Cong. Auchincloss Delivers Report to Town Council
A highlight of the very long Franklin Town Council meeting was an early appearance by Democrat Congressman Jake Auchincloss. Out of respect for his packed schedule, Chair Tom Mercer moved him near to the top of the agenda and noted, “as far as I know, and I have been involved in town government for almost four decades, Franklin has never had their congressman attend a meeting to discuss policy at the federal level.”
With that, Auchincloss launched into introductory remarks and an overview of his legislative activities. What follows is a close transcription of his comments.
“Chairman Mercer town councilors, State Representative Roy, thank you for having me. I would like to go over federal policy that we are working on in the 117th Congress, that I think that we can get passed in the next six months before the midterms.
I think it'd be helpful for our constituents to hear what we're working on in Congress. And not just the whole panoply of everything that every wish list item from every member, but truly five things that I think we can accomplish in the remainder of 2022. And I'll be brief. And then, of course, welcome questions from our constituents on them.
I'm going to start at the widest scope and then zoom in to the to the local if that's all right with you and the widest level is in international affairs. We are still grappling daily with the greatest assault on the post war international rules-based order that we've seen in my lifetime, certainly, which is the war in Ukraine. Starting on February 24, as Russian tanks rolled across the border, we have seen an assault on Ukrainian sovereignty, democracy, prosperity, and their right to self-determination. Despite the best efforts of US intelligence and US diplomacy Europe, was largely caught unsuspecting by that invasion. But we have rallied in unity, NATO and allies ...in support of Ukraine, and will continue to provide substantially a blank check for any arms training and materiel that the Ukrainian forces need to defend their homeland against this unprovoked invasion.
On April 19, this war really pivoted from a more mobile war of maneuver centered around the Capitol and Kyiv towards a war of attrition in the east with the Russian focus clearly now on claiming control over the Donbass and southern Ukraine, trying to land lock and dismember the country, and trying to gain control over the population that has the largest percentage of Russian speakers and that has some of the more economically prosperous parts of the country.
And Congress remains in bipartisan, strong consensus that that's an unacceptable outcome. We are seeing Republicans and Democrats from far apart come together, and in strong support of the President's sending of arms, ammunition, defensive and offensive equipment, humanitarian aid and the imposition of economic sanctions against Russia, to try to give the Ukrainian forces the fairest fight they can possibly get. And it certainly remains my commitment, and I know the commitment of many in Congress that we are seeking complete Russian defeat in their attempts to dismember the sovereignty of Ukraine.
We are also of course dealing with the ongoing international challenge, trans national challenge in need of COVID. Two years in, we have largely gotten back to normal, and that is to be celebrated. And yet, we know that we need to maintain vigilance in preparing and preventing future surges and variants of COVID. There is a $15 billion package pending in Congress that would really allocate funds across three different purposes. One would be Research and Development at the National Institutes of Health to study new variants to prepare a universal Coronavirus vaccine, and to work with the private sector to make sure that we can produce a new vaccine if necessary, in record time. And $9 billion would go towards stockpiling critical therapeutics and other personal protective equipment and $5 billion would go towards international vaccination efforts, especially for countries that did not hit 70% vaccination threshold that is the World Health Organization target; $15 billion to prevent and prepare for a future surge is money well spent; an ounce of prevention worth and the pain, we've spent trillions dealing with the ramifications of COVID. And I strongly believe and I'm working towards $15 billion to put us in the best possible position to prevent any more of the strife and strain that we all experienced over the last two years.
Part of what we all went through between the pandemic and the war has been a real up ending of supply chains and a recognition domestically that our supply chains or manufacturing are not as resilient as they should be. And this is the third item that I believe Congress can pass in the coming six months, which is the America Competes Act. This is a largely bipartisan effort, many sections of which being bipartisan. The overall package we'll see, that makes critical investments in manufacturing and workforce development in research and development, basic science which of course, Massachusetts excels; in supply chain resilience, and job training, all of which will make our country more resilient and sustainable, but to will have the effect over the medium term of lowering costs, and making us more productive.
Finally, excuse me, not finally, but fourth, many of our constituents will have heard the ongoing saga in 2021 to Build Back Better and the various domestic priorities that were being bandied about and debated and which stalled in the Senate. A significantly slimmed down version of that package I think is possible to pass and I would support passing. The citizen who spoke first here tonight [Colin Cass] talked about the urgency of the moment for climate change. And this package, while not an all-encompassing fix, would be the largest investment in clean energy and climate resilience in history by any entity, government or private sector $550 billion for clean energy tax credits, paid for through slightly higher taxes on corporations and high-income individuals and through Medicare negotiation of drug prices.
This is a bill that we have the votes for. We've got the votes in the Senate to pass this bill. We've already passed it in the house, which I voted in favor of. And it's time to bring it to the floor and ensure that the United States can meet the commitments we made in Paris, and thereby has the moral standing to twist some arms in our international engagements to get other countries to meet their Paris Accord commitments. We absolutely need to pass this before the midterms. We also need to pass before the midterms, the electoral Count Act, which would formalize that call it Congress's role in tabulating electoral results from the state as ministerial only that there is no role for Congress or the Vice President in in form in recognizing alternative slates of electors --[we] saw this of course on January 6 2021. That was my second day in office. And the decision for me issues surrounding the Congress's role in Formula One formalizing electoral account act led in some measure to be attempted insurrection that we saw at the Capitol, and we should not be reliant on any one individual's judgment as we were with Vice President Pence, it should be formalized into law.
We've got bipartisan consensus on electoral contract reform, and that as with the others, we need to pass before the midterms. And then finally, I'll close with the most directly local, which of course, is infrastructure. We've passed in March of 2021, the American rescue plan, which did a number of things that got shots in arms, helped the schools reopen, it provided relief to the hardest hit Americans through $1,400 relief checks. But it also provided roughly $350 billion to state and local governments nationally, to be used for a wide variety of purposes, but infrastructure being one of them. Massachusetts received something like $8 billion in this package, $5 billion for the state and $3 billion for municipalities. And we then, in the fall of 2021, passed the bipartisan infrastructure law, which provided a further trillion dollars for water transit, roads, and bridges and electrical grid improvements throughout the country, Massachusetts receiving somewhere on the order of $8 to $9 billion from that package.
All this to say is that there are historic sums of money available for the long-standing liabilities. But I know that Franklin and other towns are confronting whether it's subsurface infrastructure, fixing roads and bridges, improving your transit stops, water treatment facilities, and I am committed to working with you to ensure that we've got local state federal alignment, to add up to 100% on these projects that I've met already, one on one with Franklin, town officials to understand your priorities. I know you're spending a big chunk of your ARPA funds on water, projects, which I think having seen 33 other towns use their funds, I think is a tremendously wise investment. And I commend you for that. I think that is really gonna go a long way.
The state's Clean Water Drinking revolving fund, the modern revolving fund, excuse me, is going to be significantly plussed up by this bipartisan infrastructure law. So, any projects that you can put on that docket have a higher chance of success. And I know with State Representative Roy, you've got one of the most able legislators in the statehouse to help you be the most competitive you possibly can be for the state programs that can match local funding. And I'm certainly here to help with your water infrastructure needs for which there are federal grants, as well. And transportation, same and housing, which I know is a significant issue, especially senior housing, and Franklin continued happy to continue to work with you on all these issues. And Chairman, I'm happy to take questions now.
[Following his remarks, councilors delivered a long list of “asks” and suggestions, notably, from Councilor Glenn Jones, an inquiry about help for the Franklin Ridge Housing project.]