Washington Review, March 27, 2015
This week in Washington, I participated in a Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing, attended a Joint Session of Congress, met with a foreign ambassador, discussed important topics with several constituent groups, and voted on important pieces of legislation.
Earlier this week, the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee held a hearing on the oversight of the State Department Agency for International Development’s funding priorities for the Western Hemisphere. During this hearing, I asked several questions regarding aid to Central and South American nations and about current programs promoting democracy in the region. As Ranking Member of this Subcommittee, I believe it is critical that the United States continues to strive to promote human rights in the Western Hemisphere through our international partnerships.
On Wednesday, I joined my colleagues in the House of Representatives and the Senate for a joint address from His Excellency Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. I appreciated his comments concerning the sacrifices that Americans have made to fight terrorism in Afghanistan.
It was a pleasure meeting with the Chilean Ambassador to the United States, Juan Gabriel Valdés, to discuss foreign policy. Chile has shown strong economic growth during the past decade and it is clear that the United States should continue working with Chile to promote policies to expand opportunities to all of its citizens.
Throughout the week, I had the opportunity to meet with several constituent groups and organizations. Members of the New Jersey Banking Association visited to discuss the importance of community banks in the 8th District and across our state. The New Jersey Bankers Association consists of 115 banking institutions along with over 230 firms that provide goods and services to the banking community.
Also this week, the New Jersey Association for Gifted Children’s (NJAGC) Vice President of Advocacy, Alison Brown, visited to discuss gifted education in New Jersey. As a former teacher, I know how important it is for educators to have strong, supportive partnerships with the parents of gifted children in order to increase understanding and expand opportunities for gifted students.
I also met with the New Jersey Association of Realtors to discuss the importance of preserving the mortgage interest deduction, and ways to expand housing initiatives in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
The Association of American Railroads President and CEO, Ed Hamberger, visited to discuss several key issues facing the industry. Our district is an important transportation hub and, as a member of the Transportations and Infrastructure Committee, I understand how critical transportation policy is to the railroad industry in New Jersey.
The Canadian Snowbird Association visited to discuss the Promoting Tourism to Enhance our Economy Act of 2015, which I reintroduced this Congress. This bill would allow Canadian citizens, who bring millions of dollars into the U.S. economy every year, to continue to conveniently and safely travel between our shared borders. Thus, increasing tourism and encouraging Canadians to continue to visit the United States. It will grow our economy, better relationships with our neighbors to the North, and bring money into the country at no cost to the taxpayer.
Later in the week, I met with members of the Amtrak Fraternal Order of Police to discuss the importance of working with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies across the country, as well as critical officer retention initiatives.
Several important votes occurred in the House of Representatives this week regarding the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget and the Medicare program. I voted against the FY 2016 Republican Budget Resolution (H.Con.Res. 27) submitted by Representative Tom Price (R-GA). The Republican budget ends the Medicare guarantee, repeals the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and slashes investments in education and infrastructure. In contrast to the Republican Budget, I support the Democratic Alternative Budget Resolution offered by Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), which focuses on putting Americans back to work by lifting the sequester and investing in transportation repair and modernization. This plan would protect the middle class, seniors, and low-income Americans while investing in our future. You can read a full press release here.
Finally this week, the House voted 392-37 to provide a permanent fix to the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), which is the current formula used to determine Medicare payments to physicians. The constant uncertainty that seniors and their doctors faced over the last two decades as a result of the broken SGR formula is addressed in this legislation. This bill would put the constant threat of drastic payment cuts behind us and both doctors and seniors can have the assured continuation of care that they deserve. H.R. 2 also expands funding for Community Health Centers, which is critical in ensuring that millions of people have access to primary care. Community Health Centers are often the only point of access for health care for families across the country and play a vital role in our health care system.