After a year of unprecedented challenges for small businesses owners and their employees, I have good news to begin the new year: economic relief is on the way. In Congress, I fought for and secured $284 billion in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds in the year-end COVID-19 relief bill passed in December. PPP provides forgivable loans to small business owners in the Commonwealth and across America. From family restaurants and bars to small manufacturers and farmers in Central and Eastern Kentucky, this new round of PPP funds will be a lifeline.

PPP was a lifeline for Steven of Lexington. When he reached out to my office, Steven was unsure if his 16-year old business was going to make it through the pandemic. After applying and receiving a forgivable PPP loan, Steven’s business and the five workers he employs were saved. Steven is one of over 500 small businesses assisted by the Small Business Response Team that I established in my office back in April, during the first round of the PPP. Since that time, almost $1 billion in forgivable loans have been given to small businesses right here in the Sixth District. If your business needs help navigating the PPP process, please reach out to my office at 859-219-1366.

Additionally, this package delivers on the push I led in Congress to provide more assistance to the hard-hit hospitality industry. PPP will expand eligibility, making destination marketing companies like VisitLex eligible to apply for PPP funds. Also, PPP will allow restaurants, hotels and other hospitality businesses the ability to apply for a PPP loan that is 3.5x monthly payroll as opposed to 2.5x for other applicants.

The relief bill doesn’t leave small businesses that already received PPP funds behind either. For months, I have heard concerns from Sixth District small business owners about the complicated PPP loan forgiveness application. Many feared having to hire expensive outside accounting or legal help to complete the complicated application. I responded to these concerns in Congress by organizing a bipartisan group of approximately 100 lawmakers to push for a simplified, one-page forgiveness application. As a direct result of this advocacy, small businesses that received loans of $150,000 or less in value, which accounts for 86% of all PPP loans approved, may now complete a one-page application. Lastly, small businesses that received loans will also be able to deduct PPP loans from their federal taxes, a change that I advocated and will effectively provide a much-needed tax break for hard-hit businesses.

While all of this relief is necessary and will make a huge impact, many small businesses may be unable to operate normally until the COVID-19 virus is defeated. To that end, I voted in support of $10 billion towards Operation Warp Speed at the beginning of the pandemic. Because of this investment and the incredible work of scientists, researchers and American innovators, we generated three COVID-19 vaccines within a year. To speed up vaccine delivery to the American people, I voted in support of $48 billion for vaccine distribution to schools, small businesses and healthcare providers, and $20 billion for the purchase of vaccines that will make the vaccine available at no charge for anyone who needs it.

Small businesses are the backbone of the economy in Kentucky and throughout the country. A staggering 47% of Americans work for a small business. I pledge to continue listening and responding to the needs of small businesses during this Congress. Above all, I will live up to the “Guardian of Small Business” award given to me by the National Federation of Independent Businesses in 2020 by opposing proposals by the new Administration to raise taxes, impose crushing regulations or pass a national minimum wage hike that threatens to financially ruin more small businesses as many fight for survival.

The Federal Reserve’s recent announcement that it will join the Network for Greening the Financial System, a consortium of central banks intent on using financial regulation to combat climate change, should raise concern for those observing a troubling trend in the politicization of financial supervision.

European regulators have begun injecting ill-defined climate metrics into their supervision of regulated firms and U.S. lawmakers on the far left are urging our financial regulators to join them.

Radical climate activists and their enablers on Capitol Hill are incapable of passing the Green New Deal through the legislative process because the American people know it would crush jobs, increase the cost of food and fuel, and have lasting negative impacts on American competitiveness and economic exceptionalism.

As a result, they want to use financial regulation as a backdoor to achieve their ill-conceived objectives. This effort is less about predicting financial stress from climate change and more about causing financial stress for industries that climate extremists hate.

Question of authority

The greatest risk to financial stability is not an insufficient focus on climate change.

It is an extreme policy agenda that would weaponize financial regulation to discriminate against fossil energy — the most affordable, reliable source of energy that has powered the American economy and American energy independence.

Senate Democrats, in a recent partisan report, openly call for regulators to discourage financial firms from extending credit to industries that “amplify climate risk,” such as coal, oil or natural gas.

Lost on the authors of this report is the fact that managing climate risk is outside the primary authority of financial regulators and that such actions would increase the costs for Americans to heat their homes, fuel their vehicles or feed their families — all amidst a once in a century health and economic crisis.

Earlier this month, I led a letter with 46 of my House Republican colleagues to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Vice Chair for Supervision Randal Quarles, urging the Fed to proceed cautiously when deciding whether to incorporate climate change scenarios into supervisory stress tests.

