2017-05-31 / Political Page

I On Politics

TRUMP PROBE CONTINUES, KUSHNER IMPLICATED: President Donald Trump returned home from the first overseas journey of his administration last week to find some pesky unfinished business – Russian intrusion into the 2016 election – still waiting to be dealt with.

While Trump was still unpacking following last Saturday’s arrival, taking time only to take bows for how successful his European excursion was, the name of Jared Kushner, his son in-law, popped up frequently. Kushner, a close adviser to Trump, reportedly wanted to create what was described as a “back channel communications link between the Trump transition term and Russian officials in Moscow” – or a more private link.

The ongoing probe by the FBI, now being directed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is targeting the period between April and November of last year, when associates of Trump made at least 18 undisclosed telephone calls to Kremlin associates. Ex-FBI director James Comey headed the effort until he was fired by Trump. Recently, Robert Mueller, an FBI veteran, was appointed Special Counsel to continue the investigation into whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russia to affect Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton.

CHAIRMAN CROWLEY UPDATE ON GOP’S TRUMPCARE BILL SCORE: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D–NY) issued the following statement after the Congressional Budget Office released an updated score of the Republican American Health Care Act of 2017 (H.R. 1628)

“It is abundantly clear why Republicans rushed their health care repeal bill through the House earlier this month: it will have a devastating impact on working Americans, children, seniors, veterans, and those with pre-existing conditions.

“With 23 million Americans set to lose coverage, this bill will do serious harm to our economy and country. Additionally, this score makes clear that the Republican repeal bill would destabilize the insurance market – a grave threat to the health of Americans.

“Republicans should abandon their politically motivated obsession with repealing the Affordable Care Act and instead work with Democrats to find commonsense solutions to improve health care in our country. But until that occurs, I will continue to fight against any health care plan that would force working Americans to pay more for lesser quality care.”

MALONEY ON UPDATED CBO SCORE FOR TRUMPCARE: Following the Congressional Budget Office’s release of an updated analysis of the American Health Care Act, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) released the following statement:

“The new Congressional Budget Office analysis released today confirms our worst fears about Trumpcare. This backwards-looking bill strips away coverage from 23 million Americans, imposes a massive age tax on people over 50, steals from Medicare, and is catastrophic for people with preexisting conditions who could see premiums skyrocket. No matter who you are or what you earn, the Republican health care bill will cost you more for worse coverage. It’s time for Republicans to drop their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and work with Democrats on a real plan to make improvements to the ACA and build on the progress we’ve made over the last few years.”

MALONEY, PALLONE REINTRODUCE BILL TO HELP INDONESIAN REFUGEES SEEKING ASYLUM: Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (D–NY) and Frank Pallone (D–NJ) reintroduced legislation that would allow certain Indonesian refugees to reopen asylum claims if they were previously rejected for missing the one-year filing deadline. Indonesian Christians who fled their native country to avoid religious persecution are now facing deportation after years of living, working and paying taxes in the United States. The legislation reintroduced on May 26 the Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act, would provide a legal avenue for these individuals to reapply for asylum in the U.S.

“How can we turn our backs on those fleeing religious persecution? The United States must provide refuge for, and support a process that fairly considers their claims,” said Maloney. “These individuals came to this country to escape extreme violence born out of hate and intolerance for their religious beliefs. We must not force them to return to that brutality due to a paperwork error. This bill does not, in itself, grant asylum, but does prevent families from being ripped apart by removing a procedural barrier. I’m proud to reintroduce this necessary and humanitarian bill with Rep. Pallone.”

“Recently in my congressional district we have seen four men who fled religious persecution in Indonesia face detainment, with one already being deported,” said Pallone. “These individuals have become valuable members of their community and it is a tragedy for them and their families to be split apart. I am proud to re-introduce legislation, along with my colleagues, which would reopen the opportunity for these individuals to apply for asylum here in the U.S. and avoid having to return to religiously motivated violence and intolerance.”

The Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act would grant qualifying Indonesians whose asylum applications were denied solely based upon failure to meet the one-year application filing deadline an additional two-year window to reopen their asylum claims. The legislation was first introduced in the 112th Congress.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, many Indonesian Christians came to the U.S. on tourist visas when religious persecution in Indonesia escalated, resulting in extreme violence and destruction of Christian churches. Many of these families have lived, worked and paid taxes in the U.S. for years and now have children who are U.S. citizens. A number of these families have settled in areas surrounding Highland Park, New Jersey, where they have become a part of the community.

At the request of the U.S. government, many of these Indonesians registered with the government under a program requiring the registration of non-citizen males from certain countries following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Following this registration, the government began deportation proceedings against some Indonesians who had overstayed their visas. These deportations and threatened deportations have caused fear in the Indonesian community that family members will have to return to Indonesia, where they could again face religious persecution.

