Saturday, February 4, 2017

This Week in the House - February 6

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Every Saturday, the Majority Leader of the House, Kevin McCarthy, whose slogan is "A new day for American Conservatism," posts the schedule of Bills and Resolutions that the House will consider in the following week. 


Monday February 6 includes Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules:


1) H.R. 618 – Crags, Colorado Land Exchange Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Doug Lamborn / Natural Resources Committee)

2) H.R. 698 – Elkhorn Ranch and White River National Forest Conveyance Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Scott Tipton / Natural Resources Committee)

3) H.R. 688 – Arapaho National Forest Boundary Adjustment Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis / Natural Resources Committee)

4) H.R. 689 – Bolts Ditch Access and Use Act (Sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis / Natural Resources Committee)

5) H.R. 337 – Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act (Sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem / Natural Resources Committee)

6) H.R. 494 – Fort Frederica National Monument Boundary Expansion Act (Sponsored by Rep. Buddy Carter / Natural Resources Committee)

7) H.R. 387 – Email Privacy Act (Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Yoder / Judiciary Committee)


Tuesday February 7 includes: 


H.J.Res. 44 – Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior relating to Bureau of Land Management regulations that establish the procedures used to prepare, revise, or amend land use plans pursuant to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Liz Cheney / Natural Resources Committee)

H.J.Res. 58– Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Department of Education relating to teacher preparation issues (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Brett Guthrie / Education and the Workforce Committee)

H.J.Res. 57 – Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Department of Education relating to accountability and State plans under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Todd Rokita / Education and the Workforce Committee)


Wednesday February 8 and remainder of the week:
On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday no votes are expected in the House.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Protecting Our Streams... or Not

It is insanely difficult to keep up these past two weeks. At this point I can only report back what is happening, what Tom has voted on. I'm not sure how to get ahead of any of this. Every day there is another attack on our humanity, on the soul of our nation, and yes, on our planet. 

Yesterday Tom Reed voted YEA, along with 223 other Republicans and 4 Democrats, on H.J.Res. 38. This Act effectively nullifies the Stream Protection Act. The Stream Protection Act was finalized at the end of December 2016 and according to CNN was meant to bar "mining companies from putting any of their waste in local waterways."

A stream runs through a mountain range.You can read all about the Rule and how the Department of Interior did studies, conducted experiments, and talked to residents near coal mining operations over several years to come up with this Rule. You can also read a whole lot of information about how the DOI came to their findings about protecting our streams and drinking water in this lengthy document.

According to Fortune Magazine:
"The coal waste rule was intended to protect 6,000 miles (9,700 km) of streams and large areas of forests over the next two decades, the Interior Department said when it issued the rule in December. It argued the rule would protect drinking water without undermining the economy or energy supply.
The coal industry countered that the rule could have reduced the number of direct mining jobs by 30 percent and made 60 percent of its existing reservoirs uneconomic to produce."
Our current Congress decided to throw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak. Or more accurately, throw the sludge out with the garbage into our drinking water. And today the Senate voted to pass the nullification as well.

So, there you have it. A long process of scientific inquiry, with a focus on human health and the preservation of our home, this little blue planet we live on, completely undone by a few old men in suits. Was it because they truly believe that getting rid of this government oversight will be the most effective and all-encompassing way to ensure the survival of the coal mining industry and the survival of the workers who depend on coal jobs? Or do they prefer lazy work ethics over the thoughtful research and intense process of figuring out how sustain our life on this planet? Or maybe they don't believe it matters how much crap we dump into our water, that it will actually never get dirty?

Or maybe they dislike that the Rule was put in place by the Obama administration and simply want to get rid of the Rule because they can. Because there is an obscure law called the Congressional Review Act that has not been used in 16 years but allows Congress to overrule a Law just because they don't like it. Because they instead accept what the sponsor of the Bill, Ohio's Republican Bill Johnson, said: "Make no mistake about it, this Obama administration rule is not designed to protect streams. Instead, it was an effort to regulate the coal mining industry right out of business." 

Impact Of Coal Mining Operations Leave Scars In Appalachia
Or perhaps these Congresspeople have a slightly different agenda than anything related to caring for humanity or our planet.

Think Progress tell us"According to the Center for American Progress, the 27 representatives that sponsored or co-sponsored the Congressional Review Act bill received nearly $500 million from mining interests last year."


