Washington Review, January 15, 2021
This week, we continue to work through the fallout from the January 6th attack on the Capitol and determine how policy can best address the many failures we witnessed. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting violence and insurrection against the Government of the United States. In addition to cosponsoring the legislation bringing impeachment articles against the President, I cosponsored a resolution condemning and censuring Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) for his actions seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and to incite violence at the Capitol. This week, I also signed onto a letter to the Acting Secretary of Defense requesting immediate accountability regarding the Department of Defense’s role in responding to the attack on the Capitol. I also signed onto a letter to Capitol Police, urging an immediate investigation into suspicious behavior and access given to visitors to the Capitol Complex the day before the attacks on the Capitol. In addition, I joined the New Jersey Democratic delegation in a letter to New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to ensure all state police departments are cooperating with requests from federal law enforcement officials investigating the January 6 attack.
In addition to addressing the security failures of last week’s attack, I am also focused a wide range of other important issues areas, including critically, COVID-19 vaccination distribution. I cosponsored legislation that ensures vaccine providers have sufficient cold storage equipment to hold vaccines, and signed onto a bill that would provide funding to community health centers to conduct testing and monitoring for individuals with preexisting conditions that can cause severe cases of COVID-19. I also cosponsored legislation to promote civic learning in schools, raise the federal minimum wage, and fund screening of newborns for their health. I joined colleagues in signing onto letters to ensure our communities have safe drinking water, urging the strengthening of oversight for arms sales to Mexico, and outlining how Facebook contributed to the storming of the Capitol.
On Tuesday, I voted in favor of H.Res. 21, introduced by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), which passed the House by a vote of 223-205. This resolution expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that Vice President Pence should convene the Cabinet and invoke the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, which would remove President Trump from office. The words and actions displayed by President Trump last week, which led to the historic storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, have clearly illustrated that the President is unfit for office.
On Wednesday, I voted in favor of an article of impeachment charging that the President “engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States” This article passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 232-197. President Trump became the first president in United States history to be impeached twice. I firmly believe that without accountability for crimes committed, our country cannot take the necessary steps to unify; this is the first step forward.
Last week, I reintroduced the Local Solutions to End Homelessness Act in the 117th Congress. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awards Emergency Solutions Grants to states, metropolitan cities, and urban counties to support homelessness prevention and emergency shelter for those experiencing homelessness. The Local Solutions to End Homelessness Act would allow cities that previously received this funding, but now fall below the designated federal threshold, to continue receiving funding for local programs at the county level. Housing is a basic human need and right and we must do everything possible to ensure a variety of affordable housing is available in our communities.
I also reintroduced H.R. 159, the Community Parks Revitalization Act in the 117th Congress. This legislation would provide federal support for parks across the country through matching grant programs and secured loans. Specifically, this legislation would provide three types of federal grants and technical assistance programs which must be matched with local funds. The grants focus on expanding and rebuilding new and existing parks and provide funding for personnel, equipment, and supply needs of parks. Additionally, grant funds would be awarded for new and existing park programs that create opportunity for returning veterans and at-risk youth. Local parks are often an integral part of our communities and it is important we care for them and keep them a safe place for all to enjoy.
Additionally, I reintroduced H.R. 158, the Rail Audit Transparency Act in the 117th Congress. This legislation requires the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to provide Congress with notice of when a comprehensive safety assessment is being conducted on an intercity or commuter rail transit agency that serves their district. This notice must come within 10 days of the FRA initiating a safety assessment and it must be sent to Members of Congress, Senators, and the relevant congressional committees. Once the safety assessment is completed, the FRA has 90 days to inform those parties of the assessment’s findings, including specific defects and any recommendations to address them.
As we begin the 117th Congress, many pieces of legislation are being reintroduced for consideration by the House of Representatives. I proudly cosponsored a slate of bills that I believe will benefit residents of New Jersey’s 8th District, including:
The Raise the Wage Act introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA). This bill will increase the federal minimum wage from the current level of $7.25 to $15.00 an hour by 2025. Starting in 2026, the bill will index the minimum wage to match the growth in the national median wage, and It will also gradually phase out provisions that allow millions of tipped workers, youth, and individuals with disabilities to be paid far less than the federal minimum wage. It has been far too long since we had an increase in federal minimum wage. We need to ensure workers earnings are not enough to scrape by, but enough to live on.
H.R. 223, the COVID-19 Cold Storage Expansion Act, introduced by Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY). This legislation would authorize funds to reimburse providers who purchase freezer storage equipment to store the vaccine. This legislation is crucial because the more providers who are able to purchase equipment to store the vaccine means we will be able to reach more Americans close to their home. Effectively disseminating the vaccine throughout the country will be a key aspect to beating this virus, and this legislation will go a long way in ensuring providers across the country have a chance to receive and distribute the vaccine.
H.R. 173, the COVID-19 Prevention and Awareness Act, introduced by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY). This legislation provides $2.2 billion in grant funding for Community Health Centers and local non-profits to conduct diagnostic testing, screening, and surveillance for individuals with preexisting conditions that can cause a severe case of COVID-19. Ensuring that community organizations close to these individuals have the necessary means to test and monitor the virus in communities is a key aspect to keeping those vulnerable to the virus safe.
