e-News 4/13/2018

“Gateway Will Be Built”
In the spotlight: Thanks Rodney:
A Balanced Budget Amendment
“Assad's Horror, and Those Who Enable It”
Crackdown on Online Sex Trafficking
Salute: App Challenge Winners Brandon Garcia and John Greco
“Gateway Will Be Built”
The Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, appeared before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation-Housing Urban Development yesterday to make a plea for her Fiscal Year 2019 budget.  Never one to miss a chance to make a point on behalf of my constituents, I used the opportunity to speak to her about a project of critical importance to New Jersey: Gateway.
In short, I assured her that, despite Administration opposition, Gateway will be built. 
Read the Bloomberg story by Mark Niquette here.
You can view my statement here.
Watch the entire hearing here
My full statement can be found on my website and below:
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development
2:00 PM, Thursday, April 12, 2018
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the time and for your strong leadership of the Committee, along with your very able Ranking Member. I also want to welcome Secretary Chao to the Appropriations Committee again.  Madame Secretary, we look forward to your testimony…
“As I say at every meeting, the “power of the purse” lies in this building - it is the Constitutional duty of Congress to make spending decisions on behalf of the people we represent at home.  And, Chairman Diaz-Balart and Mr. Price have spent their increased FY ’18 allocation from the “caps” deal wisely on your behalf from that agreement.
“Furthermore, Mrs. Lowey and I look forward to rapidly concluding work on the Fiscal ’19 bills with the same oversight and forethought.
 “The Gateway Project is a prime example of an infrastructure investment that will promote greater economic and national security benefits, as it effects twenty or more states who use the East Coast rail system and whose passengers and freight depend on this narrow access point in New York and New Jersey, known as the Gateway, the Trans-Hudson River Tunnels.   
“Madame Secretary, the benefits – no, the necessity – of this project is clear.  I remain angered by this Administration’s opposition and very calculated indifference.  And this posture from an Administration which claims to be “infrastructure-centric!”  It is totally unacceptable!
“Some have suggested that partisan considerations - by the White House and some in my own party - are at work here. I should hope not. To me, this is a national priority, above politics, by two states that bore the brunt of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and, more recently, Super Storm Sandy.
“I remind the Committee that the $900 million Chairman Diaz-Balart put in the House-passed bill last September was available for other eligible, authorized projects around the nation, not just for Gateway!  Sadly, we had an Administration fixated on removing it entirely during budget negotiations.
“The Gateway project is vital to the Northeast and it will be completed - sooner or later - despite opposition.
“After all, the Northeast Rail Corridor is the most heavily used passenger rail line in the entire United States, serving more than 750,000 people every day on more than 2,200 inter-city and commuter trains. 
“Quite honestly, I worry about the possibility of a catastrophe in one of the tunnels.  So there are potential homeland and national security implications as well – short-term and, to use your own words Madame Secretary, into perpetuity!
“Today, God forbid, if one of these tunnels were to fail for any reason, the negative economic and security (transportation) implications would ripple across the East Coast and the nation.
“I REPEAT: Gateway will be built, if not during your tenure Madame Secretary, then thereafter! And in closing I’m grateful to Chairman Diaz Balart and Mr. “Price for providing the needed funds to go forward, admittedly a lesser amount, but none-the-less, a strong start!
“With that, Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the time…”
In the spotlight: Thanks Rodney:
“On behalf of the more than 400,000 members of the American Bar Association, I thank you for your work to fund the Legal Services Corporation in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018.  You have always been a champion for legal aid. The extra funding will allow LSC to assist at least an additional 100,000 people.”
                                                          Hilarie Bass
                                                          American Bar Association
A Balanced Budget Amendment
March 2, 1995 proved to be a pivotal day in our nation’s history.  On that day, the U.S. Senate failed by a single vote to send a balanced budget constitutional amendment to the 50 states for ratification.  With my support, the amendment had passed the House by the required two-thirds majority and the Senate vote was the last legislative hurdle before ratification by the states. 
It never happened.  And that was a genuine missed opportunity.
If Congress had sent that amendment to the states for ratification, we would not be facing the fiscal crisis we are today. 
In 1995, the gross federal debt stood at $4.9 trillion; today it stands at over $20 trillion. The federal debt held by the public is rising as well and is increasing rapidly as a percentage of the country’s economy. 
The source of this additional debt: rising entitlement costs.  Since the late ‘40s, entitlement claims on the nation’s output of goods and services have risen from less than 4% to over 14%. As surprising as it may seem, the share of GDP that is spent on national defense and nondefense discretionary programs combined – those programs funded by the Appropriations Committee - is no higher today than it was 70 years ago.
The House debated the Balanced Budget Amendment again yesterday.  And once again, the House failed to garner the needed two-thirds vote to advance the measure. 
But while the Balanced Budget Amendment effort has been sidelined once again, the need for genuine entitlement reform grows. 
Read the text of H.R. 2 here.
Recommended Reading: “Assad's Horror, and Those Who Enable It” by Thomas Joscelyn in the Weekly Standard.
Crackdown on Online Sex Trafficking
Congress recently passed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) to help authorities crack down on websites that enable sex trafficking. Even before being signed into law this week, this legislation is already paving the way for change, making it easier for law enforcement to take action.
Last week, federal authorities have seized control of—notorious for enabling traffickers—and indicted its owners, executives, and employees. Websites like Reddit and Craigslist have reacted to the new law by shutting down certain advertising pages. The New York Times noted about FOSTA:
“It makes it easier for states to prosecute, or for victims to sue, internet companies they accuse of hosting content that facilitated sex trafficking. While President Trump has not yet signed FOSTA into law, Craigslist has already responded to the bill’s passage by taking down its personal ads section.”
Sex trafficking erodes the foundation of safety that upholds our communities and violates the human rights of victims. Its perpetrators have used the Internet to expand their reach, emboldened by websites that have allowed their activity to fester. Until now, our laws have not kept pace with these new challenges.
In addition to making it easier for states to investigate and prosecute businesses that facilitate online sex trafficking, FOSTA equips states with more effective tools to do so. And it empowers victims to seek justice by providing recourse for them to sue.
FOSTA was supported by law enforcement, anti-trafficking advocates, faith-based groups, and members of the broader tech community.
We must do everything we can to end human trafficking—and that starts with shutting down the places where traffickers operate. These new reforms have already begun to make that possible, and Congress will continue its work to protect some of our country's most vulnerable from this horrific crime.
Learn more about FOSTA here.
Read “Trump signs ‘FOSTA’ bill targeting online sex trafficking, enables states and victims to pursue websites” in the Washington Post here.
Salute: Brandon Garcia, the most recent 11th Congressional District App Challenge winner, visited my Washington office this week with his parents.  Brandon and his fellow Boonton student developed an exciting app designed to streamline the order and payment process in restaurants!  Congratulations Brandon and John!