My Stance on the Issues

 

 

Clean Energy

I support an energy policy that promotes clean, renewable, domestic sources of energy that will fuel an economy that is sustainable, while protecting our environment and promoting our national security. I believe it is critical that energy policy works to prevent the worst effects of climate change by dramatically reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases over the next several decades.

Reliance on foreign-imported fossil fuels leaves us vulnerable to economic disruption by foreign nations wishing to influence U.S. foreign policy. We can no longer afford to ignore the fact that we import the majority of our petroleum, often from countries that do not share our democratic principles. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, we are the world’s third largest producer of petroleum at 8.5 million barrels a day, but we consume 19.5 million barrels a day, which is nearly 25% of the world’s consumption. Unfortunately, we sit on only about 3% of the world’s proven reserves, so no matter what extremes we go to in exploring for oil domestically, we simply cannot drill our way out of this problem. And as we know, going to those extremes can have devastating consequences.

While we address climate change and move to renewable sources of energy, we must protect our coastlines from the threat of offshore oil drilling. Throughout my legislative career, I have consistently stood in opposition to the expansion of drilling off the coast of Florida. As the explosion at BP’s Deepwater Horizon and the subsequent oil spill has shown us, offshore drilling could easily bring oil slicks to Florida’s western and eastern coasts, and even penetrate the Florida Everglades. Oil spills threaten our state’s vulnerable coastal ecosystems, which are home to some of our most precious and diverse wildlife. Fortunately, Florida was mostly spared the worst effects of the BP oil spill, but we may not be so lucky next time. I will continue to oppose efforts to expand offshore oil and gas exploration, while working to ensure we can adequately and rapidly respond when spills do occur.

Expanded offshore drilling not only threatens Florida’s ecosystem and economy, but contributes nothing to weaning our nation of dependence on foreign fossil fuels. Drilling in the Eastern Gulf would potentially increase domestic production by a mere five percent, an increase to the world supply of less than one percent. Adding a fraction of a percent to the global oil supply will not lower gas prices and ignores the critical need to develop alternative energy supplies that finally break our addiction to fossil fuels.

Economy/Jobs

Throughout our nation’s history, the strong American workforce has been at the center of our vibrant economy. In particular, our manufacturing sector has been a source of pride, a source of economic strength, and a source of well-paid jobs, as well as a guarantee of investment in an American future. Unfortunately, as the recession has hit our housing and our financial industries, it has taken a toll on our manufacturing industry as well.

There is no natural resource more resilient than the American worker, and that is why I am proud that we have focused on the “Make it in America” agenda. This manufacturing strategy for our country’s future is based on the idea that when more of our products are made in America, more citizens will be able to make it in America. Through incentives for investment in industry, support for infrastructure and innovation, and ending tax loopholes that ship our jobs overseas, we will bring more Americans back to work while strengthening all aspects of our economy.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of touring A&M Tape & Packaging in Sunrise, Fla., to see some of the products produced and shipped right in South Florida. Joining me on the tour were Reps. Steny Hoyer (MD-5), Alcee Hastings (FL-23), and Ted Deutch (FL-19) to talk about the progress of the Make it in America agenda.

Implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act created a vital and significant foundation for the future of a stronger economy. From assistance to homeowners, to investment in infrastructure, to easing credit for small businesses, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has helped put our economy back on track. In early 2009, we were bleeding 700,000 jobs a month. As of the end of June 2012, we’ve seen 28 straight months of private sector job growth.

Our top priority is creating jobs for the American people and creating an economy that's built to last, so that everyone has a fair chance at living the American dream if they work hard and play by the same rules. From creating clean energy jobs to helping small businesses expand and thrive right here in America, we can strengthen our middle class once again, and show them that it’s possible to make it in America.

Education

Education is not only the right of every child; it is the cornerstone of America’s economic future. It’s a simple truth that nations who out-educate us now will also out-compete us in the future. Now more than ever, we must make a unified national commitment to education by investing in our public K-12 schools.

