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.
- Two federal judges blocked President Trump’s latest travel ban, just before it was to take effect.
- Senator Cardin and Senator Tim Kaine are leading a group of 22 Democratic senators in calling on Homeland Security to renew immigration permits for hundreds of thousands of citizens of Honduras and El Salvador.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- After turning the use of a private e-mail server into a hot-button issue for an entire presidential campaign, the Trump administration’s blatant disregard for cybersecurity best practices continues apace. Politico reports that the White House has brushed off a bipartisan House inquiry about private e-mail use by senior officials. In a short two-page letter to House oversight committee leaders Trey Gowdy and Elijah Cummings, Donald Trump’s congressional liaison, Marc Short, declined to say whether any officials had used private e-mail servers or encrypted-messaging apps for government work.
- White House claims they “endeavor” to follow the law.
- “The White House response to both the email investigation and the charter plane investigation has been almost non-existent,” Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings, the committee’s top Democrat, said in a statement. “We asked for documents on a bipartisan basis, and all they sent was rhetoric. The White House response is offensive, and it remains to be seen whether our Committee will do anything about it.”
- Cummings turning up the heat on private email investigation.
- Allergan (AGN), a pharmaceutical company, is under scrutiny by U.S. lawmakers for a tribal licensing deal for its dry eye treatment Restasis. The deal is designed to protect Allergan against an inter partes patent challenge at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Because the tribe is a sovereign nation, it can claim immunity from the challenges and has since filed for a Restasis review to be dismissed. Rep. Cummings and other House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform members wrote to Allergan CEO Brent Saunders seeking documents relating to the licensing deal by Oct. 16.
- Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wrote to the companies after an article by ProPublica and The New York Times found that insurance companies sometimes favor cheaper, more addictive opioids over less addictive, but more expensive, alternatives.
“This is not a hypothetical problem,” Cummings wrote. “In my home state of Maryland, 550 people died of an overdose in the first three months of 2017 alone. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are driving up the epidemic’s death toll, but prescription opioids contribute significantly to this crisis by fostering addiction and causing fatal overdoses.” More here.
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.
- Rep. Ruppersberger (MD-2) calls Baltimore-based Maryland BioPark a ‘Formula That Works’
- Trump allies worry that losing the House means impeachment: Republican donors warned about Democrats who would be tapped to lead key committees if the GOP loses control, including Rep. Elijah Cummings as the head of the House Oversight Committee.
- Rep. Sarbanes (MD-3) said: “By lighting the diya, or lamp, Diwali reminds us that the good will outlast evil, that knowledge will triumph over ignorance.”