Washington Review, May 5, 2017
While in Washington this week, I voted against legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and voted for an Omnibus appropriations package to fund the government through fiscal year (FY) 2017. I also attended a hearing on airline customer service, participated in a House Foreign Affairs Committee markup, and held a number of meetings.
On Thursday afternoon, I voted against H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which would strip access to affordable health care from middle class and low-income families. This new healthcare legislation was rushed to the House floor for a vote without a nonpartisan analysis from the Congressional Budget Office so we do not know the true costs of the repeal. It also harms those who need coverage the most by allowing states to charge higher premiums for pre-existing conditions, defunding Planned Parenthood, and cutting Medicaid. Unfortunately, H.R. 1628 passed by a vote of 217-213 and is now awaiting further action in the Senate. I believe that every individual has a right to quality, affordable health care and I will continue to fight for critical access to health care services.
On Wednesday, I voted to adopt H.R. 244, the fiscal year (FY) 2017 Omnibus Appropriations bill, which passed the House by a vote of 309 to 118. H.R. 244 was then passed by the Senate. While I am pleased that this funding measure eliminates the risk of another destabilizing government shutdown, I believe that it is Congress’ duty to the American people to work towards long-term spending packages that provide stability and continuity to the federal government. I am particularly pleased that this measure includes increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at $34.1 billion, $22.5 billion for the Federal Pell Grant program, and includes funding for Community Development Block Grants and homelessness assistance grants.
Earlier this week, I participated in a House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing where I questioned executives from the airline industry about their customer service policies, in light of the April 9th incident in which a passenger was forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight. I believe that as the airline industry continues to evolve, customer service should remain a top priority. It is important to ensure that U.S. airlines are held accountable to their customers and that passengers’ rights continue to be protected.
I attended a House Foreign Affairs Committee markup where we considered three pieces of legislation dealing with human rights. Among the legislation we reviewed were two bills targeting human trafficking and H.R. 1677, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, which aims to protect Syrian civilians from human rights abusers. I am a cosponsor of this legislation, which would direct the President to impose sanctions on any individual or institution which conducts business or provides financial support to the Syrian government or its affiliated entities. H.R. 1677 passed in the House Foreign Affairs Committee and awaits further action on the House floor.
On Tuesday, legislation I cosponsored, H.R. 1679, the FEMA Accountability, Modernization and Transparency Act of 2017, passed unanimously in the House of Representatives. I saw firsthand the devastation Superstorm Sandy caused to residents of the 8th District, and how navigating the disaster aid process created an unnecessary and extraneous burden for our residents. This legislation would help streamline and rectify this confusing process by allowing information to be shared between federal agencies and state and local governments in an effort to expedite the application process. I am grateful to Congressman Garret Graves (R-LA) for spearheading this important legislation.
At the beginning of this week, I joined Chairman Jeff Duncan (R-SC) in meeting with Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States. We discussed current challenges facing the Western Hemisphere, including our shared concerns about the Maduro regime and its continued assault on human rights in Venezuela. We stressed the importance of a unified regional effort to support and protect the basic rights of the Venezuelan people.
Finally, I welcomed Hudson County Executive, Tom DeGise, to my Washington D.C. office. We discussed the importance of investing in transportation infrastructure and he updated me on the important projects currently underway in Hudson County.