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Congressman Albio Sires

Representing the 8th District of New Jersey

health care

Washington Review, November 13, 2017

Nov 13, 2017
Washington Review

Last week in Washington, I cosponsored a number of bills to enhance veterans’ health, attended two Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearings which examined Russia as a counterterrorism partner and the effectiveness of the Kingpin Designation Act, and spoke on the floor about the dangerous effects of the Majority’s tax plan. I also met with different groups to discuss legislative priorities.

Veterans’ Health

Last week, the House passed a number of bipartisan bills to improve health care for our veterans. Our veterans have sacrificed their lives for the safety and security of our country, and the least we can do is ensure that they have access to the health services and resources they need. One such bill, H.R. 4173, the Veterans Crisis Line Study Act of 2017, would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct a study on the efficacy of the Veterans Crisis Line to determine the line’s visibility and its efficacy in suicide prevention. According to the VA, in 2014 alone, there were 93 veteran suicides in New Jersey. It is important that services such as the Veterans Crisis Line are easily accessible and work effectively to help our vets in need. H.R. 4173 passed the House unanimously and now awaits further action in the Senate.

Additionally, the House unanimously passed H.R. 2123, the VETS Act of 2017. This bill would allow licensed health care professionals of the VA to practice via telemedicine at any location in any state, regardless of where the professional or patient is located. This bill creates greater access to health care professionals for veterans in rural communities who may have difficulties accessing VA health care services, and now awaits further action in the Senate.

I also cosponsored two bills which would increase benefits for our veterans. The Blast Exposure Protection Act of 2017 would extend health care and benefits to veterans that have been exposed to and survived deadly blast explosions. Furthermore, I have cosponsored the Hear Our Heroes Act of 2017 which would grant service connection on a presumptive basis for any veteran diagnosed with hearing loss or ringing of the ears.

Europe, Eurasia, & Emerging Threats Subcommittee

On Tuesday, the Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats Subcommittee held a joint hearing which examined Russia’s ability to join counterterrorism efforts with the U.S. Given Russia’s interventions around the world fostering disastrous conflicts and propping up oppressive autocratic regimes, I expressed my concerns about their ability to play a supportive role as a counterterrorism partner. The experts also expressed skepticism towards Russia as a viable counterterrorism partner given the fundamentally different interests between the United States and Russia, and factoring in the tactics employed by Russia in the name of counterterrorism policy.

Western Hemisphere Subcommittee

Later in the week, the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hosted a hearing to review the efficacy of the Kingpin Designation Act. This law, passed in 1999, is intended to act as a counter-narcotics measure by denying foreign narcotics traffickers and their related businesses access to the U.S. financial system. I questioned the experts on how a kingpin designation reveals relationships between traffickers and government corruption and stressed the need for policies that work alongside kingpin designations to fully address the issue of foreign narcotics trafficking in the region.

Speaking on the Floor

On Wednesday, I spoke in opposition to the Majority’s tax plan on the House Floor and how it would have devastating effects on New Jersey. This plan prioritizes the wealthy and corporations over the needs of American families while, according to a Penn Wharton study, adding a predicted $2.1 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. In New Jersey, more than 25% of New Jerseyans would face a tax hike due to the partial elimination of the State and Local Tax Deduction. As it is, New Jersey taxpayers on average paid $3,478 more in taxes in 2015 than they received from the government, which is higher than in any other state. I refuse to support a one-sided tax plan that harms New Jersey and those individuals most in need of tax relief.

Meetings

At the beginning of the week, I met with AIPAC members to discuss ways in which the United States can continue to strengthen our relationship with Israel, and help them address sustained hostility by Iran in the Middle East.

Additionally, I met the new ambassador of Pakistan, Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry. We discussed ways in which our two countries can work together on critical counterterrorism operations. Finally, I met with David Daly, the new President and COO of PSE&G to discuss his company’s work in the 8th District.

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