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Yesterday, Republican Justin Amash (MI-03) and Democrat John Lewis (GA-05) as well as 58 of their colleagues sent a letter to the Senate calling on them to pass real NSA reform as opposed to the watered-down bill that passed the House.

The signees of the letter voted against the USA FREEDOM Act last week because “its reforms do not adequately or appropriately reform surveillance practices or address privacy concern.” They urge the Senate to “ensur[e] the federal government’s surveillance practices comport with the U.S. Constitution, are conducted under effective congressional oversight, and are limited to efforts proven effective at safeguarding our country.”

Here is the full text of the letter:

Dear Senators:

On May 13, 2015, the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 (H.R. 2048) passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 338 to 88. We, the undersigned representatives, opposed the measure because its reforms do not adequately or appropriately reform surveillance practices or address privacy concerns. Many of our colleagues felt similarly, supporting the bill only out of concern the Senate would be unwilling to engage in more comprehensive reform.

The American people deserve congressional action that secures their constitutional rights. While we recognize the government's legitimate interests in certain surveillance activities intended to protect the United States, these intrusions must be carefully limited and overseen in order to avoid encroaching upon the freedoms they are intended to preserve. The recent decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit declaring the government's interpretation of "relevant" unlawful underscores that Congress must do more. We urge you to join us in ensuring the federal government’s surveillance practices comport with the U.S. Constitution, are conducted under effective congressional oversight, and are limited to efforts proven effective at safeguarding our country.

Congress has had ample time for debate. We must not kick the can down the road with a short-term reauthorization. Nor will we acquiesce to any effort to weaken this legislation. Indeed, there is strong support for real reform in this chamber, and we hope you will work with us to improve the legislation, such as by incorporating the reforms contained in the original USA FREEDOM Act of 2013, which was cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 152 representatives in the House, and the reforms embodied in the Massie-Lofgren amendment, which was overwhelmingly adopted by the House last year.

We look forward to working together to better protect the rights of all Americans.

Sincerely,

The letter was signed by 33 Republicans and 27 Democrats, roughly 14% of each caucus.

Here are the 33 Republicans:

Justin Amash (MI-03)
Rod Blum (IA-01)
Dave Brat (R-VA)
Curt Clawson (FL-19)
Scott DesJarlais (TN-04)
Jeff Duncan (SC-03)
John Duncan (TN-02)
John Fleming (R-LA)
Scott Garrett (NJ-05)
Christopher Gibson (NY-19)
Louie Gohmert (TX-02)
Paul Gosar (AZ-04)
Tom Graves (GA-14)
Andy Harris (MD-01)
Jody Hice (R-GA)
Tim Huelskamp (KS-01)
Water Jones (NC-03)
Jim Jordan (OH-04)
Raúl Labrador (ID-01)
Cynthia Lummis (WY-AL)
Thomas Massie (KY-04)
Tom McClintock (CA-04)
Mark Meadows (NC-11)
Mick Mulvaney (SC-05)
Richard Nugent (FL-11)
Scott Perry (PA-04)
Ted Poe (TX-02)
Bill Posey (FL-08)
Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48)
Phil Roe (TN-01)
Mark Sanford (SC-01)
David Schweikert (AZ-06)
Ted Yoho (FL-03)

Here are the 27 Democrats:

Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)
Mike Capuano (MA-07)
Peter DeFazio (OR-04)
Diana DeGette (CO-01)
Lloyd Doggett (CO-02)
Donna Edwards (MD-04)
Keith Ellison (MN-05)
Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
Alan Grayson (FL-09)
Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03)
Alcee Hastings (FL-20)
Mike Honda (CA-17)
Barbara Lee (CA-13)
John Lewis (GA-05)
Ted Lieu (CA-33)
Alan Lowenthal (CA-47)
Jim McGovern (MA-02)
Frank Pallone (NJ-06)
Chellie Pingree (ME-01)
Mark Pocan (WI-02)
Jared Polis (CO-02)
Charles B. Rangel (NY-13)
José Serrano (NY-15)
Mark Takano (CA-41)
Chris Van Hollen (MD-08)
Maxine Waters (CA-43)
Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12)

Discuss

Yesterday, in addition to passing a deficit-funded corporate tax break for R&D, the House passed the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015, a funding bill for federal scientific programs that cut the National Science Foundation's funding for social behavior and economic sciences research by 55% compared to current enacted spending levels. It would also cut DOE's applied research programs in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by almost 30% and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy by 50% below fiscal 2015 levels.

Here is Representative Eddie B. Johnson (TX-30), the ranking Democrat on the Science and Technology Committee, laying out the many other flaws of the bill:

The Competes Act of 2007 was landmark bipartisan legislation that was based on the recommendations of the esteemed National Academies and was vetted with dozens of stakeholder organizations through a multi-month, transparent process. The Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010 went through a similar, transparent, bipartisan process. In contrast, H.R. 1806 was kept behind closed doors until less than a week before the full committee markup. There were no legislative hearings or subcommittee markups. Neither the agencies that are being authorized nor the stakeholder community at large had any opportunity to see it or to provide feedback. Bipartisan negotiations were limited to a few pages in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) title.

H.R. 1806 violates every one of the basic principles that underlay the original Competes Act. The Competes Acts of 2007 and 2010 sought to ensure America's continued scientific preeminence and to grow our innovation economy. In contrast, H.R. 1806 is preoccupied with questioning the motives of the National Science Foundation and the integrity of the scientists it funds. In addition, it would put up multiple roadblocks to progress in clean energy research and development (R&D), under the guise of preventing ``picking winners and losers'', even as H.R 1806 picks its own winners and losers.

The Competes Acts of 2007 and 2010 focused on reinforcing America's commitment to the sciences across the board. In contrast, H.R. 1806 seeks to pit different scientific disciplines against one another and to prevent research in fields to which the Majority is ideologically opposed.

The Competes Acts of 2007 and 2010 sought to provide sustainable increases for R and D. In contrast, H.R. 1806 would flat fund R&D overall and impose severe cuts in certain fields. The Competes Acts of 2007 and 2010 sought to attract a new generation of STEM researchers across all fields. In contrast, H.R. 1806 would impose funding cuts and policies that will discourage an entire generation of American students and researchers.

The Competes Acts of 2007 and 2010 received hundreds of endorsements from scientific organizations, universities, companies, and industry organizations. This time, even though they had only a few days to respond, a large number of significant organizations wrote to the Committee expressing concern or outright opposition to H.R. 1806. By the date of the markup we had already received 32 such letters representing well over 300 scientific organizations, universities, private companies, and retired military leaders.

Among those organizations expressing serious concern are the American Physical Society, the Computing Research Association, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Energy Sciences Coalition. It is notable that the very scientists and engineers for whom H.R. 1806 was supposedly written want nothing to do with it.

