Washington Review, August 30, 2021
Throughout last week, I watched the developing situation in Afghanistan closely, and my office assisted in evacuation efforts for constituents who have family members in the country. Earlier in the week, the House passed H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Advancing Voting Rights Act and H.Res.601, to begin consideration of the budget resolution.
In addition, last week I cosponsored legislation to enhance disaster preparedness, increase the mobility of teachers, incentivize the use of nuclear power, and expand access to home and community-based health services through Medicaid. I also signed on to a letter to urge the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to increase protections for waterways and hold polluters accountable.
I have been closely watching the evacuation of Americans and Afghan partners at risk from Kabul. On Thursday, August 26, we mourned the loss of heroic U.S. servicemembers who had been supporting the evacuation mission, and were killed from a suicide bomb. I will continue to advocate for the safety of U.S. citizens, refugees, and journalists, and urge that they be provided safe passage to the United States. Please see my statement on the Afghanistan evacuation here.
Last week, I also joined my Democratic colleagues in passing H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, by a 219-212 vote. This legislation was introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) to honor the legacy of our late colleague, Congressman John Lewis, by protecting the right to vote. Specifically, the bill establishes new criteria for determining which states must obtain preclearance before changing their voting practices. The 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder deemed the federal preclearance criteria established by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 no longer applicable, requiring Congress to legislate new criteria. Since the Supreme Court decision, we have seen numerous attacks on the right to vote through restrictive voting laws made by states which previously needed preclearance. I urge the Senate to swiftly pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to protect the essential voting rights of all Americans.
Last Tuesday, I joined my Democratic colleagues in passing H.Res.601 , by a 220-212 vote. This rule allows consideration of S.Con.Res.14, which is the budget for the next fiscal year, and guarantees that the infrastructure package will be considered by September 27.
Last week, I joined Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) in introducing the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion (REAADI) for Disasters Act. This bipartisan legislation improves disaster preparedness for seniors, people with disabilities by establishing a network of centers focused on technical assistance, training, and research to assist state and local governments, launch a competitive grant program to pilot strategies that promote greater inclusion of these populations in disaster management, and expand the National Advisory Committee on Individuals with Disabilities and Disasters to better reflect the diverse characteristics of the disability community.
In addition, I cosponsored the Interstate Teaching Mobility Act which was introduced by Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) to create a voluntary interstate application program at the Department of Education (DOE) which would allow licensed teachers to use their licenses across participating state lines. It would also allow teachers to apply for open teaching positions in participating states without being subject to additional certifications or assessments, making it easier for teachers to transfer their skills across participating state lines to fill teacher shortages.
I also joined H.R. 4024, the Zero-Emission Nuclear Power Production Credit Act, introduced by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ). This legislation would provide a federal production tax credit (PTC) to America’s existing merchant nuclear power plants. Current law provides a PTC for eligible nuclear facilities only during the first eight years of operation. The proposed credit would make existing merchant nuclear plants eligible for the same credit available to other alternative energy producers.
Lastly, I cosponsored H.R. 4131, the Better Care Better Jobs Act, introduced by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), which would expand access to home and community-based services (HCBS) under Medicaid. Specifically, this legislation would increase the federal dollars available for HCBS programs and increase payment rates for direct care workers to encourage more people to join the workforce. In addition, this legislation would facilitate the development of HCBS infrastructure improvement plans and require Medicaid to show the improvements made with the additional funds.
Last week, I signed onto a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan and the Army Corps of Engineers, led by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA). This letter asks the agencies to fully repeal the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which eliminated protections for up to 71% of the country’s streams and over 50% of its wetlands. The current rule, set by the Trump administration, rolled back protections for waterways, and benefits polluters by not penalizing them for water pollution.
Current Washington D.C. Office Status
My staff continue to work remotely during this time. Please know we continue to monitor our phone system, so while we are unable to speak directly with you, we manage all voice messages left. If you reached out to us through phone or e-mail, please expect an e-mail response. Be sure to check your spam or junk folders for a response from our office. We appreciate your understanding as we all navigate working through the pandemic.
Vaccines are now available to all individuals 12 and older who live, work, or study in New Jersey. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine, as a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19. To find your nearest vaccine location and make an appointment, please visit Vaccines.gov.
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.
This year, instead of using the federal marketplace, New Jersey will switch to their own state-run marketplace. In order to browse health care plans you can visit: www.nj.gov/getcoverednj. Here you will be able to compare available plans, review financial assistance options, and select a plan that is best for you. This new marketplace is easy to use and helps to clearly identify plans that will be most beneficial to you. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial we leave no one behind and that everyone has access to affordable health care. If you need a health care plan, be sure to visit the site.
Congressional App Challenge
The Congressional App Challenge is now open for submissions and all middle school and high school students are encouraged to participate. To fosters students’ interest in STEM and computer science, this annual coding challenge tasks students with developing an original app, covering any theme and using any platform or coding language they choose. Winners of the challenge may be displayed in the U.S. Capitol Building. Students can submit their app design until November 1, 2021. Please see CongressionalAppChallenge.us for more information and to register.