Saturday, October 14, 2017

CONYERS: CBC, Ranking Members Request Meeting With FBI About "Black Identity Extremists" Assessment

CBC, Ranking Members to FBI: “As you are no doubt aware, the FBI has a troubling history of utilizing its broad investigatory powers to target black citizens.”

WASHINGTON – the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and Ranking Members for three House committees requested a meeting with the FBI about its August 3, 2017 intelligence assessment titled, “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers.” In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, CBC Chairman Cedric L. Richmond and Ranking Members John Conyers, Jr. (Judiciary), Bennie G. Thompson (Homeland Security), and Elijah E. Cummings (Oversight) requested to meet about the origins of the assessment and how it will be used, and expressed concern about the assessment given the FBI’s “troubling history” of targeting black citizens, including Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders.
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CONYERS Condemns Trump Efforts To Sabotage Obamacare; Strip Health Care From Millions Of Americans

Washington, D.C. – President Donald Trump announced that he will be cutting off the Cost-Sharing Reduction payments required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to reduce health insurance payments for millions of Americans.  He also issued an executive order that will limit access to care for millions of Americans.

Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) released the following statement in response:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“President Trump and Republicans in Congress have repeatedly tried to dismantle the Affordable Care Act since its passage and implementation. After many failed attempts to repeal ACA at the congressional level, President Trump has turned to using the presidency to chip away at the ACA’s critical protections.

“The cost-sharing reduction payments that Trump plans to end were required by the ACA in order to help millions of Americans access quality, affordable care. Trump’s childish and cold-hearted maneuver to end these subsidies will cause premiums to rise for many hard working American families and cause insurers to leave the marketplace.

“When Democrats regain a majority it's imperative that we pass and implement a single payer, Medicare for All system that covers all Americans and cannot be tampered with by a petulant president. In the meantime, Republicans in Congress must join Democrats in their efforts to protect and build on the Affordable Care Act’s progress.”

According to the Congressional Budget Office, premiums will increase 25 percent by 2020 without cost-sharing reduction payments.

Read more about the Trump ACA executive order below.

The Trump executive order to sabotage ACA will:

Limit access to comprehensive health coverage, threatening coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

·         The ACA requires that most health insurance sold to individuals and small employers be comprehensive and include coverage for essential health benefits; the executive order could unravel these guaranteed benefits.

·         Without guaranteed coverage for needed benefits, such as maternity care, mental health treatment and substance use treatment, people may be left with skimpy and inadequate coverage that doesn’t give them access to the care they need and that does not offer adequate financial protection against serious medical conditions.

Undermine health insurance markets and increase costs for consumers.

·         Both proposals in the executive order will create an unleveled playing field by allowing certain insurance plans – “short-term” plans and association health plans – to play by different rules.

·         As healthier and lower cost consumers get cheap junk plans with skimpy benefits that may not meet their health needs, older, sicker, and higher cost consumers will be left behind with skyrocketing costs for the same coverage.

·         The individual and small group insurance markets could spiral into chaos and consumers may be left without any access to affordable insurance options.

Leave consumers in the lurch, allowing back-door discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.

·         By expanding short-term coverage, we will return to the days of charging sick people more than healthy people and leaving people with pre-existing conditions without affordable coverage options.

·         Both short-term plans and AHPs are not held to the same standards as other insurance. This means consumers may have little recourse for problems or complaints, and no guarantee that they will have the coverage they need when they need it.

·         The nonpartisan National Association of Insurance Commissioners has consistently opposed proposals to expand AHPs because they undermine states’ abilities to protect their consumers.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

CONYERS: Statement For "Forum on “Addressing the Long-Term Effects of Sports-Related Brain Injury”

I am pleased to join my colleague, Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, in sponsoring this important event.

Today’s Forum brings together some of the Nation’s leading experts from the medical research and athletic communities to review the causes, effects, and treatments of concussions and other head trauma. 

