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.

Kentuckians have a deep interest in the production, cultivation and sale of industrial hemp and hemp derived products. Maybe our enthusiasm for this crop is rooted in the Commonwealth’s history. The Great Compromiser, Henry Clay, recognized the potential of hemp and grew it to make rope and bagging. Or, perhaps it’s because we recognize the enormous opportunities the industry provides for entrepreneurship and job creation. Either way, it’s clear, the hemp industry in the Commonwealth is booming.
Imagine going to turn on the lights in your home to find there is no power or rushing a loved one to the emergency room not knowing whether the life-saving medical equipment will work. If Congress adopts impractical policies in response to climate change, this could be our reality.
I am honored to represent the Horse Capital of the World, and throughout my time in Congress I have worked diligently to enact polices that will promote economic growth and investment in this key Kentucky industry. I continue to believe that the future prosperity of the sport depends in part on implementation of national uniform medication standards and testing procedures.
I recently returned to the nation of Israel—the United States’ most important strategic ally—to get an update from U.S. and Israeli officials on the ever evolving security environment in the Middle East. It was my first visit to the region since 2015 when the Obama Administration was negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, and since the Trump Administration withdrew from that agreement and announced the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.