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Beto O’Rourke Posts $2 Million in Fundraising in bid Against Ted Cruz

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, raised “more than $2 million dollars” in his first quarter as a U.S. Senate candidate, according to a statement he released on Facebook Thursday morning.

That sum is quite large for a challenger to a sitting Senator – it surpasses the fundraising of some U.S. Senate Democratic incumbents in other states who are the subject of major party pushes to hold their seats in 2018.

Texas, in comparison, is far less of a priority for the national party because of its size, conservative makeup and the high cost of advertising in the state.

“We raised more than $2 million over the last three months, from more than 45,000 unique donations, most of them from Texas, every one of them that wanted to take back our state, take back the senate and take back this country,” O’Rourke said.

He added that none of that money came from “PACs or special interests or corporate donors.”

O’Rourke is the underdog in a race against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who has yet to announce his quarterly haul. The junior senator from Texas had a fierce fundraising machine during his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, and acquired a massive conservative following.

O’Rourke has deftly built an online following in recent months and standing-room only crowds have shown up at his events across the state. But he is still mostly unknown and on his own in this race.

The challenger will need every dime he can raise to build up his name identification. And for now, it is unlikely the national party will help him in this effort as they focus resources on other states.

National Democrats say they will prioritize supporting the ten Senate incumbents who represent states President Donald Trump carried in 2018.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • No Texas Democrat has won a U.S. Senate seat in nearly 30 years or any statewide office since 1994.  But U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke is optimistic he can break the streak, in part by eschewing consultants, pollsters and PAC money. [link]
  • To many familiar with U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the 2012 Democratic primary for the 16th Congressional District is not exactly a blueprint for his 2018 effort to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz — but it’s certainly instructive. [link]
  • In February, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz reported having $4.2 million cash on hand as he prepared for a re-election race in 2018. [link]

Author:  ABBY LIVINGSTON – The Texas Tribune

O’Rourke: President Trump’s Withdrawal from Paris Agreement ‘One of the Worst Executive Actions to Date”

On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced that the US would be withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change; below is a statement posted to Facebook by El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke, regarding his feelings on the President’s decision.

Today, President Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change—one of his worst executive actions to date. In 2015, the U.S. agreed to modestly curb greenhouse gas emissions and provide funding to help developing countries adopt renewable energy at a faster rate.

The U.S. pulling out of the agreement signals to the rest of the world that we don’t intend to reach our emissions targets and that we will not be making those contributions.

The practical effects of leaving the agreement are dire. The primary goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep worldwide average temperatures from rising more than 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit above the pre-industrial era. Right now, we’re already almost halfway there and we’ve seen storms that have destroyed billions worth of property, shrinking ice caps, and droughts that have resulted in political instability and even wars.

Most importantly for El Paso and the state of Texas, it’s estimated that by 2050, the number of extremely hot days in Texas (temperatures exceeding 95 degrees) will double, resulting in an estimated 4,500 additional heat-related deaths. Additionally, it’s estimated that there will be a $650 million per year increase in storm-related losses along the Texas coast.

By taking the U.S. out of this agreement, all of these problems stand an increased chance of getting worse.

Just as important, President Trump is sending a signal to the rest of the world that the U.S. is no longer interested in being a world leader. Any progress we make economically, diplomatically, and militarily all depends on our credibility as a nation. By pulling out of the agreement, we are signaling to traditional and potential partners that they cannot depend on Americans to stick with them during difficult times.

Leaving the agreement also means we’re going to let others lead on what the world’s renewable energy future will be. Doing so puts our domestic wind turbine and solar panel manufacturers and other renewable energy providers at a disadvantage relative to countries that are participating in the Paris Agreement. This is a mistake at a time when our state is home to nearly a quarter of the country’s wind power jobs. Texas is a leader in renewable energy production, and El Paso is poised to play an important role. Diminishing the U.S. role will have direct effects on our local economy.

Removing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement makes us one of only three countries, along with Syria and Nicaragua, to not join—even North Korea is part of the agreement. Historically, the U.S. has put more carbon into the atmosphere than any other country, so we must be a leader in curbing worldwide emissions.

