Congressman Jim McGovern

Representing the 2nd District of Massachussetts
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McGovern: House GOP Failure to Act on Zika and Other Public Health Crises is Shameful

Sep 7, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) led debate for Democrats on the House Floor on the rule for H.R. 5063, the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act. Congressman McGovern called out House Republicans for bringing up yet another bill to provide a corporate giveaway while continuing their inaction on public health crises like the spread of the Zika virus, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, the opioid crisis, and the ongoing epidemic of gun violence. Excerpts of today’s speech are below. Click Here for Video of Congressman McGovern’s Speech.

House GOP Puts Corporate Giveaway Ahead of Public Health Crises

On the House Floor, Congressman McGovern said the bill being debated today “eliminates public interest protections, creates needless litigation and delay, and imposes draconian penalties on federal officials. It is a misinformed response to a nonexistent problem, and just one more corporate giveaway by this Republican Congress.”

“While spending time on efforts that are nothing more than soundbites for my friends on the other side of the aisle to use on the campaign trail, this Republican Congress has repeatedly ignored the calls from our constituents to act on issues they care about – issues that impact our communities, our neighborhoods, and our families.”   

Congress Must Act on Zika

“Almost 17,000 Americans, including nearly 1,600 pregnant women, are currently suffering from the Zika virus. And this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will run out of resources to fight Zika. In the words of Dr. Thomas Frieden of the CDC, “We need Congress to act.”

“Instead of considering a bipartisan Zika funding bill, the Republican leadership in the House has, once again, caved to the most extreme factions of their Conference to produce an inadequate, partisan bill loaded with poison pill offsets.” 

House GOP Would Rather Punish Democrats for Sit-In Than Act on Gun Violence

With House Republicans set to bring up a measure to punish House Democrats for their 25-hour sit-in on the House Floor in June 2016 as part of their push to stop gun violence, Congressman McGovern asked House Republicans where their outrage is about the innocent Americans killed by gun violence.

“Where’s the outrage over the 49 innocent civilians killed in Orlando? Where’s the outrage over the 14 people killed in San Bernardino? Or the nine people killed in a church in South Carolina? Is there any outrage over that? Where’s the outrage over the 27, mostly children, killed in Newtown, Connecticut? Or the 12 people killed in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado? Or the outrage over the six people who were killed in Tucson, Arizona where our former colleague, Gabby Giffords, was shot? Or the 32 people killed at Virginia Tech?

“Since my Republican friends have been in recess, over 4,000 Americans have been shot and killed by guns in this country. Where’s the outrage? The only outrage that my Republican friends seem to have is over the fact that Democrats have had the audacity to raise this question and say maybe we can do something. Maybe we can do something to protect our constituents.

“Over 32,000 people in America die from gun violence each year – about 89 people per day.  If this isn’t a public health emergency, I don’t know what is.” 

Click Here for Video of Congressman McGovern’s Speech.

Full Text of Congressman McGovern’s Speech is Below:

“This week we return from seven weeks away from the Capitol – the longest summer recess in modern times – and House Republicans continue to delay action on the most pressing issues facing our country, instead focusing on issues that benefit special interests.  

“I had hoped that after we all spent time with our constituents over the summer recess, the priorities of this Republican leadership would change to reflect what the American people actually care about. 

“But they haven’t. 

“During our 252 days in session – which, by the way, includes 42 pro-forma days where no legislative business was accomplished – we have voted on countless bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act, undermine financial protections put in place by Dodd-Frank, and weaken environmental protections. 

“And we’re back on the floor this week to deregulate Wall Street, take away critical investor protections, and make it easier for those who break the law to get away without paying a financial price.  

“Today’s Rule provides for consideration of a bill that eliminates public interest protections, creates needless litigation and delay, and imposes draconian penalties on federal officials.  It is a misinformed response to a nonexistent problem, and just one more corporate giveaway by this Republican Congress. And again, remember, this is going nowhere.

“This isn’t leadership, M. Speaker.  It’s like a recurring nightmare.  

“While spending time on efforts that are nothing more than soundbites for my friends on the other side of the aisle to use on the campaign trail, this Republican Congress has repeatedly ignored the calls from our constituents to act on issues they care about – issues that impact our communities, our neighborhoods, and our families.   

“House Republicans continue to obstruct meaningful action on the greatest public health crises impacting our country. 

“Almost 17,000 Americans, including nearly 1,600 pregnant women, are currently suffering from the Zika virus. And this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will run out of resources to fight Zika. In the words of Dr. Thomas Frieden of the CDC, “We need Congress to act.”

“For seven months, President Obama and Democrats in Congress have urged the Republican leadership to take up and pass the administration’s emergency supplemental request.

“But instead of considering a bipartisan Zika funding bill, the Republican leadership in the House has, once again, caved to the most extreme factions of their Conference to produce an inadequate, partisan bill loaded with poison pill offsets. 

“This is an emergency! We should treat it as such.  But Republicans have spent months making excuses about why we don’t need to provide the full funding that our nation’s public health experts say we need. We have public health expert after public health expert tell us we need to act, and yet, my Republican friends seem to think they know better.  They have brought to the floor legislation to undermine the Clean Water Act under the guise of containing the Zika virus.  And they have even insisted on poison pill riders that continue the Republican assault on women’s access to comprehensive health care instead of bringing legislation that is focused solely on protecting American families from the terrible impacts of Zika. 

