Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 10, 2015

October 9, 2015

Don’t Starve the BLS | Commentary

By Katharine G. Abraham, Steven J. Davis and John C. Haltiwanger

Amid market volatility, looming interest rate increases and an uncertain outlook for jobs and incomes, now is not the time to hobble our ability to monitor and understand the economy. So why is Congress eyeing further cuts to the Bureau of Labor Statistics budget?

Proposed Senate legislation would cut the BLS by another $13 million in 2016, after its real annual spending has already fallen more than 10 percent ($72 million) over the last five years. A less draconian House bill would barely begin to offset past cuts. The question will have to be decided before the continuing resolution expires.

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October 8, 2015

Bipartisan Efforts at Just the Right Time | Commentary

By Rex W. Tillerson

Evidence continues to roll in that the U.S. economy is struggling. And economists from across the ideological spectrum have rightly observed that by historic standards this is one of the weakest U.S. recoveries on record.

But even in the midst of anemic growth and falling labor-force participation rates, one sector continues to power forward: America’s chemical industry.

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Congress Should Protect, Not Expose Asbestos Victims to Further Harm | Commentary

By Heather White

Most Americans think asbestos was outlawed decades ago. That’s wrong. Asbestos is no longer mined in the U.S. and since the 1980s its use has sharply declined, but it is still legal – and still lethal.

Under a weak and outdated federal toxics law, the Environmental Protection Agency has been able to ban asbestos in fewer than a dozen categories of products, as well as for new uses. Globally, 55 nations have banned asbestos, but the U.S. still allows the importation and use of this deadly substance, for which there is no safe level of exposure.

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October 7, 2015

The Estate Tax Has No Impact on Small Businesses, Unless Repealed | Commentary

By Deborah Field

As a small-business owner, I’ve grown accustomed to the political exchange that takes place over issues regarding the best policies for our growth, but the most recent narrative illustrating the plight of small business owners in regards to repealing the estate tax is unnerving. Claiming that small businesses and family farms are negatively affected by a tax that virtually none of them pay is exasperating and undermines the values of America’s small business owners.

My business, as with any small business, grows when customers have the money to spend at my shop. When patrons in my community are able to buy high-end paper goods and custom-design services, my business thrives. The opportunity to own a successful business and to, “Pass along something to my children and grandchildren,” as Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, mentioned, has never been jeopardized by the estate tax.

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October 6, 2015

Call to Action For Our Female Veterans | Commentary

By Katy Beh Neas

Female veterans shoulder a double dilemma in our society. They face all the same problems as their male counterparts when re-entering civilian life, including getting and keeping a job, accessing health care and affordable housing. But many do not identify themselves as veterans and as such don’t access available veteran supports and services. Those that do and seek assistance often find veteran systems and programs ill-equipped to address their needs.

This is important because women are one of the fastest-growing groups within the veteran population, according to the Veterans Health Administration. In fact, they will soon reach one-fifth of the total veteran cohort. While many female veterans find success following their military service, far too many live in poverty, are unemployed or are homeless.

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October 5, 2015

Time for Action on Mental Health Care | Commentary

By Mary Giliberti

People living with serious mental health conditions deal daily with misconceptions and indifference, at best — and hostility and discrimination, at worst. Beyond even those daunting challenges, people with serious mental health conditions experience much poorer health and quality of life, homelessness, unemployment, and greater involvement with the criminal justice system. These outcomes, however, are not the inevitable results of brain changes; they are the results of failed public policy. More than half of all people with mental illness in the U.S. received no mental health treatment in the past year (nearly one-third of people with serious mental illness, or SMI), yet there is no urgency in Congress to find a solution.

This, despite the fact that people with SMI are disproportionately represented among the chronically homeless and overburden emergency rooms throughout the U.S. because they have no place else to go for help. What’s more, the Council of State Governments estimates that 2 million people with SMI are admitted to jails across the country each year. This is more than the total populations of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.

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October 2, 2015

Defense Bill Critical to Maintaining America’s Global Response Force

By Sens. Richard M. Burr and Thom Tillis

Today, the United States faces unparalleled threats to our homeland, the likes of which we have not seen since the dawn of 9/11. The Islamic State terror group has quickly emerged as a murderous and destabilizing terrorist force, far from the “JV” organization it was once labeled. The Iranian regime has never been closer to developing a nuclear weapon capability. An emboldened Russia continues to fill the existing leadership vacuum across the globe, now coordinating with Iran and the Assad-led Syrian regime to spread their sphere of influence to the Middle East.

While those of us in Congress may have differences in how our nation should confront these threats, we can all agree that we must work together toward common sense solutions to mitigate risk and prioritize the safety and security of all Americans. Cutting apart our nation’s defense budget at the expense of our military readiness, training, and capability is not a common sense solution.

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October 1, 2015

The ‘Try-Nothing’ Congress | Commentary

By Rep. David Jolly

The recent resignation of the speaker of the House presents the nation and Congress with the opportunity to restore leadership to a body defined today not by what it accomplishes, but by its failure to act in the face of our most pressing challenges.

That is why today’s Congress must change, and why it is right that our leadership now change. We must restore direction to a body that has become listless, a body that governs only by crisis, a body that remains consumed more by palace intrigue than by governing.

