(CNN)Since President Donald Trump's first year in office, Democratic members of Congress have introduced articles of impeachment, claiming he obstructed justice when he fired FBI director James Comey during an investigation into Russia's interference with the 2016 presidential election.
March 6, 2019
The House Judiciary Committee has re-scheduled a hearing March 12 on the proposed T-Mobile-Sprint merger, where the CEO's of both will face a number of critics. It was initially planned for Feb. 14.
“A merger between Sprint and T-Mobile would impact the competitive landscape for wireless services," said Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Antitrust Subcommittee chairman David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.). "Americans deserve to know how this transaction will impact their lives, communities, and the future of high-speed wireless internet deployment and adoption."
"This hearing opens the door for the American people and Congress to hear directly from the leaders of both companies and learn whether this agreement is in the best interest of the American people," said full committee ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Antitrust Subcommittee ranking member Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).
The witness list comprises of John Legere, CEO, T-Mobile; Marcelo Claure, CEO, Sprint; Chris Shelton, president, Communications Workers of America; Gigi Sohn, former senior adviser to then FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and currently distinguished fellow at Georgetown Law; Carmen Scurato, senior policy counsel, Free Press; Carri Bennet, general counsel, Rural Wireless Association; Scott Wallsten, senior policy scholar, Georgetown University McDonough School of Business; and Christopher Yoo, John H. Chestnut Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School.
The Judiciary hearing has had a complicated scheduling history.
It was originally going to be a joint hearing with the Communications Subcommittee, but because of "scheduling issues" was made a separate hearing, originally scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday (Feb. 14), then rescheduled to 2 p.m., then postponed "indefinitely." The Feb. 13 hearing in the House Communications Subcommittee went off without a hitch, though with divergent views of the deal.
March 3, 2019
By: the Gazette Xtra
Thumbs up to new YMCA board members. The board of directors finally appears headed in the right direction with the appointment of three new board members recommended by a group spearheading efforts to make the board more transparent. Until now, the board has done little to demonstrate it is serious about addressing allegations raised by Paul Murphy and other Y members concerning former CEO Tom Den Boer. They say Den Boer unilaterally dismissed board members and suspended or terminated Y memberships without cause. We’re still waiting for answers. Hopefully, the appointment of the new members is a sign the board will soon become more transparent.
Thumbs down to teachers with three OWI convictions. A Janesville physical education teacher, Dennis H. Brunner, was placed on paid administrative leave after being charged with his fourth OWI on Feb. 23. Our question: How did he manage to keep his job after his third OWI conviction? Is the district OK with employing people with so many convictions and giving them the responsibility to teach children? A single OWI shouldn't necessarily doom a teacher's career--but three OWIs, and now a fourth? We recognize the district sometimes struggles to find qualified applicants, but surely it can find someone better than this. He allegedly threatened a police officer during his arrest, saying, "I know a lot of biker guys. It means there is going to be a bounty put on him." Yikes.
Thumbs up to U.S. Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner and Mike Gallagher. The two Wisconsin Republicans voted last week in favor of a House resolution opposing President Trump's national emergency declaration for the southern border. Both Republicans showed foresight in considering the precedent set by Trump's action. They worry future presidents will follow Trump's lead and use emergency declarations to circumvent the will of Congress. The difference between Trump's declaration and those ordered by past presidents is in the way Trump is using this declaration. For Trump, it's a tool to get more funding than Congress agreed to provide for a border wall. Sensenbrenner and Gallagher support the border wall but not at the expense of Article I of the Constitution. Partisan agendas come and go, but the Founding Fathers say Congress' power of the purse is forever.
Thumbs down to inflated property assessments. The city of Janesville continues to assess commercial properties as if there's no merit to numerous lawsuits alleging city assessments are too high. The city claims its assessment process follows state statutes, but if that were true, why have so many businesses successfully sued the city? Many brick-and-mortar retailers are struggling to compete against online retailers, as evidenced by a rash of store closings over the past year. These retailers need the city's support, but instead retailers are having to waste time and money fighting their inflated assessments in court. We hope the Legislature and Gov. Tony Evers resolve this issue soon in the businesses' favor.
Here’s how members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation voted on major issues last week.
EXPANSION OF GUN BACKGROUND CHECKS: Voting 240 for and 190 against, the House on Wednesday passed a bill (HR 8) that would expand federal background checks of prospective gun buyers by extending the requirement to transactions on the internet and between private parties at venues including gun shows and parking lots. Now, only licensed dealers must run buyers’ personal information through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The NICS was established in 1993 by the so-called Brady bill, which outlaws the sale of firearms to convicted felons, drug addicts, abusive partners, fugitives, persons with serious mental illness and undocumented immigrants. This bill would exempt sales between family members and would waive background checks for transfers for hunting and when a purchaser faces imminent threat of great bodily harm. A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.
