e-News 6/23/17

e-News 6/23/17

Bringing Accountability to the VA

  • Congress’s Top Job: Ensuring National Security
  • Adversaries Cooperate
  • The Ukrainian President and the U.S. President
  • Appropriations Report: Oversight
  • Teletown Hall Series Continues
  • Salute: Congressional Award to Thiago Santos of Sparta


Bringing Accountability to the VA

Veterans have been in the vanguard protecting the nation — waging war and securing the peace.  That is why Republicans and Democrats came together this week to send important Veterans Administration (VA) reform legislation to the President’s desk.

We’ve all seen the waiting list and the other scandals of the last few years. Things clearly need to improve at the VA. The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Act is going to help deliver the kind of fundamental change that is needed to solve many of these problems. It will help our veterans get the world-class care and treatment that they deserve, and that they have earned.

Earlier this week, I visited the VA facilities in East Orange and Lyons and saw evidence once again that the vast majority of VA’s employees are hard-working public servants who are dedicated to providing quality healthcare and benefits for veterans.  But, for far too long, the failures of some bad actors have tarnished the good name of all VA employees.

Our VA Secretary, Dr. Shulkin reiterated this point when he said, “I need, as secretary, if I’m going to change this organization, the ability to remove employees that clearly no longer in my view should have the privilege of serving our veterans.”

The President signed this reform bill into law today. 

We still have a lot of work to do to transform the VA into a state-of-the-art, modern service organization, but we are going to keep at it until we—as a country—can say that we are really and honestly keeping our promises that we have made to our veterans.

Read the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Act here.

Congress’s Top Job: Ensuring National Security

The House of Representatives remains focused on promoting economic growth and job creation with a series of actions so far this year.  However, we also recognize that Congress’ primary responsibility, under the Constitution, is to “provide for the national defense.” 

It’s a challenging job and several events this week unscored how dangerous the world has become in recent years. 

  • London, Paris and Brussels all sustained apparent terror attacks;
  • Seven sailors were lost after their Navy warship collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship while on patrol in the Sea of Japan, reminding us that our men and women in uniform arealways at risk no matter where they serve;
  • The United States Navy shot down a threatening Syrian Air Force fighter-bomber and an armed Iranian-built drone operated by Syrian regime forces;
  • A 22-year old Ohio native, Otto Warmbier, died just days after being returned to the United States from 17 months in brutal North Korean captivity.  Additionally, increased activity was noted near a North Korean nuclear testing site;

Next week, the House Appropriations Committee will move forward with its next funding bill for the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community.  This legislation will represent another step forward in our efforts to rebuild our military in order to protect our security at home and assure continuing U.S. leadership across the globe.  

Adversaries Cooperate

“China and Iran just held a naval exercise amid simmering tensions in the Persian Gulf.”  Read Teddy Ng’s story in the Business Insider here.

The Ukrainian President and the U.S. President

In a brief, but significant event, the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, met this week with President Trump at the White House.  Supporters of Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression had urged a White House meeting with Poroshenko before any meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and I am glad it happened.  

Since the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, I have ensured that the annual Defense Appropriations bill includes funding to help the Ukrainian military purchase lethal defensive articles and weapons to help them resist Russian aggression. At the same time, we have reaffirmed the United States' support for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and for reforms designed to fight corruption and improve the business climate.

This week the Treasury Department announced sanctions against 21 Ukrainian separatists, entities and their supporters. They are "part of an ongoing effort to hold those responsible for violations of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity accountable for their actions," the Treasury said.

You can read President’s remarks during the meeting with President Poroshenko here.

Learn more about the State Department sanctions against Russia here.

Appropriations Report: Oversight

The House Appropriations Committee, which I chair, conducted several additional oversight hearings, including sessions with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Energy Secretary Rick Perry

In addition, the second of our 12 annual appropriations bills moved through subcommittee earlier today. 

It is our goal in the House to move all twelve bills through the House in an expedited manner, allowing for an early start to negotiations with the Senate.

Teletown Hall Series Continues

I will be hosting another Telephone Town Hall meeting next Tuesday, June 27 at 5:30 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 several TeleTown 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 dozens of 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 Thiago Santos, a senior at Sparta High School.  A participant in the Congressional Award program, I was proud to formally present Thiago with the Youth Gold Medal this week in Washington.  The medal is presented to recognize outstanding civic duty in young adults. Students who are awarded the Congressional Youth Gold Medal throughout the nation have logged over 400 hours of voluntary public service, completed a minimum 400 hours of personal development and physical fitness, and accomplished an expedition or exploration that lasted at least five days and four nights.