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H.R. 3830, named the “Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014” was introduced to Congress on January 9, 2014. The bill, nicknamed “Fast Track”, allows executive branch negotiators to skirt Congress and use “trade” agreements to rewrite policies that affect all aspects of our daily lives – from the stability of our jobs to the safety of our food.

Fast Track allows the executive branch to unilaterally select partner countries for “trade” pacts, decide the agreements’ contents, and then negotiate and sign the agreements — all before Congress has a vote on the matter. Normal congressional committee processes are forbidden, meaning that the executive branch  can write lengthy legislation on its own with no review or amendments. These bills have in the past altered wide swaths of U.S. law seemingly unrelated to trade – food safety, immigration visas, energy policy, medicine patents and more – to conform our domestic policies to each agreement’s requirements. Unlike any other legislation, both the House and Senate are required to vote on a Fast Tracked trade agreement within 90 days of the White House submitting it. No floor amendments are allowed and debate is limited.

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Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 10:55 PM PST

Luke Messer's "Jobs" Bills

by laneforcongress

Luke Messer sent out this little tidbit on January 14th - “Another disappointing jobs report. It's time for the Democratic-controlled Senate to vote on the dozens of bills passed by the House last session that would spur economic growth and create jobs!”

I agree that jobs are are everyone’s mind, especially the unemployed that just lost their benefits. The economy added only 74,000 jobs in December, far below forecasts, but the Labor Department reports that the unemployment rate last month fell to 6.7% from 7%.  Another mixture of good news and bad news for an economy recovering from recession.

Job growth has been slow but it's been steadily improving every year.  It’s just not good enough. But what bills has the House passed to "spur economic growth and create jobs"? I looked online to see what “Jobs Bills” passed the House in 2013 and the only list I was able to find was on Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s website. Cantor claims that House Republicans have passed 40 jobs bills that are currently stuck in the Democrat controlled Senate. I actually came up with 41 remaining on the list. Several of the bills on the list had actually already been signed into law by the President and many were holdovers from 2011 and 2012.

Lane Siekman
January 16, 2014

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Well Mr. Messer, now is the time to put up or shut up. If the Senate passes the debt agreement today as expected, the House vote will likely consist of most or all of the chamber's 200 Democrats joined by some -- but probably not a majority of their Republican colleagues in supporting it. At least 20 or so Republicans would still need to back the Senate plan for it to pass. Are you truly willing to compromise or are you just going to continue to grandstand on the faux crisis that you instigated? Your irresponsible action has cost this nation an estimated $160 million a day, not counting the long-term impact on our economy. If using the debt limit to negotiate is such a "common sense approach" as you allege, then will you also accept a common sense solution to the problem? This wasn't about government spending; it was about a minority of congressmen in one party trying to get their way. You failed in doing that but what part of our nation are you willing to take hostage next time to get your way?

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Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 11:42 AM PDT

Wrong Again Luke Messer

by laneforcongress

I read with great interest last week U.S. Representative Luke Messer’s letter to the Editor calling on us to abandon President Obama’s policies.  I also watched as he and his cohorts in the House have pushed this great nation to the brink of a government shutdown.   Messer cites the same history lessons that we should have learned from the Great Depression, yet he prescribes the same Republican solution that bankrupted America once before and maybe will again. Step aside and do nothing.

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Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 02:43 PM PDT

Wal-Mart and the Glass Ceiling

by laneforcongress

There are many reasons to complain about Wal-Mart. Reasons like foreign product sourcing, their treatment of employees and product suppliers, environmental practices, use of public subsidies, and the impact of stores on the local economies of towns in which they operate. We all have our issues with the retail giant. Now with the aid of the United States Supreme Court, there is a new reason and this one hits close to home.

There are 13 Walmarts in Indiana's Sixth District averaging around 300 employees each. Wal-Mart's EEOC filings show that female employees made up 65% of Wal-Mart's hourly paid workforce, but only 33% of its management. That's 2,535 women or more in this Congressional District that may have just hit the glass ceiling...

Just 35% of Wal-Mart's store managers are women compared to 57% at comparable retailers. And the latest blow from the Supreme Court only gives this huge employer less reason to care. According to Peter S. Goodman at Huffington Post:

[W]hat the Supreme Court essentially decreed this week is that Walmart's employees -- or really any group of people who happen to work for a colossal corporation -- are not entitled to organize themselves similarly to enhance their power to pursue their own interests.