Voting yes: Mark Pocan, D-2nd; Ron Kind, D-3rd, Gwen Moore, D-4th
Voting no: Bryan Steil, R-1st; Jim Sensenbrenner, R-5th; Glenn Grothman, R-6th; Sean Duffy, R-7th; Mike Gallagher, R-8th
ATTEMPTED PURCHASES BY UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS: Voting 220 for and 209 against, the House on Wednesday adopted a Republican motion to HR 8 (above) under which undocumented immigrants must be reported to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) detects they are attempting to buy a firearm. A yes vote was to add the GOP-sponsored provision to the bill.
Voting yes: Steil, Sensenbrenner, Grothman, Duffy, Gallagher
Voting no: Pocan, Kind, Moore
MORE TIME FOR BACKGROUND CHECKS: Voting 228 for and 198 against, the House on Thursday passed a bill (HR 1112) that would increase from three business days to 20 business days the maximum time for deferring firearms sales when FBI background checks on buyers have not yet been completed. The bill would apply to the estimated 10 percent of prospective sales not promptly cleared or denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). If the check remains open after 10 business days, purchasers could file a petition asserting their eligibility to acquire a firearm. If the matter remains unresolved for another 10 business days — bringing the total deferral to 20 business days — the sale would automatically take effect. A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.
Voting yes: Pocan, Moore
Voting no: Steil, Kind, Sensenbrenner, Grothman, Duffy, Gallagher
EXEMPTION FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS: Voting 194 for and 232 against, the House on Thursday defeated a Republican motion that would exempt victims of domestic violence from the delays that HR 1112 (above) would impose on unfinished background checks. The measure would allow these individuals to acquire a firearm after three business days even when the FBI has not yet approved or denied the prospective sale. A yes vote was to adopt the motion.
Voting yes: Steil, Sensenbrenner, Grothman, Duffy, Gallagher
Voting no: Pocan, Kind, Moore
NULLIFYING EMERGENCY CALL ON BORDER: Voting 245 for and 182 against, the House on Tuesday approved a measure (HJ Res 46) that would nullify a national emergency declared by President Trump in an effort to secure border-wall funding. Trump invoked the emergency after Congress denied his request for at least $5.7 billion in fiscal 2019 for wall construction on the U.S.-Mexico border. He asserted authority under the 1976 National Emergencies Act to reallocate military appropriations to the project, while critics said there is no border emergency. A yes vote was to send the measure to the Senate for a vote to occur within 18 days.
Voting yes: Pocan, Kind, Moore, Sensenbrenner, Gallagher
Voting no: Steil, Grothman, Duffy
INFANTS BORN IN FAILED ABORTIONS: Voting 53 for and 44 against, the Senate on Monday failed to reach 60 votes needed to end a Democratic-led filibuster against a bill (S 311) that would prescribe rules of care for infants who survive failed late-term abortions. Health care providers including doctors could face up to five years in prison if they failed to immediately ensure the hospitalization of an infant showing signs of life after an abortion attempt. The infant would have to receive the same level of care provided to “any other child born alive at the same gestational age.” The bill also would require medical practitioners or employees of hospitals, clinics or physician’s offices to report to law enforcement agencies any violation they witnessed. A yes vote was to advance the bill.
Voting yes: Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh
Voting no: Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison
ANDREW WHEELER, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: Voting 52 for and 47 against, the Senate on Feb. 28 confirmed Andrew R. Wheeler as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Wheeler had served as acting administrator after replacing EPA head Scott Pruitt last July. He joined the EPA three months earlier from a law firm that represents Murray Energy Corp., the country’s largest owner of underground coal mines. He worked previously at the EPA under President George H.W. Bush and was a staff aide to Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.
Voting yes: Johnson
Voting no: Baldwin
KEY VOTES AHEAD
The Senate will vote on judicial nominations in the week of March 4, while the House’s legislative schedule was to be announced.
— Thomas Voting Reports
WILKES-BARRE (WOLF) — U.S. officials held a press conference in Wilkes-Barre Friday introducing the public to an act that fights fentanyl imports.
U.S. Senators Pat Toomey, Doug Jones, along with U.S. Reps James Sensenbrenner and Gerry Connolly introduced the bipartisan "Blocking Deadly Fentanyl Imports Act".
Under the act, a nation exporting illicit fentanyl would be ineligible for U.S. taxpayer-subsidized foreign aid or Export-Import Bank loans if it fails to cooperate with U.S. narcotics control efforts.
"Illicit fentanyl from outside our borders has already prematurely ended far too many American lives," said Senator Toomey, "The bipartisan legislation is a commonsense update to existing law that will hold the nations producing illicit fentanyl accountable, whether it be China or wherever the threat emerges next."
