Washington Review, May 20, 2016
While representing the 8th District in Washington this week, I held several meetings, attended a House Foreign Affairs Committee markup, and voted on important legislation.
On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to join the USO on Capitol Hill and assemble care packs for our troops stationed around the world. I am thankful for the USO’s dedication to supporting the men and women who serve our nation.
This week, I met with members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). We discussed U.S. military assistance to Israel, Iran’s hostile behavior in the region, and the relationship between the United States and Israel. I also met with members of NORPAC, a non-partisan political action committee, to discuss recent developments in the Middle East as well as legislation addressing issues that are important to the United States and Israel.
On Thursday I welcomed members of the Urban League of Union County who were in Washington for their annual Legislative Policy Conference. We reviewed the Urban League’s legislative agenda and they updated me on their initiatives in New Jersey. Later that day, representatives of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen/Teamsters (BLET) visited my office to discuss rail issues and the impact they have in the 8th District.
Finally, I met with Antonio Rodiles, a Cuban activist who has been beaten, harassed, and imprisoned by Castro’s regime for his support of democratic values and freedom of expression. It was an honor to speak with him about his continuing efforts to encourage open expression and debate on issues facing Cuba.
On Wednesday, I participated in a markup held by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs reviewing legislation focused on human rights, global food security, and Singapore’s relationship with the United States. Among the legislation we reviewed was S. 284, the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, introduced by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (MD). This bill would authorize the President to impose entry and property sanctions against foreign individuals and entities that violate human rights or engage in corruption. S.284 was favorably reported out of Committee. We also reviewed legislation that I cosponsor, H. Con. Res. 129, which expresses support for efforts to ensure that all Holocaust survivors live with dignity, comfort, and security. Nearly half of all Holocaust survivors worldwide live at, or below, the poverty line. This resolution, which calls on the German government to fulfill its moral obligation and provide survivors with the resources to live in comfort for their remaining years, passed unanimously out of the Committee and awaits further action in the House of Representatives.
This week I voted against H.R. 4974, the fiscal year (FY) 2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. While this legislation provides funding for some critical measures, it falls short of the Administration’s requested funding levels for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by $1.5 billion. The men and women who serve our country deserve our gratitude for their sacrifices and support when they return home. Underfunding the VA will only make it more difficult for service members to access the care they need. H.R. 4974 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 295-129 and is now awaiting further action in the Senate. It is my hope that Congress will be able to address this funding gap if the bill goes to conference with a Senate measure and returns to the House of Representatives for a vote.