Welcome to DC Doings, a weekly look at the Colorado congressional delegation's activity.
The House and Senate were both in session this week. Both chambers will be in session the week of July 26, with the House scheduled to recess after that until mid-September and the Senate set to stay gaveled in for an additional week before its summer recess.
HOUSE ADVANCES CROW BILL TO SPEED AFGHAN VISAS ... The House on July 22 voted 407-16 to pass a bill by Rep. Jason Crow to expand the special immigrant visa program for Afghan interpreters and others who helped U.S. and coalition forces during the war.
The Averting Loss of Life and Injury by Expediting SIVs Act — dubbed the ALLIES Act — will increase the number of visas under the program by 8,000 to 19,000, enough to handle a backlogged pool of applicants. It also includes provisions to speed the process, which in some cases has taken three years to complete.
“Some members of this body, including me, may not be here without the service and sacrifice of Afghans who answered the call to serve shoulder-to-shoulder with us,” said Crow, a Centennial Democrat and Army Ranger combat veteran.
Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Silt was one of the 16 GOP lawmakers to vote against the bill.
In a statement, she told Colorado Politics she supports "the underlying effort of keeping America’s promises to those who bravely helped us in Afghanistan" but couldn't vote for it because the bill didn't go through the standard process, including a committee hearing with expert testimony and the chance to amend the measure.
"If it would have," she said, "perhaps we could have resolved serious issues, including the fact that it lowers the standards for people to qualify, so that Afghans who put their lives on the line in the war will see others placed ahead of them in line." Boebert added that she doesn't think the bill has strong enough anti-fraud provisions.
The bill goes to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain as the Aug. 31 deadline for most U.S. forces to withdraw rapidly approaches.
THE AYES HAVE IT ... The Senate gave unanimous approval on July 22 to a bipartisan resolution to express the Senate's support for the 2020 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, sponsored by Sens. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, and Michael Bennet, Colorado's senior senator and a Democrat.
“The Olympics mean a lot to Colorado,” Bennet said in a statement. “Our state not only hosts the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, we also have the third highest number of athletes representing America in Tokyo this year. As the games begin, the Senate affirms its overwhelming support for the American delegation and the commitment to excellence, teamwork, and fair competition they embody. We wish them the best of luck.”
The resolution was co-sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn.; and Chris Coons, D-Del.
IN THE HOPPER ... Rep. Joe Neguse, the Lafayette Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee's National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee, on July 19 joined with a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce a bill to help the Forest Service pay to clean up damaged forest lands.
The National Forest Restoration and Remediation Act would allow the Forest Service to keep the interest earned on settlement funds and use the additional money to pay for restoration work. Currently, the Forest Service — unlike other federal agencies — lacks the ability to keep and spend interest income on settlements, the lawmakers said.
In a statement, Neguse said he has "noted time and time again how critical it is that we increase funding for the Forest Service so that our local communities in Colorado and across the West are adequately equipped to restore our lands and forests and battle record-setting wildfires."
The 2nd Congressional District that Neguse represents has seen record-setting wildfires and faces increased need for forest maintenance and restoration, he noted, calling the bill "a common-sense measure that will help the Forest Service retain more funds to protect and restore our lands, and support our Western communities.”
Other House members signed on to the bill include Reps. Kim Schrier, D-Wash.; Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.; and Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif.
• Neguse and Sen. John Hickenlooper introduced a bipartisan bill on July 20 aimed at helping more community college students earn degrees after they transfer to four-year schools.
The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act of 2021 would make it easier to "reverse transfer" credits from a four-year institution to a two-year institution after a student has transferred the other direction, so community colleges can identify whether students have earned enough credits to be granted a degree along the way.
“We must ensure every student is provided a pathway to education that fits their goals and career path,” Neguse said in a statement. “This legislation ensures that students can receive credit and earn an associate’s degree or short-term certificate regardless of where they completed their coursework, breaking down barriers for better paying jobs for students who are unable to finish at a four-year institution."
Said Hickenlooper: “Our education system has to support different paths to a successful career. Many students who graduate high school never get a four-year degree. Making it easier to recognize the work students have already done is a no-brainer.”
