Homeland Security Committee update needs discernment as Underwood used DHS expert to testify on the importance of the EHR system
As the 2020 elections loom larger and with the Republican candidates debating each other this coming Wednesday at MCC at 6:45PM until 9PM in advance of the primary election less than two months away, who will be the best to compete with Congresswoman Lauren Underwood in the November election for Congress representing the 14th district is an important decision for primary voters.
Something informed Republican primary voters must assess of the Republican candidates is who can best discern the Underwood record, and discern fact from fiction.
Voters will best gauge how discerning a Republican candidate is when the candidates begin publishing their policy/position statements/papers. The expectation is the position papers is a “deep dive” into an issue facing Congress and challenging the Underwood record with what the voters in the 14th district need, and the approach to achieve the policy goal(s) and objectives.
This article is an example of the kind of discernment the Republican candidates must exhibit in order to qualify to be on the same virtual stage with Underwood from March 18 through November 3, and convince voters the district would be better represented by the Republican nominee instead of the Democratic incumbent.
The topic for discernment is one of Underwood’s legislative accomplishments signed into law last month. The funding for the implementation of an electronic health records (EHR) system for Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The EHR was initially proposed by Congresswoman Lauren Underwood as part of her legislation H.R. 3525, “U.S. Border Patrol Medical Screening Standards Act” which was promulgated by observations and input Underwood received during her first of three visits to the southern border in April of last year.
As has been documented multiple times on McHenry County Blog, most recently on December 26, H.R. 3525 passed the House on September 26 on a near straight party line vote of 230-184, with two Republicans and the independent joining the Democrats approving the Underwood legislation.
Here is the section of H.R. 3525 addressing the EHR:
SEC. 3. ELECTRONIC HEALTH RECORDS IMPLEMENTATION.
(a) In General.—Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Chief Information Officer of the Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with the Chief Medical Officer of the Department, shall establish within the Department an electronic health record system that can be accessed by all departmental components operating along the borders of the United States for individuals in the custody of such components.
(b) Assessment.—Not later than 120 days after the implementation of the electronic health records system, the Chief Information Officer, in coordination with the Chief Medical Officer, shall conduct an assessment of such system to determine system capacity for improvement and interoperability.From H.R. 3525
H.R. 3525 is awaiting approval in the Senate, and as the Republicans pointed out back in September during floor debate, President Trump would veto the legislation, therefore the Senate is unlikely to take up the bill.
The EHR for DHS was appropriated $30 million for the remainder of fiscal year 2020 (through 9/30/20) as part of the two appropriations bills which passed both houses of Congress late last month and was signed into law by President Trump on December 20.
The DHS appropriations was included in H.R. 1158 as documented below:
(b) Of the amounts made available by this Act for “U.S. Customs and Border Protection—Procurement, Construction, and Improvements”, $30,000,000 is for the development of an agency-wide electronic health records system; Provided, That such amounts are designated by the Congress as being for an emergency requirement pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.
(c) The amounts in subsection (b) may not be obligated until the Department of Homeland Security Chief Medical Officer provides written certification of compliance with the requirements described in the explanatory statement accompanying this Act concerning electronic health records to the Committees on Appropriations of the Senate and the House of Representatives.H.R. 1158 from Title II Section 212 (2)(b&c)
As discussed in the December 26 article, one of the reasons the Republicans opposed H.R. 3525 was the mandate the EHR be implemented in 90 days. Clearly, the 90-day mandate was removed in the appropriations legislation which is now law.
With the background, the video from last Tuesday’s House Homeland Security Committee hearing includes the update Underwood received from Dr. Alexander Eastman, a senior medical official at DHS and the first 5 minutes of the nearly 6 1/2 minutes of video is an update on the EHR:
While this video and Underwood’s congressional office press release from Tuesday is on the surface informational, for the 2020 elections, note how the health safety of the border communities, in addition to the immigrants and asylum seekers being processed by DHS, is touched upon as a latent benefit of the EHR implementation.
And then Underwood, around the 4:40 mark of the video, had to editorialize how the EHR will be “saving lives”. And it’s not lost on a discerning viewer that Dr. Eastman did not concur with Underwood’s “saving lives” assertion, nor did Underwood ask him to concur.
So, in addition to a Homeland Security accomplishment, later this year, expect the “saving lives” as another focal point on the Underwood strength of healthcare, and “as a nurse”, how her being in Congress is accomplishing healthcare solutions.
Look at how far beyond the first two things the average voter thinks about healthcare is expanded to the health security of border communities through the EHR. This gives new meaning to the common Republican immigration bromide of “securing the border”.
Republican primary voters will need to be discerning to nominate the most qualified Republican candidate who can exhibit between now and the primary how they will successfully challenge Underwood on healthcare, including Homeland Security and the bipartisan support for the EHR (once the 90-day implementation mandate was dropped in December).
And if the candidates are doing a position paper on immigration, they must acknowledge the DHS EHR and the genuine accomplishment it is with the 90-day implementation mandate removed while challenging components of all of the legislation Underwood has supported which impacts the border and Homeland Security, including H.R. 3525, and the testimony of the EHR supporting the humane treatment of everyone processed by DHS.
- POLITICO eHealth 1/15/20: https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-ehealth/2020/01/15/lobbying-fight-intensifies-in-interop-rules-784392
- Shaw Media 1/17/20: https://www.theherald-news.com/2020/01/17/underwood-questions-homeland-security-official-on-health-care-needs-at-border/awumb5w/
- Underwood press release 1/14/20: https://underwood.house.gov/media/press-releases/under-questioning-underwood-top-dhs-official-confirms-department-s-need
- H.R. 3525: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/3525/text
- H.R. 1158: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1158/text