Sep 29, 2018
Our duty as voters is to judge the job performance of our members of Congress and decide whether or not they deserve to be re-hired or fired from their positions as lawmakers. In this episode, Jen summarizes 20 controversial bills and laws that passed during the 115th Congress which you can use to judge whether your Representative and two Senators have voted in your best interest. Links to all of the votes are listed in this episode's show notes on www.congressionaldish.com
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CD174: Bank Lobbyist Act
CD163: Net Neutrality
CD157: Failure to Repeal
CD069: Giving Away Your Land
Outlined in detail in CD174: Bank Lobbyist Act
First significant re-writing of the banking laws since Dodd-Frank in 2010
Most significant change: Kills a Dodd-Frank requirement that banks with more than $50 billion in assets undergo stress tests to ensure their stabilityr. Bank Lobbyist Act changed that so stress tests will only be required for banks with over $250 billion. This exempts 25 of the 38 largest US banks from important regulations.
Passed the Senate 67-31
Passed House of Representatives 258-159
Outlined in detail in CD151: ACHA The House Version (American Health Care Act)
There were quite a few versions of bills that would have ripped up the rules placed on insurance companies by the Affordable Care Act, but every version - including this one - eliminated the requirements that health insurance cover “essential health benefits”, which include:
Would have also allowed - in some circumstance - insurance companies to charge us more for “pre-existing conditions”
Passed the House of Representatives 217-213
The “Skinny Repeal” is a wildly irresponsible 8 page bill, which was only available to read for a few hours before the vote, which also would have allowed the sale of health insurance that doesn’t cover the essential health benefits.
This vote was the famous, dramatic moment when John McCain turned his thumb down and killed the bill.
Get the full story in CD157: Failure to Repeal
Failed Senate 49-51
Regulation overturned: Killed a regulation that applied the privacy requirements of the Communications Act of 1934 to internet access and telecommunications providers. Required them to:
Passed Senate 50-48
Passed House 215-205 - All Democrats no
Allows Congress to bundle rules that they want to prevent into one bill so there is a single vote on a joint resolution of disapproval. This means that each one will not be carefully considered as is required now.
Passed the House of Representatives 238-184
Has not been voted on in the Senate
Changes the Congressional Review Act to require Congressional review of major agency regulations before they can go into effect.
Passed the House 237-187
Has not been voted on in the Senate
Regulation overturned: Killed the “Stream Protection Rule”, which required permits to specify when coal mining would reach a damaging level for ground and surface water quality. Stricter water quality monitoring requirements in streams. Required land disturbed by mining be restored to a condition similar to what it was before the mining.
Passed Senate 54-45
Passed House 228-194
Regulation overturned: Kills a regulation requiring fossil fuel companies to annually report any payments made by the company or a subsidiary to a foreign government or the Federal Government for the commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals.
Passed Senate 52-47
Passed House 235-187
Regulation overturned: Kills a regulation that enhanced opportunities for public involvement during the preparation of resource management plans by increasing public access to plans in earlier stages of the process, allowing the public to submit data and other information.
Passed Senate 51-48
Passed House 234-186
Regulation overturned: Kills a regulation that required Federal agencies to give the Attorney General information on more people for inclusion in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). People who would be added include people collecting disability benefits due to mental instability.
Passed Senate 57-43
Passed House 235-180
Regulation overturned: Kills a regulation that made clear that the requirement to record work-related injuries and illnesses is an ongoing obligation; the duty does not expire if the employer fails to create records in the first place. The records must be complete for as long as records are required, which is 5 years and citations can be issued for up to 6 months after that.
Passed Senate 50-48
Passed House 231-191
Regulation overturned: Kills a regulation that required contractors for the Defense Department, General Services Administration, and NASA to report their compliance with 14 federal labor laws, required contractors to provide documentation on “hours worked, overtime hours, pay, and additions to or deductions from pay” in each pay period, and limited mandatory arbitration of employee claims for contracts and subcontracts worth more than $1 million.
Passed Senate 49-48
Passed House 236-187
Regulation Overturned: Killed a regulation that prohibited banks and other financial institutions from forcing arbitration in their contracts to prevent customers from filing and participating in class action lawsuits.
Passed Senate 51-50
Passed House 231-190
CFPB regulation overturned: Killed a regulation that included auto dealers in the definition of “creditor” for the purpose of prohibiting them from discriminating in any way in a credit transaction on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or welfare assistance.
