Washington Review: April 19, 2013 (Click to read)
Welcome to my very first Washington Review. This review will be a good way for me to communicate directly with you concerning my work in Congress. I will also provide you with highlights about meetings and hearings I have in Washington D.C. I’m honored to represent you, and I’ll continue to focus on the issues that are important to you.
The third week of April (4/15-4/18) was a very busy week. On Wednesday, April 17th, I went to the Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing to examine the State Departments budget request for fiscal year 2014, released by the President on April 10th. At the hearing, Secretary of State John Kerry testified on the President’s proposal, which sets the Foreign Operations Budget six percent lower than it was for fiscal year 2012. I believe we should continue to invest in the programs that the International Affairs budget funds. This budget only accounts for just over one percent of the total national budget, and makes an outsized contribution to security and economic objectives abroad. It also creates jobs at home by helping American companies compete overseas and by building future trading partners. Additionally, Congress must make a serious and sustained commitment for needed security to ensure that the men and women serving abroad can carry out their jobs as safely as possible.
Last week in Congress I also had the pleasure of meeting with several groups from New Jersey. On Thursday, April 18th, I sat down with members from the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. We discussed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) of 2013 (H.R. 508), which would extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program for five years, through December 31, 2019. TRIA has been crucial in stabilizing the market for terrorism risk insurance and has provided certainty for New York and New Jersey businesses operating in this time of daunting terrorist threats. I am proud to cosponsor this legislation, and it is my hope that Congress will not wait until the 2014 deadline to reauthorize this crucial program.
I also met with members of the New Jersey Bankers Association who explained some of the road blocks that banks are facing in assisting small businesses in New Jersey affected by Sandy. They discussed the ongoing struggles of residents and businesses in the aftermath. I am committed to working with stakeholders to reduce barriers to assistance in this capacity, and also to suppress the rising costs of flood insurance.
Last week, I also met with students from Rutgers University to discuss the rising cost of tuition. The students spoke about the need for maintaining robust federal tuition aid programs, and preventing the student loan interest rate from doubling in June. Students at Rutgers benefit from several federal financial aid programs including Pell Grants, Supplemental Equal Opportunity Grants, Federal Work-Study Grants, Federal Perkins Loans, and Direct Loans totaling over $420 million each year. More than two thirds of the 58,000 students at Rutgers receive some form of financial assistance, and cutting these programs would have a significant impact on their education.
Last week also marked a tragic event that deeply affected our nation. The Boston Marathon bombings will not soon be forgotten, and neither will the victims. The lives that were lost and the injuries suffered by the victims are heavy on our hearts. Yet in the midst of the smoke, this tragedy exposed the best of who we are as a nation. After the blast, the first responders, the volunteers, the medical professionals, the police, and most of all, the people of Boston raced toward the explosion to aid the people who had fallen, and remained unflinching as the second bomb went off. The individuals responsible for the bombings planned to cause destruction, but they only exposed unity, endurance and compassion. It is clear that this senseless act of terrorism has not waivered the American spirit.
Thank you for reading my Washington Review. I look forward to continuing to provide you with updates from Washington. In the meantime, please visit my Facebook and Twitter accounts for daily happenings.