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The letter raises concerns about many methodological challenges with inserting ill-defined, subjective climate metrics into its tests and urges the Fed not to simply import climate supervision criteria from European regulators via the NGFS if those tests would disadvantage U.S. banks or American industry.

Despite some media claims to the contrary, it is important to note that the letter doesn’t deny the existence of climate change or the potential financial impacts of changing weather patterns. It simply suggests that the topic deserves thoughtful, well-reasoned discussion based on objective data rather than a knee-jerk reaction to calls from radical activists.

The letter also points out that ill-defined climate stress metrics may drive banks to accelerate the recent trend of politicizing access to capital and “de-banking” certain industries that are unpopular with vocal policymakers.

Corporations being bullied

Over the last several years we have witnessed banks publicly commit not to do business with certain legal companies in politically unpopular industries. These decisions were not based on the creditworthiness of the borrowers. They were based purely on politics.

The de-banking of politically unpopular industries is just one example of how U.S. corporations are responding to the bullying from the far left to be agents of social change at the expense of long-term economic growth.

Leaders of the nation’s largest companies recently ceded the primacy of shareholders to so-called “stakeholders.”

“Stakeholder capitalism,” or the left’s ideals for it, takes for granted the laws of the supply and demand, and discounts the market forces that govern businesses’ success or failure.

Shareholder primacy is not about elevating the select few. It is about establishing metric-based accountability for corporate leaders to ensure they are operating efficiently and effectively.

That efficacy and productivity then, in turn, benefit employees, communities and suppliers. In today’s market, a company cannot be successful without a focus on these other constituencies. But it must first and foremost make a profit to be viable.

Caring about broader social concerns, treating employees, suppliers and customers well and engaging in philanthropy within the community may all engender social support for a corporation, and in that sense may advance long-term shareholder value maximization. But that is not the paradigm those on the far left are urging the business community to adopt. Instead, they want a new paradigm that subordinates the interests of shareholders to the whims of “stakeholders.”

Fortunately, some current regulators are pushing back against the politicization of access to capital.

An independent Fed

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency recently issued its Fair Access Rule, which prohibits large banks from discriminating against legally operating businesses purely for political or public relations purposes.

The Department of Labor issued a rule to ensure retirement savers are not harmed by asset managers making investment decisions based on environmental, social and governance concerns at the expense of investor returns.

The new administration will almost certainly prioritize using every possible avenue to advance its extreme climate and social agenda. Some corporations, ever worried about fallout and public shaming from the far left, will likely continue to make decisions based on politics and public relations concerns.

That is why it is important the Fed maintain its independence and, along with other financial regulators, resist calls from the far left to pick winners and losers in the capital markets to advance extreme political agendas.

House Republicans made our position clear through our letter. Politicization of access to capital is unacceptable and we will not allow the weaponization of financial regulation to go unchecked.

—Congressman Andy Barr represents Kentucky’s 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Since March, the COVID-19 virus has killed over 200,000 Americans, shutdown thousands of small businesses, and derailed our day-to-day lives. None of this had to happen. For weeks, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) lied about human-to-human transmission of the COVID-19 virus. One study concluded that 95% of global cases would have been avoided had the CCP been transparent with the world just three weeks earlier.

In 2020, the CCP has finally been exposed to all Americans for what it really is: the most dangerous economic, technological, political, and military threat to the United States since the Soviet Union. That is why my work on the House of Representatives’ China Task Force (CTF), which was created by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to examine all of these threats and develop strategies to combat the CCP, is among the most consequential work I have done in Congress.

As a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee and former Chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Treasury Department’s implementation and enforcement of sanctions, I authored and passed legislation imposing secondary sanctions on Chinese financial institutions for facilitating illicit trade with North Korea. I also led the successful effort to reform the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to strengthen the U.S. government’s review of malign investment by Chinese firms and state owned enterprises (SOEs) in American companies and critical infrastructure, theft of intellectual property and forced transfer of technology.

Each year, the CCP steals between $225 billion and $600 billion from the United States in research, innovation, and other intellectual property (IP). To put that number in perspective, the entire gross domestic product (GDP) of Kentucky in 2018 was $208 billion. This Congress, as Chairman of the China Task Force Subgroup on Economics and Energy as well as the Subgroup on Competitiveness, I continue fighting back against CCP economic piracy.

Much of this theft occurs at American college campuses and universities, where CCP spies pose as students and professors to gain access to valuable research. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced a string of indictments against CCP agents targeting universities and attempting to hijack missile and aerospace technology as well as COVID-19 vaccine research.

