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Washington Review, November 6, 2017

Nov 6, 2017
Washington Review

Last week in Washington, the Republicans introduced a tax plan, I questioned FEMA administrators on their disaster response efforts at a Transportation and Infrastructure Hearing, listened to the testimony of a North Korean defector at a Foreign Affairs Hearing, and held a number of meetings. Additionally, the House voted on legislation to strip funds from critical health programs.

Republican Tax Plan

On Thursday, the Republicans released their tax plan which prioritizes the wealthy and corporations over working American families. Not only would this plan add $1.5 trillion to the national deficit over the next 10 years, it would also eliminate numerous tax deductions and provisions which middle class families rely on each year. Specifically, H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, would cap the local property tax at $10,000 and eliminate the deduction of state taxes. Additionally, mortgage interest deductions for new homebuyers would be cut in half, capping the deduction to the interest paid on the first $500,000 worth of home loans. Further heartless eliminations include deductions for the elderly, student-loan interest, medical expenses, and property losses.

These reforms target the groups that are in most need of tax relief, especially in the wake of the string of natural disasters that have plagued our country, costing millions of dollars in unexpected damage and medical bills. Tax reform should be a bipartisan effort to simplify the tax code in a way that is fair and stimulating for the economy, and I will continue to fight against the implementation of these heartless reforms that will have drastic effects on my constituents and their communities.

Transportation and Infrastructure Hearing

Later in the week, I attended a hearing in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to examine FEMA’s disaster mitigation and disaster response efforts in the wake of recent hurricanes. I questioned Administrator William Long on how Congress can work with FEMA to streamline the response process after a natural disaster hits. Since Sandy struck, constituents and organizations in my district alone have been waiting for years, in some cases, for a response from FEMA. I hope that we can work alongside FEMA to implement reforms that will make the communication channels more responsive and effective. I also asked Administrator Long what FEMA was doing to ensure the safety of Puerto Ricans and the disaster response personnel on the island. In the wake of such devastating natural disasters, it is essential that FEMA has the personnel and resources it needs to also guarantee security of the people living and working on the island.

Foreign Affairs Hearing

I also attended a Foreign Affairs hearing in which the Committee listened to Thae Yong-Ho, a North Korean defector, testify as to how North Koreans perceive U.S. actions and rhetoric. This perspective is imperative to our understanding of the Kim regime, and it is important that testimony such as Thae’s be taken under advisement when crafting North Korean policy. Short-sighted and inflammatory rhetoric by the United States has potentially lasting consequences for both domestic and international security.

Meeting

This week, I had the opportunity to welcome Honduran Ambassador Marlon Tabora, Foreign Minister Maria Dolores Agüero, and a delegation of Honduran officials to my Washington D.C. office. We discussed the challenges facing their government, as well as their efforts to combat corruption. It is important that the United States continue to support our Western Hemisphere neighbors in their anti-corruption efforts.

On the Floor

At the end of this week, the House voted on H.R. 3922, the CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act. While it is urgent to pass a bill reauthorizing critical health programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Community Health Center (CHC) funding, I continue to stress the importance of passing a clean reauthorization bill. Instead, H.R. 3922 reauthorizes funding for CHIP by cutting crucial funds from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Prevention and Public Health Fund. Specifically, this bill would cut the Prevention Fund by $10.5 billion, which represents 75% of the total fund. Additionally, the funding cuts could limit important medical research programs as it comprises nearly 12% of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) budget. Furthermore, this bill reduces the grace period for paying health care premiums purchased on the marketplace from 90 days to 30 days, potentially resulting in hundreds of thousands of low to moderate income individuals losing their coverage. This bill would also cut $8 billion annually to Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospitals (DSH) following a two year delay and would provide inadequate Medicaid funding for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

I am a strong advocate of the CHIP program which, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), provides coverage for almost nine million children. However, I cannot support a reauthorization that jeopardizes so many other vital health programs. This is why I sent a letter to Speaker Ryan urging a clean reauthorization of the CHIP program, and opposed H.R. 3922. I hope that my colleagues will reconsider a clean CHIP reauthorization which also keeps programs such as the Prevention Fund intact.

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