Friday, March 31, 2017

CONYERS, JEFFRIES & LIEU To AG Sessions: "Are You Recused From Russia Matters Or Are You Going After The Alleged Russia Leaks?"

Members Call for Sessions to Clarify his Involvement with Investigation

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicated that the Department of Justice will pursue criminal charges to curb the number of alleged leaks of classified information from within the government.  The statement raises questions about the scope of the Attorney General’s recusal from matters related to the presidential campaigns, and whether that recusal continues to apply to investigation of the many contacts between the Trump campaign and Putin’s Russia. 

Earlier this week, the House Committee on the Judiciary considered H. Res. 184, a resolution of inquiry introduced by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), that would have directed the Department of Justice to turn over information related to the Attorney General’s misleading testimony and the pattern of connections between President Trump’s advisers and the Russian government.  That resolution was defeated on a party line vote.

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Today, Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), joined by Reps. Jeffries and Lieu, wrote to the Attorney General, below, to ask for clarification on his comments.  The members also released the following statement:

“Given the Attorney General’s troubling record on his own contacts with the Russian government, and given the Trump Administration’s apparent attempt to obstruct the work of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence by coopting its Chairman, it seems entirely inappropriate for him to comment on any aspect of these alleged leaks of classified information.  It is critical that Attorney General Sessions clarify the precise scope of his recusal.  We look forward to his prompt response to our letter.”
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Thursday, March 30, 2017

CONYERS Medicare for All bill gains steam in the wake of Trumpcare’s failure

The office of the Democratic representative from Michigan tells the New Republic that his Medicare for All bill now has 78 co-sponsors, with today’s addition of Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida.

“I have been introducing the Medicare For All bill every session of Congress since 2003, and I’m the longest serving member of Congress. I have never seen more enthusiasm and energy behind this issue than what I’m seeing today,” Conyers said in a statement. “I will keep introducing this bill as long as it takes because access to health care—not just health insurance, but quality, affordable care—is a universal right, not a privilege for those who can afford it.”

Conyers has introduced the bill yearly in the House since 2003, to varying degrees of support from fellow Democrats. Seventy-eight co-sponsors is the most it’s had since 2009, and though it’s DOA in a Republican-controlled government, its renewed popularity is a source of optimism for single-payer backers on the Hill. It comes at an auspicious time, as Democrats move from their tentative victory in keeping Obamacare alive to a new health care reform message for 2018 and beyond.

A congressional aide with knowledge of the situation tells the New Republic that single-payer is “a winning message.”

“The will is there at the grassroots. The will is there among progressives which are the Democratic base. The will is there among the constituents of more moderate and centrist Democrats,” he said.

“It’s just a question of if the party wants to decide to do something smart for a change.”

He added, “I hope that the [Democratic] caucus decides to make it a campaign issue because I think it would work a lot better than some of the things we’ve been trying.”

Update: Conyers’s office now says that Reps. David Price and Gene Green have signed the bill, bringing the number of co-sponsors to 80.

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CONYERS Remarks at “NFL Players Speak Up: First-Hand Experiences Building Community Trust”

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and suit
Representing Detroit on and off the field. It was a pleasure to hear
Anquan Boldin thoughts on how we can bridge the gap
between minority communities and police; and reform the
criminal justice system - as he testified on Capitol Hill.
I hope his activism will encourage others to make their voice heard.
For the better part of two decades, the relationship between African-American communities and their police departments across the nation have hovered in a state of volatility, awaiting a single incident to combust.  These tensions have grown as allegations of bias-based policing by law enforcement agents, sometimes supported by data collection efforts and video evidence, have increased in number and frequency.

While the current wave of national attention was triggered by the controversial shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014, the sensibilities of the nation have also been shocked by other high-profile police-involved shootings of more than 30 unarmed African-American and Latino men.  Overall more than 250 African-American men were killed in police incidents in 2016.

Against this backdrop, these same communities have been ground zero in the so-called War on Drugs.  There is bipartisan agreement that our nation has a crisis of over-incarceration, with 2.2 million people imprisoned in this country.  One of the main reasons for this catastrophic level of incarceration is the use of mandatory minimum sentencing, which often imposes sentences that are not appropriate for the facts and culpability of individual cases. 

Once released, these people face the prison-after-prison, where they can experience both housing and employment discrimination due to their criminal records.  These burden can be so great that over half are re-incarcerated within three years of their release.  All of this disproportionately impacts African Americans and is a major factor impacting the quality of life in our families and communities. 

