Year End Update
As the new year begins, the growing unfinished business that remains is a pressing reminder of the work yet to be done when Congress returns to begin the second session of the 115th Congress on January 8th. Over the year, I have received almost 44,000 calls, letters, faxes and emails from constituents to voice your opinions on issues that have the greatest impact on the 8th District of New Jersey. This continuous communication from 8th District residents enables me to do my job effectively, by letting me know which issues are most important to you and your families. This year, some of the issues that were a top priority healthcare, tax reform, gun violence, immigration, the Russian investigation, animal welfare, and the environment. I value your input, and hope to continue to hear from you throughout the new year.
- Tax Reform
- Russia Investigation
- Gun Violence
- Economy and Job Growth
- Animal Welfare
As Congress returns from the holiday break, the future of American healthcare remains a looming issue that requires our urgent attention. Thousands of 8th District residents contacted me, to express concerns over the efforts to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and defund important health programs this year. The Majority made repeated attempts throughout 2017 to repeal the ACA which would potentially leave up to 20 million Americans without coverage. Instead, the coverage offered by the ACA is slowly being chipped away by small changes such as repealing the individual mandate and the elimination of federal cost sharing reduction payments, which according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will increase premiums by about 10%. I have repeatedly voted against all attempts to dismantle the ACA, which while imperfect, enables thousands of New Jerseyans and their families to have healthcare coverage.
Funding for several important health programs, such as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Community Health Center Fund has also been allowed to expire, further jeopardizing the stability and effectiveness of our public health system. Although a short-term continuing resolution (CR), has included nominal funding to provide temporary relief to these programs, stopgap funding measures do not provide the stability these programs need to continue providing critical services and health care to millions of Americans. I have been a strong advocate for the clean reauthorization of CHIP funding and have cosponsored H.R. 3770, the CHIME Act, which would extend community health centers funding for five years. It is my hope that Congress can come together to address the shortfalls within the ACA and implement effective changes that expands coverage, lowers premiums, and improves quality.
The recently passed H.R. 1, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, was opposed by both myself and hundreds of constituents that reached out to my office. This disastrous bill will have a significant impact on every American, particularly New Jersey residents who depend on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction that were capped by the new tax law. Many of my fellow New Jerseyans joined me in condemning this bill which we believe primarily benefits the wealthiest individuals in our country, while New Jersey families will see higher tax rates as a result of the limited SALT and property tax deductions. I spoke out against the tax bill on the House Floor, in the hopes that my Republican colleagues would reconsider this vicious assault on the American middle class and reach across the aisle to craft a bipartisan bill that would provide tax relief to those who need it most. Unfortunately, H.R. 1 was passed into law just before the new year. I will continue to speak out against future attempts to rob American families of services, benefits, and incentives in order to subsidize financial relief for the wealthy.
As you are aware, there are multiple ongoing investigations which are looking into Russian interference in the 2016 elections and improper communications between the Trump Administration and Russian officials. Amid an ongoing federal investigation, the President fired then F.B.I Director James Comey, and further revelations of questionable and previously undisclosed meetings prompted Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Robert Mueller as a special prosecutor to investigate potential collusion between Administration officials and Russian government officials. It is crucial that Americans have guaranteed transparency in the investigation to get to the truth of these collusion speculations. I have sent a letter to Deputy AG Rosenstein asking that he ensure the Special Counsel’s work is able to continue free from political influence and threats to his authority. Like you, I find the allegations of improper contact between the Administration and Russian officials to be deeply concerning and will continue to call for protecting the independence of the special counsel.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, over the course of this year, the U.S. has witnessed some of the deadliest mass shootings it has ever seen, with over 61,000 instances of gun violence resulting in over 15,000 deaths. Yet, each time the nation is faced with another mass tragedy, Congress seems only able to offer moments of silence rather than comprehensive legislative action. I echo the sentiments of hundreds of my constituents demand action that can protect American families. That is why I have cosponsored four commonsense bills that will work to prevent gun violence tragedies; while also protecting Americans’ second amendment rights. I have also sent multiple letters opposing proposals that seek to limit anti-gun violence legislation in appropriations bills. It is long past time for Congress to adopt practical measures that address this growing epidemic in our country and it is my hope that Congress can act before we witness yet another mass tragedy. I vow to continue to work alongside my colleagues to push for greater action on the issue of gun violence in our country.
It is important that we continue to grow the U.S. economy and provide new opportunities for our communities, which is why this session I introduced H.R. 2865, the Better Education and Skills Training (BEST) for America’s Workforce Act, along with Senator Menendez. This legislation would create a competitive, $1 billion tax-credit program to encourage job training partnerships between community colleges and local business that equip workers with skills that match communities’ needs. The BEST for America’s Workforce Act would address the national skills gap by providing local businesses with up to $4,000 in tax credits for the cost of tuition at a community college to train each long-term unemployed worker hired to fill a job with a specific certificate or training credential required. I am pleased to work with Senator Menendez to ensure that federal funding is invested in training partnership that are designed to equip workers with critical skill sets that meet market demands and the needs of local communities.
The status of nearly 800,000 Dreamers who have participated in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program hangs in the balance as the Majority refuses to bring a clean DREAM Act to the House Floor for a vote. These individuals know no country other than America as their home, and deserve Congress’ immediate attention in the new year. I am a cosponsor of the DREAM Act and have met with numerous groups of Dreamers from the District and around the country to hear their stories. Dreamers put their trust in our government and actively contribute to our economy, society, and national identity every day. It is long past time for Congress to address DACA, and once Congress returns, passing the DREAM Act must be a top priority.
Another issue area of concern to the 8th District is the environment. Additionally, my office has received over 8,000 correspondences regarding the environment and the Administration’s aggressive campaign to roll-back environmental protections. I have expressed my disappointment at the President’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, and have regularly cosponsored legislation to maintain or restore protections for national monuments and wildlife refuges. Additionally, I have cosponsored legislation to prohibit drilling in the Atlantic and other geological or geophysical activities in support of oil and gas exploration and development in the Atlantic. I will continue to fight the erroneous deregulation of environmental protections so that we can continue to preserve our planet for generations to come.
Like many of my constituents, I am an advocate for animal welfare and am proud to say that I have been a longtime supporter of animal welfare legislation, and received a 100% on the Humane Society Legislative Fund’s Humane Scorecard for the first session of the 115th Congress. I am also a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus and will continue to work with my colleagues to maintain and improve animal welfare protections in the new year.
Again, hearing from my constituents enables me to be a better representative of the 8th District. I look forward to receiving your input throughout the second session of the 115th Congress. Thank you for reading the Washington Review. For regular updates, you may stay in touch by leaving comments on my Facebook, Twitter, and website.