It's actually not over. Trump has yet to sign the nullification. But, surely, you guessed it, he has pledged to do so as soon as possible.

I wonder all the time if these men and women put their heads down on their pillows at night and think to themselves, I did good today, I helped people today, I am a quality human being.
I simply don't know how they can.

~~~~~

For a very, very in depth article, read this article at Vox.

“H.J.Res. 38 — 115th Congress: Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior known as the Stream Protection ...” www.GovTrack.us. 2017. February 2, 2017 <https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hjres38>

Office Hours

On a whim, after seeing a post from an Indivisible NY 23 friend about some folks planning to stop by Tom Reed's Ithaca office, I headed down to Gateway Plaza today to see what I could find out. The office is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 to 4. There are no staffers locally, and due to budget restrictions they can't hire anyone. Staff members drive up from the Corning/Elmira area.

The office, if you can call it that, is a small, sparse cubicle of a room, tucked into a hallway full of other petite offices. A nice staffer named Sharon welcomed us as she finished up a conversation with a few other constituents. Those in my little group spoke to Sharon about the ACA and asked her to convey to Tom our concerns about repealing the law without having a suitable replacement law in place. People shared personal stories and requested that she bring all this to Tom.

Being new to visiting the Congressman's office myself, I asked a few newbie questions, like: Where are Tom's office hours posted online, for each of his five offices? Sharon said they are there, somewhere. I disagreed and she seemed perplexed. I then asked whether Tom has a town hall meeting scheduled for Ithaca. She said no, none in the plans right now. I asked when the last time Tom was in Ithaca to listen to his constituents. Sharon puzzled over this one, and couldn't come up with any memory of Tom having been here. But she assured us that Tom makes every effort to go to all the counties at least once a year. Another concerned citizen, an older woman, had joined us in the office by that point and she said that back in the days when Ithaca had a Democratic representative, that person came to the area regularly. She could not remember a time when Tom has been here. Sharon searched her memory and did recall some event at Cornell University that Tom spoke at.

Image result for tom reed ithacaIt seems that we're not the only ones noticing Tom's absence in our county. The Ithaca Voice recently published an article about Tom's failure to hear his Ithaca constituents' voices. The Voice confirms that in May 2016 Tom spoke to a class at Cornell. And his previous visit was in June 2015 when he did host town hall meeting.

Sharon did her best with us, as we each took a turn asking questions and telling her personal stories and giving our suggestions which we want her to pass on to Tom. She took notes the whole time and was clearly paying attention and trying to listen. When another citizen requested information on office hours, she seemed to get the point that this is not posted anywhere online and that this is a failing on their part. She appeared to make a note to fix that.

Sharon welcomed us to come again another time, saying they always had a staffer in the Ithaca office, Tuesdays and Thursdays 10 to 4. Well, unless there is an event, or no one can make it, or there's a snowstorm, or something else more important comes up. They're doing their best. And we'll do our best to keep showing up and putting the pressure on.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Give Tom a HAND UP

Today Tom Reed posted on Facebook: "We care about ensuring that every American has the opportunity to achieve their highest potential. That is why we are working to ensure that our neighbors - especially the working poor - have access to the resources they need to escape the cycle of poverty and climb the ladder of opportunity."

Image result for temporary assistance for needy families (tanf)He linked to this article in the Observer (out of Dunkirk, NY) which explains that Tom is about to introduce the HAND UP Act, or Help Americans in Need Develop their Ultimate Potential. The Act is a reiteration of the same one Tom proposed in the past two sessions of Congress. It's purpose very obscurely is: To authorize a State or a portion of a State to conduct a demonstration project designed to test methods of program integration and coordination of services with the goals of moving individuals and families towards self-sufficiency, reducing welfare dependence, and increasing work and earnings.

The Observer states:
"The proposal is designed to give states the flexibility to change how agencies administer social welfare programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help make sure more money gets to those who need it by reducing government overhead."
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The Salamanca Press has an extensive article about Reed, the ACA, Medicaid, and his new HAND UP Act. Essentially, Reed wants less oversight by the federal government, more freedom for local and state governments. Particularly when it comes to health care. He suggests that if the federal government gave out more block grants, which are large sums of money given without a specific designated use, then local governments could decide which welfare and health care programs they want to utilize.

