Washington Review, August 2017
The month of August was busy as I addressed current events, cosponsored new legislation, and sent letters to the Administration urging for the protection of important policies that are essential to the wellbeing of New Jersey and the nation. As Congress returns to Washington this week, it is crucial that we work together in bipartisan cooperation to address unfinished business and pressing issues such as relief for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
- Hurricane Harvey
- Civil Liberties
- Environmental Protections
- Kearny Point
- Vice President Pence
I experienced firsthand the devastation and destruction Superstorm Sandy inflicted on New Jersey in 2012, and some of my constituents are still working to rebuild their lives and homes. Now, our country is reeling from yet another deadly disaster whose recovery will be beyond any single state’s resources. Hurricane Harvey’s assault on Texas has left countless people stranded, and without homes which will take years of recovery. Now more than ever, it is essential that Congress come together to provide assistance for the victims of Hurricane Harvey and reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is set to expire on September 30, 2017. If it expires, homeowners in vulnerable areas would be unable to purchase federal flood insurance.
This is why I have cosponsored H.R. 3285, the Sustainable, Affordable, Fair and Efficient (SAFE) National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2017 to reform and reauthorize the NFIP through September 2023. Specifically, this legislation would improve flood mapping, improve transparency, create investments for mitigation efforts, and reform the claims process based on lessons learned from past disasters, including Superstorm Sandy.
Last week, President Trump announced his decision to pardon former Sherriff Joe Arpaio, who built his career on sowing fear and distrust while violating the rights of Latinos. He has also been convicted of criminal contempt of court. Additionally, President Trump has recently maintained his commitment to banning transgender men and women in military service by sending guidance to the Pentagon on its implementation.
I believe these policies promote divisiveness, demonstrate a disregard for the rule of law, and codify discrimination against individuals based on sexual orientation or gender identity. America has a rich history of diverse people and, in my opinion, these directives are a step backward that endangers our national security and undermines the very values that our society is built on. I have joined over 140 of my colleagues in sending a letter to the President urging him to reconsider this ban which I feel discriminates against thousands of patriots. Furthermore, I am a cosponsor of H.R. 2282, the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation in housing, employment, federal funding, education, credit, and jury service. I will continue to fight against discrimination and work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that protections are in place to prevent such policies.
In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville a few weeks ago, Congress must do everything in its power to continue to protect American values. There is no place for racism, bigotry, and white supremacy in our country, and I have cosponsored H.Res. 496, condemning and censuring President Trump for his failure to condemn the white supremacist groups that were responsible for acts of domestic terrorism in Charlottesville. It would also condemn him for employing individuals with ties to white supremacist movements and urge him to fire any advisors who counsel him to cater to the alt-Right movement in the United States. I remain committed to fighting racism, hate, and bigotry.
In April, the President signed an executive order that directs the Department of Interior to rewrite an Obama-era schedule for lease sales between 2017 and 2022, which banned drilling in parts of the Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic Oceans. Coastal economies are inextricably tied to healthy ocean ecosystems, and offshore oil and drilling jeopardizes coastal businesses, fishing communities, the tourism industry and national security preparedness. My colleagues and I sent a letter to Secretary Zinke of the Department of the Interior expressing our strong opposition to oil and gas leasing in the Atlantic Ocean and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. I am also a cosponsor of H.R. 2272, the Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act, which would permanently ban offshore oil and gas development in the Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Atlantic, and Straits of Florida planning areas.
Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently issues proposed regulations that would rescind the Obama Administration’s Clean Water Rule in response to an executive order issued earlier this year. The Clean Water Rule is responsible for defining which waters are subject to federal water pollution. In response, my colleagues and I sent a letter to EPA Secretary Pruitt stating our opposition to rescinding the Clean Water Rule, which undermines our clean drinking water, public health, and outdoor recreation economy.
While in the District, it was a great honor to recognize the sacrifice of local veterans by presenting the Catholic War Veterans and the Joyce Herbert Veterans Post with photographs of the war memorials and flags in dedication to their service. It is important that we continue to support and recognize the contributions of our veterans, which is why I have also cosponsored H.R. 2519, the American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act. This bill would direct the Secretary of the Treasury to mint a coin commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the American Legion, which has become the largest veterans service organization in the United States.
During recess, I also had the opportunity to tour the Kearny Point complex with Congressman Donald Payne Jr. and Kearny Mayor Al Santos. After suffering extreme damage during Superstorm Sandy, this complex has been revitalized as an innovation hub for New Jersey small businesses, creating new opportunities for growth and economic development in the 8th District. Investing in the economic development of our communities is one of my top priorities, which is why I have introduced, along with Senator Menendez, H.R. 2865, the BEST for America’s Workforce Act. This legislation would create a competitive, $1 billion tax-credit program to encourage job training partnerships between community colleges and local businesses that equip workers with skills that match communities’ needs.
Finally, at the request of Vice President Pence, I met with him following my Congressional delegation visit to Latin America to discuss the importance of working in unity with Latin American partners to strengthen democratic institutions throughout the region, support anti-corruption efforts in the Northern Triangle and promote positive engagement. Additionally, we spoke of the necessity of working with our neighbors to condemn the consolidation of authoritarian power by President Maduro in Venezuela. It should be a top priority of all of our allies and neighbors in the Western Hemisphere to hold Maduro accountable for his actions, and restore basic human rights to the Venezuelan people.
Along these lines, I have sent a letter to Secretary of State Tillerson, with my colleagues on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, urging him to retain our commitment to democracy in the Department of State’s mission statement. I believe it is our values-based foreign policy which distinguishes us from countries around the world and it is important that the Department of State’s mission continues to reflect our priorities.