2017-06-28 / Political Page

I On Politics


Republicans staged a strong campaign in recent years, promising to get rid of any traces of Obamacare at the first opportunity that presented itself. Yet here we are, six months into 2017, and Republican leaders are still struggling to find the votes to cut billions of dollars from the budget by cutting Medicaid, which helps the poor.

At the beginning of the week, the past Monday’s reports in newspapers, radio and TV showed GOP senators were revealing some trouble in finding the votes to slash Medicaid. Democrats were united in wanting to maintain the status quo, so Republicans would have to find the votes to kill Obamacare themselves.

But the problem is that while the Democrats are standing firm to save Obamacare, the Republicans will have trouble finding some votes to kill it. The Republicans, who have 52 members in the Senate – and need every one of them to stamp out Obamacare – were in trouble because GOP senators aren’t committing their votes to go along with the program.

Among the leaders of the Republican bloc forming the group of lawmakers straying from the GOP fold in this split are: Senators Rand Paul (Kentucky), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Lee (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wisconsin) and Dean Heller (Nevada). Among others in the Senate critical of the move and reportedly leaning to join this group is Senator Susan Collins (Maine).

Meanwhile, the bill has been getting poor marks on both sides of the aisle in the Senate.

Republican President Donald Trump aligned himself with the GOP group seeking to scrap one of former President Barack Obama’s most meaningful acts. If Republican plans work out, and they are successfully rid of Obamacare, they intend to have a replacement bill in place before July 4.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D) was quoted as saying, “There’s no way on God’s Earth that this bill should be passed this week.” He added, according to some press reports, that not enough about the pending bill is known. “We need a serious discussion, and I’m quite confident that every member of the Democratic caucus would want to hold that discussion.”

U.S Senator Charles Schumer, the Senate Minority leader, characterized the replacement bill as “devastating to the middle class,” and added, “It kills the middle class and gives money to the wealthy.” On the GOP side, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, of Maine said, “I have very serious concerns about the bill,” anticipating Medicaid cuts. U.S. Senator Rand Paul said Republicans need to take a closer look at the bill.

Reportedly, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said the bill will cut coverage for millions of Americans while Trump’s White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway and Health Secretary Tom Price said the bill does not make huge cuts to Medicaid but may decrease premiums.

CROWLEY PLEA TO FEDS: ‘DON’T DEPORT 9/11 WORKER’: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) has sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services urging them to stop deportation efforts against a Queens man who aided in the cleanup of the World Trade Center site after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Carlos Humberto Cardona fled violence in Colombia nearly three decades ago, according to reports, and has been living in the United States with his wife, a U.S. citizen, since. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. immigration officials have previously determined Mr. Cardona was not an immediate priority for deportation.

Cardona is seeking a state clemency bid against his deportation because of ongoing serious medical issues he has due to the cleanup work he did at the World Trade Center site, and he’s being held at the Hudson County Correctional Facility in New Jersey, Crowley said.

“The immigration enforcement and deportation policies that the Department of Homeland Security has undertaken since the beginning of the year have struck fear and dismay into the hearts of my constituents, and this is just the latest in a long line of troubling actions,” Chairman Crowley wrote. “Deporting Mr. Cardona would send a chilling message, not just to the immigrants who call our country home, but to all who would help when their country calls on them. This is not what the United States represents.”

Crowley is drafting legislation to ensure that each and every 9/11 cleanup worker is able to continue living and receiving medical treatment in the U.S., free from the threat of deportation.

In his letter to Secretary Kelly, Director Homan, and Acting Director McCarment, dated June 20, Crowley added that:

“After much debate, Congress permanently established the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to provide medical monitoring and treatment to these workers – an initiative that was sorely needed to fulfill our promises and show our respect to these workers who played an integral role at such a difficult time.

“Mr. Cardona is deserving of our thanks – not the cold shoulder. It is unconscionable to deport a man who responded in our country’s time of need, who suffers chronic health conditions as a result, and whose treatment and care would be severely diminished should he be deported.