Passed Senate 51-47
Passed House 234-175
Allows people diagnosed with a life-threatening diseases or conditions who have exhausted approved treatment options and can’t participate in a clinical trial on an experimental drug that has not been FDA approved to get that drug directly from the drug company, with a doctor’s approval.
Allows drug companies to sell their unapproved drugs directly to customers as long as the drugs have to have been through a completed Phase 1 of a clinical trial.
This law says the Secretary of HHS can’t use the clinical outcomes of the patient’s use of the drug to delay or adversely affect the review or approval of the drug, unless he/she certifies it’s for safety reasons or the drug company requests that data be used.
Gives legal immunity to the drug companies, prescribers, dispensers or an “other individual entity” unless there is willful misconduct, gross negligence, to the intentional breaking of a state law.
Passed the Senate by unanimous consent (no recorded vote)
Passed House 250-169 on May 22
Changes the calorie disclosure requirements from telling us the number of calories in the standard menu item as usually prepared to allowing them to tell us the calories per serving, with them determining what a serving is.
Allows restaurants to choose whether they will display calories by entire combo meals, by individual items in combos, by servings in items in combos. Let’s them use ranges, averages, or “other methods” as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (making it a decision of political appointee)
Eliminates the requirement that restaurants provide calories in store if “the majority of orders are placed by customers who are off-premises”
Restaurants will not be required to get any signed certifications of compliance.
Restaurants can not be held liable in civil courts for violating nutrition disclosure laws.
Passed the House 266-157
Has not been voted on in the Senate
Allows more wood to be removed by the logging industry from Federal Forests and exempts them some from environmental regulations
Passed House 232-188
Has not been voted on in the Senate
Deems the importation or exportation of natural gas to be “consistent with the public interest” and says the applications for importation or exportation “shall be granted without modification or delay” if the volume does not exceed 0.14 billion cubic feet per day and if the application doesn’t require an environmental impact statement.
Passed House 260-146
Has not been voted on in the Senate
Says the EPA must give coal companies the choice of if their steam generators will comply with emissions standards for hydrogen chloride or sulfur dioxide. The EPA is not allowed to require compliance with both
Passed House 215-189
Has not been voted on in the Senate
Forces the continuance of the process of moving all the nuclear waste in the United States to Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
Grants the entire US government immunity for damages caused in the course of “any mining, mineral leasing, or geothermal leasing activity” conducted on the land reserved for nuclear waste disposal.
Speeds up the approval process by 6 months for interim storage and basically forbids disapproval
Would Increase by 57% the amount of spent fuel allowed to be held during construction - no environmental review to make sure the tanks can hold this much
The Secretary of Energy does NOT need to consider alternative actions or no-action alternatives to infrastructure projects needed for Yucca mountain as far as environmental analysis are concerned.
Passed the House of Representatives 340-72
Has not been voted on in the Senate
Makes permanent a common funding law amendment that prevents federal money from being used to perform abortions.
This bill would also prevent any government payment assistance on the health insurance exchanges for plans that cover abortion - which effectively would stop health insurance companies from offering abortion coverage in their plans since that would make them ineligible for many of us to purchase.
Passed the House of Representatives 238-183
Has not been voted on in the Senate
Article: Pompeo eyes Fox News reporter to head Counterpropaganda Office by Robbie Gramer and Elias Groll, Foreign Policy, September 6, 2018.
Article: "Right to Try" is a cruel farce by Beatrice Adler-Bolton, Jacobin Magazine, August 12, 2018.
Article: The 'right to try' could cost dying patients a fortune by Michelle Cortez, Bloomberg, June 20, 2018.
Article: Congress works to revive long-delayed plan to store nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain by Michael Collins, USA Today, June 3, 2018.
Report: Johnson to FDA: Agency should comply with right to try law, U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, May 31, 2018.
Article: Senator behind right-to-try law says its intent is to weaken FDA by Anna Edney, Bloomberg, May 31, 2018.
Opinion: Right to Try Act poses big challenge for FDA by Michael D. Becker, NPR, May 24, 2018.
Article: Right-to-try bill headed for vote puts bigger burden on FDA to protect patients, Gottlieb says by Ike Swetlitz and Erin Mershon, Stat News, May 17, 2018.
