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Born in the Cuban town of Bejucal, he grew up in the waning years of pre-Communist Cuba. His family fled in January 1962 with the help of relatives in America. Congressman Sires became a star basketball player at Memorial High School and received a four-year basketball scholarship from St. Peter’s College. He went on to receive a Masters Degree from Middlebury College in Vermont.
Congressman Sires was a teacher and business owner before entering public service. He proudly served as Mayor of West New York, New Jersey from 1995 to 2006. During that time, the Congressman created more affordable housing units than any municipality in the State of New Jersey by fostering public-private partnerships and the use of targeted tax incentives. He balanced twelve consecutive municipal budgets while maintaining and enhancing vital municipal services. His efforts were recognized by many, including the New Jersey State Bar Association and Legal Services and his fellow Mayors who named him, “Mayor of the Year” in 2004.
Congressman Sires also served in the New Jersey State Assembly, where he served two terms as Speaker of the Assembly. As Speaker, Congressman Sires led the effort to create the Office of Lieutenant Governor and the Assembly Committee on Homeland Security and State Preparedness, as well as, raise the minimum wage, expand job training, and fund valuable cancer research. He also created the STARS I and STARS II program, which offers full county and state college tuition scholarships to thousands of students. He increased funding for public education by $760 million and helped fund after-school programs to get kids off the streets and away from gangs.
During his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Sires served on the Financial Services Committee. There he focused on housing, introducing legislation to aid public housing authorities and supporting housing for low-income seniors.
Today, Congressman Sires serves on three Committees: Foreign Affairs, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Budget. On the Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Sires is the Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee and serves on the Europe and Eurasia Subcommittee. He is focused on improving human rights and freedoms across the globe and building international partnerships to improve our nation’s security.
The Congressman serves on two Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittees: the Highways and Transit Subcommittee as well as the Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee. He is actively involved in reauthorizing the Surface Transportation bill, supporting increased transit and commuting options, safer streets, and more efficient goods movement.
In an ongoing effort to shape livable, safe, and dynamic communities, Congressman Sires is a member of both the Democratic Caucus’ Livable Communities Task Force and the Congressional Urban Caucus. He works with the other members of Congress in these groups to promote legislation that focuses on creating safe and more livable communities in which families have equal access to education, economic, housing and transportation opportunities.
This term, the Congressman will focus his efforts on the economy, jobs, immigration, education, and affordable housing.
Congressman Sires resides in West New York with his wife, Adrienne. His stepdaughter, Tara Kole, graduated from Harvard Law School, clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and now works for a private law firm in Los Angeles.
Addressing global climate change should be a non-partisan issue. The data is clear – average ocean temperatures are changing, polar ice is melting, and weather is getting more extreme. The cumulative effects of decades of unchecked greenhouse gas emissions mean that our forests are at greater risk of wildfires, coastal states are more likely to experience powerful hurricanes, and communities in the heartlands will experience more flooding.
New Jersey experienced these impacts first-hand in 2012 when Superstorm Sandy came to our shores and devastated our communities. If we don’t act to address climate change, these storms will only become more frequent and more powerful.
Even our nation’s defense intelligence community agrees – its 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment included warnings about climate change being “likely to fuel competition for our resources, economic distress, and social disruption through 2019 and beyond.”
Our country has the technology to do something about this. Now we have to act.
National Climate Policy
As a Member of Congress, I have been working to address climate change through legislative efforts and the yearly government appropriations process. I have co-sponsored and voted for:
H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act, requiring the President to develop and annually update a plan for the U.S. to meet its contributions to the Paris Climate Agreements. This bill was passed by the House of Representatives on May 2, 2019.
H.R. 1146, the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act, prohibiting the federal government from giving out oil and gas drilling leases to companies in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s Coastal Plain. This bill was passed by the House of Representatives on September 12, 2019.
H.R. 1941, the Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, prohibiting the federal government from giving out oil and gas drilling leases to companies in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. This bill was passed by the House of Representatives on September 12, 2019.
Reducing Emissions in Our Communities
During the fiscal year 2020 appropriations process, I led a letter that was signed by 46 Representatives to the House Appropriations Committee urging more funding for the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Coalitions program. This program helps cities and municipalities finance the purchase of clean service vehicles – such as police patrol cars and garbage trucks – and install green transportation technology to service them. Organizations in New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District have used this program to replace old diesel trash trucks with new clean energy vehicles.
Climate change is a serious issue that has the potential to be devastating to New Jersey, to the entire United States, and to the world as a whole. No reasonable person disputes this fact, and the 2017 hurricane season has demonstrated this urgent need to address it. The 2017 hurricanes killed dozens in the United States and the Caribbean, uprooted hundreds of lives, and wrought billions of dollars in damage. Storms like these, and like the Superstorm that struck New Jersey in 2012, will become more common as the ocean and atmosphere continue to warm.
Over the past ten years, our country has taken great strides in the effort to curb the impact of climate change by enforcing emissions standards at home and by leading the world in planning for a future where we are not all dependent on fossil fuels. In 2015, the world celebrated the outcome of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, France. This Climate Agreement marked the first coordinated international effort to reduce global carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. The United States joined 194 countries in agreeing to lower its carbon emissions and to assist still-developing nations to transition away from burning fossil fuels.
