Steve Israel on Government Reform
Democratic Representative (NY-2)
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D, FL-20): We, as Members of Congress, have responsibility not just for the institution, but for the staff that work for this institution, and to preserve the facilities that help support this institution. We have endeavored to do that responsibly, and I believe we have accomplished that goal.
Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. SCALISE (R, LA-1): It's a sad day when someone attempts to cut spending in a bill that grows government by the size of 7%, and it's not allowed to be debated on this House floor. Some of their Members actually used the term "nonsense" and "foolishness" when describing our amendments to cut spending; they call that a delaying tactic. Well, I think Americans all across this country want more of those types of delaying tactics to slow down this runaway train of massive Federal spending. Every dollar we spend from today all the way through the end of this year is borrowed money. We don't have that money. We need to control what we're spending.
Proponents support voting YES because:
This measure will more effectively regulate, but does not ban, the practice of registered lobbyists bundling together large numbers of campaign contributions. This is a practice that has already taken root in Presidential campaigns. "Bundling" contributions which the lobbyist physically receives and forwards to the candidate, or which are credited to the lobbyist through a specific tracking system put in place by the candidate. This bill requires quarterly reporting on bundled contributions.
We ultimately need to move to assist the public financing of campaigns, as soon as we can. But until we do, the legislation today represents an extremely important step forward.
Opponents support voting NO because:
This legislation does not require that bundled contributions to political action committees, often referred to as PACs, be disclosed. Why are PACs omitted from the disclosure requirements in this legislation?
If we are requiring the disclosure of bundled contributions to political party committees, those same disclosure rules should also apply to contributions to PACs. Party committees represent all members of that party affiliation. PACs, on the other hand, represent more narrow, special interests. Why should the former be exposed to more sunshine, but not the latter?
The fact that PACs give more money to Democrats is not the only answer. Time and again the majority party picks favorites, when what the American people want is more honesty and more accountability.
Proponents support voting YES because:
This bill would strengthen one of our most important weapons against waste, fraud and abuse, and that is Federal whistleblower protections. Federal employees are on the inside and offer accountability. They can see where there is waste going on or if there is corruption going on.
One of the most important provisions protects national security whistleblowers. There are a lot of Federal officials who knew the intelligence on Iraq was wrong. But none of these officials could come forward. If they did, they could have been stripped of their security clearances, or they could have been fired. Nobody blew the whistle on the phony intelligence that got us into the Iraq war.
Opponents support voting NO because:
It is important that personnel within the intelligence community have appropriate opportunities to bring matters to Congress so long as the mechanisms to do so safeguard highly sensitive classified information and programs. The bill before us suffers from a number of problems:
Proponents support voting YES because:
The election system is the bedrock that our Republic is built on and its security and oversight is of paramount concern. Only US citizens have the right to vote in Federal elections, but our current system does not give State election officials the tools they need to ensure that this requirement is being met.
This bill is designed to increase participation by ensuring that each legitimate vote will be counted and not be diluted by fraud. There are many elections in this country every cycle that are decided by just a handful of votes. How can we be certain that these elections, without measures to certify the identity of voters, are not being decided by fraudulent votes?
Opponents support voting NO because:
There is something we can all agree on: only Americans get to vote, and they only get to vote once. But what we are talking about in this bill is disenfranchising many of those Americans. It is already a felony for a non-American to vote. We had hearings and what we found out was that the issue of illegal aliens voting basically does not occur.
The impact of this will disproportionately affect poor people and African Americans, because many are too poor to have a car and they do not have a license. We have no evidence there is a problem. We have ample evidence that this will disenfranchise many Americans. This is the measure to disenfranchise African Americans, Native Americans. It is wrong and we will not stand for it.
Return Politics to the People
At a time when much of the world is emulating American values and institutions, too many Americans have lost confidence in their political system. They are turned off by a partisan debate that often seems to revolve not around opposing philosophies but around contending sets of interest groups. They believe that our current system for financing campaigns gives disproportionate power to wealthy individuals and groups and exerts too much influence over legislative and regulatory outcomes.
The time for piecemeal reform is past. As campaign costs soar at every level, we need to move toward voluntary public financing of all general elections and press broadcasters to donate television time to candidates.
The Internet holds tremendous potential for making campaigns less expensive and more edifying and for engaging Americans directly in electoral politics. We should promote the Internet as a new vehicle for political communication and champion online voting.
