Boxer, D-Calif., wrote a letter to NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane on Tuesday, urging her to withdraw its new policy that the senator says will inhibit congressional oversight.
“As an ‘independent agency,’ the NRC is independent from the Executive Branch – not from congressional oversight,” Boxer wrote. “It is the NRC’s responsibility to keep Congress apprised of its activities, as well as to follow the law and use its authorities responsibly and in the public’s interest.”
Yet the NRC “unilaterally devised a drastic change of policy behind closed doors” without notifying her committee, and implemented it without consulting Congress or the public, Boxer wrote.
“This policy is a radical departure from previous NRC document policies and creates significant hurdles and delays that can be used to withhold information entirely from the chairs and ranking members of oversight committees,” Boxer wrote. “It also allows the NRC to broadly deny information to individual members of Congress, even when the information is related to matters affecting their home states.”
The NRC’s claims that the new policy is justified by its need to protect against public release of sensitive materials isn’t supported by case law or by Justice Department guidelines, the senator wrote.
“I call on the NRC to cease its efforts to circumvent Congress’ oversight authority and create a policy that is a model of transparency and respects Congress’ responsibility to oversee the NRC,” Boxer wrote.
“The interim deal has been and will continue to be met with healthy skepticism and hard questions, not just of the Iranians, but of ourselves and our allies involved in the negotiations. Iran has a history of obfuscation that demands verification of its activities and places the burden on the regime to prove it is upholding its obligations in good faith while a final deal is pursued.
“The Administration and its negotiating partners claim that a final deal can be completed that affirms Iran does not have a right to enrich and permanently and irreversibly dismantles the infrastructure of its uranium and plutonium nuclear programs. That is a goal the House shares. The lingering question, however, is whether the negotiating partners will work equally hard to preserve the strong international sanctions regime until that goal is achieved. Otherwise, we will look back on the interim deal as a remarkably clever Iranian move to dismantle the international sanctions regime while maintaining its infrastructure and material to pursue a break-out nuclear capability.
“The House looks forward to the Administration providing a briefing on the interim deal and the next steps.”
“Last night’s agreement is an essential step toward meeting our ultimate objective: to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. President Obama, Secretary Kerry, their team, and our allies are to be commended for their successful efforts to hash out a deal that advances national, regional, and global security.
“It is clear that tough, far-reaching sanctions, enacted by Congress and enforced by the Obama Administration, enabled world powers to reach this point and freeze Iran’s nuclear development. But let there be no doubt: America’s commitment to the security of Israel and our allies across the region will stand firm; majority of our sanctions structure remains in place; and if Iran fails to live up to its obligations, the United States will not hesitate to reimpose, deepen, and expand our sanctions regime.
“This announcement marks a necessary bridge to further negotiations on a lasting, long-term, and comprehensive agreement. Through diplomacy, engagement, and unity among our allies, we must continue acting to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program once and for all.”
“I support the agreement reached today between the P5+1 countries and Iran, which I believe is a significant step toward solving one of the most difficult security challenges facing the world today.
“The six-month agreement puts in place strict controls on Iran’s nuclear program. Iran must halt uranium enrichment above 5%, neutralize its stockpile of near-20% uranium (by either reducing to 3.5% or converting to uranium oxide), halt the installation of any additional centrifuges of any type, freeze the size of its 3.5% stockpile at current levels (converting any newly enriched 3.5% to uranium oxide), halt production and testing of fuel for the Arak heavy-water reactor, halt installation of any components for the reactor, not transfer fuel or heavy water to the site, share the reactor’s technical design with P5+1 countries and dramatically increase international inspections of all nuclear sites.
“In return, the sanctions relief for Iran is limited, estimated not to exceed $7 billion, which leaves more than $100 billion frozen.
“If Iran violates this agreement, it ends and we will know diplomacy is no longer an option. But if the terms are upheld, we will know that Iran is serious about reaching a final agreement.
“By any standard, this agreement is a giant step forward and should not be undermined by additional sanctions at this time.”
We’ll be posting a full story about reactions to President Obama’s plan to delay cancellation of some individual health insurance plans that don’t meet standards set by the nation’s new law, but here are a few pols for whom we didn’t have space in that article.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., called the president’s proposal a “good step” that’s “very helpful in the implementation of the law.” She also spoke on the Senate floor Thursday about Republicans’ constant opposition to this law.