Unfortunately, President Trump has decided that the United States of America will cede its leadership role in this historic effort to address one of the most important challenges of our generation by withdrawing our commitments from the Paris Climate Accords. This short-sighted and selfish act not only damages our nation’s credibility abroad, but it also endangers the future of our planet for the sake of scoring political points.
Yet there is still hope. States and cities around the country have remained committed to achieving their own emissions reductions plans, and they are being joined by companies that are dedicated to these goals. The international community will also continue working towards the goal of advancing clean technology.
The United States is the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world. If we get serious about addressing climate change and to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the rest of the world will follow. Congress, as the nation’s legislative arm, has a role to play in this effort and I will continue supporting efforts to restore the American commitment to addressing climate change.
The United States is a country built on the contributions of immigrants and their families seeking the American Dream. As an immigrant myself, I have had the privilege to experience this first hand and witness just how much immigrants enrich our society.
Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have strongly supported comprehensive immigration reform as the solution to fixing our Nation’s broken immigration system. Congress must come together to pass legislation that addresses the issue in a fair and compassionate way while acknowledging the causes of illegal immigration into country, such as the widespread violence in Central America, and work with our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere to find solutions.
Since the beginning of his campaign the President has used hateful rhetoric to target immigrants. As President, this has continued in numerous executive actions, including limiting visitation from specific countries, pausing the acceptance of refugees, and terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. I am extremely disappointed that the President has turned his back on the foundation of our country as a nation of immigrants and seeks to build walls between communities. Divisive language and policies will only aggravate the problems facing our immigration system while weakening our economy and national security.
I am extremely opposed to all of these actions and have cosponsored numerous pieces of legislation in an attempt to counter the President’s attempts to divide us. Among these pieces of legislation is the bipartisan H.R. 3440, the DREAM Act, introduced by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). This extremely popular piece of legislation would enable millions of undocumented young people, who came here as children and know no other home, to enter a pathway to citizenship. This pathway would be open to law-abiding DREAMers who meet a series of qualifications and would take approximately 8-13 years. H.R. 3440 has widespread bipartisan support and I am disappointed that Speaker Ryan has ignored requests to hold a vote on it.
Congress can no longer ignore the problems in our immigration system that harm those who are seeking a better life free of poverty, war, and violence. We must come together to craft reform that will resolve the flaws in our current system to create one that will treat all people equally, humanely, and compassionately.
Creating jobs, strengthening New Jersey’s middle class, and stimulating the economy have been my top priorities since the serious economic downturn and throughout the recovery.
Helping to Stimulate the Economy and Encourage Job Growth:
Rebuilding America’s manufacturing sector is key to improving our economy. That is why I have supported the Democratic Make It In America Agenda, in order to rebuild America’s manufacturing industry and put the men and women of this nation back to work. The Make It In America Agenda is an initiative aimed at creating jobs today, driving economic recovery, and moving America forward. The Make It In America plan focuses on four core components:
- Adopt and pursue a national manufacturing strategy
- Promote the export of U.S. goods
- Encourage businesses to bring jobs and innovation back to the United States
- Train and secure a twenty-first century workforce
I support investments that will keep our nation moving in the right direction. Investment in our transportation infrastructure is vital to enhancing our economy, increasing our safety, maintaining our global competitiveness, and most importantly improving our quality of life. Our nation’s infrastructure is in dire need of investment. In urban areas, such as the 8th District, transportation plays a critical role in the soundness of our economy and quality of life. I support long-term investment in our nation’s transportation infrastructure and believe it is imperative that Congress works towards finding a long-term solution that addresses these needs.
Additionally, the renewable energy sector has the potential to create millions of quality American jobs throughout the next decade. In the past, I have supported policies that provide the necessary incentives to promote the renewable energy sector. Supporting initiatives that curb our nation’s energy use and encourage the development of renewable energy sources not only protects the future of our planet, but is a smart way to create jobs in emerging industries.
Protecting Our Middle Class Families:
I have fought continuously to ensure that middle-class Americans are provided with the necessary financial relief during times of difficulty. As our nation’s unemployment rate continues to decrease, we must preserve funding for the millions of families who temporarily rely on unemployment benefits as they seek further employment. Helping those who have lost employment through no fault of their own while they get back in the job market is a sensible way to ensure that money is moving through our economy.
Raising the minimum wage is a critical step in closing the opportunity gap and building an economy that works for everyone. By raising the minimum wage, we can restore fairness for working men and women across the country. No hard working American should be forced to raise their family in poverty, but unfortunately the current minimum wage allows for just that. I believe that an increase in the minimum wage is not only the moral thing to do, but that it would also provide a much-needed boost to our economy.
Investing in education will ensure that future generations have the resources they need to allow our nation to succeed. To do this, we must work to recruit qualified teachers, reduce class sizes, and make college more affordable. My experience as a teacher in New Jersey encourages me to fight for the highest quality education for our students at every level.
As a former teacher, I know that a teacher’s impact is felt not only in the classroom, but also on the practice fields and in the community. As a student, I had the support of my teachers inside and outside the classroom. As a result, I felt compelled to become a teacher in order to give students the same opportunities that my teachers had given me. New Jersey has some of the most talented teachers in the country. While we ask teachers to prepare our children to meet the challenges of the 21st Century, we must also give them the tools and resources to rise to these challenges.