The rise of activism triggered by the racial disparities in our criminal justice system has touched diverse parts of our communities.  Harkening back to the civil rights era of the 1960's, people have taken to the streets to proclaim that black lives matter and to seek justice for those who have died.

Today we are joined by members of the National Football League.  This is the second Hill visit by NFL players and we look forward to building further links with the NFL Players Association to raise awareness around our Justice Agenda.  As we recognize the price that some of your colleagues are paying for their activism, we note that your appearance here is meaningful – and not without risk to your livelihood.  Ultimately, I believe that your activism will inspire other to raise their voices for justice.  Let no one make the mistake of believing that the search of for justice in America is anything less than an act of patriotism.

As soon as C-SPAN corrects the issues on my account, I will update with clips to his statement.

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House Judiciary Committee Overwhelmingly Passes Bipartisan Legislation on Selection Process for Copyright Register

Washington, D.C. -- The House Judiciary Committee today approved the bipartisan Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act(H.R. 1695) by a vote of 27-1.

The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act, authored by House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), makes important changes to the selection process for the head of the U.S. Copyright Office, known as the Register of Copyrights.  Specifically, the legislation creates a selection panel made up of Members of Congress and the Librarian of Congress.  This panel would be tasked with submitting a list of at least three qualified individuals to the President for his or her consideration. Finally, the President would nominate an individual from the selection panel’s list and that individual would be subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate.  The legislation also limits the Register to a ten year term which is renewable by another Presidential nomination and Senate confirmation and notes that the Register can only be removed for cause.

Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers praised today’s approval of the bill in the statement below.

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“Over the last few years we have been working together in a bipartisan fashion to review our copyright laws.  This initiative is designed to determine whether the laws are still working in the digital age to reward creativity and innovation.  While we are fully committed to continuing the work of our copyright review and our efforts to modernize the Copyright Office, there is an immediate need when it comes to the selection process for the next Register of Copyrights.  While this is only the first initial legislative step, as always we remain open to working with every member and every stakeholder at every step of the way – including the Leadership on both sides of the aisle -- as we continue to enhance our Committee’s work.    

“In the past, the authority of the Copyright Office to conduct rule makings has been challenged in the courts because the Register is not currently Presidentially-appointed. This bipartisan legislation would put to rest, once and for all, that question, and ensures that the Register is accountable to Congress.”

Background:  As part of the copyright review, the House Judiciary Committee held 20 hearings which included testimony from 100 witnesses.  Following these hearings, Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers invited all prior witnesses of the Committee’s copyright review hearings and other interested stakeholders to meet with Committee staff and provide additional input on copyright policy issues.  In addition, the House Judiciary Committee conducted a listening tour with stops in Nashville, Silicon Valley, and Los Angeles where they heard from a wide range of creators, innovators, technology professionals, and users of copyrighted works. In December 2016, Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers released the first policy proposal to come out of the Committee’s review of U.S. Copyright law.  Additional policy proposals will be released.

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CONYERS Statement On DOJ IG Report On DOJ's Use Of Asset Forfeiture

Washington, D.C. - The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report concerning the Department’s “Oversight of Cash Seizure and Forfeiture Activities.”  The Inspector General analyzed the asset seizure and forfeiture policies, practices and performance management capabilities of the Department as a whole, in addition to examining the forfeiture activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The review identified weaknesses in the Department’s oversight of asset seizure and forfeiture activities, and specifically found that the Department and its investigative components do not use data “to determine whether seizures benefit criminal investigations or the extent to which they may pose potential risks to civil liberties.” 

In response, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) stated:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“The results of the Inspector General’s report are very troubling.  This report questions the Justice Department’s asset seizure and forfeiture practices, finding that many may not advance or relate to criminal investigations.  The report confirms our fears that our asset forfeiture laws must be updated and reformed, which I have been working with my colleagues, on a bipartisan basis, to accomplish. 

“I have previously cosponsored the Deterring Undue Enforcement by Protecting Rights of Citizens from Excessive Searches and Seizures Act of 2016 (DUE PROCESS Act), and am joining my colleagues Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) in reintroducing today.  This bill is necessary to provide important new protections against the abuse of our civil forfeiture laws, which allow the government to take someone’s property without even filing criminal charges.” 