“This is typical of Republicans through the generations. Every time we’ve tried to expand health care, they’ve opposed it and opposed it and tried to derail it,” she said, adding that the new insurance law can be fixed “but that’s not good enough for my Republican friends. They just want to tear it down, just like they wanted to tear down Medicare.”
Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, said in an email that he supports the president’s fix, which “continues to provide more choices without undermining the strengths of the new health care law. Implementing any new law creates a few bumps. We should be look for minor tweaks that strengthen the law rather than return to the old system that left millions of Americans without quality coverage.”
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, issued a statement calling Obama’s proposal “a step in the right direction towards fixing issues with the health care law. This was a promise that was made and it is a promise that should be kept.”
“I’ve said from the beginning that the health care reform law isn’t perfect,” Thompson said. “But instead of engaging in partisan bickering and playing blame games, I want to work to make health care reform better. … If we quit the partisan games, we can build on the reforms made in Obamacare, work out the imperfections, and make sure every American can get quality, affordable health insurance. That is a goal worth fighting for.”
Cargo plane pilots would have to be sufficiently rested and alert before they fly, under a bill introduced in the Senate today by Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Boxer, D-Calif., joined with Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., to introduce the “Safe Skies Act,” which would require that cargo pilots adhere to the same standards as passenger plane pilots. “We must close this dangerous loophole to ensure that cargo pilots are well-rested before they fly,” Boxer said.
After a passenger jet crashed outside Buffalo, N.Y., in 2009, Congress passed a bill by Boxer and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, directing the Department of Transportation to write new rules addressing pilot fatigue. Those new rules, which will take effect in January, require that passenger plane pilots be limited to flying either eight or nine hours, depending on the start time. Airlines must give pilots a minimum of 10 rest hours, with the opportunity for at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Reps. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., and Timothy Bishop, D-N.Y, had introduced a House version of this bill early this year, but it has sat dormant in a subcommittee ever since. They and retired airline pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger of Danville – renowned for his emergency landing of a jetliner in the Hudson River in 2009 – joined Boxer and Klobuchar at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol today.
“When a large plane flies over your house in the middle of the night, it doesn’t matter whether it’s carrying cargo or passengers, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican,” Sullenberger said. “The danger is all the same if the pilots are fatigued.”
Democrats are hitting back at Speaker John Boehner’s statement today that the House won’t take up a comprehensive immigration reform bill before this year’s end.
NBC Latino reports Boehner, R-Ohio, was eating breakfast at a Washington diner this morning when he was approached by two children of immigrants who urged House action.
“I’m trying to find some way to get this thing done,” he reportedly told them. “It’s as you know, not easy, not going to be an easy path forward but I made it clear since the day after the election, it’s time to get this done.”
Later this morning, Boehner wouldn’t set a timeline, but rather said Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is working with Democrats to develop a set of principles “for us to deal with this issue.” He also said the House has “no intention of ever going to conference” on S.744, the bipartisan bill that the Senate passed in June on a 68-32 vote.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, replied to Boehner with a tweet this morning:
H.R. 15 is the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” introduced last month by Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla. It mostly mirrors the Senate bill, but replaces the Senate’s border-security plan with a different one authored by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and approved unanimously by the Homeland Security Committee.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, the senior Democrat on Judiciary’s Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, spoke about Boehner’s comments during today’s committee hearing on an automated, biometrics-based entry-exit system to track the entry and exit of all travelers to and from the United States.
“Before I close, let me just say, how disappointed I was to hear the news that the House is not intending to consider immigration bills before the end of the year. I think we have a historic opportunity before us to work together to improve our immigration laws. I thank the Chairman of the [Immigration] Subcommittee [Rep. Trey Gowdy] for his kind comments about myself and Mr. [Luis] Gutierrez. I am mindful that we did not do immigration reform in a comprehensive way when we had the majority as Democrats. We were actually, in the House, deferring to the Senate hoping that they could have bipartisan agreement. They ultimately failed. The gentleman was not a Member of that Congress, but we did pass the DREAM Act when Democrats were in the majority, and it fell short in the Senate.
“I just believe that we can put our hands across the aisle and work together to improve our laws. I would hope the spirit and intent to do that has not faded on the part of the majority [Republicans]. Certainly I would hope to continue to work with the majority to solve this problem for our country.”
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and senior administration officials met this morning at the White House with faith leaders to discuss the importance of passing immigration reform.
