Category Archives: Washington

DeLauro Proposes National Soda Tax

by Categorized: Washington Date:

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro on Wednesday introduced legislation to impose a tax on soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages.

Under the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act of 2014, or the SWEET Act, drinks would be taxed based on their sugar content – 1 cent for every teaspoon of sugar.

A 20-ounce bottle of soda contains about 16 teaspoons of sugar – approximately double the American Heart Association’s daily recommendation, DeLauro said.

Larson, House Dems To Introduce Constitutional Amendment

by Categorized: Washington Date:

U.S. Rep. John Larson, CT-1, will join minority leader Nancy Pelosi and other House Democrats Tuesday to introduce a constitutional amendment that would reverse recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings removing limits on outside spending in campaigns.

The proposal would allow states and Congress to regulate election spending and impose restrictions on how much outside groups can spend on behalf of or against a candidate. In two campaign finance cases – Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC – the high court rolled back restrictions on campaign spending, both by individuals and outside groups.

The proposed amendment has cleared committee in the Senate, but has little chance of passage in the House.

White House: Over 40,000 Conn. Borrowers Would Benefit From Obama Student Loan Proposal

by Categorized: higher education, Washington Date:

More than 41,000 students in Connecticut would benefit from President Obama’s recent expansion to a federal student loan program.

The Pay as You Earn program caps monthly loan payments for certain student debtors at 10 percent of their income, and the president signed an executive order Monday that extends eligibility to an additional five million students nationwide. White House data released Tuesday shows that 41,833 federal student loan borrowers in Connecticut would benefit.

An estimated 508,000 borrowers in Connecticut owe $11,724,735 in federal student loan debt, according to the White House.

Sens. Blumenthal and Murphy, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, introduced a measure last month to allow borrowers with outstanding student loan debt to refinance at lower interest rate. U.S. Dept. of Education data shows that bill would benefit an estimated 309,000 Connecticut debtors.

Blumenthal Leads Bipartisan Group of Senators Calling On DOJ to Investigate Criminal Wrongdoing At VA

by Categorized: Richard Blumenthal, Washington Date:

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. on Monday led a bipartisan group of senators who wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to investigate the VA for criminal wrongdoing following reports of inappropriate practices at the 150 medical facilities in the federally-run hospital network.

Blumenthal, who previously launched a number of investigations as attorney general of Connecticut, wrote to “urge that federal investigators and attorneys assume a leadership role to assure that anyone responsible for abuses is held accountable through criminal prosecution.”

The letter follows allegations that employees at a VA facility in Phoenix, Ariz. and elsewhere manipulated records in order to mask the lengthy delays veterans faced while seeking care, which were detailed in a report released last month by the Inspector General’s office.

“The revelations…highlight the urgency of involvement by the Department of Justice,” the senators said.  “This challenge requires resources that only the Department of Justice can provide in developing and assessing evidence, pursuing leads, and initiating active prosecutions aggressively if warranted.

DeLauro, Larson Amendments Included In NDAA

by Categorized: Washington Date:

The U.S. House of Representatives Thursday passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, with amendments from members of Connecticut’s delegation making it into the final version of the bill.

The legislation, passed annually to authorize defense spending, covers a wide range of Pentagon-related policy. Amendments from U.S. Reps. John Larson and Rosa DeLauro both won approval in the House.

Larson’s amendment requires the military healthcare program, TRICARE, to cover behavioral treatments for developmentally-disabled children. “The House stood up for military families today- moving us one step closer to ensuring that children with developmental disabilities covered by TRICARE have access to the care they deserve,” Larson said in a statement released after the vote.

The House unanimously passed an amendment introduced by DeLauro that strengthens the ban on Department of Defense contracts with Russian arms dealer Rosoboronexport. The company previously has sold helicopters to the U.S.The amendment prohibits the Pentagon from purchasing helicopters and other weapons from the company. The measure requires the Pentagon’s Inspector General to investigate if the Sec. of Defense decides to waive the ban, which also covers contracts for operations and maintenance.

CT Delegation Reacts: Give Snowden Clemency?

by Categorized: 2014 Election, Chris Murphy, Congress, Democrats, Elizabeth Esty, John B. Larson, John Larson, D, President Obama, Richard Blumenthal, Rosa DeLauro, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Washington Date:

A majority of the members of Connecticut\’s congressional delegation say that Edward Snowden should not be given clemency.

This week, a New York Times editorial called for clemency and whistleblower status for Snowden, a former government contractor who has leaked detailed information about the National Security Agency\’s extensive domestic and international spying.

Sen. Chris Murphy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, along with Rep. Elizabeth Esty, Rep. Joe Courtney, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Rep. Jim Himes and Rep. John Larson all say Snowden must face felony charges. (I am still waiting for a response from Rep. John Larson.)

