Blue Dog Recess Roundup
Blue Dogs to President: ‘Time to Approve Keystone XL Pipeline Has Come’: Members of the fiscally conservative, Democratic Blue Dog Coalition sent a letter to President Obama earlier this month to express their strong support for the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The letter highlighted the positive economic and national security effects of constructing the pipeline, most notably increased job creation and decreased American dependence on foreign sources of oil.
“Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline will provide a positive impact to a broad spectrum of the American economy,” the Blue Dogs wrote. “An estimated 13,000 direct jobs will be created, with an additional 7,000 direct jobs needed to keep it operational. If the recent jobs report shows us anything, it’s that Americans are still in need of the highly-skilled, good-paying jobs that are created by a project of this magnitude.
“The Blue Dog Coalition agrees with the broad alliance of business, labor and community leaders that the time for this pipeline has come. The economic impact and national security benefits indicate that this project is clearly in the national interest. We urge the Administration to move swiftly to approve the construction of this pipeline for the benefit of the entire country.”
Subsequently, the President has issued a statement indicating a route to approval providing the pipeline does not substantially increase gas emissions. The Blue Dog Coalition will continue to stress that the pipeline’s construction is in our nation’s best interest and push the President to approve the project.
Rep. John Barrow (D-Georgia): Rep. Barrow took to the House floor last week to call on President Barack Obama and the federal government to spend less on travel as folks across Georgia are being faced with mandatory furloughs as a result of the budget sequester.
Reports this week highlighted that the President’s trip to Africa will cost taxpayers approximately $100 million. Rep. Barrow called on the President to take less expensive travel, especially when so many are being forced to cut back because Congress has not been able to agree on a replacement for the sequester. A recent report from the House Appropriations Committee estimated that the economic impact on the State of Georgia will be approximately $107 million. In the Georgia’s 12th District, where Barrow represents, more than 3,200 employees will begin their mandatory furloughs on July 8, 2013.
Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah): Rep. Matheson recently became a Democratic lead of the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act. This bill requires regulatory agencies to evaluate the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of new regulations on small businesses and find flexible ways to reduce them. In addition, it requires all agencies to convene small business review panels to help shape new rules in order to get them right for small business before they are proposed. The legislation would also direct the Small Business Administration to write government-wide rules to implement the Act taking away individual agencies’ ability to interpret their duties to provide flexibility for small businesses however it may suit their agenda.
Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed the Safeguarding America’s Pharmaceuticals Act of 2013 (“track and trace”) via voice vote. This bill would strengthen the integrity of the pharmaceutical supply chain, while eliminating a growing and burdensome patchwork of state-by-state requirements by establishing a uniform national standard for industry stakeholders to
comply. Rep. Matheson has been working on this issue for nearly a decade.
Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tennessee): Rep. Cooper introduced an amendment during House Armed Services Committee markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this month to protect the military and give the Department of Defense flexibility in managing sequestration.
Rep. Cooper also offered an amendment to the NDAA to restore New START funding so the U.S. can continue to meet our international treaty obligations.
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon): Last week, Rep. Schrader introduced the Medicare Beneficiary Preservation of Choice Act of 2013 with Representative Keith Rothfus (R-PA). This bipartisan legislation restores the open enrollment period that, until 2011, enabled seniors to switch Medicare Advantage plans once during the first three months of each year.
In a press release Rep. Schrader said, “Before 2011, Medicare Advantage beneficiaries were allowed a ninety-day open enrollment period to make changes to their health insurance plans as they saw fit. That flexibility has since been eliminated and now seniors are limited to staying on their current plan or disenrolling from Medicare Advantage altogether in favor of traditional Medicare. As representative of a state with the second highest enrollment in Medicare Advantage, I have seen the successes that stem from allowing our seniors greater access to health insurance plans that fit their specific needs. This legislation would restore the open enrollment period, change the way we deliver Medicare Advantage to our beneficiaries and grant our seniors nationwide greater access in choosing a health insurance plan that best fits their situation.”
Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Texas): With immigration reform currently being deliberated in Congress, Rep. Gallego has asked the Texas Comptroller to update a 2006 report studying the financial impact of unauthorized immigrants on the Texas economy. The 2006 study found that “[t]he absence of the estimated 1.4 million undocumented immigrants in Texas in fiscal 2005 would have been a loss to our gross state product of $17.7 billion.” The report would be vital to the 38 members of Congress from Texas, and to other elected officials and decision makers, as they grapple with immigration reform. The Texas Tribune and the El Paso Times reported on Rep. Gallego’s request.
Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-Georgia): This week, Rep. Bishop, Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies as well as co-Chair of the Congressional Military Families Caucus, rallied for the National Guard by voting against the McCollum Amendment to the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. If passed, the amendment would have prohibited the Army National Guard from investing resources in recruiting new soldiers through professional sports sponsorships, specifically professional wrestling, NASCAR, Indy Racing, and American Motorcycle Association. This is the third year in a row that Congressman Bishop has opposed this amendment aimed at weakening the Army National Guard’s ability to recruit the strongest candidates possible.
Rep. Jim Costa (D-California): This month, the House voted unanimously to advance Rep. Costa’s bipartisan Public Power Risk Management Act of 2013. The legislation would remove barriers that place municipal utilities under restrictions, which prevent them from taking responsible actions to hedge against price fluctuations in the energy market. Specifically, the legislation would increase the investment limit for non-financial entities that are affiliated with state or local governments to a level that would allow them to hedge against market volatility. Over 2,000 municipal, state and locally-owned, not-for-profit electric utilities throughout the United States deliver electricity to more than 47 million people.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas): This week Rep. Cuellar took to the House floor to voice support for H.R. 1613, the Transboundary Hydrobarbon Authorization Act. The district that Rep. Cuellar represents contains one of the most economically active ports in the country. The important legislation would strengthen the trade partnership between the United States and Mexico, increase economic growth in both countries and produce more domestic energy without compromising environmental standards.
“This bill would allow oil and natural gas production on 1.5 million acres that were previously off-limits because of border issues. It’s been over three years since President Obama and then-President Calderon agreed on the need to finalize a binational agreement such as this, which now needs to be ratified by Congress,” said Rep. Cuellar. “Exploration and production of oil and gas is vital to our economic growth and national security. This agreement promotes the sharing of reservoirs shared by both nations while strengthening economic ties between the two countries and protecting the environment.”
Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois): Rep. Lipinski last week introduced H.R. 2447, the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2013, a bill that would bring together the private and public sectors to develop recommendations to revitalize American manufacturing and create good-paying, middle-class jobs here at home. A pillar of the “Make It In America” jobs plan in the House, the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act will require the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Technology to lead other agencies and stakeholders in developing a national manufacturing competitiveness strategy every four years. The strategy would aim to advance policies that streamline government regulations and assist with the transfer of research and development into new products and jobs to grow the country’s manufacturing base.
“American companies and their workers are operating at a severe disadvantage as they face foreign competitors who benefit from coordinated, strategic government policies that benefit manufacturing,” Rep. Lipinski said in a press release. “We need to recognize this reality and bring the public and private sectors together to develop a national manufacturing strategy that specifies recommendations for the optimal tax, trade, research, regulatory, and innovation policies that will enable American manufacturing to thrive. Manufacturing is critical for national security, an essential source of good-paying jobs for the middle class, and drives high-tech innovation.”
Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-North Carolina): At a Capitol Hill press conference last week, Rep. McIntyre co-introduced bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House to permanently abolish the federal estate tax. Enacting this bill, better known as the death tax, will finally put an end to the punitive tax on family farms and small businesses upon the death of an owner. Currently more than 70 percent of family businesses do not survive to the second generation, and 90 percent of family businesses do not survive to the third generation. According to a study by former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, repealing the death tax would create 1.5 million additional small business jobs and would shave almost a percentage point off the unemployment rate.
Rep. McIntyre stated, “The death tax penalty is the wrong tax at the wrong time on the wrong things! It is time to once and for all remove this unfair burden placed on our family farms and small businesses. Ensuring passage of farms and businesses to the next generation of family members is the American way, and we must work to make sure this opportunity continues to exist for North Carolinians and all Americans who have worked a lifetime building for their families.”
Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-California): Rep. Sanchez, senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and founder and chair of the Women in the Military Caucus, introduced legislation in the House of Representatives earlier this month aimed at curbing sexual assaults in the military and holding commanders more accountable for their actions. H.R. 2230, the Track It to Prevent It Act, takes a multi-step approach toward changing the military’s culture by developing a more effective and accurate performance evaluation process to keep a better record of negative behavioral trends of service members, while also adopting a more comprehensive performance evaluation process for commanders in order to increase the accountability of commanders.
“The Track it to Prevent it Act addresses the culture and climate challenges our military faces today by enforcing an improved process for performance evaluations where service members, commanders included, are held accountable and disciplined for behavior that threatens the climate of a unit,” Rep. Sanchez said in a press release.
Rep. David Scott (D-Georgia): A member of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Scott worked scrupulously this month in an effort to pass a 2013 Farm Bill. During the House debate on the Farm Bill, Congressman Scott spoke in opposition to an amendment, which would have required the government to review all Americans food purchases in order to review SNAP items purchased. The Marino amendment (#26) failed by a vote of 79-346. On June 19, Congressman Scott made the following remarks. Additionally, Reps. Scott and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) joined together in publishing an op-ed in The Hill entitled, “Dairy Supply Management Bad For Consumers.”
On June 16, Rep. Scott managed floor time in the House on H.R. 1256, the Swap Jurisdiction Certainty Act, sponsored by Reps. Scott, Scott Garrett (R-NJ), John Carney (D-DE) and Mike Conaway (R-TX). This bipartisan bill reflects an important compromise that allows US regulators to apply Dodd-Frank derivatives rules overseas, despite new foreign regulations, as long as the CFTC and SEC coordinate through a joint rule. As amended, this process-based compromise would help guard against regulatory arbitrage, while ensuring that US businesses are not competitively disadvantaged abroad. The bill passed 301-124.
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-California): Rep. Thompson, a Vietnam veteran, continued his fight for our troops and veterans this month, as two of his provisions passed the House in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014. One bipartisan amendment would improve Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress treatments for troops and veterans by allowing them to access innovative treatments offered outside military and veteran medical facilities. Another bipartisan amendment would require every American flag purchased by the Department of Defense (DOD) to be 100 percent manufactured in the United States.
Also, legislative language offered by Rep. Thompson was also included in House passage of H.R. 2216, the FY14 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill, that would hold the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) accountable for ending the backlog of claims at the Veterans Benefits Administration. The language would require a monthly report from each regional office and the national VA office detailing the current backlog of claims. Additional reporting will be required from offices with backlogs averaging more than 200 days.
Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine): A new report shows that more than one in nine bridges nationwide is deemed to be structurally deficient. In order to help chip away at the national backlog of deficient highway bridges, Rep. Michaud joined his colleagues on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on June 19th to introduce the “Strengthen and Fortify Existing Bridges Act” (the SAFE Bridges Act), which would provide targeted funding to states for bridge repair. Rep. Michaud also sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee this week requesting that it provide additional bridge funding in its transportation funding bill.
Additionally, Rep. Michaud and 229 other House lawmakers earlier this month sent a bipartisan letter to President Obama urging him to address currency manipulation as negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) continue. The letter was led by Reps. Michaud, John D. Dingell (D-Michigan), Sam Graves (R-Missouri), and Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas).
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota): Rep. Peterson, Ranking Member of the House Agriculture, has worked tirelessly and across party lines for many years in an attempt to pass a new, long-term farm bill. On June 18, Rep. Peterson took to the floor to call on his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to compromise, like many in the House Agriculture Committee have done, and make serious reforms to American agriculture programs.
“The farm bill gives farmers and ranchers the necessary tools to provide American consumers with the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world,” Rep. Peterson stated. “The bill includes farm, conservation, trade, nutrition, credit, rural development, research, forestry, energy and specialty crop programs.
“With roughly 16 million American jobs tied to agriculture, the farm bill is a jobs bill. The rural economy remained strong during our nation’s financial crisis and that has continued during our recovery; this is in large part due to agriculture. And this is why the farm bill is so important.”