Washington Review, March 4, 2019
Last week in Washington, I attended hearings on all three committees that I serve – Budget, Foreign Affairs, and Transportation – as well as served my first Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere hearing as the Chairman. The House of Representatives also passed legislation addressing the President’s national emergency declaration, gun control, and the future of STEM education.
The House Committee on the Budget convened for the first time since I was appointed to the Committee and took up the disastrous 2017 GOP tax plan as its first issue. New Jersey was one of the states hit the hardest by this chaotic legislation and I was proud to use my voice on the committee to draw attention to the consequences of this bill. I questioned experts on how the cap on State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction could negatively impact the housing market in a state like New Jersey. It is critical that we perform our duties to the American people and fully craft, analyze, and amend legislation to empower the American economy, not threaten its stability.
Last Tuesday, I attended the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing on not only the catastrophic effects climate change can have on our transportation systems, but also ways our infrastructure can mitigate factors that lead to this disruption. My colleagues and I received testimony from leaders in the private and public sector on the newest, most innovative technologies, as well as the latest academic reports.
Last week, I sat down with representatives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). We discussed updates on events impacting the region as well as the importance of supporting the United States’ critical ally in the Middle East. I also met with New Jersey School Nutrition Association to discuss my support for critical meal assistance programs that serve 650,000 New Jersey children every day. Students need to have their basic resources secured in order to unlock their learning potential.
Later in the week, I also met with the New Jersey Fraternal Order of the Police to discuss social security and equal pay for law enforcement officers. Additionally, I met with representatives of the American Legion of New Jersey, including Bayonne resident Mike Wilson, to discuss legislative priorities for protecting our brave veterans.
After President Trump manufactured a crisis and blatantly abused executive power to declare a national emergency on the southern border, I joined my colleagues in cosponsoring H.J.Res.46, a resolution of disapproval introduced by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX). On Wednesday, I voted in support of this bill, which would nullify the President’s emergency declaration. H.J.Res.46 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 245-182 and now awaits further action by the Senate.
After years of inaction in Congress, I voted on Thursday to expand the national background check system for firearms in the United States. These two bills, H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Check Act of 2019, and H.R. 1112, the Expanded Background Checks Act of 2019, were introduced by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), respectively. Together, these bills close dangerous loopholes in current gun sales as well as expand background check requirements on all domestic firearm purchases. I voted for both bills and stood with my colleagues in taking steps to address the gun violence epidemic plaguing our nation. H.R. 8 passed by a vote of 240-190 and H.R. 1112 passed by a vote of 228-198. Both bills await further action before the Senate.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education is critical to our nation’s future. Last Monday, the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 425, the Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act. Introduced by Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL), this legislation would coordinate efforts between government agencies to promote career training and advancement in STEM fields for our servicemen and servicewomen. Then, on Tuesday, I met with Nariman Farvardin, President of the Stevens Institute of Technology, to discuss the importance of educating the next generation of STEM leaders in our community. STEM innovation has been fundamental to the American story and will power our prosperity and security for generations to come.
On Tuesday, I chaired the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere for the first time and oversaw our hearing on the severe humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. My colleagues and I listened to expert testimony on approaches the United States can take with our international partners to end this large scale human tragedy. Democracy, free elections, and human rights must return to Venezuela for the health and future of the nation.
Previously on February 23rd, I joined Sen. Menendez (D-NJ), Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), and Venezuela’s Charge d’Affaires Carlos Vecchio to support efforts to release historic humanitarian aid released in Venezuela. Maduro may continue his attack on the rights of his countrymen, but the world will not abandon Venezuelans.
Also last week, I attended a hearing by the full House Committee on Foreign Affairs to examine the Trump Administration’s foreign policy. Congress has a constitutional duty to the American people to conduct oversight of our nation’s relationships abroad. The Trump Administration’s embrace of Vladimir Putin and authoritarian regimes, along with an adversarial approach to our historic alliances such as NATO, raises plenty of concern about the direction of our nation’s standing around the world. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright served as witness for the hearing, offering her expertise based on decades of experience at the highest levels of American foreign policy.
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.