Washington Review, July 24, 2020
This week, I was back in Washington to vote on two appropriations bills to fund the Federal Government. I also had a meeting with students from Rutgers University, spoke on the phone with the new Guatemalan Ambassador to the U.S., and signed onto an amendment prohibiting the Administration’s restrictive and predatory birth control rules.
On Tuesday, the House voted on H.R. 6395, the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, introduced by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA). This legislation includes approximately $732 billion in funding for our national defense, including many programs and amendments to assist our soldiers both at home and abroad. I voted in favor of an amendment introduced by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), which establishes an accelerated framework for withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan. A similar version of this amendment was offered in 2013, which I voted in favor of and passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support. As I did in 2013, I stand in favor of bringing our courageous troops home from Afghanistan. I also supported an amendment offered by Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX), to require the President to notify and seek congressional approval when deploying active military inside the United States. The recent reports of egregious treatment of citizens in Portland, Oregon by federal agents highlights the need for this change. The President should not have the ability to send U.S. military to harass peaceful protestors, or any U.S. citizen. Additionally, I supported an amendment offered by Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA), to provide up to $10,000 in immediate assistance for private student loans for active military members. The brave men and women who protect our country deserve assistance paying back their education. H.R. 6395 passed the House by a vote of 295-125, and now awaits further action by the Senate.
On Friday, the House voted on H.R. 7608, the Department of State, Foreign Operations, Agriculture, Rural Development, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of 2021, sponsored by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). This wide-ranging appropriations bill includes approximately $260 billion in funding for different federal programs and departments. I voted in favor of an amendment sponsored by Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), to prohibit funds being used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement a new rule which fails to protect communities of color from harmful air pollution. Too often communities of color are environmentally mistreated and have to deal with side effects that lower health and marginalize communities. The EPA must use their funds to protect everyone, including these communities. This legislation also included an amendment from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), which increases funding by $1 million to help combat the illegal trafficking of endangered species. I voted in favor of H.R. 7608, which passed the House by a vote of (224-189), and now awaits further action from the Senate.
On Wednesday, the House voted on H.R. 7573, to direct the Joint Committee on the Library to remove all statues of individuals who served or supported the Confederate States of America from the Capitol. The recent protests and activism in our nation concerning the death of George Floyd and the equal treatment of African Americans has again sparked debate over statues and symbols of the Confederacy. I voted in favor of this legislation because it is beyond time to remove symbols of people who supported racist and bigoted policies from the halls of our government. H.R. 7573 passed the House by a vote of 305-113, and now awaits further action from the Senate.
On Thursday, I met virtually with students and staff from Rutgers University. I used the opportunity to speak with the students about their education, goals, and the effects COVID-19 is having on education. The students shared with me their priorities for federal financial aid policy as well as the long-term impact of COVID-19. With classes resuming soon this fall, it is of the utmost importance that we ensure students and faculty are safe upon returning to campus. Education is important, but the health and safety of those on campus is the highest priority.
On Thursday, I had a phone call with the new Guatemalan Ambassador to the U.S., Alfonso Quiñónez. I welcomed the ambassador to his new post and discussed political and policy developments in Guatemala. I relayed to him my concerns for the necessity of the transparent selection of judges in Guatemala. Additionally, I offered my continued support for the Guatemalan people during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
I signed onto an amendment introduced by Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), attached to the upcoming Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriation’s Act, to block the Administration’s harmful birth control rules. On July 8, the Supreme Court upheld an Administration rule allowing employers and universities to opt-out of providing birth control for students and employees if they object on religious or moral grounds. These proposed rules are predatory and restrict access to care the many women need. Birth control is a crucial part of healthcare for many women and I will continue fighting to ensure that it is covered under healthcare plans.
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. Together we can get through this.