I am proud to be working with a President who shares this firm commitment. In fact, within a month of his inauguration, President Obama demonstrated his commitment to education for the 21st century when he signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law. This law created a $53.6 billon state stabilization fund to help states prevent cutbacks and layoffs in our public education system, and created jobs by modernizing schools and colleges and universities. It also provided a $500 increase for each Pell Grant scholarship recipient, and a new $2,500 tuition tax credit, benefitting eleven million students.

In addition, Florida was awarded $700 million through the President’s Race to the Top fund. These investments in students will go toward the development of a state system that will accelerate the academic progress of our students, provide assistance to our low performing schools, and properly recognize and reward our hardest working teachers.

As you may know, Congress has been discussing the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, the nation’s primary legislation concerning the education of children in public K-12 schools. As currently written, it is over burdensome, outdated, and insufficient for providing our children with the 21st century education they deserve. My own kids are in South Florida public schools and I have seen some of the problems with this law up-close. I urge Congress to diligently reauthorize this bill with meaningful reforms, and please be assured that I will continue to join the President in calling for higher standards, better assessments, and equity for all students, along with rewarding excellence, and supporting our teachers.

I am committed to working with my colleagues in the House and with the President to provide a high quality education to all of America’s students, creating a nation prepared for the challenges of the 21st century.

College Affordability

Throughout my career as a legislator, increasing access to our higher education institutions and improving college affordability have been among my top priorities. Just as I stood committed to these issues when I served as Chair of the Higher Education Committee in the Florida Legislature, my commitment remains steadfast today.

Unfortunately, since the start of the 112th Congress, the future of college affordability—and in particular Pell Grants and student loans—has been under attack. For America to prosper, we must strike the appropriate balance regarding budget cuts and making critical investments in our future. Attempting to balance our budget on the backs of students is neither ethical, nor is it the way for America to remain competitive in a global marketplace.

This year, I was proud to cosponsor legislation that will continue to provide students with loans at a low, subsidized interest rate of 3.4 percent. These Stafford student loans are one of the few programs that are affordable for students and families, and I was proud to vote to continue this important program, which is being paid for responsibly and without adding to the deficit.

As Congress continues our work to reduce the national deficit, I will be working to protect funding and accessibility to these critical investments in America’s students. Allowing our students to graduate with a better education and less debt is the best way to insure that America remains competitive long into the future.

Environment

As you know, Florida possesses many of our nation’s most unique and delicate ecosystems. Our coastlines and wetlands are national treasures which must be preserved for all Americans. Yet, rising sea levels, polluted waterways, and the dwindling populations of native species remind us of the dire need for robust environmental protections that promote cleaner air, cleaner water, and preservation of our natural resources. The health of our environment is essential to the overall well being of Floridians and all Americans. We must understand that what we do today has a profound impact on future generations.

As part of this effort, it is critical that we continue our restoration efforts of Florida’s Everglades. Earlier this year, Vice President Joe Biden toured the Everglades National Park and talked about the Administration’s plans for funding restoration projects.

Everglades restoration has been a bipartisan, state-federal partnership for more than a decade, and returning the Everglades to a more natural state will have broad positive benefits for Florida’s economy and natural resources. While progress over the years has been uneven, since 2008 we’ve seen a dramatic increase in federal resources as well as the commencement of several major federal projects – from construction on a Tamiami Trail bridge, to improving the ecosystem at Picayune Strand and the Indian River Lagoon.

Restoration of the Everglades has significant environmental and economic benefits for Florida. In addition to the seven million Floridians who rely on the Everglades for their primary source of drinking water, a study conducted for the Everglades Foundation showed that for every dollar invested in Everglades restoration, $4 are generated in economic benefits. This means that $11.5 billion invested in Everglades restoration would result in $46.5 billion in gains to Florida’s economy and create more than 440,000 jobs over the next 50 years, by spurring construction and tourism activity.

