Washington Review, March 31, 2017
While in Washington this week, I participated in a number of hearings and markups reviewing bipartisan legislation and met with various groups to discuss issues important to residents of the 8th District.
- House Foreign Affairs Committee
- Foreign Affairs
- Transportation Committee Markup
- Women’s Health Care
On Tuesday, I attended a hearing held by the House Foreign Affairs Committee focused on the budget, diplomacy, and development. My colleagues and I heard from a panel of experts about the importance of the international affairs budget, which accounts for just over 1% of our national budget, but makes an outsized contribution to U.S. security and economic objectives abroad. The international affairs budget is vital to protecting American lives and interests abroad and I am strongly opposed to the Trump Administration’s drastic proposed cuts to these programs. Congress must provide funding for these programs so the United States can resolve issues through diplomacy.
Later that day, I participated in a Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing examining the ongoing crisis in Venezuela. Under the oppressive Maduro Regime, Venezuela has suffered corruption, economic collapse and a complete degradation of democracy. Thousands are fleeing in search of basic necessities such as food and medicine and critics of the government are being jailed at an alarming rate. In the days immediately following this hearing, the Supreme Court of Venezuela, which Maduro has stacked with people loyal only to him, dissolved the Venezuelan National Assembly. This latest development is a blatant violation of the constitution and indicates that Venezuela is no longer a democracy but a dictatorship. The United States, and our neighbors in the region, must condemn Maduro’s authoritarian regime and work to restore democratic principles and stability to Venezuela.
Earlier this year, I introduced H.Res.54, a bipartisan resolution reaffirming the U.S.-Argentina partnership and recognizing Argentina’s economic reforms, with my colleague Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC). On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed H.Res.54, sending it to the House Floor for consideration. This resolution recognizes the importance of the U.S.-Argentina relationship 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. It also encourages the Macri Administration to continue investigating the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, as well as the January 2015 death of AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, and prosecute those who were involved. I am proud to sponsor this resolution and grateful to Chairman Duncan for working with me on this bipartisan piece of legislation that highlights the importance of the U.S.-Argentina partnership in United States foreign policy.
On Tuesday evening, I had the opportunity to speak about the importance of research and development for global health innovations and how Congress can help create systems to assist vulnerable populations around the world. This year, I reintroduced H.R. 1660, the Global Health Innovation Act, to promote the development of health products that are affordable, culturally appropriate, and easy to use in low-resource health systems.
On Wednesday, I met with Mark Feygin, a human rights lawyer representing individuals and groups who have been charged and imprisoned by the Russian government. He provided me with an update on his cases and human rights violations in Russia. This meeting comes after a weekend of protests in Russia that resulted in a violent crackdown by the government which revokes the basic human right to freedom of expression from the Russian people. I strongly condemn Putin’s ongoing crackdown of dissent, as well as his disregard for human rights and democratic principles.
On Thursday, I joined a number of my colleagues to meet with the Attorneys General from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. We received an update on important efforts in the region to fight corruption, violence, and instability in the Northern Triangle. I was encouraged by their reports and remain committed to working with our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere to make communities safer.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee also held a markup this week reviewing legislation I introduced earlier this year. On Wednesday, the Committee approved H.R. 1093 which would require the Federal Railroad Administration to notify certain committees and Members of Congress when they begin a comprehensive safety assessment on a commuter or intercity passenger rail system. Specifically, the FRA would have 10 business days from the start of the safety assessment to notify Members representing the state in which it is occurring, as well as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and 90 days following the completion of the assessment to update Members with findings and recommendations. I am pleased that this legislation, which will bring much needed transparency to the federal oversight of commuter and intercity passenger rail, passed the Committee in a bipartisan manner.
Last month, I was extremely disappointed when the House passed and sent to the Senate H.J.Res.43 which would repeal a regulation that ensures patients can access family planning and preventive services through any Title X-qualified provider. This week, H.J.Res.43 passed in the Senate after Vice President Pence cast a tie-breaking vote, jeopardizing access to health care for millions of women, particularly those who rely on providers, such as Planned Parenthood, as their primary source of care. I will continue to oppose resolutions such as this and fight for high quality, accessible health care.
On Tuesday, I met with Glenn Blumhorst, President and CEO of the National Peace Corps Association. We discussed legislation that I introduced earlier this month, H.R. 1295, the Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act. 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 would allow former volunteers and staff to use the name and logo of the Peace Corps for memorial purposes.
That afternoon, members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) from the 8th District visited my office to share their concerns about Iran’s behavior in the region.
On Wednesday, I met with representatives from the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) to discuss their work in New Jersey. NAHREP is the nation’s largest non-profit minority real estate trade association and they work to advance sustainable Hispanic homeownership.
Later that day, I welcomed members of the United States Travel Association, the national, non-profit organization that represents all components of the travel industry. We discussed the importance of transportation infrastructure in promoting tourism in the District and around the country.
I also met with members of the Canadian Snowbird Association about legislation I introduced, H.R. 979, the Promoting Tourism to Enhance our Economy Act of 2017. This legislation would spur small business growth and bring millions of dollars into the U.S. economy by allowing Canadian citizens to lengthen their stay in the United States.
Finally, I met with Representatives of the New Jersey Primary Care Association (NJCPA) to discuss the importance of Federally Qualified Health Centers and the need for adequate funding so that Health Centers can continue to be providers of high quality, cost-effective primary care.