In particular, the Forum examines what is known about brain injuries, what gaps exist in the scientific literature, and what is being done to address those gaps. 

It will also feature first-hand accounts from individuals who suffered from subconcussive trauma or have witnessed its long-term effects on their loved-ones.
When I was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, we held a hearing on football head injuries in 2009, which was prompted by the mounting scientific evidence connecting head injuries in football and cognitive problems later in life.

During that hearing, the National Football League refused to acknowledge a connection between head injuries on the football field and the subsequent development of brain diseases.

The following year, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing in Detroit, Michigan followed by forums in Houston and New York City as part of our ongoing commitment to calling attention to this problem and examining ways to prevent head injuries in youth, high school, and college football.

This brings us to today’s Forum, where our medical panelists will discuss their recently published study examining the brains of 111 deceased NFL players, which found that an astounding 110 of them had chronic traumatic encephalopathy also known as “CTE”.

Although scientific evidence clearly links head injuries in football to cognitive problems later in life,   between 1.6 and 3.8 million sports and recreation related concussions occur each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The extent of injury is particularly problematic for our youth as most brains are not fully developed until age 25.  As a result, a concussion is more dangerous for a youth than for an adult.

I hope the panelists today will provide guidance on how we can better protect all athletes, especially our young athletes.
I would be remiss if I did not briefly comment concerning President Trump’s recent series of statements concerning our nation’s professional football players.  At his rally in Alabama on September 22, he mocked the National Football League’s efforts to prevent brain injuries, declaring: “Two guys, just really, beautiful tackle. Boom! 15 yards. The referee goes on television, his wife’s so proud of him. They’re ruining the game! They’re ruining the game.”

The President of the United States then went on to use the power of his and the Vice-President’s bully pulpits and Twitter feeds to rail against the right of private citizens to express their views and right to protest as guaranteed by the First Amendment’s free speech protection.

Ironically, Mr. Trump has not uttered a single word about the actual underlying issue -- the glaring disparities in how African-Americans are dealt with under our criminal justice system and their treatment by law enforcement officers, which have often had deadly consequences. 

These are problems, by the way, which have gotten worse, not better, under the Trump Administration and Sessions Justice Department.

Today’s forum will allow us to return to the actual facts and evidence, and consider how we can best protect football players at all levels in an incredibly violent sport.

I thank all the panelists and Members for being here today.

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CONYERS: At Judiciary Committee Markup, Conyers Calls On Committee To Address Gun Violence

Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) called on the House Judiciary Committee Majority to investigate gun violence in America.

Ranking Member Conyers delivered the following remarks during the Judiciary Committee markup:

Before addressing the bill before us, I want to begin my remarks today by extending my condolences to the family and friends of the 58 individuals killed in the shooting in Las Vegas, and expressing my hopes for the recovery of the nearly 500 people injured. 

Congress has a responsibility to find a way to help prevent tragedies like this, as well as the daily incidence of gun violence in our communities.  I am disappointed that this Committee has not addressed this issue at all this Congress. 

In fact, when legislation weakening our laws on silencers and armor piercing ammunition was being prepared for floor consideration, this Committee waived jurisdiction.  We were prepared to let it go – without a hearing or markup – as if it didn’t merit our time or attention. 

Of course, I opposed those provisions because I believed they would take us in the wrong direction by making us more vulnerable to gun violence.  I am glad the Speaker has now indicated that he has no plans to bring that bill to the floor. 

In light of the Las Vegas shooting, and the daily toll of gun violence that impacts all of our communities, it is time for the Committee to take action. 

While I’m sure our staff members will benefit from the briefing on so-called “bump stocks” that the ATF will conduct for them on Friday, it is long overdue for us to conduct hearings on the issue of gun violence, and to adopt legislation intended to strengthen our gun laws. 

With respect to “bump stocks,” Speaker Ryan has said that he thinks a regulator approach by the ATF is the appropriate way to address them, but we have not even had a hearing here in this Committee for us to hear about and discuss different approaches. 