We even received a letter from the widely respected Secretary of Energy. This may well be the first time in the history of this Committee that a sitting Cabinet member has provided formal opposition to a piece of legislation that we are considering, certainly at this stage of the legislative process. That should be a strong indication of just how bad this bill really is.

H.R. 1806 arbitrarily provides increases to the natural sciences and engineering at the expense of the social, behavioral, and economic sciences (SBE), geosciences, prestigious fellowships for American graduate students, EPSCoR, international collaboration, and STEM education. The bill slashes funding for the SBE research by 55 percent from the FY 2015 level, even though NSF is the primary source of federal support for SBE sciences. Understanding human factors is essential to our economic and national security, public health, and the wellbeing of our society as we know it, and this severe cut will do lasting harm. H.R. 1806 cuts funding for the geosciences directorate (GEO) by 8 percent. GEO, in addition to funding work directly on climate sciences, has a broad portfolio that includes ocean sciences, natural hazards research, space weather, and the polar programs, every one of which is essential to this nation's national and economic security and wellbeing. The bill cuts EPSCoR and NSF graduate research fellowships by 11 percent. We do not agree with any of these cuts.

H.R. 1806 flat funds the Education and Human Resources directorate (EHR), despite the repeated rhetoric on the importance of STEM education and the significantly increased administrative burden placed on EHR as a result of several other provisions in the bill. That administrative burden compounds the loss of purchasing power inherent in flat funding.

Therefore, flat funding in this bill represents a cut, not just due to the impact of inflation. EHR funds rigorous research that improves STEM education and opportunities for all Americans. It must be fully funded. Finally, with respect to funding, H.R. 1806 flat funds the agency's operations account, putting into severe jeopardy the cost and schedule of NSF's new headquarters being built in Alexandria, Virginia.

A couple of the significant policy concerns in the NSF title were positively addressed during the markup; however concerns remain. Overall, ``heavy-handed oversight'' is a more fitting term than ``authorization'' to describe the NSF title, which does not follow the spirit of Competes.

There is room for improvement throughout the NSF title, but a few provisions stand out as being the most flawed. Specifically, Sec. 106 represents a misguided and potentially dangerous attempt to impose a level of political review on NSF's gold-standard merit-review system, thus encouraging researchers, peer-reviewers, and NSF program officers alike to play it safe, discouraging high-risk research and out-of-the-box thinking that is essential to the progress of science.

In another provision that is a solution in search of a problem, Sec. 116 would require public shaming of all NSF-funded investigators who are found to be guilty of research misconduct, independent of the nature or severity of the offense. This same provision also suggests that NSF should police misconduct in scientific publications, something that is impossible for them to do. Similarly, in another poorly conceived provision on research reproducibility, Sec. 117 largely ignores the expert advice of NSF officials on the actual nature of the reproducibility challenges (including how much these challenges vary across fields), the proactive steps NSF is already taking with input from their expert advisory committees, and how the Academies might best be helpful on this topic.

(emphasis added)

It passed 217 to 205, with 23 Republicans joining Democrats to oppose it.

Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) offered an amendment to strike the provision in the bill requiring a comptroller general report identifying duplicative climate science related research across federal agencies.

In speaking in favor of his amendment, Rep. Lowenthal explained, "A basic tenet of science is that you have to reproduce scientific results...Now Congress is trying to legislate changes to the scientific method. And I think that's a shame."

The amendment failed 187 to 236.

One Democrat joined Republicans in voting against it: Collin Peterson (MN-07).

Five Republicans joined Democrats in voting for it:

Carlos Curbelo (FL-26)
Bob Dold (IL-10)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27)
David Reichert (WA-08)

Don Beyer (VA-08) offered an amendment to strike the provision eliminating "reductions of energy-related emissions, including greenhouse gases" from the goals of ARPA-E.

It failed 190 to 232.

7 Republicans joined Democrats here.

Carlos Curbelo (FL-26)
Bob Dold (IL-10)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
John Katko (NY-24)
Elise Stefank (NY-21)
Chris Stewart (UT-02)
Glenn Thompson (PA-05)

Eddie B. Johnson (TX-30) offered an amendment to strike the provision of the bill that places restrictions on the hosting or attendance of scientific and technical conferences and trade events. In the minority dissent above, Rep. Johnson explained the danger of this provision: "Specifically, Sec. 106 represents a misguided and potentially dangerous attempt to impose a level of political review on NSF's gold-standard merit-review system, thus encouraging researchers, peer-reviewers, and NSF program officers alike to play it safe, discouraging high-risk research and out-of-the-box thinking that is essential to the progress of science."

It failed 177 to 243.

173 Democrats and 4 Republicans voted for it. 9 Democrats and 234 Republicans voted against it.

Here are the 4 Republicans:

Carlos Curbelo (FL-26)
Bob Dold (IL-10)
Steve Stivers (OH-15)
Pat Tiberi (OH-12)

Here are the 9 Democrats:

Jim Costa (CA-16)
John Garamendi (CA-03)
Gwen Graham (FL-02)
Dan Lipinski (IL-03)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02)
Kurt Schrader (OR-05)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)

Discuss

As we all know, Republicans only care about deficits when it comes to spending that benefits working- and middle-class Americans. When it comes to corporate tax breaks, they couldn't care less about deficits.

House Republicans showed that double standard again today by passing the American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2015, a bill that extended two research and development tax credits at a cost of $224 billion.

The House Democratic leadership has opposed the House GOP's strategy of passing unfunded tax breaks and doing tax extenders in a piecemeal way.

Here is Sandy Levin (MI-09), the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, in a dissenting view in the Committee report for the bill:

The two permanent tax extender bills approved by the Republicans at the markup would add more than $224 billion to the deficit. Together with the seven bills that were approved by the Republicans in the previous markup, these nine bills would add more than $317 billion to the deficit. In the 113th Congress, Ways and Means Committee Republicans selectively approved 14 of the more than 50 expired tax provisions, totaling more than $825 billion worth of deficit-financed, permanent tax cuts. This selective approach failed last Congress, with none of these permanent provisions being enacted into law. The bills marked up by the Committee set us down a partisan path, when we should be embracing bipartisanship and working in a responsible, bipartisan manner on tax reform.

[W]e also oppose the manner in which Republicans are proceeding--selecting to make permanent another two provisions today in addition to the previously passed seven provisions at a cost of more than $317 billion without any offset from the more than 50 tax provisions that expired at the end of last year. This approach is both fiscally irresponsible and contrary to the goals of bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform.

Expired provisions must be dealt with in a comprehensive manner. The Republicans did not take up other tax extenders that also are important to Democratic Committee Members. Left to an uncertain fate are provisions like the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, the New Markets Tax Credit, and the renewable energy tax credits, as well as the long-term status of the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit.

The House passed the bill 274 to 145.

237 Republicans and 37 Democrats voted for it. 144 Democrats and 1 Republican voted against it.

That one Republican was Walter Jones (NC-03).

