News Digest – October 16, 2017

In the news this week: Cardin joins McCain in blasting the Trump administration for failing to act in accordance with newly Russia sanctions law, Cummings works to expand rights of whistleblowers, Ruppersberger introduces bill to improve the nation’s energy grid, and Sarbanes speaks out on gun control after the Las Vegas shooting.

Foreign affairs

Happy birthday, Senator Cardin

Senator Cardin was serenaded on his birthday by Senator Robert Menendez, who’s been otherwise occupied with a federal corruption trial.   

Border Wall

Rep. Cummings (MD-7) joins letter from top Democrats on six committees that are demanding a GOP proposal to authorize a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico move through each committee with jurisdiction before the bill comes to the House floor for a vote.

Trump’s attempts to eliminate regulations:

Nearly $16 billion more in funding needed to conduct 2020 Census

The Trump administration acknowledged Thursday that billions more dollars are “urgently needed” to ensure a fair and accurate count during the 2020 Census. “The problem is that when you starve the Census Bureau year after year, it cannot make the investments needed to implement these innovations,” Cummings said.

Campaign Contributions

Independent Baker’s Association accuses Rep. Cummings (MD-7) of being in the pocket of the sugar industry: “Elijah Cummings is in the pocket of the nation’s beet and cane sugar cartels. Mr. Cummings continually votes to maintain the U.S. sugar program. Why? It is really quite simple, Congressman Cummings received well over $50,000 in political donations from the sugar cartels since coming to Washington in 1996.”

Shrinking the federal workforce

Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD-7) and other Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are asking Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) to hold hearings on agencies’ efforts to cut their workforces. As part of that report, they want copies of the agencies’ reform plans that were due to the Office of Management and Budget on Sept. 30.  “We are writing to request that the Oversight Committee hold hearings on the actions of the Trump administration in restricting the hiring of federal employees across multiple federal agencies – without the approval of congress- and the detrimental effects that the resulting staffing shortfalls are causing,” the letter, dated Oct. 5, reads.  More here.

Employee reassignments at Dept. of Interior

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Rep. Cummings (MD-7) recently sent a letter to Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke requesting information on the reassignments of as many as 50 agency employees.  Cummings said in his letter that he is concerned the reassignments may have been retaliatory and therefore could be a violation of federal law.

Legislation

  • The House by voice vote approved a bill Wednesday that would make it easier for participants in the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement program to manage their investments.  
    The TSP Modernization Act (H.R.3031), introduced by Reps. Elijah Cummings (MD-7), and Mark Meadows, R-N.C., would allow federal employees and retirees to make multiple age-based withdrawals from their Thrift Savings Plan accounts and remain eligible for partial withdrawals after they leave government as well.
  • Legislation to update coastal mapping: Reps. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, Ruppersberger (MD-2);  Don Young, R-AK; and Elizabeth Esty, D-CT, introduced bipartisan legislation that will help local and state governments build coastal resiliency along the United States’ 95,000 miles of shoreline.
  • The House passed a bill to let whistleblowers file an appeal in the state where they live or work, rather than in the Washington, D.C. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. House Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Rep. Cummings (MD-7) introduced the bill. He said the court is typically more restrictive of whistleblowers’ rights. Cummings said a pilot program that first allowed the filing change has been more successful. It would expire in November without congressional action.
  • Reps. Ruppersberger (MD-2) and John R. Carter (R-TX) recently introduced a House companion bill to legislation introduced in the Senate to improve energy grid security.
  • Consumer Protection: In an effort to rein in financial institutions that have track records for harming consumers, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) recently unveiled The Megabank Accountability and Consequences Act (H.R. 3937).  The new bill would require, “prudential banking regulators, such as the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Federal Reserve Board, to fully utilize their authorities to shut down megabanks that repeatedly harm consumers.”  The original co-sponsors of the Megabank Accountability and Consequences Act are: Representatives Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), Al Green (D-Texas), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), John Sarbanes (MD-3), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Jamie Raskin (D-Md).

Other news

  • Community leader Maya Rockeymoore Cummings (Rep. Cummings’ wife) announces bid for Governor.
  • Rep. Cummings (MD-7) op-ed “Building Resilience in the Face of Climate Change.”
  • Rep. Cummings (MD-7) accuses Republicans of aiding and abetting Trump: “I have been asking them why don’t they say these things in public,” the ranking Democrat of the House Ways and Means Committee said. “I think many of them are concerned about being the victim of a tweet. Other ones are worried about having somebody run against them from the right. And there are others who are basically saying boys will be boys.”
  • Rep. Sarbanes (MD-3) releases statement on gun control in response to the Las Vegas shooting.
  • Rep. Cummings (MD-7) defends the Jones Act which requires shipping between US ports to be done using US ships.

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