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Debbie's Blog

Dingell Update: 11.14.2023

Dear friend,

It continues to be intense and busy.  Michigan has always had communities that deeply care about each other, who are supportive and compassionate to all and I have seen during these difficult times that there is serious concern for the lives lost and the humanity which connects us all. Our common humanity, our diversity, and our giving nature makes these communities special and unites us in these tumultuous times. Nothing is simple about where we are right now. There is much despair, anger, and passion. I continue to meet with religious groups, community groups and members, students, interfaith groups and so many passionate, caring people. I speak with the White House and State Department regularly conveying the thoughts, worries, and concerns of those I represent. As people know, I tell the truth.

Veterans Day was particularly meaningful this year as we reflected on the service of the men and women who fought to keep us free to live in a land where we have so many liberties. Things we learned on rote in grade school – freedom of speech, press, religion, due process, equality, and justice for all – have real meaning in today’s world and cannot be taken for granted. These freedoms are being threatened or challenged in so many different arenas from the halls of Congress to employment, schools, religious institutions, athletics, and so much more. I have had many thoughtful conversations, some tense, on these issues. 

Too many are feeling scared because their personal security is threatened. We must stand up to hate wherever we see it, and protect all of our neighbors and our communities. We all have an obligation to understand the impact our words and actions have on others. Anyone who knows me knows that civility and respect for others is the core of who I am. We can disagree, agreeably. That does not mean I will not fight hate, violence, or bullying whenever I see it or experience it. These are difficult moments we are in the midst of, the most serious I believe in my lifetime. Ones that require us to be thoughtful, strong, focused, and deliberate. There are also powerful schisms being created, Americans are being pitted against each other, social media taking much out of context and spreading many mistruths. Dangerous times that we must address while intentionally protecting what our flag stands for.

So while this all hangs over our work each day, there is much to get done. Funding for the government expires Friday night, and not letting it shut down is a priority for me. The question is – at what cost? The women of Congress have a thread and we have begun to wonder if we will be in DC for Thanksgiving and are sharing backup plans, recipes, and how to get families here. Over the weekend, I visited with many veterans at numerous VFW halls, both the Detroit and Arbor VA hospitals, and participated in UAW Local 900’s monthly membership meeting saluting veterans. There were many hugs and stories that lifted my mood. I missed my friends at Local 900 having spent so much time there over the last two months during the strike, I just needed my friend fix. And I know they are the only group that thinks my cooking is any good but probably because they ate it at 3 am. Michigan won and the Lions won – two teams showing what happens when you work together. 

My sister came in to see my mother, who continues to recuperate from her broken ribs and an ICU stay. Unfortunately, her husband fell this past week as well and is now in rehabilitation. They miss being able to see each other every day and you realize how much you need the companionship and support of people you love, particularly as one gets older. My brother and sister will return to visit mom again in early December, and while we won’t have Thanksgiving together, it gives us all something to look forward to. Yes, it’s the seasons of life, with its ups and downs, but not always easy.

As we begin the new week, here is a summary of some of what we got done last week.

Federal Government Budget Expires 11/17

Funding for the federal government runs out this Friday, November 17th. We have returned to the place we were at just 45 days ago – a looming government shutdown that would have a devastating impact on working Americans and their families. 

It would be irresponsible to shut down the government. A shutdown will create chaos and have crushing impacts on many of our most critical federal agencies and workers. We must come together to reach a responsible proposal to keep the government open. This is not how we should be running our country. It is not clear as I write this what we will do, but I am committed to making every effort to prevent a shutdown. 

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas Impeachment 

Instead of working to fund the federal government, a small group of extreme Republicans wasted our time attempting to impeach our Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. The House voted to refer the resolution to committee for consideration.

I have said it before and I will say it again – these politically-motivated distractions and sideshows need to stop. This is a blatant misuse of Congressional authority to further an extremist political agenda. Let me be clear: we must constructively address the situation at the border, but that’s not what this is about. 

Milken Health Summit Panel

Last Monday, I joined the Milken Institute Health Summit to discuss transforming the healthcare supply chain for the future. The healthcare supply chain is critical in protecting Americans by ensuring we have access to lifesaving equipment from PPE to prescription drugs. We discussed the importance of protecting, supporting, and bringing our supply chain home to protect not only Americans but also to protect our national security.