I’m hopeful that the rest of the world continues to make progress on this front, and that we can revisit and rejoin the effort once we have a Congress and a President willing to lead because we have much to gain, and even more to lose.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke, In Long-Shot bid for Senate, Is No Stranger to “Calculated Risks”

To many familiar with U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the 2012 Democratic primary for the 16th Congressional District is not exactly a blueprint for his 2018 effort to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz — but it’s certainly instructive.

Half a decade ago, Beto O’Rourke stood at Tabla, a Spanish restaurant in El Paso’s entertainment district, and drew from his business experience as he laid out the improbable case for a congressional campaign.

“Probably most importantly, I learned the lesson of taking a calculated risk when I saw an opportunity to grow that business,” said O’Rourke, who had returned to his native El Paso a few years after college graduation to create a software company.

“Sometimes it paid off, sometimes it didn’t,” O’Rourke added, according to archived audio of the announcement, “but if I didn’t take those risks — calculated risks — we wouldn’t have been able to grow.”

Eight and half months later, the biggest calculated risk of O’Rourke’s political career until that point paid off. He defeated U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, an eight-term incumbent, in a Democratic primary upset that reverberated across the country.

It was not the first time O’Rourke beat the odds in El Paso politics. Seven years earlier, he had won a seat on the City Council after knocking off a two-term Democratic incumbent, Anthony Cobos. The victory made O’Rourke one of the youngest members the council had ever seen.

Now O’Rourke, 44, is turning his attention to what would be his biggest upset yet in a political career built on exceeding expectations. In announcing Friday his challenge to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, O’Rourke threw himself into a long-shot race that he has vowed to approach much like his El Paso campaigns: without much regard for the established political order, the pricey trappings of modern campaigns or what the political prognosticators think.

The question to many now — especially those watching from his hometown — is whether the devil-may-care politics that made him a star in El Paso are convertible to the massive undertaking that is a statewide campaign in Texas.

“Something that is very doable on a local level over time — can you scale that to an 18-month statewide campaign?” asked El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar, a longtime O’Rourke ally. “I think you can with the kind of work ethic Beto has and the kind of passion and enthusiasm Beto has.”

To many familiar with O’Rourke, the 2012 race is not exactly a blueprint for his 2018 effort — but it’s certainly instructive.

A revealing resolution

Before getting elected to Congress, O’Rourke had been perhaps best known outside El Paso for his stance in favor of marijuana legalization. It would lead him to publish a book in 2011 — two months after he launched his House campaign — that argued for ending the prohibition on pot as a way to fight the drug war unfolding just across the city’s border with Mexico.

That position fueled one of his first clashes with Reyes. As a council member in 2009, O’Rourke proposed a resolution calling for a nationalDealing_Death_and_Drugs_TT conversation about legalizing marijuana. The resolution passed unanimously, but the mayor vetoed it, and when O’Rourke tried to mount an override effort, in his recollection, the council started getting calls from Reyes.

“He asked us not to move forward with the resolution and delivered a thinly veiled threat: failure to do so would result in the withholding of stimulus funds for our city, the third poorest in the United States,” O’Rourke recalled in his book, “Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico.”

Reyes was apparently persuasive — the override effort fell short. Yet the episode proved illuminating for even O’Rourke’s critics at the time.

“He was really able to articulate a lot of the issues, but even though they had their flaws, it was perceived as at least he was proposing ideas,” said Vincent Perez, a former Reyes staffer and current El Paso County commissioner who once appeared opposite O’Rourke on a local TV show to debate the war on drugs. “Strategically, it was difficult because Beto was able to use … [Reyes’ stance] against legalization as part of a larger problem with the federal government.”

Despite the timing of the book, which O’Rourke published in November 2011 with council ally Susie Byrd, he did not make his pot stance a central issue in his 2012 campaign — even de-emphasizing it, by some accounts. It did not come up in his announcement speech, which nonetheless offered a careful case for sending Reyes home.

“Silvestre Reyes has served 16 years in the U.S. Congress — 16 years that he’s had to spend much of his time in Washington, D.C., he’s had to sacrifice time with his family, and he’s done what I think he thought was in the best interests of our city, and for that we owe him our respect and we owe him our gratitude,” O’Rourke said, “but we do not owe him another term in office.”

