Friday, February 28, 2014

Conyers: The Federal Criminal Code Needs A Major Overhaul

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the Over-Criminalization Task Force, a bipartisan working group convened by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to consider reforms to the criminal justice system, held a hearing entitled “Criminal Code Reform.” After delivering his opening remarks, Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
"Over the past several decades, the number of federal crimes has grown exponentially in size with more than 4,450 of such offenses on the books. Equally troubling, the collection of criminal laws in the United States – Title 18 of the Criminal Code – has inadvertently become a tangled web, riddled with internal inconsistencies. At the same time, some crimes are not even found in Title 18 of the Criminal Code, but are scattered in sections ranging from immigration offenses to controlled substances concerns. As a matter of fairness and legal consistency, the status quo is unacceptable and the Judiciary Committee must work to remedy the situation,” said Conyers.

“In calling for reform, it is important that the problems arising from the Criminal Code are put in context. Currently, federal prisons in the United States house more than 200,000 people, costing taxpayers billions annually. The majority of these inmates, however, are serving time for drug offenses, many of which are minor and non-violent. Further, 11% of the prison population has been convicted of violating immigration law. Undoubtedly, drug and immigration laws are having a very real - and very detrimental - effect on over-criminalization, over-incarceration, and public finances. No modernization of the Criminal Code should be considered without considering the real world circumstances of America’s criminal justice system.

“All too frequently, the Criminal Code contains overlapping provisions for a single offense which, taken in combination with the ever-expanding prosecutorial discretion found in the Criminal Code, allows prosecutors to cherry pick which sections they will charge defendants with. Disturbingly, vague and inconsistent sections often contain different maximum sentences for identical crimes. As the Committee responsible for overseeing the nation’s criminal justice system and associated laws, we should not settle for a subpar Criminal Code that permits justice to be misdelivered, let alone on such a massive scale.”

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Conyers Applauds President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative

Obama Administration Teaming Up with Businesses & Community Organizations to Improve Educational & Vocational Opportunities for Minority Youth

(WASHINGTON) – Today, President Obama announced a new initiative called “My Brother’s Keeper” to address poverty, violence and incarceration rates among young men of color. Specifically, the Obama Administration will create a new presidential task force, the “My Brother’s Keeper Task Force,” that will assess which federal policies are aiding young men of color and which are failing them. Additionally, leading foundations, philanthropies, and socially-conscious businesses are investing $200 million over the next 5 years to implement community-based solutions to increase literacy and improve economic opportunities for young men of color. This investment is in addition to the $150 million these various organizations have already spent in these social justice efforts. While in attendance at the White House announcement, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) delivered the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“I commend President Obama for coming through on his promise in the State of the Union to ‘help more young men of color facing especially tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential,’ by establishing the ‘My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.’ This presidential task force will work to bolster literacy, educational and career opportunities for young men of color, while assessing the impact - both negative and positive - of federal policies on minority communities. It is critically important that these young men have access to pathways back into the classroom, so the school-to-prison pipeline is halted and social problems that hinder success for minority youth are mitigated,” said Conyers.

“Regrettably, we know all too well that there is a disparity in educational and vocational outcomes for young men of color. Last month, the unemployment rate for African American youth was estimated to be as high as 38%. By the fourth grade, 86% of African American boys and 82% of Hispanic boys were reading below proficiency levels, compared to just 58% for Caucasian boys. Further, there is a disproportionate number of unemployed African American and Hispanic youth who are trapped in the criminal justice system, tearing apart families and communities across the nation. Fortunately, the presidential task force can draw inspiration for federal action from successful community empowerment models, such as the ‘Becoming a Man’ program, that has dramatically reduced high school dropout rates and violent crime arrests in Chicago.

