End of First Term Report
The 113th Congress has adjourned and today the new Congress will be sworn in. As I close out my first term, I want to express my thanks for the great honor of representing you in Congress. Also, thank you for actively participating in the democratic process. Over the past two years, I received tens of thousands of emails and letters, thousands of phone calls, and I met with many of you in person at town halls, office meetings, and various public forums. Your ideas, input, and feedback not only help me in the work I do; they serve as a reminder that I represent some of the most well-informed and engaged citizens in the country.
Like you, I was disappointed that the 113th Congress turned out to be far less productive than it should have been. There was too much partisan political theater and obstruction, and not enough good faith efforts to solve problems. But even with these challenges, I'm proud of some major accomplishments we achieved together in my freshman term. A few highlights:
- The House unanimously passed my bill to expand the California Coastal National Monument to include the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands on the breathtaking Mendocino Coast. Thanks to our work, and the strong support of the community, this stretch of coastline was protected by President Obama through Executive Action.
- Our leadership on addressing the extreme environmental damage being caused by trespass marijuana growing on public and private lands made a difference: my bipartisan bill to increase criminal penalties for trespass grows was adopted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission as part of their new sentencing guidelines.
- We worked hard to get two of my bipartisan bills incorporated in year-end legislation that President Obama signed into law: the Trinity County Land Exchange Act and the Revitalizing the Economy of Fisheries in the Pacific (REFI) Act, which I'll talk about below.
Both the Trinity County Land Exchange Act and the Revitalizing the Economy of Fisheries in the Pacific Act were included in the National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Obama on December 19th and both bills will be critically important to the local economies on the North Coast.
More than 75% of the total land base of Trinity County is held by the federal government, leaving very little land suitable for economic development. The Trinity County Land Exchange Act will provide a much-needed parcel of land near Weaverville for economic development in exchange for public protection of a parcel that will improve public access to the Trinity River—a Wild and Scenic River. This bill is an excellent example of bipartisan cooperation and is proof that positive economic development and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive priorities in our rural communities.
For years, fishermen up and down the West Coast have been paying through the nose on a decade-old federal loan, putting their small businesses at risk. The inclusion of the bipartisan REFI Pacific Act means that fishermen will finally be able to refinance and save money, just like any other homeowner or business owner would do—all while helping the economies of fishing communities throughout California's North Coast.
Unfortunately, the 113th Congress ended on a low note.
On the very night that the federal government was set to shut down, the House of Representatives passed the so-called "CROmnibus," a bill that would fund most of the government through next summer. Unfortunately, this critical legislation was laden with policy giveaways to special interests, including favors for Wall Street, mega-rich campaign contributors, and big polluters. My full statement on the bill is here. I could not in good conscience vote for this bill, so I advocated instead for a "clean" short-term funding bill without policy concessions. The CROmnibus narrowly passed and was signed into law by President Obama on December 16th.
What's next in Congress?
I'll never give up on making Congress work better, and 113th Congress left plenty of room for improvement. Many of our country's needs and priorities were ignored and enormous amounts of time and resources were wasted on partisan efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and various conspiracy theories aimed at embarrassing the Obama administration. We experienced a shameful sixteen-day government shutdown. And important bipartisan legislation that could have passed – including comprehensive immigration reform– was not even allowed a vote.
The new Congress is an opportunity to do better, and I will do everything I can toward that end.
Again, thank you for the trust and confidence you've placed in me as your Congressman.
Member of Congress
P.S.: If you're in Washington, D.C., this week, please stop by my swearing-in reception today from noon to 4:00 PM in the House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing Room, 2200 Rayburn.