Washington Review, May 29, 2018
While in Washington this week, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to fund our military for fiscal year (FY) 2019. Also, the Transportation Committee’s Highways and Transit Subcommittee hosted a hearing on the implementation of the FAST Act and the full Committee marked up the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). In addition, questioned Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing and challenged representatives of the Administration on how they would adequately combat transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) at a Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing. Finally, I met with many groups from around the district and around the country to discuss ways in which work done in D.C. affects their industries.
This week, the House voted on and passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2019 which funds Department of Defense programs and activities and our military. Though not perfect, the NDAA enables our military forces to maintain operation readiness, protects our national security, and provides for a much needed pay raise. I voted for the NDAA, which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 351 to 66, and now awaits further action in the Senate.
Earlier in the week, the Highways and Transit Subcommittee spoke to experts on the progress of implementing the FAST Act. The FAST Act, signed into law in 2015, funds numerous transportation infrastructure programs with an intention of increasing transportation safety. Yet, the number of fatalities in crashes involving large trucks and buses has increased by 29% since 2009. I spoke to Mr. Ray Martinez, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, about the dangers of undiagnosed sleep apnea in transit operators and urged him to commit to studying the prevalence of this debilitating condition in transit operators to prevent accidents such as the one that occurred in Hoboken in 2016.
Additionally, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee considered the Water Resources Development Act which funds Army Corps of Engineers projects and authorizes feasibility studies for water resources development projects. WRDA passed out of Committee and now awaits further action on the House Floor.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Administration’s FY 19 international affairs budget. I pressed the Secretary about the Administration’s commitment to working with the Egyptian government to ensure the protection of Coptic Christians and all religious minorities, and questioned Secretary Pompeo about what the Administration is doing to monitor Iranian activities in Syria.
Later, the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee held a hearing examining U.S. policy for combating transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) in Latin America and the Caribbean. I expounded the importance of a robust international affairs budget in effectively engaging with our neighbors in curtailing the illicit flow of drugs and reducing the influence of TCOs. Furthermore, the U.S. must do better at countering nefarious actors such as Russia and refocusing our foreign policy on the Western Hemisphere.
I spoke with New Jersey representatives of the American College of Emergency Physicians this week to discuss the growing opioid crisis and the need for greater support from Congress. We also discussed the importance of workforce development to ensure that our country has enough experienced health professionals to meet the need of our communities.
I was also pleased to welcome members of the American College of Surgeons and American College of Physicians from New Jersey to my Washington office this week. These groups highlighted their important roles in combating the opioid epidemic and discussed how Congress can help them continue to improve the quality of patient care.
Later, I discussed the important role of postal workers in our communities with Jeff McDonald and Joyce Armstrong, the President and Vice President, of the New Jersey Rural Letter Carriers Association. I also met with Melvyn Bray of Lions Club International to hear about the charitable work of their organization in New Jersey and around the world.
I met with representatives of the United Steelworkers, the largest industrial labor union in North America. We discussed trade, retirement, and labor issues facing their industry.
Finally, I met with human rights activists Mustafa Dzhemilev and Tamila Tasheva to discuss Russia’s transgressions against human rights in Crimea.
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.