In response to the CCP attempt to steal COVID-19 research, I introduced the NIST COVID-19 Cyber-Security Act. This bill instructs the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to produce standards and resources for American universities researching COVID-19 in order to mitigate and protect against cyber-attacks. I also recently proposed the Higher Education Research Protection Act of 2020. This legislation establishes an initiative at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and tasks 56 FBI agents — one for each FBI field office in the United States — to investigate CCP espionage efforts at American institutions of higher education. Together, these proposals will create massive roadblocks to Chinese espionage operations and will better protect our critical research from being stolen by the CCP.

Although CCP IP theft targets the American economy, the CCP’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) preys on the most vulnerable countries in the developing world. The BRI employs debt-trap diplomacy by offering loans with predatory terms and conditions to developing countries in order to finance infrastructure projects like ports, railways, energy pipelines, and highways. Many of these struggling countries, however, will never be able to repay their loans and for the CCP, that is exactly the point. Instead, these loans are a vehicle to gain political, economic, technological and military influence over the newly indebted countries.

Instead, it is time for the United States to provide developing countries an alternative to the BRI before China ensnares another nation’s economy. As such, I proposed the Countering China Through American Export Competitiveness Act. This bill strengthens the American Export-Import Bank’s newly created Program on China and Transformational Exports, which facilitates loans to international development projects as an alternative to China’s BRI. Currently, a minimum of 20% of the Export-Import Bank’s reserves must be used to compete with China; my legislation increases this set aside to 33%. A core mission of the Export-Import Bank must be thwarting BRI influence around the world by supporting U.S. exporters and our allies.

As the CCP’s malign intentions become clear, we have seen companies with ties to Chinese state industrial policies list on U.S. exchanges in order to benefit from America’s free market economy. In Sept., I introduced the Transparency in Chinese Government Investment Act (TCGIA) of 2020. This bill requires the Securities and Exchange Commission, in consultation with Treasury, to look at whether current U.S. disclosure laws effectively require PRC entities listed on U.S. exchanges to disclose material financial support from the CCP, participation in Chinese government industrial policies, and individuals of its leadership who are members of the CCP or Government of China. If the SEC concludes that these additional disclosures are necessary, then it will issue regulations for issuers to disclose this information.

Other efforts of the Task Force include addressing capital flows and leveling the playing field so that Chinese state-owned enterprises that receive subsidies from the Chinese government don’t get an additional advantage by having unimpeded access to U.S. capital markets. There is proposed legislation looking at 5G telecommunications, how to counter Huawei, building out domestic supercomputing and semiconductor manufacturing to secure communications and make sure that China does not dominate global communications networks in a way that would jeopardize our security. My colleagues have taken a wholesale look at the U.S. supply chain and put forth solutions to reduce our overdependence on China with technology, medicines, and protective medical equipment. We obviously learned the hard way that not only did China expose this virus to the rest of the world, it also then weaponized the supply chain against us. We are prepared to present an extensive list of policy recommendations to both Congress and the executive branch to prepare the United States for a multi-decade strategic competition with the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party.

During my time serving on the CTF, I have been encouraged about the ideas and determination on confronting the CCP. When focused on a goal, our nation can achieve anything. We are the country that engineered the world’s first flight, sent a man to the moon and prevailed in two World Wars. However, the United States must be united to take on this challenge. Democrats originally agreed to participate in the CTF, but backed out days before the launch, according to reporting by Josh Rogin of the Washington Post. America won the Cold War because both political parties were committed to defending our freedoms, civil liberties and capitalist economic principles. We now must unite, Republicans and Democrats, to reengage in a bipartisan commitment to counter this present Communist threat and secure our nation’s future for generation to come.

America’s status as “the land of opportunity” is unique in the history of the world. In this country, any individual from any background can start their own company or rise to the top of their chosen career field solely on their own merit, hard work and determination. Anything is possible here, and everyone can achieve their own “American dream.”

As conservatives, we understand that however each dream may be defined, it is based upon two essential ingredients: liberty and opportunity. Both are necessary for people to be able to pursue and achieve their goals — which empowers individuals and strengthens their families and their communities. The open door for upward mobility in our free enterprise system has been key to making and keeping America great.

Unfortunately, decades of often well-intentioned but ill-conceived government policies have gradually restricted liberty and narrowed the door of opportunity for too many. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic and its related economic fallout have created even more obstacles.

Before the pandemic began, President Trump and our previous Republican majority in Congress made great strides and enacted policy reforms that produced a record-breaking economy and unprecedented opportunities for all Americans. To return to that prosperity, we must reject the left’s dangerous calls for socialism and instead double-down on our strategy and advance even more conservative reforms.

