Washington Review, April 10, 2014
This week in Washington, I had a series of meetings with my constituents and students from New Jersey, became a cosponsor of several very important pieces of legislation, and reflected on the newly-proposed Ryan budget.
As a co-chair of the Taiwan Caucus, it was a pleasure to meet with Ambassador Lyushun Shen, the new Taiwan Representative to the United States, earlier this week to discuss the important economic ties between our two countries. I also met with Taiwanese students from the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC) who came to tell me about their ongoing service learning group initiatives.
I was also pleased to meet with undergraduate students from Rutgers University who discussed with me how financial aid has impacted their education. Hundreds of thousands of students rely on Pell Grants, federal loans, work-study, and other vital federal programs to complete their degrees, and I am proud to support these critical programs. I was glad to report that I recently wrote to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, requesting at least $33.9 billion in mandatory and discretionary dollars for the Federal Pell Grant Program.
This week I also attended a Subcommittee of the Western Hemisphere hearing to discuss the Fiscal Year 2015 Foreign Affairs budget. As the United States works to assist Latin America and the Caribbean in promoting economic and social opportunity, ensuring citizen security, strengthening democratic institutions, and securing a clean energy future, I believe we must adapt our own programs to support countries whose capacities allow themselves to address their challenges independently. Furthermore, we must try to balance citizen security initiatives and traditional development programs that ensure peace and economic prosperity. Amongst the concerns I raised was how we are working with the Mexican government to respond to the escalation of violence erupting in Tamaulipas, Mexico in a fashion similar to its previous actions in Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, Mexico.
I am pleased to report that I cosponsored several very important pieces of legislation this week. First, in our efforts to bring a vote to extend unemployment insurance to the floor, I have signed on as a cosponsor of H.R. 4415, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014, a version of which has already been passed in the Senate. This bill would extend unemployment insurance benefits until May 31, 2014, and would be applied retroactively for those who have lost their benefits due to no fault of their own. I also wrote to Speaker Boehner this week, urging the House to act without delay to pass this bipartisan agreement and extend an economic lifeline to millions of struggling jobseekers and their families.
Additionally, I participated in a Transportation Committee markup session of H.R. 4156, the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, of which I am a cosponsor. This bill returns transparency to U.S. airline fare advertising by allowing advertisements for passenger air travel to state the base airfare and separately disclose any government imposed taxes and fees and the total cost of travel. As a Member of the Transportation Committee, I believe this bill is an easy way to give citizens better information about the cost of the flights they are purchasing.
Finally, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released another budget this week with misplaced priorities that will slow our economic recovery and destroy American jobs. Rather than address the priorities of the middle class, the Ryan budget is an attack on American seniors, students, workers, and families — all for the sake of protecting loopholes for the wealthy and corporations that ship jobs overseas. Not only does the Ryan budget increase the inequality gap between the wealthiest one percent and the rest of America, slashing funding for vital programs like the SNAP Program and Head Start, but it also does nothing to support job creation or our global competitiveness.
Conversely, the Democratic budget substitute offered By Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) would raise revenue by $1.8 trillion and cut spending by $27 billion. It also increases the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, enacts much-needed immigration reform, extends tax credits for the middle class, and extends Emergency Unemployment Compensation for one year.