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

House Judiciary GOP Skip Out On Trump-Russia Resolution Debate; Vote To Kill Two Dem Requests For Information From WH & DOJ

Majority Once Again, Refuses Dem Attempts to Conduct Basic Oversight

Washington, DC – Today, House Judiciary Committee Republicans voted to kill H. Res. 184, below, a resolution of inquiry introduced by Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Ted Lieu (D-CA), that would have required the White House and Department of Justice to release information about contacts between Russian officials and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, among other Trump Administration figures. Republicans on the committee also voted down H. Res. 203,  (second below) introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), that would have required the White House and Justice Department to provide information, if any, on Trump’s unsubstantiated allegation that President Obama “wiretapped” him.  

House Judiciary Republicans Appear Uninterested in Oversight: During the markup, Republicans refused to engage in debate on the resolutions.  The Majority’s side of the room was largely empty.  Chairman Goodlatte repeatedly referred to the resolutions as a “waste of the committee’s time.”  Both resolutions failed on party line votes.

Judiciary Republicans were mostly absent from today’s debate.

House Judiciary Republicans Reject Amendment to get Information on Nunes’ Visit to the White House:  During the markup, Vice Ranking Member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) offered an amendment to H. Res. 203 to request information related to Chairman Devin Nunes’ secretive visit to the White House.  On March 23, 2017, Chairman Devin Nunes of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence told reporters that, “on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.”  Chairman Nunes then traveled back to the White House to share his findings with President Donald Trump.  He still has not shared those findings with his colleagues on the Committee.  Republicans voted down this amendment on a party line vote.

House Judiciary Republicans Limit Debate on Trump’s Lies, Nunes’ Behavior, and Sessions’ False Testimony:  Several times during the markup, Chairman Goodlatte threatened to “take down” the statements of Members attempting to describe the factual record—in effect, forcing them to withdraw their words from the record or lose their speaking privileges for the day.  House Rules prohibit impugning the character or motives of the President—but it is true, as Ranking Members Conyers stated, that “President Trump has a long and colorful history of saying things that are simply untrue.”

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), House Judiciary Committee Members Reps. Hakeem Jeffries and Ted Lieu, and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Member Rep. Mike Quigley, today released the following statement after the markup:

“Once again, Republicans have proven that they’d rather become complicit with scandals than engage in proper oversight of the Trump Administration. Today, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee took their second and third votes to block Democratic efforts to obtain basic information about interactions between Trump’s inner circle and Putin’s Russia. Republicans can no longer sit idly by and pretend that none of these matters of vital national security importance are real. The American people expect more and the future of our democracy requires it.”


House Judiciary Committee Democrats have long been calling for House Judiciary Republicans to provide proper oversight over Trump and his Administration. On March 10th, every Democratic member of the Committee called on Chairman Goodlatte to “get moving on Trump oversight.”

Despite Judiciary Republicans’ attempts to block Democratic efforts, these resolutions of inquiry should be the proper next step in the Committee’s oversight of the Trump Administration. They follow two letters to Chairman Bob Goodlatte—both signed by every Democratic member of the Committee—requesting hearings about federal conflict-of-interest and ethics provisions that may apply to the President.  Democrats have also sent several letters to Speaker Paul Ryan, (third below) the Department of Justice and the White House requesting this and related information concerning Trump’s ties to Russia. 

Just a few weeks ago, House Judiciary Republicans blocked Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s (D-NY) resolution of inquiry from reaching the House floor.  The Nadler resolution would have provided Congress with information relevant to President Trump’s conflicts of interest, his potential violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause, and ties between his advisors and the Russian regime.  During that markup, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Chairman Goodlatte (R-VA) indicated that the Nadler resolution was unnecessary because the Majority was drafting a bipartisan letter to Attorney General Sessions.  To date, no such letter has been sent.

H.R. 184 Inquiry Requesting President and Attorney General To Turn Over Documents To Congress on Russian Co... by Beverly Tran on Scribd

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CONYERS Statement For Judiciary Markup Of H.R. 184, "Trump-Russia Resolution"

Conyers statement starts @ 31:10

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I support this resolution of inquiry, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.

It is the responsibility of this Committee to conduct oversight of the Office of the Attorney General, and to ensure the independence and integrity of the Department of Justice.

Despite protests that this resolution is somehow not yet ripe, H. Res. 184 (below) is the proper next step in exercising those responsibilities.

Since the Attorney General took office, my colleagues and I have written to the Department at least six times. 
We have asked for information about conflicts of interest, the Russia investigation, and reports of inappropriate contact between the White House and the FBI.  To date, we have received no response.

We have also written to you, Mr. Chairman, on two occasions, about related matters.  We have received no response there, either.

