This Week in Congress - May 11, 2018

May 13, 2018

In this issue:

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Vets clinic study okayed

Tuesday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved a feasibility study for a Department of Veterans Affairs-operated medical clinic in the Marianas. The Marianas is the only U.S. insular area without full-time VA medical or mental health professionals serving veterans. I authored the language, mandating a study within 180 days, and included it in a larger bill, H.R. 5674, which passed, 20-2. The study is necessary to justify the cost to build and operate a VA medical clinic in the Marianas, which is my ultimate goal. In addition, my language (Section 213 of the bill) requires the VA to report to Congress on services the Department provides in American Samoa, Guam, and the Marianas, in four key areas: hospital care, medical, mental health, and geriatric services. I included this same report mandate in H.R. 4243, the VA Asset and Infrastructure Review Act of 2017, and H.R. 4242, the VA Care in the Community Act. Ten years of experience has taught me that setting multiple bills in motion can make the difference between failure and success.

Be part of Memorial Day video

For Memorial Day, May 28, your congressional office is preparing a special video montage to pay tribute to those men and women who have died while serving in our nation’s armed forces, as well as those who passed away after service. Veterans, service members, military family members, and members of the community are invited to submit photographs, videos, and/or visual artwork of warriors they would like to include in this memorial video. Please include the names, dates of birth and death, branch of service, rank, unit, any operation or conflict served, as well as a brief message of remembrance, up to 75 words, by Wednesday, May 23. For more information or to submit a tribute, contact our Wounded Warrior Fellow, Randy Johnson, atrandy.johnson@mail.house.gov

$50.7m for Tinian divert projects

$50.7 million for the Air Force divert airfield project on Tinian is included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. The House Armed Services Committee voted 60-1 to approve the bill on Thursday. $46 million of the new money will build a cargo pad with taxiway extension and $4.7 million a maintenance support facility at the Tinian airport. The Subcommittee on Readiness Mark also requires the Secretary of Defense to set up an Economic Adjustment Committee to report on public infrastructure projects needed to support proposed military activities in the Northern Marianas. This would allow Commonwealth officials and the Defense Department to identify investments in civilian infrastructure improvements. In all, the 2019 NDAA authorizes $716 billion for defense spending for fiscal 2019. The bill also raises military pay by 2.6 percent and increases troop levels across the Armed Forces by about 16,000. The full House is expected to vote on the bill later this month.

Raise public school teacher pay

Setting national goals of raising public school teacher pay and public education funding overall, I have signed on to H.J.Res.86. The resolution, authored by Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Arizona), affirms that teacher pay should be comparable to other college graduates in the workforce and that territories, states, and the federal government should all increase investment in public schools. Marianas voters decided in 2014 to amend the CNMI Constitution and increase the Public School System’s share of the Commonwealth’s general revenues to 25 percent. PSS recently raised salaries for all its employees. And my change in the funding formula for island schools in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act took effect this year, increasing our annual Title I-A grant by over $4 million. So, I think we’re off to a good start. Happy National Teacher Appreciation Week; and thanks to all our teachers and hardworking school staff for helping our students succeed.

STEP grants available

The Commonwealth’s State Trade Expansion Program coordinator, Frank D. Cabrera, spoke at the Saipan Rotary this week to promote participation in the STEP grant. I would like to amplify that message. STEP, the State Trade and Export Promotion program, is available to small businesses in the Marianas because of an amendment I included as Section 1699a of theNational Defense Authorization Act of 2013. STEP aims to increase the number of small businesses engaged in exporting and the value of their goods. Mr. Cabrera suggested that local products such as beef jerky or sweet potato chips would be good candidates for promotion to markets in the region. I encourage small businesses to find out more about the STEP grant. Contact cnmi.step@commerce.gov.mp

Supporting talks with North Korea

This week I cosponsored H. Res. 861 which supports the President’s diplomatic efforts on the Korean peninsula and the upcoming summit with Kim Jong-un. We are committed to peace and want to ensure the denuclearization of North Korea. In January I said that the leaders of the countries should find ways to de-escalate tensions in the region and stop the name calling and threats. Diplomacy is a much better path to ensure that war does not erupt and I fully support our recent diplomatic efforts and serious dialogue between the two nations.

OPPORTUNITIES 

Jobs:

 

Public Comment:

 

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS 

THIS WEEK
 
On the Floor
  • H.R. 3053 – Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2018 (Passed, 340-72)
  • H.R. 5645 – Standard Merger and Acquisition Reviews Through Equal Rules Act of 2018 (Passed, 230-185)
  • H.R. 2152 – Citizens’ Right to Know Act of 2017 (Passed, 221-197)
  • S.J.Res. 57 – Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection relating to “Indirect Auto Lending and Compliance with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act” (Passed, 234-175)
  • H.R. 1680 – Women’s Business Centers Improvements Act of 2018 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 1702 – Small Business Development Centers Improvement Act of 2018 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 4111 – Spurring Business in Communities Act of 2017 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 5236 – Main Street Employee Ownership Act of 2018 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 4743 – Small Business 7(a) Lending Oversight Reform Act of 2018 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 4910 – Veterans Cemetery Benefit Correction Act (Passed, 388-0)
  • H.R. 4335 – Servicemember Family Burial Act (Passed, 389-0)
 
Legislation I Cosponsored
  • H.R.2598 – Gun Violence Restraining Order Act of 2017
  • H.Res.861 – Supporting the President’s diplomatic efforts on the Korean Peninsula
  • H.Res.876 – Supporting the goal of increasing public school teacher pay and public education funding
  • H.Con.Res.120 – Supporting a bold and sustained expansion of Federal investments in affordable rental homes
 
NEXT WEEK
 
On the Floor
  • H.R. 2 – Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018
  • H.R. 5698 – Protect and Serve Act of 2018 
 
Committee Activity
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
  • Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Hearing on “Enhancing Retirement Security: Examining Proposals to Simplify and Modernize Retirement Plan Administration”
  • Committee on Natural Resources Legislative Markup
 
Thursday, May 17, 2018
  • Committee on Education and the Workforce Hearing on “Protecting Privacy, Promoting Data Security: Exploring How Schools and States Keep Data Safe”
  • Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans Oversight Hearing on “Federal Impediments to Commerce and Innovative Injurious Species Management”