As we enter the last month of the year, it should be as clear to everyone in Washington as it is to those in Texas that there is a lot of work left to do in 2020.
Our first priority needs to be the pandemic. Coronavirus relief is and needs to be at the top of the Senate’s to-do list. The virus has claimed the lives of more than 20,000 Texans, and millions continue to grapple with the economic fallout. We’re past due for additional relief to expand testing, protect students and teachers, support workers and small businesses, and move us even closer to the distribution of safe and effective vaccines. In short, it’s imperative that Congress deliver additional COVID-19 relief to the American people.
That work is critical, but we can’t stop there. Our country still faces a host of challenges that existed long before the pandemic arrived and are sure to outlive this virus.
The legislative process is a marathon, not a sprint, and countless bills to address some of these looming challenges are in their final stretch. If we work hard and work with the right priorities, we can get them across the finish line.
Prior to COVID-19, one of the biggest health concerns for Texans was rising costs at the pharmacy. Since 2014, prescription drug prices have surged by 33% — more than any other medical goods or services. In some cases, these high costs can be attributed to new, innovative drugs hitting the market for the first time. But too often, they’re the result of drug manufacturers gaming the patent system by using hundreds of overlapping patents to stave off competition.
As the profits of these companies increase, it’s becoming more and more difficult for patients to afford the drugs they need to survive. For folks who have lost their jobs or health coverage during the pandemic, it can be impossible to afford.
Last year, I introduced a bipartisan bill to stop this anti-competitive behavior. This legislation streamlines the process for resolving patent disputes so newer, competing products can come to market sooner. This bill received unanimous support from the Senate Judiciary Committee last summer, and would be a win for every American who has felt the pain of sticker shock at the pharmacy. It’s time to pass this legislation and get it to the president’s desk to stop drug companies from taking advantage of Texans.
From health care to the economy, the pandemic has impacted virtually every part of our lives. And sadly, it’s having a devastating effect on instances of child sexual abuse. With many children isolating at home — out of sight from their teachers and other adults they would otherwise see on a routine basis — abuse is becoming more difficult to identify and report.
To interrupt this cycle of abuse, the Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation I introduced called the Jenna Quinn Law, which carries the name of an inspiring Texan who is a survivor of child sexual abuse. Jenna was the driving force behind a 2009 Texas law requiring training for teachers, caregivers and other adults who work with children on how to prevent, recognize, and report child sexual abuse. The Jenna Quinn Law would finally back these training sessions with federal funding to help stop and prevent child sexual abuse nationwide. There’s no reason for the House to ignore this legislation at such a critical time.
This summer, the Senate passed legislation I introduced with Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein to stop the online sale of e-cigarettes to children. We recently passed another bipartisan bill to ensure individuals transitioning from the criminal justice system have access to mental health resources. And just last week, the Senate passed legislation I introduced with Sen. Kamala Harris to help state and local governments identify and process unidentified remains found along the U.S.-Mexico border and bring closure to the families of the deceased.
Make no mistake: Congress needs to provide additional support for our ongoing battle against COVID-19, but we can’t afford to miss this opportunity to make headway on other important priorities. We’ve got to address the problems that existed long before the pandemic and that will remain once it’s gone.
This has been a difficult and tumultuous year for our country, with division and disagreement often taking center stage. But we’ve made serious progress in the legislative marathon — much of it through bipartisan teamwork — and we’ve got to push top priorities across the finish line.