The month of October kicked off with a busy start in the House of Representatives. As Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, I held a hearing to get the facts on the Equifax data breach that compromised the personal data of over 145 million Americans, including over 1.7 million Oregonians. Our Committee also held a hearing to examine the air quality impacts of catastrophic wildfires, and how better forest management can prevent smoke choking our skies each summer. This hearing came as I joined my colleagues on the Western Caucus in a call to action to fix our broken federal forest policy.
I also held several meetings in southern and central Oregon to find solutions to help combat the opioid epidemic in our state, and discuss the need to improve forest management to help prevent devastating fires. The Bend Band of Brothers invited me to join them at Jake’s Diner for their weekly meeting. These meetings help me update my “to-do” list and I look forward to taking these conversations back to Washington, D.C.
And yesterday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman, Rep. Phil Roe, and I met with veterans from around the district in Medford where I arranged a briefing and tour of veterans housing, and the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics (SORCC) in White City.
I hope you’ll continue reading to learn more about my recent work as your representative in the House, and my meetings with Oregonians on the ground tackling the big issues facing our communities.
The Energy and Commerce Committee — where I serve as Chairman — held a hearing to get answers for consumers on the Equifax data breach. During the hearing, I pressed former Equifax Chairman and CEO Richard Smith on the unprecedented cybersecurity hack that compromised the personal information of over 145 million Americans, including over 1.7 million Oregonians.
First and foremost, I asked the former CEO: how could a major American company like Equifax, which holds the most sensitive and personal data on Americans, so let them down? A key finding from our hearing was that human error led to this massive breach — apparently one person at Equifax did not notify others that their system had been compromised.
As I said at the hearing, you cannot fix stupid. However we can sure hold those accountable for putting your personal information at risk and that is what we intend to do at the Energy and Commerce Committee. To watch the full Equifax hearing, please click HERE.
Protecting our air quality and health from catastrophic fires
Oregon’s skies were once again filled with smoke and ash this summer. I called for a hearing at the Energy and Commerce Committee to examine the air quality, environmental, and health impacts of wildfire smoke.
During the hearing, we heard testimony from expert witnesses on the environmental impacts of wildfires that pour carbon into the atmosphere each year. As recent Forest Service studies have shown, young growing forests absorb more carbon, while dead trees, along with fire, are carbon emitters. Active forest management that thins our forests, and cleans up and replants after wildfire are important components to reducing fire risk and air quality impacts.
Among the witnesses was Dr. John Bailey of Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, who told me how out of balance some forest landscapes have become. In some cases, the forest landscapes that would have historically have had 20 trees to an acre, now are so overgrown they have 1,000 or more trees per acre. That unnatural density of trees is merely built up fuel for future fires. We must give our forest managers the tools they need to actively manage our forests to reduce these fuel loads and to cut the burned dead trees after a fire and use the proceeds to replant a new forest for the next generation.. For more information on the air quality hearing, please click HERE.
Continuing our efforts to push for forest management reform, my colleagues and I in the Western Caucus came together recently to call for Congressional action to fix broken federal forest policy. From Oregon to Wyoming, our communities across the West face a similar situation each summer when devastating fires destroy our lands and fill our air with smoke.
I participated in this call to action by speaking on the House floor and joining my colleagues for a press conference in the U.S. Capitol on the need to pass the Resilient Federal Forests Act. I also gave the Western Caucus Weekly Address. During these events, I shared stories and personal pictures from Oregonians about how this year’s fire season has impacted their lives and their communities, and why we can wait no longer to pass meaningful reforms to the way our forests are managed. For more information on our call to action last week, please click HERE.
After our call to action on forest management reform in the nation’s capital, I headed home to see the effects on the ground of the Milli fire in central Oregon. I met with Forest Service officials about the fire’s impact to the region — especially the town of Sisters — and the need for prompt restoration of the forest.
The Milli fire burned over 24,000 acres in Oregon, and caused terrible air quality in Sisters for nearly three straight weeks in September. Seeing the charred forest firsthand was a powerful reminder about that we need to do more to restore and replant our forests as soon as possible. Legislation I helped craft — the Resilient Federal Forests Act — will allow for active management to help protect and restore forests while also helping Oregon’s economy and job creation. You can read more about this legislation here: https://naturalresources.house.gov/hr2647/
For more information about my meeting in central Oregon to discuss forest management reform, please click HERE.
Combatting the opioid epidemic in Oregon
Meeting in Grants Pass (top photo) and Bend (bottom photo) to talk about how we can work together to combat the opioid epidemic in our communities. Thank you to everyone who participated in these roundtables for the great discussions.
I also held roundtable discussions with local leaders, law enforcement officials, and members of the medical community in Grants Pass and Bend to talk about how we can work together to combat the opioid epidemic in Oregon. We discussed best practices for prescribing pain medication, how to educate our communities about the risk of abuse, and ensuring law enforcement has the training and equipment like the anti-overdose drug, Naloxone, to respond to emergencies.
As Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, I’ve directed our team to put our resources toward combatting the epidemic that is plaguing our state and country. Last year in Oregon, more people died from drug overdoses than from car accidents. These roundtables gave me the opportunity to learn firsthand about what is working on the ground, and what more can be done, to prevent this crisis from continuing its carnage in Oregon.
To learn more about our work at the Energy and Commerce Committee to put an end to this epidemic, please click HERE.
One of the highest honors I have as your representative in Congress is meeting with those who’ve served our country like the veterans with Bend Band of Brothers. Recently, I met over 100 veterans at Jake’s Diner in Bend to discuss my work to improve the care they receive at the VA.
This summer, the House unanimously passed legislation I introduced to reduce wait times for Oregon veterans. The VA Medical Scribes Pilot Act would unburden VA doctors and improve care for veterans by bringing medical scribes into the VA system to handle paperwork and patient record keeping — allowing the doctor to focus their attention on the veteran. I’ve also introduced theDoctors for Veterans Act to help Oregon VA facilities recruit medical providers for veterans in rural and underserved areas.
Presenting Bob Maxwell — Bend resident and America’s oldest living Medal of Honor Recipient — with a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in his honor.
During my meeting with Bend Band of Brothers, I had the privilege of presenting Bob Maxwell — a Bend resident and America’s oldest living Medal of Honor Recipient — with a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in his honor. According to his Medal of Honor citation, “Maxwell aggressively fought off advancing enemy elements and, by his calmness, tenacity, and fortitude, inspired his fellows to continue the unequal struggle. When an enemy hand grenade was thrown in the midst of his squad, Technician 5th Grade Maxwell unhesitatingly hurled himself squarely upon it, using his blanket and his unprotected body to absorb the full force of the explosion.”
Bob turns 97 this month and is a true national hero who represents the best of what Oregon has to offer — as do all veterans with Bend Band of Brothers and the over 80,000 throughout our state. It was an honor to present this hero with an American flag and official Congressional Record submitted in his honor.
That’s all for this update. If you or a loved one is having a problem with the VA or any other federal agency, you can call my office toll free from the 541 area code at 800-533-3303. My staff and I will do everything we can to help your case.