Underwood blames Senate for her stalled legislative efforts

  • U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, a Naperville Democrat, meets with the Daily Herald editorial board Wednesday in Arlington Heights.

      U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, a Naperville Democrat, meets with the Daily Herald editorial board Wednesday in Arlington Heights. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Posted9/6/2019 5:20 AM

As freshman congresswoman Lauren Underwood ramps up her re-election campaign in Illinois' 14th District, she says a Washington reality is frustrating to her and her supporters.

Constituents elected her to write and pass legislation that will improve their lives, particularly with regards to health care. That hasn't happened. But, the Naperville Democrat said, that's not hard to explain because all House Democrats face the same reality in this legislative cycle.


Underwood said the GOP-controlled Senate is not considering any bills that don't have unanimous support in the Senate.

"All 100 senators have to agree with the legislation as printed on paper," Underwood said during a meeting with the Daily Herald editorial board this week. "No line edits. No amendments. That's a real challenge. That takes gridlock to a different level. The amount of things that could pass unanimously through the Senate are very small."

That includes bills that pass the House with bipartisan support. The gridlock played out in the first piece of legislation Underwood successfully moved through the House. The Veterans Care Quality Act is designed to address veteran suicide. Underwood said many veterans who commit suicide are not connected to VA health services. In addition to forming those connections, Underwood's legislation would hold all non-VA health car providers to the same standards for mental health services veterans receive through the VA.

The legislation passed without any "no" votes in the House.

"Then it lands in the Senate, and it dies," Underwood said. "How is that acceptable? Something is fundamentally broken. I look at (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell. He's one man. It's unacceptable that he's standing in the way of progress in that way.

"If you don't like the bill ... they have their whole process. They can do markups. They can make amendments. And they are choosing not to. They are playing partisan politics with things that are nonpartisan."

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Underwood has had other similar half-successes when it comes to the type of health care legislation she promised to champion during her campaign.

Her Healthcare Affordability Act, which passed the House, would cap the cost of health care premiums to no more than 8.5% of a family's adjusted gross income while still providing access to silver-level health insurance plans. Some families in the 14th District pay as much as 25% of their adjusted gross income to premium costs now.

She ushered through the House other bills addressing prescription drug prices, protecting preexisting health condition coverage and bans on so-called junk insurance plans. But they all have stalled.

Underwood said constituents she speaks to understand that's not her fault.

"They understand because nothing is passing through," she said. "It's not, 'Lauren Underwood's prescription drug bill is so extreme.' Nothing is moving. And that's not serving anyone. I think our community recognizes the effort and the way we have taken a comprehensive approach to this health care issue."

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