Washington Review May 28, 2019
Last week in Washington, the House considered remedies to veteran’s services, consumer protection, and retirement savings. I met with community groups focused on youth job training, postal services, and disaster relief in Puerto Rico. I also attended a post office dedication in Belleville and executed my Budget and Foreign Affairs Committee duties.
Last Tuesday, the House of Representatives came together to unanimously pass a series of bipartisan bills to support the care of our nations’ veterans including:
H.R. 2045, the Veterans’ Education, Transition, and Opportunity Prioritization Plan Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Wenstrup (R-OH). This bill establishes the Veterans Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration to oversee vocational rehabilitation and employment, educational assistance, veterans’ housing loan, and the verification of veteran-owned small businesses.
H.R. 2326, the Navy Seal Chief Petty Officer William "Bill" Mulder (Ret.) Transition Improvement Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Levin (D-CA). This legislation establishes pilot programs to support veterans and spouses in off-base transitions, including lifting time restrictions for access to military resources. This bill also creates a grant program for organizations to provide multiple transition assistance services such as resume assistance, interview training, and job recruitment training.
H.R. 2340, the Fostering Intergovernmental Health Transparency (FIGHT) in Veteran Suicides, introduced by Rep. Rose (D-NY), which requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to notify Congress of any suicide or attempted suicide of a veteran in a VA facility.
The next day, I voted in support of H.R. 1500, the Consumers First Act, introduced by Rep. Waters (D-CA), to reverse the harmful actions taken by the Trump Administration to cripple the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Established in 2011, the CFPB was our government’s response to the predatory practices that brought our nation into the 2008 recession. Since taking office, members of the Trump Administration have repeatedly taken steps to dismantle consumer protections, introduced more risk and volatility to our financial services market, and stepped back from their role as watchdog for vulnerable communities. H.R. 1500 restores the the agency’s supervisory and enforcement powers and increases transparency and accountability procedures so that Congress stays informed of the agency’s operations. Under previous leadership, the CFPB has been able to return $12 billion to nearly 30 million wronged consumers. We need our federal government to stand up for the average American consumer.
On Thursday, the House voted on H.R. 1994, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Neal (D-MA). This legislation provides relief and new opportunities for average Americans to save for their retirement. Measures include lifting the maximum age for IRA contributions, the authorization of multiple employer plans, increasing available credit for small business employer plans, and more. I voted in support of H.R. 1994 because every member of our community deserves the chance to save for their future.
H.R. 1500 passed the House by a vote of 231-191 and H.R. 1994 passed the House by a vote of 417-3. Both bills await further consideration by the Senate.
Last Tuesday, I sat down with representatives of the New Jersey Rural Letter Carriers Association to emphasize my support for the continued operations of the U.S. Postal Service. Congress must continue to support this vital national service and establish a stabilized path forward for the future of USPS. Then on Wednesday, I met with representatives of YouthBuild Newark to learn more about the hands-on job training and educational services they provide for our community. We discussed ways Congress can continue to support their outstanding work. The next day, I met with League of United Latin American Citizens Puerto Rio. Two years have now passed since the tragedy of Hurricane Maria and the failed response by our federal government. My colleagues and I in Congress must work swiftly to help those still suffering rebuild their lives.
As the burdensome costs of health care continue to skyrocket, we must have require serious discussions about the future of our nation’s system – specifically ways to increase affordability and accessibility. I attended the House Committee on the Budget’s hearing on Wednesday where experts testified on the Congressional Budget Office’s report regarding design elements of single-payer health care systems. Any change to our system holds consequences for millions of Americans. I look forward to working with my colleagues in continuing to examine the most effective ways to strengthen and expand access to health care for our communities.
Last Monday, I gathered with Senator Menendez, Congressman Pascrell, and Mayor Melham of Belleville to dedicate the Private First Class Henry Svehla Post Office on Washington Avenue. A Medal of Honor recipient, Private First Class Svehla was just 19 years old serving in the Korean War when he jumped on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers. I was honored to be with the Svehla family to celebrate this heroic life and dedicate a testament to his bravery and patriotism.
Last Tuesday, I attended a Europe and Eurasia Subcommittee hearing on Russian interference in foreign elections. I asked the testifying experts about Russia’s role in promoting the growth of far-right parties in Europe and the impact their strategies have on our own elections.
On Wednesday, I met with Asad Khan, the Ambassador from Pakistan, to continue our dialogue on the relationship between the United States and Pakistan. We discussed ways our countries can continue to support each other and collaborate on areas of mutual interest like counterterrorism efforts.
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