Washington Review, August 3, 2020
Last week, I was back in Washington to vote on important legislation to appropriate funds to the government, expand and protect access to child care, create a National Museum of American Latinos, and we commemorated the late John Lewis. I also attended a House Foreign Affairs Committee review and consideration of several bills and wrote an op-ed on the Ortega regime’s continued abuse of human rights in Nicaragua.
Last Friday, I voted in favor of H.R. 7617, the Defense, Commerce, Justice, Science, Energy and Water Development, Financial Services and General Government, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). This legislation appropriated funds to many areas of our government and also included key amendments to ensure the funds appropriated are put to good use. I voted in favor of an amendment offered by Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL), which prevents the Department of Justice from using federal funds for litigation that undermines the Affordable Care Act. I was also an original cosponsor of an amendment that blocks the Administration’s harmful birth control rules, allowing the choice to take birth control to remain between a patient and their healthcare provider, and no one else. H.R. 7617 passed the House by a vote of 217-197, and now awaits further action by the Senate.
Last Monday, the House voted on H.R. 2420, the National Museum of the American Latino Act, to establish a National Museum of American Latinos. Latinos contribute so much to our great nation culturally, socially, and economically, and it is beyond time that we have a national museum to commemorate these great achievements. I was proud to vote in favor of this legislation, which passed the House by a voice vote and now awaits further action from the Senate.
The House also voted on S.2163, the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act, introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). This important legislation establishes a commission on the social status of black men and boys in the Civil Rights Office to conduct a systematic study of social conditions impacting black men and boys. Since the tragic death of George Floyd, the social disadvantages faced by many in our country has again come under increased scrutiny. It is imperative we try to correct these wrongs and find out what steps can be taken to advance the social status of black men and boys, who are too often the victim of systematic racism in our country. The House passed S.2163 by a vote of 368-1, after receiving this legislation from the Senate. S.2163 now awaits further action from the President, where he will sign the bill into law, or return it to Congress.
Last Wednesday, the House voted on two child care bills, H.R. 7327, the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act, introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), and H.R. 7027, the Child Care is Essential Act, introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). H.R. 7327 creates a tax refund and payroll tax credit for parents who use child care for their children. H.R. 7027 establishes a $50 billion appropriation for the Child Care Stabilization Fund to award grants to child care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring children are safe during the day is a key aspect for parents who have to work, and even more important now while millions of adults are returning to their offices. Child care should not be a financial burden to parents who already work hard to support their families. H.R. 7027 passed the House by a vote of 249-163, and H.R. 7327 passed the House by a vote of 250-161. Both bills now await further action from the Senate.
I also signed on as an original cosponsor of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Highway Act. This legislation will name U.S. Highway 80, from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Highway. After the recent and tragic passing of Rep. Lewis, this was one small way to help commemorate his legacy. Rep. Lewis’s legacy cannot be understated, he was a titan of the civil rights era who spent his life advocating for equality and justice for those who have been oppressed, and all Americans. He was always striving to give people the rights and freedoms they deserved and will always be remembered as a true hero. I vow to continue living up to his legacy here in Congress.
Last Wednesday, I attended a House Foreign Affairs Committee consideration and vote on several pieces of legislation. Some of the bills considered were the Securing America from Epidemics Act, the Stop Predatory Organ Trafficking Act, and the Haiti Development, Accountability, and Institutional Transparency Initiative Act. We also considered resolutions to condemn the actions of China in Hong Kong and confirm that it is the sense of the House that Russia meddled in the 2016 Presidential election. After the committee consideration, these pieces of legislation now await further action from the full House.
Last Friday, I joined Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) in a letter to the U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Todd Chapman, concerning media reports that the Ambassador told Brazilian officials they could help President Trump win reelection by reducing ethanol tariffs. I am extremely alarmed by these reports, which are not only wholly inappropriate for an ambassador to make, but also serve as a potential violation of the Hatch Act. Elections in the United States are for the American people only to decide. Given the history of foreign interference in the 2016 election, Ambassador Chapman’s actions, if confirmed, would be highly irresponsible. Our letter calls for the Ambassador to produce any documents related to conversations he had with Brazilian officials recently to determine if these reports are true. Ambassador Chapman must demonstrate he is representing U.S. interests, not the individual political interests of Donald Trump. The letter has since gained coverage in the New York Times and the Washington Post, among other outlets, proving that the American people take seriously the threat of foreign interference in our elections.
I led a letter along with Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), and 12 other members of Congress to Secretary of State Pompeo highlighting my concern about the human right’s abuses occurring in Honduras. On July 18th, four Garifuna leaders were kidnapped from their homes and forced into unmarked vehicles at gunpoint by officers of the National Investigative Police. The letter expresses concerns with these human right’s abuses and the Administration’s soft stance on Honduran President Hernández and urges the Administration to engage with the government of Honduras in an attempt to crackdown on corruption and the corrosion of the rule of law in the country.
I also wrote an op-ed in The Hill criticizing Daniel Ortega’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and human right’s abuses in Nicaragua. In April 2018, Ortega responded to anti-government protestors by killing more than 300 people and has not stopped abusing his citizens. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic Ortega has twice disappeared for over a month and has sought to cover up the deadly impact of the pandemic in his country. My op-ed calls for increased efforts from the U.S. and other international organizations to help the Nicaraguan people reclaim their democracy.
The Census response rate in the 8th District is far below the average for the rest of New Jersey. Completing the Census is not only a constitutional responsibility but also greatly helps your district and local community get the funds it needs. Census results are directly tied to funding for emergency first responders, hospitals, schools, and many other important federal programs. Completing your census takes less than 10 minutes total and can have a significant impact. To complete your census visit: https://2020census.gov/en.html
Please know that I will continue working to get the 8th District the resources it needs. If you have questions or need assistance please call my Washington, D.C. office at (202)225-7919 and follow instructions to be connected to my staff or send an email to NJ8inquiries@mail.house.gov. Together we can get through this.