In a press conference today the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of 32 moderate to conservative Democrats, announced their continued support for the Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Reform bill (H.R. 2356), which is being debated on the House floor today. The Coalition was joined by the lead sponsors of the Senate Campaign Finance Reform bill. “I believe that we need to end the influence of ‘soft money’ generated from undisclosed sources. And I believe that we need to rein in illegal foreign contributions,” said Rep. Ken Lucas (KY), Blue Dog Campaign Finance Reform Task Force Co-Chairman. “True campaign finance reform will restore to the American people their voice in the legislative process--a voice that has been drowned out in recent years by big-money donors.”
The Blue Dog Coalition endorsed the Shays-Meehan bill in March of this year. An official Blue Dog endorsement comes with the approval of no less than two-thirds of the Coalition’s 32 members. “My own campaign experience has demonstrated to me the need for strong campaign finance reform measures,” said freshman Blue Dog Rep. Adam Schiff (CA), whose victory last November was the most expensive House race to date – combined, both candidates spent $11 million. “In order to protect the integrity of our democratic electoral process, we must reduce the corrosive influence of unregulated soft money donations.”
“I have been a strong supporter of Shays-Meehan and urge my colleagues to join with us so we can restore the faith of the American people in our elections,” said Rep. Dennis Moore (KS), a member of the Blue Dog Campaign Finance Reform Task Force. “I’ve worked with Sen. McCain on reform legislation before and I know that by working in a bipartisan manner, we can get big money out of politics.”
Introductory statement by Sponsor:
Sen. CLINTON: I rise today to introduce legislation that will create an undergraduate institution designed to cultivate a generation of young leaders dedicated to public service. The US Public Service Academy Act (The PSA Act) will form a national academy to serve as an extraordinary example of effective, national public education.
The tragic events of September 11 and the devastation of natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita underscore how much our Nation depends on strong public institutions and competent civilian leadership at all levels of society. Congress must take a step forward to ensure competent civilian leadership and improve our Nation's ability to respond to future emergencies and to confront daily challenges.
This legislation will create the US Public Service Academy to groom future public servants and build a corps of capable civilian leaders. Modeled after the military service academies, this academy will provide a four-year, federally-subsidized college education for more than 5,000 students a year in exchange for a five year commitment to public service.
The PSA Act will meet critical national needs as the baby-boomer generation approaches retirement. Already, studies show looming shortages in the Federal civil service, public education, law enforcement, the non-profit sector and other essential areas.
Unfortunately our young people are priced out of public service careers all too often. By providing a service-oriented education at no cost to the student, the PSA Act will tap into the strong desire to serve that already exists among college students while erasing the burden of enormous college debt.
The establishment of a United States Public Service Academy is an innovative way to strengthen and protect America by creating a corps of well-trained, highly-qualified civilian leaders. I am hopeful that my Senate colleagues from both sides of the aisle will join me today.
Congressional Summary:Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act): Amends the Securities Exchange Act and the Commodity Exchange Act to prohibit purchase or sale of either securities or commodities by a person in possession of material nonpublic information regarding pending or prospective legislative action.
Bill explanation (ProCon.org, "Insider Trading by Congress", Feb. 3, 2012):
The result of Citizens United was that "Super PACs" spent millions on TV ads in the 2012 election, advocating both issues and candidates. The DISCLOSE Act attempts to reduce the negative effect of Citizens United by requiring disclosure of independent expenditures made by advocacy groups.
Disclosure of Information on Spending on Campaigns Leads to Open and Secure Elections Act of 2013 or DISCLOSE 2013 Act:
Congressional Summary:Fair Elections Now Act--Amends 1971 FECA with respect to:
Statement of support for corresponding Senate bill: (Sunlight Foundation) Now we bring you the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, a bill that should probably be the least controversial of all. S. 375 would simply require senators and Senate candidates to file their public campaign finance disclosure reports electronically with the Federal Election Commission, the way House candidates and presidential candidates have been filing for over a decade. A version of the bill has been introduced during every congress starting in 2003 (!) yet it has been blocked repeatedly, a victim of political football.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has introduced the most recent version, which would ensure that paper Senate campaign finance reports are a thing of the past. But even with 50 bipartisan cosponsors, the bill faces an uphill battle. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, has repeatedly prevented the bill from coming to the Senate floor. We won't be deterred--as long as McConnell continues to block the bill, we'll continue to highlight that his intransigence results in delayed disclosure of vital, public campaign finance information, not to mention wasting $500,000 in taxpayer money annually. Eventually, we'll win.