Here are the 37 Democrats:

Pete Aguilar (CA-31)
Brad Ashford (NE-02)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Julia Brownley (CA-26)
Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
Mike Capuano (MA-07)
Andre Carson (IN-07)
Katherine Clark (MA-05)
Gerry Connolly (VA-11)
Joe Courtney (CT-02)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
John Delaney (MD-06)
Suzan DelBene (WA-01)
Elizabeth Esty (CT-05)
Gwen Graham (FL-02)
Denny Heck (WA-10)
Bill Keating (MA-09)
Joe Kennedy (MA-04)
Derek Kilmer (WA-06)
Annie Kuster (NH-02)
Joe Larson (CT-01)
David Loebsack (IA-02)
Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01)
Stephen Lynch (MA-08)
Sean Maloney (NY-18)
Jim McDermott (WA-07)
Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Richard Neal (MA-01)
Rick Nolan (MN-08)
Scott Peters (CA-52)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)
Dina Titus (NV-01)
 Paul Tonko (NY-20)
Tim Walz (MN-01)

Discuss

Yesterday, the House passed its FY 2016 appropriations bill for the Legislative Branch.

Since taking control of the House in 2010, Republicans in Congress have succeeded at cutting the funding for the House by 14%.

In their written dissent in Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) and Nita Lowey (NY-17) argued that the bill "falls short in providing Congress with the resources needed to fulfill its constitutional duties":

The Legislative Branch appropriations bill is essential to Congress' ability to serve the Nation and fulfill its constitutional duties as an equal branch of government.

Regrettably, this bill falls short in providing Congress with the resources needed to fulfill its constitutional duties. The Legislative Branch bill provides another year of flat funding, the third in a row. The bill reflects the Republican budget that set discretionary spending at levels not sufficient to grow the economy or invest in infrastructure. The President put forward a specific plan to avoid sequestration's harmful budget cuts and reduce the deficit in a balanced way. Unfortunately, the Republican Budget does not even meet the President's plan half way.

In the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill we see the effect of the Republican Budget most starkly on the Architect of the Capitol, where several projects with life and safety elements were left unfunded. The Office of Compliance issued a citation to the Library of Congress stating ``lack of exit stairwells and exit pathways in the Thomas Jefferson Building that are effectively protected against fire, smoke, or toxic fumes poses an undue danger to the lives and safety of the building occupants.'' Not surprisingly, the Architect ranked the Library of Congress North Exit Stair B as its second most critical project in need of funding. Nonetheless, this bill provides no funds for that and other necessary life and safety projects, including Library of Congress Elevator Modernization, South Stair E Phase I, and Fire Alarm and Audibility Upgrades.

The bill not only insufficiently funds the Architect but also includes language to withhold seventy-five percent of funding for any project or phase of a project funded in the bill over $5 million until the House Committee on Appropriations and the Government Accountability Office approve a plan for use of funds. The provision adds an overly burdensome requirement that will unnecessarily hold up the progress of essential projects. The low threshold of $5 million threatens to insert the Committee into the management of projects rather than promote the Committee's appropriate oversight role.

The largest reduction in the bill is to the Government Publishing Office (GPO), which was cut by over 8 percent from the fiscal year 2015 level. The office was formerly known as the Government Printing Office until the Committee changed the name of the agency in the fiscal year 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill to reflect the digital transformation of the agency. GPO publishes information online and plays a vital role in Congress' transparency. Unfortunately, the bill denies GPO's request to continue to improve its Federal Digital System. The National Academy of Public Administration in 2013 recommended that GPO explore charging fees for access to online legislative data to ensure the long-term preservation of digital government publications. Congress should reject NAPA's recommendation to charge fees and adequately fund GPO through appropriations to ensure free access to government data.

...

Finally, the Ranking Member of the subcommittee put forward a commonsense amendment during Full Committee consideration that would have taken steps to ensure House of Representatives cafeteria workers are paid a livable wage. The amendment directed the Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives to solicit and select a food service contractor who provides a livable wage to its employees to meet basic needs for food and shelter. The amendment set no amount for wages but required the contractor to use local economic indices to establish these wages. Regrettably, this amendment was defeated 29-21 with Republican Members voting against and Democratic Members voting in the affirmative. The Democratic Members of the Committee will continue to strive to require that contractors doing business with the House of Representatives pay wages and provide benefits that allow their employees to live above poverty levels and move into the middle class.

The damage of the bill can also be seen in how it treats the Congressional Research Service, a valuable source of independent policy and legal analysis. The bill rejected the Congressional Research Service's request for additional funding and maintained a ban on the CRS from releasing reports to the public:
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) will continue to be barred from releasing its reports to the public, the House Appropriations Committee said yesterday in its report on legislative branch appropriations for the coming year.

“The bill contains language which provides that no funds in the Congressional Research Service can be used to publish or prepare material to be issued by the Library of Congress unless approved by the appropriate committees,” the House report said.

Because Congress prohibits CRS from publishing its own reports, most CRS reports are only available to the public from non-governmental organizations that take the initiative to gather and publish them. Many such reports can be found in a collection that is maintained and regularly updated on the Federation of American Scientists website.

In the new spending bill, the House Committee ominously rejected a CRS request for a $5 million budget increase in 2016, and allocated $107 million, the same as the 2015 level.

In a move that is perhaps even more worrisome for CRS, “The Committee directs the Library of Congress to commission an independent survey of all Members and committees of the House of Representatives to ascertain their fundamental and optimal requirements for services and support from the Library of Congress and especially the Congressional Research Service.”
The problem here is that the CRS services that congressional offices are likely to find most “useful” are not necessarily those that are most “valuable.”

What is most valuable, by contrast, is not necessarily of immediate use to individual Members and Committees. That is the kind of in-depth policy analysis that can only be helpful to those whose policy preferences are not predetermined by ideology or affiliation. CRS reports are now cited ever more frequently by reporters and others trying to come to grips with complicated policy issues that entail both costs and benefits.

The bill ultimately passed 357 to 67.

