2017-12-06 / Political Page

I On Politics

‘GOP FORCING CONCEALED CARRY ON REGULATED STATES’: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D–NY) issued the following statement on a Republican bill that would force a universal concealed carry law on Americans:

“Americans overwhelmingly want Congress to pursue commonsense gun safety measures that will prevent mass shootings and violence in our churches, our schools, our communities, and our homes. Despite the 397 mass shootings our country has heartbreakingly suffered just this year, Republicans are ignoring the will of the people. Instead, the GOP endorsed today an NRA-approved bill that will undermine state laws and allow dangerous and violent predators to secretly carry powerful firearms like those used in Orlando and Las Vegas. This is exactly the opposite approach we should be taking to prevent gun violence.”

MALONEY CONDEMNS GOP FOR SCHEDULING MARKUP ON CONCEALED CARRY BILL: Ahead of last week’s House Judiciary Committee markup on the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), member of the House Gun Violence Task Force, released the following statement:

Congressmembers Maloney, Crowley and Meng. Congressmembers Maloney, Crowley and Meng. “It is outrageous that barely two months after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, House Republicans are moving forward with a bill that would eviscerate state laws meant to keep people safe from gun violence. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act would force all states to recognize concealed carry weapon permits from other states, regardless of how lax those state permitting laws may be. This bill puts us all at the mercy of the weakest gun laws in the country, even if we live in a state like New York that has effective gun safety laws. That is why law enforcement organizations from around the country are so opposed to this legislation.

“New York State has some of the best, most effective gun safety laws in the country. We know these protections work and House Republicans have no right to curtail the safety reforms New York and other states have put in place to protect our residents. Lives will be put at risk if this bill passes. The Republican Leadership needs to come to its senses and actually improve our gun safety laws, not tear them down.”

MALONEY: SANCTION NORTH KOREA AFTER LAUNCH OF ICBM: In response to reports that North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed in the waters just off the coast of Japan, Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), who is an original cosponsor of the bipartisan Leverage to Enhance Effective Diplomacy Act of 2017 (HR 4027), released the following statement:

“This latest missile launch makes clear that North Korea is not feeling enough pressure to halt its development of nuclear and ballistic missiles. We need to double down on our efforts to bring North Korea to the negotiating table, while working with our allies in the region to levy all international sanctions – including cutting off oil exports to North Korea.

“The bipartisan Leverage to Enhance Effective Diplomacy Act of 2017 would strengthen our ability to block financial transactions between North Korea and those who continue to conduct prohibited business with that regime. U.S. military personnel and Korean leaders made clear in our meetings this summer that toughening sanctions enforcement against North Korea is a key step toward starting productive talks about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. We need to use all diplomatic resources available to us to stabilize the region and defend our allies.”

Rep. Maloney joined Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI) to introduce HR 4027, the Leverage to Enhance Effective Diplomacy Act of 2017. The Senate companion was introduced by Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA).

This summer, Maloney joined Senator Markey’s Congressional delegation with Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Rep. Ann Wagner (MO-02) to Korea, Japan and China. After returning from this trip, she and Rep. Wagner hosted a bipartisan roundtable with Republic of Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined the bipartisan meeting.

MANDATING SEXUAL HARASSMENT AWARENESS TRAINING: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement after the House passed a resolution mandating that all members and staff receive annual sexual harassment awareness training:

“It is clear how pervasive the problem of sexual harassment and assault is in the American workforce, including the halls of Congress. That must end.

“Today is the beginning of a much-needed reform process – an important first step in our national conversation to change the culture of our workplaces. But this is just the beginning. We must quickly reform the entire reporting system here in Congress. We must make sure victims are heard and learned from. And we must shine light on the settlement process. Congress must set the gold standard and ensure our workplace is welcoming, supportive, and safe for all employees.”

MENG JOINS ALLIES TO SEEK A CURE FOR HEPATITIS B VIRUS: U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) led a bipartisan, bicameral letter urging the head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support a sustained research effort to find a cure for the hepatitis B virus. The letter was also signed by U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Hank Johnson (D-GA). Reps. Meng and Johnson are both co-Chairs of the Congressional Hepatitis Caucus.

“The NIH is not investing enough resources to finding a cure for a virus that chronically affects two million people across the country, and that leads to thousands of deaths each year,” said Rep. Meng. “Hepatitis B is also of particular concern to minority communities who are disproportionately impacted by the virus. Despite these alarming statistics, NIH research funding for hepatitis B has declined by 12.5 percent since 2012. Now that a cure for the virus could very well be in reach, it is more important than ever that the NIH devote appropriate resources to stopping the virus once and for all.”

URGE REPUBLICANS TO HOLD HEARINGS ON RISE OF HATE CRIMES: Sixty-nine House Democrats asked Congress Member Bob Goodlatte (RVA), the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, to hold hearings on the rise in hate crimes in America and the urgent need for the federal government to improve how these crimes are tracked and addressed.