Congressional Summary:Amends the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with respect to the requirement that a federal court retain jurisdiction for an appropriate period to prevent commencement of new devices to deny or abridge the right to vote. Expands the types of violations triggering the authority of a court to retain such jurisdiction to include certain violations of the Act as well as violations of any federal voting rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or membership in a language minority group. [This bill would ban requiring photo IDs in order to vote].
Opponents recommend voting NO because:Sen. Bob Dole (on related bill from 2007, whether to add an amendment allowing photo ID): I am proposing a commonsense measure to uphold the integrity of Federal elections. My amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls would go a long way in minimizing potential for voter fraud. When a fraudulent vote is cast and counted, the vote of a legitimate voter is cancelled. This is wrong, and my amendment would help ensure that one of the hallmarks of our democracy, our free and fair elections, is protected. Opinion polls repeatedly confirm that Americans overwhelmingly support this initiative.Proponents support voting YES because:Sen. Dianne Feinstein (on related bill from 2007): If one would want to suppress the vote in the 2008 election, one would vote [for Dole's amendment] this because this measure goes into effect January 1, 2008. It provides that everybody who votes essentially would have to have a photo ID. If you want to suppress the minority vote, the elderly vote, the poor vote, this is exactly the way to do it. Many of these people do not have driver's licenses. This amendment would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to actually carry out. It goes into effect--surprise--January 1, 2008 [to affect the presidential election].
Proponent's argument in favor (by Reps. Nancy Pelosi & John Sarbanes): Citizens United shook the foundation of our democracy: the principle that it is the voices of the people, not the bank accounts of the privileged few, that determine the outcome of our elections and the policies of our government. Most members of Congress would leap at the chance to fund their campaigns without having to turn to a familiar cast of big donors and entrenched interests. Today, that's virtually impossible. But we can and must break the grip of special interests on our politics: rally around H.R. 20.
Opponent's argument against (The Examiner): The proposed legislation seeks to undo the Citizens United v. FEC ruling which has been a thorn in the side of progressives ever since the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that political spending was "a form of protected speech under the First Amendment." Although the "Government by the People Act" innocently claims to want to get big money out of politics, the real goal is to smash the Tea Party. The fear that conservative groups would have access to funds typically granted to progressive groups and unions was too much to bear.
Supporters reasons for voting YEA:Rep. Sarbanes: Big money warps Congress' priorities and erodes the public's trust in government. This bold new legislation returns voice and power back to the American people:
Opponents reasons for voting NAY:(Bill Moyers, Feb. 19, 2015): This citizen engagement strategy, particularly when used to court small donors, is not without its critics. Small donors, at least in the current system, often tend to be political ideologues. That trend leaves many asking: won't moving to small donors just empower extremists? Sarbanes counters, if Congress changes the political fundraising rules, they will also change the calculus for "the rational small donor who right now isn't going to give $25 because they've figured out that it's not going to matter." The prospect of a 6-to-1 match might very well impact how those less ideologically extreme potential donors think about political giving.
Congressional Summary: To repeal the Federal Election Campaign provisions which established separate contribution limits for contributions made to national parties to support Presidential nominating conventions, national party headquarters buildings, and recounts.
Supporters reasons for voting YEA: Rep. KILMER. This legislation repeals the last-minute changes to campaign finance law that were tacked into a 1,600-page bill to fund the government. As a result of this legislation, the wealthiest donors can now each contribute more than $750,000 per year to a political party, more than seven times the previous cap. Worst of all, these changes were buried in a bill with no hearing and no public debate. This bill protects the interests of "We the People" and make sure that the wealthiest donors don't get another chance to flood our elections with even more money and to undermine our democracy.
Opponents reasons for voting NAY: (Washington Post article, Oct. 9, 2014): The FEC said that contributions to presidential convention committees will not count against the annual limit on donations to national parties--allowing wealthy donors to double their support for party operations. The FEC's move came in response to a rare joint request by the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, which argued that they needed a new avenue to raise funds for the events after a federal law eliminated public funding for the conventions. But critics of the decision said the FEC created an end-run around federal contribution limits. Under the current rules, individuals can give up to $32,400 per year to a national party committee. Now, donors will be able to give an additional $32,400 each year to a separate committee set up to finance the quadrennial convention. That means that a single donor could give nearly $130,000 to support a party and its convention in a two-year election cycle.
Congressional Summary: Sets forth procedures for admission into the United States of the state of New Columbia.
Opponents reasons for voting NAY: (DCist.com, Sept. 2014): The Argument Against: Congress does not have the authority to grant statehood to D.C.; the 23rd amendment, which gave D.C. three electoral votes, would have to be repealed before statehood was granted. Washington is a wholly urban, one-industry town, dependent on the federal government far in excess of any other state. Moreover, with Congress no longer having authority over New Columbia but dependent on it, New Columbia could exert influence on the federal government far in excess of any other state.
