Langevin wants to keep working

Thu, 10/01/2020 - 5:15pm

Democrat Congressman Jim Langevin has been working on what he called “two wars:” the health and economic crises that hit the country more or less at the same time just a little over six months ago. There is still work to be done on these fronts, as well as environmental issues and cybersecurity election threats, and that is why he hopes that voters in Rhode Island’s Second Congressional District will return him to office for an 11th term.

Langevin spoke to The Block Island Times from his office in Warwick on Tuesday, Sept. 29, during which he responded to challenges made by his Republican opponent, Bob Lancia, during a conversation with The Times last week.

Lancia said that Langevin, after 20 years in office, has sponsored only two bills that have reached the President’s desk.

“Maybe Bob Lancia doesn’t understand how congress works. It’s not like the state legislature where you introduce a bill and it works its way through and then the governor signs it into law,” he said.

While Langevin, who is 56, said he has introduced quite a bit of legislation, bills introduced in the U.S. Congress take a different course. Bills often get attached as amendments to larger bills that are already moving toward a vote.

As an example, Langevin said that he, as a commissioner on the Cyberspace Solarium, helped create 80 recommendations on cybersecurity that were crafted by himself and 13 other security experts.

“We then turned that into 55 legislative proposals,” he said. Many of those proposals were forwarded to the Armed Services Committee (on which he serves). “Do you know how many bills come out of the Armed Services Committee each year? One,” said Langevin. That said, many of the amendments that came out of the Solarium were incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed in the House last July.

“One other example: I introduced, before Covid 19, at the end of last year, a bill to allow construction-grade respirator masks to be used in times of emergencies, to be used by front-line health care workers,” Langevin said. “These were masks that have not gone through the FDA approval process but were N95-equivalent masks. I was one of the co-sponsors of that bill last year, before Covid even hit. We turned that bill into an amendment in a Covid aid relief passage to get more masks to our front-line health care workers. It would have been nice to get it through and get all the credit, but this helps our front-line health care workers. It’s about getting the job done.”

On cybersecurity issues, Langevin said the federal government has improved its position since 2016, and when asked why threats still loom in 2020, Langevin said “It’s because the internet was never designed with security in mind. It’s free and open architecture. If I were king for a day there are things I would like to do,” he said. “We need to do more in promoting cyber security, but it is a massive challenge and I’m one of the few members of congress that has made this a priority.”

Langevin said he has helped write a bill that would create a National Cyber Director “that would have policy and budgetary authority to close vulnerabilities. That’s one of the glaring loopholes. We don’t have a director position in the Executive Office that is Senate confirmed. That was one of the major findings of the Cyber Solarium Commission.”

In the 2016 Presidential election, “We were caught off guard and not prepared for what the Russians were doing in terms of our elections. We were better in 2018 and we’re getting better prepared,” Langevin said. “Our enemies and adversaries are still at it and we need to be focused on preventing interference in our elections.”

He added that Homeland Security “is working with states and municipalities and Boards of Canvassers to make sure their election equipment and their voter registration systems are secure.”

Both Lancia and Langevin expressed concern about the growing national debt, but Langevin said that he was primarily concerned with helping Rhode Island families get through the Covid-19 crisis, which “required significant borrowing for families and small businesses to make sure they could survive this Covid crisis. This is a health crisis and economic crisis. We have two wars and we can’t lose either war,” said Langevin.

Despite this focus on the economy and security issues, Langevin said “the environment is a top priority for me and we need to do everything we can to combat climate change because it has a direct effect on public health and our economy. We have an obligation to leave our world in a better and stronger place for future generations and, right now, I don’t think the Congress is doing enough to acknowledge that climate change has manmade consequences. If we work to reverse this we can protect the environment for future generations.”

He said climate change also impacts national security. He said that the National Defense Authorization Act passed last year asked the Pentagon to identify the top 10 military bases that were vulnerable to climate change impacts, but he said he is still “battling” the Pentagon to get that information.

“We need to move with great urgency in addressing climate change and transition to a green economy,” he said. A bill that Langevin voted for this year, the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act, called for research and development into emission reduction technologies and the creation of, among other things, job training for offshore wind opportunities.

Unlike Lancia, Langevin said he would not impose term limits because it is unnecessary.

“We already have term limits I’m going back to the voters again and ask them to rehire me for another two years. It’s an honor and a privilege to represent the people of the Second District, who have reelected me time and time again,” he said. He added that his office is working with the Lancia campaign to set a date for a debate.“But right now a major focus is how to help Rhode Island families and working families get through this Covid crisis,” he said.