Washington Review, December 12, 2014
As the end of the year and 113th Congress approached, over the past two weeks I participated in committee hearings, voted on several critical pieces of legislation, spoke on the Floor of the House of Representatives, and shared my gratitude with our troops serving overseas.
Last week, I met with the President of the Inter-American Foundation (IAF), Robert Kaplan, to discuss the work they are doing in Central America, particularly surrounding the unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border over the course of the past year. IAF has consistently awarded grants to, and invested in, programs and organizations in Latin America, and I was glad to hear of IAF’s community-led development initiatives in the region.
This week in Washington, I spoke on the Floor of the House to recognize the life of legendary North Bergen High School football coach Vincent Ascolese. Coach Ascolese, whose career as a high school football coach spanned 50 years, passed away on December 3rd after a long battle with cancer. He retired after the 2011 season as New Jersey’s third winningest coach in history, and has earned his place in both the Hudson County Hall of Fame and the New Jersey Coaches Hall of Fame. My thoughts are with Vincent Ascolese’s family, former players, and the North Bergen community.
In addition, this past week I participated in a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on our progress to diminish the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The Committee reviewed ISIL’s offensive in the Middle East and its threat to vital U.S. interests and allies. It was productive to hear testimonies from the Administration on their progress and oversight of the situation at hand.
I supported the passage of several critical pieces of legislation this week, such as the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2013 (H.R. 2901), which would increase the effectiveness of existing programs that are dedicated to safe drinking water and sanitation projects. These programs would be directed to some of the poorest regions in the world, where millions continue to live without access to clean water. With increased measures from Congress and other non-governmental organizations, we can increase access to one of the world’s most important resources.
I also supported the passage of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (TRIA) of 2014 (S. 2244). This measure would extend TRIA for six years and increase the program trigger for government assistance from $100 million to $200 million in industry losses resulting from a terrorist attack. Without affordable terrorism insurance, many buildings, schools, and commercial venues would remain uninsured against terrorist attacks, meaning the government likely would pick up the tab for catastrophic losses without being able to recoup them.
I also supported the unanimous passage of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act (H.R. 5059). This piece of legislation is named in honor of Corporal Clay Hunt, an Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart, worked to bring awareness to veterans’ issues, and who tragically took his own life. This bill would expand access to mental health services for our nation’s veterans and increase the capacity and efficiency of VA care for the more than one million veterans returning from war. The veterans of our country are owed and deserve our support as they return home.
Finally, I sent a holiday video message to our brave troops spending their holiday season keeping us safe overseas. I thank them for making it possible for those of us here at home to celebrate this holiday season in safety. Because of their sacrifice and call to serve, we have the freedom to celebrate the holidays across the country. We are thinking of our troops and their families this holiday season, and we thank them for all that they’ve done this year on behalf of their fellow Americans.