A unique landscape

2012 was a unique year for Texas elections. The court battle over Texas’ redistricting maps pushed the 2012 primary from March 6 to May 29, affording upstart challengers the most precious resource in politics: time. That benefited both O’Rourke and Cruz, who used the extended period to pull off his own massive upset — over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

The newly redrawn 16th Congressional District was also seen as bad news for Reyes. It no longer included part of the region’s Lower Valley, which had been a reliable stronghold for Reyes over the years.

It was also a notable time in El Paso politics, which was seeing the rise of a distinct group of Democrats aligned with former state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh. Generally speaking, they were young and progressive-minded and did not have as strong ties to the local party as some of their colleagues — meaning they were not necessarily the types to wait their turns in politics.

“They cared less about pissing people off,” recalled Morris Pittle, an ad maker involved in the 2012 campaign. “Sometimes that’s what it takes to make these things happen.”

“For those of us who were in on the campaign from the beginning, especially those of us who were elected officials — and there were very few of us — what it meant was going against a longtime member of Congress, a Hispanic leader, someone who had quite a following in the Democratic Party,” said Escobar, the El Paso County judge.

It was not lost on the city’s more entrenched Democrats that the white O’Rourke — he is a fourth-generation Irish American — was looking to unseat a Hispanic lawmaker in a district that has an overwhelming Hispanic majority. Some critics still needle O’Rourke by calling him “Robert O’Rourke” — his legal name — as opposed to the more popular “Beto,” which uses a Mexican nickname he took on in his childhood.

Yet as he built his profile in El Paso, O’Rourke had found cachet with the city’s Hispanic voters thanks to his fluent Spanish and willingness to wade deep into issues important to them.

“I think O’Rourke out-raza-ed Reyes,” said Richard Pineda, a professor at the University of Texas at El Paso who directs the school’s Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies. (In Spanish, raza refers to race.)

“Everything should’ve gone the other way with Reyes when it came to the candidate that had that Spanish connection,” Pineda said.

The “Great Depression campaign”

Reyes was not exactly caught flatfooted by O’Rourke’s challenge — he had been rumored to be interested in higher office long before he announced — but it soon became clear O’Rourke was the workhorse in the race. He spent months knocking on doors — over 16,000 by his count — and showed up everywhere, while Reyes was not fond of block walking and sent a staffer to most campaign forums.

People involved in the O’Rourke campaign jokingly referred to it as the “Great Depression campaign” due to its lack of financial resources — and tightfistedness when it had them. The campaign was made up of mostly unpaid volunteers, not the high-priced consultants and pollsters that O’Rourke has also sworn off for his Senate campaign.

O’Rourke’s shoestring operation provided a vivid contrast to Reyes’ well-funded bid, which had all the makings of a modern campaign — including a slick 60-second TV ad that aired during the Super Bowl. Reyes also had on his side President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton, who traveled to the far-flung district to stump for the incumbent.

O’Rourke’s most memorable endorsement may have been that of the El Paso Times, which said Reyes had “stood on the sidelines” as decisions had been made affecting the border region.

It was a theme O’Rourke frequently echoed throughout the race as he promised to be a more forceful, engaged advocate for the region in Washington. O’Rourke also was not afraid to raise ethical questions about Reyes, who doled out hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to himself and family members, according to a 2012 study that got ample attention in the race.

Reyes did not exactly shy away from his long congressional tenure, presenting himself as the seasoned legislator who knew how to rake in federal dollars for the district — “Reyes Works” was his campaign slogan. The Super Bowl spot showed him driving around town, surveying the projects that had received federal assistance as dollar amounts flashed across the screen.

In the final few months of the race, Reyes increasingly cast doubt on whether voters could trust O’Rourke given his drug stance and arrest record from the 1990s. One ad showed children making angry faces, shouting “No!” and shaking their heads in disbelief as it spelled out O’Rourke’s support for legalization. “Say NO to drugs. Say NO to Beto,” the commercial read in conclusion.


Another commercial opened with O’Rourke’s mugshot as it highlighted his two arrests: first in 1995 for attempted burglary and then in 1998 for driving while intoxicated. He was never convicted in the cases, which he has attributed to foolish mistakes as a young man.

