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Congressman John Yarmuth represents Kentucky’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now in his eighth term, he has served as Chairman of the House Budget Committee since 2019. Yarmuth has been recognized for his work to improve education, expand access to affordable health care, and for his leadership in enacting the American Rescue Plan, landmark legislation to defeat the pandemic and rebuild our economy.
Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Yarmuth graduated from Atherton High School and Yale University. He and his wife, Cathy, have one son, Aaron; daughter-in-law Sarah, and grandson J.D.
The arts and humanities play an important role in our country’s cultural heritage and identity, while providing direct economic benefits by creating jobs, attracting investments, generating tax revenues, and stimulating local economic growth through tourism and consumer purchases. In Louisville, you will find a living, breathing scene of extraordinary creative works, one built on a history of patronage and investment. We are one of the only cities in America that can boast a children’s theater, a ballet, an orchestra, an opera, and a nationally recognized theater.
When we invest in the arts and arts education, the benefits do not stop at the classroom, studio, or stage door. Study after study proves that students with access to arts education programs in school are more likely to go to college and succeed in the careers they pursue. Regardless of economic or social background, individuals who participated in arts education programs are more likely to vote, volunteer in their community, and work for causes that benefit their friends and neighbors. As a Member of the Congressional Arts Caucus, I will continue to support legislative efforts that make strong investments in our arts programs, including federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
It has been my honor to lead the House Budget Committee as its Chairman since 2019, through unprecedented challenges and historic successes alike. From spearheading the American Rescue Plan and the Build Back Better Act, to passing landmark reforms to protect Congress’ constitutional power of the purse, our Committee has worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people.
I will continue to work to ensure we invest in our country’s future; build a strong economy based on broadly shared prosperity; protect and improve health care and other vital services for American families; and keep our promises to seniors, veterans, and the most vulnerable among us.
Children and Families
For America to continue to build on the strong foundation of the last two centuries, future generations must continue to innovate and thrive. For this to happen, we need to provide every child with the opportunity to build a successful life and prevent disadvantaged children and families from falling victim to cycles of poverty. As the lead sponsor of the American Rescue Plan, I advocated for the inclusion of the Expanded Child Tax Credit, which benefited an estimated 46,000 households in Louisville—covering 146,100 children, or 86.6 percent of our city’s kids. I believe we can make great strides in reducing poverty and give all families a chance at the American Dream. To that end, I will continue supporting and improving efforts that empower Louisvillians and generate new opportunities; create strong, healthy, supportive communities; and develop programs that have a positive impact on the quality of life and the development of children.
Education is the best investment we can make in the future of our country. Throughout my now eight terms in Congress, I have worked to expand early childhood education, improve our K-12 system, ensure that more Americans have access to a high-quality college education, and establish a public loan forgiveness program.
I also believe that comprehensive literacy is central to our success. I helped develop a literacy program to provide every child from birth through 12th grade with extensive literacy support. The inability to read at grade level is the strongest indicator that a child will drop out of school. We fail our children if we let them fail in the classroom. Although it is often difficult to see beyond our short-term needs, if we prioritize long-term education reforms, we will give Americans the opportunity to fulfill their dreams while maintaining the highest-skilled workforce in the world.
America’s dependence on foreign energy sources threatens our national security, economy, and environment. Our country must urgently pursue a more balanced energy policy that will promote conservation and maximize clean, domestic, renewable sources of energy. We need to achieve greater energy independence so that America is no longer subject to the whims of the volatile Middle East region. For the sake of our national security, we cannot afford to rely on foreign sources. For the sake of our environment, we cannot afford to rely on resources that are not clean.
During my time in Congress, I have supported critical investments in biofuels, geothermal, solar, and other forms of alternative energy, as well as greater research and development in renewable energy sources, which is important to Ford, GE, UPS, and other Louisville businesses. New technologies present new opportunities to grow our economy and create jobs nationwide, and we need to make sure we have a quality workforce that is trained for these jobs of the future. Congress has made important investments in these areas, but we must do far more.