Our overall objective on these issues must be to protect our citizens from becoming victims, whether it is from a mass attack or any other, sadly more common act of gun violence. 

Indeed, we do not need mass attacks to remind us of the urgency of the issue, as each day’s news in communities across our country should tell us. 

Every day of inaction is a lost opportunity to do something about this. 

And so, as we prepare to consider the bills scheduled for this markup session today, I hope that the Committee will take up the issue of gun violence as soon as possible. 

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CONYERS: Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Markup of H.R. 2228, the “Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017”

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
I am proud to cosponsor H.R. 2228, the “Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017.”  This bill would provide support for law enforcement agencies to protect the mental health and well-being of law enforcement officers. 

At the outset, we must recognize that law enforcement officers have a special role in our communities, with exceptional responsibilities to serve and protect.  In the performance of these duties, they see, encounter, and experience events that the rest of us would run from, but they do not. 

Law enforcement officers respond to horrendous situations that are both dangerous and stressful, and oftentimes life-threatening, as they find themselves in harm’s way while protecting the communities they serve.

For example, some recent tragedies which law enforcement officers have responded to include in June 2016 when 49 people were killed and 53 others wounded by a gunman at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida; one month later when a gunman killed five officers and wounded another nine officers along with two civilians in Dallas, Texas; and just this month when a gunman in Las Vegas killed 58 innocent citizens and injured nearly 500 others.

And, of course, law enforcement officers must respond to the calls related to violence of many kinds in our communities every day. 

In many cases, these traumatic situations remain with officers long after the threats are reduced and the communities they serve have gained a renewed since of safety.

However, members of law enforcement are left to face the continued trauma from their daily work, which can be difficult to process and impossible to forget.

That is why this bill is necessary. 

H.R. 2228 seeks to help create and improve mental health and wellness services for law enforcement officers.

The bill provides support for law enforcement agencies by requiring reports on mental health practices and services that can be adopted by law enforcement agencies and establishes peer mentoring mental health and wellness pilot programs within law enforcement agencies.

H.R. 2228 would also provide support for mental health programs by developing educational resources for mental health providers regarding the culture of law enforcement agencies and therapies for mental health issues common to law enforcement.

This measure would also provide support for law enforcement officers by reviewing existing crisis hotlines, recommending improvements regarding these crisis hotlines, and researching the effectiveness of annual mental health checks for law enforcement officers.

With this legislation, we in Congress can help better provide for and protect the mental health, safety, and wellness of all law enforcement officers as they unselfishly protect each of us daily.

For these reasons, I support this bill and ask that my colleagues join me in doing so today.

1st Session
H. R. 2228

To provide support for law enforcement agency efforts to protect the mental health and well-being of law enforcement officers, and for other purposes.

April 28, 2017
Mrs. Brooks of Indiana (for herself, Mrs. Demings, Mr. Collins of Georgia, Mr. Pascrell, and Mr. Reichert) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

To provide support for law enforcement agency efforts to protect the mental health and well-being of law enforcement officers, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
This Act may be cited as the “Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017”.

(a) Interagency Collaboration.—The Attorney General shall consult with the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to submit to Congress a report, which shall be made publicly available, on Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs mental health practices and services that could be adopted by Federal, State, local, or tribal law enforcement agencies.

(b) Case Studies.—The Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services shall submit to Congress a report—
(1) that is similar to the report entitled “Health, Safety, and Wellness Program Case Studies in Law Enforcement” published by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services in 2015; and

(2) that focuses on case studies of programs designed primarily to address officer psychological health and well-being.