Other sponsors of the legislation include Sens. Mike Braun, R-Ind.; and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; and Reps. John Curtis, R-Utah; and Joaquin Castro, D-Texas.
• Rep. Ken Buck, a Windsor Republican, joined with Neguse to reintroduce a bill to help rural water companies make infrastructure improvements without having to raise prices or lose tax-exempt status.
The Water and Agriculture Tax Reform Act — nicknamed the WATER Act — passed the House in a previous Congress but stalled in the Senate. This time, Bennet and Republican Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho are simultaneously introducing a companion bill. The legislation changes some of the rules involving how certain types of water, irrigation and reservoir companies can treat income received from sources other than rate-payers.
“Mutual irrigation, reservoir and water companies play a critical role in the agriculture industry in Colorado and throughout the nation,” Buck said in a statement. “Farmers and ranchers should be able to maintain and develop their water infrastructure without being penalized for it. The WATER Act will replace a burdensome restriction with a beneficial solution that will support America’s rural communities.”
• Bennet joined with fellow members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on July 22 to introduce a bipartisan bill to require federal agencies, government contractors and operators of critical infrastructure to report cyber intrusions within 24 hours of discovering them. Currently, no such reporting requirement exists.
The bipartisan Cyber Incident Notification Act of 2021 is in response to several recent high-profile cyber attacks, including the SolarWinds hack and a ransomware attack on a major pipeline operator.
“Cyber-attacks like SolarWinds and the Colonial Pipeline serve as sobering reminders of the national security threats we face in the 21st century,” Bennet said in a statement. "Malicious hackers can reach across continents to target federal agencies, government contractors, or other entities. Our bipartisan legislation will make sure breaches are reported as soon as they happen, helping to quickly combat the attack and protect our critical infrastructure.”
Co-sponsors include Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; James Risch, R-Idaho; Angus King, I-Maine; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Bob Casey, D-Pa.; Ben Sasse, R-Neb.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Joe Manchin, D-W. Va.; and Jon Tester, D-Mont.
HEAR YE, HEAR YE ... Hickenlooper on July 22 held the first hearing of the subcommittee he chairs, the Senate Commerce Committee's Space and Science Subcommittee, to hear from experts about concerns over space debris.
Authorities estimate there are more than 4,000 satellites in active orbit and some 100 million pieces of trash orbiting the Earth, Hickenlooper said. This debris poses a threat to satellites and other craft in low-Earth orbit, possibly jeopardizing satellites essential to GPS tracking and weather forecasting. The International Space Station has had to maneuver to avoid potentially catastrophic collisions nearly 30 times, Hickenlooper's staff said.
The panel testifying at the hearing included Karina Drees, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation; Kevin O’Connell, founder and CEO of Space Economy Rising LLC; Dr. Marcus Holzinger, associate professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder; and Paul Graziani, co-Founder of Analytical Graphics Inc. and CEO of COMSPOC Corp.
Watch the “Space Situational Awareness, Space Traffic Management, and Orbital Debris: Examining Solutions for Emerging Threats” hearing here.
WE GATHER TOGETHER ... Bennet and Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia on July 20 announced they are reforming the Assisting Caregivers Today Caucus, which will bring together lawmakers around the topic of challenges faced by family caregivers and provide a forum to advocate for policies to support them. The AARP and numerous family caregiver groups support the caucus, they said.
"Family caregivers provide billions of hours of unpaid care to ensure their loved ones can perform daily activities and continue living independently," Bennet said in a statement. “As the population continues to age, the need for family care will only increase, and most of us will likely act as a family caregiver or need care at some point in our lifetimes. We hope that this caucus will raise awareness about the physical, emotional, and financial stress caregivers face, and result in meaningful policies to support them."
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN ... Neguse was among the leaders of a July 20 letter to congressional leadership signed by more than 80 Democratic lawmakers from both chambers urging inclusion of the Civilian Climate Corps in the budget reconciliation deal as that massive legislative package is finalized.
