Washington Review, November 22, 2021
Last week, I joined my Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives in passing the Build Back Better Act, a transformational piece of legislation which invests in the American people and supports our ability to fully recover from the pandemic. I also cosponsored legislation to fully fund educational opportunities for children with disabilities, provide grant funding to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and guarantee access to contraception, and signed onto letters to urge full funding for housing counseling and to extend an increase to housing stipends for the military. I convened a hearing before the Subcommittee on the Western Hem on the Biden administration’s priorities in Latin America and the Caribbean.
On Friday, I was proud to join my Democratic colleagues to pass H.R. 5376, the Build Back Better Act, a hard-fought piece of legislation which responds to the needs of American families and addresses issues which were exacerbated by the pandemic. This legislation will improve the lives of 8th District residents, and people across the country, by making historic investments in our nation’s future. This transformational legislation will support economic growth by investing in the American people’s ability to afford their basic needs like health care, prescription drugs, childcare, housing, food, and quality education.
The Build Back Better Act addresses the needs of families by extending the Child Tax Credit, establishing universal preschool, expanding eligibility for free school meals, increasing Pell Grants to help students afford the rising cost of college, invests in minority-serving colleges and universities. To ease the burden of housing costs, the bill invests $150 billion in affordable housing, which will support the rehabilitation, and improvement of more than 1 million affordable homes, boosting housing supply and reducing price pressures for renters and homeowners. In addition, the bill establishes, for the first time, four weeks of federal paid family and medical leave. It will save American seniors thousands in prescription drugs prices by empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices, reduce premiums for those who are covered by Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage plans, and narrow the Medicaid Coverage Gap. Build Back Better will allow the United States to meet its commitments to addressing the climate crisis, by transitioning to clean energy alternatives and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In all these ways, Build Back Better represents a historic investment in the American families, and our nation’s future.
The bill passed in a 220-212 vote in the House and awaits further action in the Senate. A more thorough breakdown of these provisions and my statement on passage of the Build Back Better Act can be found here.
On Wednesday, the House passed a resolution to censure Rep. Paul Gosar in a 223-207 vote, effectively removing Rep. Gosar from his committee assignments. It is unfortunate that the House had to take such action but those who threaten violence against their colleagues, in any workplace across the country, should be held accountable for their actions in order to maintain a respectful and safe work environment for all.
On Tuesday, I held a Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing on the Biden administration’s priorities in Latin America and the Caribbean with Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols. My colleagues and I raised concerns about the Ortega regime’s authoritarianism in Nicaragua, setbacks to the rule of law and the fight against corruption in Guatemala and El Salvador, suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Cuba, and the security crisis in Haiti. Despite these challenges, I believe that the Biden administration is taking the correct approach by increasing engagement with the region, addressing the root causes of irregular migration from Central America, and delivering much needed vaccines to overcome the pandemic. As the region recovers economically from the pandemic, the United States has an opportunity to engage with our partners and allies to support their recovery and counter Chinese influence in the region.
Last week, I cosponsored the IDEA Full Funding Act, introduced by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), which would fully fund educational opportunities for all students with disabilities, relieving the burden on states and local school districts. Specifically, this legislation would mandate a gradual increase in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding to reach the promised full 40% funding in fiscal year (FY) 2031, and each subsequent fiscal year.
To support minority-serving universities, I cosponsored the Institutional Grants for New Infrastructure, Technology, and Education for HBCU Excellence Act, or IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act, introduced by Rep. Alma Adams (D- NC). This bill provides support for historically black colleges and universities to utilize public and private investments to modernize or construct new campus facilities, preserve buildings with historic significance, and ensure the sustainability of campus facilities. In addition, the bill would support HBCUs to provide access to campus-wide, reliable high-speed broadband to support digital learning and long-term technological capacity.
I also cosponsored the Access to Birth Control Act, introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) to ensure that patients seeking contraception—including emergency contraception—cannot be prevented from doing so by their pharmacy. In addition, this legislation would protect patients from intimidation, harassment, or threats from pharmacy employees who personally object to the use of contraception.
Last week, I joined a letter led by Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) to the House Committee on Appropriations, urging the committee to include $100 million for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Counseling Assistance Program in the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development appropriations bill for fiscal year (FY) 2022. This level of funding would match what was included in the House version of the bill, therefore adequately supporting the program’s work to provide community members with advice on buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures, credit issues and reverse mortgages.
I also signed onto a letter led by Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC) to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, urging an extension on the temporary Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) increase instituted in September for military families. The rising cost of rent across the country has a significant impact on active duty servicemembers who depend on housing stipends from the Department of Defense. If this temporary increase is allowed to expire, servicemembers will face the same challenges which prompted the increase to BAH originally, therefore, an extension is necessary to support military families.
Current Washington D.C. Office Status
In response to the pandemic, my staff continue to work in a hybrid model during this time. Please know we continue to monitor our phone system, so while we are unable to speak directly with you, we manage all voice messages left. If you reached out to us through phone or e-mail, please expect an e-mail response. Be sure to check your spam or junk folders for a response from our office. We appreciate your understanding as we all navigate working through the pandemic.
Vaccines are available to all individuals 5 and older who live, work, or study in New Jersey. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine, as a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19. To find your nearest vaccine location and make an appointment, please visit Vaccines.gov.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommend booster shots of all three vaccine types and allow for individuals to choose which vaccine they may use as a booster. Those ages 18 and older who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are recommended to get a booster 2 months after initial vaccination. Those who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are recommended to get a booster shot after 6 months, if they are: 65 years and older, or 18 and older who live in long-term care settings, live or work in a high-risk setting, or have an underlying medical condition. See updated CDC guidelines here.
Please know that I will continue working to get the 8th District the resources it needs. If you have questions or need assistance please call my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-7919 and follow instructions to be connected to my staff or send an email to NJ8inquiries@mail.house.gov.
Open Enrollment began November 1 and will close on December 31. Go online now to review new plan options and more affordable coverage for 2022. This year, instead of using the federal marketplace, New Jersey will switch to their own state-run marketplace. In order to browse health care plans you can visit: www.nj.gov/getcoverednj. Here you will be able to compare available plans, review financial assistance options, and select a plan that is best for you. This new marketplace is easy to use and helps to clearly identify plans that will be most beneficial to you. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial we leave no one behind and that everyone has access to affordable health care. If you need a health care plan, be sure to visit the site