Despite a flurry of bipartisanship late last year that achieved some notable victories
— a long-term surface transportation bill to rebuild our nation’s crumbling
infrastructure, an education bill, and a year-long funding bill — last year was one of
Congress’s least productive and most partisan in history. Even in such a hostile
environment, it is possible to seek out bipartisan agreement on important issues.
The key to doing so — in my experience — is to establish good working
relationships with people on both sides of the aisle, to avoid making policy
differences personal, and to recognize that your opponent on one issue may be
your best ally on another.
I wanted to share with you just a few of the issues where we have made progress
in 2015, and what I hope to advance further in 2016. First, we had major success
in funding a West Coast Earthquake Early Warning System, a critical tool to help
save lives and infrastructure. With the help of my colleague, Representative Ken
Calvert (R-add city), were able to secure over $8 million in federal funding to
construct this critical system, on top of a significant investment last year. Even a
few seconds of warning will allow surgeons to take out the scalpel, engineers to
shut down trains, and ordinary citizens to move to a safe place.
Second, we have been able to make substantial progress on our efforts to expand
the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) to include the
Rim of the Valley. The National Park Service released their draft report and within
the next few weeks, we expect it will issue its final recommendations on expanding
and protecting the Rim of the Valley corridor. The legislation that I authored to
initiate the study was signed by President Bush, funded by a Republican Congress
and supported by President Obama. Once that report is released, I plan on
immediately working with the community to author legislation to preserve this
open space for future generations.
Third, the issue that I hear the most about from my constituents and from others
around the country involves the threat to the homeland from ISIS and terror
groups. This past year, I was selected to be the top Democrat on the House
Intelligence Committee, and I worked on a number of bills signed into law
including cybersecurity legislation, a bill authorizing and overseeing all our
intelligence agencies, and a major reform to end the government’s collection of
phone metadata. On all of these bills, my Republican Chairman, Representative
Devin Nunes, and I worked together to make sure that partisan differences never
got in the way of the safety of our country. In light of the terrible attacks at the end
of last year in San Bernardino and Paris – I’ll continue to make sure no effort is
spared in combatting the scourge of ISIS until we defeat it on the battlefield and
put an end to its vile propaganda over social media.
Looking forward to this year, I am optimistic about the prospects for bipartisan
action to reform our criminal justice system and sentencing practices, and will
continue to advocate for passage of the comprehensive and bipartisan immigration
reform that earlier passed the Senate. I am far less sanguine about our chances
when it comes to passage of common sense gun safety legislation, like universal
background checks and curbs on assault weapons and extended ammunition clips.
I will be reintroducing my bill to repeal the gun industry’s immunity from liability
— a unique immunity not enjoyed by any other industry, and an issue that has taken
center stage in the Presidential race. But all of these gun measures will run into
staunch opposition from the NRA and will be even more difficult in a Presidential
Even in a political climate known for its dysfunction, each new year presents the
opportunity to make progress on issues that are important to our district and to our
country. I hope you will share your ideas for areas where we can find common
ground and move the nation forward.