Giving this HAND UP seems like a nice idea, presented in a stern, fatherly way. Tom says he wants to help the poor, to ease them off welfare and food stamps, and by golly get them to make something of themselves. Tom and other Republicans assume that poor people want to stay on welfare and keep getting those amazing, overly generous, completely reliable government checks. (Because we all know we could get rich off the government teat by simply getting welfare.)

Despite the realities of the poor person's lush lifestyle, the prospect of getting these block grants is what is most appealing to folks like Tom. Check out this chart as to how New York spent it's 2015 TANF block grants. Just as much of the money went to Administration and Systems, and Tax credits, as went to Basic Assistance and Work Activities. And don't miss the %13 that went to OTHER Spending.

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With little to no government oversight, state officials don't have to use that money for child care for working mothers, or work preparation programs for the young or new to the workforce, or to give more support to families who lose a job or face a death in the family. People like Tom can do whatever they please with the federal money, like fill in budget holes, or use that money instead of the money already in their accounts, or divert some of it to the pockets of Administrators. Without the earmark of actually taking care of the poor, the poor won't be taken care of.

Find out more about TANF block grants here.

Tom's press release from this year is pretty much the same wording as the last time Tom introduced this Act, which was almost exactly a year ago. You can find the Act, then called H.R.534, on Congress.gov, where it went nowhere. When Tom introduced the Act for the first time, it was H.R.4206 and it went nowhere also. Maybe third time's a charm.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Grossly Inappropriate

Tom Reed put out his official statement an Trump's Muslim ban. Well, Tom does not acknowledge that it is in fact a ban, but rather praises himself as a champion of American safety.

Image result for muslim banIn this article from WBFO in Buffalo, Tom said this: "Republican Congressman Tom Reed, vice chair of Trumps' transition team, also backed the order, saying "it does not ban Muslims from immigrating or traveling to the United States" and it "will not restrict those with Green Cards from traveling to the United States."

This article from the Washington Post spells out where each Republican in Congress stands on Trump's ban. Tom is with 75 other Republicans under the category of SUPPORT.

Yet in all of today's emphatic support, it seems that Tom is as wispy as a particle of dust in a tornado when it comes to an opinion about people with a different skin color than his own entering America.

In December of 2015, Tom went on record to oppose the idea of a Muslim ban. He is quoted in this article at MyTwinTiers.com. Tom said:
"Freedom of religion is a fundamental freedom that is set forth in our constitution, in our Bill of Rights and I'll tell you we as a party do not stand for identifying groups and taking them out because of a religious practice that they engage in. So I think Donald Trump speaks for himself and not for the party and I think those comments were just grossly inappropriate."

Remember, back in 2015, we all thought Trump was just some egocentric quack who would never make it past the primaries. Certainly Tom wouldn't have wanted to disagree with the majority of his peers, or seem like he was on board with a lunatic like Trump. Now, however, it is perfectly acceptable to support Trump. And once again, Tom has followed the wind to do anything to stay on the side of power, rather than on the side of what is moral and right. If Trump's ban on Muslims entering the country was so "grossly inappropriate" a year ago, what has changed to make it more appropriate now? 

Perhaps only that now Tom is perfectly happy to let Trump speak for him, along with all the other weak Republicans in our government.

Full text of the Press Release from the Reed website:
“We care about keeping Americans safe from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism both at home and abroad. It is critical that we look past the hyperbolic rhetoric from both sides of this issue and remain dedicated to ensuring the security of American citizens first and foremost,” said Tom Reed. “We are confident these orders will be carefully and fairly implemented, with strong oversight by Congress.” 
The comments come in the wake of President Trump’s executive order to temporarily suspend admittance of nationals from seven nations known for terrorism. This gives the new administration an opportunity to finish the transition process and develop a sound policy regarding vetting and travel to the United States. 
The order does not ban Muslims from immigrating or traveling to the United States.
The order will not restrict those with Green Cards from traveling to the United States.
The order is very similar to bipartisan legislation, American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, which Reed supported and which passed overwhelmingly during the House last Congress. The legislation was passed at the behest of U.S. intelligence agencies following hearing which indicated the lack of records for refugees could be exploited by Al-Qaeda and ISIS terrorists.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

This week in the House - Jan. 30

Every Saturday, the Majority Leader of the House, Kevin McCarthy, whose slogan is "A new day for American Conservatism," posts the schedule of Bills and Resolutions that the House will consider in the following week. I waded through most of these Bills and in my limited understanding of it all, they seem fairly straightforward. But as with the jargon of government, there may be hidden purposes or results of them.

