Washington Review, September 15, 2017
While in Washington this week, I cosponsored several pieces of legislation to assist our veterans and a bill to grow American income, discussed the role of external actors in the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, and met with the Ambassadors from Honduras and Antigua and Barbuda.
Our veterans risk their lives for our safety and the security of our country and they deserve the best care and services. That is why I was proud to cosponsor several pieces of legislation which would expand services for veterans and their families. H.R. 2452, the Deborah Sampson Act, would address gender disparities at the Veterans Administration (VA) to ensure that women veterans receive equitable care. Additionally, I cosponsored H.R. 632, the Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act, which would grant veterans who were exposed to radiation during the cleanup of Enewetak Atoll, access to the same health care and benefits given to service members who were involved in active nuclear tests. Finally, H.R. 1472, the Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act of 2017, would expand eligibility for the family caregiver program through the VA to include veterans who were injured or became ill on active duty prior to September 11, 2001. Ensuring our veterans have access to adequate care is the least we can do for the men and women who protect our country, and I will continue to be an advocate for veterans care in Congress.
Earlier this week, I also became an original cosponsor of important legislation that would give working families a wage boost. The Grow American Incomes Now (GAIN) Act, would expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) so that more working families and childless workers are eligible to receive it. This bill would roughly double the EITC for working families and increase the credit for childless workers almost six-fold. In order to protect those Americans living paycheck to paycheck, the bill would also include an Early Refund EITC to provide an alternative to payday loans and other predatory lending products. Congress must continue to work together to pass legislation that helps American working families.
On Wednesday, I participated in a Western Hemisphere Subcommittee that examined the role of external actors in Venezuela’s growing authoritarianism. As Maduro has continued to consolidate his authority and strip power from the opposition, the environment in Venezuela has become a haven for dangerous foreign influences from countries such as Cuba, Iran, Russia and China. I asked the panelists how Maduro’s consolidation in Venezuela compares to Castro’s in Cuba. While I am encouraged by the increased calls for a solution from our neighbors, I believe it will take a coordinated effort amongst Western hemisphere nations to present a viable solution that can restore democracy to the Venezuelan people.
At the end of the week, I welcomed Ambassador Ronald Michael Sanders from Antigua and Barbuda, to discuss U.S. assistance to the Caribbean Security Basin Initiative and how the U.S. can work with its Caribbean neighbors to increase public safety, reduce illicit trafficking, and promote social justice.
I also met with Ambassador Marlon Tabora from Honduras to receive an update on Honduras’ efforts to fight corruption and discuss the current challenges and developments facing Latin America.
Last week, The T. Roosevelt, the 1,202 foot long cargo vessel, which is one of the largest cargo vessels to ever call port on the East Coast, passed under the Bayonne Bridge. This event marked a significant milestone of the Bayonne Bridge Navigational Clearance Project, which I have been a staunch advocate for since its inception. The T. Roosevelt recently broke records as the largest ship to ever pass through the Panama Canal, and was able to successfully complete its trip to New Jersey due to the 215 foot raise to the Bayonne Bridge. It is important that Congress continue to advocate for investments and projects such as this that contribute to our region’s economic growth and I will continue to support policies that allow New Jersey to be an important economic center.