“House Republicans have blocked the full emergency resources needed to combat the Zika virus seven times, and left town for a 53-day recess without committing a dime to address this growing public health crisis. 

“It is shameful.       

“In addition to shirking our responsibilities on the Zika virus, this Republican leadership has prevented action on other public health emergencies like the opioid crisis, the terrible tragedy in Flint, Michigan, and the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our communities. 

“Congress passed a bill to address the opioid crisis and it was an important step, but we must do more. We need to pass a strong piece of legislation that actually funds our fight against the opioid crisis and gives state and local partners the resources they need to help so many of our communities who have been hit hard by this epidemic. Passing a bill that has all these nice statements in it and nice goals and not funding it, well that’s just a press release. And that’s about the extent of what this Congress has done to deal with this terrible opioid crisis.

“For two years, 100,000 people in Flint, Michigan could not access safe water from their own faucets. For two years, hardworking Americans were denied the fundamental right of access to potable water. We’re not talking about some tiny country halfway around the world. This has been happening right here in the United States of America.

“The Families of Flint Act, led by my friend and colleague Congressman Dan Kildee, would help the people in Flint recover from the man-made disaster that they are still dealing with. But, this Congress is too busy wasting its time to even consider bringing this vitally important, non-controversial bill up for a vote.

“Where is the Majority leadership on this? Why are they simply sitting back and allowing countless families in Flint to continue to be unable to turn on their faucets and receive the safe water that they need. The very same safe water that Speaker Ryan and so many of us take for granted.

“In fact, it was recently discovered that there were elevated levels of lead in the Cannon House Office Building.  Congress has spared no expense in addressing that issue, yet has failed to give the Families of Flint Act a single vote or hearing in this chamber. 

“The Republican Congress has failed Flint by refusing to adequately fund our water infrastructure for years, and we are failing them again by not passing this commonsense legislation.

“And while we’ve delayed action on a response to the Zika virus and the crisis in Flint, Michigan, House Republicans have also refused to act on bipartisan, commonsense legislation to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists and criminals.  In fact, House Republicans have voted 24 times to block the “No Fly, No Buy” measure which polls indicate is supported by 74 percent of our constituents. 

“They have blocked debate on legislation to expand and strengthen background checks.  If you go to a licensed gun dealer, you have to go through a background check. But if you go to a gun show or if you buy a gun online, you don’t have to go through a background check. What sense does that make? Who can be against that?

“And yet, they have voted time and time again the right to bring that to the floor. They have voted five times against lifting the 19-year-long ban on federal research on gun violence. 

“What is the Republican Congress so afraid of? 

“We came back yesterday and I was looking through the press and trying to figure out, maybe some of the Republican leadership in this House would actually do something about gun violence to protect the American people. Something to make sure that people who have a history of violent crimes don’t have access to a gun. Or people who are mentally ill don’t have access to guns. I thought that maybe their constituents would knock some common sense into their heads while they were on recess.

“We come back and what do we read? What is the Republican leadership response to all of this? They want to bring a resolution to the floor to punish Democrats for having the audacity to raise our voices and protest the fact that we cannot even get a vote on any of these bills that we think can save lives. They want to punish us, they want to sanction us, they want to condemn us because we said that in the greatest deliberative body in the world, we oughta be able to deliberate.

“Apparently the Republican leadership is outraged over what they say is a breach of decorum that shut down the chamber for 25 hours because Democrats had a sit-in here and protest over the fact that we can’t bring any legislation up for a debate. They are outraged over that. That’s where their outrage is.

“My question is, where’s the outrage over the 49 innocent civilians killed in Orlando? Where’s the outrage over the 14 people killed in San Bernardino? Or the nine people killed in a church in South Carolina? Is there any outrage over that? Where’s the outrage over the 27, mostly children, killed in Newtown, Connecticut? Or the 12 people killed in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado? Or the outrage over the six people who were killed in Tucson, Arizona where our former colleague, Gabby Giffords, was shot? Or the 32 people killed at Virginia Tech?

“Since my Republican friends have been in recess, over 4,000 Americans have been shot and killed by guns in this country. Where’s the outrage? The only outrage that my Republican friends seem to have is over the fact that Democrats have had the audacity to raise this question and say maybe we can do something. Maybe we can do something to protect our constituents.

“I’ll say to my colleagues, we don’t need a slap on the wrist from the Republican leadership here. We need to reform our laws to ensure that guns are kept out of the wrong hands.

“You know, over 32,000 people in America die from gun violence each year – about 89 people per day.  If this isn’t a public health emergency, I don’t know what is. 

“But you come back and this is what we’re going to be debating on the House floor? This is it? The outrage, quite frankly, from the American people against the leadership of this House is over the fact that the Republican leaders have turned this chamber into a place where trivial issues are debated passionately and important ones not at all.

“Enough. Let’s do the people’s business. We’re not doing it today and I hope that my colleagues will reconsider their agenda for the time we’re back here and actually do something meaningful.”  

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