2017-07-26 / Political Page

I On Politics

RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA COOLING: A monumental battle between President Donald Trump and Congress, highlighting Trump’s support of Russia and congressional efforts to sanction it, was anticipated at first. It was tested yesterday in Washington, as the House considered legislation imposing new financial sanctions on Russia and Iran. The measure was expected to be approved, despite Trump’s efforts to avoid it, but lawmakers had reinforced their position by requiring the vote to be held under “special expedited procedures for noncontroversial bills expected to pass with a two-thirds majority.” As of this writing on Tuesday, the day before the vote, we weren’t aware of the outcome, but were confident it would pass easily, even being equally confident it would survive a Trump effort to reject it. The ultimate result of the voting, which was held yesterday, is expected to appear in the next issue of the Gazette. Meanwhile, Trump was on the warpath in a story which appeared in last Sunday’s issue of the New York Daily News, repeating his demands that “illegal leaks” of stories involving him must stop. He cited one story that had “unnamed” current and former U.S. officials speaking about “the intercepts” of communications between Moscow and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. Also stories of his interactions with Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey, and “recently a new intelligence leak… against A.G. Jeff Sessions.” Trump declared, on Twitter of course, “These illegal leaks, like Comey’s, must stop!” The Daily News article mentioned these names in reference to various matters, including Trump’s positions on Russian-related issues “and prospects for U.S. Russia relations in a Trump administration.” Congress’ vote today (Tuesday) is on imposing new financial sanctions on Russia and Iran that would prevent President Donald Trump from making any changes favorable to Russia, according to Newsday. According to congressional sources, the story says, “The sanctions targeting Russia have drawn the most attention due to Trump’s persistent push for warmer relations with President Vladimir Putin,” as well as ongoing investigations into Russia’s “interference in the 2016 campaign.” Indications are that Congress will pass the bill before leaving Washington the August recess, virtually inviting a clash with Trump. But if Trump were to veto the bill, he runs a sure risk that Democrats and Republicans would overturn his action. Despite the noise and distractions from Trump and lobbyists, congress has maintained “unprecedented oversight” and control over negotiations. Last week, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) issued a statement saying, “The legislation ensures that both the Majority and Minority are able to exercise our oversight role over the administration’s implementation of sanctions. Other changes made to the bill will ensure effective and unified implementation among partners and make provisions more workable.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also issued a statement calling for the bill’s swift passage. Schumer said: “Given the many transgressions of Russia, and President Trump’s seeming inability to deal with them, a strong sanctions bill such as the one Democrats and Republicans have just agreed to is essential.”

CROWLEY ADDRESSES SENATE GOP’S FAILURE TO ADVANCE TRUMPCARE: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens) issued the following statement after Senate Republicans failed to garner enough support to pass their “disastrous” health care repeal bill: “The fight to secure Americans’ health care is far from over. For eight years, congressional Republicans have been fixated on one thing: dismantling the health care protections created by the Affordable Care Act and making health care much more expensive for working Americans. While it appears as if the latest iteration of Trumpcare, which would have stripped access to quality care from 22 million people, will not be voted on in the Senate, Democrats will resist any attempts to make health care harder to afford or of lesser quality for American families. “Republicans are now considering repealing the Affordable Care Act with no plan in place to ensure that millions of individuals do not lose access to necessary health care coverage. This is the height of irresponsibility. It is time for Republicans to join Democrats at the negotiating table to put forward health care improvements that will benefit the hardest-working among us and stabilize insurance coverage in the U.S.”

CROWLEY ON UNDISCLOSED TRUMP-PUTIN MEETING: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley released the following statement after reports surfaced that President Donald Trump held a second, undisclosed meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “It is deeply concerning that the White House would purposefully conceal this second meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin – especially given the number of inappropriate meetings senior Trump campaign held with Kremlin-aligned individuals during the (2016) campaign. The inability of the Trump White House to honestly detail their relationships with Russia highlights just how little they regard Americans’ right to transparency from their government. Americans have a right to know what was discussed during this meeting, why it occurred, and why it was kept secret. “Washington should be focusing on growing the economy, creating new, better-paying jobs, and expanding opportunities for all Americans. Instead, were constantly bombarded by scandals from the Trump White House. The Trump administration needs to come clean about all their contacts, relationships, and entanglements with Russia so Congress can focus on the hardest-working American families.”

