Washington Review, March 7, 2014
This week was a very busy time in Congress. I began the week speaking at the 2014 National Bike Summit, and ended the week by supporting an assistance package to Ukraine. In between, I had various meetings regarding foreign affairs and reviewed the President’s FY15 budget.
Earlier this week, I attended the 2014 National Bike Summit, where more than 700 participants from all 50 states came together to build momentum for a Bicycle Friendly America, as biking and walking have become increasingly popular across the country. I am proud to have support from the League of American Bicyclists on my legislation to promote bicycling, H.R. 3978, the New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Financing Act of 2014. This bill creates a tool for mayors and communities to finance much-needed bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, including in low-income neighborhoods, without adding any spending to the deficit.
I then met with activists from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to discuss the importance of bipartisan leadership in Congress in order to ensure that the Iranian nuclear program is dismantled. Similarly, I signed a letter being sent to President Obama which expresses serious concern with Iran’s nuclear program.
I also met with Ambassador King of Taiwan to wish him farewell as he leaves his post in Washington. I look forward to working with the new Ambassador in my role as co-chair of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus and finding ways to improve relations with Taiwan.
Additionally, I met with Nobel Peace Prize Winner Leymah Gbowee, who is a Liberian peace activist, social worker, and women’s rights advocate. Leymah is best known for leading a nonviolent movement that brought together Christian and Muslim women to play a pivotal role in ending Liberia's devastating, fourteen-year civil war in 2003. We discussed the role of women in solving the crisis in Syria and the importance of women in peace-building in light of the upcoming International Women’s Day.
This week I signed on as a cosponsor to H.R. 4156, the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, which returns transparency to U.S. airline fare advertisement. This bill allows advertisers to state the base airfare, separately disclose any government imposed taxes and fees, and then advertise the total cost of travel. This bill ensures transparency by notifying customers as to what fees they’re paying and where their money is going.
Additionally, I joined my Democratic colleagues in sending a letter to Speaker Boehner, urging him to schedule a long overdue vote on extending emergency unemployment insurance that would help over 2 million Americans; 200,000 of whom served our nation honorably as Veterans. I believe it is unacceptable that Congress has turned its back on these Americans that are looking for work and trying to support their families, and I urge the Speaker to schedule this vote immediately.
President Obama also released his budget for fiscal year 2015 this week, and I am pleased that this budget includes provisions to strengthen the middle class, invest in infrastructure, and protect the benefits of senior citizens.
The President’s budget lays out a four-year, $302 billion surface transportation reauthorization proposal ensuring the health of the Highway Trust Fund for another four years; increasing “fix-it-first” investment to repair highways and bridges; and modernizing our infrastructure by making new investments in transit, intercity passenger rail, and competitive grant programs. I am glad that this proposal will improve the movement of people and goods while bringing job opportunities to communities across the country.
Additionally, the budget creates a National Infrastructure Bank, a proposal that I support. This entity would ensure increased investment in our nation’s infrastructure through loans and loan guarantees regarding transportation, energy, and water projects.
Furthermore, after joining my Democratic colleagues in urging President Obama to rule out using the chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) to calculate cost-of-living and inflation adjustments for Social Security beneficiaries in the Administration’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2015, I am pleased that the President did not include such a provision in his budget. If the chained CPI would have been used it could have reduced benefits for millions of seniors, veterans, federal retirees, and disabled individuals.
Lastly, I remain concerned about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and Crimea, especially in light of the recent Sochi Olympics where the world came together to champion the global spirit. I am encouraged by steps taken in Congress this week to better monitor the situation at hand and to assist Ukraine in its fight for democracy. I attended a Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing regarding U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine where I asked the Deputy Assistant Secretary how the United States will coordinate with our European allies on assisting Ukraine during their transition to a free democracy. I supported passage of H.R. 4152 to provide assistance to Ukraine.