“After decades of ‘zero-tolerance’ policies, a preference for incarceration over rehabilitation, and other policies counterproductive to the development of our minority youth, I am grateful that the tide is turning. As the presidential task force begins its thorough assessment, I look forward to working with the Obama Administration to ensure the success of the ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative.  Fulfilling America’s promise that anyone who works hard and strives for excellence - no matter their race or upbringing - has been at the heart of my work since coming to the Congress during the Civil Rights Movement. I applaud the President’s initiative and I look forward to the work ahead, ensuring that all youth have the opportunity to 

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Conyers Calls on Conservatives to End Ideological Crusade Against Health & Safety Protections

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives considered and passed H.R. 2804, the “All Economic Regulations are Transparent (ALERT) Act of 2014.” Following passage of the legislation, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“I am increasingly disheartened as my Republican colleagues brought yet another ideologically driven, anti-regulatory bill to the House Floor this afternoon. This legislation, H.R. 2804 the so-called ‘All Economic Regulations are Transparent (ALERT) Act of 2014,’ would significantly delay - and possibly grind to a halt - a federal agency’s rulemaking process. In practice, this means that public servants who craft rules to protect Americans from dirty air and water, unsafe products, and contaminated food, will be hamstrung in their efforts. Despite my conservative colleagues’ mistaken intentions, this legislation does nothing to improve the economy or create jobs for the millions of Americans looking for work,” said Conyers.

“What this legislation would do, however, is seriously jeopardize critical public health and safety regulatory protections. If the so-called ‘ALERT Act’ were to become law, a ‘supermandate’ provision would trump all other legislative safeguards passed into law by Congress - every public protection from the Clean Air Act to the Occupational Safety & Health Act would be disregarded. An equally troubling aspect of the ‘ALERT Act’ is that it will greatly lengthen the already time-consuming process by which public safeguards are issued, nearly 4 to 8 years in many cases. American workers’ safety and consumers’ health shouldn’t be held hostage to ideological demands and legislative conditions.

“In recent weeks, we have witnessed firsthand the failure of anti-regulatory policies - the toxic chemicals that contaminated West Virginia’s drinking water and the coal ash that spilled into a North Carolina river - are only the most recent examples of such misguided policies in action. In a time of widespread unemployment, too many industrial accidents, and our climate nearing the tipping point of irreparable disaster, the American people deserve better.”

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Conyers Rallies with House Democrats, Urging Congress to Raise the Minimum Wage

Congressman Conyers Signs On to Discharge Petition Raising Minimum Wage to $10.10 an Hour

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) joined House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats at a press conference calling on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. At the press conference, Representative Conyers signed on to a discharge petition – a legislative maneuver to bring a bill to the House Floor for a vote if a majority of Representatives sign on – calling for an increase in the minimum wage. An increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 would raise wages for nearly 25 million people and lift between 1 and 4.5 million Americans out of poverty. Following the press conference, Rep. Conyers issued the following statement:

“At $7.25, the minimum wage today is worth around $2 less than what it was worth in 1968, when adjusted for inflation. Further, hardworking Americans have not seen an increase in the minimum wage since 2009, as wages were bottoming out in the throes of the Great Recession. Simply put, it is long past time to give millions of working families a raise,” said Conyers.

“Today, I was proud to join with Leader Pelosi and House Democratic Members in signing on to a discharge petition urging Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. While a seemingly modest increase, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour will boost approximately 25 million workers’ wages, and lift between 1 and 4.5 million Americans out of poverty. Considering the consensus among economists that had the minimum wage kept pace with inflation and productivity gains it would be between $16 and $22 an hour, it is exceedingly reasonable for Congress to approve an increase to $10.10 an hour.

“Raising the minimum wage is both a matter of economic fairness and sound policy, as increased wages fuel demand and lift our country’s economic growth. After years of stagnant wages, and an increasingly widening opportunity gap, it is time to grant millions of hardworking Americans the raise that they have earned.”

Congressman Conyers alongside Leader Pelosi, House Democratic Members and small business owners, rallying for an increase in the federal minimum wage.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Conyers Corrects Colleague’s Misconceptions Following Executive Authority Hearing

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a full committee hearing entitled, “Enforcing the President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws.” After the hearing concluded, Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) delivered the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“Throughout the course of United States history, Presidents have exercised their constitutional authority to undertake executive actions. The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order issued by President Lincoln; President Truman integrated the armed forces through executive order; President Johnson ensured equal employment opportunity in federal contracting through executive order. These actions were appropriate, historic, and most importantly: constitutional,” said Conyers.

