State of the Union Preview
As we look ahead to the Second Session of the 114th Congress and President Obama's final State of the Union address, I want to provide a brief update about the past year and the challenges we face moving forward.
Last January, I became Ranking Member of the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees federal transportation and housing funding. These are vitally important issues in the Fourth District and throughout North Carolina. Our highways and railroads are crumbling and overcrowded, and affordable housing is all too scarce in our communities. I believe that since the House flipped in 2011, the policies of the Republican majority have left these programs chronically underfunded.
I am pleased to report that after months of bipartisan negotiations, Congress last month passed omnibus appropriations legislation that comes closer to funding our nation’s needs, instead of imposing arbitrary budget cuts. This bipartisan agreement provides sustainable funding for critical programs across the federal government, from transportation and housing to education and first responders. But the battle isn’t over, and I will continue to fight on the Appropriations Committee for investments in the programs that protect vulnerable Americans and allow our country to thrive.
Our nation is facing new and renewed national security challenges. The brutal attacks in Paris and San Bernardino underscore the grave threat posed by Daesh, also known as the Islamic State. President Obama’s multifaceted strategy for confronting this threat has succeeded in recovering more than 40 percent of the territory held by Daesh in Iraq, but we must not relent in our efforts to combat this scourge. For my part, I have continued to help lead the House Democracy Partnership, which works with the parliaments of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries in the region to build stronger democracies that are more legitimate in the eyes of their people and better able to defend themselves.
Even as we address threats abroad, we must resist the temptation to let fear supersede our deeply-held values. The United States has always been a safe haven for the oppressed and the persecuted, and our most effective weapon against violent extremism is the pursuit of tolerance and mutual understanding. The San Bernardino attacks were also the latest reminder of the desperate need for common-sense protections against gun violence. As a Vice Chair of the House Democrats’ Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, I have helped lead the effort to lift the senseless ban on federal gun violence research, to restrict the sales of military-grade assault weapons, and to limit the ability of suspected terrorists to buy firearms, despite Republican opposition to these common-sense proposals. I am pleased that President Obama has taken action to begin to address this issue, and I hope that Congress will work with him on bipartisan reforms this year.
As Congress debates these issues in 2016 and beyond, I promise to fight for policies that make us a safer, healthier, and more prosperous country. I will also continue to advocate for the most vulnerable among us, whether children in our public schools, families applying for affordable housing, or refugees escaping violence and oppression. I hope you will keep in touch about any issues of concern.