We have a solemn obligation to protect our environment for current and future generations. As the dangerous consequences of global climate change become increasingly evident and more dangerous, we must meet this crisis with the urgency it demands. I am committed to comprehensive change, and I will continue supporting legislation that invests in new science and technology innovation, safeguards the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, strengthens environmental protections, and reforms our systems of energy production.
I also have grave concerns about mountaintop removal mining, which has damaging impacts on public health, our waterways, and natural areas – especially in Kentucky. Mountaintop removal mining involves the removal of the top of a mountain to recover coal. Excess dirt and rock from the mountaintop, as well as blasting materials, are dumped into valleys below, contaminating water supplies and destroying streams and wildlife habitat. While regulations have been implemented to address the environmental impacts of mountaintop removal mining, they fall far short of protecting the environment and the people who live in mining communities. The federal government can and must do more. That is why I introduced legislation in Congress to stop mountaintop removal unless the practice can be proven to have no health consequences on the surrounding communities.
Campaign Finance Reform
In January 2010, the Supreme Court rendered its Citizens United decision, opening the floodgates for special interest money in our elections. Citizens United holds that corporations have the same rights as people and can spend unlimited corporate money to influence elections. It reversed a century of campaign finance law that maintained basic limits on special-interest money in politics. By affirming that money equals speech, the Court gave corporations even greater status than citizens, most of whom don’t have access to millions of dollars to spend on campaigns.
In 2014, the Court tipped the balance further toward special interests with its decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, which eliminated aggregate limits for high-dollar campaign contributors. With its decision, the Court’s Republican-appointed majority continued to ignore the reality that money in politics is corrupting public policy, offering greater access to the well-off and well-connected and further diminishing the voices of the vast majority of Americans. At a time when we should be encouraging more people to get involved in politics, Citizens United and McCutcheon have widened the gap between Americans and their government. We need to close that gap.
That is why I introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the key provision of Citizens United. The amendment establishes that financial expenditures and in-kind contributions do not qualify as protected speech under the First Amendment. By establishing that money does not equal speech, this legislation allows Congress to regulate campaign finance without a constitutional challenge under Citizens United. It also enables Congress to establish a public financing system that would serve as a source of funding for federal elections.
The last thing Congress needs is more corporate and special-interest candidates who don’t answer to the American people. Until we get big money out of politics, we will never be able to responsibly address the major issues facing American families.
Gun Violence Prevention
Gun violence is an epidemic that requires every citizen, and certainly every public official, to reflect on our responsibilities to our fellow Americans. I recognize that people have the right to defend themselves and their property. At the same time, I believe even more fiercely that everyone in the United States should be safe from gun violence without carrying a firearm. The elected officials who refuse to accept common sense, and broadly supported, gun safety reform must be held accountable, and I am wholly committed to ensuring the United States Congress advances legislation that prioritizes public safety over political expediency.
I strongly believe the only way to end this epidemic once and for all is by equipping our communities with the tools they need to prevent violence. This includes keeping weapons out of the hands of those who pose a risk to themselves and others, improving access to local resources for survivors of gun violence, and investing in economic development programs proven to reduce crime.
As a longtime supporter of the Assault Weapons Ban, I am proud to cosponsor critical legislation like the Keep Americans Safe Act, which limits access to large-capacity magazines; the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which expands safety screening requirements in private gun sales; and the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, which expands “red flag laws” meant to limit access to firearms for individuals believed to be a danger to themselves and those around them.
I believe health care is a human right. That is why I am a proud supporter of Medicare for All. Since I came to Congress in 2007, I have supported efforts to make health care more accessible and affordable for all Americans. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), which I helped pass in 2010, has lowered health care costs and strengthened care for millions of Americans. This historic legislation ensures no American can be denied health insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition, bans annual and lifetime caps on coverage, guarantees essential health benefits including requirements that insurance companies cover prescription drugs and maternity care, and allows young people to stay on their parent’s health insurance until age 26. Kentucky is one of seven states that have reduced their uninsured rate by at least half through enrollment in ACA Marketplace coverage and expansion of Medicaid to adult populations. As of February 2021, the ACA has helped nearly 700,000 Kentuckians gain access to coverage, including more than 600,000 newly eligible Medicaid enrollees.
