When I think of 2021, the phrase “meeting the moment” comes to mind. It was uttered countless times this past year by my colleagues in Congress, by the press, and by constituents all over the nation. But what does that really mean? Let’s take stock.
The year started with a horrifying assault on our democracy. After hours of violence in the Capitol to delay the Constitutional process of certifying election results, Congress met the moment and worked through the night to certify President Joe Biden’s win.
We met the moment by delivering robust relief to Americans, families, and small businesses by passing the American Rescue Plan, giving 131,000 Maine families a tax cut and cutting child poverty in half.
We met the moment to combat the mounting climate crisis by rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, resolidifying our commitment on the world stage to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. At COP26 in Glasgow, over 140 countries pledged to reach net zero emissions, more than 80 countries pledged to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030, and over 100 countries pledged to reverse deforestation by 2030. What came out of the summit was nowhere near enough to stem this crisis, but in a time when we’re still convincing some people in our own country that climate change is real, what we achieved is more than we ever have before.
We met the moment to address the shameful quality of our domestic infrastructure by passing the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will not only improve our country’s roads, water, and broadband infrastructure, but will take urgent and necessary steps to tackle climate change and advance Maine’s Climate Action Plan.
While we made significant progress to address the climate crisis and support working families, there is so much more to be done to build on these efforts and achieve lasting change.
There were also, of course, frustrating setbacks in 2021 that must be addressed. Abortion rights protected under Roe v. Wade are under assault; vaccine hesitancy and misinformation continue to wreak havoc on our hospital systems and our fight against COVID-19; and voting rights have been eroded across the nation, fueled by the former president’s Big Lie.
However, it’s a new year, and I have renewed hope that Congress will again meet the moment and enact the change we need to confront these threats.
As I write this, several bills the House has already passed that would address these challenges remain stalled in the Senate:
- The For the People Act, which will improve election integrity and access to the ballot box.
- The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which will restore key protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that have been gutted by the Supreme Court.
- The Women’s Health Protection Act, which will protect abortion access nationwide and finally codify the protections established by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey decisions.
- The Build Back Better Act, which will make unprecedented investments in climate-smart programs, create thousands of green jobs, and establish initiatives to better support working families and older Americans.
The House did its job. It’s now on the Senate to act—even if that means abolishing the arcane, Jim Crow-era filibuster.
In addition to signing these important bills into law in 2022, I’m also looking forward to advancing government funding bills that deliver for Maine. As the Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, I will work to ensure Congress passes government funding bills to make long-overdue investments to protect human health, fight the climate emergency, and support our obligations to tribal nations. These funding bills must also provide the resources to rebuild the federal workforce so that vital agencies – from the Environmental Protection Agency to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)—can better serve the public.
As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, supporting Maine farmers as a part of the climate solution will also remain a top priority of mine this year. Ideas from my landmark Agriculture Resilience Act have already passed the House in appropriations bills and the Build Back Better Act. With a Farm Bill due in 2023, that’s the next big opportunity for advancing meaningful climate legislation for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities.
I know 2022 will come with hardship and challenges, but I am ready to meet the moments ahead. There’s a lot to fight for.