During the State of the Union address, the president highlighted the devastation caused by the illegal import of fentanyl.
This piece has been updated.
Researchers in the Galapagos Islands last month discovered, alive, a giant tortoise of a species long feared to be extinct.
The return of the Fernandina Giant Tortoise, last seen in 1906, gives hope that another species, also thought extinct, might yet reemerge.
I speak, of course, of the Principled Republican. The last sighting in the wild of this noble breed was in 2016.
Hopes were kindled Thursday when Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), voicing concern about the “dangerous precedent” of President Trump claiming emergency power to subvert Congress, suggested Trump reconsider. Alexander could become the decisive fourth Senate Republican to oppose Trump’s power grab, guaranteeing the Senate joins the House in rejecting it.
Privately, most Republicans think Trump’s action reckless, but Alexander can say so publicly because he is retiring. If Republicans did not fear Trump, they would undoubtedly side with 31 retired GOP colleagues who pleaded with them in an open letter this week not to sacrifice the Constitution “on the altar of expediency.”
If heeding conscience, Republicans would have enough votes not just to reject Trump’s transgression but to override Trump’s veto. More likely, they will again retreat, more concerned about reelection than righteousness. Surely they know Trump’s actions are wrong: They called President Barack Obama a tyrant for his immigration executive action in 2014, and Obama’s policy, unlike this one, had support — in a Republican-controlled Congress.
As veteran Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) said in opposing Trump’s emergency declaration thisweek: “Previous presidents have used the authority” to implement policies “Congress would have supported, but could not do so quickly enough. They did not invoke the authority to subvert the will of Congress.”
Trump is figuring Republicans will buckle, as they have each time before. He told the faithful Sean Hannity on Thursday that Republicans “put themselves at great jeopardy” by opposing him, suggesting they would be casting a “vote against border security.”
He has reason to expect Republican spinelessness. In recent days, House Republicans have put on their most feckless performances of the Trump era. Though many privately oppose Trump’s border “emergency” declaration, only a dozen joined Sensenbrenner in defying Trump. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) shrugged off GOP hypocrisy with a Yogi Berra-ism (“Well, times change as it moves forward”), and other Republicans followed.
Rep. Mike Simpson (Idaho) admitted “Republicans would be going nuts” if a Democratic president did this. Rep. Chris Stewart (Utah) called Trump’s action a “mistake.” Reps. Michael R. Turner (Ohio) and Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio) declared it a “dangerous precedent” and Rep. John Curtis (Utah) a “harmful precedent.” Reps. Rob Bishop (Utah), Roger Williams (Tex.) and others voiced concerns. All then voted in support of Trump’s emergency.
Seemingly nothing can shake Republicans’ craven political calculation that appeasing Trump is a better course than voting their conscience.
This week in the House, Trump’s former personal lawyer documented a web of deceit by Trump in personal and public matters — and Republicans unflinchingly defended the president. At the same time in Hanoi, Trump accepted Kim Jong Un’s word that he had nothing to do with American Otto Warmbier’s death — just as Trump accepted similar denials of crimes by the Saudi crown prince and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Then, on Thursday, a fresh economic report showed the economy falling short of Trump’s forecasts, even though Trump’s economic stimulus — a tax cut and spending increases — will add some $2 trillion to the deficit.
Constitutional restraint, personal responsibility, human rights, fiscal conservatism: As recently as 2015, these were Republican principles, now sadly extinct.
Nearly two dozen Senate Republicans — enough to override a veto — have expressed misgivings about Trump’s emergency declaration. They have called it “a bad precedent” (Charles E. Grassley, Iowa), “a dangerous step” (John Cornyn, Texas) and “not the preferred way to go” (Rob Portman, Ohio). Ron Johnson (Wis.) told NBC that “many of us are concerned,” Marco Rubio (Fla.) warned that “no crisis justifies violating the Constitution,” Ben Sasse (Neb.) fretted that “it will be almost impossible” to reinstate constitutional balance, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said, “I hope he doesn’t go down that path.”
Yet only three — Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) — have had the strength to announce opposition.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), now the paragon of opportunism, was surprisingly candid about his motives. “If you don’t want to get re-elected, you’re in the wrong business,” he told the New York Times Magazine’s Mark Leibovich, also describing his quest to be “relevant” in Trump’s world and to claw his way to “influence” inside Trump’s “orbit.”
“There’s sort of a Don Quixote aspect to this,” Graham acknowledged.
How apt — except the president is a mad adventurer in service not to chivalry but to personal enrichment, while Republicans play Rocinante and Sancho Panza, his loyal nag and servant.
Surely they know what they are doing harms the country. But they pull their heads into their shells, as good as extinct.
