Congressman Vern Buchanan will head back to Washington D.C. next week armed with a laundry list of things he is looking to get done.
As Congress returns from its summer break, the Sarasota Republican outlined several issues he wants to address during the upcoming four-week session: national security, emergency funding for Zika, and mental health reform.
“Congress returns to Washington next week with a short, but important, list of priorities that need to be accomplished,” Buchanan said Friday. “First and most important for Florida is emergency funding to confront the deadly Zika virus. The nation’s top disease fighters have warned they are about to run out of money.”
Buchanan added it was “imperative” Congress approves funding for these issues as a matter of “public safety.”
Buchanan discussed the details of his wish list, which include:
— Protecting Americans from terror attacks.
“There’s too much risk associated with allowing refugees from ISIS hot spots like Iraq and Syria into the United States,” Buchanan said. “Particularly given FBI Director James Comey’s warning of ‘a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before.’”
German intelligence officials recently warned that ISIS fighters entered the country disguised as refugees, a situation that makes a “Paris-style attack ‘likely.’”
With that in mind, Buchanan said the U.S. needs to “close the door” to Syrian refugees, as well as take further action to defeat ISIS on the “digital battlefield.”
“I will continue to push for my legislation requiring the government to screen the social media accounts of foreigners seeking entry into the United States. ISIS is inspiring and radicalizing new terrorists over the internet every day.”
— Funding the fight against the Zika virus.
“Since February, when Zika first surfaced in Florida, I supported efforts to control this deadly disease,” Buchanan said. “Hundreds of people in Florida are infected. It is a national disgrace that federal help has not yet arrived. I have asked congressional leaders to hold an immediate vote on a funding package to control the spread of the virus and develop a vaccine.”
— Passing mental health reform.
Buchanan co-sponsored the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” which has already passed the House and is on its way to the Senate.
“Many mental health advocates support the bill,” Buchanan said, “including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, NAMI Sarasota, NAMI Florida, and Bradenton’s Centerstone Behavioral Hospital and Outpatient Practice.”
— Helping veterans.
Buchanan called for passage of the “VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act,” which gives the secretary of Veterans Affairs authority to fire or demote VA employees for incompetence or misconduct.
Buchanan believes the act will reform the “antiquated disability appeals process to help finally eliminate the unacceptable claims backlog.”
He also called on the VA to “immediately stop buying opulent artwork” and instead focus providing health care to veterans.
— Supporting Florida’s farmers.
Florida farmers have suffered greatly from citrus greening, a deadly bacterial disease, which has impacted the livelihood of nearly 76,000 Floridians. Researchers predict another 26 percent decline in the state’s orange crop for this upcoming season, making citrus greening the worst crisis in over 50 years.
Buchanan said the citrus greening threat is so severe that every member of Florida’s congressional delegation has signed on to the “Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act,” a bill he sponsored which will lower costs for growers that need to replant trees affected by citrus greening.
‘The disease is worsening,” he said, “so this bill needs to be approved.”
— Boosting retirement savings.
Nearly one in three Florida seniors — more than 750,000 people — rely on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income.
“It is heartbreaking to see individuals living on an average benefit of less than $16,000 per year,” Buchanan said.
With the introduction of the “Retirement Security Act,” he is seeking to make it easier for small employers to offer affordable retirement plans.
“All of these issues deserve bipartisan support,” Buchanan said. “The stakes are too high to continue business as usual in Washington.”