I understand first-hand that investing in early childhood education is fundamental to the foundations of our children’s learning and development. Investing in our children early will provide the best advantage for younger generations. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is the main source of federal aid to K-12 education. Initially enacted in 1965, this law was amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) to achieve accountability of school systems for improving student achievement outcomes. However, some requirements have become burdensome and punitive. As Congress looks for ways to reform the ESEA, I will continue to work to ensure the needs of our nation’s children are put first.
It is critical that our students are able to compete globally. That is why I believe we must invest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs across the country. Graduates with STEM degrees are in high demand and are indispensable to our economic wellbeing. These programs will help build a highly-competitive workforce both in New Jersey and across the country. That is why I will continue to support programming that focuses on STEM education for students at every level.
While in Congress, I have supported efforts to improve access to a college education. A college degree has become as important as a high school degree was a generation ago. Therefore, making college more affordable must be a top priority. The largest source of federal grant aid for postsecondary education students comes from Pell Grants. The maximum Pell Grant awards have been maintained at $5,550, and are essential to opening doors and giving students the financial means to attend college. During the Fiscal Year 2019 budget process, I sent a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, and Education requesting $34.6 billion in funding for the Federal Pell Grant Program.
In June 2015, our Nation took a step forward when the Supreme Court decided that it was unconstitutional for states to ban same-sex marriage. Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people is intolerable and is not in line with our American values. While this decision was a milestone for the LGBT community, it is clear more must be done to ensure all Americans are treated equally under the law. I have continuously supported legislation that protects those in the LGBT community and works to end discrimination.
I was an original cosponsor of H.R. 3185, the Equality Act, introduced by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), during the 114th Congress. The Equality Act would have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Specifically, this legislation would have extended anti-discrimination protections in public accommodations, housing, employment, federal funding, education, credit, and jury service. I look forward to cosponsoring this legislation again when it is reintroduced during the 115th Congress.
Similarly, I was also a cosponsor of H.R. 5586, the Customer Non-Discrimination Act, during the 114th Congress. H.R. 5586, introduced by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), would have amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation. This bill would have expanded the categories of public accommodations to include places or establishments that provide: exhibitions, recreation, exercise, amusement, gatherings, or displays; goods, services, or programs; or transportation services. This bill has yet to be reintroduced in the 115th Congress and I look forward to cosponsoring it again.
It is our responsibility as Americans to treat our neighbors equally and with respect. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to advance legislation that promotes fairness, justice, and equality under the law.
I have been an active member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs since I was elected to Congress thirteen years ago. At the beginning of the 116th Congress I was appointed Chairman of the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade Subcommittee. In this role, I have worked to build closer relationships with our regional allies to advance our shared economic and security interests and promote the values of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.
The United States must be a leader in the international arena through investments in diplomacy, economic and social development, political stability, and democratic representation. Not only are these efforts critical to a comprehensive national security strategy, they also have a strong correlation to our security, stability, and prosperity here at home.
Foreign Affairs Committee
I am proud to be a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. As a Committee, we are responsible for creating and maintaining an overarching strategy that complements our existing programs and ensures they fit with the democratic and humanitarian goals and ideals of the United States. We also exercise our oversight role in ensuring foreign aid and policies are implemented in the best interest of our country.
As Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, it is my duty to engage with leaders in the region to ensure that the United States is a good partner to our allies, committed to prosperity and security in the region. It is an honor to serve as the head of a Subcommittee that oversees a portion of the world that is not only strategically critical for our foreign agenda, but a part of the world that is deeply personal to me and many of my constituents. The Subcommittee has jurisdiction over issues pertaining to the countries in South America, North America, and the Caribbean.
I am also a member of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment. This Subcommittee has jurisdiction over matters affecting the relations between the United States and countries in the region.
I have introduced several bills aimed at exercising this oversight role, including:
- H.Res.546, disapproving of Russia’s inclusion in future G-7 summits until it respects the territorial integrity of its neighbors and adheres to the standards of democratic societies.
- H.Res.426, supporting the U.S.’ continued engagement with the people and governments of the Northern Triangle to improve security in the region and address the root causes of migration.
- H.Res.649, supporting the work of the Inter-American Foundation.
You can stay up to date with the Committee’s work here.
I believe that basic human rights and fundamental freedoms must be upheld and respected around the world, in every nation and in every community. I continue to advocate for the rights of minority communities, who too often suffer targeted persecution and violence. It is unacceptable that thousands of people are threatened, attacked, and silenced simply for standing up for what they believe. Below are just a few examples of human rights legislation I have cosponsored in the 116th Congress:
- H.R. 649, the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, requires expanded reporting by several U.S. agencies on the Chinese treatment of the Uyghur minority.
- H.R. 3190, the BURMA Act of 2019, as passed by the House, imposes sanctions against officials responsible for human rights abuses in Burma and authorizes aid for Burma and the surrounding region, including those ethnic minorities targeted by Burma’s military.
- H.R. 3252, the Global Respect Act, would impose sanctions against people responsible for violating the human rights of LTBTI individuals.