While the recently enacted American Rescue Plan builds on the ACA’s critical benefits by lowering the cost of coverage and expanding eligibility for federal subsidies to millions of Americans, there is more work to be done. New federal protections against most surprise out-of-network medical bills will take effect this year, as Congress continues work to reduce the cost of prescription drugs—including an out-of-pocket cap on insulin—improve maternal care and postpartum coverage, invest in eldercare and address longstanding racial and socio-economic inequities in the health care system.
During the 117th Congress, I will continue to support these and other vital initiatives, including efforts to expand, strengthen, and protect the health care workforce; and make record investments in medical research.
Throughout American history, our national identity has been shaped by the experiences and perspectives of the people working to build a home here. Our diversity is fundamental to who we are as a country, and our immigration laws ought to reflect that. Our current immigration system is broken and in need of repair, and I am committed to seeking solutions that ensure our laws reflect the values and interests of the American people.
I believe comprehensive immigration reform begins with acknowledging the need for an orderly and humane immigration system. For the better part of 2013, I worked with a bipartisan group of House Members—known as the “Gang of Six”—to craft a bill that would have boosted our economy and addressed many of the injustices facing our current immigration system. Though Republicans refused to bring this bill to the Floor for a vote, I have continued to advocate for legislation that keeps families together, expands legal immigration pathways, protects American workers, and helps immigrants contribute to our economy while they earn the chance to become citizens.
I am deeply concerned about income inequality in today’s workforce. Many middle-class workers are slipping further behind, struggling to pay the bills or provide opportunities for their families. If Congress fails to help America’s middle class achieve greater economic security, our country will lose its competitive edge in the global marketplace. We must raise the minimum wage, provide America’s workers with a safe and acceptable working environment, protect the right to bargain collectively for better wages and benefits, close loopholes that reward companies that ship American jobs overseas, and provide more incentives for businesses to remain or expand in the United States.
As the economy continues to recover and our country responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, we must reaffirm the basic American idea that if you put in 40 hours a week, you should be able to put food on your family’s table every day and build a stronger future. As the Chairman of the House Budget Committee, I will continue to fight for a federal budget that creates jobs and strengthens all families while building our economy by investing in our greatest resource: the American worker.
Military and Veterans
Our great nation was built on the dedication of our servicemen and women and their willingness to sacrifice. We owe them our best resources while they serve and our unwavering support when they return home. I am committed to ensuring our nation’s veterans have the support and benefits they have earned, including access to health care. I am pleased to have helped secure nearly $500 million in funding for a new Veterans Hospital in Louisville, which broke ground in November 2021. This will be a state-of-the-art facility for our medical community and the nearly 50,000 veterans who live in and around Louisville.
Congress has also implemented measures to improve the treatment of our nation’s veterans, including the single largest increase in funding for the Veterans Administration in our nation’s history, significant funding to improve suicide prevention and outreach programs, and the Post-9/11 GI Bill that gives more veterans the opportunity to earn a college degree. I am proud to have led the effort in 2019 to repeal the Survivor Benefit Plan-Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (SBP-DIC) offset, or “Widow’s Tax,” that adversely impacted surviving spouses’ benefits.
When we challenge our young men and women to put on a uniform and risk their lives for our country, we must promise to always take care of those who answer the call. Honoring this pact is among the key virtues that make America worth fighting for, and I intend to see that it is fully honored by our federal government.
Throughout my time in office, I have met many dedicated law enforcement officers willing to put themselves at risk to protect our communities. And while I recognize that many police officers are well-intentioned and dedicated public servants, it has become increasingly evident that our current justice system has fallen short of its goal to protect the rights of all people, especially in communities of color.
Far too many innocent people, including Louisville’s own Breonna Taylor, have lost their lives as result of the failings of our police and justice system. That is why I am proud to cosponsor critical legislation, like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, to reform policing in the United States. I am also committed to working with my colleagues on legislative measures that that re-envision community policing, promote restorative justice practices, and ensure police have the training and resources they need to properly protect our communities.