In Washington, we’ve had ups, downs – and even worse – shutdowns. But this year has seen some progress and a renewed hope for the future.
After joining 1,600 members and guests at the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber’s 90th gala, where we welcomed new Chairman John Agather and new President and CEO, Diane Sánchez, I then welcomed more than 180 San Antonians to the U.S. Capitol for the largest ever “SA to D.C.” delegation. This record group reflected the magnitude of optimism we each feel about San Antonio’s future.
The San Antonio, Hispanic, North San Antonio, South San Antonio, and West San Antonio chambers of commerce as well as the San Antonio Mobility Coalition all brought a little Texas warmth, highlighting San Antonio as a “City of Innovation.” Local business and community leaders offered their insight and experience to address a wide range of Bexar County issues, including the need to protect our Dreamers, support public schools, promote smart trade policies, and assist the many small businesses that drive our economy. In a week that also included the State of the Union, we focused on strengthening the state of our community.
Despite the turmoil in Washington, I remain committed to putting our community first and eager to offer enthusiastic support as a partner on the successes we are already achieving in San Antonio.
In the House Ways and Means Committee, where I now serve as chairman of the Health Subcommittee, work has begun to restore long-overlooked oversight. I have also been named to serve on both the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Budget Committee.
I made a move this year to focus a little more on health and somewhat less on tax. I will put patients first, work to lower Big Pharma monopoly prices for prescription drugs, cut out-of-pocket costs, and resist attempts to destroy protection for preexisting conditions and efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act. Health security touches all of our neighbors in Bexar County, particularly in the many pockets of poverty that my district encompasses.
We can finally break new ground on health care solutions for American families. This chairmanship allows me to highlight the experiences and disparities in health care that San Antonio families face every day. We can shine a light on ways San Antonio is leading the way – from community health programs at Martinez Street Women’s Center to Texas Organizing Project’s grassroots advocacy for access to affordable health care for all San Antonians. San Antonio is putting people first by tackling issues such as the opioid crisis, for which I worked to secure federal dollars to assist with the implementation phase of Bexar County’s Opioid task force, and remains a leader in innovation with the boom in the local bioscience industry coming from UT Health San Antonio and our hospital districts.
My most urgent effort is to seek relief for patients from prescription price gouging. I recently filed patient-first legislation that would address the prescription drug affordability crisis. The Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act would authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate drug prices and, if drug companies refuse to negotiate in good faith, it would enable the HHS Secretary to issue a competitive license to another company to produce the medication as a generic. Our proposal responds to the many personal stories of drug unaffordability with an American solution – negotiation and competition. I hope that President Donald Trump will follow the advice of candidate Trump to find common ground with us, reject the advice of Big Pharma executives, and deliver a real victory for the American people.
In discussing my recent health legislation, I brought along a couple friends to speak to our local leaders while in Washington – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon). The Congressman shared the need for real progress on infrastructure, which is a top priority for San Antonio – a real initiative to invest in our crumbling roads and public facilities. And we need to invest in our people far more than any wall. In a changing economy, we all have an opportunity – and a responsibility – to support our local workforce to meet this economy’s challenges. After inaction in the last Congress on Trump’s promise to invest $1 trillion dollars in our deteriorating infrastructure, I am eager for a bipartisan plan.
It’s a great time to live and work in San Antonio. This large delegation brought energy and a strong vision to Washington, and I salute all those who advocate on behalf of San Antonio’s priorities. Let’s together innovate and build an even stronger San Antonio. Let’s continue to be creative, imaginative, persistent, and, may I say, dogged.