- H.Res.49, Supporting Coptic Christians in Egypt, urges the Egyptian government to ensure that Coptic Christians have the same rights as other Egyptians and work towards ending the culture of impunity for attacks on Christians.
Each year, millions of people throughout the world are left to suffer without access to quality health care and resources. Every year millions of lives are lost due to infectious disease, malnutrition, and complications of pregnancy and childbirth, many of which are treatable or completely preventable with the right investment. Last Congress, my bill, the Global Health Innovation Act of 2017, was signed into law. This bill provides the oversight needed to gain a clearer understanding of USAID’s global health research and development. I believe in the importance of funding initiatives aimed at expanding global health programs, which is why each year I request comprehensive funding for global health in the annual appropriations process. I have also cosponsored H.Res.517, supporting the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), malaria, and its Sixth Replenishment.
The United States should act like the global leader that it is and be a reliable partner to our allies as well as a staunch defender of human rights. To promote global security and prosperity, we must support the basic tenants of shared humanity, equal rights, and democracy to foster genuine relationships with international actors. I have been, and will continue to be, an advocate for the use of our foreign assistance as an integral part of our overall national security strategy and foreign policy
Gun Violence Prevention
Over the last decade, more than 1.2 million Americans have been shot and millions have been victims, or witnesses, of other crimes involving a gun. Mass shootings have become far too common with tragedies occurring everywhere from schools and places of worship to concerts. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, an average of 310 people are injured and 100 people die due to gun violence every day in America. I am deeply concerned with the continued gun violence in our country and I support enacting and enforcing measures to protect innocent people from the terror of gun violence.
During this Congress alone, there have been numerous mass shootings that have shattered families and communities across the country. After each one, Congress holds a moment of silence but without action and meaningful policy change, our moments of silence will just continue to signify inaction. During his time in office President Obama enacted a number of executive actions to combat gun violence in our country and make our communities safer. However, it is ultimately up to Congress to pass long-term reforms and we have failed. When Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, we began voting on legislation to address the gun violence epidemic, and numerous bills passed our chamber with bipartisan support including H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019. None of the bills passed by the House have been considered by the Senate and Speaker McConnell has yet to even schedule a vote on any of the common sense, broadly supported bills that have been introduced or sent to the Senate.
As a member of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, I am a cosponsor of common sense legislation and I will continue to push my colleagues in the Senate to consider legislation that the House has already passed. Among the legislation I have cosponsored is H.R. 1296, the Assault Weapons Ban, introduced by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). This legislation would reinstate the ban on the sale, transfer, manufacturing, and importation of semiautomatic weapons and ammunition feeding devices capable of accepting more than ten rounds, while protecting assault weapons used by members of the military and law enforcement. I am also a cosponsor of H.R. 435, the Gun Violence Research Act, introduced by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), which would authorize research programs to examine policies that reduce gun violence. It is my hope that my colleagues will come together to pass meaningful gun safety reforms because protecting people from gun violence should not be a partisan issue.
In 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed to provide Americans with access to affordable and quality health care. While not perfect, the ACA provides millions of Americans with health care coverage that they may not otherwise have access to. It also prohibits denial of care for individuals with pre-existing conditions, an estimated 54 million people. Additionally, the ACA outlines essential health benefits that must be covered by insurance companies, including critical services like mental health and maternity care.
Attacks on American Health Care
Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress and the Trump Administration continue to undermine the ACA and have made a concerted effort to strip the health protections this legislation affords patients. These efforts to undermine the ACA have included expanding the sale of short-term junk plans, limiting consumer enrollment assistance, weakening federal standards, and asking the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to invalidate the entirety of the ACA. Furthermore, protections and access to health care for women and LGBTQ+ individuals continue to be limited. You may find more specific information about my efforts to protect access to women’s health care here.
I recognize that the ACA is instrumental in improving access, quality, and affordability for millions, improving public health outcomes and quality of life. My Democratic colleagues and I vow to fight for protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions and address the rising cost of health care. Some of the bills I have cosponsored this Congress to do just this are:
- H.R. 987, the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act, as passed by the House of Representatives, promotes generic competition, restores funding for ACA enrollment and outreach activities, rescinds the rule promoting junk insurance plans, and strengthens protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.
- H.R. 1884, the Protecting Pre-Existing Conditions and Making Health Care More Affordable Act, would lower health insurance premiums by expanding affordability assistance, strengthen protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and stop insurance companies from selling junk health insurance plans.
- H.Res.271, as passed in the House, urges the Department of Justice to cease its efforts against the ACA and reverse its position in Texas v. United States.
The opioid epidemic is a national crisis and a public health emergency that has taken thousands of lives. In fact, it is estimated that over 130 people die each day in the United States from an opioid overdose. Ensuring state and local governments have access to adequate resources is critical to reducing the number of deaths from opioids and providing individuals with the treatment and services they need. I have cosponsored H.R. 2569, the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act of 2019, to help provide this much needed investment to combat the opioid epidemic. This bill would provide more than $100 billion over ten years to fight the opioid crisis.
