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Congressional Dish by Jennifer Briney - 6d ago

Divided government! The 2018 midterm elections are over and we know what the 116th Congress is going to look like: The Republican Party will continue to control the Senate and the Democratic Party will control the House of Representatives. In this episode, we discuss the likely ramifications of a divided Congress, some of the interesting results of individual Congressional races, and the opportunities available for Republicans to get their last wishes rammed into law before their complete Congressional control ends in January.

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Recommended Episodes Additional Reading Resources Visual Resources

Sound Clip Sources Interview: Schiff responds to threat from President Trump, CNN Politics, November 8, 2018. News Conference: Minority Leader Pelosi on 2018 Election Results, C-SPAN, November 7, 2018.
  • 19:30 Representative Nancy Pelosi: In any event, next week we look forward to welcoming our new class of freshmen. We will celebrate their diversity, the freshness of their thinking, and the rest. And they will immediately be incorporated into our building consensus and how we go forward in a very open, transparent, bipartisan, unifying Congress. Any questions?

  • 21:10 Representative Nancy Pelosi: In appropriations and in many of the other committee—all of the other committees—we have a responsibility for oversight. And, hopefully, in the course of asking for information, we can just make the request and the information will come in. We’re concerned about what’s happening at EPA, for example, to degrading the air we breathe and the water we drink despite what the president said today. So, that’s only one example.

  • 27:30 Unknown Speaker: Follow up on what the president said this morning. He made clear that if Democrats launch investigations, that any hopes for bipartisanship is off. Do you have any concerns that these investigations could jeopardize your opportunities to legislate? Representative Nancy Pelosi: We do not intend to abandon or relinquish our responsibility as Article I, the first branch of government, and our responsibilities for accountability, for oversight, and the rest. This doesn’t mean we go looking for a fight, but it means that if we see a need to go forward, we will. But that will be the work of our committees. Every committee has oversight responsibility. Congresswoman Eshoo’s on Energy and Commerce, and that’s a big oversight committee, as some of you probably are aware. But, specifically, to some of the concerns that the president may have, the Judiciary Committee, the Intelligence Committee, the Oversight Committee, the—well, there’re a number of committees that—depending on how we go down that path—the Financial Services committee, did I say Intelligence? Oh, Homeland Security Committee, because, of course, we are shamed as a nation by a policy that takes babies out of the arms of their mothers, that builds tents, and all the rest to house people, and there’s separation of families. So we want to look into that, and we would hope that we can do so by simply having oversight. If, in fact, requires a subpoena—I hope not, but—so be it.

News Conference: President Trump on 2018 Election Results, C-SPAN, November 7, 2018.
  • 23:00 President Donald Trump: Their whole agenda has been to try not giving me anything for the wall. I really believe politically they’re hurting themselves. I actually think politically that’s a good thing for me, but I want to get the wall up because we need to— Unknown Speaker: So no shut-down scenario— President Trump: I don’t know. I can’t tell you that. Unknown Speaker: —for the, for the mid, for the lame duck. President Trump: No, I can’t commit to that, but it’s possible.
News Conference: Democrat Richard Neal says he plans to seek Trump tax returns, APNews, YouTube, November 7, 2018. Hearing: Unaccompanied Immigrant Children, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, C-SPAN, August 16, 2018.
  • 1:14:30 Senator Claire McCaskill: This is about the fourth or fifth time I’ve been on this dais, and no one seems to be worried about the..

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Taxes: We all hate them but we all have to pay them. In December 2017, the Republicans in Congress rushed major changes to our tax policy into law. In this episode, host Jen Briney and her accountant friend, Alexis Claypool, explain the most significant changes to how our tax payments are going to be calculated and how these changes are likely to affect us. You will also learn about a major dingleberry that hitchhiked its way into law attached to this bill. Joe Briney joins Jen for the Thank Yous.

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H.R. 1: An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018.

 

Subtitle A - Individual Tax Reform Part I - Tax Rate Reform

Sec. 11001. Modification of Rates

Married Individuals Filing Joint Returns

Heads of Households

Unmarried Individuals

Inflation Adjustment

Part II - Deduction for Qualified Business Income of Pass-Thru Entities

Sec. 11011. Deduction for Qualified Business Income

Phase-In of Limit for Certain Taxpayers

Qualified Business Income

Exception for specified service businesses based on taxpayer's income

Threshold Amount

Application to partnerships and S Corporations

Part III - Tax Benefits for Families and Individuals

Sec. 11021. Increase in Standard Deduction

Sec. 11022. Increase in and Modification of Child Tax Credit.

Sec. 11027. Temporary Reduction in Medical Expense Deduction Floor.

