Tag Archive: Senate

Senators Seek To Force Approval Of Keystone XL Pipeline

Posted: 05/01/2014 4:10 pm EDT Updated: 05/01/2014 4:59 pm EDT



WASHINGTON –- Senate supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline say they think they have enough votes to pass a bill that would force the approval of the controversial project. A group of 56 senators — all 45 Republicans plus 11 Democrats –- introduced legislation on Thursday that would bypass the Obama administration and grant approval for the pipeline.

Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) introduced the bill on Thursday. Democrats Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Walsh (D-Mont.), and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) are cosponsoring it.

Because it crosses an international border, the decision on the pipeline falls under the authority of the State Department. The State Department announced another delay on a decision last month in response to a court decision that invalidated the pipeline’s proposed route through Nebraska, saying that it would wait to decide until there is more clarity on where the pipeline will ultimately run. The legislation would grant approval to “any subsequent revision to the pipeline route” in Nebraska, without requiring further environmental analysis.

“We continue to hear delay, delay, delay from the Administration about the Keystone XL pipeline. I’m beyond sick of it,” Heitkamp said in a statement Thursday. “We have strong bipartisan support in the Senate for this project –- and I’m proud to have recruited support from 10 other Democrats last month. Now, all of those Democrats also signed onto this bill that we crafted to fully approve the construction of the Keystone pipeline. If the Administration isn’t going to make a decision on this project after more than five years, then we’ll make it for them. End of story.”


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Expensive pills
March 29, 2014

There is a little known bill in the works which would force people in crisis into forced psychiatric treatment. Mad in America reported on March 28, 2014 that mental health advocates are urging protest against a forced treatment addition to a new Medicare bill. Many national mental health and disability advocacy groups have joined together to urge people to contact their senators in order to protest a section of a bill which was rushed through the House of Representatives by voice vote this week. This bill, Section 224 of HR4302, is up for a vote in the Senate on Monday.

Raymond Bridge, public policy director of the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery has said: “In its rush to fix a problem with Medicare, the House passed a bill including a highly controversial program, involuntary outpatient commitment, with no debate and no roll call vote.” It appears to Bridge that the Senate may pass a version of the House bill which includes this troublesome provision on Monday. Daniel Fisher, M.D., Ph.D. has commented about this bill, saying: “It would bring America back to the dark ages before de-institutionalization, when people with mental health conditions languished in institutions, sometimes for life.”

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Mental Health Advocates Decry Forced Treatment Provision in “Doc Fix” Bill


WASHINGTON, March 28, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The bill rushed through the House of Representatives by voice vote yesterday to patch Medicare regulations includes a highly controversial provision that has nothing to do with Medicare, and that would subject people in crisis to forced treatment. Studies have shown that such force causes trauma and drives people away from treatment, mental health advocates warned.

Today, an array of national mental health and disability advocacy groups joined together to decry this provision, which they view as a regressive attack on hundreds of thousands of Americans with serious mental health conditions.

“In its rush to fix a problem with Medicare, the House passed a bill including a highly controversial program, involuntary outpatient commitment, with no debate and no roll call vote,” said Raymond Bridge, public policy director of the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR), a coalition of 32 statewide organizations and others representing individuals with mental illnesses. “And it seems that the Senate may pass a version of the House bill including this troubling provision on Monday,” Bridge added.

The 123-page Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, H.R. 4302, includes a four-year, $60 million grant program (Sec. 224) to expand involuntary outpatient commitment (IOC) – also called Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) – in states that have laws authorizing IOC. The laws allow courts to mandate someone with a serious mental illness to follow a specific treatment plan, usually requiring medication. The facts show that involuntary outpatient commitment is not effective, involves high costs with minimal returns, is not likely to reduce violence, and that there are more effective alternatives.

Assisted Outpatient Treatment is central to the controversial Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 3717), proposed by Rep. Tim Murphy in December 2013.

“This legislation would eliminate initiatives that use evidence-based, voluntary, peer-run services and family supports to help people diagnosed with serious mental illnesses to recover,” said Daniel Fisher, M.D., Ph.D., a psychiatrist and an NCMHR founder. “It would bring America back to the dark ages before de-institutionalization, when people with mental health conditions languished in institutions, sometimes for life.”

The provisions of H.R. 3717 would exchange low-cost, community-based services with good outcomes for high-cost yet ineffective interventions, according to the NCMHR; the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), the non-profit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities; and the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), which advances independent living and the rights of people with disabilities through consumer-driven advocacy.