We are fortunate to have one of the world’s great wonders right here in South Florida, and restoring the Everglades serves as a reminder that we must leave this world better than we found it. Please be assured I will continue to support efforts to restore and preserve our environment, and oppose further efforts to roll back protections for the water we drink and the air we breathe. Protecting South Florida’s ecosystems, from our pristine coast line to the Everglades, is a fundamental responsibility that I do not take lightly. We must continue to work to make certain we have proper safeguards to protect the environment—our greatest national treasure—for future generations to enjoy.


Health Care

For the first time in history, we have passed a comprehensive health care reform bill that will ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care, while having the added benefit of significantly reducing long-term health care costs. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Affordable Care Act”) gives American families and small businesses more control over their health care by reducing costs, increasing choice, and instituting common-sense rules that will keep insurance companies honest.

By providing one of the largest middle class tax cuts in history, this legislation reduces premium costs for tens of millions of Americans and setting up a competitive market, giving working families and small businesses the same access to coverage that members of Congress have. Additionally, the law extends coverage to the millions of struggling Americans who have been unable to obtain coverage due to skyrocketing costs or discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. This legislation protects the sacred relationship between patients and doctors, and we must work to ensure that all medical professionals are adequately reimbursed for their high-quality care.

While we increase coverage and reduce costs we must ensure that we continue to lay a foundation for economic prosperity. The Affordable Care Act puts our budget on a more stable path by reducing our deficit by $230 billion over the next 10 years and more than $1 trillion over the following decade.

Comprehensive health care reform has already brought vital improvements to the lives of hundreds of thousands of families in South Florida. The following provisions have already taken effect:

•If you are a senior, you will now be receiving a 50% discount on brand-name drugs if you enter the Medicare Part D ‘donut hole’ coverage gap – a discount that grows until the ‘donut hole’ is closed in 2020. Because of this provision, 7,200 seniors in our district have saved $4.6 million in drug costs, which is an average savings of $640 per person.

•If you are a young adult, you can now stay on your parents’ health plan until your 26th birthday, if you do not have coverage of your own. Approximately 4,900 young adults in the South Florida have gained health care coverage because of the new Affordable Care Act provisions.

•If you are a child under age 19, you can no longer be denied coverage by an insurance company for having a “pre-existing condition.” In our district, there are now 8,000 to 36,000 children with preexisting health conditions who are now protected against insurer denials.

•If you are among 4 million eligible small businesses, you can receive tax credits if you choose to offer coverage to your employees – covering 35% of the cost of coverage. As a result of the law, 760 small businesses in the district received tax credits to help maintain or expand health care coverage for their employees in 2010.

•Your insurance company must now spend at least 80 percent of premiums on covering medical services – rather than administrative expenses, CEO pay, and profits.

As this law continues to take effect between now and 2014, we will see even more monumental consumer protections: including, the complete elimination of restrictive annual and lifetime limits, key investments in our health care work force to increase the number of primary care doctors, the elimination of discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, and the establishment of the affordable health insurance exchanges.

The Affordable Care Act will help 31 million uninsured Americans afford comprehensive coverage, it’s closing the Medicare prescription drug donut hole, protecting the doctor-patient relationship, and bringing down the deficit. In just its first two years this legislation, aimed at fixing our nation’s broken health insurance system, has already helped millions of Floridians live healthier lives.

 

Israel

I am a staunch supporter of the State of Israel and her citizens’ right to live in peace and security. Since Israel’s independence in 1948, the United States and Israel have shared a special relationship based on our shared values of personal freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. Israel has blossomed from desert sands into a shining example of economic progress and cultural diversity – all while under the threat of attack from hostile neighbors.
 
These are challenging times for Israel, and it has pained me deeply to hear the unfair and unjust criticism of that nation as she strives to protect her citizens. While Israel faces intense international criticism for exercising its legitimate right to self-defense, its enemies in the form of Hamas or Hezbollah rockets, global anti-Semitism, biased United Nations resolutions, and the danger of a nuclear Iran continue to threaten its safe and secure existence.
 
