Washington Review, June 23, 2016
While in Washington this week I sent a letter to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, attended a Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing and CHLI Conference, and participated in the Democratic protest on the House Floor.
Protesting for votes on gun violence prevention legislation on the House Floor
On Wednesday, I joined Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a veteran of the civil rights movement, and my fellow Democratic colleagues on the House Floor as we began a sit-in to protest the absence of votes on commonsense legislation to address gun violence. As a member of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, I was proud to hold the Floor throughout the evening to represent the overwhelming majority of Americans who want Congress to enact reforms that will make meaningful changes to background checks. I appreciate all the support from the residents of the Eighth District who phoned in, emailed, and messaged me throughout the week. Even though Speaker Ryan did not allow us to vote on any gun violence prevention legislation, instead adjourning the session until July 5th, my colleagues and I will continue to demand action and cosponsor legislation that seeks to end this violent epidemic.
This week, Rep. Payne (D-NJ) and I, along with various colleagues, sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Gina McCarthy, regarding the effects of air pollution from ports and freight transportation systems. We urged Administrator McCarthy to focus more federal attention on adverse effects of poor air quality in communities located near ports and freight infrastructure. The 13 million people, including 3.5 million children, in these areas suffer from increased rates of cancer, missed school days, and hospital visits. We also urged Administrator McCarthy to develop standards to limit pollution to a safe level, assist state and local governments to address the causes of this pollution through Clean Air Act implementation plans, and engage the local communities in plans to reduce emissions.
I participated in a Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Hearing examining the ongoing crisis in Venezuela and its impact on the region. Under Maduro’s regime, the political and economic situation in Venezuela has deteriorated significantly. The government violently suppressed political protests, intimidated the judiciary, and arrested numerous critics. Low oil prices have sent the Venezuelan economy into a sharp downturn leading to high inflation and increasing poverty which in turn has resulted in shortages of food and medicine as well as high rates of violent crime. I am concerned by the impact of this crisis on the region and questioned the panel on how our neighbors in the region will be affected if Venezuela stopped providing subsidized energy to oil dependent countries. It is my hope that the United States can help Venezuela avoid collapse and become a peaceful and stable contributor to the region.
On Friday, I participated in the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI) Future Leaders Conference. It was an honor to speak with the next generation of leaders about the importance of education and to share my experiences and offer advice.