“The immigration enforcement and deportation policies that the Department of Homeland Security has undertaken since the beginning of the year have struck fear and dismay into the hearts of my constituents, and this is just the latest in a long line of troubling actions. As just one example, there have been numerous reports of Immigration and Customs Enforcement presence at courthouses, including just recently near my district targeting a potential victim of human trafficking. These actions, targeting the most vulnerable in our communities and at sensitive locations, must come to a stop.”

ELIZABETH CROWLEY ON OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS HEARING : On June 19, the City Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations heard important legislation that would “root out fraud and waste at the Human Resources Administration and Department of Homeless Services. This bill, Introduction 1591, would create an Inspector General’s office within the Department of Investigation, charged with oversight exclusively over these agencies, its employees, and policies,” stated Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley.

“Much to my disappointment, DOI representatives declined to come and provide testimony on what I believe will ultimately reform HRA practices that are failing this city. HRA employs thousands of people and accounts for 13% of the city’s budget – two significant factors that call for enhanced oversight.

“Given this, in addition to the climbing number of homeless New Yorkers and dangerous conditions in shelters across the city, I would have expected the administration to join today’s conversation. I hope that moving forward they engage in this important effort to combat our city’s homelessness crisis.”

CROWLEY ON BICAMERAL EMOLUMENTS LAWSUIT: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D–NY) issued the following statement after House and Senate Democrats filed a lawsuit against President Trump for violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution:

“President Trump’s conflicts of interest are hurting American families who need the White House devoted to fighting for a better economy, higher paying jobs, and our security. Whether it is appeasing foreign adversaries or renegotiating trade deals, the American people deserve to know if the president is making critical policy decisions for his own benefit or for theirs.

“This lawsuit could force President Trump to abandon his hotel and business interests – which we know foreign governments see as a way to curry favor with the administration – and instead focus solely on the helping the hardest-working men and women.

“The founding fathers knew that the American people would be in jeopardy if federal officeholders, specifically the president, were influenced by foreign interests when making policy decisions. The Foreign Emoluments Clause was included in the Constitution to protect against that risk and ensure that Congress and the American people knew of any monetary or non-monetary benefits received by the president. We have filed this lawsuit to protect that critical protection enshrined in the Constitution.”

CROWLEY IN RECOGNITION OF WORLD REFUGEE DAY: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement in recognition of World Refugee Day:

“Today, we recognize the unthinkable hardships that children, families, and the elderly who have been forced to flee their homes because of acts of violence and war face when trying to find security, stability, and solace in new countries.

“Our nation has always served as a haven for refugees, and we should continue that tradition by welcoming and supporting them – now more than ever as refugee communities are at risk of being marginalized by the divisive politics of the Trump administration. In honor of this tradition, I’m proud to join my colleagues in support of the World Refugee Day Resolution to reaffirm our American values and our leadership in promoting the safety, health, and well-being of those fleeing oppression and hardship.”

GIANARIS ON GOVERNOR CUOMO’S MTA PROPOSAL: NYS Senator Michael Gianaris released the following statement: “The MTA crisis is the result of a lack of both accountability and resources, which my ‘Better Trains, Better Cities’ plan would address. I applaud the governor’s proposal to create more accountability within the MTA Board. No solutions will be complete, however, unless we also address the historic underfunding that led us to the current emergency.

“Governor Cuomo is correct. The MTA needs more funding. Now is not the time to point fingers, it is the time to find solutions. My ‘Better Trains, Better Cities’ plan would provide the funds needed to repair and maintain the system.”

STATE SENATE APPROVES ADDABBO BILL ON VETS’ ORGANIZATIONS VIOLATIONS GRACE PERIOD: In order to help veterans’ organizations avoid hefty fines for minor building and other code violations, NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. is continuing to push his legislation (S.3072) to provide these groups with 120 days to fix problems before fines are assessed. The bill was recently approved with a unanimous vote by the full State Senate.