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Congress Must Act to Reverse NLRB Overreach, Allow Franchising to Move Forward | Commentary

By Robert Cresanti

Hundreds of small-business owners from across the U.S. will descend on Capitol Hill this week to talk about how decisions made in Washington are impacting their daily lives. All small-business owners are feeling the weight of higher taxes, increased regulations and the continuing implementation of the Affordable Care Act. These burdens are part of a sadly persistent drumbeat of anti-business policies that has made it harder for them to operate and create jobs. The franchising industry has felt the brunt of this onslaught. Now, thankfully, several lawmakers have introduced bipartisan legislation to help franchise small businesses push back against these obstacles to success.

The Protecting Local Business Opportunity Act, introduced by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the Senate, and Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., and Phil Roe, R-Texas, in the House, will provide franchise businesses much needed certainty in the face of an unrelenting barrage of regulatory action. The bill would reset an imbalance created by the National Labor Relations Board when it released a major decision earlier last month. The NLRB declared Browning-Ferris Industries, a California-based recycling company, to be a “joint employer” with Leadpoint, a staffing services company. This decision ignored more than 50 years of regulatory and legal precedent and retroactively adopted a far broader definition of “joint employer” than had ever been contemplated. The fallout from the decision will not be limited to Browning-Ferris. It will hurt franchise small businesses throughout the U.S., leaving 780,000 franchise businesses and the nearly 9 million jobs they create at risk. Full story

September 30, 2015

Iran Review Moves Recall ‘Duck-and-Cover’ Days | Procedural Politics

Last May, in a rare display of bipartisanship, the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved a congressional review process for the Iran nuclear agreement — a process President Barack Obama initially said he didn’t want and didn’t need.

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September 29, 2015

Kirk, Manchin: Make Washington Work | Commentary

By Sens. Mark S. Kirk and Joe Manchin III

Congress’ current approval rating is at a dismal 14 percent, and it’s no wonder why — governing by crisis and subjecting our constituents to partisan bickering is not what we were elected to do. Instead of offering viable solutions to the issues our nation faces, many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have merely dug in their heels and refused to budge. When the government shut down in 2013, Standard & Poor’s estimated it cost our economy $24 billion. Across the country federal workers, small businesses and our nation’s tourism industry struggled financially for more than two weeks because Congress refused to compromise.

The most basic function of serving the American people is to run the federal government, avoid crisis and find solutions to the issues dividing us. Whether Americans support or oppose Planned Parenthood, there is no solution in a government shutdown, and the threat is unacceptable to both of us.

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Iran Terrorism Bill Won’t Help U.S. Hostages | Commentary

By Sarah Shourd

During the year I spent in solitary confinement as a political hostage in Iranian prison, I had a lot of time to sit with the uncertainty of my future, and how it might be tied up with the much larger uncertainty of U.S-Iranian relations.

I was imprisoned in 2009, at a time when the movement for democracy and human rights inside Iran was erupting in protest across the country. The government was scrambling desperately to maintain its legitimacy, and blaming outsiders for “fomenting dissent” was an easy, tried-and-true narrative with ample history to draw from.

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September 28, 2015

Seeing Through the Politics of EB-5 Reform | Commentary

By Jeff Carr

Only in America could we find a way for politics to interfere with a program that has generated more than $5 billion in investment, creating thousands of jobs and long lasting infrastructure for communities at no cost to taxpayers. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening now to the EB-5 investor visa program as the clock ticks down to the September 30 reauthorization deadline for a fundamental component of the program.

Created in the early 1990’s as a means of bringing private investment into the U.S. and encouraging job creation, the EB-5 program drives economic growth and creates opportunities for Americans from coast to coast. I’ve worked with nearly 200 EB-5 projects spanning 48 states and U.S. territories to provide the necessary independent economic analysis—required by the federal government—to ensure each project generates its intended economic impact. In the process, I have seen first-hand the program’s capacity to create thousands of good jobs across a broad range of industries. And those observations have been well documented by others: the Brookings Institution estimates that the program has directly created at least 85,500 jobs since its creation.

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September 25, 2015

Include Poland In the Visa Waiver Program | Commentary

Poland is America’s strongest ally in Central Europe. Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, and its aggressive stance towards the region generally, makes America’s alliance relationships in the region more important than ever. To strengthen it’s relationship with Poland at this crucial time, America should include it in the Visa Waiver Program.

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) was created in 1986 to allow visa-free travel to the United States for up to 90 days. Right now, the VWP has 38 members, including most of US major European allies and many NATO member countries. Poland, a NATO member since 1999 and staunch U.S. ally and partner in U.S. defense initiatives in Europe, is not a VWP member. It should be.

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September 24, 2015

Honor the ‘Golden Rule’ for Our School Children and Keep Nutritious Food | Commentary

By Paul Slack,  Steven Delzer, Marcus Lohrmann and Brant Copeland

As religious leaders, we teach that it is our duty as a community to love one another as God loves us. God proclaims, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Yet, the “Golden Rule,” central to America’s family and faith values, is fading from our political consciousness as intolerable inequities play out across our country. Among the most egregious of these is the hunger disparity between white children and children of color.

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