(c) Peer Mentoring Pilot Program.—Section 1701(b) of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3796dd(b)) is amended—
(1) in paragraph (21), by striking “; and” and inserting a semicolon;

(2) in paragraph (22), by striking the period at the end and inserting “; and”; and

(3) by adding at the end the following:
“(23) to establish peer mentoring mental health and wellness pilot programs within State, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies.”.
The Attorney General, in coordination with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, shall develop resources to educate mental health providers about the culture of Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies and evidence-based therapies for mental health issues common to Federal, State, local, and tribal law enforcement officers.
The Attorney General shall—

(1) in consultation with Federal, State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies—
(A) identify and review the effectiveness of any existing crisis hotlines for law enforcement officers;

(B) provide recommendations to Congress on whether Federal support for existing crisis hotlines or the creation of an alternative hotline would improve the effectiveness or use of the hotline; and

(C) conduct research into the efficacy of an annual mental health check for law enforcement officers;

(2) in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the head of other Federal agencies that employ law enforcement officers, examine the mental health and wellness needs of Federal law enforcement officers, including the efficacy of expanding peer mentoring programs for law enforcement officers at each Federal agency; and

(3) ensure that any recommendations, resources, or programs provided under this Act protect the privacy of participating law enforcement officers.

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Saturday, October 7, 2017

CONYERS, GOODLATTE and Judiciary Committee Members Introduce the USA Liberty Act

Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.)Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.),  Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), and Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) today introduced the USA Liberty Act (H.R. 3989). This bipartisan bill reforms and reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is set to expire at the end of this year, to protect both national security and Americans’ civil liberties.

The USA Liberty Act preserves the core purpose of Section 702: the collection of communications by targeting non-U.S. persons located outside the U.S. in order to identify and thwart terrorist plots against our nation and our citizens. The bill also creates a new framework of protections and transparency requirements to ensure that the government’s use of Section 702 accords with principles enshrined in our Constitution that protect individual liberty. It provides new accountability measures to address the unmasking of U.S. persons’ identities and new reporting requirements on the number of U.S. persons who have been swept up in Section 702 collection. The bill also enhances national security by increasing penalties for those who leak classified information and calling on the intelligence agencies to share information with each other and with our allies to combat terrorism.
Below are statements from Judiciary Committee leaders on the introduction of the USA Liberty Act.

Ranking Member Conyers: “Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is essential to the intelligence community’s gathering of foreign intelligence and detecting threats to the homeland.  Its reauthorization should include reforms that bring this authority better in line with our sense of privacy and due process.  Indeed, we believe that it will only be possible to reauthorize Section 702 with such reforms in place. The bipartisan USA Liberty Act is designed to accomplish this goal.”

Chairman Goodlatte: “The USA Liberty Act protects Americans’ lives and their civil liberties. This bipartisan bill reauthorizes a critical national security tool that keeps Americans safe but also reforms it to protect Americans’ constitutional rights. It contains more accountability, transparency, and oversight so that the American people have confidence that our cherished liberties continue to be protected as the intelligence community keeps us safe from foreign enemies wishing to harm our nation and citizens. The bill also contains a number of measures to further enhance national security so that our country remains free and safe. I thank the many members who have worked on this bill for months and look forward to bringing it up in the House Judiciary Committee soon.”

Crime Subcommittee Chairman Sensenbrenner: “The USA Liberty Act is carefully crafted, bipartisan legislation that represents the type of common sense compromise that we desperately need in this country. It balances privacy and security concerns by requiring greater oversight, transparency, and accountability of the government’s surveillance powers while limiting the incidental collection of Americans’ communications and requiring a court order to query data. It also puts in place a critical six-year sunset provision, allowing Congress to respond appropriately to the ever-changing threats facing our nation. This is smart, forward-leaning legislation that I urge my colleagues to get behind.”

Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Jackson Lee: “Collectively, what Democrats and Republicans have agreed on is a strategy that secures the homeland, while preserving cherished liberties that still make America the envy of the world.”

