Washington Review, March 13, 2017
After returning to Washington from an official trip to Honduras and Guatemala, I participated in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, weighed in on recent executive actions and legislation, testified before a House Appropriations Subcommittee, and held meetings.
From March 3rd through the 5th, I traveled on an official trip to Honduras and Guatemala with my colleague, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), to meet with Heads of State and other government officials to discuss efforts to combat corruption and drug trafficking in the region. I strongly believe that we must work with our neighbors in the region to address the violence, corruption, and instability that force people to flee their homes in fear. By addressing these root issues through regional cooperation, we can increase stability so families don’t have to leave their communities to find safety. We had the opportunity to see the work of groups and agencies that are leading these efforts to improve citizen security, protect human rights, and strengthen the rule of law to make communities safer.
On March 6, 2017, President Trump released an updated executive order targeting refugees and travelers from Muslim-majority countries. While there are some changes, the action is still a ban and discriminates against people based on their country of origin. It also suspends the refugee resettlement program for 120 days, abandoning those who are desperately trying to flee war zones, enslavement, torture, and oppression around the world. This order is counterproductive to securing our nation and goes against America’s core values.
On Thursday, I participated in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing focused on Russia’s efforts to undermine the European Union, NATO, and democracies around the world, including our own. Last year, the U.S. Intelligence Community, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), concluded that Vladimir Putin and his senior officials in the Russian government, directed the hacking of U.S. political organizations and leaked documents, interfering in the U.S. elections for the purpose of altering the outcome. At the hearing, I stressed the gravity of the situation and spoke of my own experiences growing up under a communist regime. These authoritarian governments go to great lengths to exert influence, by manipulating the press, repressing critics, and pushing propaganda that ignores facts. Russia’s attempts to interfere in our elections should be greatly troubling to all those who value the integrity of our democracy and this issue should not be viewed through a partisan lens. An independent investigation must take place and a special prosecutor should be appointed so we may uncover the extent of Russia’s activities and protect our democracy from future attempts by foreign powers to interfere.
Last week, Republicans in Congress released their plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It would benefit the top earners in America and place a greater financial burden on middle- and low-income families. Americans would pay more for less coverage, as premiums would increase due to an inadequate tax credit system that reduces current subsidies. This plan would defund Planned Parenthood, taking away an essential provider of preventative care for women across the country. It would also harm seniors by allowing insurers to charge them up to five times as much as younger enrollees for health coverage. I am deeply concerned that House Republicans released the plan without a score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office which would help show the costs of the repeal. The American people deserve transparency and I believe we cannot revert to a system that favors insurance companies and the wealthy over middle- and low-income Americans.
Last week, I testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies about the importance of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program and the HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) Program. These critical programs, operated through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, provide funding for crucial infrastructure and housing projects. The CDBG Program helps communities invest in rebuilding projects, youth and homeless services, and employment training. The HOME Program provides funds for communities that partner with local non-profits to renovate, build, or purchase affordable housing. In turn, these projects provide shelter for veterans, senior citizens, and the working poor. I have seen the affect these programs can have on the communities in our District and I urged the Subcommittee to provide funding for them as they continue the appropriations process.
On Wednesday, I met with sugarbeet farmers to discuss their legislative priorities and how regulations affect their industry. Later in the week, I had the opportunity to meet with the Ambassador of Romania, George Cristian Maior. He provided an update on recent events in Romania and we discussed our nations’ joint commitment to preserving peace, security, and democratic values.