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Occurrences in the Congressional Record

Entry Title Date
The Castro Regime’S Ongoing Violations Of Civil And Political Rights July 18, 2016
Christopher Smith, R-NJ
"Mr. Speaker, it has been one year and eight months since President Obama announced a major change in our country’s policy towards Cuba. It has been eleven months since Secretary Kerry visited Havana and reopened our embassy. And it has been nearly four months since our President visited Cuba. Clearly, a lot has changed in just over a year and a half. But for the people of Cuba, what has changed? At a hearing I convened last week, we examined the sorry state of civil and political rights in the Castro brothers’ Cuba, and how, despite all the promises by this administration that an opening to Cuba will lead to a greater opening domestically for the Cuban people we still see political repression—including, it must be noted, repression directed at the Afro-Cuban population. This is not the first time this subcommittee has expressed concern about the lack of openness to democracy and dissent in Cuba. In fact, one of our witnesses, the courageous Dr. Oscar Biscet, offered dramatic testimony before this subcommittee in February of 2012, when he testified via telephone from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana after evading the Cuban police to get there. Likewise, on February 5, 2015 we held a hearing entitled “Human Rights in Cuba: An opportunity squandered,” wherein we asked whether the Obama administration had used the considerable leverage that it wields to seek to better the condition of the Cuban people, or whether it was squandering the opportunity. Since then, our fear that the administration has not been pushing sufficiently for the release of political prisoners and other human rights concerns has only grown, with the focus on Obama’s “legacy” instead of the Cuban people. For example, when President Obama made his visit to Cuba, he and Raul Castro appeared in a photo op press conference. CNN’s Jim Acosta, much to his credit, asked the hard question about Cuba’s political prisoners. Raul Castro, much to his discredit, denied that there were ANY political prisoners in Cuba. “Give me a list of the political prisoners and I will release them immediately,” Castro taunted. “Just mention the list.” And President Obama just stood there. Well, Mr. President, I have a list, of more than fifty political prisoners compiled by my good friend and colleague Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. This is a list that President Obama should have had in breast pocket, ready to pull out when Raul Castro dared him to call his bluff. When I came to Congress in 1981, with Ronald Reagan, in the days of the old Soviet Union, one of the first issues I worked on was the plight of Soviet Jews and refusniks who were either imprisoned or not allowed to leave the Soviet Union. I recall George Shultz, when he was Secretary of State, saying that whenever he met with his Soviet counterpart, and from him down to the lowest State Department officer, he would bring with him a list of imprisoned dissidents and human rights advocates. Front and center of any discussion, whether about nuclear arms or tensions in the Middle East, Secretary Shultz would bring up dissidents, naming them by name. It was this constant focus on human rights that helped move the Soviet government to allow Jews and others to leave the Soviet Union, people such as the great Natan Sharansky. And I have another list of names, that of six members of the Cuban National Front of Civic Resistance who have applied for visas to come to the United States but for some reason, inexplicably, our State Department has refused to allow to visit the United States. These are: Orlando Gomez Echavarria Jose Alberto Alvarez Bravo Yaite Diasnell Cruz Sosa Yoel Bravo Lopez Lazaro Ricardo Fiallo Lopez Ciro Aleixis Casanova Perez I call upon Secretary Kerry to allow these brave people entry to the United States, so that they can meet with me and my colleagues and enlighten us further as to the current state of affairs in Cuba. Finally, I note that the administration has failed to secure the release of fugitives from justice such as Joanne Chesimard, who is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list, convicted of killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. The administration must insist upon the unconditional return of Chesimard and all other fugitives from justice, as well as demand that the Castro regime respect the civil and political rights of the Cuban people, before making any further concessions. And to underscore the point, unconditional means unconditional—there should be no “swap” whereby we exchange convicted Cuban spies Ana Montes or Kendall Meyers for these fugitives as a concession to the Castro regime. The effect of that would be to trade Americans who have committed crimes in the United States for other Americans who have committed crimes in the United States, demoralizing our intelligence community further in the process. With that, I want to turn to our witnesses, noting as I do that last week, on July 13, it was the anniversary of the tugboat massacre of 1994, when 37 victims, including 11 children, were killed by the regime. How little has changed for the Cuban people."
Recognizing Pottstown Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey R. Sparagana July 15, 2016
Ryan Costello, R-PA
"For the past 23 years, Dr. Sparagana has held a variety of teaching, administrative, and coaching positions in the Pottstown School District. He was appointed superintendent in December 2012, demonstrating outstanding leadership during what his colleagues described as “the most tumultuous period of change” in the District’s 177-year history. It was a period that saw the District revise attendance boundaries, close one elementary school and renovate four others, and realign the Middle School to include fifth grade. Innovation, a commitment to academic excellence and accountability and an incredible ability to collaborate with teachers, parents and the community were hallmarks of Dr. Sparagana’s tenure. Those traits undoubtedly contributed to Pottstown earning national accolades for its PEAK program, which ensures students start kindergarten properly prepared for a lifetime of learning. Pottstown students also benefit from a healthy living program, one of just 20 comprehensive high school programs in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, virtual and alternative learning academies for customized instruction and an active Foundation for Pottstown Education, which provides supplemental funding for unique educational opportunities."
Rare Pediatric Priority Review Voucher Program July 15, 2016
G. Butterfield, D-NC
"The Creating Hope Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2012 as part of the PDUFA reauthorization, expanded the cost-neutral Food and Drug Administration (FDA) priority review voucher (PRV) program, allowing pharmaceutical companies to expedite FDA review of more profitable drugs in return for developing treatments for rare diseases. The Creating Hope Act was reauthorized for Fiscal Year 2016 through the budget agreement passed at the end of last year, but is scheduled to expire soon. The Butterfield-McCaul bill would reauthorize the program, clear the way for more treatments to reach the people that need them most, and clarify the scope of the program to include diseases like Sickle Cell Anemia."
Adjutant General Collins Of Mississippi Announces Retirement July 8, 2016
Steven Palazzo, R-MS
"Currently overseeing the Mississippi Military Department and serving as the commander of the Mississippi Army and Air National Guard, Collins will retire his time in uniform after 35 years of loyal service to Mississippi and the United States. A Booneville, Mississippi native, General Collins was appointed as the adjutant general on January 11, 2012, by Governor Phil Bryant and is in charge of 12,275 Citizen Soldiers and Airmen."
Conference Report On S. 524, Comprehensive Addiction And Recovery Act Of 2016 July 8, 2016
Fred Upton, R-MI
"The simple truth is that we are in the midst of a real epidemic. Nearly every 12 minutes, someone in America dies of a drug overdose. The CDC reports over a quarter billion opioid prescriptions were written in the year 2012. The abuse of prescription painkillers and heroin has impacted, virtually, every single community. It is an epidemic that has no boundaries and does not discriminate. In my State of Michigan, we are seeing 10 times as many deaths today as there were 15 years ago. Sadly, the number continues to surge; but behind every statistic is a person who was loved, part of a family and community, and, yes, who was lost too soon."

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