March 1, 2019
TRUMP CABINET JOCKEYS OVER ETHANOL PLAN: President Trump’s big plan to appease farmers by boosting the amount of ethanol sold nationwide encountered turbulence this week, as members of his own Cabinet sparred over whether it would come out on time or stall midstream.
The jockeying started Wednesday, when Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told the House Agriculture Committee that he doesn’t see the Environmental Protection Agency issuing the proposal by June 1, when it was promised.
The key piece of the plan is relaxing EPA regulations to allow for 15-percent ethanol fuels to be sold year-round and nationwide by Memorial Day, the beginning of the summer driving season. EPA chief Andrew Wheeler has been prodded daily by members of Congress, farmers and industry to meet the deadline. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for instance, pressured Wheeler in February by asking him to answer a laundry list of questions about how the plan would help oil refiners.
EPA immediately came out with a statement after Perdue spoke that said it would be issuing the E15 regulations “expeditiously” in March, with the goal of having it enacted into law by the summer driving season.
But it didn’t stop there. Then-acting EPA administrator Wheeler journeyed to the Department of Agriculture to refute Perdue’s statement in person. He told a conference of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, meeting at USDA, to “ignore reports we’re going to miss the summer driving season."
Later, Perdue tweeted a photo of the two shaking hands, saying he was pleased to hear Wheeler would move expeditiously to approve the E15 rule before the summer driving season.
Speculation over why Perdue ventured onto EPA’s turf: Some industry lobbyists believe Perdue was trying to build a fire under EPA to get the rule out by making the comments. They speculate that he had been under pressure by the ethanol industry to ensure the E15 plan comes through this year.
Although USDA is not the primary regulator when it comes to ethanol, it serves in an advisory capacity to EPA. EPA runs the nation’s only Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires refiners to blend an increasing amount of ethanol and other fuels into the gasoline and diesel supply.
Many pro-ethanol groups complained after Perdue’s statements that the president’s plan should have been done a year ago, and that it was part of the promise that Trump made to ethanol producers during his campaign.
Trump, in his last visit to Iowa ahead of the midterm elections, said he would be giving them what they wanted on E15 very soon.
But there could be legal hurdles for Trump’s plan: Industry consultants and congressional aides say the EPA faces major legal hurdles in implementing the plan that have slowed it down.
The specifics of the EPA regulations would call for the agency to waive the Reid vapor pressure fuel volatility regulations that currently ban E15 from being used after Memorial Day, restricting its sale during summer.
However, many argue that the Reid vapor rules must be changed by Congress, and not by regulatory fiat.
Other reasons for the delay: The ethanol industry argues that a separate component of Trump’s ethanol plan, meant to help the oil industry and refiners, is slowing the rulemaking process.
This separate part of the plan would enact reforms for the ethanol credit trading market to help reduce the cost for refiners, who must comply with EPA’s ethanol mandate by purchasing the credits.
Ethanol credits have experienced high volatility in the prevailing years, forcing refiners to pay hundreds of millions of dollars per year in order to comply with the federal Renewable Fuel Standard. The refinery industry has complained that it has forced some companies into bankruptcy.
Easier to just get rid of the EPA ethanol program altogether: “The Renewable Fuel Mandate is one of the worst programs ever created by Congress,” Tom Pyle, president of the free-market American Energy Alliance, and Trump’s former energy transition chief, told John.
“The Trump proposal doesn’t make this bad program any better,” he added. “Getting to E15 has long been sought by the corn lobby but has gotten nowhere because the EPA has historically insisted that they don’t have the authority to grant the [Reid vapor pressure] waiver” for it to be sold year-round.
He called the Trump plan “pure politics” and pandering to the corn lobby. Pyle predicts Trump’s plan “will surely be thrown out in the courts.”
Welcome to Daily on Energy, written by Washington Examiner Energy and Environment Writers John Siciliano (@JohnDSiciliano) and Josh Siegel (@SiegelScribe). Email firstname.lastname@example.org for tips, suggestions, calendar items and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list.
RAISING FEARS, OR A LEGITIMATE WARNING? Energy Secretary Rick Perry warned Thursday that a polar vortex descending on the U.S. in the first half of March will be a major test for the nation's electricity grid from Montana all the way to his home state of Texas.
"This is going to be a really deep, deep polar vortex all the way to my home state that will put a massive test upon our ability to deliver an energy supply to keep our citizens safe," Perry said at a press conference.
The National Weather Service on Thursday forecast below normal low temperatures from the upper plain states to Arkansas and northern Texas, March 6 to 10.
Administration officials used previous cold snap in January to argue for an all-of-the-above energy system, one that continues to support coal and nuclear.
Perry explained that the Trump administration supports keeping an adequate number of "baseload" power plants operational to stop a major energy disruption.
"Baseload" is an industry term that is used to refer to any power plant that can supply 24-hour energy, seven days a week. For the administration's purposes, it has come to mean coal and nuclear power plants. It is an energy category that does not typically include wind or solar, although Perry pointed out that an "all-of-the-above" strategy does include renewables.