To that end, the Republican Study Committee’s American Worker Task Force has published a new report entitled “Reclaiming the American Dream: Proposals to Empower the Workers of Today and Tomorrow.” Our report, which is the product of more than a year of concentrated study and collaboration, includes more than 100 policy ideas to accomplish three major objectives — refine existing education goals, refocus labor policy, and reimagine the welfare state. “Reclaiming the American Dream” recognizes that work gives purpose and meaning to one’s life, and it enables Americans to achieve their God given potential and turn their own American dream into a reality.

Our approach will remove more barriers to achievement by reducing government overreach and returning the power of self-determination to the people themselves. In education, for example, we present ideas to better equip students to succeed in a changing economy, recognizing that there are more pathways to success than just a four-year college degree. Instead of allowing millions of students to incur mountains of debt earning degrees that return to them little value, we would shift the strategy to ensure that America’s workforce is prepared more efficiently and effectively for in demand jobs, such as career and technical education apprenticeships and skills based education.

In labor policy, we would eliminate more of the senseless regulations, counterproductive tax policies, and labor laws that suppress the freedom and hinder individual achievement. The status quo is failing the American worker, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our approach would unleash the full potential of the American people by refocusing labor policy to provide workers more control over their own future.

We also believe that reimagining welfare is long overdue. Instead of measuring success by how many people are transitioned into self-sufficiency, our current system defines success by the growth of each government assistance program and the rising amounts of taxpayer dollars spent. This backwards approach has trapped too many Americans in a hopeless cycle of dependency, deprived millions of their true potential, and hamstrung the full power of our economy. The fallout from the pandemic now threatens to ensnare millions more. Our suggested reforms are based upon the belief that each individual has inestimable dignity, value, and potential — and that everyone deserves better than a lifetime of public dependency.

Times of great challenge reveal the character of a nation — and our character is the strongest on earth. The same strength and determination that built this country will bring us back to prosperity after the pandemic. The hardworking people of this country don’t ask for much — just a fair shot at their American dream. We owe them that, and we can ensure that opportunity and expand their freedom by enacting policies that will unleash their full potential. Our report explains how.

By Reps. Andy Barr and Frank Lucas: On May 13, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a notice to all U.S. organizations researching treatments, diagnostics, and vaccines for COVID-19. Chinese hackers, they warned, are targeting universities and health care institutions, attempting to compromise our efforts to combat COVID-19.

 

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) attempts to infiltrate our universities and steal our intellectual property are not new, unfortunately. But because of COVID-19, the urgency to address this theft has grown.

 

CCP theft of our COVID-19 research has significant consequences. Private patient data is stolen, public health data is corrupted, and our progress towards vaccines and treatments is halted, all while lives hang in the balance. And make no mistake – should China use our research to develop a vaccine first, we should not expect it to be shared with us. In fact, given the CCP’s unwillingness to share information, we may not even be able to trust the safety of such a vaccine if we’re prevented from seeing the underlying data. We simply cannot afford cyber-attacks on critical taxpayer-funded research.

 

Recognizing the growing threat from the Chinese Communist Party, Congressional Republicans created the China Task Force to analyze the extent of the problem and propose policy recommendations to keep America competitive. Identifying cybersecurity solutions has been a critical part of this work.  

 

We’re fortunate that the United States has a world-class institution that is already doing exceptional work to strengthen our cybersecurity. While the FBI protects us against foreign cyber operations, and CISA protects the nation’s critical infrastructure, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) sets cybersecurity standards for federal agencies and provides guidance and best practices for private industry.

 

In other words, NIST provides government and businesses the practical tools they need to develop and implement smart and strong cyber protections. This work is done through the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, which organizes cybersecurity activities into five broad categories: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover from threats. This framework allows entities to organize information, address weaknesses, and manage risk more easily.

 

In 2018 we passed a law directing NIST to extend their work and tailor this framework to small businesses, which have very different structures and needs than large companies or government agencies. Since NIST launched its framework for small businesses, we’ve already seen widespread adoption and successes. Why does this matter? Because we already know that NIST can identify the unique challenges facing different industries and modify its framework to provide customized support.  

 

Just as small businesses have different cybersecurity needs than government agencies or large companies, so too do universities and research centers. There has never been a more important time to provide these institutions the best available cyber protection tools as China targets them for their work on COVID-19.  

 

We’ve introduced legislation that directs NIST to provide a tailormade guidance based on the gold standards NIST framework for our universities and research centers. This guidance will be not only be specific to the unique needs of our research enterprise but will also provide precise tools that allow institutions to make appropriate plans based on the size of their organization and the sensitivity of the data being used.  

 

Helping to defend our universities and research centers from attacks by China is one of the most straightforward and commonsense actions we can take to support the effort to prevent and treat COVID-19 cases. Moreover, it helps us to protect other valuable and sensitive research being done across the United States.

