Washington Review, December 4, 2015
This week in Washington, I attended a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, had several meetings, and voted on important legislation.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing this week on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps: Fueling Middle East Turmoil. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a branch of Iran’s Armed Forces, backs Bashar Al-Assad’s Regime by providing funding, weapons, and advisors that have prolonged the terrible crisis in Syria. The IRGC also supports Houthi rebels fighting Saudi forces in Yemen and Shia militias that engage in violence against Iraq’s Sunni Minority. These relationships, among others, are concerning and my colleagues and I examined the possible threats posed by the IRGC and how lifting sanctions on Iran will impact the IRGC’s capabilities and conduct in the region.
This week I met with Costa Rican Ambassador Roman Macaya to discuss the relationship between our two countries. We talked about Costa Rica’s concerns in the region and how the United States and Costa Rica can continue working together.
Scott Darling, Acting Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also visited to continue discussing the problems posed by jitney buses, operating without permits, that shuttle passengers between New Jersey and New York City. We focused on how federal agencies, along with State and local law enforcement, can enforce regulations that balance motor carrier safety with efficiency and reduce the amount of bus related crashes.
While leaders from around the world gathered in Paris, France for a climate summit, the House of Representatives unfortunately focused on legislation that would roll back progress we have made in clean energy and environmental protections. I voted against H.R. 8, the North American Energy and Infrastructure Act of 2015, however, it passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 249-174. This legislation makes it more difficult to integrate clean, renewable energy alternatives into our nation’s infrastructure and creates a continued reliance on the energy sources that are responsible for the climate crisis that was the focus of discussions in Paris. Although Congress has yet to create a forward minded energy plan that incorporates alternative energy options to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, the Paris Climate Summit has yielded progress in clean energy research. At the summit, a number of private American citizens committed their own money to boost annual spending on energy research and to build businesses based on that research.
On Thursday, I voted in favor of H.R. 22, the Fix America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act which passed in the House of Representative by a vote of 359-65. Later that day, the Senate passed the same bill and sent it to the White House for the President’s signature. This bipartisan legislation increases highway and transit funding from current law, and authorizes highway, transit, freight, safety, and rail programs for five years at $305 billion. The final version of the FAST Act maintains the High Density/Growing States grant program which helps support NJ Transit infrastructure. New Jersey is also estimated to receive a total of $8.39 billion for federal-aid highway and transit program funding. In addition, the bill contains language from my Commute LESS Act that will encourage employers to create commuter benefit programs and expand transportation options that are aimed at mitigating congestion. I am pleased that Congress was able to pass legislation that boosts the economy and recognizes the necessity of federal funding for our transportation infrastructure.
In the aftermath of the violence in San Bernardino, CA, my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their loved ones. I want to stress that Congress cannot ignore the reoccurrence of tragic events that take the lives of innocent people. I feel that the House of Representatives and the Senate must work to actively pass legislation that addresses these mass shootings and makes access to weapons increasingly difficult for those who intend to commit acts of violence. As an example, I have cosponsored H.R. 1217, the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2015, a bipartisan effort to improve public safety and address gun violence.