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Washington Review, July 10, 2015

Jul 10, 2015
Washington Review

Representing the 8th District in Washington this week, I completed Foreign Affairs Committee work, met with one of our district’s young leaders, and cast several important votes.

The Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on the implications of a nuclear agreement with Iran this week. During this hearing, the committee examined the Administration’s decision to extend nuclear negotiations with Iran and what the results of a final agreement could be. Iran’s efforts to conceal their nuclear program, combined with their pre-deal posturing, makes trusting the current regime difficult. Iran’s consistent refusal to allow inspections of its military sites, and their failure to address missile system capabilities, add to this difficulty. Therefore, Congress must examine a proposed deal closely to ensure that any agreement made peacefully prevents Iran from having nuclear weapons.

Continuing Foreign Affairs Committee work, I was briefed by several government officials who oversee U.S. interests in the Western Hemisphere. As Ranking Member of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, I utilize these meetings to examine current U.S. strategies in the region and to receive input about what actions the Committee can take to support their work.

I met with Peter Natiello, Mission Director for Colombia at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Director Natiello oversees the mission in Colombia which is one of USAID’s largest missions in the Western Hemisphere. In Colombia, USAID promotes economic prosperity, increased institutional peace, respect for human rights, and services to historically underserved areas. I then met with Mark Lopes, who is the U.S. Executive Director to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). IDB is active in projects for Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, offering technical assistance and financial support to spur development and economic growth in the Northern Triangle region. I gained valuable insight during both of these meetings and will use each director’s input in future committee work.

Visiting this week from Belleville was Leticia Orgueira, who is attending the National Young Leaders Conference (NYLC). NYLC is a seven-day leadership program for outstanding high school students that takes place in Washington, D.C. each year. High school students from across the country gain leadership experience during their week in the nation’s capital by meeting with members of Congress, attending seminars and workshops, and listening to a variety of speakers. It was great getting to know Leticia and learning about her work at NYLC and back home in New Jersey.

This week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act, which I cosponsored. I believe this bipartisan measure would modernize and personalize health care, encourage greater innovation in the health care industry, and support further medical research. In addition to reauthorizing the National Institutes of Health for three years, this bill would also modify current federal processes involving medical research, treatment development, and testing in order to make life-saving treatments available sooner. I believe this bill takes the necessary steps needed to reinvigorate the industry and expedite the development of cures for our nation’s most threatening medical problems. This bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 344-77.

It was disappointing this week to see the House of Representatives pass what I see as a flawed Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill. I believe H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, threatens the success of the students in the 8th District and across our country.  The majority’s bill would divert federal funds from low-income school districts to wealthier school districts, weaken protections for disadvantaged students, and reduce education funding. Due to the inclusion of these and other harmful provisions, I voted against this bill. The Student Success Act unfortunately passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 218-213. In response, I voted in favor of the Democratic Substitute Amendment, which would remove the bill’s harmful provisions by replacing outdated mandates of No Child Left Behind, maintaining civil rights protections, and providing robust funding levels.

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