- Our Number One Priority: Protect the American People
- Welcoming a True Friend: King Abdullah II of Jordan
- The VA: “A unique national resource that is worth saving."
- Meeting with our Mayors
- Salute: Mendham Borough Police Chief Pasquale G. Libertino
Our Number One Priority: Protect the American People
Many people have been deeply concerned this week with the Executive Order signed by President Trump last Friday. So, I want to provide some context.
Our nation has a long and rich history of welcoming those fleeing persecution and seeking a better life. We also have a long history of aiding those suffering oppression. We are a welcoming and generous country. Indeed, we are a nation of immigrants. Those are the values that I have always cherished.
It is a sad reality, though, that we find ourselves in a very dangerous world. The first responsibility of the President and the Congress is to ensure national security and public safety. In this context, we have a fundamental duty to ensure that necessary background investigations be done on those seeking to enter the United States in order to stop anyone intent on doing harm.
I would add that seven unstable nations named in President Trump's Executive Order were first identified in 2015 by the Obama Administration as “countries of concern.” In addition, the Trump order is quite similar to actions taken by President Obama:
- In 2011, the President issued an Executive Order to prevent entry of individuals, from multiple nations, subject to United Nations’ travel bans.
- In 2011, the President, in effect, halted immigration from Iraq for six months.
- In late 2016 the President ordered changes to U.S. policy that now prevent certain Cuban nationals from entering the United States.
In addition, President Bush’s Administration imposed a freeze on all refugee admissions from dozens of countries for months after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The mischaracterization of the order as a ‘ban on Muslims’ is not only false, it is intentionally designed to mislead the public. This travel “pause”, intended to protect the American people, is temporary and does not exclude any particular group based on religion.
But the threat it seeks to contain is real.
- The CIA confirmed last year that ISIS intends to use our own refugee process to slip terrorists into our country. As recently as last June, CIA Director John Brennan testified that ISIS “has a large cadre of Western fighters who could potentially serve as operatives for attacks in the West.” He went on to tell the Senate Intelligence Committee that the group was “exploring a variety of means for infiltrating operatives into the West, including refugee flows, smuggling routes and legitimate methods of travel.”
- NATO Commander, General Philip Breedlove told the Congress last year before he retired that he had reason to believe that 1,500 ISIS fighters had been infiltrated into Europe.
- President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said that infiltration of refugee flows is “a huge concern of ours.”
Yes the threat is real.
With that said, I believe this order was hastily drafted and ill-advised in some important areas. For example, reconsideration should be given to properly vetted refugees and to courageous individuals who served as interpreters for our military and our diplomats in the Middle East.
The American people need security. We deserve to know who is coming to our country, for what purpose, and for how long. I am committed to doing everything I can to keep Americans safe, just as I am committed to defending religious liberty and providing refuge to those fleeing persecution.
Congress has important oversight responsibilities over all such orders, which we intend to exercise.
Watch a CBS News report of John Brennan’s warnings about ISIS infiltration here.
New Sanctions for “Destabilizing” Iran
Earlier this afternoon, the Trump administration announced that it is putting new economic sanctions on Iranian individuals and companies, citing the regime’s recent missile tests and support for Houthi rebels in Yemen.
We have known for years that Iran is the world foremost state sponsor of global terrorism. That is one of the reasons it was extremely dangerous for the Obama Administration to hand the mullahs in Teheran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in recent years.
Today, in light of this week’s illegal ballistic missiles tests, I welcome President Trump’s swift action to crack down on Iran’s dangerous missile program. This decisive response proves that our new administration is serious about holding the Iranian regime accountable for its destabilizing behavior.
The Treasury Department is applying sanctions on 25 individuals and companies connected to Iran's ballistic missile program and those providing support to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force.
Read more about the new Iran sanctions here.
In December, Congress overwhelmingly approved, with my strong support, H.R. 6297, the Iran Sanctions Extension Act, which extended the statutory foundation of the Iran sanctions regime. The bill became law without President Obama’s signature.
Welcoming a True Friend: King Abdullah II of Jordan
I had the distinct honor this week to welcome King Abdullah of Jordan to the Capitol. We took the opportunity to discuss a range of issues critical to our strategic alliance with Jordan, including working together to defeat ISIS.
America owes a debt of gratitude to King Abdullah for his friendship and unwavering commitment to a strong U.S-Jordan relationship.
Watch a report on King Abdullah’s visit from USA Today here.
The VA: “A unique national resource that is worth saving."
President Donald Trump's nominee to be secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) this week promised "major reform and a transformation of VA."
"If confirmed, I intend to build a system that puts veterans first and allows them to get the best possible health care wherever it may be — in VA or with community care," Shulkin told the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.
I completely agree with Dr. Shulkin when he testified that the VA "a unique national resource that is worth saving."
But when he gets confirmed, he will have his work cut out for him. We need far greater accountability, dramatically improved access, responsiveness and expanded care options.
"If confirmed, I intend to build a system that puts veterans first and allows them to get the best possible health care wherever it may be.”
As Undersecretary of the VA, Dr. Shulkin, a former President of Morristown Medical Center, was very helpful in our efforts to open an outpatient clinic in Sussex County.
The reality is that much more work needs to be done to fix the widespread problems at the VA. Every day we must focus on the VA’s problems and improve the department’s ability to provide our veterans the care and benefits they have earned. But, now it is up to the Trump Administration to change the VA’s culture from within.
You can watch Dr. Shulkin’s Senate confirmation hearing here.
Meeting with our Mayors
As is my longstanding custom, I met with 27 mayors from around the 11th Congressional Districtmorning to listen to their concerns. After I provided a report on Congress’ efforts to restore economic growth, create private sector jobs and address long-term government stability, much of the dialogue centered on health care, environmental policies, flooding, transportation, and Russia. On national security, I told the mayors that it’s my responsibility to ensure our defense agencies and Armed Forces have all the resources they need to do their job effectively. Intelligence information presented to me in my capacity as Appropriations Chairman confirms that we live in a dangerous time and need to be prepared.
Salute: Congratulations and thank you to Mendham Borough Police Chief Pasquale G. Libertino who retired this week after 27 years of service. His leadership over the years has demonstrated a truly deep commitment to public service and our community is better for it.