237 Republicans and 120 Democrats voted for it. 5 Republicans and 62 Democrats voted against it.

Here are the 62 Democrats you should thank for voting against it:

Karen Bass (CA-37)
Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)
Brendan Boyle (PA-13)
Corrine Brown (FL-05)
Mike Capuano (MA-07)
Tony Cardenas (CA-29)
Katherine Clark (MA-05)
Yvette Clarke (NY-09)
Lacy Clay (MO-01)
Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05)
Jim Clyburn (SC-06)
Steve Cohen (TN-09)
John Conyers (MI-13)
Elijah Cummings (MD-07)
Diana DeGette (CO-01)
Ted Deutch (FL-21)
Mike Doyle (PA-14)
Eliot Engel (NY-16)
Anna Eshoo (CA-18)
Sam Farr (CA-20)
Al Green (TX-09)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Raul Grijalva (AZ-03)
Alcee Hastings (FL-20)
Mike Honda (CA-17)
Steny Hoyer (MD-05)
Steve Israel (NY-03)
Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18)
Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08)
Eddie B. Johnson (TX-30)
Bill Keating (MA-09)
Joe Kennedy (MA-04)
Ron Kind (WI-03)
Joe Larson (CT-01)
Barbara Lee (CA-13)
Sandy Levin (MI-09)
John Lewis (GA-05)
Zoe Lofgren (CA-19)
Nita Lowey (NY-17)
Jim McDermott (WA-07)
Jim McGovern (MA-02)
Gregory Meeks (NY-05)
Grace Meng (NY-06)
Seth Moulton (MA-06)
Grace Napolitano (CA-32)
Richard Neal (MA-01)
Bill Pascrell (NJ-09)
Donald Payne (NJ-10)
Nancy Pelosi (CA-12)
Mark Pocan (WI-02)
David Price (NC-04)
Kathleen Rice (NY-04)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40)
Tim Ryan (OH-13)
Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)
Adam Smith (WA-09)
Bennie Thompson (MS-02)
Pete Visclosky (IN-01)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23)
Maxine Waters (CA-43)
Frederica Wilson (FL-24)
John Yarmuth (KY-03)

Discuss

Yesterday, a group of 18 senators, led by Bernie Sanders, wrote a letter to the president urging him to heed the calls of the growing Fight for $15 movement and use his executive power to make the government a "model employer."

In the letter, they highlight how the US government continues to be the nation's largest low-wage job creator and call on him to to issue an executive order giving contractor preference to “model employers” who pay a living wage, offer fair healthcare and retirement benefits, and give workers a voice through collective bargaining.

Here are the 18 senators:

Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Barb Mikulski (D-MD)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Al Franken (D-MN)
Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

You can read the full text below:

Dear Mr. President:

We applaud your recent executive orders to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour and crack-down on wage theft and other labor law violations. This has helped not only struggling contract workers, but also millions of financially-strapped workers in the private sector. We urge you to continue taking bold executive action to help restore the middle-class by making the government a “model employer.”

In the year since you declared that you would “lead by example” through executive action, major companies have started to increase pay, mayors issued executive orders to raise wages, and state and local governments overwhelmingly passed minimum wage hikes. In addition to spurring the growing national movement to pay living wages, your legal compliance order encouraged numerous cities and states to adopt similar measures to end wage theft.

Now is the time to further build on that momentum.

The federal government continues to be America’s largest low-wage job creator, subsidizing poverty-level wages through taxpayer-financed contracts, loans and grants with private companies. To add insult to injury, many of these contracts workers are forced to rely on public assistance programs to supplement their meager incomes. That means taxpayers are double-billed—once for the cost of the contract and then again for the cost of public programs like food stamps and Medicaid.

We believe that our taxpayer dollars should reward good companies that create middle class jobs for America, not companies that force workers to depend on public aid programs.

We therefore call on you to issue an executive order giving preference in government contracting to “model employers” who pay a living wage, offer fair healthcare and retirement benefits, and give workers a voice through collective bargaining so they do not need to strike to be heard.

You have held up profitable companies, such as Costco, as examples of model employers to be emulated because they pay their workers living wages and benefits as well as respect their right to organize unions. Now is the time to declare that the federal government will invest our taxpayer dollars to incentivize model employers that commit to creating good jobs and to rebuilding America’s ailing middle class.

Mr. President, the stroke of your pen can have transformative impact for millions of workers. As low-wage fast food, retail and federal contract workers continue to strike in growing numbers to “Fight for 15 and a Union,” we urge you to harness the power of the Presidency to help these workers achieve the American Dream.

With the economy rebounding and unemployment declining, now is the time to make sure hard-working Americans share in the rewards of our renewed prosperity. We look forward to working with you to rebuild the middle class by having the federal government serve as a model employer.

Discuss

Earlier today, I wrote on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendment votes that the House took yesterday.

Today, the House finished the amendment votes and then voted on the final bill.

Let's start with the bill itself.

The NDAA usually wins over the majority of the Democratic caucus. Last year, Democrats voted for it 109 to 85. However, this year, the Democratic leadership encouraged its members to vote against it.

There are a few reasons for that. First, the bill puts money into the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) slush fund in order to bypass sequestration level spending limits. House Republicans, as we know, want to eliminate the sequester on the military but leave it in place for social spending. The House Democratic leadership also opposed it because of its restrictions on closing Gitmo and a provision that bans DREAMers from serving in the military.

The bill would provide for the authorization of funding for the Department of Defense and other related agencies, programs, and operations for Fiscal Year 2016. It authorizes approximately $605.6 billion in discretionary budget authority in total. This includes $495.8 billion for the Department of Defense base budget and $17.6 billion for the defense-related activities of the Department of Energy.
The bill also includes $89.2 billion in discretionary budget authority for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), shifting $38 billion in funding from the President’s base defense request into the OCO war funding account. This gimmick goes around the sequester-level defense spending cap, while leaving the non-defense sequester-level cap in place……

The legislation maintains the current restriction on domestic transfers of Guantanamo detainees and prevents the use of funds for construction or modification of U.S. facilities to house Guantánamo detainees. The bill reverts to a more onerous certification standard for the transfer of Gitmo detainees and prohibits transfers to any country in which a previously transferred detainee was confirmed to have re-engaged in armed conflict.  It also includes a further restriction on transferring detainees to a “combat zone,” which is defined broadly by an IRS statute.

House Republicans adopted an anti-immigrant amendment, stripping out language that was adopted on a bipartisan vote by the Armed Services Committee related to the consideration of allowing “DREAMers” to enlist and serve in the Armed Forces.  This amendment, which only further damages our broken immigration system, is just another in a long line of Republican efforts to demagogue “DREAMers” – the hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and know no other home than the U.S. Members are urged to VOTE NO.

The president currently claims he will veto it for mainly the same reasons, but he always claims that and never does.

The final vote on passage was 269 to 151. 228 Republicans and 41 Democrats voted for it. 143 Democrats and 8 Republicans voted against it.