HEALTH INSPECTION LETTER GRADING FOR STREET FOOD VENDORS TO BECOME LAW: The Health Committee of the New York City Council voted to report out Intro 1456-a, a bill that would create an inspection letter grading system for street food vendors similar to the one now being used for restaurants. As a result of the May 23 meeting for a vote, and given the universal support for the measure, it was no surprise the bill passed unanimously by the full council. Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D–Forest Hills), the author of the legislation, stated:

“I cannot imagine someone not looking for a restaurant’s letter grade from our city’s Health Dept. before deciding whether or not to patronize a restaurant. The “A, B, C or GRADE PENDING” carries with it real significance. The letter grade has become absolutely essential as it relates to restaurants. Yet every day, countless numbers of people in New York are expected to purchase food from a street vendor without knowing to a general degree the cart’s compliance with the NYC Health Code. The customers who buy food from a street vendor deserve to have the same ability to make an informed decision as patrons of restaurants. Intro 1456 would mandate that the Health Dept. expand letter grading to street food vendors and that it should mirror the restaurant grading system as closely as possible.”

The law will take effect in 9 months. During this period of time, the Health Dept. will create the rules and procedures necessary for the implementation of this new law.

VAN BRAMER ENDORSED FOR REELECTION BY QUEENS DEM PARTY, CROWLEY, AND LEAGUE OF INDEPENDENT THEATER: New York City Council Majority Leader and Councilman for the 26th District Jimmy Van Bramer was officially endorsed for reelection by the Queens County Democratic Party. Majority Leader Van Bramer was also endorsed by Queens County Democratic Party Chairman and Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Representative Joe Crowley.

“I am grateful to have the support of the Queens County Democratic Party and Representative Crowley,” Majority Leader Van Bramer said. “The members of the Queens County Democratic Party are leaders in their communities throughout the Borough and I am honored to have their support.”

Majority Leader Van Bramer was also endorsed on May 24 by the League of Independent Theater – an organization of theater professionals in New York City advocating for independent and off-off Broadway Theater.

“I am proud to accept the endorsement of the League of Independent Theater,” said Van Bramer. “As Chairman of the Cultural Committee in the City Council, I have made it a priority to fight on behalf of the arts and cultural community in New York City. The League of Independent Theater has been a strong advocate for continued public support for the arts and I am delighted to once again have their support for reelection,” said Van Bramer.

Today’s endorsements add to the already robust support for Van Bramer’s reelection, including endorsements from SEIU Local 32BJ, the New York Working Families Party, the United Federation of Teachers, and Assemblyman Michael DenDekker.

The Democratic primary elections in New York City will take place on September 12, with the General Election on November 7.

CROWLEY ON TRUMP’S DEVASTATING BUDGET PROPOSAL: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley issued the following statement on President Trump’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget:

“President Trump’s budget fails hard-working Americans in every way imaginable.

“This proposal shows that President Trump is in full retreat from his campaign promise to grow and protect the middle class, strengthen the economy, and support working men and women. Robbing Medicaid with a $610 billion cut to the critical health care program that cares for seniors, veterans, children, and the disabled isn’t sound policy for working America – it’s a ploy to boost President Trump’s bottom line and the profits of his billionaire friends. Cutting research programs, destroying investments for job-creating infrastructure, innovation, and clean energy programs, and making college more expensive will hinder economic growth for decades to come. This is simply unacceptable.

“For my home state of New York, President Trump’s budget packs a heavy hit. The $191 billion cut to a program that feeds hungry children will directly harm 41,000 families in my district, and cuts to Medicaid will cause more than 600,000 seniors in New York to face challenges getting the care they need. And eliminating a much-needed program that provides assistance to families and seniors with their home heating bills will hurt more than a million New Yorkers who have trouble staying warm through the winter.

“This is a slash-and-burn budget, and is yet one more example of how President Trump says one thing but does another. I hope my Republican colleagues will join Democrats in rejecting it and instead work with us to develop a budget that grows our economy, creates jobs, and makes the kind of investments that will strengthen our country and hardworking families everywhere.”

MALONEY: ‘TRUMP’S BUDGET A DISASTER FOR NY’: In response to the President’s final budget proposal for FY2018, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney released the following statement:

“President Trump’s proposed budget would be nothing short of a disaster for New York City and our country. The cruel and ignorant cuts proposed in this budget would devastate everything from cancer research and infrastructure improvements to affordable housing and public education.”

Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) added: “With its $1 trillion in cuts to basic food assistance, student loan programs, and Medicaid, along with changes to critical federal anti-poverty programs that would allow states to further limit aid to unemployed Americans, this budget is especially brutal to the people who have been left behind in our economy and are struggling to make ends meet. Even homeland security assistance to high priority targets like New York City is cut by nearly 25%.