But is a warning really necessary? The grid functioned adequately during January’s polar vortex with some minor hiccups when it came to natural gas supplies.
Perry employed similar logic in a regulatory proposal he sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in his early days as secretary. The proposal called for putting in place market-based incentives for coal plants in order to make the grid more resilient against extreme weather events. FERC unanimously rejected the proposal for lack of evidence.
TRUMP’S VENEZUELA SANCTIONS RAISING GASOLINE PRICES ONE MONTH OUT: Gasoline and diesel prices are rising in the wake of the administration's sanctions on Venezuelan oil late last month, with the Trump administration saying it is ever-watchful of the rising price of crude oil.
The Energy Information Administration's most recent oil analysis released on Wednesday shows the average price of gasoline rising seven cents in the last week, with prices in the Midwest and East Coast exceeding the average by as much as three cents. The average price of diesel fuel crept up four cents, which is four cents higher than it was a year ago.
The price of oil is steadily rising for a variety of reasons, including the sanctioning of oil from Venezuela, which in turn is causing fuel prices to rise, Hannah Breul, EIA's lead petroleum analyst, told John.
WASHINGTON GOV. JAY INSLEE ENTERS 2020 RACE WITH CLIMATE CHANGE FOCUS: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is running for president in 2020, promising to be the only candidate running on a central platform of fighting climate change.
"I'm Jay Inslee and I'm running for president because I am the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation's number one priority," Inslee said in a video posted online Friday.
Inslee will hold a press conference at a solar panel installer in Seattle to further explain his platform.
Inslee, in an interview with the Washington Examiner this past Sunday, shrugged off concernshe could struggle to differentiate himself in a crowded Democratic presidential primary field also prioritizing climate change.
Not his first rodeo: The Washington governor has an actual governing record to share, having fought hard — unsuccessfully — to impose the nation’s first carbon tax in his state, which has one of the cleanest electricity grids in the country, mostly because of zero-carbon hydropower.
He says he has the policy acumen and experience to use the energy behind the Green New Deal to fill in the details.
In December, he proposed a plan for his state to use 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045, with proposals to boost electric vehicle use, build energy-efficient buildings, and phase out hydrofluorocarbon, potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration.
REPUBLICANS PICK GARRET GRAVES TO LEAD ON PELOSI’S CLIMATE COMMITTEE: Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana has been named the top Republican of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's new climate change committee.
Graves represents a more moderate choice for Republican leadership. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., had faced competing pressures from outside groups on whether to appoint a conservative skeptic such as Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., as his top GOP committee member, or members with more mainstream views on climate change, such as Graves and another contender, Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla. Both Sensenbrenner and Rooney were left off the committee.
The other members are: Reps. Morgan Griffith of Virginia, Buddy Carter of Georgia, Carol Millerof West Virginia, Gary Palmer of Alabama, and Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota.
Finding a middle ground: Rooney, who has introduced a carbon tax bill and is less conservative than Graves, said that the GOP representation on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis “shows they are not quite where I am yet, and it makes me feel really good about being where I am.”
Graves’ record: Graves, however, has won the plaudits of right-leaning clean energy groups, and views climate change as a threat because his district is feeling the effects of sea level rise.
Last Congress, Graves chaired the Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, where he helped pass legislation on flood protection and encouraged federal disaster response and recovery programs to emphasize climate change adaptation and resilience.
EPA’S WHEELER CONFIRMED BY SENATE, BUT MURKOWSKI HAS QUALMS: The Senate confirmed Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Thursday to continue leading the EPA even as notable centrists opposed him or expressed concerns about his policies.
The mild dissent is a sign he could face pressure to soften his regulatory rollback agenda.
Most notably, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who voted for Wheeler, told Josh she is not pleased with everything he’s done. She specifically said that he has not acting strongly enough to regulate a class of chemicals that have contaminated water supplies across the U.S.
Doing more on PFAS: Earlier this month, Wheeler, responding to Republican pressure, launched a process for setting a drinking water limit for two toxic chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.
But Murkowski said in an interview Thursday that Wheeler’s promise, part of an action plan he announced earlier this month, is "not sufficient at this point in time."
She encouraged Wheeler to actually follow up and impose a drinking water standard, and said she is joining legislation to be introduced this week to force him to.
Climate matters: Murkowski, the chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, also challenged Wheeler to be “attentive” to reducing carbon emissions, although she did not join her collegue and friend Sen. Susan Collins of Maine in saying he is not doing enough to combat climate change. Collins was the only Republican to vote against Wheeler.