CROWLEY ON HOUSE REPUBLICAN BUDGET PROPOSAL: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens) issued the following statement on the release of the House Republican budget: “With this budget proposal, House Republicans have abandoned all pretense of putting forward policies that help working American families. Between rigid cuts that will jeopardize the health and well-being of our economy, austerity measures that will punish the middle-class while lavishing tax cuts on the super-rich and multinational corporations, and ending the promise of Medicare payments for seniors, this budget should be called what it is: an out-right attack on working men and women. “To grow our economy, create better-paying jobs, and expand opportunities, Congress must invest in the programs that actually lift up all Americans like early education, college financial aid, on-thejob training, research, infrastructure, and health care – priorities sorely missing from the House Republican budget. Instead of leaving American families behind, Republicans should abandon this political exercise and instead work with Democrats to put forward a commonsense budget that boosts our economy in smart, proven and effective ways.”

STAVISKY APPLAUDS EXCELSIOR SCHOLARSHIP DEADLINE: As the July 21 deadline to apply for New York’s new Excelsior Scholarship approached, NYS Senator Toby Ann Stavisky reminded qualified residents to apply. “For years I have introduced legislation for free CUNY and SUNY tuition in order to make public higher education accessible to all. I am happy to see a similar program was included by the Governor in the budget this year,” Senator Stavisky said. “As the ranking member of the Higher Education Committee, I know how important a college degree is, particularly in this economic climate.” She encouraged all who qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship to apply before the July 21 deadline. Recipients of the Excelsior Scholarship may receive up to $6,470 or actual tuition, whichever is less. The Excelsior Scholarship is reduced if an applicant has or will receive any additional financial assistance for the academic year, including a New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) award and/or federal Pell grant. A recipient of an Excelsior Scholarship is eligible to receive award payments for up to two years of full-time undergraduate study in a program leading to an associate’s degree or four years of fulltime undergraduate study, or five years if the program of study normally requires five years in a program leading to a bachelor’s degree. You must remain in New York State after graduation for the same length of time you received the award. Failure to meet these requirements will result in the conversion of your award to a no-interest loan, Stavisky added. For more information, please visit https://www.hesc.ny.gov/excelsior/

PERALTA SECURES FUNDING FOR 82nd STREET ACADEMICS IN JACKSON HEIGHTS: State Senator Jose Peralta announced funding he helped secure in this year’s state budget to assist local schools. In this particular case, Peralta announced a $75,000 allocation for 82nd Street Academics, which will go to support the center’s initiative to complement public education with after-school programs that will provide students with the necessary tools to have access to higher education and educational opportunities. “Education is the key to success, and this is why we must ensure schoolchildren have access to programs that encourage them in taking steps toward college. It is never too early to start thinking about college and possible areas of study,” Peralta told some Middle School students from the 82nd Street Academics. “I am glad I was able to secure funds for this academic center that seeks to prepare students for college years in advance.” “We are surprised and grateful for Senator Peralta’s support of 82nd Street Academics. Any advocacy towards youth achievement in our neighborhood is appreciated. Our students are in a silent crisis – high school graduation rates of 65% and 38% high school graduation for English Language Learners,” Mallory Tompkins, Director of Instruction and Learning at 82nd Street Academics said. “Our students are not slow to learn, they are slow to receive the education all students deserve with normal class sizes. Senator Peralta’s grant will be used in our mission to protect the path to college for students of New York City.”