Article: Walden, Shimkus, Lance, Walters steer House toward advancing nuclear waste bill by Ripon Advance News Service, May 14, 2018.
Article: House passes Yucca bill, but its future is uncertain as Heller pledges to stop it in the Senate by Humberto Sanchez, The Nevada Independent, May 11, 2018.
Article: The revenge of the stadium banks by David Dayen, The Intercept, March 2, 2018.
Article: Pence says that Congress should get right-to-try legislation 'done' by Erin Mershon, Stat News, January 18, 2018.
Statement: Examining patient access to investigational drugs by Scott Gottlieb, FDA.gov, October 3, 2017.
Article: What was in the failed Senate 'skinny repair' health care bill? by Tami Luhby, CNN Money, July 28, 2017.
Article: Scott Gottlieb: Conflicts surround Trump's FDA pick by Sandee LaMotte, CNN, April 4, 2017.
Report: House passes bill to overturn 'midnight' regulations en masse by Lydia Wheeler, The Hill, January 4, 2017.
Article: Now you have to keep OSHA injury records for 5 years by Fred Hosier, Safety News Alert, December 21, 2016.
Opinion: With Harry Reid's retirement, will the Yucca Mountain plan be revived? by The Times Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times, December 8, 2016.
Article: Bankers ease rules on automatic student loan defaults by Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, The Washington Post, October 27, 2016.
Article: Sallie Mae under fire for death-induce defaults by Shahien Nasiripour, Huffpost, April 25, 2014.
Report: Victim: Gang-rape cover-up by U.S., Halliburton/KBR by Brian Ross, Maddy Sauer, And Justin Rood, ABC News, December 10, 2007.
Company Information: Volks Constructors Corporation
Congressional Publication: Disapproval of Regulations by Congress: Procedure Under Congressional Review Act, Oct 10, 2001.
Court Report: Petition for Review of a Final Order of the Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission
Disease Information: Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), MDA.org
Explanatory Statement: Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2018
Fact Sheet: President Trump: Cutting Red Tape for American Businesses
Law Resolutions: Congressional Review Act (CRA)
Letter: Scott Gottlieb to Elizabeth J. Fischmann, Associate General Councel for Ethics
Letter to the Senate: Dean Heller, Re: 2019 NRC Approps
LinkedIn Profile: Scott Gottlieb
OpenSecrets.org: Rep. Bruce Westerman - Arkansas District 04
OpenSecrets.org: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers - Washington District 05
OpenSecrets.org: Domino's Pizza
OpenSecrets.org: Sen. Ron Johnson - Wisconsin
Study Report: Clinical Development Success Rates Study 2006-2015
32:00 Representative Greg Walden (OR): You know, the Department of Energy’s Hanford site is just up the mighty Columbia River from where I live and where I grew up. That area and those workers helped us win World War II, and the site’s nuclear program was instrumental in projecting peace through strength throughout the Cold War. While the community has been a constructive partner in support of our vital national security missions, it did not agree to serve as a perpetual storage site for the resulting nuclear waste. Fifty-six million gallons of toxic waste sitting in decades-old metal tanks at Hanford—these are those tanks that were being constructed to hold this waste. They are now buried in the ground. The only entry point is right here. The amount of waste stored at Hanford would fill this entire House Chamber 20 times over. According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, the oldest of these tanks, some of which date back to the 1940s, have single-layer walls, or shells. They were built to last 20 years. They will be almost 100 years old by the estimated end of their waste treatment. The Department of Energy has reported that 67 of these tanks are assumed or known to have leaked waste into the soil. There is an understandable sense of urgency in the Northwest behind the cleanup efforts that are under way at Hanford. H.R. 3053 will provide the pathway to clean up the contaminated Hanford site. You see, the waste from Hanford will end up in a secure permanent storage site that we believe will be Yucca Mountain.
35:15 Representative Greg Walden (OR): The legislation authorizes the Department of Energy to contract with private companies to store nuclear waste while DOE finishes the rigorous scientific analysis of the repository design and the associated Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing process. So, an interim storage facility can bring added flexibility to DOE’s disposal program and may provide a more expeditious near-term pathway to consolidate spent nuclear fuel.
