Search This Blog

Thursday, October 31, 2013

CORKER: A TECHNOCRAT – NOT A POLITICIAN – SHOULD LEAD FHFA

Senator Bob Corker Press Release:

U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, made the following statement after voting against a procedural motion to move forward with the nomination of U.S. Congressman Mel Watt, D-N.C., to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). In a 56 to 42 vote, the Senate failed to get the 60 votes required to proceed.
“I have said from day one that a technocrat, not a politician, should lead the FHFA, the regulator charged with overseeing the $5 trillion portfolios of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” said Corker. “I hope the president will nominate a qualified technocrat with the expertise to play a constructive role in winding down Fannie and Freddie and modernizing our housing finance system.” 

Cornyn, Johnson Introduce A National Tax Transparency Act Following the Texas Model

Senator John Cornyn Press Release:

Oct 31 2013

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Cornyn and U.S. Representative Sam Johnson (TX-03) introduced the Tax Transparency Act of 2013 (S.1620, H.R.3417) in the Senate and House of Representatives.  The bill is modeled after a legislative rule in the Texas House of Representatives authored by State Representative Van Taylor (District 66 - Collin County), which requires revenue legislation introduced in the Texas House to state up front whether or not it raises taxes on Texans. 
“Texas has a proven model of lower taxes, limited government and sensible regulations that allows our economy to expand and create jobs,” said Sen. Cornyn.  “The Tax Transparency Act of 2013 will follow the Texas model and bring Texas sunshine and transparency to Washington.”  
“The American people deserve to know upfront whether legislation will affect their taxes.  Texas understands the importance of this commonsense idea.  It’s time for Washington to follow in Texas’ footsteps on transparency and taxes.  The Tax Transparency Act of 2013 is a step in that direction,” said Congressman Johnson.
Background on the Tax Transparency Act of 2013
This legislation would add sunshine to the legislative process and provide taxpayers with easy-to-understand information about legislation that impacts their pocketbook by:
  • Increasing transparency and accountability by requiring every tax bill, amendment, and conference report to include an easy and understandable transparency statement describing the general effect that the legislation has on federal tax law. 
  • Creating a point of order against any legislation that affects taxes that does not contain a tax transparency statement.
  • Requiring Congressional debate on any motion to waive the new point of order.

Dems Admit Reasons for DC Circuit Nomination Effort

Press Releases

Oct 31 2013

Dems Admit Reasons for DC Circuit Nomination Effort

‘Our Democratic colleagues and the Administration’s supporters have been fairly candid about it. They have admitted they want to control the court so it will advance the President’s agenda.’

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the D.C. Circuit Court:
“I will vote against cloture on the Millett nomination, and I’d like to discuss why.
“Ms. Millett is no doubt a fine person.  This is nothing personal.
“Peter Keisler, of course, is a fine person, too.  But our Democratic colleagues pocket-filibustered his nomination to the D.C. Circuit for two years on the ground that the court’s workload did not warrant his confirmation. 
“They did so despite his considerable skill as an attorney, and his personal qualities.  His nomination languished until the end of the Bush Administration; he waited almost 1,000 days for a vote that never came.
“The criteria our Democratic friends cited to block Mr. Keisler’s nomination then, clearly show that the court is even less busy now. 
“For example:
“The seat to which Ms. Millett is nominated is not a judicial emergency.  Far from it.
“The number of appeals at the court is down almost 20%.
“And the written decisions, per active judge, are down almost 30%.
“In addition to these metrics, the D.C. Circuit has provided another.  The Chief Judge of the Court, who was appointed to the bench by President Clinton, provided an analysis showing that oral arguments for each active judge are also down almost 10% since Mr. Keisler’s nomination was blocked. 
“Mr. President, these analyses show that not only is the court less busy in absolute terms now than it was then.  It is less busy in relative terms as well, meaning when one takes into account the number of active judges serving on the court.
“The court’s caseload is so low, in fact, that it has cancelled oral argument days in recent years because of a lack of cases. 
“And after we confirmed the President’s last nominee to the D.C. Circuit just a few months ago—unanimously, I might add—one of the judges on the court said that if any more judges were confirmed, there wouldn’t be enough work to go around.
“So if the court’s caseload clearly doesn’t meet their own standards for more judges, why are Senate Democrats pushing to fill more seats on a court that doesn’t need them? 
“What’s behind this push to fill seats on a court that is cancelling oral argument days for a lack of cases and which, according to the judges who serve on it, won’t have enough work to go around if we do? 
“Well, we don’t have to guess.  Our Democratic colleagues and the Administration’s supporters have been fairly candid about it.  They have admitted they want to control the court so it will advance the President’s agenda. 
“As one Administration ally put it, ‘the president’s best hope for advancing his agenda is through executive action, and that runs through the D. C. Circuit.’
“Let me repeat, the reason they want to put more judges on the D.C. Circuit is not because it needs them, but because ‘the president’s best hope for advancing his agenda is through executive action, and that runs through the D.C. Circuit.’
“Another Administration ally complained that the court ‘has made decisions that have frustrated the president’s agenda.’
“Really?  The court is evenly-divided between Republican and Democratic appointees. 
“And according to data compiled by the federal courts, the D.C. Circuit has ruled against the Obama Administration in administrative matters less often than it ruled against the Bush Administration. 
“So it’s not that the court has been more unfavorable to President Obama than it was to President Bush.  Rather, the Administration and its allies seem to be complaining that the court hasn’t been favorable enough to it. 
“Evidently, they don’t want any meaningful check on the President.  You see, there is one in the House of Representatives, but the Administration can circumvent that with aggressive agency rulemaking.  That is, if the D.C. Circuit allows it to do so.
“Mr. President, a court should not be a rubberstamp for any administration.  And our Democratic colleagues told us again and again during the Bush Administration that the Senate confirmation process should not be a rubberstamp for any administration either. 
“For example, they said President Bush’s nomination of Miguel Estrada to the D.C. Circuit was ‘an effort to pack the Federal courts.’ And they filibustered his nomination—seven times, in fact.
“We have confirmed nearly all of President Obama’s judicial nominees.
“Like I said, we confirmed a judge to the D.C. Circuit, unanimously, a few months ago.
“This year, we have confirmed 34 circuit and district court judges; at this time in President Bush’s second term, the Senate had confirmed only 14 of these nominees.
“In fact, we confirmed President Obama’s nominees even during the government shutdown.
“In writing then-Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter to oppose the nomination of Peter Keisler, Senate Democrats said ‘Mr. Keisler should under no circumstances be considered—much less confirmed— . . . before we first address the very need for that judgeship . . . and deal with the genuine judicial emergencies identified by the Judicial Conference.’
“That course of action ought to be followed here, too.  Senator Grassley has legislation that will allow the President to fill seats on courts that need judges.  The Senate should support that legislation, not transparent efforts to politicize a court that doesn’t need judges in an effort to create a rubberstamp for the Administration’s agenda.”

