Washington Review, July 23, 2021
This week, I voted to pass the Divided Family Reunification Act, the Consumer Protection and Recovery Act, the Allies Act, and the PFAS Action Act. I also cosponsored legislation to incentivize renewable energy investments, establish a strategy to manage biodiversity loss, raise awareness for black maternal mental health, and streamline access to health care for veterans exposed to burn pits. As Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, I led a hearing on the historic protests and repression of free expression in Cuba. I also met with the wives of imprisoned Nicaraguan opposition leaders and launched the Friends of Uruguay Caucus.
On Monday, I joined the majority of my colleagues in passing H.R. 826, the Divided Families Reunification Act, introduced by Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), by a 415-0 vote. This legislation would direct the State Department’s Special Envoy on North Korean Human Rights Issue to report to Congress on its efforts to reunite Korean Americans with family in North Korea. H.R. 826 awaits consideration by the Senate.
On Tuesday, I voted in favor of H.R. 2668, the Consumer Protection and Recovery Act, introduced by Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA). In the Supreme Court decision on AMG Capital Management, LLC v. Federal Trade Commission, the Court decided that the Federal Trade Commission Act does not authorize the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to seek monetary relief in federal court from businesses that engage in false advertising, fraud, and anticompetitive conduct. This bill would remedy that decision by authorizing the FTC to seek restitution for losses in such cases to protect consumers. H.R. 2668 passed by a 221-205 vote and awaits a vote in the Senate.
On Wednesday, I joined a bipartisan majority of my colleagues in passing H.R. 3985, the Averting Loss of Life and Injury by Expediting SIVs (Allies) Act, introduced by Rep. Jason Crow(D-CO), increases the number of special immigrant visas available to qualified Afghan nationals who assisted the U.S. in Afghanistan. Specifically, this bill adds 8,000 visas and relaxes the requirement that each applicant must submit a credible sworn statement describing the threat they face in Afghanistan. This legislation would protect the Afghan allies that supported the U.S. and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). H.R. 3985 passed by the House by a 407-16 vote and will now be considered by the Senate.
Also, on Wednesday, I joined my colleagues in passing H.R. 2467 the PFAS Action Act by a 241-183 vote. This legislation, introduced by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), requires and incentivizes limiting the use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS. Specifically, this bill directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to designate PFAS as a hazardous substance, determine if they should be listed as a toxic pollutant under the Clean Water Act, and test all PFAS for toxicity to human health, among other provisions.
On Tuesday, I led a Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing on the historic protests in Cuba against the Castro/ Diaz-Canel regime. During the hearing, I shared my experience fleeing Cuba with my family when I was eleven. At that time, the Cuban military inspected my house and forced us to turn over everything to the Cuban government. I stand in solidarity with the Cuban people who are tired of over 60 years of repression under this regime. Activist Rosa Maria Paya and Jose Miguel Vivanco, Director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas division, testified to the ongoing human rights abuses and the need to support internet and phone services to the island. In addition, I will soon be introducing legislation to condemn the Cuba regime’s profiting from the use of forced labor on medical missions.
On Tuesday, Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) and I met with Berta Valle and Victoria Cardenas, the wives of Felix Maradiaga and Juan Sebastian Chamorro, two political opposition leaders in Nicaragua who were arbitrarily detained by Daniel Ortega’s regime. Since June 8, they have not been able to contact their families or lawyers. They are among the 140 political prisoners who have been jailed by the Ortega regime ahead of the November 2021 elections. In response, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced visa restrictions against 100 regime officials involved in the disappearances. I applaud this announcement and encourage the administration to continue pressuring the regime to allow credible, competitive elections.
On Wednesday, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and I welcomed Uruguayan Ambassador Andrés Durán for the launch of the Friends of Uruguay Caucus. Uruguay has been a bastion of democracy and stability in our hemisphere and is an important U.S. partner. This caucus will help deepen bilateral engagement and elevate the voices of the 56,800 Uruguayans in the United States.
This week, I cosponsored two bills to protect our biodiversity and environment. H.R. 3180, the Renewable Energy Investment Act, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), will allow taxpayers to receive a direct payment for renewable energy investments rather than a tax credit. I also cosponsored H.Res. 69, introduced by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), which expresses the need for the Federal Government to establish a national biodiversity strategy. This resolution would emphasize the need for a stronger, coordinated response to species protection and biodiversity loss. Specifically, it would create a blueprint for effectively tackling this challenge, and direct federal agencies to pursue a range of actions within existing law to protect biodiversity.
I also signed on to the Black Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week Resolution, introduced by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) to designate July 19-25 as a week to raise awareness of impact of mental health on maternal health, especially in communities of color.
In addition, I joined H.R. 3967, the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, introduced by Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA). Unfortunately, veterans exposed to burn pits and airborne hazards face lasting health issues. This legislation would establish a presumption of service connection for 23 illnesses and cancers related to exposure to burn pits and airborne hazards. In addition, this bill would streamline the Department of Veterans Affairs’ review process for veterans claiming health or disability benefits for injuries or illnesses related to burn pit exposure and could provide health coverage for as many as 3.5 million veterans.
I joined a letter to Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, led by Rep. Donald Beyer (D-VA), to urge the Secretary to list the gray wolf as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. In 2020, the Trump administration removed federal protections for gray wolves, leading the gray wolf population and habitat to decline.
I joined Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) in sending a letter to Acting Assistant Secretary Brownlee of the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the State Department regarding the backlog passport applications for Americans. The letter asks the Acting Assistant Secretary to immediately address the situation and reassess the staffing and supply of Passport Agencies so that Americans can obtain their passports without having to wait weeks upon weeks.
Current Washington D.C. Office Status
My staff continue to work remotely during this time. Please know we continue to monitor our phone system, so while we are unable to speak directly with you, we manage all voice messages left. If you reached out to us through phone or e-mail, please expect an e-mail response. Be sure to check your spam or junk folders for a response from our office. We appreciate your understanding as we all navigate working through the pandemic.
Vaccines are now available to all individuals 12 and older who live, work, or study in New Jersey. Each of the state’s megasites are now offering walk-in vaccinations, so you do not need an appointment prior to your visit. These megasites are:
- Middlesex County at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center, 97 Sunfield Ave. Edison
- Morris County at 301 Mount Hope Ave., Rockaway
- Burlington County at 400 NJ-38, Moorestown
You can find additional vaccination sites here.
Please know that I will continue working to get the 8th District the resources it needs. If you have questions or need assistance please call my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-7919 and follow instructions to be connected to my staff or send an email to NJ8inquiries@mail.house.gov.
Open Enrollment has been extended through the end of 2021. This year, instead of using the federal marketplace, New Jersey will switch to their own state-run marketplace. In order to browse health care plans you can visit: www.nj.gov/getcoverednj. Here you will be able to compare available plans, review financial assistance options, and select a plan that is best for you. This new marketplace is easy to use and helps to clearly identify plans that will be most beneficial to you. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial we leave no one behind and that everyone has access to affordable health care. If you need a health care plan, be sure to visit the site.