 

The Chinese Communist Party has made it clear that they plan to become the global leader in industries of the future like artificial intelligence, quantum technology, and advanced manufacturing. Part of their strategy is acquiring our research, either through investment or theft. If they surpass us in these technologies, the consequences will be just as dangerous as if hey surpass us in the fight against COVID-19. It’s our responsibility to protect our research and our data, and fight Chinese hacking and theft.

Andy Barr represents the 6th District of Kentucky and Frank Lucas represents the 3rd District of Oklahoma and is ranking member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

Since the end of February, over 47,000 Americans have died as a result of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, the government has shut down wide swaths of the U.S. economy, more than 4 in 10 Americans say they’ve had their wages cut or lost their jobs, and Congress has borrowed nearly $3 trillion to respond in a four-phase-and-counting legislative rescue.  In short, American life has been turned upside down in every way because of this global pandemic.

As we continue to “flatten the curve” and gradually begin to re-open the economy, the American people deserve answers about how this contagion started, how it spread and how we can prevent something like this from ever happening again.

So last Friday, I introduced House Concurrent Resolution 97, legislation that would establish a bipartisan, joint select committee to investigate the origins of and China’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.  The committee would be comprised of 20 Members of Congress, 10 from the House and 10 from the Senate, led by two co-chairs, one appointed by the Speaker of the House and one appointed by the Senate Majority Leader.

The focus on China is well-founded.  Just over two years ago, diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a bioresearch laboratory in the Hubei Province.  The American officials were so alarmed by what they saw, they sent a series of sensitive but unclassified cables to the State Department, warning their superiors that Chinese scientists were performing highly risky research into “SARS-like coronaviruses in bats” using deficient safety procedures.  The officials noted that the laboratory “had a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory” and that this could result in human transmission and the potential risk of a “future emerging coronavirus outbreak.”  The U.S. intelligence community is now looking into this laboratory and Congress should as well.

Then there is the case of Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist in Wuhan who sounded the alarm in December in a private WeChat message with other doctors, alerting them of the need to wear protective gear to protect themselves from a new, highly contagious unknown pneumonia-like virus showing up in areas hospitals.  Dr. Li was detained by Chinese Communist Party authorities, questioned and forced to recant his statements.  Dr. Li later died from COVID-19. 

The Chinese government issued denials, in the face of all evidence, of human-to-human transmission of the disease—a falsehood repeated well into January by the World Health Organization (WHO).  The cover-up was aided by Beijing’s successful efforts to sideline civil society organizations, prevent faith-based, humanitarian and nongovernmental organizations from offering assistance, and disallowing foreign governments, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from entering the country to help respond to and contain the outbreak.  The Chinese government’s lies, propaganda and disinformation campaign reached its zenith when the Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed without evidence that U.S. military athletes caused the coronavirus, and then in March, ejected journalists from The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal from the country.

By silencing whistleblowers like Li, severely restricting freedom of information, shutting down early warnings and actively spreading lies and disinformation, the Chinese Communist Party enabled the virus to spread more quickly, infect more people, and evolve into the worst global pandemic in over a century.  According to one study, the virus could have been “reduced by 95 percent globally” if China had acted three weeks earlier.

China lied from the very beginning about this virus.  They covered up the origins and severity of the disease, they underreported their initial cases, and they manipulated the WHO to spread misinformation about human-to-human transmission.  But as if this wasn’t bad enough, once COVID-19 became a global pandemic, the Chinese Government embarked on an elaborate scheme to vacuum up and hoard personal protective equipment, like medical masks, gowns and gloves and weaponize the global supply chain of critical medical and pharmaceutical supplies against the international community, including the United States. 

The communists in Beijing put us all at risk, and the American people deserve answers about China’s deceptive and destructive behavior.  We cannot prepare for the future or protect the health and safety of the American people going forward unless we uncover the whole truth about the current pandemic.  It’s time for Congress to pass my resolution, establish this select oversight committee and hold China accountable.

Over the past few weeks, the resilience of Kentuckians and all Americans, especially the heroic doctors, nurses and health care workers who have put their health at risk serving others, has been on full display as we fight the coronavirus (COVID-19) together.  

We also have witnessed the courage of Kentucky’s unsung heroes, going to work every day as police officers, firefighters, paramedics, grocery store employees, truck drivers, postal workers, bank tellers, sanitation workers and cleaning crews despite the danger this virus poses to them. Their sacrifice helps our communities maintain a sense of normalcy during these trying times.

In response to this public health emergency and the resulting shutdown of our economy, Congress has passed, with my support and input, three pieces of legislation to mitigate the damage to our communities and daily lives.

Congress first passed an emergency appropriations bill to provide funding for agencies like the National Institutes for Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration to vastly expand diagnostic testing, antiviral treatments for those afflicted, and vaccine development.

