HIGHLIGHTS OF WHAT CONGRESS DID THIS WEEK
Voted on H.R. 3697, the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act
On Thursday, House Republicans passed legislation that creates new, sweeping grounds for barring entry to or deporting immigrants based on the mere suspicion of gang affiliation. The Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act would subject people who have never committed a crime to deportation, creating a new definition of “criminal gang” that is unworkably vague and could cover a wide range of organizations ranging from churches, to clergy and nuns, to fraternities to political groups. It shifts the burden to individuals to prove they did not know they were affiliated with a gang that committed qualifying offenses, even though proving such a negative is often impossible.
The Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act was introduced just one week ago, without any hearings, markups or amendments offered to the bill.
Voted on H.R. 931, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act
This week the House voted on and passed legislation that will create a national cancer registry specifically to improve data collection and research on cancer in firefighters, and it will be managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Firefighters are exposed to a wide range of harmful toxins on a regular basis throughout their careers and scientific studies have consistently demonstrated a strong link between fighting fires and cancer.
The registry created in this legislation will help strengthen our understanding of the link between firefighting and cancer and could potentially lead to better prevention and safety protocols. I’m proud to cosponsor this important legislation for our dedicated first responders across the country.
LEGISLATION ANNA CO-SPONSORED THIS WEEK
House Resolution Recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month
Every September, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by recognizing the contributions the Latino population has made to our nation. To honor the vital role they have played in shaping the American landscape, I’m an original cosponsor of a House Resolution recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month and celebrating the history, culture and achievements of our Latino communities.
H.R. 3760, the Protecting Consumers from Unreasonable Credit Rates Act
During the 2008 financial crisis, payday lenders were among the worst offenders that took advantage of many low-income individuals. Payday lenders advertise their services as a way to meet a one-time need, but they require a full repayment after two weeks and borrowers often have to borrow again to avoid default. This is an example of predatory lending, a practice that extracts approximately $27 billion in excessive fees and interest from 12 million Americans each year due to excessive rates which can top 300 percent according to the Center for Responsible Lending.
To help remedy these excessive credit rates, I’m a cosponsor of the Protecting Consumers from Unreasonable Credit Rates Act, which would cap the annual interest rate for payday loans at 36 percent. This is still high but it’s a long way from 300 percent. The bill encourages the development of non-predatory alternatives to small dollar lending and clarifies that it does not preempt any stricter state laws.
H.R. 2482, the Perkins Loan Extension Act
I’m proud to cosponsor the Perkins Loan Extension Act which extends the program for a period of two years so that higher education students currently enrolled in the program continue to receive financial aid.
Perkins Loans are need-based loans which foster access to higher education for low income students by providing low interest loans to students in need. Perkins Loan borrowers are predominantly from lower income families and are often the first in their family to attend college. If the Perkins Loan program is eliminated, approximately 500,000 students across the country will be unable to access much-needed financial aid for their higher education pursuits.
POLICY LETTERS ANNA COSIGNED THIS WEEK
Letter to Equifax Chairman and CEO Richard Smith on Massive Data Breach
After a massive data breach at Equifax that compromised the sensitive personal information of approximately 143 million Americans, I joined my colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee in writing a letter to the CEO seeking more information about what Equifax is doing to make consumers whole; how the data breach occurred; and what the company is doing to safeguard against security breaches in the future. The letter also expressed concern that it took Equifax more than a month to disclose the data breach to the public and that consumers continue to report difficulties they face in merely getting information about whether their personal information was comprised. To read the full letter, CLICK HERE.
Letter to Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi to Protect Research Funding for California
As the House continues to consider a Fiscal Year 2018 budget, I joined my colleagues in the California delegation in writing to Leader Pelosi and Speaker Ryan, urging them to protect critical research funding in California. As the world’s sixth largest economy, California leads our nation in research and development (R&D) with over $114 billion in total R&D performance generated in any given year, and employs more science, engineering and health doctorates than any other state.
President Trump’s budget proposal for FY 2018 would do serious harm to our state’s institutions and the ground-breaking R&D they perform. The Administration’s budget would slash funding for the National Institutes of Health by 20 percent, and the National Science Foundation by 11 percent. The budget harms the next generation of Americans by severely cutting renewable energy research at the Department of Energy and eliminating the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), a program I helped create. We should be increasing the investments in funding for critical research, not cutting them.