“Community veterans’ posts that serve the needs of former servicemen and women often have bars, kitchens and other facilities in their buildings which may fall under the jurisdiction of various municipal codes and agencies,” said Addabbo (D–Howard Beach). “Sometimes, code violations are identified that the veterans’ organizations don’t know about, and certainly never intended, and they are slapped with heavy fines that they cannot afford to pay without seriously jeopardizing the continued operation of the posts. Given the value of these organizations to our communities, and the exceptional work they do on behalf of veterans who have served our country, I believe they should be given a chance to make necessary changes before being fined.”

The legislation was crafted by Addabbo, after a veterans’ organization in his district was assessed almost $5,000 in fines because it housed an ice machine and was therefore classified as a food establishment. The Forest Hills American Legion Post on Metropolitan Avenue was also fined for failing to have a sink at an outdoor barbecue event.

“This warning period of 120 days would not apply to serious violations that cause an immediate threat to safety or health, or that violate the alcoholic beverage control law,” said Addabbo, who is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs. “This legislation represents a good faith effort to aid veterans’ organizations that had no intention of violating the law and that just need a bit of time to correct the problems identified. I think it’s the least we can do for men and women who put their lives on the line for our country and on our behalf.”

Addabbo noted that many veterans’ organizations operate on a volunteer basis, with limited budgets, and do not receive a great deal of public funding support. “Many groups depend on their own veteran membership to help keep their organizations afloat and big municipal fines could mean the difference between a post staying open or closing,” Addabbo said. “My legislation doesn’t seek to give any group a free ride, or to turn a blind eye to serious violations. It is simply intended to set up a reasonable period of time for veterans to rectify problems at their facilities and continue serving their fellow servicemen and servicewomen.”

Now that the bill has passed the State Senate, it is under review by the Assembly Committee on Veterans Affairs. The legislation is sponsored in that house by Assemblyman Mike Miller.

MENG RE-FILES BILL TO BAN SALF OF EXPIRED BABY FORMULA: U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) founder and co-Chair of the Congressional Kids Safety Caucus, reintroduced the Infant Formula Protection Act. The measure would prevent pharmacies, supermarkets, convenience stores, and other establishments from selling expired baby formula. Shockingly, this practice is not only legal but widespread, as there is no federal law to ban the sale of expired baby formula.

“It is mind boggling that in 2017 it is legal for stores to sell expired baby formula,” said Meng. “As a parent, I find that reprehensible, and have introduced the Infant Formula Protection Act every term I’ve been in Congress to correct this glaring error in the law. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support my common-sense legislation.”

Expired baby formula puts infants at risk because the product loses its nutrient quality over time. Formula consumed after the expiration date may not provide babies with adequate nutrition for health and proper development, Meng explained.

Meng’s bill, H.R. 2791, would make it illegal for retail establishments to sell baby formula after the product’s “use by” date has passed. Stores that fail to comply could be fined up to $200,000. The measure is currently pending before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

The Congressional Kids Safety Caucus, launched shortly after Meng was elected to Congress in 2013, is the first bipartisan coalition in the House that promotes child-safety issues.

CROWLEY INTROS WIESEL GENOCIDE AND ATROCITIES PREVENTION ACT: Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D–NY), along with co-sponsor Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), introduced the bipartisan Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2017 to improve U.S. efforts to prevent mass atrocities. Named after the courageous Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp survivor, the legislation honors the legacy of Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and his life work to fight evil around the world.

“Atrocities and violence committed over the last century and today, make it all the more important that our government and leaders take steps to detect and prevent atrocities before they start in the first place,” said Chairman Crowley. “Once major conflict breaks out it becomes much more difficult to address, so developing the structures needed to prevent conflict is essential. We need a framework to stop violence before it spirals out of control and leads to more suffering.”