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Republicans Vote to Renew Gun Control Bill


The House will vote Tuesday to ban the sale of undetectable guns


December 3, 2013  

A Liberator pistol appears on July 11, 2013 next to the 3D printer on which its components were made.

Lawmakers want to ensure plastic and 3-D printed guns, such as the “Liberator” pistol pictured above, are regulated and detectable.”



Democrats have tried in vain in 2013 to get House Republicans to pass gun control measures they believe would curb violence such as the massacre in Newtown, Conn. Tuesday, however, gun control legislation which has a long record of bipartisan support and is sponsored by a House Republican with an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, is up for consideration.


[VOTE: Should 3-D Printed Guns Be Legal?]


The Undetectable Firearms Act will be voted on under a suspension of the rules, which means it will need a two-thirds majority to pass. Its lead sponsor is Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., a veteran lawmaker who represents portions of rural North Carolina. His bill would extend a law that bans the sale of firearms that can go undetected in a metal detector.


The law has been a source of bipartisan compromise in Congress since the Reagan administration. It was a forward-looking bill in 1988 when it was first authorized. Then it was aimed at ensuring large-scale gun manufacturers couldn’t produce or sell weapons that could slyly bypass security checkpoints undetected. Now, in an era when consumers with a 3-D printer could make plastic guns at home, the law may have wider implications.


The vote in the House is expected less than a week before the current version of the legislation expires. The Senate, however, has yet to act and will be out of session until Monday.


Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., brought a similar bill up for a vote before leaving for the Thanksgiving holiday, but Republicans in the Senate objected. Democrats in the Senate warn that the rapid advance in 3-D printing technologies could produce more undetectable guns and more mass shootings.


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House Passes Ban On Plastic Guns As Senate Eyes Broader Reforms


Posted: 12/03/2013 5:14 pm EST  |  Updated: 12/04/2013 11:19 am EST



WASHINGTON — Something bizarre happened in the House of Representatives on Tuesday: Republicans quietly passed gun control legislation.


The bill, which renews the 1988 Undetectable Firearms Act, faced so little opposition in the House that it was only debated for 10 minutes and passed on a voice vote. It’s the only gun-related measure to get a House vote since Democrats launched a major push for action on gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting late last year.


Tuesday’s vote doesn’t implement new gun laws — it just extends a current one banning guns that don’t contain enough metal to trigger X-ray machines or metal detectors. The law was originally signed by President Ronald Reagan and was renewed by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, passing Congress with broad bipartisan support each time. It is currently scheduled to expire on Dec. 9.


While the House didn’t make any changes to the law, Senate Democrats are poised to try to expand it. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will put forward a bill on Monday, the same day the law is set to expire, containing a provision targeting plastic guns made with 3-D printing technology. Specifically, his bill would require that guns contain a piece of metal that is intrinsic to its operation, such as in the barrel or the trigger handle, rather than an extraneous piece that could be removed before a gun is put through a metal detector.


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Published time: August 06, 2013 16:17
Edited time: August 07, 2013 14:14

Reuters / Ueslei Marcelino

Reuters / Ueslei Marcelino

Someone in the Senate isn’t a fan of Edward Snowden, and they’re using Wikipedia to get their point across.

The Wikipedia page for the man responsible for leaking classified National Security Agency files to the media has been updated hundreds of times since he started sharing sensitive documents in early June, but one of those revisions — and a questionable one at that — comes courtesy of someone in the United States Senate.

On Friday, someone logged into Wikipedia and changed a line in Snowden’s biography from “American dissident” to “American traitor.” Joe Klock at The Daily Dot website was the first one to report on the edit, and quickly noticed that the revision was made from a computer connected to the Internet from within the walls of a US Senate building.

The word change only stayed on the Snowden page for around one minute, but it still managed to create quite a stir.

On a discussion page for the entry, one Wikipedia editor confirmed that the change was made by someone with access to a Senate computer.

The edit was made by this IP and the IP does belong to the US Senate. The edit was reverted within 1 minute due to the fact that it does not reflect a neutral point of view which is one of the Five Pillars that governs how Wikipedia operates. In that way, Wikipedia not only performed as it should but it did so incredibly quickly,” the post reads.

Nailing the perpetrator responsible for that single edit will likely be task all too impossible, though. While the IP address behind the change is indeed registered to the Senate, it isn’t restricted to one particular user.