Next, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to provide free testing and targeted paid sick, medical, and family leave for those afflicted by this disease. This legislation created a payroll tax credit to reimburse struggling small employers and ensure workers have jobs to return to after their leave, expanded unemployment insurance, and provided funding and flexibility for essential programs that help feed those in need in our communities.  

In late March Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This $2.2 trillion relief package supports individuals and families, distressed businesses of all sizes, and our doctors, healthcare workers and hospitals. It is the most aggressive fiscal rescue legislation in American history.

The CARES Act provides Kentucky small businesses, workers and families with desperately needed funds to pay their bills and face the economic challenges this virus has created, including the following: 

  • The recovery rebate program in which Americans with a valid Social Security Number will receive direct financial assistance of $1,200 for individuals with adjusted gross income at or below $75,000 and $2,400 for couples with adjusted gross income at or below $150,000. Families with children will receive an additional $500 per child. Even Social Security beneficiaries, seniors, and veterans who are not typically required to file a tax return will automatically receive this rebate the same way they receive their monthly benefit checks.
  • The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to help those not traditionally eligible for Unemployment Insurance, such as self-employed and independent contractors as well as those who are unable to work or telework as a result of the Coronavirus. The CARES Act also provides an additional $600 per week to each unemployed worker for four months beginning April 1.
  • The Paycheck Protection and Loan Forgiveness Program which provides federally guaranteed, forgivable loans to small businesses, certain nonprofits, sole proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed workers. Businesses with 500 employees or fewer, and certain franchisees, are eligible for loans of 2.5 times monthly payroll, up to $10 million. More than $110 billion in small business loans were issued in the first four days of the program.

Additionally, the CARES Act authorizes direct funding to ensure our health systems and healthcare workers have the resources they need by providing:

  • $16 billion to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile;
  • $45 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to procure personal protection equipment, ventilators, and other medical supplies for response efforts;
  • $4.3 billion in additional appropriations to the CDC; and
  • $100 billion in grants to hospitals and healthcare providers on the frontlines of the response.

Since the beginning of this pandemic, I have worked diligently with federal agencies as well as federal, state and local officials to secure critical resources for Kentucky. Here is a breakdown of recent key developments:

  • I joined my colleagues in the Kentucky congressional delegation in a bipartisan effort to quickly secure the now-approved Presidential Disaster Designation for the commonwealth. Kentucky will now have access to additional federal funds and resources through the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA).
  • I have coordinated and advocated with FEMA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response to ensure Kentucky receives the medical supplies our hospitals and healthcare workers desperately need that are available from the Strategic National Stockpile. To date, Kentucky has received three shipments from the SNS.
  • I led a bipartisan effort with U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth to call on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to cut red tape for distilleries so they can produce hand sanitizer. Our letter to the FDA has 87 members of Congress as co-signers. I will continue to advocate for the necessary changes to bureaucratic regulations to empower Kentucky distilleries to mass produce this product during this pandemic.
  • I have been in regular and constant contact with our Kentucky hospital administrators, physicians’ groups, nursing homes, community bankers, small businesses and small business groups to listen to and help coordinate the federal relief response to meet their needs.
  • For Kentucky community businesses, my office has established a Small Business Response team to address the concerns of our main street businesses and direct them to the resources provided in both the CARES Act and the other legislation passed by Congress to combat COVID-19.  

Throughout this difficult time, my district office stands ready to help our constituents in any way we can. Although we have temporarily ceased in-person constituent meetings, we continue to provide assistance via phone and email. If you need assistance with a federal agency, or you have questions on any of the information above, call 859-219-1366.

Make no mistake, we will defeat this virus and will be stronger and more resilient on the back end. Now, we look to the future, when rapid testing, a stronger domestic medical supply chain, a sentinel surveillance system and effective therapies will allow us to reopen the economy and we will begin in earnest the great American comeback. 

By Congressman Andy Barr

In March, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated, “Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country.” I voted no on both articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump because the case is neither compelling nor overwhelming, and the only thing bipartisan about this impeachment is the bipartisan opposition to it.

Democrat law professor Jonathan Turley, who openly admits he opposed the election of President Trump, said this impeachment is based on the “thinnest” record ever to go forward in American history. That’s because in all three previous cases of impeachment—those involving Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Clinton—there was at least an allegation of a crime or a violation of a statute. In this case, none of the Democrats’ witnesses testified to having any direct evidence of bribery, extortion, or any high crime or misdemeanor. The articles themselves don’t even allege the commission of an actual crime.

And yet, less than one year before the next election, and after three years of careening from one baseless impeachment theory to another, Democrats in Congress remain obsessed with undoing the will of the American people.

