Washington Review, November 21, 2016
While in Washington last week, I held a number of meetings and voted on important legislation.
Last week, I joined my colleagues, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, and Rep. Carlos Curbelo in meeting with Guillermo “Coco” Fariñas, a journalist and political dissident in Cuba. Mr. Fariñas has been involved in over 24 hunger strikes to protest the Cuban regime and his struggle against censorship and repression has received international attention. It was an honor to speak with him about his continuing efforts to create a free and democratic Cuba.
On Thursday morning, I met with President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia to receive an update on the ongoing peace process between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The FARC is a violent insurgent group in Colombia that has been in an armed conflict with the government since 1964. In June of 2016, the Colombian government and the FARC reached a peace accord for a cessation of hostilities. However, on October 2nd, 2016 the Colombian people narrowly defeated a vote to approve the peace accord, which lead to President Santos reopening negotiations with FARC. An updated agreement was recently announced and is expected to be approved by the Colombian Congress in the coming weeks.
Finally, I attended a briefing with Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Senator Menendez, and Senator Booker, held by Christopher Hart, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, and Sarah Feinberg, Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration. They provided us with an update on their ongoing investigation into the September NJ Transit train crash in Hoboken, NJ.
Last week, I joined my colleagues to pass several important pieces of legislation including H.R. 2713, the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2015 and H.R. 6297, the Iran Sanctions Extension Act.
H.R. 2713, introduced by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), would amend Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act to extend advanced education nursing grants to support clinical nurse specialist programs. This distinction would make clinical nurse leader education programs eligible for advanced education nursing grants. These programs help build the supply and distribution of qualified nurses that are needed across the country. This legislation would also extend programs for loan repayment and extend scholarships for nurses, loans for nursing faculty, and geriatric care education through Fiscal Year 2020. H.R. 2713 passed the House of Representatives by a voice vote.
The Iran Sanctions Act was introduced during the Clinton Administration in response to Iran’s stepped up nuclear program. The sanctions were meant to be used as a tool to impede Iran’s ability to modernize its petroleum sector. The Iran Sanctions Bill of 1996 was originally set to expire in 2006, but was extended until the end of 2016. H.R. 6297, introduced by Rep. Edward Royce (R-CA), would extend sanctions on Iran’s weapons programs that were not lifted under the nuclear agreement. It would also give clear authority on reinstating sanctions on Iran’s energy industry should it violate the nuclear agreement. On Monday, my colleagues and I passed H.R. 6297 by a vote of 419-1. Both pieces of legislation are now awaiting consideration in the Senate.