“I am deeply disappointed that my Republican colleagues squandered important Committee time with a partisan hearing as the people’s work languishes. However, I am equally frustrated by the numerous misstatements - too numerous to mention them all here - that my conservative colleagues made throughout the hearing, primarily leveled against the Affordable Care Act and ‘DREAMers’. For instance, my colleagues repeatedly stated that the President gave a blanket group waiver to DREAMers. In reality, the exact opposite occurred, as President Obama’s deferred action required each DREAMer to undergo an individual determination and pay a $500 fee before receiving a deferral. Further, contrary to my colleague’s claims on the Affordable Care Act, the President is exercising appropriate prosecutorial discretion in providing transitional relief to address practical difficulties in implementing the complex law by allowing for appropriate regulations to be developed and allowing key stakeholders to prepare for the historic healthcare reform.

“Unquestionably, Congress has the authority and the responsibility to ensure that the President acts within constitutional limits. That is part of Congress’s job. Unfortunately, the hearing today was little more than political theater. With unemployment at an unacceptably high level, immigration reform on the ropes, and countless other issues unresolved, I call on my colleagues to return their focus to the many legitimate problems facing our country.”

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Conyers Praises President Obama’s Establishment of a Detroit Manufacturing Innovation Institute

Lightweight Modern Metal Manufacturing Innovation Institute Will Support Well-Paying Jobs & Bolster Detroit’s Economy

(WASHINGTON) – Today, President Obama announced the establishment of two new public-private manufacturing innovation institutes located in Detroit and Chicago. A partnership of 60 nonprofits, universities, and businesses in Detroit are joining with the Department of Defense (DOD) to open the Lightweight Modern Metal Manufacturing Innovation Institute (LM3I). With a federal commitment of $140 million and a matching private commitment of more than $140 million - divided between Detroit and Chicago - this regional advanced manufacturing hub will specialize in metal and material design to make commercial as well as defense vehicles safer and more fuel efficient. This partnership between the government, industry, universities, and nonprofits will generate well-paying jobs and offer job training to both students and workers. Prior to attending the White House announcement, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
"I applaud President Obama for his vision of a national network of advancing manufacturing hubs - and his commitment to the Motor City - with the establishment of the Lightweight Modern Metal Manufacturing Innovation Institute (LM3I) in Detroit. This public-private venture is a unique partnership between 60 leading businesses, universities, nonprofits, and the Department of Defense (DOD) that will work to create thousands of well-paying jobs, provide community job training opportunities, and boost metropolitan Detroit’s economy,” said Conyers.

“Specifically, the LM3I partnership will conduct material design research and develop products - based on their findings - employing advanced metal manufacturing techniques. These designs and manufactured products will improve the safety, performance, and fuel efficiency of vehicles for consumers as well as our armed forces. For instance, specialized aluminum developed from members of the LM3I partnership has allowed a commercial truck manufacturer to shed 700 pounds from their automotive design, greatly reducing the company’s costs and allowing them to increase hiring. In addition, the LM3I advanced manufacturing hub will offer educational courses and job training for individuals with all levels of experience; everyone from an interested student to a worker with decades of manufacturing experience will be welcome.

“Detroit powered the global automobile revolution and, in the process, built the foundation for an American middle class. Now, an unprecedented partnership between the Obama Administration, leading universities, nonprofits, and businesses has formed to write the next chapter in Detroit’s proud history and drive an American manufacturing renaissance. With unmatched grit and determination, Detroit will lead the country forward once again.”