Election Day Act 

Last Tuesday, I joined my Republican colleague Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in introducing a bill to make Election Day a federal holiday. Voting is a fundamental responsibility for all of us, our constitutional right, and one of the greatest privileges we have as Americans. It isn’t easy for many people that balance multiple roles to make it to the polls. This bill would make it easier by designating Election Day a federal holiday, which would break down many barriers too many Americans face.

U.S. vs. Rahimi SCOTUS Rally

Last Tuesday, I joined domestic abuse survivors and gun safety advocates outside the Supreme Court to call for federal protections for survivors as the Court heard oral arguments in United States v. Rahimi, a case that challenges whether individuals with domestic-violence restraining orders can be prohibited from possessing a firearm.
Since 1994, we’ve made a promise to survivors that their abusers who were subject to domestic violence protection orders could not access guns. This aligns with a centuries old tradition of legislatures regulating firearm access to those posing the greatest risk of danger, which has historically been deemed consistent with the Second Amendment. If the Supreme Court affirms the decision of the Fifth Circuit, it will cost lives. Overturning this protection will put survivors at the mercy of a patchwork of state laws and judicial discretion. We know that these safeguards are responsible for at least an 8 percent reduction in partner deaths. We cannot go backward, and we must ensure that these protections are guaranteed at the federal level. Dangerous people should not have access to firearms, plain and simple. This issue is personal for me. Growing up, I lived in a house with a man—my father—that should not have had access to a gun. I don’t want any child, spouse, or partner to experience the trauma that my family did. Families should not have to fear for their lives because federal law failed to protect them. We must continue fighting not only to uphold laws that protect survivors but expand and strengthen them.

House National Resources Committee Markup

Last Wednesday, I spoke in opposition of the Requiring Integrity in Conservation Act at a House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife, and Fisheries markup. This legislation would block the enforcement of a Biden administration proposal that would give more protection in the Gulf of Mexico to the Rice’s whale – an imperiled species that has dwindled to a population size of 50 total. The decline of this species should alarm us all, which is why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has proposed designating dedicated space in the Gulf as a critical habitat for the whale. The legislation, proposed and passed in committee, would hold up the process until additional steps, like extra consultation with the oil and gas industry, are completed. I voted against this misguided legislation that would fast-track this already fragile species into extinction. It’s critical we continue to speak out against any policy that threatens the future of vulnerable species for the sake of the oil and gas industry. 

Home and Community-Based Care

Last Wednesday during National Family Caregivers Month, I introduced the Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Relief Act, a new version of a bill I originally introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic alongside Senator Bob Casey in 2021. The HCBS Relief Act would provide dedicated Medicaid funds to states for two years to stabilize their HCBS service delivery networks and strengthen their HCBS direct care workforce. HCBS empowers seniors and people with disabilities to age with dignity in their own homes, and we know the overwhelming majority of Americans would prefer to receive this care at home. But due to state limitations on the number of people who can receive HCBS—coupled with a strained HCBS workforce—hundreds of thousands of people are currently on Medicaid HCBS waiting lists. This important legislation would give states a 10-point increase in the federal match (FMAP) for Medicaid to enhance access to HCBS and help decrease waiting lists.

Republican Threats to the HALT Drunk Driving Act

Last week, Rep. Massie introduced an amendment to the FY2024 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations bill that would have defunded the Honoring Abbas Family Legacy to Terminate (HALT) Drunk Driving Act, which I authored and was passed last year, as a part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The HALT Drunk Driving Act requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to move forward with a rulemaking to keep drunk drivers off the road. I would require passive impaired driving prevention technology to be built into new vehicles. Studies estimate this technology has the potential to save more than 10,000 lives each year. The amendment was defeated and did not pass.
Rep. Massie stated that impaired driving technology would track driver location, monitor driver performance, or enable cars to shut themselves down in the middle of the road. These claims are blatantly false and an intentional mischaracterization of the law. We now have the technology to save lives and we should not delay in implementing it. I am thankful that my House colleagues and I voted to reject this attempt to mischaracterize and roll back such an important, meaningful law.

Check Your LIHEAP Eligibility

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) awarded Michigan over $161 million in October to help families pay their heating bills ahead of the winter months. This program comes from legislation I have strongly supported. Americans shouldn't have to choose between putting food on the table and paying bills to keep their families warm. Find out if you qualify here

First-Ever White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research

For far too long, women have been understudied and underrepresented in health research. I’m glad to continue to work with President Biden to ensure women are receiving the healthcare they need, while having the necessary tools to advocate for themselves. I’ve fought to have women included in federally funded health research and advocated for greater awareness of women’s health issues since beginning my life in politics, including breast cancer and heart health. I founded and used to chair the National Women’s Health Resource Center and the Children's Inn at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). President Biden’s initiative will save lives. I am very optimistic and appreciative that the White House is acting on an issue I have been focused on and working on for decades. 