I am cautiously optimistic that we can achieve peace in the Middle East. One reason for this optimism is because following the start of peace talks late summer in Washington, D.C. I traveled to Israel and Jordan as part of a three member Congressional Delegation trip –the first such trip to the Middle East following the start of peace negotiations. During this trip I met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, King Abdullah of Jordan and numerous high-level government officials, providing great insight into the challenges ahead and the hope for a lasting peace.  I welcome the renewal of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and commend the Obama administration for its outstanding efforts to bring everyone back to the negotiating table. I am pleased that the Obama Administration’s diplomacy efforts, particularly those of Senator Mitchell and Secretary of State Clinton, have led from proximity talks to direct talks, for the first time in more than twenty months. Our goal is that these talks will be successful as direct, bilateral negotiations. Ultimately, we will not achieve peace between the Israelis and Palestinians until their leaders sit down together to agree on the road ahead. There will be many difficult issues broached, and while I am under no illusions as to the difficult nature these negotiations will pose, I am pleased that President Abbas has finally accepted Prime Minister Netanyahu’s longstanding offer to move ahead with direct talks. We will be closely watching this important step as these negotiations proceed.
 
We have a special relationship with the State of Israel, and we must continuously strive to help them continue as a more secure and flourishing democracy. In January 2010, I was honored to lead a group of eight of my Congressional colleagues on a delegation trip to the Middle East. I led this delegation trip so that other Members of Congress who have not yet been to Israel could understand the importance of the Jewish State as well as the threats it faces. I am confident that in the future our steadfast support will strengthen Israel and advance the prospects for peace in the Middle East. 

 

Military and Defense

Like you, I understand the need to invest in a 21st century military to maintain our conventional advantage while increasing our capacity to defeat the threats of tomorrow. By balancing the different elements of national power, we will not continue to push the burden onto our military alone, nor leave dormant any aspect of the full arsenal of American capability when it comes to keeping the people of America safe.
 
The United States of America has the finest military in the world and our country's greatest military asset is the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States. When we do send our men and women into harm's way, we must ensure that our defense and military policies reflect their sacrifice, ensuring that our troops have the resources, support and equipment they need to protect themselves and fulfill their mission. When our troops return home, we must provide them with top notch medical treatment, support for their families and opportunities for education and workforce advancement.
 
Yet, we must recognize that America’s strength and influence abroad begins with the steps we take at home. We must grow our economy and put Americans back to work. We must educate our children, ensuring they are able to compete in a time when knowledge is capital and the marketplace is global. We must pursue a strategy of national renewal with American innovation as the foundation of American power.
 
President Obama has responsibly brought our combat commitment in Iraq to a responsible conclusion, and in May 2011, we finally brought Osama bin Laden to justice in Pakistan. 
 
With combat operations ended in Iraq, we can begin repairing the deep wounds to our readiness that war inflicted. I trust that, going forward, President Obama will continue to use our troops wisely, and that he will deploy them in new regions only as a last resort. Military action that endangers our troops and wreaks havoc on our economy must be initiated only after all diplomatic options have been exhausted, when it serves a compelling national interest or is used to defend one of our allies, and when there is a clear plan for success, including an exit strategy.
 
President Obama and the 112th Congress must continue to invest significant resources to restoring equipment our soldiers need to protect them in battle and prevail in combat. Another critical part of enhancing our military readiness is ensuring that we have the best and brightest soldiers and translators on our battlefields and in our command centers, which is why I supported and voted for the repeal of the military’s discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ military policy. At a time when we need more specialized forces and Arabic and Farsi translators than ever before, discharging these patriotic Americans not only violates our nation’s core values of equal protection, but it is ultimately counterproductive to our national security. 

