Good afternoon and welcome to our Weekend Update.
This week I was in Washington, D.C., as Congress met to address several important issues, including police reform. Unfortunately, bills dealing with police reforms were hijacked by Speaker Pelosi and Democratic leadership.
The murder of George Floyd provided an opportunity for Congress to respond to the unrest in our communities. The people we have been elected to serve have demanded we lead on this issue. Unfortunately, the House voted on another partisan bill going nowhere. This legislation was not inclusionary and would not reform the police. By eliminating qualified immunity and no-knock warrants, it would put police and the populace into dangerous and costly scenarios.
Rather than playing politics, Congress should have brought forward Senator Tim Scott’s JUSTICE Act, which improves transparency, accountability, training, and communication among law enforcement and the communities they serve. We need to get serious as Americans deserve to feel safe in their communities and we can only achieve that feeling of security by working together to identify problems and work towards a solution that will result in justice for all. Click here to read my latest op-ed on this issue in the Lebanon Daily News.
Speaker Pelosi continued her political messaging campaign by voting on D.C. statehood. This initiative was not supported by the President or the U.S. Senate. The Founding Fathers never intended for D.C. to become a state, and carefully crafted the Constitution so that the seat of the federal government would NOT be within a state. In response to this political posturing, I supported the Republican Motion to Recommit, which would condition D.C. statehood on requirements that would align the new ‘state’ with policy values that reflect the rest of the nation. These include a guarantee of 2nd Amendment rights, protection of national monuments and memorials, continued participation in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, and a prohibition on D.C. from becoming a sanctuary city. House Democrats rejected these reasonable improvements to their bill, further exemplifying the purely partisan nature of their intentions.
To keep you updated on the latest in the District and Washington, D.C., I joined Face the State to discuss sensible police reform, reopening the economy, the SCAM Act and the new Infrastructure Bank for America. Click here or below to watch.
This week, I participated in a Veterans Affairs Subcommittee Hearing, where we discussed the VA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The VA rose to the occasion as COVID made necessary the expansion of telehealth. In March 2020, VA Video Connect could support 3,400 concurrent telehealth sessions (with a veteran on one side and a clinician on the other), and daily telehealth visits averaged 2,500. By the end of May, the VA successfully scaled up to 15,200 concurrent sessions and 27,000 average daily appointments.
The CARES Act allocated $19.6 billion to the VA, with $14.4 billion to be used for VA Medical Services to ensure access to telehealth and purchase medical equipment and supplies, testing kits, and PPE. As the nation begins to reopen and VAs begin to accept patients back into their centers for in-person visits, it is unclear what the exact role telehealth will play in the VA healthcare system as the department moves through and beyond COVID-19 and the extent to which veterans will continue to be given broad latitude to choose telehealth rather than in-person appointments.
Our VA Hospitals in the 9th District have done a tremendous job and I applaud their efforts to ensure the health of our brave veterans first. (Pictured below at the Lebanon County VA in November of 2019)
In Schuylkill County, I met with Bob Carl, the President/CEO of the Schuylkill County Chamber, Frank Zukas, the President of the Schuylkill Economic Development Corporation and Bob Allen of Bob Allen and Associates to discuss the PA Route 61 Refurbishment Project. Bob Allen was part of so many projects in state government that made Pennsylvania better. His service to our Commonwealth has been substantial and he has helped to make significant impacts for so many. I always am learning and looking for different ideas, particularly from people like Bob Allen. Bob has dedicated his life to making decisions in the best interests of the people and I treasure his counsel.
I hope everyone enjoys a great weekend with family and friends.