Washington Review, June 12, 2015
This week in Washington, I had an interview with students from my alma mater, received input from several constituent groups, and voted on transportation funding.
Ten students from Memorial High School in West New York traveled to Washington to shadow me on Capitol Hill this week. The participating students came as part of Optimum’s “Student Lens” program. “Student Lens” is a short-form, student-produced video project that chronicles the daily activities of elected officials. These talented students from my alma mater conducted interviews throughout their visit. I was impressed by the skills these students demonstrated and was encouraged by their enthusiasm to learn about our federal government.
Meeting with constituent groups is an important way to understand different views on complex legislation that is offered in the House of Representatives. Taking part in detailed conversations with these groups is an essential step in developing a stance on legislation.
I had several meetings with groups from our area this week, the first of which was with the New York Shipping Association (NYSA). NYSA represents terminal operators, ocean carriers, stevedores, and marine related businesses that operate the ships, move the cargo, and train and employ the longshore workers of the Port of New York and New Jersey. NYSA visited to discuss their port performance initiatives to make the Port of New York and New Jersey more competitive.
Also visiting was the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey (HINJ), which is the trade association for the research-based pharmaceutical and medical technology industry in the Garden State. HINJ traveled to Washington to discuss patent reform and its impact on life science innovation in New Jersey.
I joined several colleagues this week in meeting with Guillermo Fariñas Hernández to discuss current affairs in Cuba. Guillermo has been a life-long advocate for ending government censorship in Cuba and has personally been involved in 23 hunger strikes. Now more than ever it is incumbent upon the Cuban government to uphold the Inter-American Democratic Charter and respect the rule of law, human rights, freedoms of speech and assembly, and proceed with free and fair elections.
Additionally, I co-hosted a caucus meeting this week to review U.S. strategy for engagement in Central America. As the Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, I understand the importance of our relationships with our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere. Having this opportunity to inform my colleagues about current issues in the region will encourage members’ involvement in U.S.-Central American relations.
I made several important votes this week on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill. I voted against the majority’s THUD bill due to the excessive cuts to job-creating investments in roads, bridges, and rail systems. I believe this bill also makes unnecessary cuts to safe and affordable housing programs that are important to our district. Specifically, this bill makes untimely cuts to Amtrak in addition to cuts to Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, the Public Housing Capital Fund, and housing programs for the elderly. I believe Congress should be passing bills that invest in our nation’s infrastructure rather than passing ones that slash funding to these critical programs and create future burdens.