CROWLEY OPPOSES GOP $32M HEALTH CARE CUT: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement after the Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of the Senate Republicans’ latest version of Trumpcare: Congressional Republicans have failed each time they’ve put forward a new health care bill – and deservedly so, as stripping millions of Americans of their health care coverage and doubling premium costs would hurt hardworking families. This latest effort is their worst attempt yet, with 32 million Americans at risk of losing access to affordable and quality health care. This would be a devastating blow to families across the country. It must be rejected. “Democrats will keep fighting against this bill to protect the hardest-working Americans. It is time for Republicans to end their political obsession with the Affordable Care Act and work with Democrats to improve health care in our country.”

CROWLEY ANNOUNCES REINTRODUCTION OF ON-THE-JOB TRAINING ACT: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (DNY) announced the reintroduction of the On-The- Job Training Act of 2017, legislation that will expand employment opportunities for New Yorkers and other Americans. Crowley’s On-the- Job Training Act will authorize the Department of Labor to award competitive grants to establish and support on-the-job (OJT) training programs, which connect unemployed workers with local jobs and provide employers with subsidies to pay workers’ salaries while they receive training. “Putting New Yorkers and Americans across the country back to work and expanding opportunities to grow, compete, and succeed in today’s economy is my number one priority,” said Chairman Crowley. “We must take action now to close the skills gap and ensure our workers are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. My bill will help job-seekers gain new skills, retain employment, and encourage businesses to hire more individuals.” On-the-job training, which is carried out directly by employers or colleagues at the place of work, is one of the most effective ways of connecting job-seekers with practical skills needed for their careers. These programs have been proven successful among federal worker training programs. According to the Employment and Training Administration, in 2015, more than 80% of OJT participants still had their jobs after 9 months. Yet, despite OJT’s effectiveness and high employer interest in the program, it has yet to reach its full potential,” Crowley stated. “The On-The-Job Training Act will incentivize cities, school districts, colleges, and industry associations to set up OJT programs by establishing a distinct competitive grant program at the Department of Labor, as well as provide state and local agencies and others with support to recruit employers to participate in their programs, Crowley explained. He added that applicants will be able to tailor their programs to achieve specific goals, such as serving the long-termed unemployed or training workers in targeted fields, like green technology. Crowley’s On-the-Job Training Act has been endorsed by the National Skills Coalition and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

MALONEY MOURNS PASSING OF WOMEN’S RIGHTS CHAMPION BETTY DUKES: Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) mourns the death of Betty Dukes, the named plaintiff in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, the Supreme Court case that limited the availability of class action status for plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases, Maloney stated: “Betty Dukes became the face of 1.5 million women working at Wal-Mart who faced systematic discrimination in terms of pay and opportunities. Despite anti-discrimination language in their corporate handbooks, managers at Wal-Mart were overwhelmingly male and women faced a significant pay gap. Plaintiffs were able to demonstrate that women were 70% of the workforce but only 33% of the managers, that women were paid less in every region and that the pay gap widened over time for men and women hired at the same time. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court refused to look at Wal-Mart employment practices company-wide and made it much harder for employees of large corporations to bring class action lawsuits. By bringing her lawsuit, Betty Dukes helped reveal the critical need for an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to give women the tools to fight employment discrimination. It was an honor to join with her just a few months ago at an event supporting the ERA at Hunter College. She was fervent in her support for the ERA, and recognized its importance for women seeking to prevent and take measures against gaps in pay and opportunities. Up until her last days, she continued the fight for equality. We have lost a strong champion and a powerful voice for the cause of equal rights for women.” Congresswoman Maloney is the lead House sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment, to enshrine women’s equal rights in the Constitution.