Special Rules for Use of Retirement Funds with Respect to Areas Damaged by 2016 Disasters

Part IV - Education Part V - Deductions and Exclusions

Sec. 11042. Limitation on Deduction for State and Local, etc. Taxes

Sec. 11043. Limitation on Deduction for Qualified Residence Interest

Sec. 11045. Suspension of Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions

Sec. 11047. Suspension of Exclusion for Qualified Bicycle Commuting Reimbursement

Sec. 11048. Suspension of Exclusion for Qualified Moving Expense Reimbursement

Sec. 11049. Suspension of Deduction for Moving Expenses

Sec. 11051. Repeal of Deduction for Alimony Payments

Part VI - Increase in Estate and Gift Tax Exemption

Sec. 11061. Increase in Estate and Gift Tax Exemption

Part VII - Extension of Time Limit for Contesting IRS Levy Part VIII - Individual Mandate

Sec. 11081. Elimination of Shared Responsibility of Payment for Individuals Failing to Maintain Minimum Essential Coverage

Subtitle B - Alternative Minimum Tax

Sec. 12001. Repeal of Tax for Corporations

Sec. 12003. Increased Exemption for Individuals

Subtitle C - Business-related Provisions Part I - Corporate Provisions

Sec. 13001. 21-Percent Corporate Tax Rate

Part II - Small Business Reforms

Sec. 1301. Modifications of Rules for Expensing Depreciable Business Assets

Part III - Cost Recovery and Accounting Methods

Sec. 13201. Temporary 100-Percent Expensing for Certain Business Assets

Sec. 13202. Modifications to Depreciation Limitations on Luxury Automobiles and Personal Use Property

Part IV - Business-Related Exclusions and Deductions

Sec. 13301. Limitation on Deduction for Interest

Sec. 13304. Limitation on Deduction by Employers of Expenses for Fringe Benefits

Qualified Transportation Fringes

Transportation and Commuting Benefits

Sec. 13306. Denial of Deduction for Certain Fines, Penalties, and Other Amounts

Sec. 13307. Denial of Deduction for Settlements Subject to Nondisclosure Agreements Paid in Connection with Sexual Harassment or Sexual Abuse

Sec. 13308. Repeal of Deduction for Local Lobbying Expenses

Sec. 13311. Elimination of Deduction for Living Expenses Incurred by Members of Congress

Part V - Business Credits

Sec. 13403. Employer Credit for Paid Family and Medical Leave

Termination

Part VI - Provisions Related to Specific Entities and Industries

Sec. 13531. Limitation on Deduction for FDIC Premiums

Part VII - Employment

Sec. 13602. Excise Tax on Excess Tax-Exempt Organization Executive Compensation

Part VII - Exempt Organizations

Sec. 13702. Excise Tax Based on Investment Income of Private Colleges and Universities

Part IX - Other Provisions

Sec. 13802. Reduced Rate of Excise Tax on Beer

Sec. 13804. Reduced Rate of Excise Tax on Wine

Sec. 13807. Reduced Rate of Excise Tax on Certain Distilled Spirits

Subtitle D - International Tax Provisions Part 1 - Outbound Transactions

Sec. 14101. Deduction for Foreign-Source Portion of Dividends Received by Domestic Corporations from Specified 10-Percent Owned Foreign Corporations

Sec. 14202. Deduction for Foreign-Derived Intangible Income and Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income

Sec. 14211. Elimination of Inclusion of Foreign Base Company Oil Related Income

Part II - Inbound Transactions Part III - Other Provisions Title II

Sec. 20001. Oil and Gas Program

Sec. 20003. Strategic Petroleum Reserve Drawdown and Sale

Additional Reading Resources Sound Clip Sources Congressional Record of the 115th Congress; House of Representatives, Wednesday, September 27, 2017. Congressional Record of the 115th Congress; House of Representatives, Thursday, September 28, 2017. Congressional Record of the 115th Congress; House of Representatives, Wednesday, October 4, 2017. Congressional Record of the 115th Congress; House of Representatives, Monday, December 18, 2017. Congressional Record of teh 115th Congress; House of Representatives, Tuesday, December 19, 2017. Community Suggestions

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Our duty as voters is to judge the job performance of our members of Congress and decide whether or not they deserve to be re-hired or fired from their positions as lawmakers. In this episode, Jen summarizes 20 controversial bills and laws that passed during the 115th Congress which you can use to judge whether your Representative and two Senators have voted in your best interest. Links to all of the votes are listed in this episode's show notes on www.congressionaldish.com

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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes Bills S.2155: Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, introduced Nov 16, 2017, enacted May 24, 2018.

Outlined in detail in CD174: Bank Lobbyist Act

First significant re-writing of the banking laws since Dodd-Frank in 2010

Most significant change: Kills a Dodd-Frank requirement that banks with more than $50 billion in assets undergo stress tests to ensure their stabilityr. Bank Lobbyist Act changed that so stress tests will only be required for banks with over $250 billion. This exempts 25 of the 38 largest US banks from important regulations.

Passed the Senate 67-31

Passed House of Representatives 258-159

 

H.R.1628: American Health Care Act of 2017, introduced March 20, 2017, passed House May 4. 2017.

Outlined in detail in CD151: ACHA The House Version (American Health Care Act)

There were quite a few versions of bills that would have ripped up the rules placed on insurance companies by the Affordable Care Act, but every version - including this one - eliminated the requirements that health insurance cover “essential health benefits”, which include:

  • Ambulances
  • Emergencies
  • Hospital stays
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehab
  • Lab work
  • Preventative visits
  • Dental and vision for children

Would have also allowed - in some circumstance - insurance companies to charge us more for “pre-existing conditions”

Passed the House of Representatives 217-213

  • All Democrats no's
  • 20 Republicans no’s

 

S.Amdt. 667 (McConnell) to H.R. 1628: Of a perfecting nature., July 28, 2017.