At our February markup of the Nadler resolution, both Chairman Goodlatte and Mr. Issa spoke at length about a letter they planned to send the Attorney General.  It was described as the “proper” way to conduct oversight.  We were promised an opportunity to join. 

But no letter to the Attorney General was ever sent.  Instead, the Majority wrote to the FBI, asking for a member briefing that still has not taken place.  We did not learn of the letter until we read about it in the press.

Our responsibility to this Committee requires more of us, Mr. Chairman.  H. Res. 184 is an opportunity to correct course and do our jobs.

The resolution is also a chance to answer questions about the Attorney General’s false statements before the Senate.

H. Res. 184 asks for information about the Attorney General’s meetings with Russian officials, his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and his later “clarification” of that testimony. 

This information is critical to understanding why Attorney General Sessions twice gave false testimony, and whether his attempt to correct that false testimony is adequate.

I find it hard to believe that Attorney General Sessions—at the time, a sitting senator, and an active member of the Trump campaign—was unaware of reports about the campaign’s connections to the Russian government until he was asked about it in the committee room.

I find it equally hard to understand why Attorney General Sessions, in “correcting” his testimony, disclosed two meetings with the Russian ambassador—but not to a third that is clearly documented in the public record.

Again, it is this Committee’s responsibility to ask these questions.  We cannot and should not turn a blind eye to false testimony and an obviously incomplete record. 

H. Res. 184 is the right vehicle to begin that inquiry here in our Committee.

Finally, this resolution helps us address a larger problem—one that seems to sweep in more people in the President’s orbit every day.

Why have so many of these men—each of them a part of the Trump campaign—met with the Russian government?

And, perhaps more importantly, why have so many of these men attempted to hide those meetings from the public? 

To a character, it seems, they have only come clean when the media has exposed their deception.

I am deeply disturbed by this pattern, and what it might mean for our country.

In my time on this Committee, Mr. Chairman, I have come to understand that certain values transcend party.     
These include: faith in democracy, love of country, and respect for the republican form of government guaranteed to us by our Constitution.

These values are under attack—not just here, but around the world—by a regime that believes only that might makes right.

We know that the government of Russia undermined our election.  We know that they want to undermine the elections of our allies. 

And, given what we know, it is incumbent on us to do something about it. 

Here is our chance to begin that work in earnest.

I thank Mr. Jeffries and Mr. Lieu for introducing this resolution.

I urge my colleagues to support H. Res. 184, and I yield back.
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CONYERS Statement For Judiciary Markup Of H.R. 1667, The "Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act of 2017"

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Mr. Chairman --  As you know, I am an original cosponsor of H.R. 1677, the “Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act of 2017.”  I agreed to cosponsor this legislation for several reasons.

To begin with, H.R. 1667 addresses a real need – recognized by regulatory agencies, bankruptcy experts, and the private sector – that the bankruptcy law must be amended so that it can expeditiously restore trust in the financial marketplace after the collapse of a systemically significant financial institution.

As many recall, the failure of Lehman Brothers and subsequent bankruptcy in 2008 caused a worldwide freeze on the availability of credit. This, in turn, triggered the near collapse of our Nation’s economy and clearly revealed that current bankruptcy law is ill-equipped to deal with complex financial institutions in economic distress.

H.R. 1667 would establish a specialized form of bankruptcy relief designed to facilitate the expeditious resolution of a large, systemically significant financial institution. 

Under the bill, the debtor’s operating subsidiaries would continue to function outside of bankruptcy, while the debtor’s principal assets, such as its secured property, financial contracts, and the stock of its subsidiaries, would be transferred to a temporary “bridge company.”

The bridge company, under the guidance of a trustee, would then liquidate these assets to pay the claims of the debtor’s creditors.  The bill would also temporarily prevent parties from exercising their rights in certain qualified financial contracts.  

Each critical step of this process would be done under the supervision of a bankruptcy judge and subject to appeal. 

Another reason why I support this bill is that it appropriately recognizes the important role the Dodd-Frank Act has in the regulation of large financial institutions.   

Without doubt, the Great Recession was a direct result of the regulatory equivalent of the Wild West.      

The Dodd-Frank Act goes a long way toward reinvigorating a regulatory system that makes the financial marketplace more accountable and, hopefully, more resilient.

In particular, Title II of the Dodd-Frank Act establishes a mandatory resolution process to wind down large financial institutions, which is a critical enforcement tool for bank regulators to ensure compliance with the Act’s heightened regulatory requirements.