Community Health Centers (CHCs) play a critical role in providing comprehensive, quality, affordable care to low-income populations in our community. In New Jersey, CHCs served 569,965 patients across 24 health centers at 137 sites. A majority of these patients are uninsured, publicly-insured, or low income. CHCs play a vital role in the health of our communities, which is why I continue to be an advocate on Capitol Hill for CHCs. In addition to supporting annual appropriations requests, I have cosponsored bills which will provide much-needed funding to CHCs, including:
- H.R. 2328, the Community Health Investment, Modernization, and Excellence Act of 2019, would reauthorize and extend funding for community health centers and the National Health Service Corps.
- H.R. 1943, the Community Health Center and Primary Care Workforce Expansion Act of 2019, would fund Federally Qualified Health Centers and the National Health Service Corps.
Residents of the 8th District know first-hand the serious and unfortunate impacts of disasters that threaten our homes, our businesses, and our way of life. Our communities are forever changed by the terrorist attacks that occurred just across the Hudson River on September 11th, 2001. The 8th District has also experienced the impacts of natural disasters and continues to recover from Superstorm Sandy. It is clear that local, state, and federal government agencies must work closely together to make our communities more resilient for future disasters, whether they are man-made or natural. As a Member of Congress, I have been, and will continue to be, a strong advocate for further Homeland Security and disaster preparedness funding.
Preparedness measures and emergency response capabilities help the communities in the 8th District improve recovery capabilities after adverse events. The 8th District is home to what is considered the most dangerous two-mile stretch in the country due to our critical transportation and industrial infrastructure. Everyday our district facilitates the passage of interstate commerce that is crucial to our local, state, and national economies. The district houses both the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, along with Newark Liberty International Airport and the Port of Newark/Elizabeth. Our district also transports the residents of New Jersey to and from New York everyday with important PATH railway terminals along with New Jersey Transit and Amtrak rail lines. Protection of this infrastructure is paramount, which is why I have and will continue to push for proper transportation and port security funding.
Our nation’s preparedness efforts rely heavily on our local firefighters, police officers, emergency medical services, and emergency management agencies. It is in the best interest of all citizens that we provide our first responders with the resources they need to protect us during everyday emergencies, and during natural and man-made disasters. As a Member of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, I remain committed to supporting legislation that benefits fire departments and first responders.
The foundation of the American Dream is to have a home to call your own. Unfortunately, the booming housing market in previous years allowed too many individuals to buy a home that they could not afford with loans that were not appropriate given their financial circumstances. Today, those individuals are facing foreclosure and the surrounding communities are seeing drastic drops in property values and taxes. In order to reestablish confidence in the housing market, it is important for me and my colleagues in Congress to support policies that provide assistance to at-risk homeowners and relief to negatively impacted communities.
An important way to assist homeowners is to ensure that they have access to transparent information regarding mortgages and credit. I voted in favor of legislation creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an independent agency with a range of rulemaking, information-gathering, supervisory, and enforcement tools to regulate financial products such as mortgages and credit cards. I believe with adequate knowledge and protections, consumers can responsibly achieve the American dream of homeownership.
I will continue to focus on addressing foreclosures; an issue too many homeowners still face. Whether homeowners can no longer afford their monthly payments due to job loss or increasing adjustable rate mortgages, or they cannot sell their home because they owe more than it is worth, foreclosure rates may continue to rise for the near term. I will remain vigilant in finding solutions to avoid foreclosure and that continue to push for reforms to ensure that the American dream of owning a home remains attainable.
Scientific progress and technological innovation are critical to ensuring the future competitiveness of our country. This requires continued and reliable investment in scientific research and development, as well as in STEM education. This research has allowed disabled veterans to use artificial limbs to adjust back to everyday life, protected our firefighters with advances in turnout gear, and saved households money on energy bills through the use of alternative energy sources. These innovations, along with many more, have spurred economic growth, improved Americans’ daily lives, and demonstrated a return on investment that benefits our communities.
While the 8th District may be over 1,000 miles from Cape Canaveral, the advancements and new technology resulting from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) projects have fundamentally changed the way people across the country live their lives. NASA’s aeronautics research helps maintain U.S. leadership in aviation, which is a key economic driver for the nation, and technology spinoffs based in space exploration can be found in our daily lives. Everyday items such as memory foam, scratch-resistant lenses, invisible braces, cell phone cameras, Dustbusters, and precision GPS are just a few of the technologies that can trace their origins in part back to NASA programs or collaborations.
Furthermore, NASA contractors employ suppliers throughout the United States, including New Jersey, to help build NASA’s Deep Space Exploration Systems supporting missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. In New Jersey, there are currently 120 suppliers that support NASA’s deep space exploration program. Additionally, NASA missions inspire the next generation of scientists to pursue careers in STEM. That is why I am a member of the NASA Caucus and support annual appropriations to NASA’s National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program (Space Grant), enabling students across the country to engage in outreach activities and research projects that prepare them for STEM careers. New Jersey’s Space Grant Consortium, led by Rutgers University, involves a total of 17 institutions which include the Liberty Science Center, New Jersey City University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Stevens Institute of Technology.