Veterans Day

On Veterans Day, we pause to salute the brave men and women who have served our country in the armed forces. Our veterans and their families have made incredible sacrifices to protect our freedom and our way of life. Our veterans answered the call to serve in times of great peril when our nation needed them most. We owe them our respect, freedom, and gratitude for the innumerable sacrifices not only made by our veterans, but by their family and loved ones.
To our military families, we thank you for your support, strength, and encouragement.
I spent the long weekend visiting with veterans and their families throughout Michigan’s sixth district. We stay in close contact with the local VA hospitals, veteran organizations, VFW’s, and legions across the district throughout the year, but this weekend is always special. It is critical we work in Congress to protect and advocate for veterans each day to uphold the promise we made to serve them as well as they served us, today and every day.
I continue to encourage any veteran who is experiencing problems cutting through red tape at a federal agency or receiving the benefits they’ve earned to contact my office. We are here as advocates and we will do everything in our power to solve any issues they may have.

Veterans Emergency Care Reimbursement Act

Last week, I in the House with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in the Senate reintroduced legislation that would mandate the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to reimburse veterans’ emergency health care expenses from non-VA facilities that are not covered by the veteran’s private insurance. This bicameral legislation follows the 2016 Staab v. McDonald and 2019 Wolfe v. Wilkie decisions, both ruling that the VA must reimburse veterans for these emergency medical expenses.
No veteran should ever have to worry about whether they can afford costly medical expenses, especially when it comes to an emergency. Yet, the VA is still disregarding court rulings and continuing to deny veterans’ reimbursement claims for any non-VA emergency medical expense. With the Veterans Emergency Care Reimbursement Act, we can address this inexcusable issue head-on and ensure that those who put their lives on the line for us are receiving the proper support and care they deserve through the VA.

Veterans Spinal Bill

I also joined Reps. Jack Bergman (MI-01), Julia Brownley (CA-26), and VA Committee Chairman Mike Bost (IL-12) in introducing the Veterans Spinal Trauma Access to New Devices Act (Veterans STAND Act), to improve care for Veterans with spinal cord injuries/disabilities (SCI/D) and expand their access to personal exoskeletons and other assistive devices that promote independence and mobility for those who are clinically eligible.

Emerging medical technologies have the potential to drastically improve the health and quality of life of veterans with spinal cord injuries or disorders, but we are not doing enough to educate and help veterans access these devices. The Veterans STAND Act will require the VA to provide eligible veterans an annual evaluation, ensuring those who can benefit from personal exoskeletons and other assistive devices are aware of their options and can more easily get the care they deserve.

Advancing Addiction Care in Michigan Conference

Over the weekend, I spoke at the Michigan Medicine Advancing Addiction Care in Michigan Conference attended by many experts and advocates to discuss the latest advancements in the field. Addiction is a cruel disease, and far too many people suffer silently without seeking or being able to access the help they deserve. As have many, I’ve seen firsthand the horrible pain, desperation, and frustration of living with a family member, good friend, or coworker who struggles with addiction and the sadness of ultimately losing someone you love. 

We all have a role to play in fostering greater awareness and collaboration to tackle this growing crisis, and I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address this issue. We must remove the stigma associated with talking about mental health issues.

Funding for Fair Food Network in Ann Arbor 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Fair Food Network in Ann Arbor will receive $8,438,060 for their “Double Up Food Bucks Michigan: Growing Healthy Families and Resilient Farms Statewide” Project. This funding, from the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), will allow Fair Food Network to continue offering dollar-for-dollar match on SNAP benefits spent on fresh fruits and vegetables, supporting families in need of produce throughout Michigan. With Double Up, Michigan families can use their SNAP benefits to buy more fresh fruits and vegetables. SNAP is critical to ensuring families across the country have access to the food they need to keep their loved ones healthy. This funding is invaluable to parents who may be struggling to put food on the table and children who need proper nutrition to grow up healthy and strong.

