Washington Review, December 9, 2016
As the 114th Congress drew to a close this week, I participated in a number of meetings and voted on important legislation.
On Tuesday, I met with Vitaly Vanshelboim, the Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). UNOPS is an operational arm of the United Nations and is used to support the successful implementation of peacebuilding, humanitarian, and development projects around the world. Mr. Vanshelboim provided me with an update on his efforts to make UNOPS more efficient by improving business practices as well as identifying and eliminating wasteful spending and corruption within the UN system.
This week, I taped a segment for Meet the Leaders in which I discussed the future of U.S.-Cuba policy and the importance of investing in our nation’s transportation and infrastructure. I also discussed my opposition to privatizing Medicare and Social Security. Since its inception the Medicare program has assisted Americans, including seniors and the disabled, with the costs of health care and long term care needs. It is our responsibility to honor our commitments to older Americans by preserving these crucial benefits and fighting attempts to destroy the Medicare guarantee.
On Thursday, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and I met with the former President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe to discuss the ongoing peace process between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The FARC is a violent insurgent group in Colombia that has been in an armed conflict with the government since 1964. In June of 2016, the Colombian government and the FARC reached a peace accord for a cessation of hostilities. However, on October 2nd, 2016 the Colombian people narrowly defeated a vote to approve the peace accord, which lead to President Santos reopening negotiations with FARC. An updated agreement was approved by the Colombian Congress last week.
On Wednesday, I joined my colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass S.2971, the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System Act of 2016, by a vote of 405-7. The Urban Search and Rescue Response System (USAR) involves the domestic and international location, rescue, and initial medical stabilization of disaster victims, including those who are trapped in confined spaces in the aftermath. There are currently 28 USAR teams located around the United States. This bill codifies the current USAR Response System in statute and clarifies liabilities and compensation issues. It also requires the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to submit a report to Congress about plans to finance, maintain, and replace system equipment. This legislation is currently awaiting President Obama’s signature.
Earlier this year, I joined various colleagues in sending a letter to Speaker Ryan urging him to act on legislation that would address the ongoing health crisis in Flint, Michigan. On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed S. 612, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, by a vote of 360-61. This legislation authorizes funding to address the contaminated public water system in Flint and provide necessary resources so that the city can recover. Specifically, it includes $100 million in additional funding for the Safe Water Drinking Act state revolving loan fund which provides low-interest financing to communities for compliance with federal water standards. It also provides $20 million for a lead exposure registry, $15 million for the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, and $15 million for the Healthy Start Program.