Supporters reasons for voting YEA: [Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC; the District of Columbia has one representative to Congress and no Senators; Rep. Holmes can introduce bills but her vote does not count]: This 51st state would have no jurisdiction over the federal territory or enclave that now consists of the Washington that Members of Congress and visitors associate with the capital of our country. Those would remain under federal jurisdiction. The New Columbia Admission Act was the first bill I introduced in 1991. Statehood is the only alternative for the citizens of the District of Columbia. To be content with less than statehood is to concede the equality of citizenship that is the birthright of our residents as citizens of the United States.
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Newly-elected Democrats taking office Jan.2015:
AZ-7: Rep.-Elect Ruben Gallego
CA-11:Rep.-Elect Mark DeSaulnier
CA-31:Rep.-Elect Pete Aguilar(R⇒D)
CA-33:Rep.-Elect Ted Lieu
CA-35:Rep.-Elect Norma Torres
FL-2: Rep.-Elect Gwen Graham(R⇒D)
HI-1: Rep.-Elect Mark Takai
MA-6: Rep.-Elect Seth Moulton
MI-12:Rep.-Elect Debbie Dingell
MI-14:Rep.-Elect Brenda Lawrence
NE-2: Rep.-Elect Brad Ashford(R⇒D)
NJ-12:Rep.-Elect Bonnie Coleman
NY-4: Rep.-Elect Kathleen Rice
PA-13:Rep.-Elect Brendan Boyle
VA-8: Rep.-Elect Donald Beyer
Seated in special elections 2013-2014:
AL-1: Bradley Byrne(R)
IL-2: Robin Kelly(D)
LA-5: Vance McAllister(R)
MA-5: Katherine Clark(D)
MO-8: Jason Smith(R)
NJ-1: Donald Norcross(D)
SC-1: Mark Sanford(R)
VA-7: Dave Brat(R)
Newly-elected Republicans taking office Jan.2015:
AR-2: Rep.-Elect French Hill
AR-4: Rep.-Elect Bruce Westerman
AL-6: Rep.-Elect Gary Palmer
CA-25:Rep.-Elect Steve Knight
CA-45:Rep.-Elect Mimi Walters
CO-4: Rep.-Elect Ken Buck
FL-26:Rep.-Elect Carlos Curbelo(D⇒R)
GA-1: Rep.-Elect Buddy Carter
GA-10:Rep.-Elect Jody Hice
GA-11:Rep.-Elect Barry Loudermilk
GA-12:Rep.-Elect Rick Allen(D⇒R)
IA-1: Rep.-Elect Rod Blum(D⇒R)
IA-3: Rep.-Elect David Young
IL-10:Rep.-Elect Robert Dold(D⇒R)
IL-12:Rep.-Elect Mike Bost(D⇒R)
More newly-elected Republicans taking office Jan.2015:
LA-5: Rep.-Elect Ralph Abraham
LA-6: Rep.-Elect Garret Graves
ME-2: Rep.-Elect Bruce Poliquin(D⇒R)
MI-4: Rep.-Elect John Moolenaar
MI-8: Rep.-Elect Mike Bishop
MI-11:Rep.-Elect Dave Trott
MN-6: Rep.-Elect Tom Emmer
MT-0: Rep.-Elect Ryan Zinke
NC-6: Rep.-Elect Mark Walker
NC-7: Rep.-Elect David Rouzer(D⇒R)
NH-1: Rep.-Elect Frank Guinta(D⇒R)
NJ-3: Rep.-Elect Tom MacArthur
NV-4: Rep.-Elect Cresent Hardy(D⇒R)
NY-1: Rep.-Elect Lee Zeldin(D⇒R)
NY-21:Rep.-Elect Elise Stefanik(D⇒R)
NY-24:Rep.-Elect John Katko
OK-5: Rep.-Elect Steve Russell
PA-6: Rep.-Elect Ryan Costello
TX-4: Rep.-Elect John Ratcliffe
TX-23:Rep.-Elect Will Hurd
TX-36:Rep.-Elect Brian Babin
UT-4: Rep.-Elect Mia Love(D⇒R)
VA-10:Rep.-Elect Barbara Comstock
WA-4: Rep.-Elect Dan Newhouse
WI-6: Rep.-Elect Glenn Grothman
WV-2: Rep.-Elect Alex Mooney
WV-3: Rep.-Elect Evan Jenkins(D⇒R)
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