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7/24/17: Update from the Capitol
July 20th marked the one year anniversary of the passing of our friend and colleague, Congressman Mark Takai. Mark was someone who lived his entire life with a heart committed to serving the people of Hawai'i and his country. I'm grateful to have known Mark, and had the honor of serving with Mark in the Hawai'i State Legislature, the Hawai'i Army National Guard, and in Congress where we both served on the Armed Services Committee. I spoke on the House floor last week to remember and honor Mark and his life of service. Read more.
Hope you had a wonderful weekend! Today is the last day to submit your comment to the FCC to help protect net neutrality. Net neutrality is the basic principle that the Internet should continue to be fair, open, and equal for all—not just for those who can afford to pay to play. If net neutrality is repealed, those who have the money will have access to content that those without the means will be shut out from. Net neutrality allows for an open marketplace and exchange of ideas, and levels the playing field, creating a hub for innovation, communication, and so much more. The FCC's current proposals would roll back these freedoms for the benefit and profit of big internet service providers on the backs of students, entrepreneurs and innovators, small businesses, and really, all of us. Read more.
Early Wednesday morning, as I was making my way to the U.S. Capitol, messages and news alerts started popping up on my phone. There had been a shooting, and a Member of Congress, staffers, and Capitol Police were hit. While the others are either in stable condition or are home with their families, our prayers are with Congressman Steve Scalise from Louisiana who remains in critical condition after having undergone three surgeries.
The mood in Washington has been somber, but I’ve been inspired by the camaraderie and spirit of aloha witnessed across the Capitol in the hours and days that followed. Hyper partisanship is tearing our country apart. We must do our best to live aloha and be respectful to others, regardless of our differences, whether they be based on politics, religion, race, or anything else. We can disagree, even strongly, without being disagreeable. In moments like this, we all have the opportunity to reflect and set a new tone, setting aside hatred and divisiveness, and instead choosing love and aloha.
Needless to say, it’s good to be home. I just landed back in Hawai'i a few hours ago, and tomorrow morning I'll join thousands in welcoming the Hokule'a, her sister Hikianalia, and their crew home to Hawai'i. Over the last three years, the Hokule'a has sailed approximately 40,000 nautical miles, visited more than 150 ports, and shared the mission of Malama Honua with more than 100,000 worldwide. On Sunday, I’ll address hundreds of young leaders from Hawai'i and around the globe at the opening session of the 2017 World Youth Congress. Read more.
I’m writing to you with a quick update from the plane on my way back to Hawai'i where I’m looking forward to joining the Wai'anae community tomorrow in celebrating our victorious UFC fighters Max Holloway and Yancy Medeiros. On Tuesday, I joined my colleagues in a unanimous vote condemning attacks by Turkish President Erdogan’s security guards against peaceful protesters in Washington D.C. Our resolution, H.Res. 354, urges Turkey to return all security officials involved in the incident for prosecution under United States law, and calls for the universal protection of the free press and civil society.
On Wednesday, I spoke on the House floor urging my colleagues to support a ‘private bill’ to adjust Andres Magana Ortiz’s eligibility for legal, permanent residence in the United States. My bill, For the relief of Andres Magana Ortiz (H.R. 2794), is a last resort option that would permit a farmer, community leader, father and loving husband to remain at his home with his family in Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i. After coming to the U.S. at just 15 years old, and nearly three decades living in Hawai'i, Mr. Ortiz worked his way from coffee picker to small business owner, growing Hawai'i’s coffee economy and creating local jobs. I joined the Hawai'i delegation in sending a letter to DHS Secretary John Kelly, urging him to suspend his deportation order. Mr. Ortiz received a 30-day reprieve from deportation yesterday. Like so many others, Mr. Ortiz deserves the opportunity to continue his pathway to a legal status, and I will continue to pursue legislative options to keep Mr. Ortiz with his family in the United States. Read more.
Yesterday, I cast my NO vote against the Republican healthcare bill that squeaked by, passing in the House by a vote of just 217-213. This bill gives huge tax giveaways to big pharma and insurance companies while stripping essential health benefits, expanding the crippling age tax on our kupuna, breaking the bank for those with pre-existing conditions, and slashing Medicaid coverage on which one in five Americans rely. People across the country are in desperate need of serious improvements to our healthcare system—this bill just makes things worse. As we look at ways to best deliver healthcare to all Americans, we must focus on bringing down costs, increasing access to quality care, and ensuring basic health services are available to all Americans. Read more.
I've just returned to Washington and my heart is filled with gratitude for the opportunity to meet with so many of you during my state-wide town hall tour. Thousands of people turned out across the state, while tens of thousands logged on to watch the town halls through our Facebook live sessions. In my travels across all of our islands, we discussed many important issues- from affordable housing, water infrastructure, criminal justice reform, affordable healthcare, online privacy, North Korea, Trump's recent illegal attack in Syria, and so much more. Your kindness, your activism, and your aloha are what made these meetings so powerful and productive. Read more.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit a number of our prisons and jails across our islands, and saw firsthand the crumbling infrastructure, the extreme overcrowding, facilities in dire need of upgrades, as well as a shortage of resources to provide services necessary to help rehabilitate and empower inmates so we can reduce recidivism rates. Read more.
A winter storm hit Washington, DC over the weekend, and the icy winds blowing here share no resemblance to the sweet trade winds from home. Here’s a quick update for you on what's happening on health care reform, national security, local agriculture and invasive species, and my Stop Arming Terrorists Act. Read more.
From the Great Depression through the turn of the 21st Century, Glass-Steagall helped keep our economy safe. When Congress repealed it in 1999, it allowed too-big-to-fail banks to gamble with the savings and livelihoods of the American people, with devastating, irrevocable consequences. Hawai'i, along with communities across the country, paid the price in 2008 with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Many people lost their homes and saw their life savings wiped out because of risky banking practices by the country’s biggest financial institutions. Read more.
The lives of millions of Syrians have been destroyed by a horrific war that has killed hundreds of thousands and forced millions to flee their homeland. I went there last week to see and hear directly from the Syrian people. Read more.
On Tuesday, the 115th Congress began and all Members of Congress were sworn in, taking our oath of office. I’m so grateful to the people of Hawai'i for the privilege of continuing to serve you here in Washington. As a veteran and soldier, I’ve seen firsthand the cost of war. Hawai’i has directly felt the cost of war in many ways. I’m committed to continuing the fight to end the counterproductive regime change war in Syria which has caused tremendous loss of life and millions of refugees. Read more.