Washington Review, April 28, 2017
This week in Washington, I voted on legislation to prevent a government shutdown, participated in a number of hearings, held a number of meetings, sent a letter to President Trump, and honored human rights defenders at an event hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI).
On Friday, the House of Representatives voted on a continuing resolution (CR) to prevent a government shutdown. This short term CR funds the government through May 5, 2017, giving Congress another week to approve a longer term funding package for the remainder of the fiscal year. As we learned in October of 2013, government shutdowns disrupt the economy, cost billions of dollars in lost productivity, and prevent the American people from accessing critical services. I am committed to preventing another government shutdown.
While keeping the government operational should be the priority, Congress also has a duty to the American people to pass long-term funding measures that provide stability and restore confidence. It is impossible to govern deadline-to-deadline and I hope that the House of Representatives will work in a bipartisan manner to develop a long-term solution that funds critical federal programs before the May 5th deadline.
On Wednesday, I attended a hearing held by the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials that was focused on regulatory authority and reform. Safety is the number one priority and regulations are often mandated to change practices that have resulted in catastrophic accidents in the rail, pipeline, and hazardous materials industries. Recent legislation from the 114th Congress, including the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, and the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act, have helped improve safety standards in these industries. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure the safety of industry workers as well as communities across the country.
On Thursday, I participated in a Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management hearing to discuss how we can best protect our nation’s infrastructure from natural disasters and effectively invest federal funds to control the rising cost of disaster response. As someone who lived through Superstorm Sandy and witnessed the damage that resulted, I know that we must change our current approach to preparing our communities for increasingly extreme weather. I questioned a panel of experts on best practices to prepare and reduce potential damage, as well as recovery time and cost, in the wake of natural disasters.
This week, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs hosted a hearing to review U.S. policy in Syria following President Trump’s missile strikes that took place earlier this month. I listened to experts examine U.S. policy options that address the conflict and growing refugee crisis in Syria. In considering options going forward, it is critical that the Trump Administration review the potential consequences both at home and abroad. Without a long-term policy plan, the Administration is placing lives at risk and threatening global stability. I firmly believe that the President must present any future military operations in Syria to Congress before acting.
This week, I met with representatives of the American Waterways Operators (AWO) to discuss maritime issues that affect the inland and coastal tugboat, towboat, and barge industry. Their trade association represents the largest segment of America’s domestic maritime fleet and they were able to update me on important issues in the industry.
Later that afternoon, I spoke with representatives of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) to learn about the work and mission of their Latina Jewish Leadership Council (LJLC). I applaud the mission of the LJLC to fight discrimination against marginalized groups, which has no place in our society. I also had the opportunity to meet with members of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators from across the country to discuss the impact of recent events and legislation on the Latino community.
On Thursday, I welcomed New Jersey members of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) to my Washington, DC office. The Postal Service employs over 1,700 individuals in New Jersey who work to ensure that our mail system is operating effectively and efficiently. These men and women do important work to ensure that our communities continue to operate and communicate normally. We discussed the importance of preserving door-to-door and six-day delivery.
This week, I joined sixty-seven of my colleagues in sending a letter to President Trump urging him to reconsider his proposed cuts to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science. The DOE’s Office of Science houses unique and one-of-a-kind facilities that over 33,000 researchers rely on annually. Much of the research work they conduct is in support of other key federal agencies including the Department of Defense. Funding for the DOE’s Office of Science is critical to our continued innovation and competitive edge, and I hope the President will carefully reconsider his proposed budget cuts.
On Wednesday, I had the privilege to meet with Dr. Oscar Biscet, a human rights activist and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, who has devoted his life to documenting and exposing the human rights abuses in the Cuban health care system. That evening, the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI) honored Dr. Oscar Biscet with their Leadership in International Relations Award, for the important work he does to advocate for human rights and shed light on the current situation in Cuba.
I also had the opportunity to present a Leadership in Public Service Award to my good friend and colleague, Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA). Congressman Connolly is dedicated to promoting human rights around the world through his work on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. It was my great honor to recognize his leadership and commitment to giving a voice to the voiceless.