Washington Review, March 3, 2017
As you will see, it was a busy week in Washington. I commented on the Trump administration’s ties to Russia, cosponsored and introduced legislation, attended a markup and a hearing, and held meetings.
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. Putin’s efforts to interfere with our election and influence American voters is incredibly alarming.
This week, it was revealed that the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, allegedly misled the Senate at his confirmation hearing, while under oath, about his contact with Russian officials during the Trump campaign. While he has announced his intention to recuse himself from investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, I do not believe that this is enough. I called for him to immediately resign from office. The Attorney General is charged with upholding the law and should lead by example. I also strongly agree with calls to appoint an independent, special prosecutor to investigate the Trump administration’s ties to Russia.
In addition, the new administration’s lack of transparency about ties to Russia and potential conflicts of interests is concerning. This is why I have cosponsored a Resolution of Inquiry, H.Res.111, introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), which would direct the Department of Justice to provide the House of Representatives with any and all information relevant to an inquiry into President Trump and his associates’ conflicts of interest, ethical violations, and Russian connections.
This week, I introduced H.R. 1295, the Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act, with Rep. David Young (R-IA) on the Peace Corps’ 56th birthday. The Peace Corps’ mission to promote world peace and friendship serves as an important diplomatic tool that helps people from different cultures create bonds and a better understanding of each other. Under current law, unauthorized use of the Peace Corps logo, even for memorial purposes, carries the risk of a $500 fine or jail time. This legislation would honor those who have given their time to make the world a better place by serving in the U.S. Peace Corps; it allows them to use the name and logo of the Peace Corps on tombstones and in obituaries. H.R. 1295 is currently pending review before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
On Tuesday, I participated in a markup held by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure which reviewed legislation including H.R. 1214, the Disaster SAVE Act. This legislation, introduced by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), would direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to temporarily increase the threshold for small disaster recovery assistance to $500,000. This increase, from the existing $130,100, would help expedite disaster assistance to communities trying to recovery by streamlining the efficient and effective delivery of funds for small projects. H.R. 1214 passed out of the Committee by voice vote and awaits further action in the House of Representatives.
On Thursday, I met with representatives of the American Association of Railroads (AAR) and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA), to discuss their legislative priorities in the 115th Congress.
Later that day, I received a demonstration of Positive Train Control (PTC), a system used to automatically stop a train before an accident occurs. PTC is used to create a safety net and compensate for human performance failures by monitoring the location and movement of a train. It can be used to slow trains that are traveling at unsafe speeds in order to prevent accidents.
On Tuesday, I met with members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), to discuss U.S. security assistance to Israel and Iran’s hostile behavior in the region.
Later that day, I participated in a hearing held by the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee that reviewed opportunities and challenges in the region. Recently, anti-corruption efforts have taken hold in many countries, creating the opportunity to bring lasting reform to political institutions. In addition, efforts to strengthen the rule of law, reform economies, and address human rights concerns are under way throughout the region. However, pro-democracy movements are still being stifled in Cuba and Venezuela, with critics jailed and opposition forces silenced. The United States must continue working with our neighbors to bring lasting stability to the region.
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to meet with the Argentine Ambassador to the United States, Martín Lousteau. We discussed the benefits of cooperation between our nations and President Mauricio Macri’s commitment to rebuilding the Argentine economy, combating corruption, attracting foreign direct investment, as well as strengthening and defending human rights and freedoms both in Argentina and abroad. We also discussed the Argentine government’s support for my legislation, H.Res.54, which affirms the strong partnership between the United States and Argentina.
I also joined colleagues from the House Foreign Affairs Committee to meet with ambassadors from the Caribbean region to discuss the importance of maintaining a strong strategic partnership between the United States and the Caribbean.
This week, members of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF) stopped by to highlight the importance of funding the Special Diabetes Program which provides funding for type 1 diabetes research. I also met with members of the New Jersey Realtors Association, who visited my office to discuss legislation that affects the state real estate market, including the reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program.
On Wednesday, students from Stevens Cooperative School in Hoboken and Jersey City visited my office to learn more about the House of Representatives and my work in Congress. Later that day, I met with members of the National Treasury Employees Union to talk about legislative concerns shared by federal employees.