Colorado lawmakers Bennet and Rep. Diana DeGette are among the signers, which was also led by Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Chris Coons of Delaware and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, as well as Reps. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez of New York, Judy Chu of California, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio and Bobby Rush of Illinois.
The letter outlines the goals, labor standards and structure of a Civilian Climate Corps, which have been described in numerous bills sponsored by the letter's organizers in recent years but are appearing for the first time as a unified set of priorities this week, the lawmakers said.
• Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat, was among the leaders of a July 22 letter to congressional leadership requesting $30.5 billion in funding for the Department of Energy National Laboratories in an infrastructure bill currently under negotiation.
The 17 national laboratories — including Golden's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Perlmutter's 7th Congressional District — play a critical role in tackling climate change and reducing global emissions, Perlmutter's office said, but many suffer from aging infrastructure and maintenance backlogs.
The other organizers of the letter, which was signed by 20 other House members, are Reps. Bill Foster, D-Ill., and Derek Kilmer, D-Wash.
"A dedicated, focused investment would go a long way toward recapitalizing and modernizing National Lab infrastructure and would immediately support thousands of high-quality, good-paying jobs," the lawmakers wrote. "Investing in our National Lab infrastructure would foster safe, efficient, reliable and environmentally responsible operations, boost morale of the scientific and engineering workforce at the National Labs and demonstrate our nation’s continued commitment to maintaining the world’s best scientific infrastructure."
TWEETS OF THE WEEK ... Perlmutter and Crow introduced a bill on July 20 — the anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting — to designate the date "National Heroes Day" to honor the sacrifices of everyday heroes.
"During trying times, let's remember the heroes among us who, on a daily basis, answer the call to step up for their community," Perlmutter said in a Twitter thread remembering the shooting at an Aurora movie theater.
During trying times, let's remember the heroes among us who, on a daily basis, answer the call to step up for their community. @RepJasonCrow & I are working to designate July 20th as #NationalHeroesDay to honor everyday heroes & exhibit their same spirit of courage & service. pic.twitter.com/T93Ly97ODB— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) July 20, 2021
Tweeted Perlmutter: "Nine years ago today, twelve lives were taken, seventy were wounded, and hundreds more suffered emotional trauma in the Aurora theater shooting. Today and every day we remember the lives impacted that fateful night - including the lives we lost and their families.
"The tragedy of July 20, 2012, brought to light incredible heroism by the first responders and medical teams whose tireless efforts saved lives, those who carried the wounded to safety, and those who sacrificed themselves to save others."
It's #NationalHeroesDay— a day to celebrate the everyday heroes who make our communities stronger & safer. @RepPerlmutter & I started this day after the Aurora Theater Shooting. With 1 year+ of COVID-19, we know it's never been more true— everyday heroes make the difference. pic.twitter.com/o1AyCOcDHC— Rep. Jason Crow (@RepJasonCrow) July 20, 2021
Said Crow in a companion tweet: "It's #NationalHeroesDay— a day to celebrate the everyday heroes who make our communities stronger & safer. @RepPerlmutter & I started this day after the Aurora Theater Shooting. With 1 year+ of COVID-19, we know it's never been more true — everyday heroes make the difference."
The resolution was first introduced a year ago, seeking to recognize those who helped others during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this year's resolution broadens the scope to include those who worked to develop and distribute vaccines.
“Our country has seen some dark days, including July 20, 2012, and we have all experienced emotional, physical and mental challenges this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic," Perlmutter said in a statement. "During these tough times, it is the everyday heroes who demonstrate courage, initiative, and bravery and who take action to assist others and their community in a time of need. Let’s follow these shining examples and all the everyday heroes as we each work to be a positive force in our community and bring kindness and selflessness to everyday life.”
“Nine years ago, our community was devastated by a horrific act of gun violence. We’ve experienced even more tragedies in the years since, and every time it happens, it is just as painful,” Crow said. “Our ability to recover and come together has only been possible because of the heroes among us whose courage and bravery have shown us a path forward in times of crisis. In recognition of those in our community and around the country, we mark July 20th as a day to honor the heroism and servant leadership of our fellow citizens.”