Helping out with Reyes’ ads was Pittle, who had previously assisted with O’Rourke’s city council campaigns and briefly worked for his congressional bid at its start.

Looking back on the marijuana and arrest record ads, Pittle said they were “not effective at all,” though he acknowledged they were for a Democratic primary and not the kind of general election O’Rourke would face against Cruz. On marijuana in particular, Pittle said, “Given the way we are in our society today, I don’t think that matters to people anymore.”

By the time Reyes’ campaign launched those attacks, it was already becoming clear that O’Rourke would come out on top in the primary.

On May 29, 2012, O’Rourke won with 50.5 percent of the vote, beating Reyes by 6 points. His 3,000-vote victory meant he narrowly avoided a run-off election.

Outside help

By the end of the race, Reyes had vastly outraised and outspent O’Rourke — by margins of roughly 2-to-1 at most points throughout the campaign. O’Rourke did receive help from a Houston-based super PAC, the Campaign for Primary Accountability, that reportedly spent $240,000 against Reyes as part of a broader effort to defeat longtime incumbents in both parties.

Along the way, the group collected a $18,750 check from Campr II Partners, a firm with ties to O’Rourke’s father-in-law, El Paso developer Bill Sanders. The donation drew cries of nepotism from Reyes, who said the super PAC money was being used to “undermine the vote and will of the people.”

The super PAC had such an outsized role in the race that it even appeared to draw the attention of Clinton, the former president, who said during his visit to El Paso that Reyes was the victim of “sneak attacks” by an outside group. “Follow the money,” Clinton told El Pasoans, according to video posted online.

Candidates do not have direct control over a super PAC’s activities. The group’s involvement in the 2012 contest still casts something of a pall over O’Rourke, who has long railed against the corrosive influence of money in politics. In his Senate campaign, he has vowed to continue rejecting PAC money.

The super PAC connection certainly left an impression with Reyes. On Election Night, the congressman asked whether El Pasoans would let “people in Houston” decide their elections and later told reporters O’Rourke “deliberately ran a nasty, dirty, filthy campaign.”

“We must move on”

El Paso Democrats say there are still some hard feelings over the 2012 race, especially among the Reyes family and its allies. The contest has “always left a bitter taste in the mouth of a certain Democrat in El Paso,” said Pineda, the UTEP professor.

Reyes and his brother, who served his campaign manager, did not respond to multiple calls and emails seeking comment for this story. Reyes has not entirely receded from the political spotlight — he has made a number of media appearances since the 2016 election, criticizing President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We must move on,” said one Democratic official involved in Reyes’ campaign, who like some others, preferred not to speak on the record about a race that is still a sensitive subject in El Paso. “It’s a different time. We must look at the greater good, and the greater good is taking over our Senate seat, which we haven’t held.”

Even among O’Rourke’s skeptics, the 2012 race continues to be a touchstone for his penchant for seemingly quixotic endeavors. Perez, the county commissioner, said the ambitious O’Rourke had a choice back then: Either wait for Reyes’ seat to open up and join the inevitably crowded race to replace him or take the much lonelier route that he took in 2012.

“I think he took a very strategic and calculated risk in challenging him in the primary, and ultimately I think that strategy paid off,” Perez said. “Nobody really had the guts to do what he did.”

Read related coverage:

Disclosure: The University of Texas at El Paso has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here

Author:  PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

To Beat Ted Cruz, Beto O’Rourke Plans to Throw out the Democratic Playbook

WASHINGTON – On what could be his last normal Thursday morning as a rank-and-file member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Beto O’Rourke calmly ate a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee in the dining room he shares with two other congressmen in a townhouse just off Capitol Hill. 

He was due to the chamber in an hour or so for votes. The following morning, he would officially launch his bid to unseat one of Texas’ savviest politicians in modern history, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.  

“I’m not going to do this and lose,” O’Rourke told the Tribune between bites. “I’m only going to do this if we can win, and I’m going to run to win, and I know no [Democrat has] figured out how to do this.”

No Texas Democrat has won a U.S. Senate seat in nearly thirty years or any statewide office since 1994. It is hard to find a political operative in Washington or back in Texas who would bet money – or professional credibility – on O’Rourke winning this race. 

