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Washington Review, February 9, 2015

Feb 9, 2015
Washington Review

Over the past two weeks in Washington, I reintroduced important legislation, participated in several Subcommittee hearings, met with various constituent organizations, and voted on legislation in the House.

Two weeks ago, I was proud to reintroduce the Collaborative Academic Research Efforts (CARE) for Tourette Syndrome Act (H.R. 619) with Senator Menendez to expand and further coordinate efforts towards research for Tourette syndrome. This bill would promote activities at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) aimed at combating and diagnosing Tourette syndrome. Expanded and collaborative research can teach us more about the cause and treatment of the disorder to help improve the lives of those individuals impacted by Tourette syndrome. You can read the full press release here.

Last week, I participated in a Subcommittee hearing on how the changing energy markets will have an effect on U.S. transportation. Over the last several years, domestic production of oil and gas has increased due to technological advances in resource recovery methods, which have greatly expanded the ability of producers to profitably recover natural gas and oil in the United States. Furthermore, industry experts expect continued growth in natural gas production through 2015 and 2016. It was beneficial to receive testimony from these experts regarding our energy markets and their effect on our transportation networks.

I then participated in a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing regarding the Administration’s shift in policy towards diplomacy with Cuba. I expressed my concerns regarding the ongoing human rights violations within Cuba, as well as poor living standards, low wages, and the stifling of small businesses run by everyday Cuban people. I questioned Administration officials about how this shift in policy would benefit the Cuban people, given the fact that the Cuban government maintains complete control over the economic, private, and public sphere of Cuban life. I remain skeptical. We must continue to insist on free and fair elections, the release of all political prisoners, and respect for the freedom of speech and assembly.

I also participated in the first Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing of the 114th Congress, where we discussed the importance of the relationship between the United States and the rest of the Western Hemisphere. U.S. interests in the Western Hemisphere are diverse, and include economic, political, security, and humanitarian concerns. Geographic proximity has ensured strong economic linkages between the United States and the region, with the United States being the major trading partner and largest source of foreign investment for many countries. It is important that we continue to cultivate strong relationships within the Western Hemisphere.

I then had several meetings with constituent organizations, such as the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey (AICUNJ). AICUNJ works to advance independent higher education and maintain the high quality of educational programs. I was glad to hear about the important work being done to support New Jersey’s colleges and universities, like Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City.

I also met with Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, who discussed transportation, energy efficiency, and education projects taking place in Hudson County. It was encouraging to hear of ongoing projects in the County to improve housing and transportation options for residents.

It was great to meet with some of my fellow Middlebury College alumni who traveled to the nation’s capital to gather together and reflect on our time at Middlebury. I graduated from Middlebury College in 1985, and was glad to speak to the group about my experiences serving in Congress.

I then met with the Laborers’ International Union of North America, who represents 500,000 members in the construction, energy, and public sectors. We discussed the importance of the federal role in building and maintaining our nation’s infrastructure, and the need for a long-term surface transportation bill.

I also met with representatives from Keiser University to discuss their new campus in Nicaragua and the American Schools and Hospitals Abroad Program. This program provides assistance to schools, libraries, and medical centers outside the United States that serve as study and demonstration centers for American ideas and practices.

Finally, last week I voted in Congress, for the 56th time since 2011, against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. We know that the Affordable Care Act is working: 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions no longer have to worry about being denied coverage due to their health status, 105 million Americans no longer have a lifetime limit or an annual limit on their coverage, and 8.2 million seniors have saved more than $11.5 billion on their prescription drugs since 2010.  The nationwide uninsured rate has dropped dramatically, and 19 million uninsured Americans will be covered in 2015. It is frustrating that Congress has yet again chosen to vote on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, instead of bringing bills to the Floor that create jobs, strengthen the middle class, and ensure bigger paychecks.

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