. This is unfair to middle-class families and that’s why I voted to remove the cap and to right this wrong. 

You would never know from listening to media coverage or the presidential debates that the House of Representatives has passed H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act to require the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords. Senate Republicans and the Trump administration need to start listening to scientists and military experts; climate change is one of the most urgent issues of our time. We are experiencing a global climate crisis and must act now.

These are just a few of the 400-plus bills the House has passed that are awaiting consideration in the Senate.

While these important bills have stalled, some bipartisan work has been accomplished. During the last week Congress was in session in 2019, two of my bills were included in a year-end package signed into law. The first bill, Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act, will exempt from taxation the benefits volunteer firefighters and emergency medical services personnel receive from their communities for tax year 2020.

I have been advocating for this for many years. Our first-responders put their lives on the line every time they respond to a call to protect our communities. They shouldn’t have to pay federal taxes on the small tokens of gratitude their communities bestow in return. This benefit is the least we can do for these brave men and women.

The second bill, Protecting Access to Wheelchairs Act, will help people suffering from degenerative diseases, like ALS, access equipment they need to live their lives independently and with dignity.

The House of Representatives has done its job.  It is long overdue for the Senate to take action on the 400-plus bills that are stalled on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk.

Americans need to understand that it is the Senate that is blocking these bills (including more than 275 bipartisan ones). The Senate Republicans need to stop playing partisan politics and do their job for the American people.

John B. Larson is the U.S. representative from Connecticut’s 1st District.