But the El Paso Democrat is earnestly bullish that he will go to the Senate through a strategy of bringing retail politics to a state of 27 million people. 

He has no pollster and no consultants at this point, and said he has no interest in hiring operatives of that ilk. 

“Since 1988, when Lloyd Bentsen won re-election to the Senate, Democrats have spent close to a billion dollars on consultants and pollsters and experts and campaign wizards and have performed terribly,” he said.

The approach offers a clear contrast with Cruz, who has used his own consultants to devastating effect in his races for the U.S. Senate and the White House. Last month, several members of Cruz’s political team showed attendees at the Conservative Political Action Convention a presentation of his presidential campaign’s investment and innovations in data analytics. 

When O’Rourke first floated the notion of running for Senate in an early November interview with the Tribune, many people in Texas and Washington responded with, “Who?” 

But the shock registered most at home in El Paso. 

“The first surprised call was from my wife, like, ‘What? What? Excuse me? What’s going on?’” he said. But four days later, O’Rourke and his wife, Amy, were watching with horror at Donald Trump’s victory on Election Night. At that moment, the decision was all but made. 

“It was Amy who said, ‘I think you should go see if you can’t do something that’s more effective than what you’re doing now.’” 

In a conventional campaign, O’Rourke would try to raise somewhere in the ballpark of $30 million in federally mandated $2,700 increments. Then he would turn to the campaign committees and beg them to invest millions more. 

But the national Democratic committees are overtly telegraphing that the priority in 2018 is to protect the ten party incumbents who represent states Trump carried in 2016. 

To complicate matters, it is hard to overstate how unknown this third-term Democrat is in both Texas and Washington. 

He represents El Paso, which is so remote it is in a separate time zone from the rest of the state. It is a shorter drive from his district to San Diego than to Beaumont. 

Back in November, at least one high-profile Democratic official in the state confessed to having never heard of him.

And amid Wednesday’s giddiness in Washington Democratic circles around his pending announcement, seasoned players referred to him as “Bee-to,” mispronouncing the Spanish nickname for his Anglo given name of Robert.

Another potential stumbling block: He has a pair of arrests – but no convictions – on his record from the 90s: one for breaking and entering and another for drunken driving.

But most of all, he is taking on a wily and hardworking incumbent who was the second-place finisher for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. 

How in the world does he plan to beat Ted Cruz? 

“Tactically, strategically, I don’t know,” O’Rourke said. “It’ll come from Texas, and I have faith and trust the people of this state will make the best decision in the interest of their families and their kids…I just trust that. My challenge, I guess, is to meet enough of them so that they can make an informed decision.” 

His aim, he said, is to campaign beyond urban strongholds in a case-by-case basis. 

In a 38-minute long interview the day before his official announcement, it was apparent that O’Rourke was not going to make his campaign all about Cruz – a temptation given the senator’s polarizing image among even some in his own party. O’Rourke never once mentioned Cruz by name or directly criticized his potential rival. Instead, he focused on topics like immigration, the border, and advocacy for his hometown. 

The approach brought to mind the discipline Cruz has shown in his campaigns for U.S. Senate and president. 

And then there is money. Traditionally, the best way to build name recognition has been through television advertising, and a statewide buy runs at least $1 million a week.

Cruz begins the race with $4.2 million in campaign money. And the early signs amid O’Rourke’s run is that tea party groups and establishment organizations will line up with tens of millions of dollars to back Cruz at the slightest sign of trouble. 

Nationally, Democrats have no appetite at this point to spend serious money in Texas, and O’Rourke is not accepting money from political action committees. He, like all federal candidates, has no control over whether a super PAC opts to get involved. 

But anyone opposing Cruz is a likely magnet for angry liberal dollars. And O’Rourke could have the makings of a Bernie Sanders-type fundraising operation. He is one of the most adept politicians when it comes to social media and was an early adapter of building a following with Facebook Live, a means of broadcasting events through that website. 

The results of those efforts are often viral frenzies. Most recently, his bipartisan road trip with U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, earned both men a storm of positive publicity. So much so, that a handful of Republican operatives in Washington began to sit up and watch O’Rourke more closely. 

But before O’Rourke can face off against Cruz, there is the issue of sorting out his primary. 

