Washington Review, November 25, 2019
Last week in Washington, the House considered legislation on workplace violence and continued the official impeachment inquiry. I spoke about the importance of industrial pipeline safety for our communities and questioned experts on the Open Skies Treaty.
Last week, the House considered H.R. 1309, the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT). Data has shown that health care and social services providers face a disproportionate amount of violence at work. This legislation directs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop a national standard of workplace violence prevention for these industries and requires all providers to subsequently implement protections. I voted in favor of H.R. 1309, which passed the House by a vote of 251-158 and now awaits action in the Senate.
On Tuesday, the House voted on H.R. 3055, the Furthering Continuing Appropriations Act, 2020, and Further Health Extenders Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY). Included in this appropriation package is $7.28 billion for the Census Bureau, specifically funding $90 million for Mobile Questionnaire Assistance Centers, a 3.1% pay raise for armed servicemembers, and funding for the Community Mental Health Services Demonstration program, which provides mental and substance use disorder treatment for Medicaid beneficiaries. This measure prevents a government shutdown and extends federal funding through December 20, 2019. I voted for the passage of H.R. 3055, which was approved by a vote of 231-192. H.R. 3055 then passed the Senate by a vote of 74-20 and was signed into law by the President on November 21, 2019.
On Thursday, I attended the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee markup on several bills including H.R. 5120, the Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Environmentally Responsible (SAFER) Pipelines Act of 2019. Introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), this bill would integrate coordination between pipeline operators and emergency responders. I spoke about the 1994 Edison, NJ pipeline explosion where a lack of information on pipeline contents halted first response operations. We must learn from these disasters and ensure the safety of every family living above a pipeline. H.R. 5120 passed the committee by a vote of 32-26 and now awaits consideration vote before the full House of Representatives.
Last week, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence continued public testimony of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Investigating the alleged pressure campaign on Ukraine by the Administration, the Committee questioned several key witnesses. On Tuesday, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, Security Adviser Jennifer Williams, former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker, and former presidential advisor Tim Morrison testified before the Committee. Former Special Representative Volker revised his previous closed-door deposition to include that "In hindsight, I now understand that others saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involving the Ukrainian company Burisma as equivalent to investigating former Vice President Biden…In retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections.”
On Wednesday, Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Laura Cooper, and the United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale testified. Most significantly, Ambassador Sondland stated to the Committee, “Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States.”
The following day, former U.S. National Security Advisor Fiona Hill and Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine David Holmes came before the Committee. Mr. Holmes testified, that during his duties it “was made clear that some action on a Burisma and Biden investigation was a precondition for an Oval Office meeting.” Former Advisor Hill stated, "All of us who came here under a legal obligation also felt we had a moral obligation to do so. We came here as fact witnesses. We are here to relate to you what we saw, what we heard and what we did and to be of some help to all of you to make a momentous decision.”
On Tuesday, I attended the Europe and Eurasia Subcommittee hearing on the Open Skies Treaty. Established in 2002, it is the widest regulation of global military surveillance activities. I asked experts about the current effectiveness of the treaty and policy options for Congress for any potential reform. Later that day, I sat down with Juan De Dianous, the new Ambassador from Panama. We discussed the shared economic and security interests of our nations as well as ways to expand U.S.-Panama cooperation.
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.