“The leaders expressed their concerns over the impact the broken immigration system is having on families throughout their congregations,” according to the White House’s readout of the meeting. “The President and the leaders discussed their shared commitment to raise the moral imperative for immigration reform and said they will continue keeping the pressure on Congress so they can swiftly pass commonsense reform.”
Obama commended the faith leaders for their efforts, and “noted there is no reason for House Republicans to continue to delay action on this issue that has garnered bipartisan support,” the readout said. “It would show the American people that Washington can still work together to solve our nation’s challenges.”
The U.S. Senate voted 64-32 Thursday to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit sexual-orientation and gender-identity discrimination in hiring and employment by private, nonreligious employers with 15 or more employees.
“Today’s historic vote sends a strong signal that there is no room for discrimination in any workplace in America,” said U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Here’s what she said on the Senate floor Wednesday in urging her colleagues to support the bill:
“People have families; they have spouses; they have children; they need to put food on the table. They have college expenses for their children, student loans to pay, and unforeseen medical expenses. They may have elderly parents that they care for and who need their assistance. All of this requires a job,” she said. “Should a person be denied that basic aspect of life, should a person’s spouse or children or parents be hurt, simply because that person is gay or lesbian or transgender? For me, the answer is simple. It is no.”
“The Senate has done its part to advance the American values of fairness and equality for LGBT Americans; now, the House must follow suit. Members on both sides of the aisle have signed onto this legislation, yet the House Republican leadership continues to stand in the way of progress. After spending $2.3 million in taxpayer funds on a losing battle to deny equality to LGBT families in our courts, House Republicans find themselves on the wrong side of history once again.
“Earlier this year, in its decisions on DOMA and Prop 8, the Supreme Court upheld the words etched into its walls: ‘equal justice under law.’ Now, it’s time for House Republicans to join Democrats in that same cause. It’s time to bring ENDA up for a vote, pass this long overdue bill, and make this measure the law of the land.”
And from Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat:
“Now that the Senate has acted, and for the sake of millions of fellow Americans living in states where they can still be fired for who they are or whom they love, it is the responsibility of the House to take up this bill as soon as possible.
“I am disappointed that some in the House Republican leadership are not eager to bring this bill to the floor. So we can expect hurdles in our way. But those hurdles are surmountable. The House can, should, and must bring this bill to the finish line and fulfill our nation’s promise of equal opportunity for all.”
An invitation to the event says tickets cost $1,000 per person; $5,000 for lunch and a photo reception; $7,500 for lunch and the photo reception for two; $10,000 for lunch and the photo reception for a family of up to five people; or $15,000 for lunch and a special co-chair reception. All money goes to the Democratic National Committee.
The president could raise the nation’s debt ceiling unless Congress votes to nix it, under a bill introduced today by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and two other Senate Democrats.
Boxer, D-Calif.; Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, say the “Pay Our Bills Act” would reduce the chances of the debt ceiling being used as a political weapon to leverage votes on unrelated issues, as just happened this month as House Republicans tried to tie raising the ceiling and ending the government shutdown they caused to defunding the nation’s health insurance law.
“We know from recent history that even the threat of not paying our bills does serious damage to our economy,” Boxer said in a news release. “It’s time for us to put in place a straightforward process to avoid a catastrophic default on our nation’s debt. The Pay Our Bills Act gives both houses of Congress and the President a say, but sends a strong message of certainty to the markets, to our families and to the world.”
Right now, Congress must vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling – the limit beyond which the nation can no longer borrow to pay costs it already has incurred. Under this bill, the president could propose an increase and Congress would have 15 days in which to vote on a resolution of disapproval. The president could veto that resolution like any other legislation, but so too could Congress could override that veto with a two-thirds majority vote as with any other legislation.
As a practical matter in the current political landscape, such a resolution of disapproval would pass the Republican-led House easily but would be dead on arrival in the Democrat-led Senate – and without disapproval from both chambers, the president would be free to do as he sees fit. And that means this Pay Our Bills Act will be dead on arrival in the House.
But McConnell, speaking on the Senate floor today, said his 2011 proposal was never meant to be permanent, or unaccompanied by spending cuts like those accomplished through the ongoing budget sequestration. He called the Democrats’ bill an “outrageous… plan to permanently hand the President a credit card without spending limits, and without lifting a finger to address the national debt.”
