Blue Dogs Congressional Roundup - August 21, 2015

Aug 21, 2015
In The News


Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon): Veterinarians in Congress introduce bill to end horse abuse: WASHINGTON -- Two veterinarians serving in Congress, one a conservative Republican and the other a Democrat, came together late Tuesday to introduce a bill aimed at ending an especially horrific type of horse abuse. Reps. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), along with more than 100 of their fellow Democrats and Republicans, are co-sponsoring the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, or PAST. The bill would strengthen the existing ban on the practice of "soring" horses, or using painful chemicals, heavy chains and other devices to give breeds like the Tennessee Walking Horse an exaggerated, prancing gait… The majority of competitive Tennessee Walking Horse events are concentrated in two states, Kentucky and Tennessee, and the show horse industry there has long denied that soring still takes place. But USDA inspectors at the 2014 Celebration, the marquis annual Tennessee Walking Horse show, found that of the 389 horses randomly selected for testing, more than half showed signs of soring.

Rep. Jim Costa (D-California): Costa probes Department of Defense Report related to Lajes Field: In a new development, House Representatives David G. Valadao (R-CA) and Jim Costa (D-CA) led a bipartisan letter, which was signed by 111 Members of Congress, requesting that funding be withheld for construction activity related to the Joint Intelligence Analysis Complex (JIAC) at Royal Air Force (RAF) Croughton “until the Committee completes its investigation into potential waste and fraud in the United States Department of Defense (DOD) decisions related to the consolidation of U.S. military bases in Europe.” The letter, dated July 21, was sent to House and Senate Conferees of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tennessee): Cooper pushes for permanent ban on congressional earmarks: U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper doesn't like the talk he's hearing these days in the Capitol hallways and on the House floor. Congress members are longing for the good old days when they could grab a few million dollars here and a few million there for a few special projects back home — a surefire way to keep the constituents happy and smooth the pathway to re-election, the Nashville Democrat said. "You hear it in the hallways and on the floor all the time: ‘Oh, if we only had earmarks,' " Cooper said. "People spend most of their days raising money for their own campaigns, and then they come to the floor and think, ‘Here's some more money. Why can't we use it to help me in my district to get elected?' "The answer should be obvious: Because it's taxpayer money, because unnecessary spending balloons the deficit and because, to put it bluntly, Cooper said, many of the projects that lawmakers like to push aren't worthy of government funding.

Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Nebraska): Omaha, USDA lead local-food push: Americans increasingly want to know where their food comes from, and they have more options than ever to get to know their local farmers and ranchers… Omaha is leading the way today with the first-ever Local Food for Local Tables conference. USDA’s Nebraska Food and Agriculture Council and U.S. Rep. Brad Ashford have joined together to organize this conference to explore ways to connect farmers, ranchers and other producers with individual consumers, schools, restaurants and others interested in buying locally-sourced food.

Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-Georgia): Congressman Bishop supports female Army Rangers: Congressman Sanford Bishop told us Tuesday night he’s all for having female Army Rangers. Ninety-six soldiers who just passed Ranger School will earn their Ranger tabs Friday at Fort Benning. For the first time, two women will be among the graduates. “In the United States military, we don’t look at gender, we look at performance. And we have two individuals who have demonstrated that capacity to perform at the high standards that are set by the Rangers,” said Rep. Sanford Bishop, (D) Georgia.

Bishop informs Rotarians about the fiscal problems caused by partisanship: Congressman Bishop began by stating his frustration, along with that of the general public, with the stalemate he sees in Washington. He described it as “a lot of rhetoric, “but no action. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, he zeroed in on the situation he described as not having the budget and appropriation funding necessary to promote the general welfare of the people. He stated the process has been divided and paralyzed by partisanship. Reminding the group that in 2013 the country was on the breach of a government shut down for failure to pass the budget in the required time, when the resulting sequester mandated cuts to programs across the board. He described the situation as a guillotine between those on the left and those on the right as to which cuts were to be made and how much. He said across the board budget cuts without analysis causes problems and reaching compromise to lift the sequester difficult to do, stressing, “But, we need to do it.”