Research and Development (R&D)
As a member of the R&D Caucus, I believe that sustained investment in scientific R&D is integral to the progress of our nation. In particular, robust funding for medical research enables the development of new treatments and cures for some of the most deadly diseases that affect our community. R&D funding supports jobs, innovation, and improves the overall health of our society, which in turn has the potential to increase productivity and reduce the costly burden of illness. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the largest single public funder of biomedical research in the world, generating an estimated $68.8 billion in economic output nationwide in fiscal year (FY) 2017. For New Jersey in FY 2018, NIH supported $261.3 million in awards funding, 5,817 jobs, and $974 million in economic activity. I will continue to be an ardent supporter of investments in medical research, which is why each year I request robust funding for the NIH and its various institutes as part of the annual appropriations process.
In order to maintain our role as leaders in scientific progress and innovation, we must provide adequate resources to foster the next generation of scientists, educators, and engineers. According to the Pew Research Center, STEM employment has outpaced overall U.S. job growth, growing at a rate of 79% since 1990. The 8th District is home to some incredible universities that facilitate cutting-edge STEM learning and leadership. However, there is still much to be done to increase the diversity of the STEM workforce.
I regularly advocate for funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), which accounts for about one-fourth of federal support to academic institutions for basic research. As a member of the STEM Education Caucus, I have cosponsored legislation that supports STEM education and scientific discovery including:
- H.R. 2528, the STEM Opportunities Act, as passed by the House, would research the participation of minorities in STEM, develop guidance on limiting bias in federal grant programs and identifying barriers for the participation of minorities in STEM careers, and develop federal policies for flexibility in research awards for caregivers.
I work every day to support seniors and to ensure long-term solvency of Medicare and Social Security. As a member of the Expand Social Security Caucus, I work with my colleagues to strengthen Social Security benefits for residents of the 8th District. Since their inception, the Medicare and Social Security programs have assisted seniors with the costs of health care and living. Americans rely on these programs not only for their health and long-term care, but also for everyday expenses. Americans have paid into the system their entire lives anticipating that once they retire, they will be guaranteed the benefits they rightfully deserve. While we must work to increase the efficiency of Medicare and Social Security, we cannot abandon our commitment to those who currently rely on them. I strongly oppose proposals to raise out-of-pocket costs or cut benefits for Medicare and Medicaid or proposals that would reduce Social Security benefits. For more information on the Medicare and Social Security programs please visit: www.medicare.gov and www.socialsecurity.gov.
In fact, for 1 in 4 senior households, Social Security is estimated to represent 90% of income. That is why I have cosponsored bills aimed at improving benefits and addressing the Social Security solvency issue:
- H.R. 860, the Social Security 2100 Act, would increase the minimum benefit amount, change the way benefits are calculated, and strengthens the Social Security Trust Fund.
- H.R. 4280, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Restoration Act of 2019, would update allowable income amounts, repeal the marriage penalty, and repeals other financial penalties.
- H.R. 141, the Social Security Fairness Act, would repeal the Government pension offset and the windfall elimination provision.
I support reforming our tax system in a way that will create jobs, strengthen the middle class, encourage entrepreneurs, and help small businesses grow and hire. Tax relief should go to those who need it, not the extremely wealthy. That is why I was a strong opponent of the Republican tax bill that was rushed through the 115th Congress in order to create tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.
Republican Tax Plan
On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed the GOP tax plan into law, restructuring our current tax code in a way that prioritizes tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations over the needs of American families. Tax breaks for corporations that will benefit foreign shareholders are permanent, while 86 million middle class American families will see their taxes increase once temporary tax breaks expire. The state and local tax (SALT) deduction is limited, directly and negatively impacting millions of people in New Jersey where the average SALT deduction is worth well over the new limit of $10,000. While families have been hit with higher tax rates as a result of the limiting of SALT and property tax deductions, the wealthiest income bracket will be receiving a 2.5% tax break on their income tax.
I have been ardently opposed to this restructuring and believe that comprehensive tax reform must be a bipartisan effort that helps those most in need of tax relief rather than funneling benefits to the wealthy. The wealthiest in our nation, including those who hold public office, are the last people we should be prioritizing when there are millions who need tax relief in order to keep their heads above water.
In an attempt to ensure that our nation has a compassionate and fair tax system, I have cosponsored numerous pieces of legislation including:
- H.R. 5377, the Restoring Fairness for States and Localities Act. This legislation, which passed the House of Representatives, would eliminate the SALT deduction cap in 2020 and 2021 and double the $10,000 cap for people filing a joint tax return.
- H.R. 1142, the Stop Attacking Local Taxpayers (SALT) Act. Introduced by my fellow New Jerseyan, Rep. Bill Pascrell, this bill would repeal the $10,000 SALT deduction cap and increase the top income tax bracket to 39.6%.
- H.R. 5342, the Supporting America’s First Responders Act. This bill would allow an expense deduction, up to $500, for first responders.
Transportation and Member Project Requests
The transportation infrastructure networks that serve our country are having a hard time keeping up with service demands. More people are driving or using public transportation, but states have less money to repair and upgrade this infrastructure. Our congressional district is not an exception and we have all struggled with old bridges, late trains, and potholed roads.
As a member of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, I have worked to authorize programs that allow New Jersey to tap into federal money for infrastructure projects. The federal government has a responsibility to help states that need assistance financing upgrades, and I continuously work to increase funding for grant programs that cities can use to finance big infrastructure upgrades projects.
2021 Member-Designated Project Requests
Below is a list of projects that Congressman Albio Sires has submitted to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure for consideration.
