Washington Review, February 23, 2017
Last week in Washington, D.C., I held meetings, pushed for accountability, introduced legislation, and voted against a resolution attacking women’s health.
On Tuesday, I met with members of the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police to thank them for their service and discuss their legislative priorities in the 115th Congress. It is important that Congress provides law enforcement officials with the resources they need in order to keep our communities safe.
Later in the week, members of the Jewish War Veterans from New Jersey visited my office to discuss how Congress can help improve services for veterans.
I feel that recent reports of discussions between Russian officials and members of the President’s transition team, particularly former National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, are deeply troubling and raise concerns that the General violated what is commonly referred to as The Logan Act. The Logan Act is a U.S. federal law which prohibits private citizens from interfering with diplomatic relations between the United States and foreign governments. While General Flynn resigned from his position as National Security Advisor on February 13th, I believe that his actions must be scrutinized to determine their affect on American national security and intelligence operations. That is why last week, I asked the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), to demand that the General appear before the Committee to give sworn testimony regarding the Trump Administration’s relationship with the Russian government. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I will continue to push for transparency and accountability for the American people.
On Wednesday, I met with the Venezuelan human rights activist, Lilian Tintori. She provided an update on her husband, Leopold Lopez, a politician in Venezuela who has been a political prisoner since 2015. He was arrested and sentenced by Venezuelan President Maduro as part of his regime’s ongoing attempts to silence pro-democracy candidates in Venezuela. This conviction was condemned by leaders around the world and by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch. I have sent numerous letters calling for the release of Leopoldo Lopez and for sanctions to be brought against the Maduro regime.
I also met with Emanuel Gonzalez-Revilla, the Panamanian Ambassador to the United States to discuss the ongoing cooperation between Panamanian and American security forces in response to regional issues.
On Thursday, I attended a briefing held by the Atlantic Council reviewing their recent report on trends in Latin America and the Caribbean. We discussed the economic, political, and social progress in the region as well as the importance of regional partnerships to encourage the development of strong democratic institutions, quality education systems, and continued economic growth.
Later that day, I met with the President of Hudson County Community College, Dr. Glenn Gabert, to receive an update on the school. We also discussed legislative priorities in higher education, including the importance of providing funding for students through federal programs, such as the Pell Grant Program, which helps low and moderate-income students pay for higher education expenses.
I also had the opportunity to welcome representatives and athletes from Special Olympics New Jersey (SONJ) to my office. We discussed SONJ’s work to improve the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and how Congress can support these efforts. I also had the privilege to speak with athletes, Becky Scheick and Brooke Creighton, about their experiences with Special Olympics.
On Wednesday, I introduced legislation that would require the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to notify Members of Congress and Senators when a railroad or rail transit agency is being investigated for safety violations. This legislation seeks to ensure that safety audits are transparent so constituents are informed of federal investigations into safety violations and Congress is able to provide effective oversight of railroads.
Last week, the House of Representatives voted on a resolution, H.J.Res.43, which would roll back a Title X rule designed to shield family planning clinics from partisan state-level defunding efforts. This resolution is another step in recent attacks on women’s health and presents a serious threat to those who rely on these clinics as their health care provider, particularly those in medically underserved areas with few to no alternatives. Unfortunately, while I strongly opposed this resolution and voted against it, on February 16, 2017 it passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 230-188.