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Illinois): After close call in home state, Illinois representative takes closer look at Bakken oil shipping: As six members of Congress rode the rails in northwest North Dakota on Monday to learn more about how Bakken crude is produced and transported, the topic hit especially close to home for one in the group. Rep. Cheri Bustos, whose district in northwest Illinois had a fiery Bakken oil train derailment in March that threatened the Mississippi River, wants officials to do everything they can to prevent such incidents from occurring again. “We want to make sure that people living in communities along rail lines can feel confident that we’re looking out for their safety,” said Bustos, a Democrat.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas): COMMENTARY: A new world energy landscape: On Friday, the United States Department of Commerce announced the approval of licenses for swaps of U.S. light crude oil in exchange for imports of heavy Mexican crude oil. This is a historic decision that I, along with many of my colleagues across party lines, applaud. In May, I, along with a bipartisan group of 16 Texas members, sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker urging the department to accept the swap request from PEMEX, Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company. Currently, the United States is prohibited from exporting crude oil due to a crude oil export ban that was established in 1975. That has hindered the American energy market in light of great advancements in energy exploration. The Department of Commerce was able to approve the licenses as delegated by the president through his authority in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. The Energy Policy and Conservation Act, signed into law by former President Gerald Ford, was enacted in response to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) embargo of 1973, when Americans feared that shipping crude product overseas could jeopardize our ability to support ourselves in the future. However, the energy landscape of our country is vastly different today than it was in the 1970s. That ban is now clearly out of date given the boom in oil production here in South Texas and around the country. But because producers here at home cannot ship overseas, we have been left with an oversupply that is driving oil prices down and hurting the economy across the country — especially in oil-producing states like Texas.

Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Florida): Happy 80th birthday, Social Security: In North Florida, we know the value of hard work. I’ve seen it on my work days – from my first one with a young entrepreneur, to a recent day working alongside oystermen with sore backs and blistered hands. We work all our lives to make money, feed our families and accomplish something – and we’re able to take risks, succeed and prosper because we know there’s a Social Security safety net to help us when we retire. We’ve come to rely on it as part of our social fabric, but 80 years ago today, on August 14, 1935, when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, there was no safety net to rely on. America was rapidly changing at the time. We were becoming older and more urban, and the traditional sources of economic security were vanishing. When we entered the Great Depression, the stock market crash and bank failures wiped out retirement savings and more than half of America’s seniors fell into poverty. It became clear we needed a national solution to help them, and the first monthly Social Security payment was issued in 1940 to Ida May Fuller for $22.52. Since the program began, the poverty rate among seniors has plummeted from more than 50 percent to less than 10 percent today. More than 135,939 people in the Second Congressional District rely on the program, which is why I’ve made constituent services one of my office’s top priorities.

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois): US House Members Visits Bakken to View Oil, Rail Safety Measures:  Five Members of the U.S. House of Representatives joined Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., in the Bakken Monday. They were here to get insight before working on the re-authorization of the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory, Certainty and Job Creation Act. The act was designed to examine and improve the state of pipeline safety regulation. Members of the house subcommittee on Rail, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials were in Williston today to see what the Bakken is all about… One of the decisions the bipartisan committee faces is the re-authorization of the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory, Certainty and Job Creation Act of 2011, which expires at the end of the fiscal year. "It's good to get first-hand, to see a place, to see what's going on so that we go back to Washington and we know what we're talking about," said Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill.