H.R. 1667 is an excellent complement to Dodd-Frank Act’s resolution process and will help facilitate the rapid administration of a debtor’s assets in an orderly fashion that maximizes value and minimizes disruption to the financial marketplace. 

Finally, I am pleased to note that H.R. 1667 is the product of a very collaborative, inclusive, and deliberative process, which should be the norm, not the exception when it comes to drafting legislation. 

While an excellent measure, the bill unfortunately does not include any provision allowing the federal government to be a lender of last resort, which nearly every expert recognizes is a necessary element to ensure financial stability.

I recognize, however, that this is an issue not within the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee. 

Accordingly, I support H.R. 1667 and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

CONYERS Statement At Judiciary Subcommittee Immigration Hearing

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
President Ronald Reagan once said: “Our nation is a nation of immigrants. More than any other country, our strength comes from our own immigrant heritage and our capacity to welcome those from other lands.”

That quote was uncontroversial among my Republican colleagues then and it should remain so now.  Affirmation of the moral and social worth of immigrants is not a partisan position. It is simply American.

As we begin today’s hearing, I urge my colleagues to use this forum to examine sensible, effective measures, rooted in fact and practice, for enforcing our laws, and keeping our communities safe.

One fact that we must consider is that studies have repeatedly shown that immigrants in the United States are less likely than native-born Americans to engage in crime.  The vast majority of immigrants in the United States are peaceful, law-abiding individuals who support their families and communities.

Another fact is that the southern border is more secure than ever. Apprehension rates at the southern border have plummeted since the 1980s. And apprehensions of Mexicans specifically have reached their lowest point in nearly half a century. This helps explain why most Americans don’t want Trump’s border wall, which could cost upwards of a staggering $20 billion to build and $750 million annually to maintain.

Notwithstanding these facts, and many more, the current Administration continues to vilify immigrants and attack the communities that have decided not to conscript their law enforcement into a mass deportation force.  In fact, yesterday, Attorney General Sessions threatened to withhold federal funds from such jurisdictions.  

Let me be clear, Attorney General Sessions should not substitute his judgment for that of law enforcement in local jurisdictions, who know what is best to keep their communities safe. The Attorney General purports to place a high priority on fighting crime, but threatens to withhold much-needed Justice Department funding from the very agencies that are on the front lines in protecting all of us. 

Over 600 counties and cities have made the decision to resist the Administration’s efforts to conscript their local officers into a mass deportation force because experience and data show that local enforcement of federal immigration law often makes communities less safe. 

It breeds profiling, discrimination, and distrust. Immigrant victims and witnesses stop reporting crimes to authorities and criminals grow emboldened.  In fact, studies have shown that these sanctuary cities are actually safer and more prosperous than their non-sanctuary counterparts. 

Finally, under the guise of enforcing the law, we have already witnessed Donald Trump and his Administration follow through on divisive campaign rhetoric with actions that threaten our core American values and will do nothing to make us safer.

To cite just a few examples, in less than 90 days this administration has already:
·         Threatened an unconstitutional use of federal spending authority to strong arm local jurisdictions into enforcing federal immigration law,
·         Undermined the 4th Amendment by pressuring cities into detaining immigrants without probable cause,
·         And has conducted indiscriminate raids of peaceful immigrant families in their homes, places of work, and even in their schools.

Such anti-immigrant measures not only raise serious constitutional concerns, they are contrary to our proud history as a nation of immigrants.

I thank our witnesses for their testimony today and I yield back the balance of my time.
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Monday, March 27, 2017

CONYERS: “NFL Players Speak Up: First-Hand Experiences and Building Trust Between Communities and Police”

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.

What:            Congressional forum to hear from NFL players about their own experiences and how they hope to improve relationships with minority  communities and the police while supporting programs to help inmates successfully re-enter their communities.

Hosts:             Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member
                       House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

                      Rep. John Conyers Jr., Ranking Member
                      House Committee on the Judiciary

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Ranking Member
                      Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee

Rep. Cedric Richmond, Chair
Congressional Black Caucus

When:            11am on Thursday, March 30, 2017

Where:           2154 Rayburn House Office Building

Who:             Anquan Boldin, Detroit Lions

Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia Eagles

                      Phillip Atiba Goff, PhD, Cofounder and President, Center for Policing Equity

[Additional NFL players may accompany Mr. Boldin and Mr. Jenkins.]

