Washington Review, January 17, 2014
Thank you for reading this edition of my Washington Review. This week I joined my colleagues in several important initiatives, including passing legislation that will fund the government for fiscal year 2014; cosponsoring an emergency unemployment insurance extension bill that Americans need; and meeting with the Foreign Affairs Committee to learn more about the ongoing crisis in South Sudan.
On Wednesday, I was pleased to join my colleagues in the House of Representatives in passing H.R. 3547, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, by a vote of 359-67. This legislation upholds the overall regular discretionary level as agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act, passed in December 2013, and would provide $1.012 trillion in discretionary funding to keep the government open through the rest of fiscal year 2014. While this agreement is not perfect, it is an improvement over the drastic cuts of the sequester and it places Congress on a path towards restoring a regular appropriations process. It also eliminates the possibility of any government shutdowns in the near future. I am also pleased that this agreement increased funding for certain programs that help families in need and create jobs, including funding increases for early childhood education, food banks, and transportation and infrastructure projects.
However, it is disappointing that another week has gone by and the House of Representatives still has not brought up a vote to restore unemployment insurance (UI) in 2014. This week, I cosponsored a 3-month UI extension in order to provide relief to over one million Americans. The Democratic Leadership has concluded that failing to extend emergency UI will cost the country 240,000 jobs this year, which will inevitably slow our economy and make it more difficult for unemployed Americans to find work. Hopefully, the House will bring H.R. 3824, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act, to a vote immediately.
I also joined my colleagues on the Foreign Affairs Committee for a hearing about the current ongoing conflict in South Sudan, which has left thousands killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. The Committee heard from Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs within the State Department, and Earl W. Gast, Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Africa within USAID. Last December, growing political tensions among leaders in South Sudan erupted in violence, just three years after the country achieved internationally-recognized independence from Sudan. As China is a major actor in South Sudan’s oil sector, I was particularly interested to ask the witnesses how China is playing a role in diplomatic efforts to end the fighting.