Here are the 41 Democrats:

Pete Aguilar (CA-31)
Brad Ashford (NE-02)
Ami Bera (CA-07)
Julia Brownley (CA-26)
Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
Matt Cartwright (PA-17)
Lacy Clay (MO-01)
Jim Cooper (TN-05)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Joe Courtney (CT-02)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Susan Davis (CA-53)
John Delaney (MD-06)
Tammy Duckworth (IL-08)
Elizabeth Esty (CT-05)
Bill Foster (IL-11)
Tulis Gabbard (HI-02)
Gwen Graham (FL-02)
Denny Heck (WA-10)
Derek Kilmer (WA-06)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01)
Annie Kuster (NH-02)
Jim Langevin (RI-02)
Rick Larsen (WA-02)
Joe Larson (CT-01)
Dan Lipinski (IL-03)
David Loebsack (IA-02)
Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01)
Sean Maloney (NY-18)
Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Donald Norcross (NJ-01)
Beto O’Rourke (TX-16)
Scott Peters (CA-52)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Kathleen Rice (NY-04)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)
Mark Takai (HI-01)
Marc Veasey (TX-33)
Tim Walz (MN-01)

Here are the 8 Republicans:

Justin Amash (MI-03)
Curt Clawson (FL-19)
Jimmy Duncan (TN-02)
Morgan Griffith (VA-09)
Walter Jones (NC-03)
Raul Labrador (ID-01)
Tom Massie (KY-04)
Mark Sanford (SC-01)

I want to now turn to a few of the amendments that received votes today.

Nuclear Weapons

Doug Lamborn (CO-05) offered an amendment to limit funding for implementing the New START treaty, the nuclear arms reduction treaty between the US and Russia signed in 2010.

It passed 235 to 182.

Both 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans voted with the other side.

Here are the 4 Democrats who should be shamed for voting for this:

Brad Ashford (NE-02)
Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)
Jerry McNerney (CA-09)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)

Here are the 4 Republicans who should be commended for voting against it:

Darrell Issa (CA-49)
Walter Jones (NC-03)
Tom Massie (KY-04)
Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48)

---

Jerry Nadler (NY-10) offered an amendment to strike the section of the bill that places limits on funding for the dismantlement of nuclear weapons.

It failed 178 to 242.

9 Democrats voted against it, and 3 Republicans voted for it.

Here are the 9 Democrats who should be shamed for voting against it:

Jim Costa (CA-16)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Gwen Graham (FL-02)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Hank Johnson (GA-04)
Marcy Kaptur (OH-09)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Mike Thompson (CA-05)

Here are the 3 Republicans who should be commended for voting for it:

Justin Amash (MI-03)
Walter Jones (NC-03)
Tom Massie (KY-04)

---

Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) offered an amendment to end the budget gimmickry of the Sea-Based Deterrence Fund, and move the funding for the Navy’s Ohio-class replacement submarines back into the Navy’s shipbuilding budget.

Here is Blumenauer on his amendment:

“Over the next 30 years, the United States is set to spend over $1 trillion rebuilding the nuclear arsenal. This enormous sum of money is not just a significant burden on taxpayers, but risks crowding out high priority essential defense spending. As we move forward, Americans in and out of uniform deserve transparency about the costs of these programs and how the bill will be paid for. No one has yet answered that question. The Sea-Based Deterrence Fund is the latest effort to avoid that question.”

 “The Sea-Based Deterrence Fund is an illusion of affordability. This fund may allow the Navy to build all of the ships and submarines it wants without running afoul of the Navy’s budgetary caps, however, there’s no getting around the fact that the money will have to come from somewhere. Untethering the program from the Navy’s shipbuilding budget will reduce scrutiny and discipline, increasing the likelihood of cost overruns and questionable accounting.”

Unfortunately, it failed 43 to 375. 39 Democrats and 4 Republicans voted for it.

Here are the 39 Democrats who should be commended for voting for it:

Xavier Becerra (CA-34)
Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)
Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01)
Tony Cardenas (CA-29)
Mike Capuano (MA-07)
Judy Chu (CA-32)
Katherine Clark (MA-05)
Yvette Clarke (NY-09)
Steve Cohen (TN-09)
John Conyers (MI-13)
Danny Davis (IL-07)
Pete DeFazio (OR-04)
Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11)
Ted Deutch (FL-21)
Lloyd Doggett (TX-35)
Keith Ellison (MN-05)
Sam Farr (CA-20)
Chaka Fattah (PA-02)
Luis Gutiérrez (IL-04)
Jared Huffman (CA-02)
Eddie B. Johnson (TX-30)
Ron Kind (WI-03)
Barbara Lee (CA-13)
John Lewis (GA-05)
Nita Lowey (NY-17)
Grace Meng (NY-06)
Jerry Nadler (NY-10)
Grace Napolitano (CA-32)
Rick Nolan (MN-08)
Jared Polis (CO-02)
Mike Quigley (IL-05)
Bobby Rush (IL-01)
Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)
Kurt Schrader (OR-05)
Jose Serrano (NY-15)
Jackie Speier (CA-14)
Nydia Velázquez (NY-07)
Pete Visclosky (IN-01)
Pete Welch (VT-AL)

Here are the 4 Republicans who should be commended for voting for it:

Justin Amash (MI-03)
Richard Hanna (NY-22)
Tim Huelskamp (KY-01)
Tom Price (GA-06)


Endangered Species

Frank Lucas (OK-03) offered an amendment to reverse and prohibit the further listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken as a threatened or endangered species until 2021 and to de-list the American Burying Beetle as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.

It passed 229 to 190.

4 Democrats voted for it, and 10 Republicans voted against it.

Here are the 4 Democrats who should be shamed for voting for it:

Brad Ashford (NE-02)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)

Here are the 10 Republicans who should be commended for voting against it:

Vern Buchanan (FL-16)
Bob Dold (IL-10)
Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Richard Hanna (NY-22)
Walter Jones (NC-03)
Leonard Lance (NJ-07)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02)
Erik Paulsen (MN-03)
Chris Smith (NJ-04)

Discuss

Yesterday, the House started voting on amendments to the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

I am going to highlight the amendments on which the Democratic caucus split. On Mo Brooks (AL-05)'s amendment to bar DREAMers from serving in the military, Democrats were unanimously opposed. 20 Republicans joined them, but it still passed 221 to 202. If you're curious to see who the 20 Republicans are, just click the link.

Gitmo

Every year, Jackie Walorski and Adam Smith offer competing amendments on Gitmo. (Obama also always makes a false promise to veto the NDAA because of its constraints on closing Gitmo). This year was no different.

Jackie Walorski (IN-02) offered an amendment to extend the constraints on closing Gitmo for two years (beyond the FY 2016 period covered by the bill), bar transfers to Yemen, and bar use of the Defense secretary’s national security waiver authority to transfer prisoners to combat zones.

It passed 243 to 180.

234 Republicans and 9 Democrats voted for it. 173 Democrats and 7 Republicans voted against it.

Here are the 7 Republicans:

Justin Amash (MI-03)
Jimmy Duncan (TN-02)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Walter Jones (NC-03)
Tom Massie (KY-04)
Tom Rice (SC-07)
Mark Sanford (SC-01)

Here are the 9 Democrats:

Pete Aguilar (CA-31)
Julia Brownley (CA-26)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Gwen Graham (FL-02)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01)
Sean Maloney (NY-18)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)

Adam Smith (WA-09) offered a competing amendment that would provide a framework for closing Gitmo by the end of 2017.

It failed 174 to 249.

