In 2018, Democrats reclaimed our majority in the House of Representatives with a promise to deliver on bold, progressive solutions to the most pressing issues we face as a nation. Now, one year into the 116th Congress, that promise has been kept.
The House approved more than 400 pieces of legislation last year alone, more than 275 of which are bipartisan. Each of these bills is important and many are even life-changing, but there are several that are particularly worth highlighting.
I cannot go anywhere in our community without hearing how access to healthcare is affecting people’s lives. While the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion have increased access, Virginians are still struggling with skyrocketing prescription drug prices. That is why I am so proud the House passed the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, legislation that will lower prescription drug costs by increasing competition and would allow Medicare to renegotiate lower prices for more than 250 prescription drugs.
Conversations about our gun violence crisis are equally unavoidable. Like far too many communities across America, Northern Virginia is no stranger to the pain and loss wrought by mass shootings. I was Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors during the Virginia Tech massacre. I, like so many of our neighbors, will never forget the six young people we buried in the wake of that horrific day.
We need to pass gun control that makes our communities safer. That is why I was so proud the House passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act and the Enhanced Background Checks Act. These long overdue bills would close dangerous loopholes and ensure that no American can purchase a gun without first clearing a federal background check. We are in the middle of a national crisis, and this legislation is the least we can do to address it.
We have also had important successes for our region -- particularly for federal employees. Thanks to Democratic efforts, we finally secured 12 weeks of paid parental leave and a 3.1 percent pay raise for federal employees. As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, I successfully led the fight to stop the Trump administration’s disastrous proposal to abolish the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). We secured back pay for federal employees following the President’s damaging 35-day shutdown, and I held a hearing on the need to provide equal protections for federal contract workers.
Of course, despite our achievements, the last several months of 2019 were not easy for the Congress or the country. None of us came to Congress to impeach a president, but each of us took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. That oath demanded we take action in the face of unprecedented wrongdoing by an out-of-control executive. To extort a foreign country to investigate your political opponent is an unconstitutional abuse of power. To solicit foreign interference in an American election is an unconstitutional abuse of power. And the delicate balance of power that underpins our democracy is threatened when a President disregards the Constitution by obstructing Congress to cover up these unconstitutional abuses of power.
Impeachment is a uniquely serious issue, but it isn’t the only issue. Through even the most difficult moments, our legislative work never stopped. Last month, the House voted on a bipartisan basis to replace NAFTA with the United States - Mexico - Canada Agreement (USMCA). After months of tough negotiating, Democrats secured a deal that includes the strongest enforcement mechanisms of any U.S. trade agreement, as well as critical victories for workers, lower prescription drug costs, and much-needed environmental protections. We also adopted a bipartisan appropriations agreement to fully fund the government for fiscal year 2020.
These successes are a reminder of the incredible progress our country can make. But they also bring into focus the stark reality that the House of Representatives cannot make laws on its own. Leader McConnell has unilaterally blocked the Senate from debating and voting on 80 percent of the bills that we in the House have sent to his desk -- most of them bipartisan, and all of them worthy of consideration. His failure of leadership, however, will not deter us from doing the business of the American people.
As we say goodbye to 2019, you can rest assured that we will build upon the progress we’ve made and continue to hold the Trump administration accountable in the New Year.