The 60 organizations involved in the LM3I partnership include: American Foundry Society, American Welding Society, ASM International, CAR, Columbus State Community College, Conexus Indiana, DET NORSKE VERITAS™, Focus Hope, International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, Ivy Tech, Macomb Community College, MAGNET, Pellissippi State Community College, State of Kentucky, State of Michigan, State of Ohio, Southeast Michigan Workforce Intelligence Network, ABS, AEM, ALCOA Technology, Boeing, Comau, Easom Automation, EWI, Fabrisonic, Flash Bainite Steel, GE, Honda North American Services, Huys, Infinium, Inc., Innovative Weld Solutions, ITW, Lockheed Martin, Luvata, Materion, MesoCoat, MTI, NanoSteel Company, Optomec, Phoenix Integration, PowderMet, RealWeld, RTI International Metals, SaCell, Southwest Research Institute (SWRI), Steel Warehouse Co., ThermoCalc, TIMET, Trumpf, Inc., UTRC, Wolf Robotics, Colorado School of Mines, Michigan State University, Michigan Tech University, The Ohio State University, University of Kentucky, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame, University of Tennessee, and Wayne State University.

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Conyers & Benishek Introduce “Quality Health Care Coalition Act” to Ensure Balanced Playing Field in Healthcare Industry

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Congressman Dan Benishek, M.D. (R-Mich.) introduced H.R. 4077, the “Quality Health Care Coalition Act of 2014.” This legislation provides a limited antitrust exemption for physicians in negotiations with private insurance companies, giving health care providers the ability to negotiate contract terms on an equal level with insurers, including terms that affect the quality of patient care. Comparable legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives since the 107th Congress, and a similar bill passed the House in 2000. After the introduction of the legislation, Representative Conyers, Representative Benishek, and Joshua J. Jacobs, M.D., the President of the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.): “Over the last several decades, the health insurance market has become exceedingly concentrated, dominated by a few large insurers offering a limited number of health insurance plans. This has occurred in large part because of insurer’s immunity from federal antitrust laws. In contrast, our nation’s physicians and health care providers are afforded no comparable protections. This unbalanced playing field ultimately means that consumers lose out with higher healthcare costs and poorer care. Today, Congressman Benishek and I introduced H.R. 4077, the ‘Quality Health Care Coalition Act of 2014’ to reverse this trend. Our legislation allows for physicians to negotiate with insurers on a level playing field, ensuring heightened quality standards for patient care. I look forward to working in a bipartisan fashion towards restoring fairness and ensuring quality in our faulty healthcare system.”

Congressman Dan Benishek, M.D. (R-Mich.): "Having been a doctor for 30 years, I see this bipartisan bill as a way to help improve patient care and lower costs for Michigan families. With health care being such a big part of everyone's lives, this is the kind of common sense reform that will make it easier for doctors to provide patients with top notch care.”

American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons President, Joshua J. Jacobs, M.D.: “The American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons strongly applauds the introduction of H.R. 4077. Over 80 percent of U.S. health insurance markets today are considered ‘highly concentrated’ because of antitrust enforcement policies that enable select insurers to dominate the health care market. The antitrust relief provided in H.R. 4077 will not only protect physician practices from anticompetitive behavior, such as the unilateral, non-negotiable contracts that result from this market power, but will ensure patient access to care is not compromised as a result of insurer monopsony. We must pass H.R. 4077.”

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Congressman John Conyers Salutes the Career of Congressman John Dingell

John Dingell (D- MI). Conyers pledges to run another term and continue the legacy of great leadership
to citizens of Michigan. Moreover, Conyers thanks Rep. Dingell for all of all that he is done while in
Congress, including giving him an opportunity to work in his district office before seeking election to
United States Congress in 1964.

“John Dingell has set the standard for honorable leadership in the United States House of Representatives. His Democratic leadership will be sorely missed.”

U.S. Representatives John Dingell and John Conyers, Jr.
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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Conyers Concerned Detroit Bankruptcy Plan Will Unfairly Harm Workers

Detroit’s Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr filed a Chapter 9 bankruptcy plan in U.S. Bankruptcy Court that proposed a 34% cut to general city retirees’ pensions as well as a 10% cut to police and firefighter retirees’ pensions. After the bankruptcy plan was made public, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
"In the end, the courts will have the final word on any bankruptcy plan. However, I am disappointed by the Emergency Manager’s bankruptcy proposal that - if adopted - would cut Detroit’s general public employees retirees’ pensions by 34% and police and firefighter retirees’ pensions by 10%. This is not what Detroit’s hard-working public servants deserve. Pensions are earned benefits that our neighbors, friends, and families in Detroit built up over decades of service to the Motor City. Retired general city workers receive a modest payment of around $18,000 a year in earned benefits while retired policemen and firefighters receive just $30,000. Further, pensions are explicitly protected from any cutbacks under Michigan’s Constitution. I urge all parties to come together and continue negotiating to resolve this matter equitably.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ranking Member Conyers Statement at Immigration Subcommittee Hearing