The FBI recently reported that the agency documented 6,121 hate crimes in 2017 – a noted increase from 2015. However, this statistic is far from comprehensive, given the broad gaps in reporting from many jurisdictions – meaning the true scope of this epidemic is likely far greater, House Democrats said.

“It’s no secret that the rise in hate crimes has tracked with the campaign of the President. His stated support for the use of violence, as well as sympathy for white supremacist groups has created an atmosphere of dread within all too many American communities,” the lawmakers wrote. “Given this disturbing new reality, we urge the committee to convene immediate hearings to address the rise of hate crimes, the need to bridge the data gap, and steps that lawmakers, law enforcement agencies, and our communities can take to prevent these crimes from occurring in the first place.”

The letter is led by House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY), Congressional Black Caucus Chair Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Michelle Lujan Grisham (DNM), Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus Chair Judy Chu (D-CA), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), the ranking member on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, and LGBT Equality Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus Co- Chair Mark Pocan (D-WI). The letter was also signed by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Donald Beyer, Jr. (D-VA), Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and 59 others.

The FBI released a report on November 13 that found that hate crimes had increased in 2016. The FBI defines hate crimes as a criminal act motivated by bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.

STATE APPROVES PLAN TO BUILD PRE-K AT NEW YORK HALL OF SCIENCE: Borough President Melinda Katz stated the following in response to questions about the city’s plan to build a pre-K school at the New York Hall of

Science, which was approved by the state legislature in June 2017 and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“The city received the necessary legal approval from the State Legislature to utilize the public parkland in Flushing

Meadows Corona Park, which currently houses the New York Hall of Science due to a similar alienation granted decades ago. Proceeding otherwise would have set a dangerous precedent. The use of public parkland must go through the proper channels – even by the City of New York. The action effectively creates hundreds of new pre-K seats with STEM curriculum, and it was critical to follow the proper procedures of the public trust doctrine in the interest of protecting public parkland from unfettered development. Thanks to the leadership of our state legislators, this is now a prime example of how the process can work. Queens looks forward to the groundbreaking of a brand new, state-of-the-art pre-K school at the Hall of Science.”

In April, Borough President Katz urged the city to seek the necessary approval from the state legislature pursuant to the Public Trust Doctrine, which establishes that parks and other natural resources should be preserved for public enjoyment and that alienation of parkland must be authorized by the New York State Legislature.

VAN BRAMER OPPOSES EXTENDING TERM LIMITS: NYC Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer released a statement on the proposed legislation to extend term limits: “I do not support the legislation,” he said, “to extend term limits, since the public has already voted against doing so three times via public referenda. I was invited to co-sponsor the legislation to extend term limits, and declined. I will not be voting for it either.

“I support term limits and believe that the proper length in the council is in fact three terms, as I myself will have the opportunity to serve. However this conversation should not be driven in the context of the speaker’s race. Any future change must come from the people and take place after lengthy public debate. I stand opposed to any move to overturn the democratic will of the voters of New York City.

“My priorities remain the priorities of working people, creating a fair playing field for women and people of color, and making sure we make New York City a ‘Fortress City’ against the daily attacks on our values from the Trump administration.”

FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR FLYNN’S GUILTY PLEA: Following news that former National Security Advisor and top Trump campaign official Michael Flynn pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI about his communications with the Russians during the presidential transition, House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), senior member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, released the following statements:

Crowley: “Michael Flynn admitted today what many Americans have long suspected – the Trump campaign and administration believe themselves above the rule of law. That a senior campaign and White House official lied to the very agency focused on protecting our national security is profoundly disturbing. Americans should be outraged.

“Today’s revelations show why we must follow the facts on the Russia investigation to wherever they may lead.”

Maloney: “General Flynn’s guilty plea today, including an admission that he lied to the FBI about his conversations with the Russians during the presidential transition, is extremely disturbing and significant. We now know that senior transition officials directed General Flynn to contact Russian officials in order to influence Russia’s reactions to Obama Administration policies, directly contradicting numerous denials from the Trump Administration. It is critical that Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation continue without interference, no matter where it leads. The American people deserve the truth about what happened during and after the 2016 campaign and anyone found violating the law needs to be held fully accountable.”

CITY DEMS URGE SCHNEIDERMAN TO INVESTIGATE PREDATORY LANDLORDS: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Congress Member Hakeem S. Jeffries (D-Brooklyn), and Democratic members of the New York City congressional delegation called on New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to “investigate landlords’ predatory and abusive practices.”

