Washington Review, February 6, 2017
While in Washington last week, I attended a hearing, held meetings, spoke on the House Floor, voted on, and cosponsored, important legislation.
On Wednesday, I attended a hearing held by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure focused on building a 21st century infrastructure for America. My colleagues and I heard from a panel of witnesses about the challenges facing our Nation’s current transportation infrastructure and various funding proposals. Investing to build new infrastructure and maintain our existing system to meet modern obstacles, will not only create jobs and boost our economy but will improve Americans’ quality of life.
On Tuesday, representatives of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of New Jersey (AICUNJ) visited my office to provide an update on their legislative priorities for the 115th Congress. We discussed the Higher Education Act and the importance of funding student aid, including the Pell Grant Program, which assists students by covering higher education costs such as tuition, textbooks, and room and board.
Later, my colleagues and I met with His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al-Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, to receive an update on the ongoing security situation in the region. I also met with Members of the Serbian Parliament to discuss the relationship between the United States and Serbia.
Last week, I spoke on the House Floor to draw attention to the dangers of untreated obstructive sleep apnea in the railroad industry. Untreated sleep apnea can cause unintended sleeping episodes that may result in loss of situational awareness. Undiagnosed sleep apnea has been a factor in numerous railroad crashes including the September 2016 New Jersey Transit crash in Hoboken, NJ. It is my hope that the Federal Railroad Administration’s recently released safety advisory, calling for train operators to be screened for sleep apnea, is instituted quickly to make our railroads safer.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted on H.J.Res.40, which effectively blocks the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) rule to report individuals who are prohibited by law from purchasing or possessing firearms to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The rule allows SSA to report individuals who suffer from severe, long-term mental disorders and who the SSA has determined need assistance to manage their own Social Security Benefits to NICS. I voted against H.J.Res.40 because I feel that it undermines existing gun safety measures, including the effectiveness of the background check system. Unfortunately, this resolution passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 235-180.
On January 27th, President Trump suspended refugee resettlement and made changes in immigration policy for certain countries. Specifically, the Administration halted all refugee admissions into the U.S. for at least 120 days and suspended visas into the United States for all individuals from Iran, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and Iraq. I believe these orders are not only discriminatory, but go against our core values as Americans, which is why I cosponsored H.R. 724, the Statue of Liberty Values Act of 2017. This legislation, introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), would defund and rescind the President’s executive order banning travel from Muslim countries and suspending the refugee program. H.R. 724 is currently pending review before the House Committee on the Judiciary, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the House Committee on Homeland Security, and the House Committee on Intelligence.