A resolution led by Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) to establish a national day of mourning for those who have lost their lives to COVID-19. We must commemorate those who have lost their lives to this horrible virus and continue to work to mitigate the spread so we can save more lives.
A resolution introduced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) condemning and censuring Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) for his actions inciting violence at the Capitol in his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. These actions are part of a dangerous pattern of signaling to American citizens that they should consider using violent means to achieve their goals, including overthrowing the results of a legitimate election. His actions jeopardize the reputation and integrity of the House of Representatives and demand an appropriate response.
The Civics Learning Act, introduced by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL). This legislation would authorize $30 million in funding for innovative and evidence-based civics education programs for K-12 students. The funding would also allow school districts to develop and tailor curriculum which suits the needs of the students and their community. Now more than ever it is crucial we encourage as many of our students as possible to be civically engaged and to be an active member of the political process in our country.
The Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act, introduced by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Rep. Michael Simpson (R-ID). This reauthorizes the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grants to assist states’ efforts to improve their screening programs, educate parents and health care providers, and improve follow-up care for infants with conditions detected through newborn screening. It also reauthorizes programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide technical assistance to state newborn screening programs to track outcomes of infants identified through newborn screening and the Newborn Screening Quality Assurance Program, and reauthorizes the National Institute of Health (NIH) Hunter Kelly Newborn Screening program, which funds research aimed at identifying new treatments and new screening technologies.
I signed onto a letter led by Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) addressed to the incoming Biden administration urging them to prioritize testing for lead in drinking water. The letter urges the administration to prioritize lead testing and abatement in public schools’ water systems. It also encourages the administration to prioritize funding for lead removal and mitigation. America’s oldest cities and communities continue to suffer from excess lead levels, placing children at risk from lead-contaminated pipes in schools.
I also signed onto a letter led by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg highlighting Facebook’s role in facilitating violence at the Capitol last week. The letter calls on Facebook to make permanent changes to the underlying algorithmic architecture of its service, which intensifies fringe political beliefs, facilitates connections between extremist users, and leads some to commit real-world physical violence.
Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD) led a letter to the Acting Secretary of Defense requesting accountability of the Department of Defense’s role in their response to the January 6 attacks. Command of the District of Columbia National Guard is delegated to the Department of Defense under the Secretary of the Army. Due to the Department’s failure to recognize the gravity and intensity of the attack, we are requesting a full account of the planning, coordination, and response by the Department of Defense that resulted in the Capitol breach.
I also signed onto a letter led by Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), to the Acting Chief of Capitol Police and the Acting Sergeant at Arms, urging an investigation into suspicious behavior and access given to visitors to the Capitol Complex on January 5, the day before the attack. Some members of Congress and staff noticed tours being conducted on January 5, which was unusual in part because the Capitol Complex has been closed to visitors since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the visitors that day appeared to be associate with the rally that took place the next day while some of those who took part in the January 6 attacks had unusually detailed knowledge of the Capitol, and the ties between these groups need to be investigated.
In addition, I joined the New Jersey Democratic delegation in a letter to New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal asking that he ensure all state police departments continue to cooperate fully with any federal law enforcement requests relating to the Capitol attack. We also asked that Attorney General Grewal use every tool at his disposal to seek justice for any New Jersey officer or personnel who are found to have participated in the attack.
I joined some of my colleagues of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in sending a letter to Secretary Pompeo on the state of arms sales. The letter, led by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Greg Meeks (D-NY), underscores that any last-minute arms sale notifications would not provide adequate time for full congressional oversight and warned that any cases pushed through by the administration without bipartisan congressional support would be reconsidered and potentially revoked.
I signed on to a letter to President-elect Biden, led by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), urging the incoming Biden administration to proactively strengthen oversight of firearms exports and sales to Mexico, in light of the high number of U.S.-sourced guns used in connection with violent crimes abroad. The United States is the largest firearms exporter in the world, and studies have found that the U.S.’s role in the exportation of weapons has exacerbated violence in nearby countries. In a particularly egregious case, an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration found that the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) purchased military equipment on eBay between 2018 and 2019 and had it shipped to Mexico from the U.S. by courier companies.
Current Washington D.C. Office Status
My staff continue to work remotely during this time. Please know we continue to monitor our phone system, so while we are unable to speak directly with you, we manage all voice messages left. If you reached out to us through phone or e-mail, please expect an e-mail response. Be sure to check your spam or junk folders for a response from our office. We appreciate your understanding as we all navigate working through the pandemic.
With cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise across the country, and in New Jersey, it is imperative we remain vigilant and safe. Please continue to wear a mask in public and practice social distancing when possible. As always, please exercise caution if meeting with loved ones, and take necessary measures to ensure the safety of yourself, your family, and our community. Working together, we can help slow the spread of this virus. As a reminder Open Enrollment for health coverage ends in New Jersey on January 31, 2021; visit www.nj.gov/getcoverednj to explore coverage options and financial assistance. Please know that I will continue working to get the 8th District the resources it needs. If you have questions or need assistance please call my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-7919 and follow instructions to be connected to my staff or send an email to NJ8inquiries@mail.house.gov. Together we can get through this.