41.31 Representative Fred Upton (MI): In my district, we have two nuclear plants. Both of them have run out of room in their storage, so they have dry casks that are literally a John Shimkus baseball throw away from Lake Michigan. Every one of these 100-some sites across the country is in an environmentally sensitive area, and at some point they’re going to run out of room. In Michigan, we’ve got two other sites that also have dry casks in addition to the two in my district.
45:05 Representative Buddy Carter (GA): This legislation is important not only because of what it means to the future of clean-energy opportunities for this country, but also what this means for our communities. Nuclear energy has become a safe and effective way to generate energy, all while not producing greenhouse gas emissions.
53:29 Representative Leonard Lance (NJ): New Jersey is home to four nuclear reactors at three generating stations: Oyster Creek, Hope Creek, and Salem. Oyster Creek will be closing this October. In the congressional district I serve, these plants account for about half of the power generation and 90 percent of the carbon-free electricity. New Jersey’s nuclear plants avoid 14 million tons of carbon emissions each year. Public Service, FirstEnergy, and Exelon are doing their part in storing their station’s spent nuclear fuel on-site, but we need a permanent site. The expertise and know-how of the federal government has a responsibility to my constituents and to the American people. I want the 3,000 metric tons of nuclear waste out of New Jersey and consolidated in a national protected facility.
58:54 Representative Dina Titus (NV): The first ‘‘Screw Nevada’’ bill was passed in 1982, and since that time, Nevada’s residents, elected officials, business leaders, health and environmental groups have steadfastly opposed the Yucca Mountain repository. I ask unanimous consent to enter into the record over 100 letters from those groups in opposition.
59:19 Representative Dina Titus (NV): You’ve heard that the legislation before you now, ‘‘Screw Nevada 2.0,’’ is a work of compromise, a bipartisan effort, not perfect, but a step forward. Well, that, frankly, is an opinion. It’s not the facts. Here are the facts: the legislation overrides environmental laws, allowing the EPA to move the goalposts in terms of radiation limits to ensure that nothing will ever interfere with the agenda of the nuclear industry. It sets up a consent-based process for the establishment of an interim storage facility but imposes a permanent facility at Yucca Mountain. It increases the amount of nuclear waste to be dumped in Nevada by 37 percent, 110 metric tons more that were not considered in any of the environmental or safety studies being used to justify the project. It also removes the prohibition currently in law that prohibits Nevada from being the de facto interim storage facility until a permanent one can be licensed. It was also changed after passing out of committee to address the high scoring costs—is it already three minutes? Chairman: Gentlewoman’s time has expired. Representative Paul Tonko: Mr. Speaker, we grant the gentlelady another minute. Chairman: Gentlelady’s recognized. Rep. Titus: Thank you. —to address the high scoring costs, making it less likely that we get host benefits. Also, contrary to the sponsor’s comments, the area around Yucca Mountain is not some desolate area. It has iconic wildlife, endangered species, and Native American artifacts. Also, the proposed facility sits above the water table and on an active fault and can only be reached by roads that travel through 329 of your congressional districts.
1:03:53 Representative Ruben Kihuen (NV): You know, Mr. Speaker, I find it offensive. I sit here and listen to all my colleagues, and they all want to send nuclear waste to the state of Nevada. They’re all generating this nuclear waste, and they want to send it to my backyard right in the Fourth Congressional District. You know, bottom line is this, Mr. Speaker: if you generate nuclear waste, you should keep it in your own backyard. Don’t be sending it to our backyard.
1:11:27 Representative Joe Courtney (CT): Next to me is a picture of Haddam Neck, Connecticut, which is a pristine part of the state where the Connecticut River and the Salmon River come together. Where the circle is on the photograph, there are 43 casks of spent nuclear power uranium rods that, again, today, pretty much cordon off that whole area. If you drove up in a car, you’d be met by a platoon of heavily armed security guards who, for good reason, have to patrol that area every single day because of the dangerous material that is stored there. That has been the case for over 20 years. It costs Connecticut ratepayers $10 million a year, again, for a site that should be long overdue for renovation and access to folks from all over the world because of its rich archeological and historical area. This bill provides a way out for this area, along with 120 other sites across the country, that host communities have been saddled with storage of spent nuclear fuel because of the fact that this country has been unable to come together with a coherent policy. And this bill provides a way out.
