Washington Review, June 21, 2021
Last week, I voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday and to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) Against Iraq. I also cosponsored several important pieces of legislation to expand access to education funding, ensure access to food assistance, protect older workers, provide support for caregivers of elderly Americans, assert U.S. leadership in the global equality of those in the LGBTQ+ community, and authorize funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). In addition, I sent a letter to President Biden to expand Medicare coverage for colorectal cancer screenings. I also joined Tri-Caucus members in asking House and Senate leadership to close the Medicare gap and fully fund Medicaid in Puerto Rico.
Last Wednesday, I joined an overwhelming bipartisan majority of my colleagues in passing S.475, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act by a vote of 415-15. This act designates June 19 as a Federal holiday to raise awareness of the historical importance of the end of slavery. This legislation will allow for Juneteenth to be celebrated annually and will improve all American’s cultural awareness and understanding of African American history. Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery by marking the day that slaves in Galveston, Texas were told that the Civil War was over, and they were free. While it is important that we celebrate this day, we must also recognize that there is hard work left to be done to achieve true equality.
Last Thursday, I voted with a bipartisan group of legislators to pass H.R. 256, to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. The AUMF was enacted 19 years ago to authorize the Iraq War, but has since been used to justify military actions beyond its original intent. I am proud to join my colleagues in repealing the AUMF in order to reassert the power of Congress in authorizing war. H.R. 256 was passed by a vote of 268-161.
Last week, I cosponsored the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act, introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI). This bill would double the Pell Grant, expand program access to additional low-income students, and protect the program from future spending cuts. Specifically, this bill would make the program fully mandatory to protect it from funding cuts; provide an extra award of up to $1,500 to students with a Student Aid Index of less than zero; reform satisfactory academic progress (SAP) requirements to remove unnecessary barriers to Pell eligibility and degree completion, including providing financial aid warnings to students before they lose eligibility and resetting eligibility after two years.
I also cosponsored H.R. 2837, the Making Essentials Affordable and Lawful (MEAL) Act, introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN). This bill would lift Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) restrictions for people with prior felony drug convictions. This would also codify the USDA waiver that allows prisoners to apply for SNAP up to 30 days before they are released, ensuring they can meet basic needs when they reenter society.
To further support nutrition assistance, I cosponsored the Wise Investment in Children (WIC) Act, introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). This bill expands eligibility for children to receive benefits under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Specifically, this bill would expand eligibility for children through age six, extending eligibility by one year. It would also reduce administrative barriers for families by extending certification periods for infants to 2 years instead of one year and extend eligibility for postpartum women to two years.
I signed onto H.R. 2062, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, introduced by Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA). This bill would remedy the Supreme Court’s 2009 Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc. decision which imposed a higher burden of proof for age discrimination claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). In 1967, Congress sought to protect older workers and enacted the ADEA to prohibit age discrimination in the workplace. However, the Supreme Court’s 5 to 4 holding in the Gross decision overturned precedent to require that individuals prove that age discrimination was the decisive and determinative cause for the employer’s adverse action, rather than just a motivating factor in the employer’s adverse action.
In order to provide greater support to hardworking caregivers across the U.S., I cosponsored H.R. 2869, the Americans Giving Care to Elders (AGE) Act of 2021, introduced by Representative Cindy Axne (D-IA). This legislation creates a tax credit of $1,200 for families or an individual providing elder care who make less than $120,000 a year. The Alzheimer’s Association endorsed this bill because it offers much needed relief to caregivers and provides grants for training and support services for those who care for dementia patients.
I recently joined Representative Dina Titus (D-NV) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), dozens more of our colleagues to introduce H.R. 3800, the Greater Leadership Overseas for the Benefit of Equality (GLOBE) Act. This legislation would establish equality and justice as key components of U.S. foreign policy, affirming that United States will treat LGBTQIA rights as human rights in its foreign policy, development assistance, and immigration programs. The bill would also establish a permanent Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTQIA Persons at the State Department.
I also joined Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) in reintroducing H.R. 3938, the Support UNFPA Funding Act. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is the United Nations’ sexual and reproductive health agency, which was established 50 years ago with the leadership of the United States. The bill provides funding for programs focused on ending preventable maternal deaths, expanding access to contraceptives, promoting a human rights based approach to family planning, and ending gender-based violence. The Support UNFPA Funding Act was introduced with 126 cosponsors and endorsed by 98 NGOs.
Last week, I joined Representative Donald Payne (D-NJ) and several colleagues in a letter to President Biden to ask the President to support Medicare coverage of new blood-based colorectal cancer screening methods. These new methods would be inexpensive and could help members of marginalized communities who are at risk of colon cancer to get the screening they needed.
I also joined a letter asking House and Senate leadership to include legislation to close the Medicare gap in any future family legislation package. Additionally, the letter asks leadership to fully fund Medicaid in Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories. This letter was sent by the Tri-Caucus, which is composed of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC).
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 six megasites are now offering walk-in vaccinations, so you do not need an appointment prior to your visit. These megasites are:
- Atlantic City Convention Center, 1 Convention Boulevard, Atlantic City
- Bergen County at 1 Racetrack Drive, East Rutherford
- Burlington County at 400 Route 38, Moorestown
- Gloucester County at Rowan College of South Jersey, 1400 Tanyard Road, Sewell
- Middlesex County at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center, 97 Sunfield Ave. Edison
- Morris County at 301 Mount Hope Ave., Rockaway
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.