The Washington Post reports that Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, will hold off before she takes her new job as undersecretary of Arms Control and International Security in order to vote on the controversial cap and trade bill. Tauscher was confirmed to the post late Thursday.
As of this minute (about 9:50 a.m.), Tauscher is chairing the House as it discusses the bill.
House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, is an author and Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chairwoman Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, is among cosponsors of a bipartisan bill introduced today to strengthen a law requiring employers to notify workers and their communities of mass layoffs or plant closings.
“Workers deserve more than just a pink slip when they lose their job because of our nation’s economic difficulties,” Miller said in a news release. “Current protections for workers being laid off are both confusing and rarely enforced. While an early warning may not save their job, a meaningful early notice will help them prepare to find a new job or upgrade their skills for new employment.”
In recent months, laid-off workers have filed lawsuits over violations of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act against companies such as Lehman Brothers, retailers like Sam’s Club and Goody’s, the electronics chain Tweeter, ABX Air, USA Jet Airlines, and major law firms, say Miller et al.
Congress passed the WARN Act in 1988 to give workers and communities 60 days notice to adjust to an impending plant closing or mass layoff, because evidence shows retraining and other readjustment efforts have the most success when such notice is given.
But the new bill’s sponsors say the law has been undermined by loopholes and weak enforcement. The Government Accountability Office found a few years ago that the WARN Act covers only 24 percent of all layoffs, and of those, employers only provided notice approximately one-third of the time. The WARN Act has several exceptions that employers can invoke such as unforeseen business circumstances and whether a company is trying to attract capital to avoid a shutdown. And the WARN Act is only invoked at companies with at least 100 employees that are laying off 33 percent or more of their workforce.
The GAO found employers failed to provide notice to employees in two-thirds of layoffs and closures where the WARN Act applied, yet the law requires violating employers only to pay an employee a day’s pay for every day of notice not provided and does not give the federal government authority to enforce workers’ rights.
H.R. 3042, the new FOREWARN Act, would give the U.S. Department of Labor authority to enforce the WARN Act, and would increase penalties for violation to double back pay. It also would reduce the mass layoff figure from 50 to 25; reduce the employer size from 100 to 75 employees; lower the mass layoff trigger; lengthen the notification period from 60 to 90 days; and require employers to give the Labor Department written notification including the reason for the plant closing or mass layoff, whether the employer has jobs elsewhere, and a statement of each employee’s right to wages and benefits. And the bill would expand notification recipients to include the Secretary of Labor, elected officials including the governor, members of Congress, and state representatives, and labor unions.
Here’s Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, urging the House today to adopt an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010 that would call for the Defense Secretary to report to Congress by Dec. 31 a comprehensive exit strategy from the war in Afghanistan:
The amendment later failed on a 138-278 vote: Lee, Pete Stark, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Anna Eshoo, Mike Honda and Lynn Woolsey voted for it; Ellen Tauscher and Jerry McNerney opposed it; and Zoe Lofgren and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t vote.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, spent some quality time today grilling Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing:
It’s unclear why Kyl changed his mind. His press secretary hasn’t returned my calls.
I did hear that several of Tauscher’s biggest supporters, the powerful California sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, lent their considerable clout to the negotiations with the junior Arizona senator.
In theory, Kyl could have held up Tauscher’s nomination indefinitely although that was unlikely. The hold is a common procedural tactic deployed by the minority party intended to make a political point or get the administration’s attention on a particular issue. The Cable, a Washington Post-owned foreign policy news site, reported on Monday evening that Kyl is concerned about the administration’s decision to pursue arms reduction treaty talks with Russia prior to the final release of the national Nuclear Posture Review.
The Senate is scheduled to recess Thursday night prior to July 4 recess and Tauscher’s nomination is one of many still in the hopper.
But if Tauscher can secure the nomination to her new job before the Senate recesss, it will be one heck of a wedding present.
She is set to marry on Saturday retired airline pilot retired Delta Airlines pilot Jim Cieslak.
From Senate Republican Leader Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta:
“Democrats presented a budget plan that did not solve the $24 billion problem. It’s piecemeal at best and does not sufficiently reduce spending. Furthermore, it relies on more than $13 billion in tax increases and gimmicks that do not fix the structural budget deficit. Voters clearly told us they want a responsible and credible balanced budget. This proposal would create an even bigger problem down the road and the Legislature will have failed the people of California yet again.”
From California Democratic Party chairman John Burton:
“Today, not a single Republican was willing to vote for a budget package that includes both cuts and new revenue. Instead, Republicans again showed their willingness to drive the state of California off a cliff to protect Big Oil and Big Tobacco. They should be embarrassed of themselves.”
From Aaron McLear, spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger:
“Legislators have known for over a week that their package was a non-starter because it increased taxes and did not cut deep enough. Their insistence on running a floor drill has cost the state valuable time and pushed us closer to insolvency. While we are happy they have agreed with the Governor and abandoned their tax proposal, the Legislature now must make the necessary cuts or allow the state to go off a cliff.”
From Alicia Trost, spokeswoman for state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg:
“We have a comprehensive budget revision that solves our cash problem without throwing millions of Californians into economic turmoil. We understand that the Governor is comfortable eliminating health insurance for 950,000 poor children but not signing a voluntary tax on a pack of cigarettes. We’re clearly not. The Senate will vote on the cigarette tax and the rest of our budget revision in the coming days.”
UPDATE AT 4:57 PM: Click here for my story on the Kyl hold. Note that the “tonight” in the story refers to Thursday. I wrote it for tomorrow’s print edition but an editor did not make the change to reflect that when it was posted online. LAV
It’s unclear what this will mean to the outcome of this nomination other than it will almost certainly delay it.
There have been rumblings for several months that Kyl was unhappy with President Barack Obama’s support of an international nuclear nonproliferation initiative as well as other issues. Here is a snippet of what The Cable wrote:
Kyl’s office confirmed his remaining hold on Tauscher’s nomination. “He honestly has made no guise of his hold on her nomination,” spokesman Ryan Patmintra told The Cable Monday. “He expressed privately to the administration his concerns. He has chosen not to discuss them publicly.”
A congressional source toldThe Cable last week that Kyl objects to the administration pursuing strategic arms reductions talks with Moscow before its Nuclear Posture Review is complete. The U.S.-Russia START treaty is set to expire in December, so the administration feels it has little choice but to proceed with the treaty negotiations.