Most disturbing of all is that House Democrats impeached the President for following laws that they themselves voted for. No less than five times in the last six years, Congress has passed legislation imposing on the Executive Branch an affirmative duty to seek and obtain assurances from the government of Ukraine that it is bolstering the institutions of democracy and countering corruption. Most House Democrats, including the man leading the impeachment effort against President Trump, Adam Schiff, voted for all five measures. Democrats supported these bills for good reason. Ernst & Young reports that Ukraine – a vulnerable state in frozen conflict with Russia – is among the three most corrupt nations in the world.

Keep in mind that the central argument offered by Democrats in support of impeachment is that by withholding security assistance to an ally, President Trump compromised U.S. national security in order to advance his own personal political interest. Putting aside the fact that Zelensky publicly and repeatedly said he felt no pressure to investigate the Bidens, that Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified President Trump said he wanted “nothing” other than “Zelensky to do the right thing,” and that the security assistance ultimately flowed to the Ukrainian government without any specific investigation into the Bidens, the Democrats’ false narrative of an “abuse of power” ignores both the law and the actual factual record.

As several of the Democrats’ witnesses testified, the Trump Administration’s policies have shown greater commitment and support to Ukraine than those of the previous administration. Ambassador Kurt Volker explained that President Trump’s policy of providing lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine has been “extremely helpful” in deterring Russian aggression. Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs Fiona Hill testified that President Trump’s decision to support Ukraine with Javelin anti-tank missiles was a “stronger” policy than the Obama Administration’s policy of withholding such weapons. Ambassador William Taylor characterized President Trump’s policy as a “substantial improvement.” And even Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, whose testimony has been characterized as hostile to the President, agreed that “our policy actually got stronger over the last three years.”

Congress rightly intended the President to urge foreign leaders to investigate corruption within their countries, especially when that corruption might implicate the reliability of a country as an ally deserving of U.S. taxpayer assistance. In the case of Ukraine, the argument for requiring anti-corruption efforts is particularly strong, where hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars were at stake in a nation with a troubling history of corruption and a newly elected and untested government.

And, the new government in Ukraine actually implemented several sweeping and historic anti-corruption reform measures. Following the seating of Ukraine’s new parliament, the Rada, on August 29, the Zelensky government appointed a new prosecutor general and opened Ukraine’s Supreme Anti-Corruption Court. On September 3, the Rada passed a bill that removed parliamentary immunity. The Rada then approved a bill streamlining corruption prosecutions and increased focus on high-level corruption cases. Far from compromising our national security, President Trump’s actions advanced our interests by encouraging Ukraine to undertake reforms that strengthened our ally to better counter Russian aggression.

Through this flawed, sham process, Democrats have voted to fulfill their hyper-partisan, three-year plan to impeach President Trump.Even before Inauguration Day, Democrats in Congress embraced the “Resistance” and touted their plan to reverse the results of the 2016 election. House Democrats did not impeach the President because of the facts or any crime. They impeached the President because they don’t like him.

By Congressman Andy Barr

The recent observance of Veterans Day reminds us all that veterans make up the very heart and soul of every community throughout the Commonwealth. Their sacrifice to our country in defense of our freedoms is a debt that we will never be able to repay. As a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the grandson of two WWII Veterans, and the son of a Vietnam-era veteran, I have the privilege of diligently working with veterans across the country to address the issues that matter most to them. Thankfully, we have made great strides in the modernization of policies that will ensure our veterans are taken care of after returning from service. 

I am proud to work directly with veterans in Central and Eastern Kentucky through the Sixth District Veterans Coalition, which meets quarterly with me to discuss their input regarding legislation impacting veterans and military matters. Meeting with this group gives me the opportunity to hear first-hand what concerns our veterans have and discuss legislative proposals to address their needs. After hearing the concerns of the veterans in the Sixth District, I come back to Washington and collaborate with my colleagues in the House of Representatives and on Committee to address the issues at hand.

Working with other members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I was an original cosponsor of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (H.R. 299). This legislation restores the presumption of service connection for Blue Water Navy Veterans exposed to Agent Orange during their service, ensuring they receive proper treatment for the health conditions they acquired in service to our nation. This bill was signed into law by President Trump on June 25, 2019, giving these Navy Veterans the healthcare they deserve.

Last Congress, the MISSION Act was signed into law and on June 6 of this year its Community Care Program went live.  This important program gives veterans greater access to high quality, timely health care close to them, allowing them to use community providers if VA services are difficult to access or too far away. In my role on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have been able to ask VA Secretary Wilkie about the rollout to ensure the VA is properly funded and make sure there is no gap in veterans receiving care.  I was proud to vote for the MISSION Act to provide veterans with access to quality care that fits their personal needs.

