Washington Review, October 30, 2015
This week in Washington, I had several meetings, celebrated an icon from our District, and voted on key legislation.
Representing New Jersey workers, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2001 from Fort Dix met with me this week. During our meeting, AFGE Local 2001 President, Brian Kokotajlo, and Vice President, Greg Davis, briefed me on important safety tools and procedures that are essential for federal correctional employees working for the Bureau of Prisons.
I also had several meetings as part of my work on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Visiting this week was Ambassador of Peru to the United States, Luis Miguel Castilla. Ambassador Castilla and I spoke about U.S. – Peruvian relations and current events in the region. I then met with representatives of the Free Russia Foundation, who visited to review the current political and economic situation in Russia. The Free Russia Foundation, based in the U.S., seeks to be a voice for those who cannot speak under the repression of the current Russian regime. Natalia Arno, President of the Free Russia Foundation, and Vladimir Milov, leader of the Democratic Choice Party, voiced their concerns regarding recent actions taken by Russia.
It was a pleasure to join the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) on Capitol Hill this week. During ACJU’s Congressional breakfast, I heard about the work Jesuit Colleges and Universities, such as St. Peter’s University in Jersey City, are doing to provide opportunities for students living in underserved areas.
I also joined the New Jersey State Society to celebrate an icon from our District, Frank Sinatra. Sinatra, Hoboken’s most famous son, spent much of his childhood living on Monroe Street. In 1935, Sinatra helped create the “Hoboken Four” and would soon gain national attention. As he performed across the country, Sinatra also advocated for civil rights by speaking out against segregation and promoting integration. It was a pleasure joining fellow New Jerseyans this week to celebrate America’s greatest entertainer. You can learn more about the Frank Sinatra by visiting the Hoboken Historical Museum’s Frank Sinatra webpage.
I voted on several important measures this week, including legislation to re-open the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM). The EXIM Bank is an independent, self-sustaining Executive Branch agency with a mission of supporting American jobs by facilitating the export of U.S. goods and services. For months, members of both parties have been urging the leadership to allow a vote on this common-sense reauthorization. Recently, I joined Democratic and Republican colleagues in signing a discharge petition to force a vote on reauthorizing and funding the EXIM Bank. That vote came this week and I, along with a large majority of the House of Representatives, voted to pass this legislation. This legislation is now awaiting further action in the Senate before it can be signed by the President into law.
Another important piece of legislation was passed this week by the House of Representatives: H.R. 1314, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. This budget package represents significant progress for hard-working American families. The Bipartisan Budget Act would achieve equal funding increases for defense and domestic initiatives for the next two years and raise the debt ceiling through March, 2017. This bill would also prevent a major increase in Medicare Part B premiums and deductibles for millions of seniors in 2016. Additionally, this bill is estimated to create 340,000 jobs in 2016 alone. H.R. 1314 passed by a vote of 266-167.
Finally, this week, the House of Representatives elected Paul Ryan (R-WI) as Speaker of the House. Throughout the past few years, the House of Representatives has been plagued by partisanship that has been detrimental to passing meaningful legislation. As Speaker Ryan begins his work, I encourage him to promote bipartisan policies that will help the middle class, invest in our nation’s infrastructure, protect our seniors, and create American jobs.