IP Subcommittee Ranking Member Nadler: “The USA Liberty Act is an attempt to strike the appropriate balance, as we did in the USA Freedom Act, of giving our intelligence agencies the tools they need to keep us safe while making sure individual liberty and privacy rights are better protected. For the first time, the bill institutes a requirement for a warrant—based on probable cause—for criminal investigators to query the information obtained by the 702 program. In addition, this legislation significantly curbs the amount of incidental information that can be searched, and, most importantly, institutes critical operational norms for the 702 program that make it more accountable, more transparent, and ultimately more effective in striking the critical balance between national security needs and the individual’s constitutional rights. I want to thank Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers for working in good faith on the USA Liberty Act, which goes a long way in reforming government surveillance under Section 702.”

Additional original cosponsors of the bill include Representatives Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Mike Johnson (R-La.), John Rutherford (R-Fla.) Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).

Background: FISA Section 702, which will expire on December 31, 2017, authorizes surveillance of the communications of non-U.S. persons located outside of the United States in order to protect national security. It reportedly contributes to a quarter of all National Security Agency surveillance and has been used on multiple occasions to detect and prevent horrific terrorist plots against our country. Although Congress designed this authority to target non-U.S. persons located outside of the United States, it is clear that Section 702 surveillance programs can and do incidentally collect information about U.S. persons when U.S. persons communicate with the foreign targets of Section 702 surveillance.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

CONYERS: Another lesson from Equifax - We must end the predatory consumer practice of forced arbitration

By John Conyres, Jr., Hank Johnson, David Cicilline, & Don Beyer

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
The recent Equifax data breach jeopardized the economic security of nearly half of all Americans because of the credit rating company’s failure to safeguard our most sensitive information, which could now be in the hands of criminals. To make matters worse, many of those affected by this massive security breach are unsure whether they even have legal recourse because of the company’s use of forced arbitration clauses.

Americans are right to be outraged and frustrated and should be especially concerned about the use of forced arbitration by credit rating agencies like Equifax. Forced arbitration clauses are a predatory consumer practice written into the fine print of contracts. Signers unknowingly waive their right to sue and are forced into arbitration if a dispute arises. Americans should have a right to choose whether to sue or to seek arbitration. Preemptively eliminating our access to the justice system is a violation of every American’s right as a consumer. The justice system is one of the few tools that average citizens have to fight deceitful and harmful business practices, vindicate their rights, and pursue justice.

Equifax partially revised its forced arbitration policy in response to public outcry, but a limited change is not sufficient given the systemic nature of this problem and the scope of the lives affected. In recognition of the importance of Americans’ access to justice, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finalized a rule to eliminate forced arbitration from consumer financial product contracts.

This protection restores the rights of Americans to seek their day in court, and the transparency that comes with it, if their rights are violated by unscrupulous financial services and products. This protection is vital for the economic security of the American people and our country’s commitment to the rule of law. But rather than support this commonsense protection, credit rating agencies, like Equifax, reportedly campaigned against it and spent millions in political contributions to undermine both the CFPB rule and the CFPB itself.

The Equifax data breach shook public confidence in the entire credit rating industry. Companies such as Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian should take this moment to demonstrate their respect for the rights of customers, not undermine them. This is why we wrote to ask the three credit rating agencies to revise their terms of service and eliminate their use of forced arbitration and class action waivers on all the products they offer. Furthermore, we asked that they end their opposition to the CFPB arbitration rule to restore consumers’ day in court.

Forced arbitration clauses are a bald and predatory attempt to shield corporations from liability for their misconduct through the fine print of contracts. The credit rating agencies who we trust with our most sensitive data should not be actively working to undermine consumer rights. They should support the CFPB and the rule against forced arbitration.

Congress must also step forward to protect consumer’s rights. We have led the push in the House to pass the Arbitration Fairness Act, which would eliminate forced arbitration. It deserves a vote. Unfortunately House and Senate Republicans sought a different path. A Republican measure to repeal the CFPB rule, supported by all three credit rating agencies, passed the House of Representatives in July on a nearly-straight party-line vote. It is currently pending in the Senate. We cannot afford to let it pass. The right of your and every other American’s access to the justice system is at stake.

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