News Digest – January 29, 2018

In the news, Van Hollen and Cardin defend the Senate Democrats’ deal to end the government shutdown, Ruppersberger urges action on DACA, and Cummings is granted his request for an audit of the public commenting process that resulted in thousands of fake comments during regulatory rulemaking.

Shutdown hangover

Senator Van Hollen defended Democrats’ deal with the GOP to end the government shutdown, saying it was “a step forward.”  The senator stopped by the PBS News Hour and Fox News to discuss ongoing negotiations about what to do with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”).  Senator Cardin said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “will be held to his word” that he will provide “a fair opportunity to pass immigration reform.”

Ruppersburger on DACA and the CR: DACA needs to move now. Why does it make any difference for March when you can do it now. You can pass the bill now. What is the hold up on DACA?”

Health care

In a 55-43 vote, the Senate confirmed former drug company executive Alex M. Azar II as secretary of health and human services.  Both Senator Cardin and Senator Van Hollen opposed the confirmation.

National Security

In a letter Tuesday, Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who sit on the Homeland Security, Judiciary, and Oversight and Government Reform committees, respectively, pressed the Trump administration for information on how the Trump White House handles the security clearance process for its staff.

“We are writing to obtain information related to the White House’s interim security clearance process. According to press reports, a year after becoming a White House advisor, Jared Kushner still has access to our most critical national security information pursuant to an interim security clearance.”

Quick Hits

    • State Department: Key Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Elijah Cummings, are calling on the State Department’s watchdog to conduct an “immediate review” of personnel practices after a number of employees told CNN they were unlawfully targeted for political reasons due to their work under the last administration.
    • Bank of AmericaRep. Elijah Cummings and Rep. Jimmy Gomez of California on Friday requested a briefing from Bank of America officials on the decision and for the bank to provide documents by Feb. 9.
    • Regulatory rulemaking: Weeks after news reports of “fake” public comments during regulatory rulemaking processes, Congress’s watchdog on Wednesday agreed to perform two related audits that came last June from Pallone, Elijah Cummings, D-Md.; and Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y,  and will assign the investigation to GAO’s Forensics Audit and Investigations Service.
    • Federal labor policy: Several lawmakers sponsored a bill to re-establish a formal labor-management forum with senior agency executives, administration leaders and federal employee unions. The group would be similar to the Federal Council on Labor Management Relations President Trump disbanded back in September. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), along with Congressmen Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Don Young  (R-Ark.) sponsored the bill. The National Treasury Employees Union also supports the legislation. NTEU would be one of the unions on the council.

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