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota): Minnesota congressman expects bird flu vaccine for turkeys soon: Congressman Collin Peterson is expecting an announcement this week that a trial vaccine is as effective against avian influenza in turkeys as earlier tests have shown it to be for chickens. If the vaccine proves to be nearly 100 percent effective, producers in the hard hit states of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and South Dakota may be authorized to use it on a limited basis as early as this fall, "if we need to,'' Peterson told an audience Wednesday at Farmfest 2015 at the Gilfillan Estate south of Redwood Falls. "I am pushing to get that vaccine available to our producers,'' said Peterson, a Democrat from Minnesota’s 1st District. He said it would only be used if avian influenza returns to the region this autumn. At this point no one knows whether it will return. We do not yet fully understand how it is being transmitted, he explained. Peterson said he is expecting Dr. David Swain, USDA Agriculture Research Services Southeast Poultry Laboratory, to announce the vaccine's efficacy. He also said that Dr. John Clifford, chief veterinarian for the United States Department of Animal and Plant Health Inspections, is "on board'' with making the vaccine available for commercial turkey producers. The Congressman was among those who worked to convince the veterinarian to reverse his earlier position on use of a vaccine.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-California): ‘Sanctuary cities’ are focus of new immigration fight: Democrats, meantime, have largely sought to protect sanctuary cities. Many side with their local government and law enforcement leaders who believe they shouldn’t have to dedicate their time and resources to enforce federal immigration laws. They contend that under their rules, unauthorized immigrants are more comfortable approaching police officers to report crimes and comply with investigations. Reps. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, and Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, joined in deriding Hunter’s measure as “The Donald Trump Act.” And big-city mayors, from Bill de Blasio of New York City to Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, warned in a letter to congressional leaders that their efforts would compromise public safety… Immigrant-rights advocates worry the dynamics could shift with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California expected to unveil her own legislation. In a letter Monday, they urged Feinstein and Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer not to subvert policies tailored by local law enforcement in a state with the most immigrants.

Rep. David Scott (D-Georgia): Democrats decry government overreach, sloppy math in CFPB crackdown on auto loans: President Obama’s newest regulatory agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, acted without Congress‘ blessing in taking away lending flexibility from auto dealers. And it did so after conducting a discrimination study that it acknowledged was at least 20 percent inaccurate because officials guessed the race of car buyers. The move has boomeranged big-time inside the president’s own party, which helped create the CFPB in 2011 as part of the Dodd-Frank banking law. Democrats this summer crossed the aisle in large numbers in voting to rescind the agency’s crackdown on auto loans. They are sounding just like Republicans, accusing the agency of doing an end run around Congress, using sloppy math and engaging in overregulation. “The CFPB has done the dealers a massive injustice,” Rep. David Scott, Georgia Democrat, declared shortly before the House Financial Services Committee voted 47-10 last week to nullify guidance that the CFPB issued in 2013 regarding car loans.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona): Drones could keep crews informed, safe in wildfires: If the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots could have been located during the Yarnell Hill Fire, their lives might have been spared. The state didn’t have technology to track them in the deadly June 2013 central Arizona wildfire. But that could change with the use of unmanned aircraft. “We learned that firefighters signaled for help but we could not detect the crew’s location,” said Jeff Whitney, director of the Arizona State Forestry Division. “If the crew had resource-tracking technology and real-time weather updates, it would have helped.” Whitney gathered with other state and local fire officials Wednesday to discuss a bill that would implement best practices for drone use during wildfires. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who introduced the legislation in June, said she wanted to hear officials’ concerns and ideas for implementing the technology.

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-California): Rep. Mike Thompson backs Iran nuclear deal: North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson said Wednesday he will vote for President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, calling it “the best way forward” to prevent the regime from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The St. Helena Democrat said Obama’s proposal will halt Iran’s efforts for up to 15 years while giving the International Atomic Energy Agency “enormous access” for inspections the country will be bound to honor. Thompson, a former senior member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the diplomatic step was preferable to the other option — military force. “While I do not trust Iran nor like their leadership, the president has correctly pointed out that you don’t negotiate peace agreements with those you know, like and trust,” Thompson said. “This deal is in the best interest of the United States and our allies, Israel included.”

Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas): Sweet Sixteen: Port of Brownsville opens new dock: The Port of Brownsville celebrated the opening of a new dock during a ceremony Friday. Sixteen years have passed since the last time a dock opened at the port, but Friday’s ceremony was hosted exactly two years after the contract to build Dock 16 was approved, a sign that Eduardo Campirano, port director and CEO, took as a good omen. U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela Jr., D-Brownsville, and U.S. Maritime Administrator Paul Jaenichen of the Department of Transportation were in attendance to commemorate the occasion. “In a larger context, (Friday was) really important because in a matter of three hours, two infrastructure projects that (had) international ramifications have been opened, and one was the crossing of West Rail…which allows a line straight into the Port of Brownsville,” Vela said. “So it’s fitting that (Friday) happened to be the day we inaugurated Dock 16.” Dock 16 is the second heavy-load capacity dock in the Port of Brownsville, which will not only increase the port’s efficiency, but will decrease wait times for cargo ships — something that was proven Friday evening when two cargo ships docked. 


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