1:15:23 Representative Dana Rohrabacher (CA): This bill authorizes the construction of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste storage site, which would alleviate the burden of incredible risk that is now borne by communities throughout the country, such as in my district, where homes are not far located from the closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. That, and many other plants throughout the nation, have closed their doors in decades. Yet, Congress has yet to agree of how to safely store that waste, while—and what’s really important is we must store the waste—but while we develop new nuclear energy technologies, that we are capable of doing, that are safe and produce less of their own waste and can consume the waste of older plants—I reminded Secretary of Energy Perry of that yesterday—but, in the meantime, until that technology—by the way, it is sinful that we have not developed that technology, which we are capable of, that could eat this waste—but until we do, having safe storage at Yucca Mountain makes all the sense to me and is safe for my constituents.
1:17:07 Representative Rick Allen (GA): Mr. Speaker, I have the great honor of representing Georgia’s 12th Congressional District, which is home to every nuclear reactor in our state, and we are leading the way in the new nuclear. At Plant Vogtle, in my district, there are thousands of spent fuel rods being held in spent fuel pools and dry cask storage containers, and in the next few years we’re going to double the number of nuclear reactors online at Vogtle.
3:02:49 Representative Bruce Poliquin (MA): Now, H.R. 2936 brings federal regulations in line with this new technology and new standards of safety by allowing family-owned logging business the ability to train 16- and 17-year-olds under very close supervision of their parents.
3:23:31 Representative Greg Walden (OR): In Oregon, this bill would take away arbitrary prohibition on harvesting trees over 21 inches in diameter. It’s tied the hands of our forest managers.
3:28:00 Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA): I represent the Colville National Forest, which is about a million-acre forest. It’s really the engine of our economy in the Northwest, because what happens on the Colville National Forest determines whether or not we have Vaagen’s lumber or 49 Degrees North ski resort or the biomass facility that Avista runs, converting wood waste into electricity. This is all providing jobs, energy, recreational opportunities. Yet mills have been closed, jobs have been lost. It’s unacceptable. It’s time to pass the Resilient Federal Forests legislation.
5:32:57 Representative Jeff Denham (CA): The Resilient Federal Forests Act gives us the tools to immediately reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires. It allows us to expedite the removal of dead trees and rapidly mitigate disease-infested areas.
5:41:58 Representative Louie Gohmert (TX): If you want to just leave it to nature, nature will destroy massive numbers of acres of land. So we have a responsibility. Even in the Garden of Eden when things were perfect, God said, tend the garden.
6:06:29 Representative Raul Grijalva (AZ): This is not the first time we have seen the bill, this piece of legislation. House Republicans sent a version to the Senate in the 113th and the 114th Congress, where it languished on the shelf because our colleagues on the other side of the Capitol found it too extreme. Rather than view that experience as an opportunity to seek compromise, this time around, today, we are considering a bill that is even more extreme and polarizing. They doubled the environmental review waivers, added language to undermine the Endangered Species Act, and scaled back protections for national monuments and roadless areas.
6:07:39 Representative Raul Grijalva (AZ): But this bill is not about forest health or wildfire mitigation; it’s about increasing the number of trees removed from our forests.
6:18:24 Representative Tom McClintock (CA): You know, there’s an old adage that excess timber comes out of the forest one way or the other—it’s either carried out or it burns out. When we carried it out, we had resilient, healthy forests and a thriving economy, as excess timber was sold and harvested before it could choke our forests to death. In the years since then, we’ve seen an 80 percent decline in timber sales from our federal lands and a concomitant increase in acreage destroyed by forest fire. I would remind my friend from Oregon that timber sales used to generate us money, not cost us money. The direct revenues and spin-off commerce generated by these sales provided a stream of revenues that we could then use to improve our national forests and share with the local communities affected.
6:22:38 Representative Jared Huffman (CA): Title I of this bill allows intensive logging projects of 10,000 to 30,000 acres each. That’s as big as the entire city of San Francisco. Projects of that size can proceed on federal public lands without any environmental review under NEPA, without any compliance with the Endangered Species Act. Title II of the bill eliminates the requirement that the Forest Service consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service; essentially, lets the Forest Service decide for itself if it wants to follow the Endangered Species Act consultation requirements regarding any of its projects on public lands. Title III further chokes judicial review by prohibiting the recovery of attorneys' fees for any challenges to forest management activity under the Equal Access to Justice Act, including meritorious successful challenges. This severely limits public review of logging projects on federal public lands.
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Design by Only Child Imaginations
Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)