Buchanan Highlights Priorities as Congress Returns
“The Stakes Are Too High To Continue Business As Usual In Washington”
WASHINGTON — As Congress prepares to come back into session for a key four-week stretch, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan said today national security, emergency funding for Zika and mental health reform should be at the top of the priority list.
“Congress returns to Washington next week with a short but important list of priorities that needs to be accomplished,” Buchanan said. “First and most important for Florida is emergency funding to confront the deadly Zika virus. The nation’s top disease fighters have warned they are about to run out of money. It’s imperative that Congress approve sufficient funding to protect the public. National security, helping our veterans and reforming mental health laws are other priorities that Congress needs to address in this month.”
Buchanan’s priorities include:
Protecting Americans from terror attacks. “There’s too much risk associated with allowing refugees from ISIS hotspots like Iraq and Syria into the United States, particularly given FBI director James Comey’s warning of ‘a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before.’ Less than a month ago, German intelligence officials warned that ISIS fighters have slipped into their country disguised as refugees, making a Paris-style attack ‘likely.’ In light of an inadequate screening process, we need to close the door to Syrian refugees. And we need further action to defeat ISIS on the digital battlefield, where they recruit and raise money. I will continue to push for my legislation requiring the government to screen the social media accounts of foreigners seeking entry into the United States. ISIS is inspiring and radicalizing new terrorists over the Internet every day.”
Funding the fight against the Zika virus. “Since February, when Zika first surfaced in Florida, I supported efforts to control this deadly disease. Hundreds of people in Florida are infected. It is a national disgrace that federal help has not yet arrived. I have asked congressional leaders to hold an immediate vote on a funding package to control the spread of the virus and develop a vaccine.”
Passing mental health reform. “Congress can be a leading voice in bringing mental illness out of the shadows by enacting landmark legislation to reform the mental health system. The House has already passed the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act – legislation I co-sponsored and strongly support. It’s now up to the Senate to pass this sweeping measure and send it to the president’s desk.”
Many mental health advocates support the bill, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, NAMI Sarasota, NAMI Florida and Bradenton’s Centerstone Behavioral Hospital and Outpatient Practice.
Helping our veterans. “Congress should focus on veterans by passing the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act, which gives the Secretary of Veterans Affairs sweeping new authority to fire or demote VA employees for incompetence or misconduct. This important legislation will also improve the antiquated disability appeals process to help finally eliminate the unacceptable claims backlog. Along similar lines, we need to hold the VA accountable for spending more than $20 million on high-end artwork, sculptures and art consulting services over the last 10 years as veterans’ health care has suffered. That’s why I have called on the VA to immediately stop buying opulent artwork and instead focus on providing timely, quality care to veterans.”
Supporting Florida’s farmers. Citrus greening, a deadly bacterial disease, is crippling one of the state’s most iconic industries and putting the livelihoods of 76,000 Floridians at risk. The problem isn’t going away anytime soon – experts project a 26 percent decline in the state’s orange crop for this upcoming season – the worst in over 50 years.
“The citrus greening threat is so serious that every member of Florida’s congressional delegation has signed on to my bill, the Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act, which will lower costs for growers that need to replant trees affected by citrus greening. The disease is worsening, so this bill needs to be approved.”
Boosting retirement savings. Nearly one in three seniors in Florida – more than 750,000 people – rely on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income.
“It is heartbreaking to see individuals living on an average benefit of less than $16,000 per year. That’s why I introduced the Retirement Security Act, which would make it easier for small employers to offer retirement plans. More than 39 million people nationally work for small businesses that do not offer retirement plans. By passing my bill, Congress can make it less costly and complex for these individuals’ employers to offer retirement benefits.”
“All of these issues deserve bipartisan support,” Buchanan said. “The stakes are too high to continue business as usual in Washington.”