Washington Review, July 18, 2014
This week in Washington, I had a series of meetings with constituents, participated in several Committee and Subcommittee hearings, spoke on the Floor of the House, and voted on key legislation.
Earlier this week, I participated in a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, where we discussed Iran’s destabilizing activities throughout the Middle East, including in Iraq, Syria, and Gaza. According to the State Department, Iran has continued both its terrorist-related activities and its support for terrorist groups, militias, and rogue regimes, including Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Assad regime, as well as opposition militants in Bahrain and separatists in northern Yemen. The Committee discussed strategies to effectively counter Iran’s destructive activities, including the targeted sanctions that have been put in place to limit Iran’s ability to finance terrorism.
I also attended a Europe and Eurasia Subcommittee hearing to assess the current state of democracy in Turkey. Although in recent years Turkey has proven to be an important NATO ally, continued reports of restrictions on freedoms of speech are deeply troubling, as is Turkey’s continued occupation of northern Cyprus and desecration of certain religious properties. Congress must ensure that Turkey does not continue to pivot away from its democratic progress.
I was pleased to meet with several New Jersey students from the Bank of America’s Student Leaders Program to discuss current and national issues facing Congress, and the role of Congress in our civic society. Students selected to participate in the Student Leaders Program take part in a summer internship experience at a non-profit in their home community, as well as the Washington, DC-based Student Leadership Summit. These top-notch students discussed immigration reform and foreign affairs issues, and I was glad to hear their thoughts on these important topics.
I also met with representatives from Keiser University, who discussed their new campus in Nicaragua and its development grants, as well as the American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) program. The ASHA program provides assistance to schools, libraries, and medical centers outside the United States that serve as study and demonstration centers for American ideas and practices. It also trains future leaders in a wide variety of disciplines, supports local and regional infrastructure to foster development, and cultivates positive relationships and mutual understanding among citizens of the United States and other nations.
On the legislative agenda, I voted to support the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014 (H.R. 5021), which passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 367-55. This legislation would extend surface transportation programs authorized under current law through May 31, 2015, and would infuse $10.9 billion into the Highway Trust Fund. It is imperative that we reauthorize Federal highway, public transit, highway safety, motor carrier safety, and hazardous materials safety programs and provide additional funding for the Highway Trust Fund until Congress enacts a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill. While H.R. 5021 is a positive first step, it is only a temporary fix. We must work to find a long-term solution that addresses our transportation needs and funds these programs that creates jobs to fix our Nation’s infrastructure.
Finally, this week a terrible tragedy occurred in our community with the loss of Melvin Santiago, a young police officer from Jersey City. I was honored to speak before the House of Representatives on Officer Santiago’s bravery and legacy he has left behind. Office Santiago, just 23 years old, served as a role model for both his family and his community, and made the ultimate sacrifice, giving his life to protect his community. His death is a deep loss to not only his loving family and friends, but to the entire City of Jersey City. My deepest condolences and gratitude go out to the family of Melvin Santiago, and I am thankful to all of our public safety personnel for the daily sacrifices that they make to protect us.