Monday 30 includes several Bills from the Natural Resources Committee. My comments in italics:

1) H.R. 381 – To designate a mountain in the John Muir Wilderness of the Sierra National Forest as “Sky Point” (Sponsored by Rep. Tom McClintock / Natural Resources Committee)

2) H.R. 339 – Northern Mariana Islands Economic Expansion Act (Sponsored by Del. Gregorio Sablan / Natural Resources Committee)

3) H.R. 46 – Fort Ontario Study Act (Sponsored by Rep. John Katko / Natural Resources Committee). This one is nearest to home for us, regarding a fort in Oswego from the War of 1812 to be considered for inclusion in the National Park System.

4) H.R. 374 – To remove the sunset provision of section 203 of Public Law 105–384, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler / Natural Resources Committee).

5) H.R. 538 – Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Sanford Bishop / Natural Resources Committee)

6) H.R. 558 – Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park Boundary Adjustment Act (Sponsored by Rep. Barry Loudermilk / Natural Resources Committee)

7) H.R. 560 – To amend the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area Improvement Act to provide access to certain vehicles serving residents of municipalities adjacent to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Tom Marino / Natural Resources Committee)


Tuesday 31 includes Bills from the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Homeland Security Committee.

1) H.R. 276 – A bill to amend title 49, United States Code, to ensure reliable air service in American Samoa, as amended (Sponsored by Del. Amata Coleman Radewagen / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)

2) H.R. 58 – FRIENDS Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)

3) H.R. 666 – Department of Homeland Security Insider Threat and Mitigation Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Peter King / Homeland Security Committee)

4) H.R. 697 – Department of Homeland Security Clearance Management and Administration Act (Sponsored by Rep. Bennie Thompson / Homeland Security Committee)

5) H.R. 642 – Fusion Center Enhancement Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Louis Barletta / Homeland Security Committee)

6) H.R. 526 – Counterterrorism Advisory Board Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Katko / Homeland Security Committee)

7) H.R. 665 – Airport Perimeter and Access Control Security Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. William Keating / Homeland Security Committee)

8) H.R. 366 – DHS SAVE Act (Sponsored by Rep. Scott Perry / Homeland Security Committee)

9) H.R. 347 – DHS Acquisition Documentation Integrity Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman / Homeland Security Committee)

10) H.R. 549 – Transit Security Grant Program Flexibility Act (Sponsored by Rep. Daniel Donovan / Homeland Security Committee)

11) H.R. 687 – First Responder Access to Innovative Technologies Act (Sponsored by Rep. Donald Payne / Homeland Security Committee)

12) H.R. 584 – Cyber Preparedness Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Daniel Donovan / Homeland Security Committee)

13) H.R. 690 – Gains in Global Nuclear Detection Architecture Act (Sponsored by Rep. Cedric Richmond / Homeland Security Committee)

14) H.R. 655 – Securing the Cities Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Daniel Donovan / Homeland Security Committee)

15) H.R. 437 – Medical Preparedness Allowable Use Act (Sponsored by Rep. Gus Bilirakis / Homeland Security Committee)

16) H.R. 612 – United States-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation Enhancement Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. James Langevin / Homeland Security Committee)

17) H.R. 505 – Border Security Technology Accountability Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally / Homeland Security Committee)

18) H.R. 677 – CBRN Intelligence and Information Sharing Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally / Homeland Security Committee)

19) H.R. 678 – Department of Homeland Security Support to Fusion Centers Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally / Homeland Security Committee)


Wed to Fri, February 1 to 3 include several Joint Resolutions.

H. J. Res. ___ – Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior known as the Stream Protection Rule (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Johnson / Natural Resources Committee)

H. J. Res. ___ – Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of a rule submitted by the Securities and Exchange Commission relating to “Disclosure of Payments by Resource Extraction Issuers” (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Huizenga / Financial Services Committee)

H. J. Res. ___ – Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Social Security Administration relating to Implementation of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Sam Johnson / Judiciary Committee)

H. J. Res. ___ – Disapproving the final rule submitted by the Department of Defense, the General Services Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration relating to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Virginia Foxx / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

H. J. Res. ___ – Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the final rule of the Bureau of Land Management relating to “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation” (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop / Natural Resources Committee)