 

Veterans

America's service men and women should be able to count on the full and unwavering support of their government. Our nation’s veterans have shown unwavering courage and bravery on the battlefield and should not have to fight to get the benefits they deserve here at home. I believe we have a duty to protect and provide for every American who serves, and I pledge to always honor their service, sacrifices and their dedication to their nation.

As our men and women continue to return home, it is crucial that we ensure they have access to the help they need to transition to civilian life. This means treating them fairly when it comes to health care, housing, and supporting their families.

This is why I am proud to be a cosponsor of the Hiring Our Veterans Act and a supporter of President Barack Obama’s efforts to relieve unemployment. These efforts include the creation of the Veterans Job Corps and the signing of two new tax credits into law. Florida also needs to do its part to make hiring veterans a greater priority, and that’s why I co-hosted a Jobs Fair for veterans in December with my good friend and colleague, Rep. Ted Deutch.

My colleagues and I passed the new GI Bill for the 21st Century, which restores the promise of a full, four-year college education for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. These benefits, which started in 2009, are available to an estimated 2.1 million veterans. We have also extended those college benefits to all children of fallen soldiers since 9/11 (with no minimum military service needed to qualify). To date, we have made progress in the key areas for veterans: jobs and the economy, health care, family support, housing and education. I’ll continue to work with my colleagues to push for continued progress as more troops return home and look to return to civilian life.
 

Women

As a woman and mother, I am committed to legislative initiatives that promote gender equality and awareness of women’s issues. I have worked consistently to create equality in the workplace and to improve the health, safety and quality of life for women and all Americans.
 
Women's Health

We have made significant progress in women’s health over the past decade, but now is the time to strengthen our education and prevention efforts because, as the old saying goes, knowledge is power. As you may know, in 2007, at the age of 41, after I found a lump in my breast while doing a routine self-exam, my doctor diagnosed me with breast cancer. As my own personal story indicates, despite the perception, young women can and do get breast cancer. 

 
For this reason, I introduced the EARLY Act – the Breast Cancer Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young Act of 2009. The EARLY Act will teach young women and medical professionals alike about risk factors, warning signs of breast cancer and good breast health, which will help women make informed decisions about their bodies. I am thrilled that the EARLY Act was signed into law in March 2010 along with comprehensive health care reform legislation. I will work to ensure sound implementation of the Affordable Care Act and I will continue to fight to make sure that all women can take control of their health.
 
Additionally, the Affordable Care Act makes it possible for women to get preventive care services such as mammograms, new baby care and well-child visits, with no out-of-pocket costs. It also protects women against insurance discrimination based on gender. Last year alone, more than 2 million women benefitted from the law's provisions and saved $1.2 billion on prescription drugs.
 
Fairness in the Workplace

Women have the right to be free from discrimination, and, in the workplace, deserve equal pay and economic opportunities. Women make up a growing share of our workforce, and more women than ever before are corporate executives, business owners, and high level government officials.
I am very pleased to report that on January 29, 2009, H.R. 11, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was signed by President Obama, making it the very first bill he signed as President of the United States. This long overdue legislation restores basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers and creates a legal framework for them to protect those rights. As the mother of two daughters, I am proud that the first major piece of legislation signed by President Obama reaffirms the basic and fundamental American value of equal pay for equal work. 
 
I also proudly supported the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will end wage discrimination against those that work in primarily female or minority dominated industries. The Paycheck Fairness Act passed the House in January of 2009. While it has yet to pass the Senate, I will continue to work with my colleagues to make sure this legislation becomes law.
 
Reproductive Choice

As a woman who believes in the protection of reproductive choice, I affirm that abortions in this country should be safe, legal and rare. Currently, the law as upheld by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade protects a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy during the first and second trimesters. After this stage, states may regulate the abortion procedure in way that are reasonably related to protection of the mother’s health. I believe strongly in a woman's right to make educated medical decisions regarding her reproductive health. Not only do I support a woman’s right to choose, but also her ability to obtain legal pharmaceuticals such as emergency contraception and birth control.

 

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