RSVP:          Media interested in attending should RSVP

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

CONYERS: House GOP Keeps Attacking The Intelligence Community, Ignoring Their Warnings

Washington, D.C. – Earlier today, three senior Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter, below, to the leaders of the U.S. intelligence community, arguing that “unauthorized and felonious disclosures . . . are increasingly casting a pall over not only our country’s intelligence apparatus but also the American people’s trust in the efficacy and integrity of the intelligence community.” 

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) released the following statement in response:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“I do not condone the unlawful release of classified information by anyone, including to or from the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. 

“But, once again, the Majority has chosen to focus on the fire alarm and not on the fire.  Every day, we learn more about possible connections between the government of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump’s campaign for president.  Those connections raise the specter of a massive effort to undermine our democratic institutions.  Once again, the Majority chooses to ignore the warnings of the whistleblowers and journalists who bring us this information.  Every day that they complain about ‘felonious leaking’ and not collusion with a foreign adversary represents another missed or delayed opportunity to get to the bottom of Russia’s attack on our democracy.

“Recent events make it altogether clear that we must have an independent and bipartisan investigation of the substantive issues here—including but not limited to the string of Trump campaign officials who met with Russian officials, attempted to hide those meetings, and were forced to recant or resign when the truth became public.”

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Friday, March 24, 2017

CONYERS & CICILLINE: The Right Approach to Promoting Competition in the Health Care Marketplace

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Healthy competition in the health insurance marketplace is one of the most critical elements in ensuring that Americans can access quality, affordable health care. When insurance companies are forced to compete, the American people win.

Unfortunately, too many families are still paying higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs today because of anti-competitive practices that health insurance giants are allowed to engage in under the law.

One of the reasons? It’s a law few Americans have ever heard of—the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945.

Under this law, insurers can engage in egregious actions like price fixing, bid rigging, and market allocation with total impunity. These practices allow insurers to inflate their costs and impose burdens on middle class families all across our nation.

That’s why House Democrats have supported the full repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson Act since 1988, and passed legislation to end this antitrust exemption for health insurers in 2010 by a vote of 406-19.

This week, we worked with the same Republicans that opposed this measure in 2010 to pass H.R. 372, the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act, legislation that repeals the antitrust exemption that has shielded health insurers for more than 70 years.

As the Council of Economic Advisors put it last year, robust enforcement of antitrust laws is “an important way in which the government makes sure the market provides the best outcomes for society with respect to choice, innovation, and price as well as fair labor and business markets.”
But make no mistake: while promoting competition in state markets will benefit consumers, the benefits will be lost if Republicans are able to repeal the strong consumer protections that exist as part of the Affordable Care Act.

These protections, which the American people overwhelmingly support, ensure that health insurance markets operate efficiently, lift limits on lifetime coverage amounts, and protect millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions from discrimination.

Furthermore, the Affordable Care Act dramatically increased the number of health insurers operating in local marketplaces, which has helped slow the growth rate in premium costs to their lowest level in 50 years.

In order to protect the progress we have made over the last seven years, it is critical that we work to strengthen the Affordable Care Act.

Yet, since Election Day, Republicans and President Trump have been squarely focused on repealing the law in its entirety and replacing it with a proposal they claim will establish a national marketplace for health insurance.

In fact, the same architects of the Majority’s “repeal and replace” effort—including Speaker Paul Ryan, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Bradyvoted against repealing health insurer’s antitrust immunity in 2010.

They now claim that simply allowing the sale of insurance across state lines will serve as a magical elixir that brings down health care costs for good.

There’s only one problem with this claim: it’s already permitted under ObamaCare.
Section 1333 of the Affordable Care Act already allows states to establish “health care choice compacts” to allow out-of-state health insurers to sell health insurance products in-state.
Several states have already enacted statutes to provide for healthcare choice compacts. The National Conference of State Legislature reports that five states have passed out-of-state purchasing laws since 2008.

The fact is that promoting health insurance competition across state lines, as opposed to cracking down on anti-competitive practices, does little to lower costs for consumers. In fact, despite the existing law, few health insurers choose to engage in cross-state sales because there is little economic incentive for them to do so.

President Trump’s repeal and replace proposal will not change this underlying reality.
The president would be wise to withdraw his proposal and instead focus on joining our bipartisan effort to work across the aisle to improve and strengthen the Affordable Care Act.

Today, thanks to ObamaCare, the uninsured rate is at an all-time low, seniors are paying less for their prescription drugs, millions have received coverage under Medicaid expansion, and the number of competitors in local markets is growing.

The Affordable Care Act is improving Americans’ health care coverage and choice. President Trump owes it to the American people to build on this success rather than tear it down.

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