September 25, 2018

Every day, no matter how dangerous, our firefighters run into burning buildings. Every time they rush to the scene of a fire, accident, medical emergency, environmental disaster, or terror attack on our homeland, they put other lives ahead of their own. You are our heroes, and we are all grateful.

I am honored to receive the endorsement of the NJ FMBA today, just as I was honored to stand next to scores of firefighters, EMTs, and dispatchers at this very Fire House to accept your endorsement back in 2016. That endorsement was a show of support that meant the world to me.

We stood right here, and, Eddie, you told me that you’d always get my back. And I said to you then that my job is to always get yours. I’ve taken that responsibility very seriously, since the day I was sworn in.

I said then that I would fight to ensure that our firefighters and law enforcement had the equipment, resources, and training they needed to do their jobs safely, to protect them and our communities, and that I would actively partner with towns and local fire and police departments to claw back federal resources to meet those needs. I said then that we’d use every tool at our disposal, every arrow in our quiver, to keep Jersey families safe.

And, in this era, where too many people, including those in public life, have forgotten all that you do, the risks you take, and the respect you deserve, I promised that you would have a new champion in the halls of Congress.

While there’s plenty left to do, I’ve worked hard every day, since then, to live up to those commitments—and I’m proud of the progress we’ve made together.

First, I immediately joined the bipartisan Congressional Fire Services Caucus and the bipartisan Law Enforcement Caucus, which the chairman of that Caucus, the great Bill Pascrell, educated me about right here. I’m proud to work with anyone—Democrat or Republican; local, state, or federal lawmaker—to support legislation that supports our firefighters and cops.

As many of you know, in Congress, I’m the Co-Chair of a group called the Problem Solvers Caucus. Our group is an equal number of Democrats and Republicans who meet each week and work together to develop bipartisan solutions on pressing issues—including keeping our nation safe.

When I think about what it means to solve problems, I often look to the example of the firefighters and police around me—of leaders like Ed and members of Teaneck FMBA Local 42 and Local 242—who solve problems every day in our communities, often in the most high-risk, high-stress situations imaginable—situations where politics never get in the way.

Second, I also co-sponsored the bipartisan Firefighter Cancer Registry Act with Bill and others, which requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, to create a national cancer registry for firefighters to help find ways to mitigate risk. I was happy to see both sides of the aisle come together when, just two months ago, this bill was signed into law.

And I joined Democratic and Republican colleagues in successfully fighting to delay the harmful “Cadillac Tax,” which, by taxing high-value health insurance plans, threatens the health insurance of firefighters and others in high-risk professions, and increases the taxes they must pay.

Third, I’ve introduced two critical bipartisan bills to take the tools away from those looking to do us harm. First, my bipartisan Darren Drake Combatting 21st Century Weapons of Terror Act—named after the Fifth District’s own Darren Drake, a 32-year old from New Milford whose life was cut short last year when a terrorist turned a rented pickup truck into a weapon of terror—requires background checks on those who rent trucks to stop lone wolf, ISIS-inspired terror. And my bipartisan Freezing Assets of Domestic Terrorists and Enemy Recruits Act—known as the FASTER Act—works to seize the funds of homegrown terrorists.

But, to me, working together means more than just working across party lines in Washington. It is also bringing together those on the local, state, and federal level to get things done. Since being sworn in, I’ve worked closely with our local and county officials to take steps towards ensuring our first responders have all of the information they need about hazardous and harmful materials traveling through our towns, just in case, God forbid, an attack or accident occurs, an issue Senator Weinberg and our County Executive have been on the front lines for years. It’s critical to so many of our towns, including right here in Teaneck, where the rail tracks are literally just feet away.

This past May, I was proud to join with our County Executive and CSX leaders to announce CSX’s current series of first responder training exercises to improve the safety of New Jersey’s rails and ensure New Jersey first responders are properly trained and equipped to mitigate the impact of potential emergencies or accidents. This is especially important in a district like ours, one so close to one of the biggest terrorist targets in the world.

Finally, I’m proud that, since I’ve been in office, we’ve made great progress towards clawing more of the federal tax dollars we already send to Washington back – too much in my opinion — to our communities to get our first responders, towns, fire departments, and police departments the training and resources they need.

Historically, Moocher States like Mississippi have received $4.38 cents for every tax dollar they send to Washington, while our District has received only 33 cents. It’s a joke. We’re paying for their roads, their fire departments, their schools, all at the expense of our own.

That’s why two of my very first official events were to help our towns and first responders sign up for SAFER grants.

Shortly after, right here in Teaneck, I was proud to announce that the Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps had received an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) worth more than $128,000. Just two weeks ago, I was proud to announce that six different fire departments across the Fifth District—departments in Hackensack, Hillsdale, Demarest, Belvidere, and two in Ringwood—received Assistance to Firefighter Grants totaling more than $739,000.

Overall, since I’ve entered office, the Fifth District has received more than $1.58 million in Assistance to Firefighters Grants, a 700% increase from previous years.

We’ve already clawed back 16 percent more than in recent years—that’s an extra $290 for every family in the District that helps us stay safe and lower taxes. Those are real dollars for roads, firetrucks, police officers—resources that can help towns lower property taxes and keep our families safe.

Our work is just beginning, but I am proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, and I’m honored to have your support in continuing the fight for the brave men and women—like those around me—who are on the front lines.

As we all know, much of your work goes on behind the scenes, so we can enjoy our beautiful and safe communities. Think of the dozens of accidents and fires that never made it to the front page of the newspaper because our firefighters quickly made it to the scene.

You quietly go about your jobs, even when being on call means being pulled away from your family at a moment’s notice to help one of our families. Or when you have to miss that baseball game, because you’re working the overnight shift.

Rest assured, I recognize and appreciate the hard work and sacrifices you make every day, and I will always fight for you.

That’s what Jersey Values are all about—Fighting for those who fight for us.

Thank you again, Ed, and thank you to all FMBA members here in Jersey and across the country for always working to keep us safe. It’s an honor to have your support and to stand alongside you today. I look forward to working with you for years to come.

We live in the greatest country in the world, and with you getting our backs, I know that our best days will always be ahead of us.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God continue to bless our great state of New Jersey and the United States of America.