Washington Review, January 22, 2021
This week, the country celebrated the inauguration of President Biden as the 46th President of the United States. It was an inspiring and uplifting day, and highlighted how much work must be done this term to build up and renew our communities. As the pandemic continues to rage across the country paired with unemployment rates that remain far too high, and with an urgent need to forcefully confront our climate crisis, leadership, truth, and informed public policy are greatly needed. We have continuously confronted hardships over the last year, and our communities have suffered profound loss. This time will not soon be forgotten. But I am hopeful for our future and am confident that President Biden’s call for unity can be achieved. I look forward to working with him, to create impactful and sustainable change in the 8th District.
On Thursday, the House voted in support of granting a waiver to General Lloyd Austin to serve as Secretary of Defense. This week I also cosponsored several pieces of legislation including an antilynching bill, a resolution honoring the journalists who reported on the January 6th Capitol attack, a requirement for multiple language options on COVID-19 materials, a resolution to reform campaign financing, the expansion of workers’ rights, the prohibition of owning big cats as pets, the prioritization of housing for homeless veterans, and a bill that makes the Child Tax Credit more accessible for families. I also signed on to letters ensuring schools can provide masks to students, and that DACA recipients have access to ACA benefits.
On Thursday, I voted in favor of granting a waiver to General Lloyd Austin, to serve as the next Secretary of Defense. The resolution passed by a vote of 326-78. On Friday, the Senate voted in favor of granting a waiver by a vote of 93-2 and confirmed General Austin as the first African American Secretary of Defense.
I am proud to cosponsor a slate of bills that will positively impact not only residents of the 8th District, but people across the country. The legislation I cosponsored this week includes:
H.R. 55, the Emmitt Till Antilynching Act, introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL). This bill will expand the existing definition of hate crimes to include lynching to make it a federal crime. This legislation was introduced in the 116th Congress, and passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, but did not come up for a vote in the Senate. This historic and necessary legislation must be prioritized in the House and Democratic-led Senate this Congress.
A resolution introduced by Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) honoring journalists. I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this resolution that honors the contributions of the journalists and press staff who risked injury and death to report on the January 6th insurrection. Because of their bravery and courage, those who committed acts of violence against our government will be brought to justice.
The COVID-19 Language Access Act, introduced by Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY). With over 25 million people across the country who have limited English proficiency, this legislation would require federal agencies who receive COVID-19 related funding to distribute their materials in 20 languages. Among the languages the materials must be translated to are: Spanish, Italian, French, Japanese, Hindi, and many more. We have a diverse nation filled with many different people who speak many different languages. Ensuring federal resources are available and accessible to those who speak another language is a crucial aspect in phasing out the spread of COVID-19.
H.J.Res.1, the Democracy for All Amendment, introduced by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), and Rep. John Katko (R-NY). The Democracy for All Amendment would overturn Citizens United and help to get big money out of our elections. In the 2020 election cycle, a total of $14 billion was spent on elections, doubling the total of 2016, with outside Super PAC groups contributing up to $1.2 billion. Unfortunately, these types of large donations can drown out the voices of the American people in elections. We must ensure that the American people have the power to influence elections, and not just big money donors.
The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA). This bill will expand protections for workers to exercise their rights to join a union and bargain collectively for better wages and working conditions. The PRO Act is the most significant upgrade to U.S. labor law in decades, and would hold companies accountable for violating workers’ rights to unionize. It would also increase transparency by requiring employers to post a notice in the workplace of workers’ rights and responsibilities under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA); authorize civil monetary penalties to deter violations of the NLRA; expand coverage of who is deemed an employee under the NLRA to prevent the misclassification of workers as independent contractors; and strengthen workers’ right to strike for basic workplace improvements. The legislation would have a consequential impact on workers’ lives, and drastically strengthen outdated labor laws.
H.R. 263, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL). This bipartisan bill will end the ownership of dangerous big cats as pets and to prohibit exhibitors from allowing public contact with cubs. State laws regarding private ownership of big cats are inconsistent, and some states have few or no laws regarding the keeping of big cats, which is why a uniform federal law is necessary to end this dangerous industry. The bill, which had 230 cosponsors in the 116th Congress and passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, is narrowly focused on privately-owned animals, and includes exemptions for sanctuaries, universities, and zoos.
The Homeless Veterans with Children Reintegration Act, introduced by Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA). This bill directs the Department of Labor to give homeless veterans with dependent children service priority under homeless veteran’s reintegration programs. It would also require the Department of Labor to study access to shelter, safety and other relevant services for homeless veterans with dependent children. This information would help us understand the problem and identify opportunities to resolve issues facing homeless veterans with children.
The American Family Act, introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). This bill makes the Child Tax Credit more accessible to large families, rural families, military families, and families with young children. It also makes the credit fully refundable, creates a new Young Child Tax Credit of $300 per month for children under 6 years of age, and expands the Maximum Child Tax Credit to $250 per month kids 6 years of age or older for all children under the age of 18.
I also signed on to a letter led by Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) to the Biden administration regarding masks for students. This letter asks the Biden administration to ensure that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimburses schools for providing masks to students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are just under 650,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients in the United States who are unable to access health benefits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). That is why I joined Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) in signing a letter to President Biden urging his administration and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide access to ACA benefits for DACA recipients. Specifically, the letter asks HHS to ensure DACA recipients are eligible to obtain health insurance under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Further, the letter asks for DACA recipients to be allowed to purchase health insurance in the open enrollment marketplace and to allow DACA recipients to obtain federal tax credits to make private insurance more affordable. The current public health emergency has underlined how important it is for everyone to have access to affordable, quality healthcare. We must take this step for DACA recipients so they too can feel secure about their health and ability to be treated.
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.
There are 9 days left in Open Enrollment. If you have not yet selected a health care plan, ensure you do so by the January 31 deadline. This year, instead of using the federal marketplace, New Jersey will switch to their own state-run marketplace. In order to browse health care plans you can visit: www.nj.gov/getcoverednj. Here you will be able to compare available plans, review financial assistance options, and select a plan that is best for you. This new marketplace is easy to use and helps to clearly identify plans that will be most beneficial to you. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial we leave no one behind and that everyone has access to affordable health care. If you need health care, be sure to visit the site. Open enrollment is open from November 1, 2020 to January 31, 2021.
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. 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.