Washington Review, February 13, 2015
This week in Washington, I participated in various Committee and Subcommittee hearings, and met with several constituent groups, as well as foreign officials.
I first attended a Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on the reauthorization of the federal surface transportation programs. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx spoke about the need for a long-term transportation bill, as well as the importance of the Highway Trust Fund. It is critical that Congress find a long-term financing solution for the programs that keep Americans safe when using our nation’s highways, airports, railroads, and public transit systems.
I also participated in a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing regarding the growing threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and asked the panel what the United States can do to help ensure that Jordan can manage both the influx of refugees and the security of their nation against ISIL, as well as what role the United States should play in equipping our allies abroad in the fight against ISIL. U.S. and Arab partners have conducted airstrikes against ISIL in response to their increased brutality, and the United States must continue to work with our allies in the region, such as the Kurdish forces, in order to degrade their organization.
I then attended a Europe and Eurasia Subcommittee hearing regarding energy, security, and human rights in Azerbaijan. This was the first hearing of the Subcommittee in the 114th Congress, in which the Subcommittee assessed the relationship between the United States and Azerbaijan. While a critical ally in a difficult region, I have concerns over the reports of human rights abuses and hope that Congress can shape policies that will assist in promoting democratic principals in Azerbaijan in order to strengthen our ties in the region.
I also met with various constituent groups this week, including the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police. We discussed public safety issues, as well as the importance of giving law enforcement officials the resources required to keep our communities safe.
In addition, I met with members of the Amtrak Fraternal Order of Police, who are committed to protecting the passengers, employees, and patrons of Amtrak. They discussed the importance of working with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies across the country, as well as critical officer retention initiatives.
I then met with several Presidents and Members of the Boards of Trustees of some of New Jersey’s community colleges, such as Hudson County Community College and Union County Community College. New Jersey’s 19 community colleges provide high-quality transfer programs, occupational programs, and continuing education courses, among many other resources. We discussed the important role community colleges play in affording opportunities for higher education, as well as the President’s proposed Tuition-Free Community College Plan.
I also met with Dr. Tom Farris, Dean of the Rutgers School of Engineering, and Dr. Michael Bruno, Dean of the Schaefer School at the Stevens’ Institute of Technology. Both Deans provided updates on the cutting-edge research and innovative work being done at their respective schools.
Finally, I met with Colombian Ambassador Luis Carlos Villegas to discuss the status of ongoing peace talks and the resiliency of the strong bilateral U.S.-Colombia relationship. I was encouraged to hear of the significant economic and security gains made by the Colombian government and its commitment to see an end to a fifty-year long conflict.