The “Skinny Repeal” is a wildly irresponsible 8 page bill, which was only available to read for a few hours before the vote, which also would have allowed the sale of health insurance that doesn’t cover the essential health benefits.

This vote was the famous, dramatic moment when John McCain turned his thumb down and killed the bill.

Get the full story in CD157: Failure to Repeal

Failed Senate 49-51

  • All Democrats and Independents voted no

 

S.J.Res. 34: A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission relating to "Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services." introduced March 7, 2017, enacted April 3, 2017.

Regulation overturned: Killed a regulation that applied the privacy requirements of the Communications Act of 1934 to internet access and telecommunications providers. Required them to:

  • Provide privacy notices that clearly and accurately inform customers
  • Get opt-in or opt-out customer approval to use and share customer information
  • Require opt-in’s when the company is making money from selling our information
  • Secure our information
  • Notify customers of data breaches
  • Not condition service upon the customer’s surrender of privacy rights

Passed Senate 50-48

  • All Republicans yes
  • All Democrats and Independents no

Passed House 215-205 - All Democrats no

 

H.R. 21: Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017, introduced January 3, 2017, passed House January 4, 2017.

Allows Congress to bundle rules that they want to prevent into one bill so there is a single vote on a joint resolution of disapproval. This means that each one will not be carefully considered as is required now.

Passed the House of Representatives 238-184

  • Every Democrat voted no

Has not been voted on in the Senate

 

H.R. 26: Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017, introduced January 3, 2017, passed House January 5, 2017.

Changes the Congressional Review Act to require Congressional review of major agency regulations before they can go into effect.

Passed the House 237-187

  • all Republicans voted yes

Has not been voted on in the Senate

 

H.J.Res. 38: Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior known as the Stream Protection Rule, introduced January 30, 2017, enacted February 16, 2017.

Regulation overturned: Killed the “Stream Protection Rule”, which required permits to specify when coal mining would reach a damaging level for ground and surface water quality. Stricter water quality monitoring requirements in streams. Required land disturbed by mining be restored to a condition similar to what it was before the mining.

Passed Senate 54-45

Passed House 228-194

 

H.J.Res. 41: 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." introduced January 30, 2017, enacted February 14, 2017.

Regulation overturned: Kills a regulation requiring fossil fuel companies to annually report any payments made by the company or a subsidiary to a foreign government or the Federal Government for the commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals.

Passed Senate 52-47

  • All Republicans yes
  • All Democrats and Independents no

Passed House 235-187

 

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 pusuant to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, introduced January 30, 2017, enacted March 27, 2017.

Regulation overturned: Kills a regulation that enhanced opportunities for public involvement during the preparation of resource management plans by increasing public access to plans in earlier stages of the process, allowing the public to submit data and other information.

Passed Senate 51-48

  • All Republicans yes
  • All Democrats and Indepedents no

Passed House 234-186

 

H.J.Res. 40: 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, introduced January 30, 2017, enacted February 28, 2017.

Regulation overturned: Kills a regulation that required Federal agencies to give the Attorney General information on more people for inclusion in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). People who would be added include people collecting disability benefits due to mental instability.

Passed Senate 57-43

  • All Republicans voted yes

Passed House 235-180

 

H.J.Res. 83: Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to Clarification of Employer's Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain an Accurate Record of Each Recordable Injury and Illness, introduced February 21, 2017, enacted April 3, 2017.

Regulation overturned: Kills a regulation that made clear that the requirement to record work-related injuries and illnesses is an ongoing obligation; the duty does not expire if the employer fails to create records in the first place. The records must be complete for as long as records are required, which is 5 years and citations can be issued for up to 6 months after that.

Passed Senate 50-48

  • All Republicans yes
  • All Democrats and Independents no

Passed House 231-191

 

H.J.Res. 37: Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Defense, the General Services Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration relating to the Federal Acquisition Regulation, introduced January 30, 2017, enacted March 27, 2017.

Regulation overturned: Kills a regulation that required contractors for the Defense Department, General Services Administration, and NASA to report their compliance with 14 federal labor laws, required contractors to provide documentation on “hours worked, overtime hours, pay, and additions to or deductions from pay” in each pay period, and limited mandatory arbitration of employee claims for contracts and subcontracts worth more than $1 million.

Passed Senate 49-48

  • All Republicans voted yes
  • All Democrats and Independents voted no

Passed House 236-187

 

H.J.Res. 111: Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by Bureau of Consumer Finanacial Protection relating to "Arbitration Agreements" introduced July 20, 2017, enacted November 1, 2017.

Regulation Overturned: Killed a regulation that prohibited banks and other financial institutions from forcing arbitration in their contracts to prevent customers from filing and participating in class action lawsuits.

Passed Senate 51-50

  • VP Mike Pence broke the tie
  • All Democrats and Independents voted no

Passed House 231-190

  • All Democrats voted no
  S.J.Res. 57: A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by Bureau of Consumer financial Protection relating to "Indirect Auto Lending and Cmopliance with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act" introduced March 22, 2018, enacted May 21, 2018.

CFPB regulation overturned: Killed a regulation that included auto dealers in the definition of “creditor” for the purpose of prohibiting them from discriminating in any way in a credit transaction on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or welfare assistance.

Passed Senate 51-47

  • All Republicans yes
  • All Independents no

Passed House 234-175

 

S. 204: Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try Act of 2017, introduced January 24, 2017, enacted May 30, 2018.