HOUSE COMMITTEE LEADERS WANT ANSWERS ON TRUMP’S CLIMATE SKEPTIC PANEL: Democratic House committee leaders, including House Armed Services Committee ChairmanAdam Smith of Washington, on Thursday ridiculed the White House’s expected move to create a panel scrutinizing climate change science. They particularly objected to the leadership of William Happer, a National Security Council senior director and physicist who has expressed doubt about climate science and questioned the threat of carbon emissions.
“Dr. Happer does not have the qualifications to serve on a working group that should be composed of climate scientists, if it is to exist at all,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Trump.
Signers of the letter were Smith, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone of New Jersey, Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva of Arizona, and Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas.
GRASSLEY INTROS TAX EXTENDERS BILL THAT IGNORES ELECTRIC VEHICLES: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced a bill Thursday to extend expiring tax credits, many energy-related, but it does not include a provision to help electric vehicles.
Tesla and General Motors have been pressing Congress to expand or extend the $7,500-per-vehicle tax credit for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, primarily by lifting the individual manufacturer cap, and allowing the credit to be used into future years.
The credit, first introduced in 2009, is capped at 200,000 vehicles sold per automaker.
Tesla and GM have already reached the limit, which under the law will result in the tax credit for buyers of its cars being reduced by half for six months and then cut to $1,875 for another six months until it ends.
Grassley’s legislation would extend the biodiesel tax credit, along with a tax break for fuel cell motor vehicles, and a tax credit for builders of energy-efficiency residential homes, among others.
February 26, 2019
"It is a principal role of the federal government to protect the American people, and, to that end, I support securing the southern border with a physical barrier. A wall, fence, or other barrier is vital to confront the scourge of violent gang members, drugs, and human trafficking ravaging communities across the country.
Democrats’ refusal to provide the necessary funds requested by the Department of Homeland Security is a dereliction of this constitutional duty, and I share the President’s frustration and disappointment with the recent funding bill’s failure to address these needs.
More funding is required. However, where that money comes from matters for the integrity of government.
Our Founding Fathers organized three co-equal branches of government, and Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the exclusive power of the purse. The debate surrounding our southern border has been at the forefront of Congress for months, and insufficient action—however frustrating it may be—is still the prerogative of the legislative branch. It is imperative that no administration, Republican or Democratic, circumvent the will of Congress.
Previous presidents have used the authority granted under the National Emergencies Act for matters of which Congress would have supported, but could not do so quickly enough. They did not invoke the authority to subvert the will of Congress. For example, President Carter issued a declaration during the Iran hostage crisis freezing Iranian assets held within the United States.
This national emergency declaration does not fall within that broad category, and if gone unchallenged, sets a dangerous precedent which will undoubtedly be exploited by future administrations. Despite my opposition to the use of an emergency declaration in this situation, I do support the underlying goal of securing our border with a physical barrier and urge my colleagues to reconsider additional funding, appropriated from Congress, to meet the needs of our border patrol agents.”
February 7, 2019
To hold accountable countries that turn a blind eye to this problem U.S. Representatives James Sensenbrenner (R-WI-05) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11) U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Doug Jones (D-AL) have introduced the bipartisan Blocking Deadly Fentanyl Imports Act. The legislation would impose new penalties on fentanyl-exporting nations like China that do not adhere to international narcotics control standards.
Under the Blocking Deadly Fentanyl Imports Act, a nation exporting illicit fentanyl would be ineligible for U.S. taxpayer-subsidized foreign aid or Export-Import Bank loans if it fails to cooperate with U.S. narcotics control efforts. These conditions already apply to any nation identified by the Department of State as a major producer or trafficker of illicit heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine and its precursor chemicals.
Representative Sensenbrenner: “Americans are now more likely to die from opioid-related overdoses than from car accidents, and fentanyl is the drug most responsible for fatalities. Protecting our communities from illicit fentanyl and fentanyl analogues will require an all-hands-on-deck effort, including better cooperation from the foreign nations from which these deadly drugs are produced and trafficked into our country. This bipartisan legislation will hold these countries accountable for failing to cooperate adequately with our drug enforcement efforts. I’m grateful to Senators Toomey and Jones and Congressman Connolly for their leadership on this important bill.”
Representative Connolly: “Fentanyl is destroying families and driving overdose deaths across our country. Just last week, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol seized more than 254 pounds of fentanyl at an official port of entry, their largest confiscation in history. Our bipartisan bill will provide more tools in the growing global fight against this dangerous drug by encouraging countries to cooperate with U.S. drug enforcement efforts. I thank Senators Toomey and Jones, and Representative Sensenbrenner for their leadership on this issue.”
Senator Toomey: “Illicit fentanyl from outside our borders has already prematurely ended far too many American lives. As fentanyl can be fifty times as potent as heroin, even small, difficult to detect amounts can be lethal, which is why it’s important to stop this problem at its source. This bipartisan legislation is a commonsense update to existing law that will hold the nations producing illicit fentanyl accountable, whether it be China or wherever the threat emerges next.”
