Washington Review, April 10, 2017
While in Washington last week, legislation I introduced passed the House of Representatives, I attended hearings, spoke on the House Floor, and held meetings.
Last week, H.Res.54, a bipartisan resolution that I introduced earlier this year, reaffirming the U.S.-Argentina partnership, unanimously passed the House of Representatives. The resolution cites President Macri’s commitment to rebuild the economy, combat domestic corruption, defend human rights abroad, strengthen press freedoms, attract foreign direct investment, and return Argentina to the international credit markets. It also urges the State Department to coordinate an interagency strategy to increase cooperation with Argentina on areas of bilateral, regional, and global concern. Finally, it encourages the Macri Administration to continue investigating the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, as well as the January 2015 suspicious death of AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, and prosecute those who were involved. I am grateful for my colleagues support on this resolution and look forward to continued cooperation with Argentina.
Last year, the U.S. Intelligence Community, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), concluded that Vladimir Putin and his senior officials in the Russian government took actions to interfere in the U.S. elections. The House Intelligence Committee has set up an investigation into Russian cyber activity and interference directed against the United States and its allies as well as relevant links between Russia and U.S. citizens. However, recent events including conflicting reports, accusatory statements by the President, and actions that serve to undermine the Committee’s ability to work together, underline the need for an independent investigation into Russian interference. Last week, Intelligence Committee Chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, announced that he will step aside from the investigation into Russia. While I believe this is a necessary and appropriate action, I will continue to advocate for an independent commission to complete the investigation.
On Wednesday, I attended a hearing held by the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit focused on the implementation of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The FAST Act reauthorizes federal surface transportation programs, providing funds for highway, transit, freight, safety, and rail programs through fiscal year 2020. We heard from state and local government transportation authorities on how implementation of the FAST Act will affect communities across the United States.
On Tuesday, I joined my colleagues on the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and met with the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, John Kelly. We voiced our concerns regarding the Trump Administration’s recent executive actions on immigration and the increase in deportations. We expressed our hope that the President will work with Congress to create a compassionate and comprehensive policy.
That afternoon, members of the New Jersey School Nutrition Association visited my office to discuss the importance of ensuring children have access to nutritious meals while they are at school. As a former educator, I understand the important role well-balanced meals have on academic performance.
On Wednesday, I welcomed a delegation of Union County administrators. They provided me with an update on their various projects to improve Union County communities.
That evening, I was recognized by the Humane Society for my legislative work on animal welfare. The Humane Society is the nation’s largest animal protection organization and works with Congress to improve animal protections.
On Thursday, I welcomed representatives of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) from New Jersey. They expressed their concerns regarding the Trump Administration’s current immigration policies and the impact of mass deportations on local communities.
On Tuesday, I met with Metin Hakverdi, a member of the German Parliament, to discuss maintaining transatlantic relations as well as the importance of a strong partnership between our two countries.
I also met with Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, and expressed my concerns over the continued persecution of Coptic Christians and religious minorities in Egypt, many of whom are targeted by terror groups in the region. Just this weekend, ISIS claimed responsibility for a pair of explosions targeting Coptic Christians who were celebrating Palm Sunday mass at two churches in Egypt. It is my hope that the Trump Administration will work with President Al-Sisi to protect and guarantee basic human rights for all Egyptian citizens.
Later that day, I spoke on the House Floor to emphasize the importance of the international affairs budget and reiterate my dismay at proposed cuts in funding for these programs. These funds are critical to our nation’s ability to engage in diplomatic conversations, improve international stability, and protect our interests abroad.
The next morning, I met with Ambassador Juan Carlos Pinzon of Colombia who updated me on the Colombian peace process and discussed the importance of continued U.S. support for this process. I also met with El Salvador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hugo Martinez, who visited my office to discuss his nation’s efforts to make communities safer by tackling corruption, reducing violence, and improving public security.
I then met with members of Kazakhstan’s Parliament to discuss issues and challenges currently facing their country and the region.
On Wednesday, I attended a hearing held by the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats examining the deterioration of Turkey’s democracy under President Erdogan. In the wake of the failed coup last July, President Erdogan has cracked down on opposition and consolidated his authority. We heard from a panel of experts about continued concerns regarding constitutional democracy, corruption, and the abuse of civil liberties, including freedom of the press, in Turkey.
Finally, on Thursday, ahead of the President’s visit with the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, I joined 135 of my colleagues in sending a letter to President Trump, reaffirming the strong relationship between the United States and Taiwan.