Allows people diagnosed with a life-threatening diseases or conditions who have exhausted approved treatment options and can’t participate in a clinical trial on an experimental drug that has not been FDA approved to get that drug directly from the drug company, with a doctor’s approval.

Allows drug companies to sell their unapproved drugs directly to customers as long as the drugs have to have been through a completed Phase 1 of a clinical trial.

This law says the Secretary of HHS can’t use the clinical outcomes of the patient’s use of the drug to delay or adversely affect the review or approval of the drug, unless he/she certifies it’s for safety reasons or the drug company requests that data be used.

Gives legal immunity to the drug companies, prescribers, dispensers or an “other individual entity” unless there is willful misconduct, gross negligence, to the intentional breaking of a state law.

Passed the Senate by unanimous consent (no recorded vote)

Passed House 250-169 on May 22

  • All Republican votes were yes's
  • Along with 22 Democrats

 

H.R. 772: Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2017, introduced January 31, 2017, passed House February 6, 2018.

Changes the calorie disclosure requirements from telling us the number of calories in the standard menu item as usually prepared to allowing them to tell us the calories per serving, with them determining what a serving is.

Allows restaurants to choose whether they will display calories by entire combo meals, by individual items in combos, by servings in items in combos. Let’s them use ranges, averages, or “other methods” as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (making it a decision of political appointee)

Eliminates the requirement that restaurants provide calories in store if “the majority of orders are placed by customers who are off-premises”

Restaurants will not be required to get any signed certifications of compliance.

Restaurants can not be held liable in civil courts for violating nutrition disclosure laws.

Passed the House 266-157

Has not been voted on in the Senate

 

H.R. 2936: Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017, introduced June 20, 2017, passed House November 1, 2017.

Allows more wood to be removed by the logging industry from Federal Forests and exempts them some from environmental regulations

Passed House 232-188

Has not been voted on in the Senate

 

H.R. 4606: Ensuring Small Scale LNG Certainty and Access Act, introduced December 11, 2017, passed House September 6, 2018.

Deems the importation or exportation of natural gas to be “consistent with the public interest” and says the applications for importation or exportation “shall be granted without modification or delay” if the volume does not exceed 0.14 billion cubic feet per day and if the application doesn’t require an environmental impact statement.

Passed House 260-146

Has not been voted on in the Senate

  H.R. 1119: Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment Act (SENSE Act), introduced Febraury 16, 2017, passed House March 8, 2018.

Says the EPA must give coal companies the choice of if their steam generators will comply with emissions standards for hydrogen chloride or sulfur dioxide. The EPA is not allowed to require compliance with both

Passed House 215-189

Has not been voted on in the Senate

 

 

 

H.R. 3053: Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2018, introduced June 26, 2017, passed House May 10, 2018.

Forces the continuance of the process of moving all the nuclear waste in the United States to Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Grants the entire US government immunity for damages caused in the course of “any mining, mineral leasing, or geothermal leasing activity” conducted on the land reserved for nuclear waste disposal.

Speeds up the approval process by 6 months for interim storage and basically forbids disapproval

Would Increase by 57% the amount of spent fuel allowed to be held during construction - no environmental review to make sure the tanks can hold this much

The Secretary of Energy does NOT need to consider alternative actions or no-action alternatives to infrastructure projects needed for Yucca mountain as far as environmental analysis are concerned.

Passed the House of Representatives 340-72

Has not been voted on in the Senate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

H.R. 7: No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017, introduced January 13, 2017, passed House January 24, 2017.

Makes permanent a common funding law amendment that prevents federal money from being used to perform abortions.

This bill would also prevent any government payment assistance on the health insurance exchanges for plans that cover abortion - which effectively would stop health insurance companies..

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In an experimental follow-up episode, listen along with Jen and Joe to the highlights of a Senate hearing examining the progress that has been made towards caring for the immigrant children who have been either taken from their immigrant parents or who arrived in the U.S. alone.

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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes Additional Reading Resources Sound Clip Sources Hearing: Unaccompanied Immigrant Children, Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee, August 16, 2018. Hearing: Oversight of Efforts to Protect Unaccompanied Alien Children from Human Trafficking and Abuse, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, August 16, 2018.

Witnesses:

  • Richard Hudson: Acting Chief of Law Enforcement Operations, US Border Patrol, US Department of Homeland Security
  • Robert Guadian: Acting Deputy Assistant Diretor for Field Operations West, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, US Dept of Homeland Security
  • Commander Jonathan D. White: U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, Federal Health Coordinating Official for the 2018 Reunification Effort, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • James McHenry: Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, US Dept of Justice
Hearing: Prescription Drug Supply and Cost, Senate Finance Committee, C-SPAN, June 26, 2018.

Witness:

  • Alex Azar - Health and Human Services Secretary

Sound Clips:

  • 27:50 Senator Ron Wyden (OR): How many kids who were in your custody because of the zero-tolerance policy have been reunified with a parent or a relative? Alex Azar: So, I believe we have had a high of over 2,300 children that were separated from their parents as a result of the enforcement policy. We now have 2,047.

Hearing: Stopping the Daily Border Caravan: Time to Build a Policy Wall, Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, May 22, 2018.