“From the Holocaust to South Sudan, from Burma to Syria, the world has witnessed far too many genocides and mass atrocity crimes,” said Rep. Wagner. “The true horror is that most of these devastating crises are preventable. My heart aches for those whose lives are being torn apart, and the fact that over 65 million people are currently fleeing preventable crises makes clear that the U.S. government must improve its response to these conflicts.”

The Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2017, companion legislation to S. 1158, would establish an interagency Mass Atrocities Task Force to strengthen the U.S. government’s atrocity prevention and response efforts. The legislation encourages the director of National Intelligence to include atrocity crime information in his or her annual report to Congress; authorizes training for U.S. Foreign Service officers on early signs of atrocities and transitional justice measures; and authorizes the Complex Crises Fund to support programs to prevent emerging or unforeseen crises overseas.

Genocide and atrocity crimes—including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing—are shocking acts of violence perpetrated by governments and non-state actors, resulting in the murders of millions of civilians and other innocent persons across the globe Crowley explained. The legislation establishes that the official policy of the United States is to regard the prevention of genocide and other atrocity crimes as a core national security interest and moral responsibility, and to develop a government-wide prevention strategy, the lawmaker explained.

Chairman Crowley and Congresswoman Wagner are joined by Reps. Randy Weber (RTX), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Luke Messer (R-IN), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Claudia Tenney (R-NY), Jim McGovern (DMA), Mike Coffman (R-CO), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), William Keating (D-MA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Erik Paulsen (R-MN), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Charlie Crist (D-FL), Tom Rooney (R-FL), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Carol Shea-Porter (DNH), Bonnie Coleman (D-NJ), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Jack Rosen (D-NV) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD).

CROWLEY ON REINTRO OF VOTING RIGHTS ADVANCEMENT ACT: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement on the reintroduction of the Voting Rights Advancement Act:

“Four years ago, the Shelby County v. Holder ruling inflicted one of the most devastating blows to our democracy in recent American history. Today, I’m pleased to join colleagues to introduce legislation to restore full protections to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“The fight for voting rights is as urgent today as it was decades ago. Our actions will ensure that the Voting Rights Act remains one of the fundamental pillars of our nation’s democracy, and that every voter, no matter where they live, is able to participate in our democracy to the fullest extent.

“I call on my Republican colleagues to join us to restore the critical safeguards that have protected Americans’ right to vote for decades. We owe it to those who came before us to ensure that their sacrifices are not just a footnote in history.”

CROWLEY ON DE BLASIO’S ROADMAP TO CLOSING RIKERS ISLAND: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement of “Smaller, Safer, Fairer: A Roadmap to Closing Rikers Island”:

“For far too long, both inmates and corrections officers at Rikers Island have lived through an untenable situation. Shutting down this outdated facility in favor of smaller, more modern and humane facilities is a complex endeavor, but the absolute right thing to do. The process will be long and difficult, but I applaud Mayor de Blasio for putting forth a sensible roadmap that will get us there. It is heartening to see a groundswell of support both in government and in our communities for achieving this long-sought goal and I look forward to working with the city on ways to better deal with our inmate population, not just in the long-term but in the short term – as we continue efforts to address mental health issues, disciplinary issues, and engagement between officers and inmates.”

CROWLEY STATEMENT ON ANNIVERSARY OF TITLE IX: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement on the 45th Anniversary of Title IX: “For more than four decades, Title IX has served as a linchpin in the ongoing effort to achieve true gender equality in our education system. But the importance of the law goes far beyond getting women onto a field or in a game – it gives every young girl in America the opportunity reach her full potential inside the classroom as well. Empowering women is critical to tackling the challenges before us, and it cannot be lost that many young women find early confidence and self-esteem through sports and in the classroom.

“At a time when congressional Republicans and President Trump are more focused on closing doors of opportunity than opening them, it is more important than ever to build on the successes of Title IX and continue to empower and support the millions of young women across our country.”

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