116th Congress: Three new Democrats, one new Republican bring a range of inspirations to LHHS House Appropriations Subcommittee

By on .

The 116th Congress began on January 3rd, 2019, bringing new members to House and Senate committees addressing global health policies and funding. Science Speaks introduces you to those new members in this series.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies oversees spending at HHS agencies that include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. With new members that include the author of one of the first comprehensive legislative acts responding to AIDS in America, a former journalist whose reporting on abused children led to policy changes, a second generation lawmaker who fights for the rights of prisoners, and a real estate investor who credits a successful effort to prevent a clinic providing abortions from opening in his neighborhood with inspiring his start in politics, they bring long-held policy perspectives to the subcommittee.

Rep. Lois Frankel

Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) – Covered here earlier in this series for her assignment to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, Rep. Frankel comes to this subcommittee with a strong record in domestic HIV responses as the administration launches a plan to eliminate new infections nationwide by 2030. As the scope of Florida’s AIDS epidemic and discrimination against people with HIV became clear in the late 1980s, then State Representative Frankel led the legislative committee that produced one of the nation’s first legislative responses to the outbreak. As a state senator she later co-authored updates to the act.

Rep. Frankel responded to passage of the Republican tax bill in Dec. 2017 with a statement that “Americans deserve a better deal, one that invests in education, biomedical research, clean energy and healthcare.” Also that month, as reports emerged that CDC staff had been discouraged from using words and terms that included “evidence-based,” “fetus” and “transgender,” Rep. Frankel was among 88 members of Congress signing onto this letter to then acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan, and then-CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald objecting to the perceived censorship.

Rep. Cheri Bustos

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) – Now in her fourth term in Congress, Rep. Cheri Bustos also is among the 88 legislators signing the letter to HHS and CDC leaders regarding reports of “banned” words. In her announcement of her appointment to the subcommittee Rep. Bustos welcomed opportunities to ensure that “our hospitals in small towns have the funding to keep their doors open and that communities in Illinois can fight back against the opioid epidemic.”

The granddaughter of an Illinois State Representative, Rep. Bustos told The Hill that she was inspired early to address inequities and that she found her first opportunities to do so as a journalist, including by investigating failures between state agencies to report instances of child abuse.

As the scope of the Ebola outbreak became clear in 2014 Rep. Bustos wrote to then CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden asking about responses that included vaccine development, and about the resources that would be needed. As Republican leadership balked at providing funding for Zika responses that included support for Planned Parenthood’s efforts in September 2016, Rep. Bustos tweeted: “Kids’ lives are at stake and is playing political games with funding. Time to !” During the recent shutdown of federal agencies and programs, Rep. Bustos released an outline of impacts on medical research at the National Institutes of Health and on CDC activities.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) – Now in her second Congressional term, Rep. Watson Coleman is the daughter of a longtime New Jersey State legislator and herself served eight terms in New Jersey’s General Assembly. A consistent and persistent proponent of prison reform and prisoners rights in New Jersey and now in Congress, she welcomed her appointment to the Appropriations Committee noting that the decisions made there “are a direct representation of our national values.”

In a lead-in to National HIV Testing Day in June 2018, Rep. Watson Coleman introduced a resolution supporting additional research and public education on the benefits of PrEP — pre-exposure prophylaxis to protect against HIV infection, and calling on HHS to review prevention programs to ensure they are reaching “communities of color, gay and bisexual men, and transgender people.”

On the death of transgender rights activist Barbara Siperstein, Rep. Watson Coleman praised her as “a tremendous leader who touched countless lives.”

Rep. Tom Coleman

Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) – In Congress since winning his seat in a special election in June 2010, Rep. Graves’ Congressional website recounts that “It wasn’t until his thirties that Tom thought about running for public office,” when he joined efforts led by his wife that prevented the opening of a clinic providing abortions. It was then, his biography continues, that “Tom discovered the power to do good through public action . . .”

Seven years in the Georgia General Assembly preceded his first term in Congress, where he has continued to make opposition to abortion access a cornerstone of his legislative activity, saying his “mission to protect innocent life — born and unborn — has remained at the core of my public service.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.