Senator Jones: "We have seen an increase in substance use deaths in Alabama and across the country because of the rise of illicit fentanyl. Even small amounts of it can be deadly for our first responders should they be exposed. Our dedicated Customs and Border Protection officers recently made the largest seizure in U.S. history of fentanyl during a stop at a border checkpoint. This bipartisan bill will add to those efforts to help stop illicit fentanyl from being trafficked across our borders and into our communities."
What is fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a powerful and deadly synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent. It is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin.
What is the role of fentanyl in the current crisis in drug overdoses?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29,418 Americans died from overdoses involving fentanyl in 2017, an increase of 840 percent in just five years.
What would the Blocking Deadly Fentanyl Imports Act do to help?
The Blocking Deadly Fentanyl Imports Act would update longstanding U.S. policy to condition foreign aid to major illicit drug producing nations on support of U.S. narcotics control efforts. It would cut off certain foreign aid to major fentanyl producing countries that fail to adopt laws or regulation similar to U.S. standards on prosecution of individuals trafficking a controlled substance, emergency scheduling of new psychoactive substances, and registration of pill presses or tableting machines.
Does the Blocking Deadly Fentanyl Imports Act block all foreign aid to major drug trafficking and transit countries?
No, disaster relief, food assistance, medical assistance, and refugee assistance are exempted. Furthermore, the President can maintain the flow of all aid to countries that cooperate with efforts to reduce fentanyl exports to our country and in cases of vital national interest.
Where does illicit fentanyl come from?
Based on U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seizure data, China is the principal source country of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-related compounds in the United States, including both scheduled and non-scheduled substances.
What action has China recently taken on fentanyl?
At the request of the United States, China has controlled 25 fentanyl substances and two precursor chemicals. However, there are approximately 1,400 potential fentanyl analogues.
As part of recent negotiations with the Trump Administration, China indicated that they would take steps to schedule fentanyl as a class, effectively controlling all potential fentanyl analogues. However, it will take some time before we can be certain China will deliver on this commitment or effectively enforce it.
The United States has also indicted six Chinese nationals in connection with fentanyl manufacturing and distribution. All six charged Chinese nationals remain at large.
While the majority of illicit fentanyl currently comes from China, experts have also noted fentanyl production is relatively cheap and could shift to other nations with large, lightly regulated chemical industries. This is an important reason that the Blocking Deadly Fentanyl Imports Act applies to every country identified by the Administration as a major illicit fentanyl producing or trafficking nation, not just China.
Has the Foreign Assistance Act been amended before in response to a drug crisis?
Yes. In 2005, the House voted 423-2 to add methamphetamine and its precursors to the list (RCV 386, H.Amdt. 460 to H.R. 2601, July 19, 2005). The provision was then adopted as part of P.L. 109-177.
February 7, 2019
Quotes of the week
I think it would just be tragic if we bugged out, left the Kurds who, by and large, have done the fighting and have defeated the ISIS caliphate, the territorial caliphate and ISIS, if we just abandoned them to the mercies, and I use that term loosely, of Russia and Iran and possibly Turkey. It would just be unconscionable.
– U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in a Fox News interview over the weekend. The Oshkosh Republican pushed back on President Trump’s plans to withdraw all American troops from Syria.
I’m sure there are many Republicans shaking in their boots about that happening with a future Democratic president.
– U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” where the Madison Dem predicted Republicans were getting nervous at the prospect of President Trump declaring a national emergency to begin construction on a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
President Trump’s vision for our nation’s future, which includes fighting for American workers and farmers by leveling the playing field on trade, strengthening our military, and securing our southern border, should make every American proud.
– U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wausau, praising President Trump’s State of the Union address, saying “the American Dream is alive and once again achievable.”
I stand ready to work with all of my colleagues to find common ground, and will fight to break down the hyper-partisanship in Congress to make life better for Wisconsinites.
– U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, saying he was “encouraged” by some of the proposals Trump put forward in his speech.
This week’s news
— Tammy Baldwin says she’s flattered by calls for her to run for president next year but says she’s sticking to her role as senator for now.
The Madison Dem’s comments came after a New York Magazine column this week suggested Baldwin is “a uniquely compelling” 2020 candidate, and may be the party’s most “electable.”
“It’s very flattering, but I’m focused on doing my job for Wisconsin and bringing the Democratic Convention to Milwaukee,” Baldwin said in a statement provided by her campaign.
This week’s column — written by Eric Levitz, the magazine’s Daily Intelligencer Associate Editor — pointed to Baldwin’s history as the first openly gay women elected to Congress, her support for single-payer health care and gun control legislation and her double-digit win over Republican opponent Leah Vukmir in November.