Witnesses:

  • Ronald Vitiello - Acting Depury Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection
  • Lee Francis Cissna - Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Thomas Homan - Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Sound Clips:

  • 41:33 Thomas Homan: They’re separating families for two reasons. Number one, they can’t prove the relationship—and we’ve had many cases where children had been trafficked by people that weren’t their parents, and we’re concerned about the child. The other issues are when they’re prosecuted, then they’re separated.

  • 37:40 Representative Filemon Vela (TX): So, with this new policy in place, at the point that you’re in a situation where you decide to separate the families, where do the minors go? Vitiello: The decision is to prosecute 100%. If that happens to be a family member, then HHS would then take care of the minor as an unaccompanied child.

  • 39:58 Thomas Homan: As far as the question on HHS, under the Homeland Security Act 2002, we’re required, both the Border Patrol and ICE, to release unaccompanied children to HHS within 72 hours. So, we simply—once they identify within that 72 hours a bed someplace in the country, our job is to get that child to that bed. Then HHS, their responsibility is to reunite that child sometime with a parent and make sure that child gets released to a sponsor that’s being vetted.

Speech: Sessions Says 'Zero Tolerance' for Illegal Border Crossings, CBS SF BayArea, May 7, 2018.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Today we are here to send a message to the world: we are not going to let this country be overwhelmed. People are not going to caravan or otherwise stampede our border. We need legality and integrity in the system. That’s why the Department of Homeland Security is now referring 100 percent of illegal Southwest Border crossings to the Department of Justice for prosecution. And the Department of Justice will take up those cases. I have put in place a “zero tolerance” policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border. If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple.

Hearing: Oversight of HHS and DHS Efforts to Protect Unaccompanied Alien Children from Human Trafficking and Abuse, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, C-SPAN, April 26, 2018.

Witnesses:

  • James McCament - Deputy Under Secretary of the Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans at the Dept. of Homeland Security
  • Steven Wagner - Acting Assistant Secretary for Administration for Children and Facilities at the Dept. of Health and Human Services
  • Kathryn Larin - Director for Education, Workforce, and Income Security Team at the U.S. Government Accountability Office

Sound Clips:

  • 45:05 Kathryn Larin: In 2015, we reported that the interagency process to refer unaccompanied children from DHS to ORR shelters was inefficient and vulnerable to error. We recommended that DHS and HHS develop a joint collaborative process for the referral and placement of unaccompanied children. In response, the agencies recently developed a memorandum of agreement that provides a framework for coordinating responsibilities. However, it is still under review and has not yet been implemented.

  • 1:51:28 Sen. Portman: Mr. Wagner, give me a timeframe. Wagner: Sir, we have to incorporate the new MOA in the draft JCO. Honestly, we are months away, but I promise to work diligently to bring it to a conclusion.

  • 1:57:15 Senator Rob Portman (OH): Okay, we learned this morning that about half, maybe up to 58%, of these kids who are being placed with sponsors don’t show up at the immigration hearings. I mean, they just aren’t showing up. So when a sponsor signs the sponsorship agreement, my understanding is they commit to getting these children to their court proceedings. Is that accurate, Mr. Wagner? Steven Wagner: That is accurate. And in addition, they go through the orientation on responsibilities of custodians. Sen. Portman: So, when a child does not show up, HHS has an agreement with the sponsor that has been violated, and HHS, my understanding, is not even notified if the child fails to show up to the proceedings. Is that accurate? Wagner: That is accurate, Senator. Sen. Portman: So you have an agreement with the sponsor. They have to provide this agreement with you, HHS. The child doesn’t show up, and you’re not even notified. So I would ask you, how could you possibly enforce the commitment that you have, the agreement that you have, with the sponsor if you don’t have that information? Wagner: I think you’re right. We have no mechanism for enforcing the agreement if they fail to show up for the hearing.

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Cover Art

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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

 

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A new policy change by the Trump administration on May 7th has resulted in thousands of children being separated from their want-to-be-immigrant parents who crossed the U.S. southern border in the wrong location. In this episode, hear from officials in every branch of government involved to learn why this is happening, why it's proving to be so difficult to return the children to their parents, and what we can do to help this situation.

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Letter to Representative/Senators

Jen's letter that she sent to her members of Congress. You are welcome to use this as you wish! 

Additional Reading Resources Sound Clip Sources Hearing: Prescription Drug Supply and Cost, Senate Finance Committee, C-SPAN, June 26, 2018.

