Washington Review, July 21, 2017
While in Washington this week, I expressed my concerns about the lack of infrastructure investment at a Highways and Transit Subcommittee Hearing, spent time with American heroes at the Congressional Charity Golf Classic, discussed the importance of engaging with the Caribbean at a Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing, and held a number of meetings.
- Highways & Transit Subcommittee Hearing
- Congressional Charity Golf Classic
- Western Hemisphere Subcommittee
At the start of this week, the Highways and Transit Subcommittee hosted a hearing examining the implementation of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act and how it will improve road safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 35,000 people lost their lives in 2015 due to crashes on U.S. roadways. In New Jersey alone, there were 522 fatal crashes per the New Jersey State Police. It is critical that Congress continues working with state and federal transit agencies to improve physical roadway infrastructure in an effort to reduce crashes and fatalities. As our nation expands, investment in our transportation infrastructure must keep pace with growing demand and use.
It was my privilege and honor to play alongside American heroes at the Congressional Charity Golf Classic this week. This charitable event raises funds to benefit the Disabled Sports USA’s Warfighter Sports and Tee it Up for the Troops, which provide year-round sports rehabilitation programs for severely wounded veterans. These amazing men and women have sacrificed so much for our country, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet some of them.
On Wednesday, the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee listened to testimony from the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Special Coordinator of Haiti from the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the Department of State, Ambassador Kenneth Merten. We discussed how Congress can work with the Administration to increase U.S. engagement with the Caribbean. Venezuela is the primary source of energy in the region. In the wake of escalating conflict in Venezuela, the United States must work to promote energy diversification and sustainable energy innovation so that the Caribbean is not entirely dependent on a country sinking into turmoil. I also asked Ambassador Merten to describe the efficacy of Congress appropriated funds for the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. Promoting regional stability is integral for ensuring American domestic security.
Each week, I strive to meet with different groups representing issues important for both my constituents in the 8th District and my Committee work. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Ranking Member of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, I take Congress’ oversight role very seriously, and it is important that this Committee exercise its authority to ensure that taxpayer dollars, particularly in regards to foreign assistance, are used effectively. Investments in international diplomacy are critical to the security of the nation and communities in New Jersey. I take meetings with foreign, domestic, and local groups each week to discover new ways in which Congress can work with these organizations to provide opportunities and benefits to American citizens here at home and abroad.
Earlier this week, I welcomed President and CEO of Amtrak, Wick Moorman, to discuss the ongoing NY-NJ rehabilitation projects and the ongoing construction at Penn Station. With nearly 8.5 million Amtrak riders passing through New Jersey in 2016, it is important to maintain our railroad infrastructure in order to ensure that New Jerseyans and all travelers have access to reliable service.
I also met with founder of the Borgen Project, Clint Borgen, to discuss the importance of funding U.S. foreign assistance programs in promoting global health. I have reintroduced H.R. 1660, the Global Health Innovation Act, to ensure that U.S. development assistance is being used efficiently and effectively and bring attention to the important research and development programs of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir of the Kurdistan Regional Government visited me at my Washington office this week. We discussed the shared security interests between the Kurdish people and the United States, and the continued fight against terrorism in Iraq. Later that day, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and I welcomed Mr. Juan Schiaretti, the Governor of Cordoba, which is the second most populous province in Argentina. We examined areas of continue cooperation between the United States and Argentina.
Additionally, I spoke with Cynthia Rice of Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) to discuss their important work keeping children safe and healthy in the state of New Jersey. It is important that Congress continue to support early childhood education and health services that enable children to become productive members of New Jersey’s communities.
Chairman Duncan and I also met with members of the Uruguayan Parliament and their Ambassador to discuss ways in which the United States and Uruguay can continue to cooperate to promote regional stability, security, and growth. Later, I met the new Colombian Ambassador, Camilo Reyes, who updated me on the progress in ongoing peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Later in the week, I spoke with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation to hear their stories and discuss how the United States can stand up for the millions of oppressed people around the world, still suffering under communist regimes. Countries like Cuba still restrict basic human rights such as freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, and we should do everything we can to support these people in their quest for greater equality. Finally, I met with Ambassador Domingo Fezas Vital of Portugal on the importance of continued cooperation with our NATO ally.