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Washington Review, June 28, 2021

Jun 28, 2021
Washington Review

Last week, I voted to pass several important pieces of legislation, including the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, the Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act, the Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act, the LGBTQ Business Equal Credit Enforcement and Investment Act, and the Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act. The House also passed Senate resolutions, S.J.Res.13, S.J.Res.14, and S.J.Res.15 which overturned Trump era rules.

I also cosponsored legislation to improve access to insulin, fund research to better understand long COVID, and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the protection of refugees. In a hearing for the Budget Committee, I asked Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge about various programs that can improve the lives of many across the country. In addition, I sent a letter to President Biden to urge the administration to extent the pause on student loan payments.

  • Votes
  • Budget Committee Hearing
  • Cosponsored Legislation
  • Letters

Votes

On Tuesday, I joined a large bipartisan majority of my colleagues in passing H.R. 983, the Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act, by a 416-5 vote. This bill would make it a criminal offense to defraud an individual of their veterans’ benefits. Also, on Tuesday, my colleagues and I passed H.R. 1374, the Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act by a 398-21 vote. In order to ensure that states have reliable and resilient energy infrastructure, this bill authorizes the Department of Energy to provide financial assistance to states to revise their energy security plans. Energy security plans must secure the energy infrastructure of the state to physical and cyberattacks, as well as mitigate the risk of energy supply disruptions, and plan for recovery from disruptions.

On Wednesday, I joined my colleagues in passing H.R. 2062, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act of 2021 by a 247-178 vote. I cosponsored this legislation which lowers the burden of proof for age discrimination claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The 2009 Supreme Court decision in the case of Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc. overturned precedent that required individuals prove that age discrimination was the decisive and determinative cause for the employer’s adverse action. H.R. 2062 allows that age discrimination claims can be made when age is a motivating factor, rather than the decisive factor, in the employer’s adverse action.

On Thursday, the House passed H.R. 239, the Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act, which I cosponsor, by a 245-181 vote. The act prohibits the Department of Veterans Affairs from requiring copayments for contraception, therefore, allowing veterans to have the same level of access to essential reproductive health care as is available under health insurance. I also joined a majority of my colleagues in passing H.R. 1443, the LGBTQ Business Equal Credit Enforcement and Investment Act, by a 252-176 vote. This legislation requires financial institutions to report certain credit application data to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on businesses owned by LGBTQ individuals. This data will enhance the CFPB’s ability to ensure fairness in credit lending for LGBTQ-owned businesses, just as the CFPB has done for women and minority owned businesses.

On Friday, the House passed S.J.Res.14, nullifying a Trump administration rule which had eliminated the requirement that oil and gas companies monitor and limit methane gas leaks. The resolution reinstates the Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) standards for methane emissions and the regulation of air pollution from transmission and storage facilities of oil and gas. S.J.Res.14 passed the House by a 229-191 vote.

In addition, my colleagues and I passed S.J.Res.13 through the House in a 219-210 vote. This resolution would eliminate the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s conciliation rule, which gives employers an unfair advantage in investigation and litigation over an employee’s complaint of discrimination and allows employers to know the identity of victims and witnesses. Nullifying this rule will protect and empower employees in the litigation of discrimination cases. The House also passed S.J.Res.15, disapproving of the Trump administration “True Lender Rule,” which allows predatory lenders to usurp state laws meant to curb interest rates. This Trump era rule had reversed years of progress of federal regulators cracking down on predatory lenders attempting to facilitate high-interest loans through national banks. Both of these resolutions would reverse Trump administration policies for the benefit of employees and consumers.

Budget Hearing

On Wednesday, the House Committee on the Budget held a hearing on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Fiscal Year 2022 budget. I asked Secretary Marcia Fudge if she would consider expanding the Low-Income Tax Credit for subsidized housing. I also thanked her for prioritizing renovations to existing housing units in her department’s budget. The American Jobs Plan would provide funding to retrofit two million affordable housing units which have aged and are in need of significant repairs. Retrofitting these units will greatly improve the sustainability of the units and the quality of life of those who live there. I worked with Secretary Fudge, a fellow former mayor, when she served in the House of Representatives and I look forward to working with her to ensure HUD programs are reaching those who need them.

Cosponsored Legislation

Last week, I cosponsored H.R. 2754, the COVID-19 Long Haulers Act, introduced by Rep. Donald Beyer (D-VA). This legislation would authorize the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund of the Department of Health and Human Services to fund research onthe symptoms of COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), patients experiencing Long COVID no longer test positive for COVID-19, but experience fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain, and chest pain. These symptoms may be debilitating for many experiencing Long COVID, and more research must be done to understand, prevent, and treat the condition. 

I also cosponsored H.R. 4158, the Insulin Access for All Act, introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL). This legislation would end cost-sharing for insulin under Medicaid and Medicare. Insulin is an essential, life-saving medication, yet rising costs and the burden of cost-sharing make it difficult for many with diabetes to reliably purchase their insulin. This legislation would lower the barrier of cost-sharing for patients with Medicare and Medicaid, greatly improving their quality of life.

In addition, I joined Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) as an original cosponsor of H. Res. 490, reaffirming U.S. commitment to the protection of refugees and displaced persons in honor of World Refugee Day, which was celebrated on June 20. My family fled Cuba when I was a child so I know firsthand the impact that our commitment to refugees can have on those who are coming to this country seeking safety.

Letter

Last week, I joined Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and my colleagues in a letter to President Biden, urging the president to extend the pause on student loan payments, which is currently set to expire in September. The letter asks the administration to extend the pause to March 31, 2022, extending it by 6 months. This extension would assist many people who have struggled to make student loan payments throughout the tumultuous year of the pandemic.

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.

Vaccination Efforts

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

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.