Levitz argued Baldwin was able to win Wisconsin “as an unabashed progressive because she gets her state.” He pointed to her “Go Pack Go Act,” which would have allowed Wisconsinites in all media markets watch Packers games.
A potential Baldwin presidential bid also has support from a newly created Twitter account: Tammy Tammy 2020. The account, which has more than 650 followers, is calling for a Baldwin-U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., ticket.
“Time for a Tammy Tammy double whammy! No matter who tops the ticket, a Tammy Tammy twosome will trounce Trump in 2020!” the account’s bio reads.
— Baldwin this week also signed onto three letters calling on executives at three major insulin makers to share information about rising costs.
“According to the World Health Organization, insulin is an essential medicine, meaning that access to this drug at a price that individuals and communities can afford is a basic requirement of a functioning health care system,” she and her Senate colleagues wrote. “Unfortunately, rapidly increasing insulin prices mean that for many patients, access to this essential medicine is threatened.”
— Committee and subcommittee assignments for the state’s House members have been largely finalized for the new session.
The group’s lone freshman, U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, has been assigned to the Financial Services Committee, which oversees insurance, banking, securities and other industries. The Janesville Republican will also serve on three subcommittees: Housing, Community Development, and Insurance; Oversight and Investigations; and Diversity and Inclusion.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner — the dean of the state’s congressional delegation — will continue serving on the House Judiciary and House Foreign Affairs committees. The Menomonee Falls Republican is also the ranking member of the Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee.
His other subcommittee assignments are: Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations; Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations; and Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and Environment.
Meanwhile, other reps’ assignments include:
*U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wausau: member of the House Financial Services; ranking member on Housing and Insurance Subcommittee.
*U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay: Membership on two committees, Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure, and five subcommittees: Intelligence, Emerging Threats & Capabilities; Seapower and Projection Forces; Highways and Transit; Aviation; and Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.
*U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah: member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and Education and Labor Committee; and member of four subcommittees: Government Operations; Economic and Consumer Policy; Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education; and Higher Education & Workforce Development.
*U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse: Ways and Means Committee member; and will also sit on the Health and Trade subcommittees.
*And U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee: Newly appointed member of the House Ways and Means Committee; also serves on three subcommittees: Oversight, Select Revenue Measures and Worker and Family Support.
*U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont: member of the House Appropriations Committee; serves on the following subcommittees: Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies; Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; and Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies.
— U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman has introduced a bipartisan bill aiming to prevent future government shutdowns.
The bill, called the “End Government Shutdown Act,” would prevent government shutdowns by funding the government at the previous year’s levels if Congress fails to pass an appropriations bill.
Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, noted Wisconsin’s state government has had its own version of his bill in place since 1953; it has helped the state complete its budget on time and avoid shutdowns.
“For too long, politicians on both sides of the aisle have used government shutdowns and other budgetary gimmicks that put federal workers in harm’s way,” Grothman said. “My bill, the End Government Shutdowns Act, will eliminate federal shutdowns and force politicians to work together to produce a budget that works for everyone.”
The bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. David Loebsack, D-Iowa.
See more on the bill here.
— U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner is pushing a bill to lower the costs of prescription drugs.
The bipartisan bill, called the “Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples Act,” would bar pharmaceutical and biological companies from engaging in anti-competitive actions to block cheaper generic drugs, according to a release from the Menomonee Falls Republican.
“Americans of all ages are burdened by high prescription drug prices, and we must address this growing issue,” Sensenbrenner said. “I’m proud to sponsor this common-sense bill that will implement market-based solutions, making prescription drugs more affordable, saving taxpayers money, and providing much-needed relief to the American people.”
— U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore is bringing back her bill to block President Trump from using taxpayer dollars to pay for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
“My constituents don’t want a wasteful wall,” she said. “They want effective border security, to feel safe in their homes, and to know their hard-earned tax dollars are used appropriately, especially during tight fiscal times. President Trump’s wall does nothing to further this mission, nor secure the border.”
The Milwaukee Dem introduced a similar bill last session that didn’t go anywhere.
— U.S. Rep. Ron Kind is looking to increase access to retirement savings opportunities, under plans provided by employers in a new bill.
The bipartisan legislation, called the “Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act,” is co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa.
“As a nation, we have a problem when it comes to retirement savings. We need to take common sense steps to ensure our businesses are offering their employees flexible retirement plans that set our workers up for success in their golden years,” Kind said in a statement this week.
— Kind has brought on a new chief of staff.
That’s Hana Greenberg, former legislative director, who replaces former chief of staff Brad Pfaff. Pfaff left the La Crosse Dem’s office following his appointment as Tony Evers’ Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection secretary.
Meanwhile, Alex Eveland is taking over as Kind’s legislative director, after working as his legislative assistant.