Schumer “is not going to find any dance partners on this side of the aisle,” McConnell said. “Because handing the President a permanent blank check, increasing the size of government, and trying to overturn the most significant bipartisan accomplishment of the Obama years – well, that’s just a non-starter.”
“The House has fought with everything it has to convince the president of the United States to engage in bipartisan negotiations aimed at addressing our country’s debt and providing fairness for the American people under ObamaCare. That fight will continue. But blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us. In addition to the risk of default, doing so would open the door for the Democratic majority in Washington to raise taxes again on the American people and undo the spending caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act without replacing them with better spending cuts. With our nation’s economy still struggling under years of the president’s policies, raising taxes is not a viable option. Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president’s health care law will continue. We will rely on aggressive oversight that highlights the law’s massive flaws and smart, targeted strikes that split the legislative coalition the president has relied upon to force his health care law on the American people.”
“Bipartisanship in the Senate is leading America out of a painful, partisan, self-inflicted crisis. Relief doesn’t begin to describe my feelings at this moment in history as the Senate came together not a moment too soon.
“During the 16-day government shutdown I worked to show through my committee chairmanship and as a Senator of the largest state in the country just how painful the shutdown has been to millions of Americans, and how we should never again go through another government shutdown or even a flirtation with a devastating default.
“There are many issues that divide Republicans and Democrats, but the one thing I trust this outcome ensures is that we will always keep the government open, pay our bills and work together.”
“I am pleased that cooler heads in the Senate have prevailed with a bipartisan deal that allows the federal government to reopen, albeit temporarily, and removes the specter of reaching the debt ceiling until February.
“Obstructionist Tea Party Republicans held the government and the American people hostage for sixteen days and threatened the full faith and credit of the United States, all in a misguided, failed effort to deny millions of Americans access to healthcare. This process has done lasting damage to the public’s trust in Congress, as governing should not involve lurching from one manufactured crisis to the next in the hopes of extracting concessions in exchange for not destroying the economy.
“Today’s agreement sets a winter deadline that some may use to take us to the brink yet again. I believe we must permanently reform this process, and will be working to build support among my colleagues for my legislation, H.R. 233, that will end the brinksmanship and threat of default by creating a smooth process for raising the debt limit. This is the kind of structural change we need for economic stability in the future.”
“I mourn those killed today at the Navy Yard in Washington and send my thoughts and prayers to those families grieving the loss of loved ones.
“There are reports the killer was armed with an AR-15, a shotgun and a semiautomatic pistol when he stormed an American military installation in the nation’s capital and took at least 12 innocent lives.
“This is one more event to add to the litany of massacres that occur when a deranged person or grievance killer is able to obtain multiple weapons—including a military-style assault rifle—and kill many people in a short amount of time.
“When will enough be enough?
“Congress must stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country. We must do more to stop this endless loss of life.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, made no policy prescriptions:
“Our prayers rest with the families and loved ones of those killed at the Washington Navy Yard today. Our thoughts remain with the injured and all those now recovering from this unspeakable tragedy.
“Every day, the men and women of our Navy and across our Armed Forces lay their lives on the line on distant shores; they should not be forced to confront the horrors of gun violence here at home.
“Members of Congress always stand with the members of our military. Today, we hold a special place in our hearts for those who serve our country at the Navy Yard and for all caught in the crossfire of today’s horrible attack. We offer our condolences to the victims and stand prepared to support them and their families in the days and weeks to come.”
“This has been a dark day, and we know more of them lie ahead for the families of the victims. Hoping that they find comfort – and answers – is at the top of our minds. Next, we ought to say ‘thank you’ to the first responders and law enforcement professionals – including Capitol Police – who did their jobs and saved lives.
“These events strike a particularly personal chord for all of us on Capitol Hill. Every day, a special breed of men and women go to work at the Navy Yard, and they do so just blocks from our Capitol. These are our neighbors and our defenders. So I would ask all the members, officers, and staff of the House of Representatives to take a moment tonight to think about everyone at the Navy Yard, and keep them in your hearts. I pray that we never forget their service and sacrifice.”
And, assorted tweets:
@RepBarbaraLee: My thoughts and prayers go out to victims and loved ones of those killed or injured at #NavyYard today.
@RepSwalwell: Today, not far from Cap. Hill, a senseless act of gun violence took innocent lives. Thoughts are w/ victims’ families. #NavyYardShooting
@RepThompson: Keep Navy Yard victims in your thoughts as law enforcement works to ensure those responsible for this horrific shooting are held accountable