If the agency or facility uses proxy servers, this IP address may represent many users at many personal computers or devices,” the discussion page acknowledges.

Screenshot from wikipedia.org

Screenshot from wikipedia.org

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House Passes Republican Farm-Policy Bill Without Food Stamp Aid

Farmer Bill Maupin, left, confers with landowner Norman Sandelbach while inspecting freshly planted corn seeds in a field outside of Henry, Illinois.

House Republicans passed a five-year U.S. farm-policy bill that retains subsidies to farmers and strips out food-stamp spending, costing it Democratic support.

The plan was approved today 216-208, with all Democrats and 12 Republicans in opposition. The measure also would repeal underlying provisions that potentially would double milk prices when a new law isn’t passed. The measure, scaled back after the House defeated a bill that included food stamps three weeks ago, is “extremely flawed,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Farmer Bill Maupin, left, confers with landowner Norman Sandelbach while inspecting freshly planted corn seeds in a field outside of Henry, Illinois. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

“The bill passed by the House today is not a real farm bill and is an insult to rural America,” the Michigan Democrat, who will lead Senate negotiators to work out a final bill with House lawmakers, said in a statement after the vote.

The legislation, which benefits crop buyers such as Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. (ADM) and insurers including Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), has been working through Congress for almost two years. The Senate on June 10 passed S. 954, a plan that would cost $955 billion over a decade. Current law begins to expire Sept. 30.

The Obama administration has threatened to veto the farm measure that excludes food stamp and nutrition programs.

Action Stymied

House action has been stymied largely by disagreements on food stamps. The legislation rejected last month, H.R. 1947, would cut spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, responsible for more than three-quarters of the bill’s costs, by about 2.5 percent, roughly $2 billion a year. Democrats who balked at the reductions joined Republicans objecting to the plan’s cost to scuttle the bill. Republican leaders revived the measure in scaled-back form.

The stripped-down plan gained support from Republicans willing to deal with food stamps later. “It’s not a secret I am not a fan of the farm bill,” said Representative Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican who opposed the June version and supported the bill today. “I’ve learned around here that you rarely get to vote for success but you can vote for progress.”



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US Senate passes sweeping immigration reform

In a vote hailed by US President Barack Obama, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform on Thursday that would help 11 million people gain citizenship, but is expected to be blocked by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

By Halla Mohieddeen (video)
News Wires (text)

The U.S. Senate approved a landmark immigration bill on Thursday that would provide millions of undocumented immigrants a chance to become citizens, but the leader of the House of Representatives said the measure was dead on arrival in the House.

In a rare show of bipartisanship, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed the bill by a vote of 68-32, with 14 of the Senate’s 46 Republicans joining all 52 Democrats and two independents in support of the bill.

But any air of celebration was tempered by House Speaker John Boehner, who hours before the vote emphasized that Republicans would “do our own bill,” one that “reflects the will of our majority,” many of whom oppose citizenship for immigrants who are in the United States illegally.

Any bill in the Republican-controlled House is expected to focus heavily on border security and finding immigrants who have overstayed their visas.

“Immigration reform has to be grounded in real border security,” Boehner said.

Republican divisions over immigration were evident throughout the U.S. Capitol. While Boehner was putting the brakes on the Senate bill, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, delivered a passionate speech urging passage of the measure that he helped write.

After recounting his parents’ difficult lives in Cuba and their struggles after immigrating to the United States, Rubio said: “For over 200 years now, they (immigrants) have come; in search of liberty and freedom, for sure. But often simply looking for jobs to feed their kids and the chance of a better life.”

At the end of the Senate debate, a packed gallery of supporters, who have labored decades for such a moment, witnessed the vote that came after three weeks of sometimes heated discussion. More than 100 children of illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents hugged each other when the bill passed.

President Barack Obama, praising the bill, said it contained tough border security requirements and “earned citizenship” for about 11 million undocumented residents.

“Today, the Senate did its job. It’s now up to the House to do the same,” Obama said in a statement.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Senate bill “has the potential to improve the lives of millions of Mexicans living in the United States today.”

The Senate vote came after several unsuccessful attempts in the past decade or so to overhaul a U.S. immigration law enacted in 1986. The goal has been to improve an outdated visa system and help U.S. firms get easier access to foreign labor ranging from farm and construction workers to high-skilled employees.

