Weekly Update From Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo
Congress resumed its session on April 10th after the two-week Easter/Passover recess. I hope everyone had a beautiful and restful holiday.
See below for important information about my Social Security Town Hall Meeting with Rep. John Larson (CT-01), a warning about an online scam targeting Social Security recipients and their benefits, and an announcement for Medicare beneficiaries.
Highlights of What Anna Did This Week
Questioned Mark Zuckerberg at the House Energy and Commerce Committee Hearing on Data Privacy
On April 11th Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about how Facebook uses personal information of their users. As a 24-year Member of the Committee, I had the opportunity to question Mr. Zuckerberg. My questions were those of my constituents whom I invited to participate in the hearing by submitting to me what they would ask Mr. Zuckerberg. I received 510 responses over four days and every one of them was thoughtful and superb.
As you’re probably aware, Facebook announced that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm working for the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, gained access to the personal data of over 87 million Facebook users in violation of the social network’s policies. A researcher at Cambridge University, Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, then created an app on Facebook in 2013 asking users for permission to access their Facebook data, including locations, what they liked on Facebook, and the data of friends. In total, 270,000 Facebook users gave their permission when using the app, allowing Dr. Kogan to acquire data on 87 million users. Dr. Kogan then provided this data to Cambridge Analytica. Facebook states this is a violation of their policies which prohibited transferring the data to a third party.
The hearing confirmed my belief that the damage done to our democracy is incalculable. I invite you to read my full Opening Statement that I submitted for the Congressional Record HERE. To watch my full line of questioning of Mark Zuckerberg, CLICK HERE.
Voted NO on the ‘Balanced Budget Amendment’
This week the full House rejected an amendment to the U.S. Constitution (which requires a two-thirds majority to pass) to prohibit the federal government from running an annual budget deficit.
Of course I support balancing the budget, and I’ve actually done the very hard work to produce one. What I don’t support is a broad, imprecise constitutional mandate that provides no specific mechanisms or policies that modify actual revenue or expenditures. It is essentially a piece of paper that lacks any specifics and it misleads the American people. Amending the Constitution is not an activity I take lightly. It’s only been amended 27 times in our nation's history. What it takes to balance the budget are tough votes to eliminate or cut programs, the closing of popular tax loopholes, and yes, even raising some revenues. There isn’t an easy, magical way to do this, and it’s why the legislation is so flawed.
I also think it’s hypocritical to vote for a symbolic balanced budget amendment on the heels of voting for legislation that increased our national debt. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the tax law recently passed will add $1.9 trillion to our national debt, causing it to rise from $21 trillion to $33 trillion over the next decade. These are stunning figures. Our tax code should expand our economy, not our debt.
I remain committed to balancing the budget, but I won’t resort to imprecise and hollow constitutional mandates that could harm our economy and fail to produce what the American people deserve—sound policies and a balanced budget.
Legislation Anna Introduced and Cosponsored this Week
Cosponsored H.R. 5476, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act
Congress must protect the Special Counsel’s investigation into the Russian interference in our national elections. I’m deeply disturbed by the reports this week that the President threatened to interfere with the Special Counsel’s investigation by considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
This week I cosponsored the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, legislation that prohibits the Special Counsel from being removed without good cause by a senior Justice Department official. It also provides the Special Counsel a 10-day window to seek expedited judicial review of his removal to determine whether the firing was for good cause. If the firing is ultimately determined to have violated the good-cause requirement, the removal will not take effect.
Cosponsored Resolution Calling for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to Resign
This week I joined over 60 colleagues on a Resolution calling for the resignation of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt. He is currently under five investigations by the EPA Inspector General, including inquiries into his frequent luxury travel at taxpayer expense; the installation of a $43,000 ‘privacy booth’ in his office; two potential violations of anti-lobbying and propaganda laws; and the abuse of specialized hiring authorities to skirt ethics rules and give massive pay raises to his friends.
Administrator Pruitt has singlehandedly damaged any credibility he might have had and has lost the confidence of the American people. It’s time for him to go.
Policy Letters Anna Wrote and Cosigned This Week
Letter to Speaker Ryan on the Scientific Integrity Act
Last year the Scientific Integrity Act was introduced ahead of the first nationwide March for Science in response to the removal of references to climate change from official websites and documents across the government under the Trump Administration. The Scientific Integrity Act requires all federal agencies to develop scientific integrity policies to protect government research from political interference.
This week, as we approach the second annual March for Science, I joined colleagues in writing to Speaker Ryan, urging him to bring this legislation to the floor for a vote. Respect for science and the principle that independently verifiable information should inform policy should be a nonpartisan standard. It is critical to defend scientific integrity for federally funded research.
It was wonderful to join over 200 students from across the country this week for the Third Annual House of Code Demo Day, where students present their winning apps to Members of Congress. As a cofounder of the Congressional App Challenge, it’s inspiring to see so many apps that will spur innovation and help improve lives. In total, we had over 4,900 students from 190 Congressional Districts participate.
In our District, winner Olivia Chang developed a digital journal app called Mere that encourages users to record the highlights of their day. Her app is innovative and will help users daily as they document their thoughts and emotions.