169 Democrats and 5 Republicans voted for it. 236 Republicans and 13 Democrats voted against it.

Here are the 5 Republicans:

Justin Amash (MI-03)
Jimmy Duncan (TN-02)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Walter Jones (NC-03)
Mark Sanford (SC-01)

Here are the 13 Democrats:

Pete Aguilar (CA-31)
Brad Ashford (NE-02)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Gwen Graham (FL-02)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01)
Dan Lipinski (IL-03)
Sean Maloney (NY-18)
Donald Norcross (NJ-01)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
Terri Sewell (AL-07)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)
Filemon Vela (TX-34)

Navy Ships

Jared Polis offered an amendment to reduce the statutory requirement for the number of operational aircraft carriers the Navy must maintain from 11 to 10.

It failed 60 to 363.

56 Democrats and 4 Republicans voted for it. 236 Republicans and 127 Democrats voted against it.

Here are the 4 Republicans:

Justin Amash (MI-03)
Tom Massie (KY-04)
Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48)
Mark Sanford (SC-01)

Here are the 56 Democrats:

Karen Bass (CA-37)
Xavier Becerra (CA-34)
Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)
Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01)
Tony Cardenas (CA-29)
Judy Chu (CA-32)
Katherine Clark (MA-05)
Lacy Clay (MO-01)
Steve Cohen (TN-09)
John Conyers (MI-13)
Pete DeFazio (OR-04)
Diana DeGette (CO-01)
Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11)
Lloyd Doggett (TX-35)
Keith Ellison (MN-05)
Anna Eshoo (CA-18)
Sam Farr (CA-20)
Bill Foster (IL-11)
Alan Grayson (FL-09)
Raul Grijalva (AZ-03)
Janice Hahn (CA-44)
Jared Huffman (CA-02)
Joe Kennedy (MA-04)
Barbara Lee (CA-13)
John Lewis (GA-05)
Dan Lipinski (IL-03)
Alan Lowenthal (CA-47)
Carolyn Maloney (NY-12)
Doris Matsui (CA-06)
Jim McDermott (WA-07)
Jerry McNerney (CA-09)
Grace Meng (NY-06)
Jerry Nadler (NY-10)
Grace Napolitano (CA-32)
Rick Nolan (MN-08)
Frank Pallone (NJ-06)
Donald Payne (NJ-10)
Mark Pocan (WI-02)
Jared Polis (CO-02)
David Price (NC-04)
Mike Quigley (IL-05)
Bobby Rush (IL-01)
John Sarbanes (MD-03)
Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)
Kurt Schrader (OR-05)
Jose Serrano (NY-15)
Brad Sherman (CA-30)
Albio Sires (NJ-08)
Jackie Speier (CA-14)
Eric Swalwell (CA-15)
Mike Thompson (CA-05)
Dina Titus (NV-01)
Nydia Velázquez (NY-07)
Maxine Waters (CA-43)
Pete Welch (VT-AL)
John Yarmuth (KY-03)

Several Democrats were not in attendance: Lois Capps (CA-24), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Danny Davis (IL-07), Donna Edwards (MD-04), and Loretta Sanchez (CA-46).

Border Militarization

Mike McCaul (TX-10) offered an amendment to amend 10 USC 2576a to include border security activities to the list of preferred applications the Department of Defense considers when transferring excess property to other federal agencies. 10 USC 2576a currently gives preference to counter-drug or counter-terrorism activities for small arms and ammunition (as well as other military property) transfer.

It passed 253 to 166.

235 Republicans and 18 Democrats voted for it. 162 Democrats and 4 Republicans voted against it.

Here are the 4 Republicans:

Justin Amash (MI-03)
Raul Labrador (ID-01)
Scott Perry (PA-04)
Mark Sanford (SC-01)

Here are the 18 Democrats:

Brad Ashford (NE-02)
Jim Cooper (TN-05)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Gwen Graham (FL-02)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Ruben Hinojosa (TX-15)
Bill Keating (MA-09)
Dan Lipinski (IL-03)
Stephen Lynch (MA-08)
Sean Maloney (NY-18)
Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Donald Payne (NJ-10)
Ed Perlmutter (CO-07)
Kathleen Rice (NY-04)
Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02)
Tim Ryan (OH-13)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)
Filemon Vela (TX-34)

Discuss

After party leaders negotiated a deal that would allow for a vote on a trade enforcement bill, the Senate took a cloture vote to proceed with debate on the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), or "fast-track," bill.

I think that most people on the Daily Kos are already well-versed in the debate here, knowing how giving the president trade promotion authority weakens the role of Congress and expedites passage of trade deals ("greasing the skids," as Senator Elizabeth Warren often says). And I'm sure you also know how the "trade" bills being discussed are not really about trade and more about corporate power and privilege. (If you need a reminder, here's a handy article from David Dayen over at Salon.

The Senate vote to move forward was 65 to 33.

13 Democrats joined Republicans in voting for cloture.

Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Chris Coons (D-DE)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Mark Warner (D-VA)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)

These 13 decided to side with their Big Business backers against labor unions, environmentalists, consumer rights advocates, and progressive advocacy groups.

Discuss

Today, the House voted to pass the USA FREEDOM (Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ensuring Effective Discipline Over Monitoring) Act of 2015, a watered-down version of NSA reform.

Supporters of the bill claim that it will end dragnet surveillance (bulk collection). However, opponents argue it will do no such thing and, in fact, will codify the ability of the government to conduct bulk collection. Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act will expire at the end of this month, and rather than letting it die (as it should), this bill reauthorizes it.

Here is Republican Justin Amash (MI-03) on the flaws of the bill:

“We’re taking something that was not permitted under regular section 215 … and now we’re creating a whole apparatus to provide for it,” Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said on Tuesday night during a House Rules Committee proceeding.

“The language does limit the amount of bulk collection, it doesn’t end bulk collection,” Rep. Amash said, arguing that the problematic “specific selection term” allows for “very large data collection, potentially in the hundreds of thousands of people, maybe even millions.”

In a statement posted to Facebook ahead of the vote, Rep. Amash said the legislation “falls woefully short of reining in the mass collection of Americans’ data, and it takes us a step in the wrong direction by specifically authorizing such collection in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.”

And here is Democrat Ted Lieu (CA-33), voicing similar concerns:
“I will be voting NO on H.R. 2048, which extends Section 215 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” said Congressman Lieu. “While I appreciate a number of the reforms in the bill and understand the need for secure counter-espionage and terrorism investigations, I believe our nation is better served by allowing Section 215 to expire completely and replacing it with a measure that finds a better balance between national security interests and protecting the civil liberties of Americans.”  

“The National Security Agency (NSA) and other federal agencies have used Section 215 as a cover to violate the constitutional rights of Americans for years with open-ended data gathering operations that are not properly addressed by the USA Freedom Act. Further, the bill does not include minimization language from previous versions to require the express destruction of information that is irrelevant to criminal investigations.”