The funding is designated for constructing a ferry terminal and waterfront promenade, as well as additional parking spaces. These improvements would include accessory work, such as lighting, signage, traffic control, stormwater management, utilities, etc. The project is anticipated to have the following benefits: providing a new means of access to Manhattan for the Peninsula’s residents and the region at-large, which has experienced a substantial increase in residential growth over the last decade, as well as promoting green infrastructure and climate change resiliency.
Cost: $4.321 million
The funding is designated for construction of approximately 3,000 linear feet of new storm sewers to replace the existing drainage system. The project is anticipated to have the following benefits: reducing street flooding, improving vehicle access, and reducing damage to local homes.
Cost: $2.08 million
The funding is designated for improving the intersection of Broad Street, Broadway Avenue and Clay Street in Newark. The project is anticipated to have the following benefits: improving safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers, exploring installing ADA pedestrian signals, repairing and or replacing traffic channelization islands and controlling by-pass traffic from Rt-21, and potentially repairing or replacing land-gantry signs/poles, and extending the useful life of the roadway.
Cost: $1.2 million
The funding is designated for upgrading standard traffic signals to adaptive traffic signal technology throughout the McCarter Highway (Route 21) corridor between 3rd Avenue in the north and Miller Street in the south (20 signalized intersections). The project is anticipated to have the following benefits: providing important connectivity and access to Downtown Newark, major employment centers, cultural institutions, universities, and neighborhoods; reducing air pollution; and contributing to the advancement of several of the NJTPA’s and Newark’s regional and local goals including the use of technology to improve congestion, air quality and safety without increasing roadway capacity.
Cost: $1.6 million
The funding is designated for upgrading traffic signals at intersections along Broad Street Newark from standard fixed time traffic signals to adaptive traffic signal technology with wireless connectivity capabilities. The project is anticipated to have the following benefits: reducing congestion and emissions and improving traffic flow.
Cost: $1.65 million
The funding is designated for rehabilitating the Trenton Avenue Bridge over Elizabeth River. The project is anticipated to have the following benefits: improving passenger safety by rehabilitating a structurally deficient bridge.
Cost: $5 million
The funding is designated for improving Park Avenue & Pleasant Avenue. This roadway is a major access road to the Lincoln Tunnel, which connects New York City & New Jersey. Furthermore, the improvements would also provide safer pedestrian crossings, better vehicle flow, and improve overall roadway safety conditions. The project is anticipated to have the following benefits: meeting current State & Federal Department of Transportation roadway crossing standards, adding cross lights for pedestrians, signal improvements, improvements to roadway integrity, upgrades to become ADA compliant.
Cost: $9.4 million
The funding is designated for creating a multimodal overpass to safely connect pedestrians with transit. The project is anticipated to have the following benefits: safety enhancements, allowing more pedestrians to safely cross, providing much needed economic development to local residents and access to jobs for upland residents which will be essential post pandemic.
Cost: $5.2 million
The Gateway Project
The most important, and complex, infrastructure network on the east coast is in our District. The tunnels and rail lines that connect New Jersey and New York are over 100 years old and were battered during Superstorm Sandy. They are in operation today, used to move freight and passengers throughout the region, but they are in desperate need of repair. Without federal government help, state authorities will be forced to shut them down for emergency maintenance or a tunnel could become unuseable - reducing the capacity by up to 75 percent. The Gateway Project is a massive undertaking to protect the economic viability of the region that includes repairing and upgrading these tunnels that tens of thousands of commuters travel through each day as they go in and out of Manhattan.
New Jersey cannot finance the project by itself, and it should not have to. As a Member of Congress, I have consistently pushed the Department of Transportation to move the Gateway Project’s federal grant application through the Department’s project review process. Repairing and expanding these tunnels will impact anyone who commutes in the northeastern United States or travels by rail along the entire east coast. We cannot afford to play politics with something this important.
Aviation and Ports
The aviation industry is an important sector of our economy and commercial aviation employs thousands of people around the country. Our congressional district is home to part of Newark Liberty International Airport employs 22,000 people, serves 50 airline carriers, and generates $33 billion in economic activity.
This Congress, I have supported legislation that authorizes airline safety programs, pays federal airline employees in case of a government shutdown, and requires training for airline crew members to identify and address fume events onboard aircraft. I will continue my work in the 166th Congress to ensure that our airports have the resources they need to serve my constituents and our airlines have the tools they need to keep passengers safe.
Our district is also home to ports that serve as a throughway for products coming into our country and goods being sold abroad. I have supported legislative efforts to increase funding for grants and loans programs that our ports can draw from for upgrades and repair projects that keep our district competitive.
Transportation and the infrastructure necessary to keep it up impacts our everyday lives. If any one of our nation’s transportation infrastructure network breaks down, Americans immediately feel the impact - especially residents of New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District. That is why I have worked so hard to provide our States and cities with the federal funds they need to maintain current infrastructure networks, expand current infrastructure, and build new projects to meet the needs of growing cities and expanding economies.