Social Security Town Hall Meeting and Important Social Security Warning
Last week I welcomed my colleague Rep. John Larson from Connecticut to our District for an important Town Hall Meeting on Social Security. Over 200 constituents attended and heard about our legislation to strengthen Social Security, the Social Security 2100 Act. The legislation:
· Provides an increase for all beneficiaries that is the equivalent of 2% of the average benefit.
· Improves the annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) formula to better reflect the costs incurred by seniors.
· Cut taxes for beneficiaries
· 50 cents per week to keep the system solvent: By gradually phasing in an increase in the contribution rate beginning in 2019, the fund’s solvency is ensured beyond the next 75 years.
· CLICK HERE to read how this legislation is paid for.
Important Warning About a New Social Security Scam
There is a new scam targeting senior citizens and their Social Security benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) allows beneficiaries to create a my Social Security online account to access information about their benefits.
This service is created for the convenience of beneficiaries, but it also presents opportunities for scammers to prey on anyone who receives benefits.
Constituents have reported that they’ve received a message from the Social Security Administration (SSA) telling them they’ve registered for an account or that they’ve changed their personal information, including their mailing address, despite never making these changes. The safest way to avoid this scam is to have your own account. If you don’t have an account, scammers will create one.
You can find your local Social Security Office by calling 1-800-772-1213 or visiting www.ssa.gov/locator. You can always call my Palo Alto office at (650) 323-2984 if you require assistance about this or any other issue. To read more about the legislation, access important resources, and watch the Town Hall Meeting, CLICK HERE.
In the Words of My Constituents
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’s a snapshot of the issues constituents wrote and called me about this week:
· 510 constituents submitted the one question they would ask Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg if they were a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
· 223 constituents wrote to me in support of protecting Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation and preventing the President from firing him.
· 182 constituents wrote to me in support of the No Tax Breaks for Outsourcing Act, which repeals provisions in the recently-passed tax bill that favor companies investing overseas instead of in the U.S. It also closes some corporate tax loopholes.
Anna in the News
Frequently, Anna’s work is written about in the news. Here are some excerpts:
Silicon Valley Business Journal (4/11/18) - “Zuckerberg faces harshest critics who ask about 'moral responsibility' and political bias”
“On the second day of his testimony before congressional committees, Mark Zuckerberg encountered a blistering series of questions from none other than Rep. Anna Eshoo, the Democratic member of Congress who represents Palo Alto — the city where the Facebook CEO lives.
“I think the damage done to our democracy relative to Facebook and its platform being weaponized are incalculable,” said Eshoo, a Democrat who has served in Congress since 1993, representing much of the Peninsula. “Enabling the cynical manipulation of American citizens for the purpose of influencing an election is deeply offensive. And it’s very dangerous. Putting our private information on offer without concern for possible misuses I think is simply irresponsible.”
“In the four-and-a-half minutes Eshoo had to question him during the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, the congresswoman tried to get Zuckerberg to answer a series of yes or no questions about Faceboook's involvement with Cambridge Analytica — the company that got access to private information on about 87 million Facebook users. One piece of news Eshoo extracted from Zuckerberg was that his data was among those Cambridge Analytica was able to use.” To read the full article, CLICK HERE.
San Jose Mercury News (4/11/18) - “Mark Zuckerberg grilled for two days: What’s next for Facebook?”
Mark Zuckerberg faced a tougher crowd from the start Wednesday, his second, five-hour-long grilling from lawmakers this week in Washington about the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal and a wide range of other issues.
“But as many lawmakers pointed out this week, they and some of their constituents are wondering if they should continue to trust the world’s largest social network.
“Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, asked whether Zuckerberg is willing to “change Facebook’s business model to protect privacy.”
“I’m not sure what that means,” Zuckerberg replied. During questioning the day before, Zuckerberg reaffirmed his commitment to keeping Facebook free for users, which he said could be achieved only by allowing advertising.” To read the full article, CLICK HERE.
TechCrunch (4/11/18) – “Zuckerberg doesn’t want to talk about changing the business model”
“The U.S. Representative for California’s 18th congressional district Anna Eshoo started by setting the tone. “First, I believe that our democratic institutions are undergoing a stress test in our country,” she said. “Putting our private information on offer without concern for possible misuses is simply irresponsible,” she added.
“Eshoo asked her constituents to submit questions that they want to ask Zuckerberg. The result is an intense four-minute yes-or-no round of questions.” To read the full article, CLICK HERE.
An Important Announcement from Anna
If you are a Medicare beneficiary, I want you to know about a recent important announcement by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Starting next month, you will receive a new Medicare card displaying a randomly assigned Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI), or Medicare Number on it. The MBI replaces your Social Security Number on your old Medicare card to eliminate the security threat posed by prominently displaying your Social Security Number on a card you carry with you regularly. Existing Medicare beneficiaries across the country will begin receiving new Medicare cards starting in May 2018.
New Medicare beneficiaries will automatically receive the newly-designed Medicare cards upon enrolling in Medicare.
You can update your beneficiary mailing address by visiting https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/ or by calling 1-800-772-1213. Should beneficiaries have any questions, you can visit Medicare.gov or call 1-800 MEDICARE for assistance or more information. And you can always contact my Palo Alto office at (650) 323-2984 if you need any assistance with specific Medicare issues.
You can find more press releases, commentary and information on issues at my website, eshoo.house.gov. And please visit Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for more ways to stay informed.