Witness: - Alex Azar - Health and Human Services Secretary

  • 27:50 Senator Ron Wyden (OR): How many kids who were in your custody because of the zero-tolerance policy have been reunified with a parent or a relative? Alex Azar: So, I believe we have had a high of over 2,300 children that were separated from their parents as a result of the enforcement policy. We now have 2,047. Sen. Wyden: How many have been reunified? Azar: So, they would be unified with either parents or other relatives under our policy, so, of course if the parent remains in detention, unfortunately under rules that are set by Congress and the courts, they can’t be reunified while they’re in detention. Sen. Wyden: So is the answer zero? I mean, you have— Azar: No, no. No, we’ve had hundreds of children who had been separated who are now with—for instance, if there was a parent— Sen. Wyden: I want an— Azar: —parent who’s here in the country, they’d be with that parent. Sen. Wyden: I want to know about the children in your department’s custody. Azar: Yeah. Sen. Wyden: How many of them have been reunified? Azar: Well, that’s exactly what I’m saying. They had been placed with a parent or other relative who’s— Sen. Wyden: How many? Azar: —here in the United States. Sen. Wyden: How many? Azar: Several hundred. Sen. Wyden: Of the 2— Azar: Of the 2,300-plus that— Sen. Wyden: Okay. Azar: —came into our care. Sen. Wyden: How many— Azar: Probably of 2,047.
  • 49:20 Senator Ben Nelson (FL): So, what is the plan to reunite 2,300 children? Alex Azar: Absolutely. So, the first thing we need to do is, for any of the parents, we have to confirm parentage. So that’s part of the process. With any child in our care, we have to ensure—there are traffickers; there are smugglers; there’re, frankly, just some bad people occasionally—we have to ensure that the parentage is confirmed. We have to vet those parents to ensure there’s no criminality or violent history on them. That’s part of the regular process for any placement with an individual. At that point, they’ll be ready to be reconnected to their parents. This is where our very broken immigration laws come into play. We’re not allowed to have a child be with the parent who is in custody of the Department of Homeland Security for more than 20 days, and so until we can get Congress to change that law to—the forcible separation there of the family units—we’ll hold them or place them with another family relative in the United States. But we are working to get all these kids ready to be placed back with their parents, get that all cleared up, as soon as—if Congress passes a change or if those parents complete their immigration proceedings, we can then reunify.
  • 1:11:52 Alex Azar: If Congress doesn’t change the 20-day limit on family unification, then it depends on—the process for any individual parent going through their immigration proceedings, as long as they’re in detention, they can’t be together for more than 20 days—absurdly, but it is the case.
  • 2:03:31 Senator Ron Wyden (OR): You told me a little bit ago that the Department has 2,047 kids in its custody, so— Alex Azar: That are separated. We’ve got about 12,000 unaccompanied minors in our program.
Hearing: EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program, C-SPAN, June 19, 2018.

Witnesses:

  • Lee Francis Cissna - Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security

 

  • 17:17 Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA): Citizenship should not be for sale like a commodity on the stock exchange. There are millions—in fact, 4 million—of individuals who are waiting in line to immigrate lawfully to the United States. They have paid their required fees, they are in line, they wait patiently for a day that a visa becomes available, so they can be reunited with their families here in this country. However, because they don’t have a half a million dollars to buy their way in, they will continue to wait, some as long as 24 years. Yet, under the EB-5 system, the wealthy can cut to the front of the line.
  • 49:45 Lee Francis Cissna: I did not play any role in deciding whether there was going to be a zero-tolerance initiative. What I recommended was, since there is one, what we need to do is decide which cases to refer in fulfillment of the zero-tolerance initiative directed by the attorney general, and I suggested that—I and the other officials who were involved in these discussions suggested that we refer all cases. Senator Dick Durbin: All cases. Cissna: Yes. Anybody who violates 8 U.S.C. 1325(a) will be prosecuted. Sen. Durbin: Which is—simply presenting themselves illegally at the border, without legal authorization at our border. Is that what you’re saying? Cissna: Between ports of entry, yes. Sen. Durbin: And you’re not just limiting this to those who may have committed some other crime, involved in some activity dangerous to the United States, but merely presenting themselves at these places is enough for you to believe this administration should treat them as criminals and remove their children. Cissna: I believe anyone crossing the border illegally who is apprehended doing so, whether they’re presenting themselves or not presenting themselves or trying to evade capture, if they are apprehended, they’re violating the law and should be prosecuted. Sen. Durbin: But if a person came to this border, seeking asylum— Cissna: Mm-hmm. Sen. Durbin: —is that person per se a criminal? Cissna: If they cross illegally, yes. Sen. Durbin: The premise was they presented themselves. Cissna: If they present themselves at the port of entry, no.
  • 57:58 Senator Mazie Hirono (HI): So there are two ways that 1325 violations can proceed: either as a civil matter, which is what was happening with the Obama administration, that did not require separating children from their parents; or you can go the criminal route, and this administration have chosen the criminal route. Isn’t that correct? Lee Francis Cissna: Well, I would have to defer to DOJ on the appropriate interpretation of 1325, but as I read it, it looks like a misdemeanor to me, and, therefore, would be a criminal— Sen. Hirono: Well, I’m reading the statute right here, and it says that it can be considered as a civil penalty’s provision; under civil, not criminal. That’s what the plain meaning of that section says to me that I’m reading right now. So, this administration has chosen to follow the criminal route, and that is the excuse, or that is the rationale, being given for why children have to be separated at the border. Now, you did not have to go that route, and in fact, from your testimony, you sound really proud that this administration has a zero-tolerance policy that is resulting in children being separated from their parents. Am I reading you wrong? You think that this is a perfectly—humane route to go to implement Section 1325? Cissna: It’s the law. I’m proud of it, yeah. Sen. Hirono: No, the law, this law allows for a civil process, and you are attributing _____(01:27). Cissna: I’m not sure that interpretation is correct, and I would, again, defer to DOJ for the final answer.
  • 1:10:30 Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: So, asylum seekers. They’re often refugees, correct? Lee Francis Cissna: Asylum seekers fall into the same definition of refugee at 101(a) (42), yeah. Sen. Whitehouse: Yep. And they often have very little in the way of resources, they’re often frightened, correct? Cissna: Yes. Sen. Whitehouse: Very few have legal degrees or are familiar with the United States’ immigration law, correct? Cissna: Yes. Sen. Whitehouse: And so if you’re a lost and frightened refugee and you see the U.S. border and you think, ah, this is my chance to get across to safety—which has long been something that our country’s been associated with—there could be a perfectly innocent reason for crossing the border in that location. And in that circumstance, would it not be perfectly reasonable for immigration officials who intercept them to say, “Ah, you seem to be a legitimate asylum seeker; you’re just in the wrong place. We’ll take you to the port of entry, and you can join the other asylum seekers at the port of entry”? But to arrest them and separate them from their children is a different choice, correct? Cissna: Well, I think if the person is already at that point where they’re apprehended and making their asylum case known, they’ve already crossed into the country illegally. If they’ve already crossed the border and made their asylum claim, they’ve already violated the law. They violated 1325. They’re here illegally. Sen. Whitehouse: Because they crossed in the wrong place. Cissna: Correct. Sen. Whitehouse: And they may not know that it’s illegal to cross in the wrong place, correct? They may simply be coming here because they’re poor and frightened and seeking safety, and for a long time, that’s what the United States has been a symbol of, has it not? Cissna: I cannot get into the minds of the people that are crossing the border illegally, but it seems to be— Sen. Whitehouse: But it is a clear possibility that there could be an innocent explanation for crossing the border as an asylum seeker at a place other than an established port of entry. Cissna: There might be. *Sen. Whitehouse: Okay. There you go. Cissna: Maybe.
  • 1:36:13 Senator Chuck Grassley (IA): Do you think the administration would support repeal of Flores? Lee Francis Cissna: That is indeed one of the things that Secretary Nielsen spoke about yesterday, repeal Flores, but also you need to give ICE enough funds to be able to hold the family units once you’ve repealed Flores.
Briefing: White House Daily Briefing, Immigration Official on Border Security and Migrant Family Separation, C-SPAN, June 18, 2018. Hearing: Central American Immigrants and Border Security, House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, C-SPAN, May 22, 2018.

