e-News 1/5/18

e-News 1/5/18

  • Gateway/Hudson Rail Tunnels are “National Infrastructure Priority”
  • The Business of Governing
  • This is the time to deal with all of those 'tomorrowproblems'
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program Deserves Funding
  • Salute: Sergeant First Class Mihail Golin
  • Salute: To the late Brendan T. Byrne


Gateway/Hudson Rail Tunnels are “National Infrastructure Priority”

You may have seen some media reports last week that called into question the Trump Administration’s support for the reconstruction of the Hudson River Rail Tunnels and the entire Gateway Project.  This week, I wrote to federal transit officials that the Gateway/Hudson River Tunnel projects are the highest “national infrastructure priority” that requires federal support. 

In a letter to Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Deputy Administrator K. Jane Williams, I said that “A project of this size and scope requires investment from all stakeholders and your vision too! I strongly encourage the Administration to support my state and New York in this effort.”

“I believe it is unrealistic for the Administration to expect the most important infrastructure project in the country to move forward without full participation and investment from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Department of Transportation (DOT).”

My letter was prompted by recent correspondence from the FTA to New York state officials in which she denied the existence of a funding agreement for the first phase of the project. 

I wrote that “…it is imperative we pursue Gateway to ensure millions of Americans continue to access this vital economic Northeast Corridor that enables safe transportation of more than 800,000 daily riders, from Washington to Boston, in an area that supports approximately 20 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). Further, this rail project serves as a critical choke point for Amtrak’s entire operation on the East Coast from Florida to Maine.”   

I also reminded FTA Administrator Williams, “It is the responsibility of the House Committee on Appropriations to assure that such national priorities are met.”

You will recall that the FY 2018 Transportation Appropriations Act passed by the House last September contained close to $1 billion for the Gateway project.

Read my entire letter here

The Business of Governing

After a pleasant holiday season at home in New Jersey with family, including my grandchildren, I was back in Washington this week preparing to tackle the significant tasks that await Congress.  But as we begin 2018, I think it is appropriate to look back on the work of the House of Representatives in 2017:

The numbers tend to speak for themselves.

  • In 2017, the House approved 477 bills. This is 86 more than the historical average!  (The Senate only acted on a fraction of that total.)
  • The House Appropriations Committee, which I chair, passed all 12 appropriations for FY 2017, all 12 appropriations bills for FY 2018, three Continuing Resolutions to keep the federal government “open for business” and three hurricane/emergency disaster assistance bills to meet the urgent needs of storm and wildfire victims in Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and California.

Among the bills we approved to improve the lives of Americans everywhere, we advanced legislation:

  • Revitalizing Main Street by repealing the onerous Dodd-Frank law to give relief to community banks that our small businesses and families rely on every day;
  • Expanding skills-based education and development to help Americans find new opportunities and the right skills to get better-paying jobs;
  • Curtailing rampant medical malpractice lawsuits that drive up the cost of health care;
  • Restoring competition through Association Health Plans for small businesses and a level playing field;
  • Adding more resources to fight the opioid epidemic including treatment and prevention;
  • Sweeping reforms to end human trafficking with tougher penalties for sex traffickers and increased support for victims;
  • Increasing resources for border security and reforming our immigration laws to protect law-abiding citizens from dangerous criminal aliens;
  • Demanding accountability at the Veterans Administration by making sure employees can be fired, demoted, or suspended for not doing their jobs;
  • Enacting record relief from Obama-era red tape with 15 bills to strike harmful regulations from the books;
  • Adding more accountability for unelected bureaucrats by making any major regulation subject to an “up-or-down” vote of Congress.

On national security, Congress’ first responsibility, we passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 which sets the stage for the modernization and growth of our national defense forces and the enhanced wellbeing of our troops and their families. As the threats from our adversaries across the globe grow and evolve, Americans must be confident that our national security will return to its strongest state in many years.  The next step is passage of the FY 2018 House-Senate Defense Appropriations bill which will provide the actual funding to bolster our military’s capabilities!

Now the bad news: so many critical bills passed by the House remain stuck in the Senate!

This is the time to deal with all of those 'tomorrowproblems'

There’s much more to do.

Two weeks ago, the House and Senate acted responsibly by voting to approve my bill to continue government operations and fulfill basic obligations through January 19 in order to prevent a government shutdown. This action was critical to our nation’s stability, our economy, for the continuation of programs and services the American people depend on.

By passing this “Continuing Resolution” we have given more time for Congressional leaders to come to a longer-term budget agreement on top-line government funding levels for the 2018 fiscal year. Once this agreement is reached, the Appropriations Committee will complete negotiations with the Senate in order to enact all 12 regular Appropriations bills to ensure essential funding for federal programs and services, especially national defense.

But there are other “tomorrow problems” that demand our attention.

In December, the House also passed my bill to provide $81 billion in emergency disaster assistance for the next stage of recovery from multiple, back-to-back, devastating hurricanes, wildfires, and agriculture losses this country has ever seen. From Florida to Texas, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, California, and all areas dealing with major disaster declarations – this Congress is committed to helping communities and families recover.  The Senate must act and act soon!

Children’s Health Insurance Program Deserves Funding

The critically important Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) covers about 9 million children whose parents usually earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private health coverage. The 20-year-old program is funded almost entirely by the federal government.

Funding for CHIP lapsed on September 30 because of the failure of the Senate to act on our House-passed extension bill.  States have been able to keep their CHIP programs going since the federal funding expired by using their unspent allotments and with grants from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. But this program needs and deserves stable federal funding now!

Families across the nation rely on the CHIP program to help sick children get better and to ensure healthy and happy futures.

Worth A Read: Evan Osnos’ piece in the January 8 edition of the New Yorker, “Making China Great Again, How Beijing learned to use Trump to its advantage.”

Salute: To a fallen warrior from New Jersey.  The death of Special Forces Sergeant First Class Mihail Golinin Afghanistan this week reminds us of the risk all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines take every day to serve our country and defend us. To SGT Golin’s family and friends we can only say “we will never forget.”

Salute: To the late Brendan T. Byrne, former Governor of New Jersey.  He was a good friend, with a remarkable sense of humor!  Read his obituary here.

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