2017: What A Year
Washington, DC, December 20, 2017
The last year has certainly been one of the most eventful—if not the most eventful—of my time in Congress. The presidency of Donald Trump has taken our country in new and frightening directions, making my work in Congress all the more important.
Throughout, I've been focused on how policy decisions in Washington and events around the nation and world impact the lives of Mainers. That's led me to oppose many negative actions taken in the last year, but also find opportunities for bipartisan victories that benefit our state. Here are some highlights from a roller coaster of a year.
I think it's critical that we hold President Trump accountable for his words and actions. I've supported legislation to create an independent bipartisan commission—free of interference from the Trump Administration—to fully investigate Russia's hacking of our election. When he failed to denounce the violence of white supremacists in Charlottesville, I cosponsored a resolution to censure him. And I joined over 50 colleagues to call for an investigation into 17 sexual misconduct accusations made against the President.
President Trump's views on immigration are simply un-American. Nothing epitomizes it more than his Muslim Ban, indiscriminately banning individuals from several Muslim-majority nations from traveling to the United States. The Administration's first attempt to implement the ban left Banah Al-Hanfy, a 19-year-old from Iraq, separated from her family, who had come to live in Maine after her father helped our military as an interpreter. Thankfully, my office was able to help community members reunite her with her family. I was lucky to have this bright young woman as my guest to President Trump's address to Congress and as an intern in my Portland office.
It was an incredible honor to receive a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award for my work in Congress on food system reform. With this award comes a great responsibility to keep using my experience as a farmer and advocate to help shape food and agriculture policy in Congress.
As Congress prepares to reauthorize the Farm Bill next year, I spent much of 2017 collecting input from local stakeholders and introducing legislation to influence this massive piece of legislation. The bills I introduced would:
One of my highest priorities in Congress has always been making sure our veterans get the care and benefits they have earned. I'm happy to report several victories this year for Maine veterans. After working for years with Maine's Congressional Delegation, we were finally able to push a much-needed expansion of the Portland VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic through Congress. Legislation I introduced to help veterans who find themselves with VA debt unanimously passed the House of Representatives. And full GI Bill benefits were extended to a group of veterans who had been denied them previously—an issue I've introduced legislation to address. I've also continued to work toward making the VA claim process more fair for survivors of sexual assault in the military with the introduction of HR 1954, the Service Member and Veterans’ Empowerment and Support Act.
I'm so proud of the brave women across the country who are shining a light on the sexual harassment and assault they routinely face. It's time we keep Congress and the White House accountable as well, which is why I have cosponsored legislation to require sexual harassment training for Members of Congress and their staffs, reform processes to make victims feel safer when speaking out, and to end a secret taxpayer fund that has been used to settle Congressional harassment cases. I've also called for an investigation into claims of sexual misconduct against President Trump.
I wish there was something positive to report on this important issue, but there is not. In the last year, our nation has faced many senseless tragedies from gun violence (334 mass shootings as of late December), yet Congress has done nothing--absolutely nothing--to address it. I will continue pushing for common sense reforms in the new year.