Witnesses:

  • Ronald Vitiello - Acting Deputy Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection
  • Lee Francis Cissna - Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Thomas Homan - Acting Director of US Immigration..
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Congressional Dish by Jennifer Briney - 3w ago

The State Department is known as the agency that solves conflicts with words but a closer look reveals that it’s much more connected to war than most of us think. By examining the State Department’s funding for 2018, discover the State Department’s role in regime changes past, current, and future. In this episode, you’ll also get an introduction to the National Endowment for Democracy, a scandalous organization with a noble sounding name. Mike Glaser joins Jen for the Thank You’s.

View the updated Omnibus

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Additional Reading Resources Sound Clip Sources Testimony: State Department Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request, Foreign Affairs Committee, C-SPAN, May 23, 2018.
  • 5:32 Chairman Ed Royce (CA): The National Endowment for Democracy in particular should be strongly supported. Let’s face it: democracy is on the ropes worldwide; supporting it is a moral and strategic good. NED is backing critical programming in Venezuela and Nigeria and worldwide. It is no time to cut this programming.

  • 6:00 Chairman Ed Royce (CA): The administration has rightly provided lethal arms to Ukraine, which remains under siege by Russian proxies.

  • 6:16 Chairman Ed Royce (CA): A far more severe threat is Moscow’s information war. This committee has heard that Moscow’s goal isn’t so much to make Western citizens think this or think that; Russia’s goal is to destroy all confidence in objective thought. By undermining fact-based discussions with lies, our enemies hope to gravely damage Western democracies. The State Department must aggressively counter disinformation through its global engagement center, other means, and with department officials speaking out for the truth.

  • 18:05 Mike Pompeo: On Monday I unveiled a new direction for the president’s Iran strategy. We will apply unprecedented financial pressure; coordinate with our DOD colleagues on deterrents efforts; support the Iranian people, perhaps most importantly; and hold out the prospect for a new deal with Iran. It simply needs to change its behavior.

  • 19:40 Mike Pompeo: This budget request seeks $2.2 billion to help stimulate American economic growth by expanding markets for U.S. investment and ensuring the partner countries can fully participate in the global economy.

  • 19:55 Mike Pompeo: America’s message, a noble one, must be shared with the world at all times. Gentleman Royce, you mentioned the global engagement center. We will work with the 55-plus-million dollars available to cover both its original mission, counter extremism, plus countering state-sponsored disinformation campaigns. We will not tolerate Russian interference in our 2018 elections. Much work has been done; there’s more to do. Rest assured that we will take the appropriate countermeasures in response to the continued Russian efforts.

  • 35:05 Mike Pompeo: First, with respect to Venezuela, we did this morning receive a formal notification that our charged affairs had been PNG’d. We will respond appropriately, certainly reciprocally, but perhaps more than that. Perhaps proportionately. We understand that there’s a second U.S. officer who will also be PNG’d. We’re well aware. We’re watching the Maduro regime continue to engage in destructive behavior for the Venezuelan people.

