State of the Union/Stopping Gun Trafficking/Passing VAWA/Improving Work-family Balance

Feb 18, 2013

E-NEWSLETTER ~ February 18, 2013

Dear Neighbor:

Happy Presidents’ Day!

Last week’s State of The Union address by President Obama to a Joint Session of Congress contained much to inspire New Yorkers.

The President’s call to help build a thriving middle class was spot on. We must do everything we can to accelerate our economic recovery-- and build on the last 35 consecutive months of private-sector job growth.

A thriving middle class is essential to this goal. And that is why we must take a balanced approach to deficit reduction. With carefully targeted spending cuts, we can strengthen economic growth even further.

I agree with the President that education investments are particularly needed-- improving access to early childhood and college education-- to ensure that Americans have the skills needed to compete in the global economy. And his proposed $50 billion ‘Fix-it-first’ plan to invest in our infrastructure will create immediate jobs and stimulate long-term economic growth-- a two-in-one benefit. According to the Federal Highway Administration, New York State currently has 256 structurally deficient bridges and 1,090 bridges that are functionally obsolete!

The President showed vision and foresight in once again urging Congress to take action on our environment and in drawing the link between global climate change and the ‘increasingly frequent and intense’ natural disasters experienced in cataclysms like Superstorm Sandy.

On a personal note, I was deeply moved when the President paid tribute to Menchu Sanchez (shown with me above), who was sitting with First Lady Michelle Obama during the speech. Sanchez, is a remarkable nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at NYU Langone Medical Center in my district. During Superstorm Sandy, she spearheaded the rescue and evacuation of newborn infants whose very lives were threatened when that hospital lost all electrical power.

The President’s announcement of a draw-down of more than 30,000 troops from Afghanistan was welcome news.

I’m proud of the President’s determination, in the face of daunting political odds, to get something done to stem the epidemic of gun violence that remains pervasive in America. I was particularly gratified that he made reference to bipartisan efforts currently underway in Congress, such as the bill I just introduced to curb gun trafficking (more on that effort in the story below).  

In addition, I’ve also included a story below on the need for the House to pass a renewal of the Violence Against Women Act-- which overwhelmingly passed the Senate last week with two bills I’ve been sponsoring for years: the SAFER Act to reduce the DNA rape kit backlog nationwide by reallocating existing funding streams, and the Campus SaVE Act to have colleges develop sexual violence policies and better report crime statistics.

I’ve also included news about another bill I’ve introduced to make “family-friendly” less of a buzzword and more of a reality in the workplace, the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act.


Member of Congress



I have introduced the first bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives to make firearms trafficking a federal crime and impose stronger penalties for “straw purchasers” who buy guns for convicted felons and others who are prohibited from buying guns on their own.

H.R. 452, The Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2013, directly addresses concerns by law enforcement officials who testified before Congress that a dedicated firearms trafficking statute would help them combat the flow of thousands of firearms to violent criminals, international drug cartels, and a host of other dangerous people.  

For too long, we have been handcuffing the wrong people. We have made it too hard for law enforcement to stop guns from getting into the hands of criminals and too easy for criminals to get their hands on guns. With this bill we can begin to turn that around and slap the handcuffs where they belong. Americans have been very clear: they want something done about the scourge of gun violence-- and they want bi-partisan cooperation in Washington. At this moment, this bill is a step toward achieving both.

I’m proud that two of my colleagues from across the aisle, Reps. Scott Rigell of Virginia and Pat Meehan of Pennsylvania (who was U.S. Attorney for Philadelphia before becoming a Member of Congress), cosponsored the legislation, as well as my good friend Elijah Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

We were joined at an event announcing the bill by representatives of law enforcement organizations from across the country, including the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Police Foundation, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department, the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association, the Baltimore Police Department, Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office, and the Petersburg Bureau of Police. Also in attendance were representatives from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the American Bar Association, CeaseFirePA, the Violence Policy Center, and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

For more information, visit



It’s inexplicable to me that the House Majority blocked a vote on renewing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the last Congress.

In this new Congress, it has now passed the Senate by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 78-22-- and I believe the House must allow members to vote their conscience on whether our sisters, daughters, nieces and mothers should have the extra protections afforded by VAWA since its original passage in 1994.

I’m especially proud that the Senate-passed VAWA bill includes two bills I’ve been pushing for years: The SAFER Act and the Campus SaVE Act.

Across the country, far too many rape kits sit untested in labs or merely stored in evidence facilities across the country. By establishing a grant mechanism to conduct audits of unprocessed kits so that the backlog can be tracked, and by increasing the percentage of funds required to be used in kit processing, the SAFER Act can help reach the goal of zero backlog—and apprehending more rapists.

On campuses, the constellation of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking crimes is too often kept in the shadows, which only increases the shame of its victims. The Campus SaVE Act would help increase awareness and prevention by requiring development and disclosure of policies to address these issues, and to increase public reporting of these crimes.

If you’d like to learn more about my legislative efforts on DNA testing, please visit; read the SAFER Act legislation at  or the Campus SaVE Act legislation at



On February 5th, the 20th anniversary of Family & Medical Leave Act, I reintroduced the “Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act” (FEPPLA), which would provide all federal employees with four weeks of paid parental leave upon the birth or adoption of a child and allow use of accumulated annual or sick leave to offset the 12 weeks of unpaid leave guaranteed by the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Raising a child is the single most important task a human being can take on, yet the United States lags behind the rest of the world in supporting and encouraging new parents. Currently, federal employees must use all their annual leave and sick time to take time off after the arrival of a child. With this bill, the Federal government can lead the way, making ‘family-friendly’ more than a buzzword and ensuring that both newborns and the government benefit. Families should not have to choose between a paycheck and establishing their family, especially in these economic times.

By failing to provide paid parental leave, the federal government lags behind both the private sector (53% of private-sector employers provide some form of paid parental leave), and most industrialized nations around the world. 

The bill passed the House in the 111th Congress with bipartisan by a vote of 258-154. During its consideration then, the FEPPLA bill was determined by the Congressional Budget Office to have no “PAYGO” implications-- it would not require new funding from Congress.