WASHINGTON – A federal program aimed at relieving “food deserts” could get a fresh injection of support after U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.) pushed for new funding in a sweeping agriculture and nutrition bill that cleared the House earlier this week.
Her plan to support the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, a federal effort modeled on a Pennsylvania program, will provide $125 million in grants and loans to help bring supermarkets and other grocers to areas with few options for healthy foods.
“The Healthy Food Financing Initiative will make an enormous difference in the lives of thousands of Pennsylvanians and the 24 million Americans who don't have access to healthy foods,” Schwartz said in a news release, adding that it will also boost economic development. (Schwartz, of course, is also running for governor in a crowded Democratic primary).The initiative is a small piece of a $956 billion bill setting policy on agriculture subsidies, food stamps and other nutrition programs. It will add new money to back an idea the White House has pushed since 2010, when Michelle Obama unveiled the federal version of the program in Philadelphia.
WASHINGTON – New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey clashed on the Senate floor Wednesday over a flood insurance bill that could affect more than 100,000 homeowners in their two states, and far more across the country.
Menendez is the sponsor of a bill to delay, for four years, steep rate hikes set to take effect under the National Flood Insurance Program. The increases are intended to help balance the books for the program, which provides subsidized flood insurance because the cost on the open market is so high. As of June, the program was $24 billion in the red.
But steep rate increases could price homeowners out of their homes and destroy property values, making them impossible to sell, Menendez argued.
WASHINGTON --Dave Cole, a former White House aide and Obama campaign staffer, will enter the race for Congress in South Jersey’s second district, setting up a Democratic primary for the right to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo.
Cole, a software engineer who lives in Mantua, Gloucester County, said he will make a formal announcement next week but he is already fund raising.
“My campaign is based on a simple belief: Everyone who wants a job should be able to find one. And everyone who works hard should be able to provide for their families. That's a strong middle class, and it's what I'm fighting for,” Cole wrote in a fund raising appeal.
WASHINGTON --The State of the Union is remarkable as much for its pomp and symbolism as it is for the policy items it includes (many of which never see the light of day).
Here then, are some of the intriguing sights and sounds I caught Tuesday night, including a budget wonk meeting with a Duck Dynasty star and two rising Senators -- Cory Booker and Marco Rubio -- looking on together and perhaps harboring their own dreams of one day giving the big speech, instead of listening to it.
(We also covered some of the policy debate in our story today on the split reaction to President Obama's call to raise the minimum wage.)-- Booker, the New Jersey Democrat attending his first State of the Union, sat next to Rubio (R., Fla.). Would have LOVED to have heard that conversation. Two young, dynamic figures, both considered rising voices in their parties with cross-cultural appeal watching a president who was once renowned for those very same qualities.
WASHINGTON – In football, Congressman Jon Runyan (R., N.J.) wrote last week, it was at least clear who his opponents were.
In Washington, the ex-Eagles lineman writes that he couldn’t even count on that much (though he says he carried around a list of fellow Republicans who he felt had hypocritically scorned New Jersey’s plea for aid after superstorm Sandy).
“Individual personalities and self-serving strategies had become the focus of our attention — a classic example, you could say, of guys playing to get to the Pro Bowl rather than the Super Bowl,” Runyan wrote in a Politico Magazine essay published Friday, his first extensive public comments on his decision not to seek re-election after two terms.
WASHINGTON – New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez on Friday questioned the anonymous sources behind the latest report of a federal investigation into his work and said he had provided no special help to two Ecuadorians wanted on embezzlement charges in their home country.
“A year after a false smear campaign was launched against me, once again we see anonymous sources,” Menendez, a Democrat, told reporters in New Jersey. “I’d like these people to come forward but we’re back to anonymous sources making ridiculous allegations.”
The "smear campaign" refers to a report from late 2012 on the conservative Web site The Daily Caller, which cited an anonymous e-mailers unsubstantiated accusations about Menendez visiting prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. Those allegations did not withstand scrutiny -- some women said they had been bribed to lie and support the accusation -- though other ethical questions did emerge, were documented and remain unresolved.
WASHINGTON – Cory Booker has surprised many people here as a U.S. Senator, because the famous Democrat has actively avoided the spotlight in his first three months on the job.
He has not given any major speeches, he sidesteps interview requests from the national media and at one recent press conference jam-packed with lawmakers, he spoke last and spoke for just seven seconds – enough time to say he supports the bill and fade back behind his more senior Senate peers.
But Booker is stepping out of his self-imposed strait jacket as he pushes for an extension of emergency unemployment benefits. He has 11(!) public events planned Friday and Saturday throughout New Jersey to promote the cause, and last week gave the most impassioned public comments of his tenure at a press conference on the same issue.
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D., W. Va.), said Thursday that the agency overseeing the George Washington bridge has shown "zero evidence" that the Fort Lee lane closures were "to conduct a legitimate traffic study."
Authority officials themselves called the closures an "aberrational" event.
Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, had sent questions to the Port Authoriy of New York and New Jersey, seeking answers about the September lane closures that have created a political firestorm around Gov. Christie and his staff.