“Edward Snowden should come back to the United States and be held accountable for his actions,\’\’ Murphy said in a statement released by his office Friday. \”If Snowden truly cared about exposing illegal activity, he should have gone through proper channels using statutory whistleblower protections.  Instead, he stole untold amounts of sensitive, classified information, fled to China and Russia, and made these secrets available to countries with adversarial interests toward the United States.  Snowden\’s revelations have touched off an important debate, but this fact does not absolve him from responsibility for his crimes, especially when he had other avenues through which to raise these issues.”

But U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney suggested that a plea bargain might be a good idea. His spokesperson, Liz Donovan, said:

Congressman Courtney has consistently voted against giving sweeping powers to the NSA—including changes that  weakened FISA warrant standards in 2007 and extension of the Patriot Act without reform—for precisely the reasons that the Snowden revelations have highlighted. Congressman Courtney believes in the integrity America’s courts, and given that Mr. Snowden has been charged by federal prosecutors,  he should return to the U.S., where he can present an argument for his innocence or mitigating circumstances. Given the unique nature of this case, the Justice Department should make a bona fide attempt to negotiate a balanced path forward, which may include a plea bargain process that could reduce the severity of any punishment.

Congressman Courtney continues to support bipartisan efforts to reform our intelligence programs to increase oversight and accountability, strengthen protections for whistleblowers, and rebalance our security activities with the rights afforded to American citizens under the constitution. Continue reading

Connecticut Loses In Race To The Top Funding

by Categorized: Education, Washington Date:

Connecticut has again failed to win federal school reform funds under the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top grant program.

On Thursday, Sec. of Education Arne Duncan announced that six more states – Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont – were awarded $280 million in grants from the 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge. The money will go to improving preschool and other early-education programs in these states. The competition began in 2011 and there have been two previous rounds of funding.


Connecticut Lawyer Working To Free Guantanamo Prisoners

by Categorized: President Obama, Washington Date:

Last summer, Jenny Wilson wrote about about a Connecticut lawyer, J. Wells Dixon (below at right), working to free prisoners detained at Guantanamo:

\"guantanamoOne of Dixon\’s clients, a 46-year-old Algerian citizen named Djamel Ameziane, began his hunger strike in early February and as of the middle of May had lost 60 pounds — a drop Dixon estimated would put him shy of 100 pounds.
    According to government documents, Ameziane was raised and educated in Algeria, but fled the country in the early \’90s to escape civil war. After living in Austria for three years, he sought political asylum in Canada. His application was denied in 2000 and he moved to Afghanistan, where he stayed in close proximity \"guantanamoto Taliban intelligence headquarters. 
    … \”I have only drank water for a period of 11 days,\” Ameziane told Dixon in a letter dated April 25. Guards are not force-feeding Ameziane, but have threatened to do so. He is in single cell isolation, and hasn\’t spoken to another prisoner in weeks.

In Tuesday\’s New York Times, Dixon said that Ameziane is back in Algreria:

Meanwhile, the Algerian government said Monday that two Algerian detainees who were involuntarily repatriated this month have been released after an evaluation period. Lawyers for the men had raised concerns that they would be mistreated by the government there.

J. Wells Dixon, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented one of the men, Djamel Ameziane, said he had heard that his client had been released and that he was ill. He said he was seeking more information.


UPDATED: Himes Targetted By Anti-Corruption Group

by Categorized: 2014 Election, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, Washington Date:

A Northampton-based group that takes aim at political corruption is out with an ambush video of U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, calling him \”everything that is wrong with Congress today.\” The nonpartisan group Represent.Us slams Himes for his support of H.R. 992, which amends sections of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Citing the New York Times, the group says that critical language in the bill was written by CitiGroup lobbyists. CitiGroup is also a leading contributor to Rep. Himes.

H.R. 992, approved by the House, has not been taken up by the Senate.

Elizabeth Kerr, communications director for Rep. Himes, sent this response Wednesday afternoon when I asked her for a comment about the video:

This political stunt is an example of overheated, polarizing politics making it difficult for problem-solving legislators to make progress on the complicated issues of the day. This particular piece of bipartisan legislation was a carefully balanced compromise designed to ensure businesses can protect their bottom lines against price fluctuations while keeping the dangerous derivatives that helped cause the 2008 crash out of federally insured banks. Since first taking office, Jim has worked to eliminate even the possibility of conflicts of interest, including going well above existing requirements and selling his personal holdings in companies under the oversight of the Financial Services Committee.

Mansur Gidfar, a spokesman for the group, said they were \”trying to reframe the issue of money in politics … What we took issue with is … what Jim Himes did is symptomatic of a larger systemic problem.\”

\”It\’s corruption by any other name. You have a massive exchange of money … in return for a favorable policy outcome.\”