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e-News 5/5/17

e-News 5/5/17

  • Keeping the Federal Government Open for Business
  • Looking Out for New Jersey’s Priorities
  • Repealing and Replacing Obamacare
  • Taking Aim at New North Korea Sanctions
  • “Iran Using U.S. Cash to Fund Unprecedented, Massive Military Buildup.”
  • Telephone Town Hall Meeting 
  • Salute: Congressional Arts Competition Artists

 

Keeping the Federal Government Open for Business

It was a long time in coming, but the House this week approved the fiscal year 2017 Consolidated Omnibus Appropriations bill, the legislation that will provide discretionary funding for the agencies and programs of the federal government through next September.  The legislation also provides additional funding for national defense, border security, and other emergency needs. 

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, as it is known, contains a $25 billion increase in national defense funding over current levels – a major stride forward in rebuilding the strength of our armed forces. It also includes a $1.5 billion down payment on additional measures to bolster security on our southern border.

This bill will help make our nation stronger, safer, and more resilient. It fulfills our Constitutional duty to fund important federal services that the American people rely on – and it does this in a responsible way, making the best use of every single taxpayer dollar.

The details of the 11 bills in this package can be found here.

Watch my opening statement here.

Looking Out for New Jersey’s Priorities

The Omnibus Appropriations bill is the result of hard-fought negotiations and over a year’s worth of diligent and careful work.  In fact, the bipartisan nature of the negotiations allowed me to gain support for a number of initiatives designed to address priorities of New Jersey residents.

To summarize just a few New Jersey priorities:

Amtrak Northeast Corridor/Gateway Tunnel Project

The Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) title of the bill adds $75 million for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor for a total of $328 million.  The bill’s intent is that Amtrak will use a significant share of the additional funding to address issues related to the Gateway project.  Specifically, the Statement of Managers” states: “The agreement allows Amtrak to undertake new capital projects and encourages Amtrak to prioritize strategic rail infrastructure improvements at critical points in the rail network that would improve current services or create new capacity.”

Highlands Open Space/Drinking Water Protection 

The Interior title of the package contains $10 million for land conservation partnership projects and open space purchases from willing sellers in the Highlands region: northern New Jersey and three other states, a critical watershed region which provides drinking water for millions.   

Homeland Security Non-Profit Security Grants

The Homeland Security title of the Continuing Appropriations bill includes $605 million for the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and $25 million to be designated for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) which supports “target hardening” and other physical security enhancements to nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of terrorist attack.  In the wake of a recent wave of anti-Semitic threats against synagogues and Jewish schools, the total funding for the NSGP is $5 million higher than current levels.

Urban Search and Rescue

The Homeland Security title provides $38.2 million for FEMA’s Urban Search and Rescue system (USAR) and included is a “one-time increase” of $3.1 million from the current budget levels “to ensure teams are uniformly equipped.” New Jersey Task Force 1 is the newest member of the USAR, having joined less than one year ago.   

HUD-VASH Homeless Vouchers

The T-HUD title contains $40 million above President Obama’s last budget request for 3,700 new vouchers for housing for homeless veterans under the HUD-VASH program.  The FY 2017 Military Construction-VA appropriations bill, passed last year, provided funding for 79,000 veterans. 

Housing Vouchers for People with Disabilities (FrelinghuysenVouchers)

Under the T-HUD title, the final bill includes $120 million for Section 811 vouchers for persons with disabilities – the “Frelinghuysen Vouchers” – $10 million above President Obama’s FY 2017 budget request to provide new housing opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Defense

The DOD portion of the legislative package contains significant new money to fund critical efforts by the Armaments Research Development Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal to increase the range, lethality, and survivability of U.S. military units on the battlefield.

In addition, the measure provides funding for the planning and design, in FY 2017, of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Research and Development Center at Picatinny Arsenal in FY 2019.

In addition to providing base operating funds for all of New Jersey’s military installations including Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Naval Weapons Station Earle and the 177th Fighter Wing in Atlantic City, the bill includes funding that will increase New Jersey’s military contributions.  Protecting the strength and sustainability of this state’s unique military installations is critical to all of our Armed Forces.  Supporting these bases is vital to both our national defense and our state’s historical support for national security. 

Repealing and Replacing Obamacare

The House voted this week to approve the American Health Care Act (AHCA), legislation to continue the process of repealing and replacing the so-called Affordable Care Act.

For years, I have been hearing the personal pleas of constituents that “Obamacare” is failing to make health care affordable for New Jersey families facing skyrocketing premiums, soaring deductibles, and fewer choices. 

In addition, Obamacare continues to wreak havoc in the job market.  The ACA has damaged small businesses by raising taxes, discouraging hiring and encouraging fewer working hours and, in effect, lowering wages of employees.

So this week the House had the opportunity to make positive changes to rescue healthcare in America. Doing nothing was not an option! 

The AHCA repeals Obamacare’s taxes and mandate penalties, dismantles the law’s one-size-fits-all programs, and shifts control of health care back to states and the American people. While this legislation is not the perfect or the complete solution to our broken health care system, the AHCA is a step in the right direction toward a market-based 21st century health care system.  On balance, the American Health Care Act offers promise.