“If this budget ever became reality, it would set our country back decades, kill jobs, and cause incalculable harm to tens of millions of our fellow Americans across the country,” added Maloney.

MENG BILL PUTS EPA IN CHARGE OF COMBATING AIRPLANE NOISE: In an effort to better mitigate excessive airplane noise, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D–Queens) reintroduced legislation that would take the job of combatting aircraft noise away from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and instead place the responsibility with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Quiet Communities Act of 2017 (H.R. 2539) would reopen the EPA’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC), which oversaw the nation’s efforts to mitigate noise pollution until it was defunded by the Reagan Administration in 1981 due to budget cuts. The bill would also require the EPA Administrator to conduct a study of airport noise and examine the FAA’s selection of noise measurement methodologies, health impact thresholds, and abatement program effectiveness.

“Queens and many other parts of the country continue to suffer from the effects of excessive airplane noise and the negative impact it has on people’s quality of life,” said Meng. “Shifting the job of noise mitigation from the FAA to the EPA would help us better address the problem, and the idea makes perfect sense. Aircraft noise is an environmental issue that can impact the health of Americans, and the EPA has overseen these types of noise issues in the past. The FAA’s lack of success in combating airplane noise illustrates the need for a different solution. I say we give the job back to the EPA,” said Meng.

Meng first introduced the Quiet Communities Act in 2015 during the last session of Congress and the measure gained a significant amount of traction. The legislation garnered 25 co-sponsors from among members of Congress whose districts across the country also struggle with excessive aircraft noise, and it spurred local and national conversations about reopening ONAC. In addition, New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand introduced a Senate version of the measure.

Current co-sponsors of Meng’s bill include Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Adam Smith (D-WA), Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Tom Suozzi (D-NY). All are members of the Quiet Skies Caucus, of which Meng is a founding member and former co-Chair.

Although airplane noise has long existed over Queens due to the proximity of New York’s airports, the increased sounds of jets significantly increased in 2012 when the FAA implemented new flight patterns over the borough. These new routes, which are for airplanes departing LaGuardia, have increased the frequency of flights over residential neighborhoods in Queens, and the substantial rise in aircraft noise has negatively impacted borough residents.

CROWLEY ON TRUMP’S ‘INTENT TO MANUFACTURE UNCERTAINTY IN U.S. HEALTH CARE MARKETS’: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley issued the following statement after the Trump administration requested a 90-day delay for an ongoing lawsuit to block the cost-sharing reduction payments included in the Affordable Care Act. This delay allows the administration to continue threats to end the required payments, bringing additional uncertainty to insurers that need to calculate rates for next year.

“These payments reduce costs for hardworking families – making it viable for millions of Americans to afford quality health coverage. By threatening to withhold payments each month, President Trump and Republicans are showing their true intent: sabotaging the Affordable Care Act, out of political obsession. This is a disastrous course that will put insurance markets at risk and raise premiums,” stated Crowley (D–Elmhurst/Bronx).

MALONEY REINTRODUCES BILL TO BETTER EXAMINE CONCERNS OF AMERICANS LIVING ABROAD: Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) co-Chair of the Americans Abroad Caucus, reintroduced the Commission on Americans Living Abroad Act to create an Executive Commission to comprehensively study and address the effects of federal policies on Americans living overseas.

“Americans living and working abroad are directly impacted by federal policy, and it’s long past time that the federal government listened to their concerns,” said Rep. Maloney. “I’ve heard from countless constituents who have faced problems related to voting, immigration, access to financial institutions, and taxation. We need to comprehensively study and address the effects of these federal policies, and listen to the concerns of all Americans. I hope that through creating this commission we will gain a better understanding of the issues and be better able to coordinate with these communities towards more robust representation.”

The Commission on Americans Living Abroad Act would create an Executive Commission with the main purpose of examining the concerns of Americans working and living abroad. The commission creates a 10-member panel to examine the impact of federal policymaking on U.S. citizens abroad. The resulting study would then be used by Congress and the Executive Branch when considering the best steps to engage the American community living abroad and ensure their voices are heard.

CROWLEY ON THE HOLY MONTH OF RAMADAN: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D–Queens/the Bronx) issued the following statement to celebrate the start of Ramadan.

“I want to extend my warm greetings to Muslim American families in Queens and the Bronx, and across the country, as the holy month of Ramadan begins. Ramadan marks a period of reflection, spirituality, and rejoicing for those observing in the United States and around the world. As Muslim Americans join together to celebrate this month of reflection, we are reminded of our shared American values of tolerance, inclusion and religious freedom. During this holy month, let’s embrace the spirit of Ramadan by celebrating the contributions of Muslim Americans, and rejecting violence and hateful rhetoric toward them in our country.”

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