News Digest – October 23, 2017

In the news this week, federal judges block Muslim Ban 3.0, Cardin opposes any new Iran sanctions that violate existing Iran deal, Van Hollen fights to protect state/local tax deductions in GOP tax plan, and Cummings continues to use Oversight Committee to investigate Trump administration.

Immigration

Iran

President Trump announced that he would certify that Iran is no longer in compliance with the Obama-era deal negotiated to curb Iran’s nuclear program.  That set off a clock for Congress to reimpose sanctions that were lifted under the accord.  Republican senators have drafted legislation to enact Trump’s proposed changes to the deal, but Democrats, including Senator Cardin, say they won’t support anything that violates the existing deal.

Wall Street

Senator Van Hollen and five other Democratic senators are asking the Treasury Department’s independent watchdog to investigate whether the acting head of one of Wall Street’s key regulators has held onto his post a month longer than the law permits.

Tax overhaul

Senator Van Hollen led an unsuccessful bid by Democrats to preserve a state and local tax deduction in the Republican plan to overhaul the tax code.

Myanmar

Senator Cardin joined a bipartisan group of nine Senators in calling on Bangladesh’s prime minister to accelerate approvals for aid groups to do humanitarian work to support the Rohingya Muslims fleeing large-scale violence and persecution in Myanmar.

Michael Flynn

Democrats pressed Wednesday for Rep. Trey Gowdy — the Republican chairman of the powerful House oversight committee — to subpoena the White House for documents related to former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The White House spurned bipartisan requests for details about Flynn’s background by the oversight committee in March, when the panel was chaired by then-Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). Now, the committee’s Democrats, led by ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), are asking Gowdy to force the issue.

Private Email Use

Big Pharma

EPA Pruitts’ misuse of taxpayer funds

Top-ranking Congressional Democrats, including Rep. Cummings (MD-7), are calling on a federal watchdog to review whether Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt broke the law by making a video for a private group opposing an Obama-era clean-water rule.  Pruitt flew to Colorado for an August event organized by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, an industry trade association representing cattle producers. While at the ranch, Pruitt recorded a video urging the group’s members to file comments supporting the repeal of EPA’s Waters of the United States rule. The 2015 rule seeks to expand the agency’s jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act to include smaller streams and wetlands.

Department of Ag and DOJ refuse to turn over air travel records

In a Tuesday letter, House Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Rep. Cummings (MD-7) threatened to subpoena the Department of Justice and the Department of Agriculture for the agencies’ air travel records.  Gowdy and Cummings said they will issue subpoenas to the two agencies if they do not comply by the end of October.

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