Washington Review, October 13, 2017
This week in Washington, I voted to pass disaster assistance for Puerto Rico, cosponsored more legislation to address the gun violence epidemic, met with the Prime Minister of Srpska, and discussed the Iran deal at a Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a disaster relief supplemental to provide much needed assistance for California, Florida, Texas, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico by a vote of 353 to 69. This bill includes $36.5 billion in emergency aid to states and areas affected by hurricanes and wildfires, including an additional $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund. With millions in Puerto Rico still without access to electricity or clean water, it is essential that the federal government continue to provide robust assistance to our fellow American citizens on the island. President Trump’s tweets threatening the removal of aid are inappropriate and entirely unacceptable and fail to recognize the dire circumstances in Puerto Rico. This supplemental is a good first step, one that should have been expedited, and I hope that Congress can come together to pass a comprehensive, long-term disaster assistance package that will enable Puerto Rico and the other affected areas to begin rebuilding.
In Congress’s ongoing efforts to address the gun violence epidemic in our country, I continue to cosponsor several additional pieces of legislation in an attempt to prevent more mass tragedies from gun violence, including H.R. 1478, the Gun Violence Research Act, H.R. 4052, the Keep Americans Safe Act, and H.Res. 370, which demands action instead of moments of silence. Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s (D-FL) Gun Violence Research Act would eliminate the current prohibition of federal funds to be used for advocating or promoting gun control. Rep. Elizabeth Esty’s (D-CT) Keep Americans Safe Act would prohibit the transfer, importation, or possession of magazines that can hold more than ten rounds of ammunition. Finally, Rep. Tony Cardenas’s (D-CA) H.Res.370 would require that anytime a moment of silence is held on the House Floor in relation to a gun violence tragedy, a hearing be held on the topic the next day. It is long past time for Congress to address the issue of gun violence in our country and these bills are the first steps to preventing more mass casualty tragedies from occurring.
Earlier this week, I attended a House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing examining the regional and international threats posed by Iran. I listened to experts testify about the issues and ramifications surrounding President Trump’s decision to not certify the Iran Deal and the new challenges this could present for international security. While I have been skeptical in the past of the Iran Deal’s ability to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, since its implementation, I have been vocal about the need to enforce the agreement to the fullest extent. I believe we also need to work with our allies and partners around the world to hold Iran accountable for its non-nuclear transgressions.
Later, I participated in a Foreign Affairs Committee markup of the Taiwan Travel Act and the Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act. H.R. 535, the Taiwan Travel Act, would expand U.S. – Taiwan relations by encouraging visits between the United States and Taiwan. We also considered H.R. 1698, the Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act, which would expand sanctions against any entity that aids Iran’s pursuit of a ballistic missile. Both bills unanimously passed out of Committee, and now await further action on the House Floor.
On Thursday, I met Mrs. Zeljka Cvijanovic, the Prime Minister of Republika Srpska. She updated me on important regional security challenges, and we discussed ways in which the United States can support stability and security in the region.
On the floor this week, the House of Representatives considered and passed S. 585, the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. This bill provides critical protections for whistleblowers to protect them from employer retaliation. Specifically, this bill would prohibit employees with the authority to take personnel action against whistleblowers to access medical records, authorize disciplinary action against supervisors for retaliation against whistleblowers, and require agencies to refer information about employee suicides to the Office of Special Counsel. S. 585 passed the House unanimously and now awaits the President’s signature.