Letter to House Natural Resources Committee Urging a Hearing on Improper Spending on WaterFix/“twin tunnels”
On Friday, September 8th the Department of Interior’s Inspector General published a report which uncovered misuse of more than $80 million in federal taxpayer dollars by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) surrounding the planning of the “twin tunnels” project known as California WaterFix. This $17 billion project will construct two 30-mile tunnels to bring water from the Sacramento River to large agricultural interests in the Central Valley. The contractors who will obtain the water from the project are responsible for the costs of it, but the report found that USBR paid 64 percent of the private water contractors’ share of the planning costs and provided no explanation for these subsidies which were not disclosed to Congress or the public.
I joined a letter asking the House Natural Resources Committee Chairman to hold an oversight hearing on this issue and to call the Inspector General and the Department of the Interior to testify.
This week the Health Subcommittee I serve on held a hearing on seven bills that make important improvements and expand access to Medicare Part B programs. I’m a cosponsor of two of these bills, the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine Act and the Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act.
The Further Access to Stroke Telemedicine Act expands access for patients to critical and innovative stroke diagnosis services. Very often it’s a matter of minutes that can make the difference between a patient walking out of the hospital, or suffering from the debilitating effects of a stroke. Hospitals such as Stanford Medical Center in our Congressional District have developed innovative approaches to telemedicine for stroke and other health care issues, and I’m proud to cosponsor this bill which expands patient access to these services.
The Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act permits patients who rely on speech generating devices (SGDs) to be able to keep them should they enter a nursing home, hospital or hospice. Without these devices, patients who suffer from debilitating diseases such as ALS have no way to communicate with their loved ones or medical providers. I was inspired by my constituents with ALS who came to my office urging me to support this legislation. These tools are critical to live a longer, fuller life.
IN MY CONSTITUENTS’ WORDS
Every week hundreds of my constituents call and write to me to express their concerns, share their passions and ask questions regarding legislation and policies. I actually read every communication and every constituent receives a personal response to their specific questions and comments.
Here are some of the issues constituents wrote and called me about this week:
· 229 constituents contacted me in opposition to cutting funding for Meals on Wheels, a program that works very well and is essential to many shut-in seniors
· 195 constituents expressed their opposition to the President ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program
· 157 constituents want Congress to take action on climate change
ANNA IN THE NEWS
Frequently, Anna’s legislation is written about in the news. Here are some excerpts from this week’s ‘Anna in the News’
Washington Post Op-Ed- Kenneth Starr: “Congress sits idle in the face of genocide”
“In the wake of the Islamic State’s genocidal practices in Iraq, the plight of religious minorities on the plain of Nineveh continues unabated. But instead of sitting on its hands or issuing well-meaning but toothless resolutions, Congress is now only one step away from providing relief to hundreds of thousands of displaced people — including Christians, Yazidis and Muslims — in war-torn Iraq.
“All that remains is for the Senate to act on H.R. 390, the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act, which was sponsored by Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) and passed the House of Representatives unanimously on June 6. Unanimity in the People’s House shows that our government can work effectively in support of worthy and humane causes. The time has now come for the world’s greatest deliberative body to act.” To read the full op-ed, CLICK HERE.
Foreign Policy Publication- “We are Witnessing the Elimination of Christian Communities in Iraq and Syria”
“We are on the precipice of catastrophe, and unless we act soon, within weeks, the tiny remnants of Christian communities in Iraq may be mostly eradicated by the genocide being committed against Christians in Iraq and Syria.
“The clearest, best path to rescue involves the bipartisan H.R. 390 – “Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act of 2017,” co-authored by representatives Chris Smith and Anna Eshoo, which would explicitly authorize the Trump administration, and future administrations, to direct some existing funds for immediate assistance on the ground to religious and ethnic minority communities that have been victims of genocide.” To read the full article, CLICK HERE.
You can find more press releases, commentary and information on issues at my website, eshoo.house.gov. And please visit YouTube, Facebook and Twitter for more ways to stay informed.
Anna G. Eshoo