“Beyond Section 215, I am troubled that the USA Freedom Act would leave in place Sections 505 and 702, provisions that also allow sweeping data collection and backdoor searches circumventing encryption that can result in the collection of information of U.S. citizens not identified in warrants.  The loopholes left in place will continue to undermine the trust of the American people. That trust needs to be earned back under leadership that is committed to constitutional principles.”    

“A federal district court struck down the NSA’s spying on Americans and called the NSA PRISM program ‘Orwellian.’ A federal appellate court ruled last week that the NSA’s bulk collection program was illegal. Despite these two court decisions, the NSA continues to operate its unconstitutional and illegal programs. Thus, even when the NSA has been told by the third branch of government that NSA is engaging in illegal activity, the NSA still continues to violate the law. The fact that the NSA used its illegal interpretation of Section 215 and kept it secret without any checks from the rubber-stamp FISA Court means that far-reaching legislation is required to address these issues and rebuild public trust in government.”

“Finally, I am disappointed the USA Freedom Act will be considered under a “closed rule,” meaning Members will not be able to consider any amendments to the Act on the House floor.  Amendments that would have protected whistleblowers and banned backdoor encryption mandates would have put appropriate civil liberties protections into the bill.”

“I thank the Judiciary Committee and Intelligence Committee for their sincere efforts at reform. This bill is better than past efforts to reform the abuses of the NSA. However, until we have legislation that adequately addresses these loopholes and lack of accountability, I cannot vote to continue to give the federal government far reaching powers without stronger safeguards.”  

The bill ultimately passed 338 to 88. 47 Republicans and 41 Democrats voted against it.

Here are the 41 Democrats who voted NO:

Karen Bass (CA-37)
Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)
Mike Capuano (MA-07)
Katherine Clark (MA-05)
Yvette Clarke (NY-09)
Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05)
Joe Crowley (NY-14)
Danny Davis (IL-07)
Pete DeFazio (OR-04)
Diana DeGette (CO-01)
Lloyd Doggett (TX-35)
Donna Edwards (MD-04)
Keith Ellison (MN-05)
Sam Farr (CA-20)
Chaka Fattah (PA-02)
Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)
Alan Grayson (FL-09)
Al Green (TX-09)
Raul Grijalva (AZ-03)
Alcee Hastings (FL-20)
Mike Honda (CA-17)
Barbara Lee (CA-13)
John Lewis (GA-05)
Ted Lieu (CA-33)
Alan Lowenthal (CA-47)
Jim McGovern (MA-02)
Richard Neal (MA-01)
Frank Pallone (NJ-06)
Chellie Pingree (ME-01)
Mark Pocan (WI-02)
Jared Polis (CO-02)
Charlie Rangel (NY-13)
Bobby Rush (IL-01)
Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)
Jose Serrano (NY-15)
Mark Takai (HI-01)
Mark Takano (CA-41)
Chris Van Hollen (MD-08)
Nydia Velázquez (NY-07)
Maxine Waters (CA-43)
Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12)

Last year, 70 Democrats voted against a largely similar version of the USA FREEDOM Act.

Whose votes changed?

Karen Bass and Bobby Rush weren't there last year, but now voted against it.

Ted Lieu, Mark Takai, and Bonnie Watson Coleman are freshmen--and both replace like-voting retired Democrats (Henry Waxman, Colleen Hanabusa, and Rush Holt, respectively).

7 Democrats who voted FOR it last year now voted AGAINST it:

Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05)
Al Green (TX-09)
Mark Pocan (WI-02)
Charlie Rangel (NY-13)
Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)
Chris Van Hollen (MD-08)
Maxine Waters (CA-43)

Bob Brady (PA-01) and Ruben Hinojosa (TX-15), who voted AGAINST it last year, were not in attendance today.

And 29 Democrats who voted AGAINST it last year now voted FOR it:

Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01)
Tony Cárdenas (CA-29)
Matt Cartwright (PA-17)
Elijah Cummings (MD-07)
Suzan DelBene (WA-01)
Mike Doyle (PA-14)
Anna Eshoo (CA-18)
Bill Foster (IL-14)
Janice Hahn (CA-44)
Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08)
Marcy Kaptur (OH-09)
William Keating (MA-09)
Zoe Lofgren (CA-19)
Doris Matsui (CA-06)
Betty McCollum (MN-04)
Rick Nolan (MN-08)
Beto O’Rourke (TX-16)
Tim Ryan (OH-13)
Linda Sánchez (CA-38)
Adam Smith (WA-09)
Jackie Speier (CA-14)
Eric Swalwell (CA-15)
Bennie Thompson (MS-02)
John Tierney (MA-06)
Paul Tonko (NY-20)
Pete Visclosky (IN-01)
Tim Walz (MN-01)
Pete Welch (VT-AL)
John Yarmuth (KY-03)

Discuss

Yesterday, House Republicans did one of their favorite things: attack the EPA. They did this in the form of the so-called "Regulatory Integrity Protection Act," a bill that would overturn an EPA rule aimed at redefining which streams, ponds, wetlands, and other waterways are under its Clean Water Act jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court ordered the federal government to define its "waters of the United States" jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act in a 2001 case. The EPA has thus been working on this rule for over a decade. And Republicans, in response to industry lobbying, want to make them start all over.

Here is Rep. Donna Edwards (MD-04), who serves on the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment in the House, on the dangers of the bill:

“H.R. 1732 would halt the current Clean Water rulemaking, and require the agencies to withdraw the proposed rule and restart the rulemaking process. This is after one million public comments, a 208 day comment period, and over 400 public hearings. On April 6, 2015, the EPA and the Corps forwarded a revised rule based on concerns expressed to the Office of Management and Budget for review.

“The bill would only force the agencies to meet with the same group of stakeholders and talk about the same issues that they have already discussed several times over the last fourteen years since the first Court decision. This rulemaking has been more than a decade in the development. Moreover, this bill will further perpetuate the current regulatory confusion that leads to unnecessary costs and delays, which has been the subject of much criticism from all stakeholders, and will leave many of our nation’s waters unprotected.

“This week we will also vote on the Energy and Water appropriations bill, which contains a policy rider explicitly prohibiting the Army Corps of Engineering (Corps) from spending any money to develop the very same new Clean Water rule that this bill tells the Corps to write.  From my understanding the Interior appropriations bill is expected to contain a similar rider for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Republicans try to make it sound as if all they want is for EPA and the Corps to develop rules the right way, but it’s clear that what they really want is to stop these agencies from doing their job at all – no Rules – no clean water.

“Congress must allow the Administration to finish its work and publish the final rule. If we don’t like the result, we have ample authority to fix it.  Congress has the ability to review “major” rules issued by federal agencies before the rules take effect.  In fact, the Congressional Review Act allows Congress to actually disapprove new rules, resulting in the rules having no force or effect.

