Washington Review, February 11, 2020
Last week in Washington, the House passed critical reforms for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and expanded essential labor rights. I met with leaders on education and labor policy to inform my legislative work and attended hearings with my colleagues on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Last Tuesday, the House considered a bill that I cosponsored, H.R. 2382, the USPS Fairness Act, introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). In 2006, the United States Postal Service was required to be the only government agency to pre-fund health care for all employees present and future. In the changing landscape of distribution in the following 14 years, I believe, along with many of my colleagues, that this is an unsustainable burden on of our nation’s most important public services. I voted in favor of H.R. 2382, which would repeal the 2006 mandate and passed on a bipartisan vote of 309-106.
On Thursday, I voted in favor of H. Res.826, a bill expressing disapproval of the Administration’s Medicaid block grant proposal, introduced by Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX). It is critical to protect Medicaid recipients against any efforts to undermine or reduce coverage, especially in the face of rising health care and prescription drug costs. H.Res.826 passed by a vote 223-190.
Later that day, I also voted for another bill that I cosponsored, H.R. 2474, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA). As inequality in our economy spikes, the rights of workers to organize and protect themselves must be guarded at all costs. H.R. 2474 protects the right to strike, the right to act in solidarity with workers at other companies, the right to pursue justice through class action, and other fundamental rights. This bill also strengthens the ability of workers to negotiate for higher wages, better benefits, and secure first contract agreements. H.R. 2474 passed by a vote of 224-194.
Crucially, the House also passed H.R. 5687, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief and Puerto Rico Disaster Tax Relief Act, introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). This package provides $4.67 billion in emergency supplemental aid for Puerto Rico following a series of intense earthquakes in recent months. I voted in favor of this package and will continue working with my colleagues to help Puerto Rico rebuild. H.R. 5687 passed by a vote of 237-161. All of the bills passed this week have been sent to the Senate for consideration.
On Wednesday, I met with representatives of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers. We discussed my support for labor unions and the work Congress is currently undertaking to progress labor rights across the country.
The following day, I met with the National Education Association. Speaking with NEA Director Donna Mirabelli and New Jersey Director Anita Kober, we went over legislative priorities for protecting our public schools and expanding funding to ensure the success of students. Afterwards, I spoke at “Dominicans on the Hill” day, an event hosted by my friend Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY). I am thrilled every year to meet with the constituents who travel to Washington and am proud to be a longtime supporter of the Dominican community.
I attended a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday focused on the challenges facing women in global health. As Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, I was proud to bring the knowledge my Subcommittee colleagues and I have fostered on women’s health issues to the full Committee hearing. When I visited the Venezuela-Colombia border, I spoke directly with Venezuelan women about their concerns for the health and safety of them and their children. Sheba Crocker, Vice President for Humanitarian Policy and Practice at the relief agency CARE, emphasized how the stories I heard firsthand represent the prevalence of gender-based violence, stemming in part from the Venezuela crisis. Congress must always look to lift up marginalized voices in the creation of our foreign policy and work to overcome challenges women face in global health.
As Latvia will celebrate the 30th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union later this year, I met with Rihards Kols, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee for the Latvian Saeima, and Reinis Znotins, Chairman of the IT and Innovative Entrepreneurship Subcommittee. I emphasized my commitment to combating Russian aggression and we discussed how a Belarus travel ban could make the country more susceptible to Russian influence. On Thursday, I sat down with Metin Hakverdi, a member of the German Bundestag, to express our mutual support for a strong U.S.- German relationship.
Also on Thursday, I met with Juan Guaidó, Venezuela’s Interim President, along with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House colleagues. Nearly 5 million Venezuelans have been forced to flee their homes due to a humanitarian crisis caused by Nicolás Maduro. I spoke with President Guaidó about how to bolster our international aid response and promote democratic elections in Venezuela. Additionally, I voiced my support for granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to protect Venezuelans already here in the U.S.
Thank you for reading the Washington Review. Again, hearing from my constituents enables me to be a better representative of the 8th District. For regular updates, you may stay in touch by leaving comments on my Facebook, Twitter, and website.