Opinion: With Dems in control of House, time for a progressive agenda

When Democrats take control of the House of the Representatives in January, we will have an opportunity to change the course of our country by pursuing a bold progressive agenda that serves all Americans and providing a badly needed check on President Trump and his administration.

In the next Congress, I will be the vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee, chair of the Capital Markets Subcommittee and a senior member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Using these positions, I will fight to expand opportunities for all Americans, strengthen our health care system, defend our rights and liberties and make sure Congress acts as the check and balance envisioned in the Constitution.

The first order of business in a Democratic House will be H.R. 1, a bold reform package designed to strengthen our democracy. It will include campaign finance reform, similar to New York City’s system, that combines small-donor incentives and matching support — to increase and multiply the power of small donors — and requires all political organizations to disclose their donors. In addition, it will impose strong new ethics rules to stop officials from using their public office for personal gain, as well as election reforms to make it easier to vote by strengthening the Voting Rights Act, promoting automatic voter registration and bolstering our election infrastructure against foreign attackers.

Following this, I believe we must pass a new major infrastructure bill that invests in transit, roads, bridges and tunnels. We need additional federal funding to improve our aging subway system and I will be fighting to make sure we get those resources. Part of those improvements include the repairs for the L train tunnel, which was badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy, scheduled to start this spring. I helped secure $700 million in federal funds for that work and intend to make sure the MTA sticks to its 15-month timeline and pays attention to community concerns. In addition, I’m pleased to have worked to obtain $335 million in federal funds to protect Lower Manhattan from flooding following Superstorm Sandy and will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, which will make use of these funds, serves our community.

Infrastructure improvements, however, are not just about transportation. Our city currently has an affordable housing crisis and the federal government needs to do its part to solve it. I will fight for more funding for public housing, to expand Section 8, to reinstate Section 202 funding for senior housing, and to provide new financing options for affordable housing developments. I will also defend the city, state, and federal protections that help keep people in their homes — such as the agreement I secured with the Federal Housing Finance Administration that helped preserve affordable housing at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.

Economic security also requires affordable healthcare. That is why we must strengthen and expand affordable healthcare, especially coverage for pre-existing conditions, and lower the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs. In addition, we should increase funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund to expand vaccine coverage and improve screening for things like diabetes and heart disease; and protect Medicaid and Medicare against attack.

We also must take bold action to combat climate change and oppose the president’s efforts to undermine the work that has already been done. I’m supporting a Green New Deal to end our country’s reliance on fossil fuels and move us toward renewable energy and greater energy efficiency to reduce carbon emissions.

Over the last two years, we have also seen endless attacks on civil rights, women’s rights, the LGBTQ community and immigrants. Combating these attacks and restoring rights that have been curtailed will be paramount in the next Congress. Top on my list is finally passing the Equal Rights Amendment to guarantee women equality under the Constitution. We also need to pass criminal justice reform, immigration reform, especially the Dream Act, and the Equality Act, comprehensive civil rights legislation that will provide nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.

Of course, in addition to our policy agenda, Democrats will be returning to one of Congress’ most important jobs — overseeing the executive branch, because no one is above the law. The many Trump Administration failures, illegalities and unethical practices will keep us busy for a long time. As a senior member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, I will be helping to lead the effort to ensure the House is conducting the rigorous oversight that has been missing these last two years.

None of this will be easy, especially with President Trump is in the White House and Republican control of the Senate. But the American people voted for a new direction and I will do everything in my power to give it to them.

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