For years on end now, many expected it would be one of the Castro twins leading the charge to turn Texas blue, and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, is still openly mulling a Senate run of his own. 

Oddly, though, O’Rourke said Castro was the one who planted the seeds to launch this campaign. 

“I remember this summer at the convention, Joaquin…publicly said that he was thinking about running, which I thought was exciting, and I thought, ‘Hey, let me know,’ and he said, ‘If I don’t do this, you should think about doing it.’” 

“It got me thinking,” O’Rourke added. 

Once it became clear on Wednesday the O’Rourke campaign was on the verge of a launch, Castro put out a statement gently reminding the press that he was still in the mix. 

O’Rourke said he wished Castro luck on Wednesday in making his own decision. O’Rourke insisted if the primary is competitive, they will both “try and do this in a way that will make Texas proud.” 

“It’s good for Texas…you want a competitive democracy,” he said. 

But, he added, the mutual interest was indicative of improved conditions for the party. 

“It shows you that something’s happening,” he said.

The 2016 election gave Democrats cautious hope for Texas. Trump’s margins were narrower than other recent GOP standard-bearers and Democrats made enormous headway into urban centers.

O’Rourke, however, spent much of his time in the lead up to Friday’s announcement in mid-sized towns, including: Wichita Falls, College Station, Killeen, Lubbock, Midland, Waco, Corpus Christi and Odessa.  

O’Rourke said he had expected a few dozen attendees at each of these events. Oftentimes, over a hundred people showed up, having heard of the event through word-of-mouth or Facebook.

The larger aim is to look beyond the cities and take his case to rural voters. The idea is not to win those regions, but to lose less-badly. 

It is the same tactic former President Barack Obama credited with his victories as a candidate in Iowa. 

“There were some counties where I might have lost, but maybe I lost by 20 points instead of 50 points,” Obama said in November. 

But Texas is a whole lot larger than Iowa. Can any of this work? 

“We’ll find out,” O’Rourke said.

Read more: 

Author:  ABBY LIVINGSTON – The Texas Tribune

Rep. O’Rourke to Hold Town Hall on “DREAMers” Monday

El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke will have a special Town Hall meeting on Immigration, specifically the possible impact of the new President’s policies on DREAMers (acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors.)

“DREAMers” are the young people who were brought to this country at an early age without documentation, who have lived most of their lives in the U.S. and in communities like ours.

In 2012 President Obama granted the DREAMers a reprieve from deportation through executive action, allowing them to continue to be productive members of our society, pursuing their education, careers and in some cases service in the military.

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to “immediately terminate” President Obama’s executive actions on immigration to include deportation protections granted to DREAMers.

Via an emailed news release, O’Rourke adds, “This could mean that young El Pasoans, who have spent almost all of their lives in this country, who are currently attending El Paso Community College or UTEP for example, will be forced to leave their friends, families and community to return to their country of origin.”

Rep. O’Rourke’s Town Hall will be held on  Monday, November 28th starting at 6 p.m. at the El Paso Community Foundation Room (333 N Oregon St).

O’Rourke Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Remove Hurdles in Veteran Health Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. — April 29, 2016 — Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) today introduced the Vet Connect Act with Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Health, Congressman Dan Benishek, M.D. (R-MI).

“At a time when the VA has 43,000 unfilled positions, referring care out to the community is as important as ever,” said O’Rourke. “Our legislation would give doctors the full picture of a veteran’s health and allow them to make better medical recommendations. Moreover, it lets veterans focus on getting healthy rather than filling out bureaucratic paperwork.”

This bipartisan legislation would reduce bureaucratic red tape at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to more easily share a veteran’s full medical record with doctors outside of the VA who are directly involved in that veteran’s medical care.

“As a doctor, I understand that in order to properly treat a patient, medical professionals must have access to a patient’s full medical record,” said Dr. Benishek. “Without it, you cannot make informed decisions about what medical treatment is in the best interest of the patient. This common sense legislation will help eliminate the hurdles doctors face when trying to provide veterans care outside of the VA system.”

The current model involves a series of bureaucratic steps that make it difficult for veterans to get their medical records to community doctors outside the VA. As a result, community doctors aren’t getting a veteran’s entire medical record. This prevents the doctor from making the best possible decisions for medical care.

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