Washington Review, March 26, 2018
Last week in Washington, the House passed an Omnibus bill for fiscal year (FY) 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned “doors off” helicopter flights, and I held a number of meetings.
On Thursday, I voted to pass the FY 2018 Omnibus bill which would keep the government open and provide critical investments in veterans, infrastructure, the National Institutes of Health, community health centers, and the opioid epidemic. We were able to secure an additional $117 billion in non-defense discretionary funding and prevent divisive riders that attacked women’s health, clean air and water, and more. I will continue to work with my colleagues for a permanent fix for DACA. As Congress continues considerations for the next fiscal year, I will work with my colleagues to protect investments in critical programs and services that affect millions of American families in New Jersey and around the country.
I am pleased by the FAA’s recent decision to end all “off door” helicopter flights following the tragic tour helicopter accident that occurred in the East River on March 11. These events occur all too often, which is why Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. and I sent a letter to FAA Acting Administrator Elwell asking the FAA to ban these dangerous flights that occur frequently in our region. I am encouraged that the FAA has finally acknowledged the public safety hazards of these flights by temporarily banning them while the incident is under investigation. However, a permanent ban on these tourist flights is the only true solution. I will continue to monitor any developments and advocate for the safety of the 8th District residents.
At the beginning of the week, I joined Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Leader Pelosi, and some of my colleagues to receive an update and demand action on meeting the needs of Puerto Ricans, many of whom still lack basic necessities such as food, water, and electricity six months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. To date, federal recovery efforts have been abysmal leaving many residents of the island still in dire straits as only 5.5% of the $23 billion pledged for nutritional assistance has actually been dispersed. It is long past time for the federal government to throw its full weight behind the recovery efforts on the island. The government can and must do more for our fellow citizens who seem to have been forgotten.
I also sat down with constituents from Belleville, Newark, Jersey City, and Bayonne to discuss the work they do with Nothing But Nets to fight malaria around the world. I am proud to support their fight here in Congress as an advocate for global health and efforts to eradicate malaria, which is why I requested funding for malaria to be included in the FY19 budget
Later, I welcomed representatives of the maritime industry to discuss how the U.S.-Flag maritime industry contributes to the military, economy and homeland security of the United States, and how Congress may continue to support their work.
It was my pleasure to sit down with Mr. Coco Farinas, Ms. Rosa Maria Paya Acevedo, and Ms. Patricia Gutierrez to hear their stories of fighting for freedom and democracy in the Western Hemisphere. Coco has completed twenty-three hunger strikes in Cuba and has worked tirelessly to protest the repression in Cuba. Similarly, Rosa Maria is a Cuban activist that continues her father’s legacy by fighting for human rights in Cuba. Patricia, as the Mayor of San Cristobal in Venezuela, has acted as a critical opposition figure to Maduro’s oppressive regime. It is essential that Congress support these voices in their continued fight for human rights.
Finally, I met with Dr. Gurguis and members of Coptic Solidarity, to receive an update on the treatment of Coptic Christians in Egypt. I am proud to have cosponsored H. Res. 673, expressing concern over regular attacks on the Copts in Egypt, and will continue to advocate for the rights of minorities around the world.
Thank you for reading the Washington Review. Again, hearing from my constituents enables me to be a better representative of the 8th District. For regular updates, you may stay in touch by leaving comments on my Facebook, Twitter, and website.