Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the following opening remarks today at a full committee markup of H.Res. 512, H.R. 5408, H.Res. 742, H.R. 5664, H.Res. 720, H.R. 2166, H.R. 2847, H.Res. 723, H.Res. 809, H.Res. 458, H.R. 1611:

I’m pleased to support all of the bipartisan measures before us today, and I thank our members for their hard work. I’ll keep my remarks brief and highlight just a few of the 11 bills and resolutions.

First, I’ll start with Mr. Connolly’s Global Health Security Act. We can see clearly right now just how important it is to invest in smart, effective, global health policy.

Pandemics like coronavirus don’t stop at borders, so it’s critical that our government effectively coordinates the response to outbreaks here and abroad.

We used to have a key coordinating body in the White House charged with that task. Under the Obama Administration, these experts directed our responses to the Ebola and Zika outbreaks. Their work showed just how important it is to invest in preparedness, to build up our capacity to respond quickly, so we can prevent an outbreak from snowballing into a bigger crisis.

Unfortunately, this Administration dismantled that coordinating group. So, I’m pleased that Mr. Connolly’s measure will get those best practices back up and running, requiring a Global Heath Security Coordinator to manage our response in emergencies like this and help us prepare rather than just react. It’s a good bill I strongly support.

Next, I’ll turn to the Leveraging Information on Foreign Traffickers Act, or the LIFT Act, a bill authorized by Mr. McCaul. I was pleased to join the Ranking Member in introducing this good measure to ensure that the State Department has the right tools to combat human trafficking, a heinous crime that has ensnared over 25 million people around the world.

I’m proud of the work that this committee has done on this matter—and I especially want to thank Mr. Smith for his leadership on this issue for over two decades.

Today’s measure continues that legacy for our committee. The LIFT Act enhances the State Department’s ability to gather information on this horrendous practice and engages survivors in our policy-making process.

We must continue to fight modern day slavery and work to enact legislation that brings us to a brighter future, free of this horrific injustice. Today’s measure is a step in that direction, and I hope all of my colleagues will join me in supporting it.

Next, I’ll turn to Mr. Deutch’s Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery Act, named for one of the many Americans being unjustly held captive abroad. It’s critical that our government take every step possible to get our citizens home safely. President Obama made important policy changes on this matter, creating a Special Envoy position to be the point person on these efforts and providing transparent, open lines of communication with the family members of these American hostages.

The Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery Act puts those initiatives into law, building toward a more thorough and effective approach to helping these people and their families. It’s a good bill I’m pleased to support. I also want to recognize two family members of Americans being held in Iran here with us today Sarah Moriarty and Babak Namazi, thank you for your dedication and strength.

Next, I want to address House Resolution 809 from Mr. Suozzi, reaffirming the United States’ commitment to our alliance with the Republic of Korea. At a time when we face an increasingly aggressive China, a dangerously unhinged North Korea, and a host of other challenges—including the coronavirus outbreak—it is imperative that we stay in lockstep with our partners in the region.

Right now, the Trump Administration is working on finalizing a cost-sharing agreement with South Korea regarding our forces on the Korean Peninsula. The Trump Administration started out by asking our allies to pay 400% more than they did before. While it is important for our partners to shoulder more of the burden over time, it is important that the final agreement reflects our close partnership with the Republic of Korea and advances our shared goal of preserving security and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific. I support this measure and urge all of our members to do the same.

Finally, I’ll say a few words about House Resolution 512 from Mr. Raskin. Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right—no one should face oppression because of their religious beliefs or lack thereof. It’s hard to stomach that today, in 2020, there are still more than 70 countries with criminal blasphemy laws on the books that target people for their faith. Today’s resolution calls for a repeal of these dangerous laws. I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting it. 

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