Washington Review, July 5, 2017
While in Washington last week, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee marked up the 21st Century AIRR Act, I questioned UN Ambassador Nikki Haley at a Foreign Affairs Committee Meeting, and held a number of meetings.
- Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Markup
- Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing
- Featured Legislation
On Tuesday, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee met to markup H.R. 2997, the 21st Century Aviation, Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act, which addresses some of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) most pressing challenges in safety and consumer protections. Unfortunately, this bill also subjects the security of our airspace to the corporate world’s race-to-the-bottom cost-cutting culture by turning over our nation’s air traffic control operations and infrastructure to private corporations. After a nine hour markup, I voted against the 21st Century AIRR Act, however, it was voted out of committee by a vote of 32-25 and now awaits further action on the House floor.
Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing
Later last week, I attended a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in which U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley discussed how the President’s concerning international affairs budget would allow the United States to advance national interests and fight against terrorism. I expressed my frustration with the Administration for not taking punitive actions against Russian interference in our democracy. I also asked the Ambassador to speak to the President about the return of fugitive Joanne Chesimard, who shot and killed a New Jersey State Trooper, and escaped to Cuba to evade justice. Additionally, I expressed my growing concern about the authoritarian actions by the Maduro regime in Venezuela. The United States must work with regional partners to restore democracy to the people of Venezuela.
At the end of the week, the House voted on two problematic pieces of legislation that perpetuate the criminalization of immigrants, H.R. 3003, the No Sanctuary Cities for Criminals Act and H.R. 3004, Kate’s Law. The No Sanctuary Cities for Criminals Act would penalize already understaffed and underfunded jurisdictions by withholding critical funds that are used to help keep communities safe and healthy. It would also cause a deterioration of trust in law enforcement, which is essential to ensure that victims report crimes.
Kate’s Law would expand the ability to prosecute individuals for illegal, or attempted re-entry, including previously removed individuals who voluntarily present themselves to seek asylum, protection as a victim of human trafficking, or other forms of relief. It would also authorize the prosecution of those who have permission to re-enter the United States legally.
I believe these two bills undermine law enforcement’s ability to keep communities safe, increase penalties, and negatively impact those fleeing violence and oppression. Furthermore, it would put an undue pressure on limited state law enforcement resources and strain our overburdened criminal justice system. Unfortunately, H.R. 3003 and H.R. 3004 passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 228 to 195 and a vote of 257 to 167, and now awaits further action in the Senate.
At the beginning of the week, I met with Ambassador Marlon Tabora of Honduras, who visited me in Washington to provide an update on areas where the United States and Honduras can continue to work together to promote stability and development in the Western Hemisphere. Additionally, it was my honor to co-host Guatemalan Attorney General Thelma Aldana and Anti-Corruption Commissioner Ivan Velazquez with my colleague Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). AG Aldana and Commissioner Velazquez are making strident efforts to root out corruption in Guatemala. We discussed how Congress can work with our neighbors to achieve this goal and fight impunity in the Northern Triangle.
Finally, I spoke with representatives of Nicaragua’s civil society about the current state of socio-political affairs in Nicaragua following President Ortega’s reelection in 2016. There is growing concern over Ortega’s consolidation of power, and I wanted to learn more about how Congress may help the people of Nicaragua.