“Recent reports indicate that a growing number of individuals have opened businesses dedicated to streamlining and facilitating the eviction process for landlords by intimidating tenants into agreeing to bad deals that often leave hard-working men and women at risk of homelessness. These businesses rely on tenants’ lack of access to legal representation or knowledge of their rights. The lawmakers also asked the attorney general to examine how these businesses and predatory landlords abuse the justice system to extract money from vulnerable renters,” the lawmakers explained.

“It is unconscionable that property owners and landlords throughout New York City have been lining their pockets by employing practices that rely on vulnerable tenants’ lack of access to legal representation, and preying on their financial insecurity,” the lawmakers wrote. “We encourage you to investigate whether these and other predatory practices are more widespread than previously reported, whether there is a growing trend of property owners using our judicial system to intimidate or extract money or other concessions from tenants, and whether these practices are out of line with the norms and standards of our justice system and tenants’ right to due process.”

In addition to Chairman Crowley and Rep. Jeffries, the letter was signed by Reps. Gregory W. Meeks (D-Queens), Grace Meng (D-Queens), José E. Serrano (D-the Bronx), Adriano Espaillat (D-Harlem, the Bronx), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn), Thomas R. Suozzi (D-Queens, Long Island), and Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn).

CROWLEY ON SENATE GOP ‘TAX SCAM’: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement after Senate Republicans approved a tax bill that “will add $1 trillion to our deficit and put the American middle class on the road to financial ruin”:

“Fifty-one Republican senators voted against the best interests of their constituents and working men and women in America this morning – all to score a fleeting political win and ensure special interests continue to fill their campaign coffers. They should be ashamed.

“Tax reform should be crafted in a way that opens the doors of opportunities for the men, women, and families who need it most. This bill doesn’t even attempt to do that. This bill rewards corporate special interests for offshoring jobs and leaves 86 million middle class Americans paying the bill. It will hurt homeowners, students, veterans, and seniors, while giving lavish tax cuts to those who need them the least.

“We can and should do better for the middle class. Democrats will continue to fight against this GOP tax scam on behalf of everyday Americans.”

HOUSE REPUBLICANS’ HIGHER EDUCATION BILL ‘HOLLOW’: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) released the following statement after House Republicans introduced a “hollow” reauthorization of the Higher Education Act:

“This proposal from House Republicans is woefully inadequate. The Higher Education Act is an important piece of Civil Rights-era legislation that put within reach a college education for millions of Americans for the first time.

“That is why the Republican proposal is so disappointing. Without a reauthorization of the Perkins Loan program and inadequate funding for Pell Grants, it does nothing to address the serious issue of college affordability, which is preventing far too many eager young men and women from obtaining a higher education. Any attempt to reauthorize HEA without addressing this worsening problem is not a serious effort.”

MENG BILL TO AID HOUSES OF WORSHIP ONE STEP CLOSER TO HOUSE VOTE: Language allowing houses of worship to receive vital federal disaster assistance was included in the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (H.R. 4460), which passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday by a voice vote.

“Five years after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on many churches, synagogues, mosques and temples, and months after hurricanes pounded Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, houses of worship are still not permitted to receive disaster relief funding from FEMA,” stated U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), co-author of the original legislation giving houses of worship access to the relief. “This continues to be extremely unfair and it’s way past time to change this misguided policy. Our provision – which first passed the House in 2013 as the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act – would finally accomplish that goal, and I urge all my colleagues in the House to support it. Many houses of worship provide critical assistance to the communities in which they are located. These include crucial services such as child care, food pantries and other vital programs. They must no longer be treated differently than other non-profit entities.”

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), author of the original legislation giving churches access to the relief, stated that houses of worship “have been centers of service for communities devastated by natural disasters, like after Superstorm Sandy in 2012, or Hurricane Harvey just this year, providing food, supplies, counseling and other aid despite often suffering damage to their own facilities; they should not be shut out of needed relief and should be treated like other non-governmental organizations.”

The bill that was advanced on Thursday included the exact language from the bipartisan bill, the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2017 (H.R. 2405), introduced in May by Smith and lead Democrat Meng, and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers including Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ).

Under the bill, FEMA would judge the eligibility of churches and religious groups for disaster relief as they would for all private non-profits, regardless of their religious status.

Recently, the administration had expressed its support for this policy in its $44 billion request to House leadership for hurricane recovery efforts:

“In addition, the administration notes its support for legislation that would make houses of worship eligible for disaster relief funding (provided they meet the other relevant criteria for private non-profit facilities) and offers technical assistance regarding the timeframe for applicability,” Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, stated in a letter to Speaker Ryan.

Smith, Meng, and King originally introduced the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013 (H.R. 592) after Superstorm Sandy inflicted billions of dollars of damage to the Northeast and houses of worship were barred from receiving FEMA assistance. The bill passed the House overwhelmingly 354-72, before being held up in the Senate. In 2015, Smith, Meng, and King reintroduced the act as HR 3066.

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