The court ruled that female workers may not be considered a class for the purposes of a lawsuit in which they accuse the company of years of gender discrimination, because they worked in many different stores in many different American communities, making their experiences effectively individual.

"Respondents wish to sue for millions of employment decisions at once," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the lead opinion for the court in the five votes to four decision supporting the giant retailer. "Without some glue holding together the alleged reasons for those decisions, it will be impossible to say that examination of all the class members' claims will produce a common answer to the crucial discrimination question."

As if to underscore the absurdity of this disparity, Scalia noted that Walmart has a written policy barring discrimination: The mere act of writing this down at headquarters somehow confers immunity against claims of a breach of that policy -- not that there's any glue providing coherence to the experience of workers as a class!

So as long as you have a written policy against sex discrimination; it's just too bad that it doesn't work. Trying a Million and a half cases in individual courts is prohibitively expensive and will take years. Most employees will just give up and maybe find a new job. The turnover rate at Wal-Mart is already near 50% and the wages are hardly enough to support a family. So they will continue to get women to work who need the little money that the job brings home. But, perhaps this case will be a signal for all Wal-Mart employees to work for something better.  There is strength in numbers, But its not going to be easy. The Wall Street Journal states that:

Wal-Mart has opposed the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and required store managers and department heads to attend meetings used to criticize Democratic candidates. Several labor-rights groups including the AFL-CIO have asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether Wal-Mart broke federal election rules by advocating against Democratic candidate Barack Obama in meetings with employees.

Wal-Mart stores are unionized in every country outside of North America but have effectively resisted all attempts in the United States. Even in the recession year of 2009, Wal-Mart still reported a net income of $13.6 billion. There are 1.2 Million store employees in the U.S. Perhaps there is a Norma Rae out there somewhere waiting to pull the whistle cord. Maybe right here in the Sixth District of Indiana.

Lane Siekman

LaneForCongress.com

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Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 02:30 PM PDT

Some Dude...

by laneforcongress

The Daily Kos referred to me this week as an "an attorney and Chamber of Commerce guy who rises just an inch or two above "Some Dude" status". I gladly will accept that title but want to clarify some points.

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Remarks to Sixth District Reorganization meeting at Greensburg, Indiana on June 5, 2011. Because of time constraints; Lane’s remarks were limited. This is the full text of the speech.

I’m Lane Siekman… and I’m running for the U.S. Congress… I’m from Rising Sun, Indiana down in Ohio County along the Ohio River. I’m a Fifth generation Hoosier… I have been married to my wife Robin for 29 years… We have 3 children; the twins are 21 this year… my daughter Allison is a Senior at Ball State University studying history and political science and my son Brenden is a Senior or Firstie at the United States Military Academy at West Point… my youngest, Carly will be entering the 7th grade at Rising Sun next Fall… Robin works as a Neonatal Nurse at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati and I practice law in Rising Sun..  I’m proud of my family, where I come from,  I’m proud to be a Democrat, and I have been very blessed in my life…

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If you don't believe that the massive changes to Medicare and Medicaid proposed by the House GOP are killing the middle class then take a look at the new report put out by the House Democrats. The budget passed by House Republicans in April 2011 makes radical changes to Medicare and raises costs for seniors and individuals with disabilities presently enrolled in Medicare, reduces their benefits, and puts private insurance companies in charge of the program.  The plan also immediately reopens the "donut hole" in Medicare’s drug coverage for current recipients. But the real impact is on those age 54 and under, Medicare’s guarantee of comprehensive coverage would be replaced with a “voucher” or “premium support” to buy private health insurance.  Maybe these people have been watching "Extreme Couponing" too much. The voucher is not expected to keep up with costs and shifts thousands of dollars in medical costs onto the individual.  I am 50 years old and have spent 30 years paying into this system and cannot afford to start saving enough now for that extra expense when or "if" I retire.

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Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 08:20 PM PDT

Lane Siekman for Congress IN-06

by laneforcongress

LANE SIEKMAN ANNOUNCES EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE

VEVAY, IN, May 26, 2011:  Last night before the Switzerland County Democratic Central Committee, Lane Siekman announced that he will form an exploratory committee to consider the race for Congress in Indiana’s new Sixth Congressional District in 2012.

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