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security held a hearing entitled, “Asylum Fraud: Abusing America’s Compassion?” This hearing comes a week following the Secretary of Homeland Security and Security of State’s approval of regulations pertaining to certain refugees. During his opening remarks, Ranking Member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) delivered the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“Less than two weeks ago, I was optimistic that we had turned a corner in the immigration debate when Republican leadership released its new set of immigration principles. Although these principles were vague and subject to a wide range of interpretations, they nevertheless signaled real promise: Promise that my colleagues finally recognized the damage that our broken immigration system causes every day to families and businesses throughout the country. And promise that this House would finally move forward on reforming that system for the good of us all. But just one week later, that promise is all but gone.

“Why the sudden turnaround? Apparently, it’s all President Obama’s fault. Despite record deportations and the lowest level of border crossings in the last 40 years, my Republican colleagues say they don’t trust the President to enforce our immigration laws. Let me take this moment to assure them that the President is enforcing our immigration laws vigorously - a lot more than many of us would like. My district office, like many other district offices in the House, can attest to that.  Our caseworkers spend their days dealing with heart-wrenching deportations and family separation. Nevertheless, this record level of enforcement does not seem to be enough.

“So this weekend, Senator Schumer offered a different approach - pass immigration legislation now, but have it take effect in 2017 when a new President is sitting in the Oval Office. Many Republicans rejected this proposal as soon as they heard it. Even though the offer would take Obama out of the equation, they did not like it. Why? Those who gave a reason said it was because they still don’t trust Obama.

“This blame game and disregard for the facts is now being reflected in today’s hearing. Last week, the Washington Times published an article about fraud in the asylum system, citing a 2009 report from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. That report concerned asylum claims from 2005 - three years before President Obama took office. Nevertheless, our Majority now seems to be blaming Obama for that too. And they refuse to recognize that the system in place today - while not perfect - is an improved system from the system in place in 2005. The 2009 fraud report itself details several ways in which the system has been improved since 2005. I guess it’s just more fun to blame Obama.

“The issue we will address today is important. We know that the number of people seeking asylum at our borders and in the interior of our country has increased over the last two years. In some places at the border, the increase has been quite dramatic. It is important that we figure out why this is happening, because only after we do that can we figure out how to deal with it in a responsible way. But that’s not all we have to do. Fixing our broken immigration system still lies ahead for the Congress. And I stand ready to do the work that needs to be done.

“Let’s begin the Second Session by bringing up the bipartisan immigration bill that passed the Senate. If not, let’s instead consider some of the Republican bills that I understand may be in the works. Let’s just do something, because doing nothing is no more an option for us than it is for the families that are being torn apart each and every day.”
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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Reps. Conyers & Wilson Host "Employment: A Human Right" Forum

(WASHINGTON) – Today, following the establishment of the Congressional Full Employment Caucus last week, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) hosted a forum entitled, “Employment: A Human Right,” moderated by Christina Bellantoni, Editor-in-Chief of Roll Call. Esteemed panelists for the forum included: Dean Baker the Co-Director and Co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research; John Cavanagh, Director of the Institute for Policy Studies; Phil Harvey, Professor of Law and Economics at Rutgers University; Thea Lee, Deputy Chief of Staff of the AFL-CIO; and Larry Mishel, President of the Economic Policy Institute. Today’s forum was a constructive discussion on policymakers role in addressing the unemployment crisis as well as Congressman Conyers’ legislation, H.R. 1000, the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act and Congresswoman Wilson’s H.R. 2821, the American Jobs Act of 2013. After the forum Rep. Conyers and Rep. Wilson issued the following statement:

Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.): “To me, addressing poverty and inequality is fundamentally about addressing unemployment and underemployment. While President Obama emphasized important initiatives in his State of the Union address last week, we must go further. If we are to be successful in truly reducing inequality, we must set a goal to reach full employment and we must do this by viewing full employment as the top domestic priority. The national conversation must include the belief that government can work to achieve full employment through aggressive policy and move away from the notion that government can only create an economic environment that allows the private sector to possibly obtain full employment. For most, economic survival is critically sustained by employment, and if and when society cannot assure the survival of all citizens through access to employment, government has a obligation to provide these opportunities - employment must be viewed as a human right. It is my hope that today’s conversation and future action of the Congressional Full Employment Caucus will help shift the country’s focus to achieve full employment and allow for economic independency for all Americans.”

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.): “With nearly 30 million Americans either unemployed or underemployed, we have a moral obligation to solve this crisis.  This is about restoring dignity to tens of millions of Americans.  It’s simple.  Unemployment means anxiety and insecurity that translates into worse mental and physical health. Unemployment means lower lifelong earnings - not only for workers, but also for their children.  Unemployment means a lower tax base and, in turn, higher deficits.  There are bipartisan options to build a Full Employment Society, including proposals to spur public-private investments in infrastructure and close the skills gap. But we must act now.  We founded the Full Employment Caucus to get Congress to act.”

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

As Bipartisan Concern Grows, Conyers Urges Surveillance Overhaul At Judiciary Hearing

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a full committee hearing entitled “Examining Recommendations to Reform Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Authorities.” During his opening remarks, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) delivered the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“The 9/11 Commission, observing that Congress had ‘vested substantial new powers in the investigative agencies of the government’ with the passage of the Patriot Act, argued that it would be ‘healthy’ for the country to engage in ‘full and informed debate’ on these new authorities. The Commission concluded that, when that debate eventually takes place, ‘the burden of proof for retaining a particular government power should be on the executive to explain… that the power actually [and] materially enhances security.’ We are now engaged in that debate. For the first time, the public understands that our government is engaged in widespread domestic surveillance. This surveillance includes - but is not limited to - the government’s collection of records on virtually every phone call placed in the United States under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Consensus is growing that this telephone metadata program is largely ineffective, inconsistent with our national values, and inconsistent with the statute as this Committee wrote it. As the 9/11 Commission proposed, the burden rests with the government to convince us otherwise.

“Reasonable people can disagree with me about whether or not the government has met that burden.  But there are three points to guide us in this debate that I believe are incontrovertible:

“First, the status quo is unacceptable.  President Obama, his Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board all agree that the telephone metadata program as currently exists must end. The Review Group had full access to the leadership of the intelligence community.  It concluded that there has been no instance in which the National Security Agency could say with confidence that the outcome of a case would have been different without the Section 215 metadata program. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board came to the same conclusion, and also observed that ‘the operation of the… bulk telephone records program bears almost no resemblance’ to the actual text of the statute.

“In his remarks at the Department of Justice, President Obama observed that, because expanding technological capabilities place ‘fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do’ we have a special obligation ‘to ask tough questions about what we should do.’ The President ordered immediate changes to the telephone metadata program, and asked the Attorney General and the Director of National Security to ‘develop options for a new approach’ that takes these records out of government hands. I commend President Obama for his willingness to make these necessary changes. It cannot be easy for a sitting president to restrain his own intelligence capabilities, even if it is the right thing to do. After all, in the President’s own words, ‘there is an inevitable bias within the intelligence community… to collect more information about the world, not less.’

“Which brings me to my second point: the Administration cannot solve this problem without Congress.  The House Judiciary Committee must act. We are the primary committee of jurisdiction in the House for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the exclusive means by which the government may conduct domestic surveillance.  We are the proper forum for a debate about constitutional rights and civil liberties. More acutely, the government is dependent on this Committee to renew the legal authorities now under review. Section 215 is scheduled to sunset on June 1, 2015.  If it expires, all Section 215 programs - not merely bulk collection - expire with it.  We should address bulk collection today, or we risk losing all of Section 215 this time next year. Unless this Committee acts - and acts soon - I fear we will lose valuable counterterrorism tools along with the surveillance programs many of us find objectionable.