Business and labor groups reached a deal on the new visa system, which is part of the Senate bill. But controversy raged over how much new border security was needed and how long the 11 million should wait before becoming legal residents and then citizens.


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Local Advocates Watch Cautiously As Immigration Reform Heads To The US House

June 28, 2013 6:52 AM
SEIU members rally for immigration reform at LOVE Park (Credit: Molly Daly)

SEIU members rally for immigration reform at LOVE Park (Credit: Molly Daly)

Reporting Cherri Gregg

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The immigration reform bill sailed through the United States Senate yesterday, offering hope of citizenship to millions of undocumented immigrants across the country (see related story). Local advocates are a little nervous as the bill gears up to move into the House.

“It’s a little bit of a bitter sweet pill I think right now,” says Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos. She says the community is happy the bill is moving forward, but afraid that if it ever passes the United States House it won’t resemble the Gang of 8 proposal originally lauded by immigration reform advocates.

“We see these concessions happening around this bill, so it just raises our concern as we move into the House,” she says.

Concessions like adding tens of billions of dollars for stepped up border security and adding more red tape to the path to citizenship. Natasha Kelemen of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition says the only recourse is to continue to push lawmakers.


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Forget the Farm Bill: New York Legislators Push for GMO Labeling

In case you missed it: Twin bills are currently moving through the New York Senate and Assembly requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods. After Proposition 37 was shot down in California last year, New York’s might seem like a fruitless effort against a monolithic biotech lobby, but it’s part of a renewed effort to address the issue nationwide–New York is now one of 27 states that have introduced legislation to regulate GMOs.

A week ago, the Senate voted down a GMO labeling requirement in the federal Farm Bill, then introduced another amendment that GMO activists say would cut out states’ ability to require labeling. But amid the squabbling at the federal level, the Connecticut state Senate passed a GMO labeling requirement that’s moving through the House, Maine’s GMO labeling bill sailed through the state’s Agriculture Committee, and Vermont’s legislation passed in the state House.

New York’s bills were introduced in a bipartisan effort between Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D) and state Senator Ken Lavalle (R). The Assembly’s version currently has 41 co-sponsors, and Rosenthal feels that while similar legislation has failed in the past, renewed interest in GMO labeling is at an all-time high.

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Connecticut Lawmakers Vote to Label GMO Foods

Activist Post

Fresh off global protests against Monsanto, the Connecticut House and Senate agreed on a bill to label genetically modified foods.

“There is mounting scientific evidence showing that genetically modified foods are harmful to our health,” said Senate President Donald E. Williams (D-Brooklyn). “There’s an increasing avalanche of public support (for labeling GMOs).”

The original legislation would have made GMO labeling mandatory in Connecticut by 2016, but a compromise was made this week to add a trigger to the law requiring other state’s participation.

The trigger amendment states the law will go into effect when:

Four states, not including this state, enact a mandatory labeling law for genetically-engineered foods that is consistent with the provisions of this subsection, provided one such state borders Connecticut; and (2) the aggregate population of such states located in the northeast region of the United States that have enacted a mandatory labeling law for genetically-engineered foods that is consistent with this subsection exceed twenty million based on 2010 census figures.

In other words, either four other states or another state with the equivalent of 20 million citizens must adopt similar legislation to trigger labeling in Connecticut. The reasoning for the trigger is that it may be unfeasible to demand food labeling only for Connecticut’s 3.5 million residents.

“Connecticut will be the first state in the nation to pass a GMO labeling law and this sets the stage for other states to join the growing movement to give consumers more choices. As a small state, Connecticut couldn’t go it alone – this compromise strikes the right balance,” said Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden).

Another amendment stripped the exemption for farmers grossing less than $1.5 million in annual sales, which many feel will add additional regulations for small farmers.


CT Senate Amends and Passes Strong GMO Labeling Bill



gmo free ctBy GMO Free CT

We are thrilled to tell you that a short while ago, the Senate amended and voted on HB 6527, the GMO labeling bill voted on by the House last Thursday.   After several days of intense negotiation between the Senate, the House, and the Governor’s office, a compromise was reached this afternoon.  All four leaders of the House and Senate, Senator Williams, Senator McKinney, Representative Sharkey, and Representative Cafero, are all sponsors of the amended bill.