CROWLEY ON REPUBLICANS’ INABILITY TO WRITE A HEALTHCARE LAW THAT DOESN’T STRIP MILLIONS OF INSURANCE COVERAGE: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) released the following statement after the Congressional Budget Office found that 22 million Americans would lose access to affordable and quality health care if Senate Republicans passed their latest version of Trumpcare: “It is blatantly evident that Republicans never had a vision for how to improve our nation’s healthcare system. Any reforms to Obamacare should focus on improving access to care, reducing costs, and expanding coverage, but every analysis of Trumpcare says the GOP plans would punish seniors, hurt Americans with pre-existing conditions, put 22 million individuals at risk of losing coverage, and deal a devastating blow to hardworking American families. “To continue to reintroduce the same bad health care bill again and again is the definition of irresponsibility. It’s time for Republicans to acknowledge that Americans are demanding a bipartisan solution to improve health care in this country.”

GIANARIS RESPONDS TO LHOTA’S REMARKS: “All the political finger-pointing over the MTA keeps us from focusing on desperately needed solutions. The state needs to step up and provide a funding stream for maintenance and repairs, not pass the buck to avoid responsibility,” stated NYS Senator Michael Gianaris in response to a statement by MTA Chair Joe Lhota. Gianaris is the author of the Better Trains, Better Cities legislation, which would provide between $6 billion and $7 billion over three years through a temporary surcharge on those earning over $1 million annually.

MALONEY, TROTT MOVE TO STRENGTHEN ANTI-FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION LAW: U.S. Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12) and Dave Trott (R-MI-11) introduced the bipartisan Stopping Abusive Female Exploitation (SAFE) Act, legislation that would increase the federal penalty for female genital mutilation from 5 years to 15 years in prison and encourage states to implement reporting requirements for suspected genital mutilation: “Female genital mutilation is a disturbing abuse of women and girls not just around the world but also here at home and it is up to us to stop and properly punish this illegal exploitation,” said Maloney. “This practice has increased in prevalence in the United States over the last 30 years while it has decreased abroad. We’re clearly moving in the wrong direction. In 2008, ten global agencies called the practice a human rights violation and called for its elimination. The list of health risks associated with this barbarism is long and serious, including death, childbirth complications and newborn death. By increasing the penalty for this despicable crime and introducing a provision to encourage states to implement reporting laws, we hope to make it clear that this behavior will not be tolerated.” “The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 500,000 females in the United States have undergone or are at risk for genital mutilation and, this year, this staggering statistic hit home in Oakland County. In April, three physicians were arrested, suspected of performing over 100 female genital mutilations, most recently, out of their practice in Livonia, Michigan,” said Rep. Trott. “These doctors, and all those who commit these horrendous crimes against innocent children, must be held accountable for their unconscionable actions. We must protect our girls, and this legislation increasing the federal penalty is critical to eradicating this despicable practice from our communities.” Under current federal law, female genital mutilation is punishable by 5 years in prison. The Stopping Abusive Female Exploitation (SAFE) Act would increase the punishment to 15 years imprisonment. Additionally, it implores states to enact into law reporting requirements for suspected female genital mutilation. The Centers for Disease Control estimates more than 500,000 females in the United States have undergone or are at risk of female genital mutilation, Maloney charged. In stark contrast to other developed countries, the 5-year penalty for perpetrators of female genital mutilation in the U.S. is significantly shorter. For example, the penalty in the United Kingdom is up to 14 years imprisonment, and in France up to 20 years imprisonment.

