May 6, 2023
I hope that you and your loved ones are well and enjoyed the 2023 NFL Draft, held right here in Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District.
With football fans from around the world flocking to Kansas City to experience the Show Me State Draft, small businesses throughout our community had the benefit of welcoming tens of thousands of customers to their doors, helping generate economic activity and boosting sales. From the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the National WWI Museum and Memorial to the best barbecue and football team in the world, our great city has so much to offer–and I will continue doing my part to modernize our local infrastructure, boost economic development, and improve public safety until Kansas City is known around the country as the economic heart of the heartland.
However, I’m not only writing you to tout the awesomeness of our congressional district; I also have some updates I wanted to share. Since my last writing, I’ve been hard at work around the Fifth District and in the nation’s Capital, fighting to prevent cuts to vital benefits that hardworking families, veterans, and seniors in Missouri depend on; to protect the rights of women and reproductive freedom; and to support job training and educational opportunities in U.S. correctional facilities. Around Missouri’s Fifth, I recently met with climate advocacy groups fighting to ensure federal investments make it to underserved communities, attended the Final Spike Ceremony that officially created the Canadian Pacific Kansas City railroad line, and met with tenants from Stonegate Meadows as I continue working to ensure the property management is providing safe and stable housing conditions.
We’ve got a lot to cover this week! So, let’s get right to it.
Voting Against Speaker McCarthy’s Default on America Act
As you may know, the debt limit is a ceiling imposed by Congress on the amount of debt that the U.S. federal government can have outstanding. Every so often, Congress has an obligation to raise the debt ceiling to ensure the federal government can pay the bills it has incurred over time. Since 1960, Congress has acted 78 times to raise the debt limit, 49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democratic presidents. Importantly, if the debt ceiling isn’t raised by Congress and the federal government cannot pay the bills outstanding, then the federal government would default on its debts, downgrading our national credit rating, driving up interest rates, killing millions of jobs, and a whole host of other issues that would be calamitous to our economy and American families.
Previously, before the extreme polarization of our national politics, raising the debt ceiling was a routine endeavor. Unfortunately, the most extreme members of the Republican party have convinced the entire Caucus to threaten to force our nation to default on its debts if President Biden and Democrats in Congress do not agree to extremely drastic cuts that would hurt children, veterans, seniors, and families throughout Missouri. While President Biden has refused to make these unnecessarily harsh cuts to programs that American families depend on, he proposed his own budget that would cut our national deficit by $3 trillion and asked the GOP to show the American people what they would cut from the federal budget to address America’s debt.
After months of deliberations behind closed doors and without a single committee hearing, Speaker McCarthy put his legislative ransom note, otherwise known as the Default on America Act, on the House floor last week–and it is even more egregious than I would have suspected. The bill would:
Undermine medical care for veterans by cutting VA funding by 22%, which would lead to 30 million fewer veteran outpatient visits and 81,000 jobs lost across the Veterans Health Administration, leaving veterans unable to get appointments for care, including wellness visits, cancer screenings, mental health services, and substance use disorder treatments;
Slash funding for schools with low-income students and students with disabilities by cutting 22% from the Department of Education, which would impact 25 million students in schools that teach low-income students and 7.5 million students with disabilities;
Eliminate preschool and child care for hundreds of thousands of children, with 200,000 children losing access to Head Start slots and another 180,000 children losing access to child care;
Strip nutrition assistance from millions of women, infants, and children, with 1.7 million Americans losing vital nutrition assistance through cuts to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children;
Rob seniors of healthy meals by cutting nutrition services, such as Meals on Wheels, from more than 1 million seniors;
Raise housing costs for families by eliminating rental assistance for more than 1,000,000 American families; and more
I’ve seen a lot of childish, reckless, and irresponsible things happen in Washington during my time in Congress, but the decision by nearly the entire House Republican Caucus to hold our economy hostage in an effort to force millions of Americans to go hungry, hundreds of thousands to lose health care, and drive up housing costs for families across the nation is truly astonishing. While I proudly voted against these cuts that would have been extremely painful for families in our congressional district, the Default on America Act was passed by the House of Representatives despite every single Democrat and a handful of Republicans voting against the measure.
You have my word that I will do everything in my power to prevent a catastrophic default or these unacceptably drastic budget cuts from coming to fruition, and I will be sure to keep you apprised of the situation as we move forward. You can find more information on the Default on America Act and my opposition to the bill here.
Fighting to Protect Reproductive Freedom
Following the extreme abortion decision in Texas, and after calling on President Biden to use legal authority to protect mifepristone and other critical medications approved by the FDA, I joined House Democrats to introduce the Protecting Reproductive Freedom Act. This legislation would reaffirm that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not a lone radical judge in Texas, has clear and pre-emptive authority to regulate abortion medication. The Protecting Reproductive Freedom Act would also protect the ability of doctors to prescribe abortion medication via telehealth for patients across the country.
As a fervent supporter of reproductive freedom and an original co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act and the Ensuring Women’s Right to Reproductive Freedom Act that passed the House in the last Congress, I will do everything in my power to defend a woman’s constitutional right to choose.
