Washington Review, September 29, 2017
This week in Washington, I attended a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the reorganization of the State Department, marked up my Global Health Innovation Act, and met with various groups to discuss health care, education, and regional security in the Western Hemisphere.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, leaving the island in desperate need of assistance. People are stranded without power and without access to food, water, or essential services and the situation could rapidly deteriorate into a humanitarian crisis. I joined over 140 of my colleagues in sending a letter to President Trump requesting the mobilization of the Department of Defense for a greater disaster relief response. We requested that the mission be intensified, with a deployment of aviation assets to deliver supplies and logistical support to assist in search and rescue missions as well as assistance in restoring power and telecommunication infrastructure. While I am encouraged by the Administration’s recent decision to waive the Jones Act for ten days to provide temporary assistance to Puerto Rico, I hope that the Administration will consider extending the waiver if necessary to ensure that our fellow Americans have access to the resources and aid they need to begin rebuilding.
The State Department is our greatest diplomatic tool in dealing with global crises and international security challenges. On Tuesday, I attended a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing which I questioned Deputy Secretary Sullivan on how the Administration’s proposed reorganization of the State Department would affect not only the Department’s employees, but also their families. I have had the opportunity to see firsthand the important work our Embassy staff does, and I am concerned that cuts to the State Department will jeopardize the progress of these initiatives. I also pushed the Deputy Secretary on providing Congress with more information regarding the sonic attacks on diplomats stationed in Havana.
Later in the week, the Foreign Affairs Committee met again to markup several pieces of legislation dealing with terrorism, Taiwan, Venezuela, and the African Growth and Opportunity Act. My bill, H.R. 1660, the Global Health Innovation Act, passed the Committee unanimously and now awaits further action on the House Floor.
At the beginning of the week, I met with Ambassador Manuel Espina of Guatemala to receive an update on continued security cooperation between our two countries. Rep. Jeff Duncan and I also welcomed Argentina’s Secretary of Security to Capitol Hill to discuss how our countries can work together on security challenges in the region, such as the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.
Later, I met with Dave Anderson of Clifford Paper in New Jersey to discuss issues affecting patient safety and accessible drug information. That same day, I spoke with Head Start officials from New Jersey to discuss how Congress can support early education programs and the impact these programs have on future generations.
Representatives of Novo Nordisk also met with me in Washington this week to speak about legislation I have cosponsored, H.R. 1953, the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act, which would create funding and health care options for the treatment of obesity. Lastly, I met with Ambassador László Szabó of Hungary to reiterate the importance of U.S.-Hungary relations.
I am alarmed to learn of the gross misuse of taxpayer dollars by Secretary Price of the Department of Health and Human Services, who used public funds to charter private planes. As an appointed public servant, it is Secretary Price’s duty to put the interest of the American taxpayer above his personal interests, and I believe this abuse of public resources is inappropriate. It is my sense that Secretary Price should reimburse the taxpayers for this frivolous misuse of government resources.