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Washington Review, September 17, 2021

Sep 17, 2021
Washington Review

On Monday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing reviewing U.S. policy in Afghanistan, where I questioned Secretary Blinken on the future of Afghanistan and the need for humanitarian assistance. On Tuesday, in a marathon markup, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a portion of the budget which will improve rail safety and climate sustainability.

This week, I traveled to the Dominican Republic with Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) to meet with President Luis Abinader and show our commitment to deepening the U.S.- Dominican relationship.

I also cosponsored legislation to give a congressional honor to those who developed COVID-19 vaccines, joined an amicus brief to protect reproductive rights in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and signed on to letters to delay increases to flood insurance premiums and move forward on the Gateway Project.

Hearing on Afghanistan Policy

On Monday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on twenty years of U.S. policy in Afghanistan, recognizing that the situation which devolved at the end of August was not simply a result of the decisions of this administration, but the last four administrations which oversaw military involvement in Afghanistan. During the hearing, I thanked Secretary Blinken for the State Department’s hard work and coordination with the Department of Defense to evacuate over 120,000 people, including many people who asked for help from my office. I also asked the Secretary about the future of Afghanistan, as many rival factions compete for power, and the need for humanitarian assistance to protect Afghans from drought and malnutrition. The Secretary advocated for humanitarian aid to be delivered through the United Nations. In addition, he said that the State Department would continue to monitor the political situation in Afghanistan and leverage international partnership and the United Nations to stand up against any future human rights violations.

Transportation and Infrastructure Markup

On Tuesday, I joined my colleagues on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in approving a portion of the budget reconciliation bill which would fund improved rail security, support emergency management, spur economic development, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This reconciliation bill is an opportunity to make meaningful investment in infrastructure and climate sustainability, as well as other areas. Other portions of the reconciliation bill will go through their respective committees to come together as the package to be reviewed in the House and Senate.

Dominican Republic

On Wednesday, I met with President Luis Abinader of the Dominican Republic, Foreign Minister Robert Alvarez, and Ambassador Sonia Guzman alongside Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and Rep. Mark Green (R-TN). We discussed our support for the President’s anti-corruption agenda for the Dominican Republic and how we can further advance our shared security interests, expand economic cooperation, and pursue nearshoring opportunities as part of the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. I am committed to deepening the U.S.-Dominican relationship to represent U.S. national interests and the interests of my 70,000 constituents of Dominican descent.

Cosponsored Legislation

This week, I joined Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Rep. John Katko (R-NY) in introducing the COVID-19 Vaccine Developers Gold Medal Act. This legislation would honor the remarkable work of scientists who developed the COVID-19 vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccines have given us the opportunity to stop the spread of the deadly virus, prevent variants of concern from developing, and save countless lives. Widespread access to vaccines can end the pandemic, allow businesses to regain their footing without fearing shutdowns, and help Americans safely return to school and work. All those who collaborated on the unprecedented project to develop the vaccine should be honored for their work.

Letters

I joined an amicus brief to the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization led by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the Pro-Choice Caucus, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Schumer. This case will challenge the precedent settled in Roe v. Wade, by allowing the Supreme Court to weigh in on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. Following the conservative leaning court’s decision to allow Texas to impose a 6-week abortion ban which disregards Roe, Congressional leadership and pro-choice activists are fighting to protect reproductive freedom and the protections created by Roe.

I also signed on to a letter to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) led by Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-NY). This letter urges the FTA to raise the Gateway Project rating for the Hudson River Tunnel in light of an updated financial plan submitted by the Gateway Program Project Partners. Tens of thousands of commuters rely on the Hudson River Tunnel, which has not fully recovered from the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. The Gateway Project must move forward to make these necessary repairs.

Lastly, I signed on to a letter led by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) requesting that House leadership include a delay for the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s increase to flood insurance premiums in an upcoming legislative package.

Current Washington D.C. Office Status

My staff continues to work remotely during this time. Please know we continue to monitor our phone system, so while we are unable to speak directly with you, we receive all voice messages. If you reached out to us through phone or e-mail, please expect an e-mail response and be sure to check your spam or junk folders. We appreciate your understanding as we all navigate working through the pandemic.

Vaccination Efforts

Vaccines are now available to all individuals 12 and older who live, work, or study in New Jersey. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine, as a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19. To find your nearest vaccine location and make an appointment, please visit Vaccines.gov. 

Please know that I will continue working to get the 8th District the resources it needs. If you have questions or need assistance, please call my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-7919 and follow the instructions to be connected to my staff. You may also send an email to NJ8inquiries@mail.house.gov.

Open Enrollment

This year, instead of using the federal marketplace, New Jersey will switch to their own state-run marketplace. To browse health care plans, visit: www.nj.gov/getcoverednj. Here you will be able to compare available plans, review financial assistance options, and select a plan that is best for you. This new marketplace is easy to use and helps to clearly identify plans that will be most beneficial to you. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial we leave no one behind and that everyone has access to affordable health care. If you need a health care plan, be sure to visit the site.

Congressional App Challenge

The Congressional App Challenge is now open for submissions and all middle school and high school students are encouraged to participate. To foster interest in STEM, this annual coding challenge tasks students with developing an original app, covering any theme and using any platform or coding language they choose. Winners of the challenge may be displayed in the U.S. Capitol Building. Students can submit their app design until November 1, 2021. Please see CongressionalAppChallenge.us for more information and to register.