Washington Review, April 17, 2015
This week in Washington, I participated in several committee hearings, met with foreign ambassadors, and discussed important issues affecting the 8th District with constituent groups.
Railway safety is paramount in the 8th District. Our cities and towns contain an expansive amount of railway that facilitates the transport of passengers, freight, and crude oil. It is critical that federal, state, and local agencies are sufficiently prepared for emergency situations that might arise from these networks. During this week’s Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials hearing, I addressed railway safety issues that are important to the residents of our district who live and work in close proximity to our railways. Later in the week, Acting Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Sarah Feinberg, visited to respond to the concerns I voiced during the hearing and to discuss the steps the FRA is taking to prevent future incidents. I discussed this topic with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, as well.
The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee also held a markup this week. The full committee voted on several pieces of legislation. In particular, the Committee voted in favor of the FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act of 2015, which would fund the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through Fiscal Year 2018. FEMA plays a crucial role in our Nation’s recovery efforts, as we saw in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Properly funding this agency must continue to be a priority.
Additionally this week, I had several meetings to discuss international issues and attended a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. I first had the privilege of meeting with Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer. Ambassador Dermer visited to discuss recent developments in the Middle East. I then met with the Ambassador of Tajikistan to the United States, Farhod Salim, to discuss relations between the United States and Tajikistan. The President of the Free Russia Foundation, Natalia Arno, also visited to give an update on the abduction, by Russia, of Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko. The Free Russia Foundation is a nongovernmental U.S.-based organization that seeks to be a voice for those who have been silenced by current Russian leadership. Later, I attended a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing assessing Russia’s use of propaganda across the globe.
Several constituent groups visited this week to discuss topics that impact local businesses. The Mortgage Bankers Association met with me to discuss housing finance reform, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) reform, the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and tax reform. The American Bar Association also visited to discuss legislation and funding priorities of the justice system. I then met with members of the New Jersey Restaurant Association to discuss issues affecting the food industry in New Jersey.
Also representing workers in the 8th District, the United Steelworkers (USW), American Waterways Operators (AWO), and New Jersey Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association (NJFMBA) visited this week to address issues on behalf of their members. I first met with members of the USW to discuss the importance of protecting American jobs. I then had the opportunity to meet with the members of AWO, which comprises the largest segment of America’s domestic maritime fleet; representing the coastal tugboat, towboat, and barge industries. Finally, I met with the NJFMBA to discuss the importance of the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) and the importance of providing appropriate funding for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants. SAFER Grants enhance local fire departments’ abilities to have adequate staffing levels to ensure the safety and protection of our residents.