Washington Review, January 28, 2019
Last week in Washington, the partial government shutdown came to an end for our country and the over 800,000 federal workers who were directly impacted. Additionally, my colleagues and I worked to advance foreign policy in the Syria crisis, combat global health, and address concerns over the impending 2020 census.
On Friday, the President signed into law H.J.Res. 28, a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund all government departments through February 15, 2019. I am pleased that the partial government shutdown has finally ended and, beginning today, federal employees will return to work. However, our nation cannot run on short-term funding measures that leave us vulnerable to more crises. Our economy, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, lost nearly $11 billion in GDP during the 35 days the government was shut down. Thousands of men and women in the Coast Guard and TSA worked without pay to keep us safe. Air Traffic Controllers and aviation workers had to work through disruptions and intense conditions. Essential housing and food assistance programs had their viability threatened.
As a co-equal branch of government, Congress cannot allow a President to close the federal government at will to fulfill policy wishes. Shutdown as strategy holds the livelihoods of federal employees as a negotiating tool and threatens the health of our economy. This disaster cannot be repeated in another 18 days. My colleagues and I will continue to work on federal spending and border security plans that are measured, backed by data, and widely supported by the American people.
On Tuesday, the House unanimously passed H.R. 31, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY). “Caesar” is a former Syrian military photographer who risked his life, fled Syria, and bravely delivered evidence of the Assad regime atrocities. This legislation requires strict international sanctions on the Syrian regime to weaken their power and force an end to the crisis. Additionally, H.R. 353, a bill advancing efforts to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization (WHO) and introduced by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), passed the House unanimously on Tuesday. Combatting global health crises and directing international health strategy requires the broadest, most inclusive participation possible. The political ambitions of countries like China should not halt progress in global health. H.R. 31 and H.R. 353 now await further action before the Senate.
Last Thursday, I joined 44 of my Democratic House colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker on the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. On January 15, Judge Furman of the Southern District of New York struck down the addition of a citizenship question, citing broad concerns on intimidation and decreased participation. On January 17, the Trump Administration announced that it would appeal this decision. Our letter directs Secretary Ross and Acting AG Barr to drop the case, remove the citizenship question, and focus these resources elsewhere on executing a functional 2020 census.
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