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Congressman Albio Sires

Representing the 8th District of New Jersey

Washington Review, October 1, 2018

Oct 1, 2018
Washington Review

Last week in Washington, the Senate Judiciary Committee grappled with serious allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. The House of Representatives passed critical transportation bills, including railroad oversight legislation that I introduced. Additionally, I met with the President of Chile, the Director of USAID, and constituents from the 8th District.

Supreme Court Nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh

Allegations of sexual assault must be taken seriously every time, without exception. As a nation, we have consistently failed survivors, who far too often face social and systematic impediments to justice. The Senate Committee on the Judiciary was right to hold a hearing for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh following Dr. Ford’s allegation of assault. Dr. Ford deserves to be heard by the Committee and the country. A nomination to the Supreme Court requires the highest level of scrutiny and individuals must be comprehensively vetted for the privilege of serving a lifetime appointment.

On September 18, 2018, I joined 113 of my House Democratic colleagues in asking the Senate to delay Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination until an FBI investigation could be completed. I am encouraged that the FBI has re-opened the background investigation for Judge Kavanaugh and  support a complete, thorough inquiry that pursues every route to justice. I continue to call on my colleagues in the Senate to delay a vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination until after the investigation is finalized.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

The uncertainty surrounding Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein last week underscored the importance of congressional action to protect the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That is why I am a cosponsor of two bills to counteract any attempt to interfere with Special Counsel Mueller’s process. H.R. 5476, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), severely restricts the conditions for firing an appointed counsel to ensure that such investigations remain independent and nonpartisan. H.R. 5533, the Special Counsel Transparency Act of 2018, introduced by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) safeguards all data and information collected by these investigations and makes it available to Congress, protecting the evidence in the event a special counsel is removed. I will continue to monitor the ongoing situation because Americans deserve to know the truth about events that transpired in the 2016 election. 

Legislation

I was proud that the House of Representatives voted last Thursday night to pass my legislation, H.R. 1093, which increases oversight and transparency of regional rail systems. In the wake of a 2016 commuter train crash in Hoboken, I found it unconscionable that I and other New Jersey lawmakers had not been informed of the numerous NJ Transit safety violations recorded by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Action and access to the full scope of knowledge could have averted the crash, prevented one hundred people from being injured, and saved a life. H.R. 1093 requires the FRA to notify Members of Congress, and other officials, if a safety assessment is opened in their state within 10 days of its initiation. This bill now awaits action by the Senate.

Also on Thursday, I voted to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its many important programs for five years at adjusted levels. Included in this package were measures to reform the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its resources that prepare communities for natural disasters, as well as measures to protect passenger rights and commuter safety. This bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 398 to 23 and now awaits further action by the Senate.

On Friday morning, I joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues and voted for legislation to combat the opioid epidemic. The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act passed in the House by a vote of 396 to 14, and will expand protections under Medicare and Medicaid to help individuals battling with addiction. Additionally, this legislation modifies the regulation of health practices to better support those in recovery. While this legislation is an important step, Congress must continue to work on addressing the opioid crisis with sustainable, comprehensive solutions.

Meetings

Last week, I sat down with leaders deeply engaged in the formation of our district’s youth. I met with Carlos Lejnieks, CEO of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson, and Union Counties to discuss the positive impact mentoring programs can have on young adults. Additionally, I met with New Jersey representatives of the National Education Association. Anita Kober, a West New York School teacher, Robert La Morte, and I emphasized the importance of ensuring successful schools as well as commonsense reforms to prevent gun violence.

Representing our district and the country, I was honored to be a witness at the signing of a Letter of Intent on the trade relationship between the Representatives of the Taiwan Agriculture Trade Goodwill Mission and the U.S. Soybean Export Council. I also joined my colleagues Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart to meet with USAID Director Mark Green and advocate for the people of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

Later in the week, I hosted Chilean President Sebastián Piñera and emphasized the strong relationship between our countries. Chile has been a critical trade partner in the Western Hemisphere, an ally in promoting human rights initiatives, and a leading force in the adaption of green energy technologies. President Piñera has also been instrumental in the response to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. He remained committed to democratic principles and opened up the country to Venezuelans fleeing the oppression of Maduro. I look forward to the continuing partnership between the United States and Chile.

Foreign Affairs Committee

The House Foreign Affairs Committee this week held a markup for H.Res. 1006, condemning the brutal actions taken by dictator Nicolas Maduro to oppress the Venezuelan people. I stand with my colleagues on the Committee and support regional action for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela.

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 FacebookTwitter, and website.