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Washington Review, February 19, 2020

Feb 19, 2020
Washington Review

Last week in Washington, the House voted on removing the deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment and expanding public land protections. I met with the New Jersey Fraternal Order of the Police, representatives of New Jersey community colleges, the NJ Clean Cities Coalition and Transportation Energy Partners, and more. I attended a House Budget Committee hearing and also chaired a Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing.

Legislation

This week, the House considered H.J.Res.79, introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), which removes the ratification deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The ERA would prohibit all discrimination on the basis sex. Enshrining equality in our Constitution cannot be delayed or sidelined. As an original cosponsor, I voted in favor of H.J.Res.79 which passed by a vote of 232-183 and now awaits action before the Senate.

The House also debated and voted on H.R. 2546, Protecting America’s Wilderness Action of 2019, introduced by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), which permanently protects 1.3 million acres of public lands in Colorado, California, and Washington. In addition to conserving environmental integrity, this bill seeks to increase wildlife resiliency, protect ancestral homelands, and improve recreational access for underserved communities. I voted in favor of H.R. 2546, which passed by a vote of 231-183 and now awaits action before the Senate.

Meetings

Last Tuesday, the NJ Clean Cities Coalitions and Transportation Energy Partners joined me for a conversation on federal funding and clean energy technology. We discussed the looming threat of climate change and the need for immediate action. Also that day, I met with representatives of New Jersey’s community colleges to receive updates on youth education and job training in the 8th District. Present employment gaps are the reason I introduced my bill H.R. 4848, the Better Education and Skills Training (BEST) for America’s Workforce Act, which would fund partnerships between community colleges and local businesses to meet present workforce skills needs. I also welcomed Louis, a Special Olympics New Jersey Athlete, and Trevor, a unified partner, to Washington D.C. to hear about their accomplishments. We discussed the importance of creating a platform for athletes with disabilities to compete.

On Wednesday, I sat down with the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police for a discussion on community safety and officer wellness. Safety in the 8th District is indebted to these men and women and I will continue to do all I can to support them at the federal level. That day, I also met with Max Scachter, father of Alex Scachter who lost his life in the Parkland High School tragedy. I emphasized my support for gun control legislation and discussed my cosponsorship of the Luke and Alex School Safety Act, which gives school access to a central clearinghouse for best safety practices.

Portal North Bridge

Last week, the Department of Transportation announced that the Portal North Bridge was made eligible for federal funding and can move to the Engineering Phase of project development. As part of a key rail infrastructure system connecting New Jersey to New York, the success of the Portal North Bridge carries consequences for our local and national economy. I applaud the approval and will continue to fight for a 21st century infrastructure for the 8th District and the nation.

Budget

On Wednesday, the Acting Direct of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Russel Vought testified before the House Budget Committee. I questioned Mr. Vought on the President’s recently released fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget, which once again called for cuts to the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) program. I challenged Mr. Vought on his refusal to acknowledge that millions of jobs were created under the previous administration and the potential consequences of eliminating CDBG. As Congress continues the annual appropriations process, I will fight to ensure we create a federal budget that reflects the realities of our economy and community needs.

Foreign Affairs

On Thursday, I chaired a Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing on U.S. assistance to Mexico. My colleagues and I questioned Administration officials on pivotal aspects of the U.S-Mexico relationship, including security measures under the Merida Initiative and the Administration’s Remain in Mexico policy. It is critical that we support the rule of law and crime rate reductions for our southern neighbor. We all benefit from an improved quality of life on both sides of the border.