Washington Review, May 2, 2014
This week in Washington, I had a series of meetings with my constituents from New Jersey, I participated in a markup session regarding four pieces of legislation with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the House of Representatives passed legislation to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs.
I was pleased to join my colleagues in the House of Representatives this week in passing H.R. 4486, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2015, by a vote of 416 to 1. This legislation would provide a total of $165 billion in Fiscal Year 2015 to fund military construction projects and programs under the Department of Veterans Affairs through the rest of FY 2015 (until October 1, 2015).
Such initiatives to be funded under this appropriations bill include education and job training assistance, vocational rehabilitation, and special housing and transportation grants for disabled veterans. This agreement also funds veterans’ readjustment benefits and the Post 9-11 GI Bill, assists service personnel adjust to civilian life once leaving the armed forces, and takes significant steps towards helping the Department of Veterans Affairs meet its goal of reducing the medical records and claims backlog. I am pleased that we were able to address real issues our service members are dealing with on a daily basis. It has never been more important to come together across the aisle to support the men and women who have served in uniform.
I also joined my colleagues on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to mark up four pieces of legislation, preparing them to be sent to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. These critical and timely pieces of legislation address several current international humanitarian crises, such as attacks on Syrian civilians (H.Con.Res. 51); the immediate need for action to address Syrian war crimes (H.Res. 520); the desecration of cemeteries (H.R. 4028); and the need to improve our public diplomacy efforts to help people deprived of free and fair information, like those oppressed in Cuba (H.R. 4490). I am encouraged that my colleagues and I were able to work together in a bipartisan manner to mark up these pieces of legislation and bring them closer to becoming law.
Additionally, I met with members of the American Association for Justice, who shared several of their initiatives that promote a fair and effective justice system. It is important that we ensure that any person who is injured by the misconduct or negligence of others can achieve justice in America’s courtrooms, even when taking on corporate interests.
I also met with members of the U.S. Soccer Foundation to discuss how using soccer can promote both positive youth development and combat childhood obesity in urban and underserved areas. The U.S. Soccer Foundation is a leader in sports-based youth development and is using soccer as a vehicle for social change among youth in urban areas, and through the Passback program, the Foundation has collected and redistributed close to 900,000 pieces of soccer equipment for children in need worldwide. When vulnerable children participate in after-school activities, like soccer, they are not only involved in a healthier lifestyle, but build self-esteem to make them more confident at school.
Lastly, I was encouraged to hear of the effect the Health Insurance Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act has already benefitted the citizens of New Jersey. As of the March 31 enrollment deadline, more than eight million Americans and over 161,775 New Jerseyans signed up through the Marketplace, demonstrating the demand for quality, accessible, affordable coverage. This critical healthcare law is benefitting so many of my constituents in New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District.