Washington Review, November 17, 2017
While in Washington this week, the House voted on the Majority’s tax plan and a bill to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), I attended a markup in the Foreign Affairs Committee, and held a number of meetings.
At the end of this week, the House considered H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which would restructure our current system in a way that prioritizes tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations over the needs of American families. In addition to adding $1.5 trillion to the national deficit over the next decade, this bill could trigger sequestrations which would result in massive funding cuts to important programs such as Medicare, which would already be immediately cut by $25 billion. Additionally, H.R. 1 eliminates numerous deductions that families rely on every year, including the state and local tax deduction (SALT) which would have particularly devastating effects on the 41% of New Jersey residents which claim deductions such as those being eliminated. Specifically, this new tax plan would cause 27% of New Jerseyans to see an average tax increase of $2,200 while the top 1% would receive an average tax break of $25,100. I cannot support any proposal that would harm so many of my constituents as well as families around the country. Tax reform should be a bipartisan effort to simplify our current system in a way that places the needs of American families at the forefront, which is why I voted against H.R. 1. Unfortunately, H.R. 1 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 227 to 205 and now awaits further action in the Senate.
Earlier in the week, the House considered H.R. 2874, the 21st Century Flood Reform Act. While there is an urgent need for the House to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to ensure that victims of natural disasters have access to federal flood insurance, it is important that any reauthorization protect the communities and individuals that purchase these policies. Instead, H.R. 2874 creates an undue burden on vulnerable communities by making flood insurance less affordable, less available, and less fair for consumers. Additionally, this bill fails to address the over $20 billion dollars in debt the program has incurred, and does not provide funding for new flood maps. For these reasons, I could not support a bill that would cause more harm to disaster stricken communities. Unfortunately, H.R. 2874 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 237 to 189 and awaits further action in the Senate.
As an alternative, I have cosponsored H.R. 3285, the SAFE National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2017, to reform and reauthorize the NFIP through September 2023. Specifically, this bill would improve flood mapping, improve transparency, create investments for mitigation efforts, and reform the claims process based on lessons learned from past disasters.
On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee marked up several bills relating to terrorism, human rights, cyber security, and tropical disease research. One of these resolutions, H. Con. Res. 90, condemns the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Burma and calls for an immediate restoration of humanitarian access to the Rakhine state. Additionally, the Committee marked up two resolutions which I cosponsored, H. Res. 401, urging an end to the dog and cat meat trade in specified Asian countries and H. Res. 336, reaffirming the U.S.- Mexico partnership. All of these bills passed the Committee unanimously, and now await further action on the House Floor.
This week, I met with groups to discuss U.S. foreign relations, women’s health, immigration, and telecommunications. At the beginning of the week, I met with members of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey to discuss the importance of protecting women’s health care. As such, I have cosponsored H.R. 4082, the Access to Birth Control Act, which would repeal the recently issued final rules rescinding access to birth control coverage.
Later, I met with Mr. Luigi Di Maio, the Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies in the Italian Parliament, to speak about how Congress can work with Italy’s parliament to strengthen U.S. – Italy relations. I also met with Raul Jungmann, Brazil’s Defense Minister, to review areas for strategic cooperation between our two countries.
On Wednesday, I spoke with MSG Networks to learn more about the sports programming industry in the New Jersey and New York metro areaa. Finally, it was my great privilege to meet students from the Rutgers Future Scholars Program who are also DACA recipients. Students such as these young bright scholars, need Congress to act immediately to protect our DREAMers, and the endless opportunities for these young future leaders of New Jersey. I have cosponsored the DREAM Act and called for its immediate discharge to the House Floor.