  • 1:44:35 Paul Rep. Cook (CA): Foreign military sales. A number of the countries are concerned. Peru is— Mike Pompeo: Mm-hmm. Rep. Cook: —I think they’re putting in a plug for the C-130Js. Very, very interested. And so I obviously am very, very concerned. Before, in the past, we’re much more involved in that. And as I said, there’s a lot of countries, most notably China and Iran, that are involved in that. What can we do to increase foreign military sales in that region? Pompeo: I, for one, would advocate for working closely with them and encouraging them to purchase U.S. equipment that fit their country, that was the right tool set for them, for themselves and their security interests. I hope that we can, across the board, streamline the State Department’s process connected with foreign military sales. There’s work to do. Rep. Cook: And I brought up this subject before in regards to NATO. You know, Eastern Europe, they’re still reliant on the parts from Russia. Once you go with another country, you’re going to be dependent on that. So, I think we’ve got to look at that whole situation, or once they buy, they’re going to be buying there for the next five generations or something. Pompeo: Yes, sir. Rep. Cook: Thank you very much. I yield back.

  • 1:54:17 Rep. Scott Perry (PA): And in Bosnia, I’m concerned that there’s an October election and there’s a problem with the constitution. The date and accords were never supposed to last 20 years. They have. But I’m concerned that we’re not headed in the right place there. And I just want to get your thoughts on that, if we’re going to wait to see what happens, if we’re going to take preemptive action. I would hate to see that thing burn down and then—with the United States having troops on the ground there to try and secure the peace, and also if we’re interested in pursuing putting some forces there, again, to thwart Russia, and if that’s a consideration. So, those two topics, sir. Mike Pompeo: So, let me start first with Bosnia. We’re working on the very issue you described. I can’t say a lot about it, but know that the State Department, others, Department of Defense are there. We understand the risk. We think the region’s very important. We know the—and this transitions to your second part of the question which is, we know the Russians are hard at work there destabilizing— Rep. Perry: As are the Turks, right? Pompeo: Yes. And so there are a handful, although admittedly not sufficiently sized levers currently being employed, and we’re working to develop a strategy that puts us in a better place.

  • 1:55:35 Rep. Scott Perry (PA): Mr. Secretary, this is a picture—I’m sure you’re well aware—of an M1 tank manufactured right here in the United States, paid for by the citizens of the United States, with their taxes. That is a Hezbollah flag on it. I am concerned and have written letters regarding the Train and Equip Program in Iraq and the Shia Crescent and the land bridges they’re building across Iraq with the militias there again. Many of the Iranian people want freedom, they want peace, and the don’t agree with the regime that they’re working—living under. But I offered amendments in the NDAA to stop the funding and the Train and Equip Program. One was found in favor; one was not. So we leave it up to you. I want to make sure that you’re aware that this is happening, including militias like Kata’ib Hezbollah, listed as a terrorist organization for killing American soldiers. And if the Congress is unwilling to stop it, I hope you will be willing to stop the funding and the Train and Equip Program in Iraq and funding the Iranian militias that are willing to kill Americans and Jews and everybody across the Crescent that disagrees with them. Mike Pompeo: I’ll say this: it is the case that when we perform Train and Equip functions from time to time, equipment ends up in the hands of the wrong people. It’s a risk inherent in those operations. The question becomes, is the value we’re getting from that training, those exercises, outweigh the risk that that happens? You should know that the U.S. government works diligently to put rules and processes in place to make that picture, or pictures like that, as infrequent as possible. Rep. Perry: I don’t think the Iraqis are complying.

  • 2:03:45 Rep. Ron DeSantis (FL): In terms of what’s going on in Venezuela, there’s a pretty significant Cuban presence of military intelligence. Is that your estimation? Mike Pompeo: I’m sorry. Could you repeat the question? Rep. DeSantis: In terms of the situation in Venezuela, propping up the Maduro regime, is part of that the Cuban military and intelligence apparatus? Pompeo: In this setting I can say there are a great deal of Cuban influence that is working alongside the Maduro regime. Rep. DeSantis: And it’s not helpful to what America wants. Pompeo: It runs adverse to U.S. interests, directly adverse to U.S. interests.

  • 2:05:42 Rep. Ron DeSantis (FL): The Iranian people, obviously, are not happy with this regime. I mean, this is a militant, Islamic regime that’s been really imposed on relatively pro-Western populous, educated middle class. We see the protests. The president has spoken out, I think correctly. What can we do to help, because it seems like the regime cracks down on the social networks, they don’t want there to be a free flow of information, but I think it’s certainly in our interests to empower people who view this regime as illegitimate and not representative of their ideals. Mike Pompeo: It’s long been U.S. deeply held position that we will do the things we can to ensure that peoples all around the world have their human rights, their political rights, their capacity to express themselves. We shouldn’t shy away from that with respect to Iran, either. There are a number of tools that we can use, some of which I’m now responsible for their implementation; others exist other places in government. We should bring them all to bear to allow the Iranian people to be governed by the leaders that they choose.

  • 2:59:44 Rep. Ted Lieu (CA): I’d like to ask you now about Yemen. As you know, the war in Yemen is now the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. Over 22 million people are now at risk of starvation, 8 million don’t know where their next meal will be, and every 10 minutes a child dies of preventable causes. So the U.S. is involved in Yemen in two ways. One is we are striking terrorists. Now, I don’t have a problem with that. But the other way we’re involved is we are assisting the Saudi-led military coalition. And again, I don’t have a problem with assisting our allies, but I do have a problem when that coalition is killing large numbers of civilians..

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