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Washington Review April 26, 2013

Apr 26, 2013
Washington Review

The last week of April was a busy time in Congress. For the majority of the week, I focused my work on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. I heard from a variety of stakeholders on how to improve our infrastructure in the 21st Century and create jobs. To learn more about my work this week on transportation, and other priorities, including foreign affairs, I invite you to continue reading my Washington Review.

This week, on April 24th, I joined my colleagues at the first hearing of the new ‘Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation.’ This is a special bipartisan panel created to meet over the next six months to examine the current role freight transportation plays in the U.S. economy. Our working transportation system is critical to the national economy, as well as to the economy of our district, which sees a significant volume of freight carried across multiple modes of transportation each year. Our state is home to millions of square feet of warehousing and distribution space, thousands of miles of highway and railroad track, and about 11% of our workers are involved in the movement of goods. We cannot continue to implement 20th century policies to our 21st century freight system. It is critical that Congress seek ways to increase efficiency, safety, and overall condition and performance of the Nation’s freight network.

After the Freight Transportation Panel Hearing, I met with members of New Jersey Seed who discussed the need for funding to create a robust transportation infrastructure network.  They also highlighted the importance of raising the Bayonne Bridge and reauthorizing MAP-21, the legislative tool that provides funding for our nation’s transportation infrastructure. I have long been a supporter of raising the Bayonne Bridge in order to keep our ports competitive and create jobs in the community.

I also discussed the reauthorization of MAP-21 with my colleagues on April 25th, at the Highways and Transit Subcommittee Hearing. Specifically, we examined the state and local perspectives on the progress of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) toward meeting programmatic reforms and deadlines mandated in MAP-21.

Congress last extended MAP-21 in June 2012, funding programs through September 30, 2013. While this bill did not provide everything I had hoped for, it continues to provide much needed certainty for New Jersey businesses and local transportation agencies through 2013. It maintains infrastructure that is critical to our economy, and it is also estimated to create or save more than two million jobs. Now MAP-21 is set to expire again. Congress cannot wait; the people of New Jersey and this nation deserve certainty. It is my priority, and that of the committee members, to reauthorize MAP-21 without having to resort to any short-term extension.

Additionally, this week on April 24th, Ambassador of Greece to the U.S., Christos Panagopoulos, came in for an introductory meeting with me to discuss the political and fiscal situation in Greece and Europe. As a member of the Europe and Eurasia Subcommittee I value the strong relationship I have with Greece and the Greek community.

This week, I also met with Colombia’s Minister of National Defense, Juan Carlos Pinzón, to discuss security issues important to U.S.-Colombian relations. In particular we discussed the ongoing nationalization of counternarcotics programs to Colombian control and our continued support of governance and post-conflict objectives. I expressed my commitment to Minister Pinzón that as Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, I will push to ensure that our commitment to Colombia’s peace and security remain strong.

Also this week, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shane Donovan and Sandy Task Force Director Laurel Blatchford hosted an event to brief New Jersey delegates about Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts at home. During the meeting we discussed or priority to distribute the first rounds of federal relief to homeowners and small businesses who need it most. Secretary Donovan and Director Blatchford also provided us with updates on the revision to federal flood maps that could affect residents of New Jersey.

Lastly, on April 26, I joined my colleagues in passing legislation by a vote of 361 to 41 that will make available up to $253 million in order to prevent additional furloughs of air traffic controllers.  If signed into law, the Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 will give the Department of Transportation the authority to transfer unobligated funds from the Airport Improvement Program account to the Federal Aviation Administration Operations account.  This action would end crippling air traffic control furloughs that are slowing passenger travel, reducing safety at our airports, and causing economic disruption to our still recovering economy.

Again, 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.