KOO, SELF-HELP SENIORS HOLD VIGIL FOR TSE: NYC Councilman Peter Koo hosted a candlelight vigil on July 23 with friends and family of Vincent C. Tse in remembrance of his service to the Flushing community. Mr. Tse was a family man, a beloved community advocate, and a man of faith, who volunteered for seven years as a cook at the SelfHelp Benjamin Rosenthal Senior Center without ever taking a day off. In July 2016, Vincent Tse was involved in a minor fender bender in Flushing during which he was assaulted and killed in fit of road rage. He was 68 years old. Community members came together one year after his death to remember the man who gave so much to his community with a candlelight vigil and prayer service from Tse’s pastor at Boon Church in Flushing. Karlin Chan a family spokesperson, stated, “Vincent Tse was taken from his family, friends, and community a year ago but he is not forgotten. Many of the emotional scars remain. Though gone, he lives on fondly in the memories of his family, friends and the people he touched.” Koo stated, “To this day, the absence of Vincent in the halls of Selfhelp Benjamin Rosenthal Senior Center is apparent to his friends who had become so accustomed to his friendship. Likewise, his family continues to mourn his loss, and we gather this evening, one year after his death, to remember the man who brought so much joy to our community through his compassion and love.” Congresswoman Grace Meng stated, “A year after Vincent was viciously assaulted and taken from us, we continue to mourn his passing, and remember his wonderful life and the contributions and service he provided at the Rosenthal Selfhelp Senior Center. Vincent was a peaceful man who worked hard preparing and serving food, and thoroughly enjoyed serving others. He did not deserve the brutal attack that put him in a coma, and ultimately ended his life. Our hearts continue to go out to Vincent’s family and friends and they remain in our thoughts and prayers. We must continue to stand in solidarity against this type of heinous violence, and ensure that justice is served against those who commit these violent acts.” NYS Senator Toby Stavisky stated, “This tragic case demonstrates the dangers of road rage and how a mild inconvenience can turn into a senseless killing. However, we must remember Vincent Tse not for the way he died, but the way he lived. Mr. Tse was a long-time volunteer at the Selfhelp Senior Center who did so much for so many people.

He made a point to give back to the neighborhood he so loved and taught us all of the importance of helping. I see him as a role model for us all. I offer my thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Vincent Tse who suffered such a tremendous loss.” Assemblywoman Nily Rozic stated, “A year after his tragic passing, Vincent Chun Man Tse is greatly missed by his family and the Selfhelp community. He was a shining example of what it means to live a life of service to others while looking out for your neighbors. The Tse family will always find support in the Flushing community.” Jane Qiu, Director of Selfhelp’s Benjamin Rosenthal Prince Street Innovative Senior Center, stated, “Vincent was a peaceful man who enjoyed serving others. A year later, his presence at the senior center and throughout our community is still sorely missed, and our members continue to mourn his loss. Through our center’s volunteer efforts, we honor Vincent’s memory and life. I’d like to thank Council Member Peter Koo and our local elected officials for their continued support and for marking this day with us.”

CROWLEY ON RUSSIA SANCTIONS BILL: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) released the following statement after negotiators reached a deal on a Russia sanctions package: “I am pleased negotiators have made progress on this important legislation. Congress must have the ability to issue sanctions against Russia after Vladimir Putin so blatantly interfered in our 2016 elections. The effort by congressional Republicans and the White House to delay the House of Representatives from considering this bill has been troubling. It is beyond time for Congress to respond.”

CROWLEY EXPLAINS DEMOCRATS’ ‘BETTER DEAL’ AGENDA: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement on the “Better Deal” agenda unveiled on July 24 by House and Senate Democrats: “Americans want to know what we stand for and what our vision is for the country. The ‘Better Deal’ agenda makes it clear – Democrats want to create new jobs and ensure a stronger economy and a brighter future for all Americans. Our ‘Better Deal’ is more than rhetoric. It lays out specific policies Democrats are fighting to enact, and it shows how committed Democrats are to advancing the middle class and working families. “Our plan will raise the incomes of workers, create millions of good-paying jobs, lower day-today costs for families, and help create a stable economy where every American can succeed. “The ‘Better Deal’ agenda offers real solutions for the real problems Americans are facing today: the crushing burden of student debt, which hampers the ability of our youth to succeed; the inability for far too many families to become financially secure; sky-rocketing healthcare costs that force workers to choose between making a mortgage payment and affording a prescription; the lack of access to key job training tools and education programs, which prepare Americans for the jobs of tomorrow; and crippling child care costs that force parents to make choices that may not be in the best interest of their families. “Democrats have always put the best interests of American families and our country above all else, and I’m proud of the work my colleagues did to spearhead this new effort. Our promise to the American people is simple – with us, you’ve got a better deal.”

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