I am aware that the American Health Care Act has been criticized for an alleged failure to protect people with pre-existing medical conditions.  Here are the facts:

Under this legislation insurance companies cannot deny anyone coverage based on pre-existing conditions. And health status cannot affect premiums, unless your state asks for and receives a waiver—a condition of which is the state having other protections in place for those with pre-existing conditions.

Even if a state does obtain a waiver, so long as you’ve been continuously covered, you still cannot be charged more. And the bill provides added resources to help people in waiver states who have not been continuously covered to gain coverage. The bottom line, there are many levels of protection for those with pre-existing conditions in the legislation.

The citizens of this nation deserve better than a Congress that appears to be incapable of resolving controversial issues like health care reform.  In this regard, I feel that we must move a bill to the Senate where significant changes to improve this imperfect product will certainly occur.  I am hopeful that we will have a better proposal when it comes back from the Senate.

For these reasons, I supported passage of this latest version with the commitment that if the basic access to services is not protected, I will not support final passage of the final House-Senate Conference report.

It bears repeating that Obamacare, though well-intentioned, has failed: it’s failed in its goals, and it’s failed in its promises.  Some people may be willing to stand by and watch it collapse.  However, I am not willing to leave New Jerseyans with a poor quality, expensive, bureaucratic, dysfunctional health care system.

To read my entire statement on the American Health Care Act, please visit here.

Recommended Reading:

Rep. Cathy McMorris-Roger’s OpEd in today’s Washington Post, “My Son has a Pre-Existing Condition.  He’s One of the Reasons I voted for the AHCA."

Recommended Reading: Carolyn Johnson’s story in the ThursdayWashington Post, “Iowa Obamacare program on verge of collapse as congressional uncertainty takes its toll.”

Checking on Veterans Affairs

I was pleased to welcome Veterans Affairs Secretary, Dr. David Shulkin, to the Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs this week to testify on the Fiscal Year 2018 VA budget.

During the hearing, I pressed the Secretary on the VA’s plans to modernize their IT infrastructure, ensuring the VA reaches full interoperability with Department of Defense (DOD) health records.

Much of our discussion focused on reducing the appeals and benefit claims backlog, a goal Secretary Shulkin is committed to achieving.

You can watch the hearing here.

Keeping the Pressure on: New North Korea Sanctions

On Tuesday, the House approved new and tougher legislation strengthening sanctions against targeting North Korea’s Kim Jong Un (KJU) regime in the light of the North’s “growing and urgent” nuclear threats against the United States.

North Korea does in fact pose a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States and our allies.  Experts believe that in a few short years, KJU may have the ability to target the United States with a nuclear-tipped reliable intercontinental ballistic missile. 

The speed with which North Korea’s program is advancing is a “game changer” for our national security. It is no wonder that former President Obama – after years of practicing a failed policy of “strategic patience” – warned President Trump that North Korea would be the top threat to the United States. 

North Korea has been a major proliferator – cooperating on its nuclear and missile programs with the likes of Iran, Syria, and Pakistan – undermining U.S. security at every turn. We can only guess the extent of the damage that is being done through illicit, undetected networks .  

Additional authorities will better allow the U.S. to crack down on the Kim regime.  The North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 (H.R. 757) was passed in 2016. The new bill, approved this week, entitled “the Korea Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act (H.R. 1644)”, aims to curb North Korea’s access to hard currency and materials by expanding existing sanctions, and requires the Trump administration to re-designated the North as a state-sponsor of terrorism within 90 days of being signed into law.

The new legislation provides a detailed list of new restrictions, including a crackdown on online commercial activities run by North Korea’s government – including online gambling – and the provision of “significant telephonic, telegraphic, telecommunications or other data services, in whole or in part, into or out of North Korea.

For more information on H.R. 1644, click here

Recommended Reading:  Adam Kredo’s story in the Washington Free Beacon, “Iran Using U.S. Cash to Fund Unprecedented, Massive Military Buildup.”

“Iran is using the billions in cash resources provided under the landmark nuclear deal to engage in an unprecedented military buildup meant to transform the Islamic Republic's fighting force into an "offensive" juggernaut, according to a largely unreported announcement by Iranian military leaders that has sparked concern among U.S. national security insiders and sources on Capitol Hill...”  Read the story here.

Telephone Town Hall Meeting

Along with numerous stops around many of the 54 towns across the 11th Congressional District, I will be hosting a Telephone Town Hall next Tuesday at 5 p.m.  Participating constituents will be able to talk about the important issues that matter to them the most.

So far this year, I have held three such Town Hall meetings and dialed into every area of the district and hosted thousands of constituents on the line, listening to concerns and answering questions from several dozen callers on a wide-range of topics including health care, proposed budget cuts, our national security and immigration, to name a few.

All constituents are welcome.  If you’re interested in participating, please visit my website and register using the convenient button on the right-hand side of the opening page to sign up.  Or call one of my offices (973-984-0711202-225-5034) to be put on the call list. 

Salute: Congratulations to the 55 artists from 21 high schools throughout the 11th District who participated in this year’s Congressional Arts Competition – our opportunity to recognize and encourage artistic talent in our region. It allows us to showcase the talents of creative high school students in the 11th District.  The competition is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for young artists to have their work hung in the U.S. Capitol for one year. The winner will be chosen by a panel of art experts and community leaders next Monday.  However, please know that I consider all entrants to be winners in their own right!   Good luck!

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