Washington Review, October 23, 2015
I advocated on behalf of the people of the 8th District this week by attending several important hearings, meeting with government officials and foreign diplomats, and cosponsoring important legislation.
The newly re-designed www.sires.house.gov.
This week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on the Palestinian Authority’s incitement to violence. During this hearing, I joined my colleagues in examining the recent violence against Israeli citizens by questioning panelists about future steps the United States can take and how these events impact our relations in the region. Continuing my Foreign Affairs Committee work, I attended a Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing on Russian Engagement in the Western Hemisphere. Russia has been involved in Latin America since its support for Cuba and Nicaragua began during the Cold War. The post-Cold War era saw a decline in Russian engagement, but as tensions have risen between the U.S. and Russia in recent years, Russia has been reviving old ties to the Western Hemisphere. For too many years, the United States has focused on other parts of the world which has led to the neglect of our own neighborhood. We must remain vigilant of what the long-term consequences of this might be, and reaffirm our commitment to the region.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a critical markup this week of H.R. 3763, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015, to fund our highway programs for six years. I am pleased that the Committee included language that I offered, which is aimed at reducing traffic congestion by encouraging local planning agencies to work with employers and transportation management organizations to develop congestion mitigation plans, in the bill. Specifically, H.R. 3763 would provide $325 billion in contract authority from the Highway Trust Fund for over six years for highway construction, highway safety, and transit programs. For too long, Congress has been passing temporary patches for our highway programs. Passing this bill in Committee is a critical step towards returning to the practice of passing long-term, job-creating transportation legislation. I am pleased that the Committee was able to advance this bill, and look forward to its passage on the House floor.
I had several meetings this week on issues concerning 8th District residents. Visiting this week from the District were Union County Manager, Alfred Faella, and Union County Freeholder Christopher Hudak. We met to review important ongoing projects and programs in Union County. Also representing District residents was the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). SEIU stopped by to discuss the issues facing their 1.9 million members in health, public, and property services.
In addition to having meetings on local issues, I also had several meetings on topics of particular importance in U.S. foreign relations. I first met with Former Congressman Connie Mack (R-FL), who visited to provide an update on the current migration crisis in Europe, particularly in Hungary. Europe is experiencing what many consider to be its worst migration and refugee crisis since World War II. I also met with the Ambassador of Mexico to the United States, Miguel Basañez, who was newly appointed by the Mexican government. I look forward to working with Ambassador Basañez as we address issues of mutual concern to the United States and Mexico. Finally, one of Cuba’s most high-profile activists and dissidents, Rosa Mariá Payá, visited this week. Ms. Payá met with me to speak about the deterioration of the human rights situation on the island.
As many seniors know, under existing law, there will be no Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in 2016 for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits. However, existing law includes a “hold harmless” provision that protects approximately 70 percent of Social Security beneficiaries from paying a higher Medicare Part B premium, in order to avoid reducing their net Social Security benefit. This hold harmless policy will ensure that about 70 percent of America’s seniors are protected from any increase in their 2016 Medicare premium. Unfortunately, the other 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are not held harmless. In New Jersey, a total of 452,000 Medicare enrollees will be affected by this spike in the premium, including 198,000 who are low-income and whose premium increase will be paid by New Jersey’s Medicaid program and 254,000 who will have to personally pay this dramatic increase in their premiums.
In order to prevent this unnecessary spike from occurring, I became a cosponsor of H.R. 3696, the Medicare Premium Fairness Act. H.R. 3696, introduced by Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), would extend the 2015 premium and deductible rates through 2016 for all Medicare enrollees. H.R. 3696 is currently pending before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House Committee on Ways and Means. It is my hope that the House takes this bill up as soon as possible to provide relief to all of our seniors.
A new version of my website was published this week. This re-vamped site has a service center that includes valuable information on receiving assistance from federal agencies, requesting a flag to be flown over the Capitol, planning a visit to Washington, DC, and how to send me an email. You will also find easy-to-navigate tabs to read about issues that are important to our District, look over my latest statements, and read my Washington Review. Please take a moment to view the new site and share it with friends and family. Visit: www.sires.house.gov to connect with me today.