Advancing Reintegration Efforts, Reducing Recidivism, and Increasing Educational Opportunities for Incarcerated Individuals
Over 600,000 individuals are released from federal and state prisons each year. Upon release, however, there are some individuals that struggle to reintegrate into their communities–and I believe there is more Congress can do to better prepare incarcerated citizens to successfully re-enter society, which will reduce recidivism, keep our communities safe, and protect taxpayer dollars.
For that reason, I introduced the Ensuring Work Opportunities in Correctional Facilities Act last month to support occupational training programs and educational opportunities in U.S. correctional facilities. This legislation would increase the annual funding for state and local grant programs that strengthen academic programs, career training, and vocational programs in such facilities. The introduction of this legislation in the House follows companion legislation introduced in the Senate by Senator Cory Booker earlier this year.
And in recognition of the compounding barriers to re-entry that the incarcerated population faces upon release–namely a lack of educational programs and access to information–I joined Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee and Shontel Brown last week to introduce the Prison Libraries Act. Our bill would authorize $60,000,000 over six years for state prisons to build capacity amongst their populations to provide library services and resources.
An essential component to reducing recidivism is expanding opportunity for job training and educational programs in correctional facilities across the country, ensuring incarcerated individuals can develop the skills and experience that will help them find gainful employment when they are ready to re-enter society. I’ll keep pushing for policies like the Ensuring Work Opportunities in Correctional Facilities Act and the Prison Libraries Act to do just that.
Standing Up for Trans and Intersex Youth
Last month, I was proud to vote NO on H.R. 734, the Politics Over Participation Act, otherwise referred to as the trans and intersex sports ban. This harmful legislation effectively bans all trans girls as young as kindergarten from participating in school sports teams and deprives them of an important opportunity to be part of their community, learn sportsmanship, and challenge themselves.
Although it’s discussed in terms of protecting girls in sports, the language of this bill is so vaguely written that it could force any girl to have to undergo invasive medical exams to “prove” that they’re a girl. I believe that sports should be safe, accessible, and fair for everyone–not something used to push a hateful agenda against an extraordinarily small subset of kids.
While the Politics Over Participation Act was able to pass the House of Representatives, I will continue to push back against these mean-spirited bills should they come back to the House floor.
Around the Fifth District
Environmental Justice Panel
I had the privilege of joining CleanAirNow KC and WE ACT for Environmental Justice’s climate action panel as part of their Justice40rward campaign, highlighting the Biden-Harris administration’s Justice40 initiative that lays the groundwork for critical federal investments to address the climate crisis to make it to the most overburdened, divested communities. I joined local neighborhood leaders and representatives from a number of federal agencies throughout the region to raise awareness of investments being made in communities across Kansas City, thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, which I was proud to support.
Canadian Pacific Kansas City
It is always a joy when Kansas City has the opportunity to lead the way in areas of industry and economic development! Recently, I celebrated the Final Spike Ceremony, finalizing the first transcontinental railroad that connects the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The historic merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern is a boon for the community and region, strengthening supply chains, creating good-paying jobs, and boosting economic development.
Following the celebratory 55th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, which officially prohibits discrimination and ensures equity in housing, I toured Stonegate Meadows Apartments to see firsthand the substandard living conditions that families were being forced to endure after months of failure to take action from property management. What I saw was completely unacceptable and I vowed to request a federal investigation of property ownership and management upon my return to Washington. As we move forward, I am committed to working alongside the residents of Stonegate Meadows to see that the conditions tenants have been forced to endure are addressed and remedied.
Truman Farm Home
As we approach President Harry S. Truman’s 139th birthday on May 8, the Truman Farm Home in Grandview, Missouri is preparing to reopen for Ranger-led tours starting the first weekend of May. From 1906 until 1917, the future head of state lived and worked at the seven-room farmhouse in Grandview, a property that sat upon 600 acres of land and was owned by his maternal grandmother. Sadly, the farmhouse fell into a state of disrepair in the decades since Truman’s passing, but visitors this summer will be encouraged to see that the National Park Service has taken significant steps toward restoring the historic property. Between February 14 and March 10 of this year, a Maintenance Action Team (MAT), made up of three carpenters and a facility manager were on-site and hard at work! MAT teams are a new concept within the National Park Service, created with the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act of 2020, a bipartisan bill that I proudly supported.
In just four weeks, the MAT team fully reconstructed both the front porch and dining room porch, replacing the flooring, trim, wainscoting, and screens. Additionally, the MAT team made repairs to the home’s gutter, put barriers in place to prevent ground hogs from burrowing underneath the property, addressed wood rot all around the house, and installed preventative measures to ensure that water properly drains off the porches, thereby preventing future damage. This was the most extensive work done on the Farm Home in over thirty years, and I hope some of you will stop by Grandview to see the improvements for yourself and learn about one of our nation’s greatest presidents.
That’s all I have for now, folks. As always, if you are in need of assistance with a federal agency or simply want to share your opinion on an issue important to you, please reach out to my office. We always look forward to hearing from you!
Emanuel Cleaver, II
Member of Congress