Washington Review, July 16, 2018
In Washington last week, the President announced his nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court and I participated in a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing examining how the United States can advance U.S. interested in the Western Hemisphere. The Western Hemisphere Subcommittee also held a hearing to receive updates on the crisis ongoing in Nicaragua, then considered a resolution which I cosponsored that denounced this violence. I also held a number of meetings and cosponsored new legislation to address issues such as arts education, lung cancer research, and labor rights.
On Tuesday, the President announced his nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy of Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court. I am concerned that if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, basic protections that cover millions of Americans every day could be rescinded, such as Roe v. Wade, the Affordable Care Act, and eliminating consumer protections. Though the House of Representatives does not vote on Supreme Court nominees, I hope the Senate will listen to the will of the American people and uphold the nonpartisan nature of the Supreme Court.
Latin America and the Caribbean are some of our fastest-growing regional trading partners. However, many of these countries continue to be plagued by conflict and instability.Instability, violence, and the lack of economic opportunities in these countries act as root causes of migrant flows to the U.S. border. This is why the United States should work diligently with our regional partners to strengthen democratic institutions that protect human rights and enable sustainable economic growth that will afford citizens of these countries the opportunities to be prosperous and live free from violence.
I asked the witnesses what the Administration is going to do to increase U.S. engagement with the Western Hemisphere. As democratic institutions continue to be weakened throughout the region by authoritarian leaders, the region is left vulnerable to influence by nefarious actors such as Iran, Russia, and China. I emphasized to the witnesses that the Administration must make it a priority to increase pressure on these autocratic leaders, such as Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, in order to attempt to reverse many of these countries’ gradual dissent into authoritarianism. That is why Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and I introduced the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act (NICA) of 2017, which would put conditions on aid for Nicaragua that require the government to make verifiable efforts towards holding free, fair and transparent elections.
The Western Hemisphere Subcommittee also held a hearing last week examining the ongoing crisis in Nicaragua. Since protests erupted in Nicaragua in April, the Ortega regime has killed hundreds and injured thousands of citizens advocating for greater democratic rights. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Hemisphere, yet Ortega and his family continue to line their pockets at the expense of the Nicaraguan citizens with corruption schemes. The United States can no longer ignore the devolving situation in Nicaragua, which is why Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman Cook (R-CA), Ranking Member Engel (D-NY) and I have introduced a resolution condemning the ongoing violence in Nicaragua and urging the Administration to impose sanctions on individuals who violate the Nicaraguan people’s human rights.
I asked the witnesses what more Congress can do to pressure Ortega into implementing real democratic reform and stop the violence against his own citizens. The violence against activists for peacefully exercising their democratic rights simply cannot be tolerated. Nicaragua’s dissent into violence leaves it more vulnerable to influence by hostile actors and if this nefarious influence in the Hemisphere is left unchecked, soon we will have to confront actors like Russia much closer to home. I am grateful that the Subcommittee passed the Nicaragua resolution, which now awaits consideration by the full Committee.
Last week, I welcomed members of the Peruvian Congress to discuss the nature of U.S.-Peru relations. I also met representatives from New Jersey’s 8th of the Girl Up Campaign who are fighting for girls’ equal access to education. I am a strong advocate of universal education for girls.
I cosponsored several pieces of legislation last week that address issues in education, labor rights, and health.
First, I cosponsored H.R. 6238, the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act of 2018. This bill would empower the Federal Labor Relations Authority to protect the rights of government workers to form unions, have those unions recognized, and afford workers all the rights and protections allowed by law.
I also cosponsored H.R. 6137, the Guarantee Access to Arts and Music Education Act, which would allow schools in underserved districts to use Title I funds of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for music and arts education. Lastly, last week I signed on to H.R. 4897, the Women and Lung Cancer Research and Preventive Services Act of 2018. This bill would call for an interagency study on lung cancer in women, lung cancer preventive services, and public awareness on lung cancer.
All of these bills are currently under consideration by their respective Committees.
Thank you for reading the Washington Review. Again, hearing from my constituents enables me to be a better representative of the 8th District. For regular updates, you may stay in touch by leaving comments on my Facebook, Twitter, and website.