“If H.R. 1732 were to be enacted, it would only ensure that the confusion continues and that these sources of drinking water remain a serious risk to the public health. That is why I urge my colleagues to oppose this bill.

The bill passed 261 to 155. 24 Democrats joined Republicans in voting for it.

Here are the 24:

Brad Ashford (NE-02)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
Jim Clyburn (SC-06)
Jim Cooper (TN-05)
Jim Costa (CA-16
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Danny Davis (IL-07)
John Delaney (MD-06)
Gwen Graham (FL-02)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Robin Kelly (IL-02)
Sean Maloney (NY-19)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Cedric Richmond (LA-02)
Kurt Schrader (OR-05)
David Scott (GA-13)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)
Eric Swalwell (CA-15)
Bennie Thompson (MS-02)
Norma Torres (CA-35)
Marc Veasey (TX-33)
Filemon Vela (TX-34)
Tim Walz (MN-01)

When the GOP brought up this bill last September, it got 35 Democratic votes.

Part of this difference is due to the retirements or defeats of conservative Democrats last year.

7 Democrats who voted FOR the bill last year changed their mind and now voted against it:

Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05)
Sam Farr (CA-20)
Marcia Fudge (OH-11)
John Garamendi (CA-03)
Alcee Hastings (FL-23)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01)
David Loebsack (IA-02)

5 Democrats did the opposite. They voted against it last year but now voted for it.

Jim Cooper (TN-05)
Danny Davis (IL-07)
John Delaney (MD-06)
Sean Maloney (NY-19)
Eric Swalwell (CA-15)

Raul Ruiz (CA-36), who voted against it last year, was not in attendance this time.

Brad Ashford (NE-02) and Gwen Graham (FL-02) both replaced Republicans who had voted for the bill, and Norma Torres (CA-25) replaced a now-retired Democrat (Gloria Negrette McLeod) who had supported it.

Discuss

Earlier today, a group of 27 senators--26 Democrats plus Bernie Sanders--wrote to President Obama urging him to block federal agencies and contractors from asking job applicants about prior criminal convictions.

The "box" in the title of this diary refers to the checkbox on many job applications that asks applicants about their criminal records.

When people get out of prison, employment is key to successful reintegration into the community; however, such questions on job applications make it difficult for them to find jobs. Moreover, asking that question on an initial application runs afoul of the intent of Equal Opportunity Commission's past directives:

The Equal Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) ruling during the 1980s told employers they could refuse to hire former offenders as long as they promised to devote somber thought to the issue. The ruling takes employers’ word of honor that they’ll consider the incarcerated person’s offense(s), time elapsed since conviction and the penance they’ve served.

Modest as it is, many employers don’t even pretend to honor the EEOC’s request. The National Employment Law Project compiled hundreds of job postings that say things like “Must have no previous misdemeanors or felonies.” Such postings clearly violate EEOC’s good faith.

In the letter, the 27 senators urged the president, "We ask you to require federal contractors and agencies to refrain from asking job applicants about prior convictions until later in the hiring process...This policy would eliminate unnecessary barriers to employment for all job seekers and would give individuals re-entering the workforce the opportunity to apply for work based on their current merits rather than past wrong-doings."

Here are the 27 senators who signed:

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Chris Coons (D-DE)
Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Al Franken (D-MN)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Brian Schatz (D-HI)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Mark Warner (D-VA)
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)

If you see your senator on the list, you should thank him/her. If your senator isn't on the list, then he/she deserves a call from you.

Discuss

Earlier today, a group of 150 House Democrats--led by Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), and David Price (NC-04)--sent a letter to President Obama in support of the diplomatic negotiations with Iran.

You can read the full text here:

Dear Mr. President:

As negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program continue, we urge you to stay on course, building on the recently announced political framework and continuing to work toward a strong and verifiable agreement between the P5+1 countries and Iran that will prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon. We commend you and your negotiating team, as well as our coalition partners, for the significant progress made thus far.

This issue is above politics. The stakes are too great, and the alternatives too dire. We must exhaust every avenue toward a verifiable, enforceable, diplomatic solution in order to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. If the United States were to abandon negotiations or cause their collapse, not only would we fail to peacefully prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, we would make that outcome more likely. The multilateral sanctions regime that brought Iran to the table would likely collapse, and the Iranian regime would likely decide to accelerate its nuclear program, unrestricted and unmonitored. Such developments could lead us to war.

War itself will not make us safe. A U.S. or Israeli military strike may set back Iranian nuclear development by two or three years at best—a significantly shorter timespan than that covered by a P5+1 negotiated agreement. We must pursue diplomatic means to their fullest and allow the negotiations to run their course — especially now that the parties have announced a strong framework — and continue working to craft a robust and verifiable Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action by June 30.

We must allow our negotiating team the space and time necessary to build on the progress made in the political framework and turn it into a long-term, verifiable agreement. If we do not succeed, Congress will remain at-the-ready to act and present you with additional options to ensure that Iran is prevented from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Thank you for your resolve in preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. We look forward to continuing our shared work on this important matter.

The list of 150 signers (whose names were conveniently listed alphabetically at the end of the letter) actually contains only 145 voting members of Congress. Five of them are non-voting members: Madeleine Bordallo (Guam), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Pedro Pierluisi (Puerto Rico), Stacey Plaskett (U.S. Virgin Island), and Gregorio Sablan (Northern Mariana Islands). Pierluisi has the status of "Resident Commissioner"; the rest are "Delegates."

With 145 voting signers and a caucus of 188 voting members, that means that 43 didn't sign the letter in support of diplomacy with Iran.

Who are the 43?

Brendan Boyle (PA-13)
Jim Cooper (TN-05)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Joe Crowley (NY-14)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
John Delaney (MD-06)
Ted Deutch (FL-21)
Eliot Engel (NY-16)
Lois Frankel (FL-22)
Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)
Gwen Graham (FL-02)
Alan Grayson (FL-09)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Alcee Hastings (FL-20)
Jim Himes (CT-04)
Steny Hoyer (MD-05)
Steve Israel (NY-03)
Derek Kilmer (WI-06)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01)
Sandy Levin (MI-09)
Dan Lipinski (IL-03)
Nita Lowey (NY-17)
Carolyn Maloney (NY-12)
Grace Meng (NY-06)
Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Jerry Nadler (NY-10)
Donald Norcross (NJ-01)
Frank Pallone (NJ-06)
Bill Pascrell (NJ-09)
Scott Peters (CA-52)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Mike Quigley (IL-05)
Kathleen Rice (NY-04)
John Sarbanes (MD-03)
Adam Schiff (CA-28)
Kurt Schrader (OR-05)
Brad Sherman (CA-30)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)
Albio Sires (NJ-08)
Dina Titus (NV-01)
Juan Vargas (CA-51)
Filemon Vela (TX-34)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23)

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