“Finally, as this Committee moves forward, H.R. 3361, the USA FREEDOM Act, represents a reasonable, consensus view - and remains the right vehicle for reform. I am struck by the growing, bipartisan consensus here. More and more of us seem to agree that: Congress should end bulk collection under Section 215, but allow the FBI’s continued use of normal business records orders on a case-by-case basis; we should retain the basic structure of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but enact additional protections for U.S. persons whose communications are intercepted without a warrant; we should create an opportunity for an independent advocate to represent privacy and civil liberties interests before the FISA court; and, in the service of meaningful public debate, we should declassify significant opinions of the FISA court, enhance reporting to Congress, and allow companies to disclose more about their cooperation with the government.

“These reforms are consistent with the President’s remarks, the recommendations of the Review Group, and the report of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. They are also, point for point, the main objectives of the USA Freedom Act. Mr. Sensenbrenner, who is credited as the original author of the Patriot Act, is our lead on this bill in the House. Senator Leahy has introduced an identical measure in the Senate. The USA Freedom Act enjoys the support of 130 members, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.  More than half of this Committee now supports the bill.  Our numbers grow every week. Mr. Chairman, I urge you to bring this bill up for consideration before the House Judiciary Committee as soon as possible.

“Our mandate is clear. We have heard from the President, from his panel of experts, and from an independent oversight board.  We will reexamine their proposals today, but the time for reform is now.

“At the risk of making too much reference to the attacks of September 11, 2001, I would close my remarks with another passage from the 9/11 Commission Report: ‘We must find ways of reconciling security with liberty, since the success of one helps protect the other. The choice between security and liberty is a false choice, as nothing is more likely to endanger America’s liberties than the success of a terrorist attack at home.’

“Our history has shown that insecurity threatens liberty.  Yet, if our liberties are curtailed, we lose the values that we are struggling to defend.”

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Reps. Conyers & Wilson to Host “Employment: A Human Right” Forum- Wednesday, February 5th, 2-3 PM

(WASHINGTON) – Following the establishment of the Congressional Full Employment Caucus last week, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) are hosting a forum entitled, “Employment: A Human Right,” moderated by Christina Bellantoni, Editor-in-Chief of Roll Call, this Wednesday, February 5th from 2 – 3pm in 2226 Rayburn House Office Building. Esteemed panelists for this forum include: Dean Baker the Co-Director and Co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research; John Cavanagh, Director of the Institute for Policy Studies; Phil Harvey, Professor of Law and Economics at Rutgers University; Thea Lee, Deputy Chief of Staff of the AFL-CIO; and Larry Mishel, President of the Economic Policy Insitute.

In 2013, 25 percent of the US population was unemployed or underemployed and not earning enough to support basic needs.  As employment is the best way to boost Americans’ purchasing power, the right to employment should be seen as the critical foundation of our economic and political system. If society cannot assure the survival of all citizens through access to employment, government has an important role to play in seeking to create the conditions to enable full employment.  A lively panel will discuss the unemployment crisis as well as Congressman Conyers’s legislation, H.R. 1000, the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act and Congresswoman Wilson’s H.R. 2821, the American Jobs Act of 2013, at the forum this Wednesday.

For further information about the forum or the Congressional Full Employment Caucus, please contact Jenny Perrino (Rep. Conyers) at 202-225-5126 or , or Justin Talbot Zorn (Rep. Wilson) at 202-225-4506 or

“Employment: A Human Right” Forum
Ø  Moderator – Christina Bellantoni, Editor-in-Chief, Roll Call

Ø  Host – Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.)
Ø  Host – Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.)

Ø  Dean Baker – Co-Director & Co-Founder, Center for Economic and Policy Research
Ø  John Cavanagh – Director, Institute for Policy Studies
Ø  Phil Harvey – Professor of Law and Economics, Rutgers University
Ø  Thea Lee – Deputy Chief of Staff, AFL-CIO
Ø  Larry Mishel – President, Economic Policy Institute

Wednesday, February 5th, 2:00 – 3:00 pm
2226 Rayburn House Office Building

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