Earlier this year I introduced legislation (H.R. 2196) to improve the Forever GI Bill to help provide additional GI Bill eligibility to student veterans who are pursuing an undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degree. The improvements of my bill passed the House and Senate unanimously and were signed into law by President Trump on July 31st. We have already seen student veterans access this additional benefit and take advantage of this program at universities in the Sixth District. 

Finally, I am a cosponsor of the IMPROVE Act to provide grants to community organizations to help combat veteran suicide. Of the approximately 20 servicemembers and veterans who die by suicide every day, only six sought care from the VA in the two years preceding their death. We must move the needle on this heart-wrenching statistic and it is time we support community organizations who are able to reach veterans who do not interact with the VA. And as such, I have been a chief advocate for innovative therapies for veterans like Equine Assisted Therapy that allows veterans with mental, social, or physical impairments to work with horses on their road to recovery. In a recent Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, I discussed with VA Secretary Wilkie the role Equine Assisted Therapy can play in suicide prevention efforts and secured his support of the program.

Since the Commonwealth’s inception, Kentuckians have continued to volunteer in engagement after engagement, war after war, putting on the uniform to go to faraway lands to defend our nation and our Commonwealth. They are following in the bootsteps of frontiersmen, militiamen, and soldiers who have bravely fought and sacrificed over the years so that you and I may enjoy the freedoms unique to the United States of America. We cannot relegate remembering our veterans to one day out of the year, but must stand up daily for their needs and build upon the sacrifices they have already made.

 

Thanks to tax cuts, deregulation, policies promoting energy independence and bipartisan reforms easing restrictions on community financial institutions, the American economy continues to grow. Unemployment is at a fifty-year low, real wages are up and the American consumer is strong. But the Federal Reserve is poised to lower interest rates again in response to several headwinds. These include a slowing global economy, partisan politics in Washington and lower business investment due to trade uncertainty.

Fortunately, President Trump has kept his promise to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in favor of a more free, fair and reciprocal trade deal with Canada and Mexico. This rebalanced trade agreement, known as the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) is good for American workers, farmers, consumers and employers.

To be sure, we need a more fair-trading relationship with China. But a rebalanced trade deal for North America would be even more impactful. Trade with Canada and Mexico represents twice the volume and five times the exports as trade with China for the United States. Mexico surpassed Canada to become the United States’ largest trading partner earlier this year and the two countries account for over one-third of total U.S. exports and imports annually. Trade with Canada and Mexico supports 12 million American jobs in every state in the Union and every state but one counts Canada or Mexico as one of their top three export markets.

USMCA recommits our North American trading partners to reciprocal free trade with the United States, addresses longstanding trade imbalances by granting American businesses greater freedom to sell their goods and services in Canada and Mexico, and incorporates modern and strengthened rules of trade and investment for North America. The agreement not only keeps most tariffs between the three countries at zero, it also does more than any prior agreement to eliminate non-tariff barriers and unfair subsidies.

According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, implementing USMCA would create 176,000 additional American jobs and further grow the United States economy by over $68 billion. This includes an estimated $34 billion in new automotive manufacturing investments and 76,000 new automotive industry jobs in the United States in the next five years.

These statistics demonstrate why Kentucky’s bourbon distillers and agriculture community are positive about the USMCA.

The agreement makes structural changes that would better protect American intellectual property. American innovators would receive ten years of protection for agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals and biologics.At the same time, USMCA would shorten America’s inventors’ wait for patents, preserving valuable time and dollars in getting new, innovative products to market and preventing foreign competitors from getting an unfair advantage.

The agreement would streamline customs procedures and inefficiencies at the borders, saving time and money for American businesses and consumers in all three countries.

A new digital chapter would better enable data to be transferred cross border, facilitating electronic transactions and financial services. USMCA would expand markets in Canada for American dairy, poultry, eggs and alcohol. And it contains zero tariffs on automotive imports with increased rules of origin requirements which will result in 75% North American content for new automobiles and light trucks.

Finally, passage of USMCA would give U.S. trade negotiators momentum and leverage as they continue to work on better deals with the European Union and China.

Every day of delay by Congress hurts American jobs and selling made-in-America products to customers abroad. Mexico has already approved the agreement; Canada is waiting on the United States and there is bipartisan support in Congress to approve USMCA under existing trade promotion authority.

The only question remaining is whether Speaker Pelosi is willing to put aside her impeachment obsession and stand up to the far left of the Democrat Party in Congress, who appear to be more concerned about denying this President a “victory” than actually doing the work of the American people. Now is the time to pass the USMCA, and I will continue to call on the Democrat Majority in the House to work with Republicans to give us a vote and continue this economic expansion for American workers, businesses and families.