Two Awards This Week

It was an honor to receive two awards last week, both unexpected when I was told and truly touching. The Environmental Defense Action Fund presented me with their first-ever Champion of the Climate Award in Michigan. I have worked closely with them and other environmental groups, as well as labor groups, to bring people together to work toward the same goals of expanding clean energy in all sectors across our country, protecting our wildlife and conserving our species, protecting our water and environment from pollution and toxic chemicals, and building communities that are more resilient. While doing this, we can and must protect jobs and the economy – it isn’t either or. I have worked hard to prevent traditional fights in this arena, and as we’re doing all these things, we need to prioritize the communities that are disproportionately hurt and who have been overlooked and underserved for a long time. It is critical that everyone has a seat at the table, and everyone has an opportunity to make their voice heard. 

Jewish Family Services honored me Sunday with the Bernstein Award. The Bernstein Award was created in honor of Claire and Isadore Bernstein, leaders in the Ann Arbor Jewish Community, and is presented to outstanding individuals, businesses, and organizations who demonstrate exemplary service to JFS and the community. I cried when I was told I would receive it.

This organization does incredible work, has hundreds of volunteers and makes a difference in countless lives every day. And to be clear, your religion, nationality, background, race, and gender make no difference. They are there with a helping hand for anyone, period. As the only resettlement agency in Washtenaw County, JFS has resettled thousands of individuals from all over the world since its inception. They have resettled individuals and families from Afghanistan, Burma, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Moldova, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Yemen. Languages spoken include Arabic, Dari, English, Farsi, Hazaragi, Hindi, Pashto, Turkish, Urdu, Uzbek, Burmese, Karen, Malay, Mon, Thai, Spanish, Bemba, French, Kibembe, Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili, Mashi, Portuguese, Russian, Afar, Amharic, Hebrew, Tigrinya, Oromo, Gujarati, Azerbaijani, Chaldean, Ukrainian, Kurdi, and Turkish. This is how I first met them. But when they need something, they tell me and I try to deliver. Their services also include aging and caregiver services, employment and economic empowerment services, round trip transportation services, community assistance, crisis intervention, thrive counseling, and ESL and international services. They are critical to Meals on Wheels and for many are the only human touch they see. The pandemic made their work more important than ever. They offer hope for so many and their work inspires me every day. 

Photos of the Week

As always, being at home is a time I try to settle in, seek balance, listen, understand, and deliver for the people I serve. Veterans dominated the weekend, besides speaking and visiting at the two hospitals, I made veteran events in Novi, Canton, Northville, Plymouth, and Ann Arbor including raising the flag with the ROTC young men and women on the U of M campus on Saturday and stopping by their luncheon on Friday. More events in Ypsilanti, Flat Rock, and Saline. There were more but unfortunately I just cannot get everywhere even though I try. Lots of other things to visit, support, and have fun at. Dr. Eva Feldman, my good friend, was honored at U of M and I heard her wise lecture. The Rosies, my girls, celebrated with an exhibit at Yankee Air Museum and it always makes me smile. Farmers Markets are still open and have started selling holiday greens as well as great root vegetables for Thanksgiving. The girls at the Ann Arbor Market always have my back and are family to me. Girls Group celebrated its 30th anniversary in mentoring young women and we honored Sue Schooner, its founder for her vision, dedication, and how she inspires all of us. The Fireman’s Ball in Ypsilanti at the Fire Museum preserves the history of this critical service for all of us. And who doesn’t love riding in a fire truck? Holiday events are beginning, tree lighting in Plymouth, the red kettles are out to help others in our community, and singing holiday songs lifts the spirits. Lots of joy at the Out Loud Chorus Fundraiser and met the editor of Wordle, a hero with my women colleagues and friends, and the laughter at the Winter Wonderland Meals on Wheels breakfast with lots of people who care. Visited with the Novi Robotics Team champions from last year who are getting ready to compete this year. Football: it matters folks, it’s part of who we are and teams from my area are doing well. From high school, college, and yes, the Detroit Lions. Union halls, community gatherings, churches that celebrate faith and pray for peace, and hope we will soon be able to bring people together again for interfaith services. Yes, I was busy, but anyone who knows me knows it calms my soul and I need to be with people, understand their concerns, hopes, and needs, and smile (and cry a little too.) I love home and the people I serve. Thank you for the honor. Time to get back to work. 

As always, I want to hear from you.  What do you want me to know? What are you thinking about? Please contact me with any questions, ideas, and concerns. Share them with me at this link, or by calling one of my offices in Ann Arbor, Woodhaven, or DC:
Ann Arbor: (734) 481-1100
Woodhaven: (313) 278-2936
Washington, DC: (202) 225-4071
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