We have a responsibility to care for the women and men who have served our nation in the armed forces. The people who swear an oath to defend our country do the work and make the sacrifices that keep us safe. It is their government’s duty to care for them as they transition to civilian life or if they are struggling with a visible or invisible fight.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a range of services and benefits for military veterans and eligible dependents who meet certain criteria. These benefits include medical care, disability compensation and pensions, education, vocational rehabilitation assistance to homeless veterans, administration of life insurance and traumatic injury protection insurance, and death benefits that cover burial expenses.
For more information on these and all other benefits offered by the Department, you can visit www.va.gov.
I take my responsibility to our veterans seriously. That is why I have co-sponsored:
- H.R. 299,the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, to extend presumption of service and exposure to Agent Orange for veterans who served in the waters off Vietnam. This bill was passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by the President on June 25, 2019.
- H.R. 186, the Veterans Jobs Opportunity Act, to provide tax credits for military veterans who open a small business in underserved communities.
- H.R. 663, the Burn Pit Accountability Act, to direct the Department of Defense to evaluate whether servicemembers were exposed to toxic chemicals used in burn pits.
- H.R. 3867, the Violence Against Women Veterans Act, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to improve the services and benefits that the Department offers to veterans who experience domestic violence or sexual assault.
Help for Constituent Servicemembers
I have long supported our military veterans and often meet with organizations representing former servicemembers from New Jersey. My office is always ready to assist constituents with any questions about, or requests for, assistance with the Department of Veterans Affairs. If you or someone you know wants to contact my office with questions about casework with the VA, please click here. I was honored to receive a 2019 Legislator of the Year Award from the New Jersey Veterans of Foreign Wars for my work on behalf of our servicemembers.
Despite having come a long way since the 19th Amendment was adopted, women continue to struggle for equal rights and equal access to opportunities. I have used my time in Congress to continue to advocate for the unique needs of women, fight for equality, and combat discrimination, violence, and sexual harassment.
Society has made great advancements in equal rights for all communities, but women continue to face obstacles and barriers to equality. Sex discrimination continues to be an unfortunate occurrence that remains prevalent in the workplace, as evidenced by the wage gap between men and women. Women make approximately 78 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn, with the pay gap for female minorities being even greater. Hispanic women earn 53 cents on the dollar and black women earn 61 cents. I have cosponsored several pieces of legislation aimed at increasing rights for women:
- H.J.Res.38, would remove the deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
- H.J.Res.35, would amend the Constitution by declaring that women shall have equal rights in the United States and prohibits from denying these rights based on sex.
- H.R. 7, the Paycheck Fairness Act, as passed by the House, would require employers to demonstrate that pay disparities are based on legitimate, work-related factors, prohibit retaliation for wage comparison, and institute a program for negotiation and skills training.
Women have unique health care needs and are often tasked with making important health care decisions for their families. Women’s health care has increasingly come under attack as attempts to limit a women’s agency in her own reproductive health care choices has come under judicial review, even by the U.S. Supreme Court. I believe a woman has the right to act her own best interest when it comes to her personal health care decisions and will continue to protect that right in Congress. I am a avid supporter of the Title X program, which provides essential reproductive health services to women, particularly those from low-income communities. Below are just a few of the bills I have cosponsored to strengthen and protect women’s health care:
- H.R. 2975, the Women’s Health Protection Act, would prohibit states from imposing onerous restrictions on abortion.
- H.R. 1692, the EACH Woman Act, would repeal the Hyde Amendment and ensure that women who receive coverage from government sponsored plans have access to abortion.
- H.R. 1581, the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act of 2019, would direct the State Department to include reproductive rights in its annual reports on human rights in countries receiving U.S. aid.
Violence Against Women
The World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 3 women have experienced either physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, with a majority of this violence committed by an intimate partner. I believe that every individual has the right to live free from the threat of violence which is why I have cosponsored several bills that seek to combat the epidemic of violence and harassment targeting women and girls:
- H.R. 1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019, as passed by the House, reauthorizes the Violence Against Women Act for five years and strengthens VAWA services and programs.
- H.R. 3867, the Violence Against Women Veterans Act, would improve services at the VA for veterans who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.
- H.R. 36, the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019, as passed by the House, would expand research in to sexual harassment in the STEM fields in efforts to prevent harassment.
WHY VOTE FOR CONGRESSMAN SIRES?
Albio Sires knows what residents of Hudson, Essex, Union and Bergen counties need from Washington and he fights for us every single day. A former mayor of West New York, State Assembly Speaker and immigrant from Cuba, he understands the struggles working families face and always stands up for our communities.
Committed to expanding access to affordable healthcare, Congressman Sires has always defended the Affordable Care Act against Republican attempts to dismantle the law. Now he’s working to expand coverage by adding a true public option, expanding Medicaid eligibility and lowering the cost of prescription drugs.
Albio knows that climate change is real and we must take action now to address this looming crisis. He sponsored legislation to make President Trump meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accord, reduce carbon emissions and stop oil drilling in protected federal lands.
As an immigrant himself, Albio knows that we must have comprehensive immigration reform that treats people fairly and stops the horrific abuses the Trump administration has inflicted on migrants. He’s a sponsor of the DREAM Act bill to pave a path to citizenship to millions of children and young adults who know no other home but America.
As a member of the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, Albio has been a champion for gun safety legislation to make our streets safer and prevent mass shootings. He supports universal background checks, reinstituting the assault weapons ban, gun buyback programs and many other gun safety measures
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