I believe that leaders should have priorities.
There's an old saying that if everything is important, nothing is. My first priority is to get things moving again. I will work with anyone to protect our people and bring good jobs here. I will go to Washington with strong convictions and an open mind. And when I'm there, I'll never forget that the only people I work for are right here at home.
My only bias is the one they taught us in the Marines: a bias for action. It's time that our leaders in Washington do the work we send them there to do. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Now.
Heroin is killing crazy numbers of our people. As a federal prosecutor, I brought heroin dealers to justice and fought for their victims and for the families who have lost loved ones to the disease of addiction. I saw firsthand how prescription pain killers were usually the root cause. I also saw how our government has been too slow to take effective action in this crisis.
The President’s declaration that the heroin and opioid epidemic is a national health emergency is important. It was also long overdue. We can’t wait any longer while politicians argue about funding for enforcement, treatment and prevention. We need to leave partisan politics out of this and take urgent, comprehensive action to save lives.
We need to invest in prevention. We need to expand access to treatment and rehabilitation. And we need to crack down on the people who are fueling and profiting from this crisis. There are drug dealers on the street, in doctors’ offices, and in drug company boardrooms, and we need to pass legislation that guarantees every one of them will face justice for their crimes.
Infrastructure – High-quality infrastructure is essential to economic growth here. We need modern airports, roads, and bridges, locks, and dams – to move people and goods into and out of our region, to attract new businesses, and to create jobs.
We need a secure, reliable electric grid that cannot fail.
We need functioning water treatment systems that keep storm water runoff out of our streets and guarantee safe drinking water.
Politicians talk about this all the time, but the fact is we've neglected our critical infrastructure for decades, and every day we fail to act is a missed opportunity. A comprehensive infrastructure bill would create good jobs here tomorrow, and unlike the massive corporate tax cut that just added trillions to the deficit, infrastructure investments pay for themselves.
People in our district ask me every day why an infrastructure bill hasn't even been introduced, let alone passed – and the answer is that politicians in Washington aren't listening to us and aren't keeping their promises. Passing an infrastructure bill – a serious bill big enough to match the urgency of the situation -- is an economic and national security priority, and I will fight every day to get it done.
Job Training – We have to invest in our people. Politicians in both parties like to talk about job training, but that talk hasn't lived up to the reality for too many students and workers in our region -- and both parties bear the blame for that.
We need job training programs that lead to an actual job -- not just a piece of paper.
Companies and industry associations say there are thousands of jobs in our region that they can't fill because we don't have workers with the right training and skills. They want public schools and community colleges to help fill that gap, and of course we should do that.
I'll fight for those investments, but I'll also make those companies put some skin in the game. If workers successfully complete training programs paid for with our tax dollars, employers need to hire those workers for full-time, family-supporting jobs.
I believe that every American has a right to go see a doctor when they're sick, and that means every American has a right to health insurance they can afford.
The Affordable Care Act has flaws, but it has provided affordable coverage to more than a million Pennsylvanians who were previously uninsured.
Our representatives in Congress should be working together to build on that progress, fix what isn't working, and make the law better. Instead, Republicans in Congress spent the past year trying to take health insurance away from people with no plan to replace it. Now, costs are likely to go up for many of us, especially those with preexisting conditions. That is unacceptable, and it's a failure of leadership.
Republican leaders have not even allowed a vote on a bipartisan, common-sense effort to strengthen the ACA and stabilize the markets. And it took the threat of a government shutdown for both parties to come together and fund the children's health program (CHIP), something they'd ignored for months while the program was forced to survive on week-to-week bailouts.
These legislative failures show what is wrong with the status quo in Washington. I'll work with anyone from either party who wants to help people with pre-existing conditions, improve the quality of care, and reduce premiums, out-of-pocket costs, and prescription drug prices.
Within 12 hours of giving away our tax dollars to the wealthy and big corporations, Speaker Paul Ryan announced that he would try to pay for it by coming after Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. It didn't take long for the Republican leadership in Washington to make clear that once they drove this nation another $1.5 trillion in debt, they were going to use that as an excuse to cut the programs seniors depend on and paid into all their lives.
They call this "entitlement reform," but make no mistake – that is just fancy Washington talk for taking the money you paid your whole working life and using it to cover the trillion dollars they just added to the debt.
It's not right, and I will fight every attempt to break the promises we made to our senior citizens, working families and children.
We need to reform our student loan system, which right now forces too many students into a lifetime debt trap. If you want to go to college or get other post-secondary education, you should be able to do that without taking on decades worth of debt.
Too many people in our district are already stuck with interest payments they can't afford at a time when they should be buying houses, saving their money and becoming financially independent.
We need to allow people to refinance their student loans, just as we do for corporations and credit card holders. And I believe we should let people pay at least some portion of their student loans with pre-tax dollars.
I also support programs that help people pay back their loans when they take important public service jobs in under-served communities and under-populated professions. Some of those programs exist for certain disciplines, but I'll work to expand them. If you want to use your education to serve the public and help meet an urgent public need, the government should help you pay back the cost of that education.
I support unions, and I'm proud to be endorsed by the AFL-CIO. I believe that all workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively for better wages, benefits and working conditions. And I know that when unions do the work, it gets done on time and on budget.
Union members in our district can count on me to be the most effective ally they have in fighting to protect their rights, support prevailing wages and Project Labor Agreements, and defeat the ideological extremists who want to put unions out of existence.
I support robust and responsible energy development. Natural gas extraction is creating and supporting a lot of good, middle-class jobs in our region, and I want more of those jobs for our people.
That means investing in training so people in our district have the skills they need to do these jobs, and it means pushing energy companies to hire people in our communities. People who live here and send their kids to school here will do the work safely and responsibly, so that our families and future generations are breathing clean air and drinking clean water.
Government should not be an impediment to energy development and job creation, but we rely on government to enforce the law and hold companies accountable if they endanger workers or pollute our air or water.
For purely political reasons, this administration wants to undermine our government's ability to perform basic inspection and law enforcement activities -- just as Harrisburg has done here with our state enforcement activities.
That's a mistake, and I'll work to ensure that our government has the necessary resources to do its job, keep workers safe, and protect our air and water.