Washington Review, September 10, 2018
Congress returned to Washington last week and I worked with my colleagues to increase financial counseling for students with significant loan debt. Additionally, I met with the Atlantic City Airport, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Nicaraguan human rights activists to understand their perspectives on pending legislation.
In fiscal year (FY) 2018, total student loan debt in America surpassed $1.4 trillion and continues to balloon at a rate that threatens the sustainability of our economy. American students cannot become fully contributing, successful members of society under such a great burden. That is why I voted in favor of H.R 1635, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act, which supports students through financial counseling equipped with the most relevant, up-to-date information on grant and loan options. Students must absolutely have access to the most cost-effective path for the future of their education. H.R. 1635 passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 406-4 and now awaits further action in the Senate.
Our region is the site of the busiest rail hub in the Western Hemisphere and home to one of the most important economic centers of our country. Allowing the crumbling infrastructure between New Jersey and New York to continue its fall into disrepair would not only cripple the 4.3 billion trips that occur every year, but also handicap our country’s economy.
Last Monday, I was proud to stand united with Governor Murphy, Senator Menendez, Representative Payne Jr., Representative Pascrell, and other New Jersey officials in calling for the commencement of the first phase of the historic Gateway Project. The Portal Bridge is ready for its transformation and New Jersey has supplied its promised share of funding. It is now up to the federal government to follow through on its commitment to one of the most important transit projects in the nation.
Last week, the Highways and Transit Subcommittee gathered to receive testimony from industry stakeholders on innovations in surface transportation. I am committed to supporting the safest, most efficient technology for our country and ensuring its practicality in not just rural areas, but also densely populated cities like Hoboken. I highlighted the importance of testing new technology in these communities before it is widely introduced.
At the beginning of last week, I met with representatives of Atlantic City Air Traffic Control to discuss the disastrous effects another government shutdown would have on the air travel industry and air traffic controllers across the country. Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to meet in Washington with the new President of Hudson County Community College, Dr. Christopher Reber, and emphasize my support for community colleges in our district.
My colleagues on the Foreign Affairs Committee and I hosted the Foreign Minister of Colombia to discuss how we can strengthen this critical international partnership. Later in the week, Representative Engel and I met with Ivan Velasquez, Commissioner of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala. We reiterated our support for his brave, important work to end corruption in the face of pressure from President Morales and the Guatemalan government. I also met with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to discuss the U.S. -Israel relationship and receive updates on related legislation.
Finally, I welcomed three human rights activists from Nicaragua to discuss how their experiences can inform my work on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Dr. Jasmar Briones, Nemesio Mejía, and Marco Novoa have bravely, peacefully protested the abuses of the Ortega regime and fought to restore democracy to Nicaragua.
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 Facebook, Twitter, and website.