Today’s GMO labeling agreement is historic and we are proud to have played a role in its development.  YOU should all be proud.  Connecticut will now set the standard for states around the country to follow.  We are grateful to all who worked to make this possible.  Thank you to all our champions in the House and the Senate.

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Nicole de Beaufort 

May 31st, 2013

Federal Research and Marketing Promotion Programs = Robin Hood in Reverse

Call your senators now to tell them to support SA 1083.  –  Senator Cruz amendment to the Farm Bill

Boss_Tweed,_Thomas_NastThis amendment to the Farm Bill allows farmers to voluntarily choose whether or not they pay into Federal “checkoff” programs.  Anytime a farmer sells a steer, a gallon of milk, an egg, bushel of corn or soybeans, or any other covered commodity, the producer is required to pay a fee to industry-run organizations for marketing campaigns such as the Got Milk? and Pork, The Other White Meat or The Incredible Edible Egg.

The problem is that advertising of this nature primarily benefits processors, marketers and retailers — not the farmers who are stuck paying the bills! Now a new similar tax is being proposed covering all organic farmers. Senator Cruz (R-TX) has offered this amendment:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no program to promote and provide research and information for a particular agricultural commodity without reference to 1 or more specific producers or brands (commonly known as a “check-off program”) shall be mandatory or compulsory.”

Starting on Monday June 3rd the full Senate will continue their discussion of the 2013 Farm Bill as recommended by the Senate Ag Committee.  Please Call Your Senators’ offices  — on or before Monday — and ask to speak to the Staff who deals with agriculture – Be sure to leave a message if you don’t get to talk to this person.  


By supporting this amendment you will be giving family farms the freedom to choose how their money is spent.

democracynow democracynow·

Published on May 30, 2013

http://www.democracynow.org – As Republicans move to cut billions of dollars in funding for food stamps, a new report finds one in six Americans live in a household that cannot afford adequate food. In “Nourishing Change: Fulfilling the Right to Food in the United States,” the International Human Rights Clinic at New York University’s School of Law reports that of these 50 million people going hungry, nearly 17 million are children. Food insecurity has skyrocketed since the economic downturn, with an additional 14 million people classified as food insecure in 2011 than in 2007. The report comes as Congress is renegotiating the Farm Bill and proposing serious cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. Millions of Americans currently rely on the program to feed themselves and their families. The report’s co-author, Smita Narula of the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU’s School of Law, joins us to discuss her findings and why she is calling on the U.S. government to ensure that all Americans have access to sufficient, nutritious food.




Food stamp cuts hurt the economy and taxpayers along with the poor

Posted Tuesday, May. 28, 2013

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/05/28/4889196/food-stamp-cuts-hurt-the-economy.html#storylink=cpy

To hear Republicans — and some Democrats — in Congress talk, you’d think food-stamp dollars just disappear into a black hole. The prevailing debate in the Senate and House versions of the farm bill, which contains funding for food stamps (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP), is over how much to cut.

But when more than 15 percent of Americans remain impoverished, slashing food assistance for the poor makes no sense in humanitarian, economic or public-health terms.

The House bill which is gaining steam after passage by the Agriculture Committee last week, is the more draconian of the two. It would chop $20 billion over 10 years from SNAP, and its changes to food-stamp eligibility rules would cut off vital sustenance for about 2 million low-income people, including seniors and families with children.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, 210,000 children in low-income families would lose their free school meals under the House plan.

The Senate version would cut far less, though a final figure will be hashed out by a conference committee in June. But the attacks on food assistance for the poor are deeply misguided and are only going to get worse.

The proposed House budget from Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., seeks to gut food stamps by an additional $135 billion through block grants to states.

Yet government and other studies clearly show that food stamps are among the most wisely spent public dollars, providing essential nourishment and public health benefits to low-income people as well as economic stimulus to rural and urban communities.

These are returns on spending that you won’t find in the corporate tax giveaways and military spending boondoggles routinely supported by both political parties. even as they scream for austerity when it comes to slashing “entitlements” and food assistance for the poor.

The Trust for America’s Health, a health advocacy organization that focuses on disease prevention, warned recently of the consequences of cutting food stamps: “If the nation continues to underfund vital public health programs, we will never achieve long-term fiscal stability, as it will be impossible to help people get/stay healthy, happy and productive.”

Indeed, According to a 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “research shows that low-income households participating in SNAP have access to more food energy, protein and a broad array of essential vitamins and minerals in their home food supply compared to eligible nonparticipants.”


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