D.C. Circuit Caseload Doesn't Justify Additional Judges

Senator Chuck Grassley Press Release:

For Immediate Release
October 31, 2013

D.C. Circuit Caseload Doesn't Justify Additional Judges

Grassley Floor Statement on Patricia Millett Nomination

Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee
On the Motion to invoke Cloture on the nomination of
Patricia Ann Millett, to be United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit
Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mr. President,

I rise in opposition to any motion to invoke cloture on nominees for the D.C. Circuit.  I am somewhat disappointed that the Senate Majority wants to turn to a controversial nomination next rather than continue on the path of cooperative confirmations or to more important Senate business.  It seems to me that scheduling such a controversial vote, in the closing weeks of this session of Congress, is designed to simply heat up the partisanship of judicial nominations.

My opposition is based on a number of factors:

First, an objective review of the court’s workload makes clear that the workload simply doesn’t justify adding additional judges to this court, particularly when additional judgeships cost approximately $1 million, per year, per judge.

Second, given that the caseload doesn’t justify additional judges, you have to ask why the President would push so hard to fill these seats.  It appears clear the President wishes to add additional judges to this court in order to change judicial outcomes.

Third, the court is currently comprised of four active judges appointed by Republican Presidents and four active judges appointed by Democrat Presidents.  There is no reason to upset the current make-up of the court, particularly when the reason for doing so appears to be ideologically driven.

Let me start by providing my colleagues with a little bit of history regarding this particular seat.

It may come as a surprise to some, but this seat has been vacant for over eight years.  It became vacant in September 2005 when John Roberts was elevated to Chief Justice of the United States.

In June of 2006, President Bush nominated an eminently qualified individual for this seat, Peter Keisler.  Mr. Keisler was widely lauded as a consensus, bipartisan nominee.  His distinguished record of public service included service as Acting Attorney General.  Despite his broad bipartisan support and qualifications, Mr. Keisler waited 918 days for a committee vote that never came.

When he was nominated, Democrats objected to even holding a hearing for the nominee, based on concerns about the workload of the D.C. Circuit.

During Mr. Keisler’s hearing, one of my Democrat colleagues summarized the threshold concerns.  He said:

“Here are the questions that just loom out there: 1) Why are we proceeding so fast here?  2) Is there a genuine need to fill this seat?  3) Has the workload of the D.C. Circuit not gone down?  4) Should taxpayers be burdened with the cost of filling that seat?  5) Does it not make sense, given the passion with which arguments were made only a few years ago, to examine these issues before we proceed?”

I have not heard these same concerns expressed by my friends on the other side with respect to the current batch of nominations to this court.  But that does not mean that these issues have gone away.

Statistics from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts show that caseloads on the D.C. Circuit have decreased markedly over the last several years.  This decrease is evident in both the total number of appeals filed and the total number of appeals pending.

I’ve indicated on a number of occasions that I believe these seats are not even needed.   While I’ve gone over the statistics on a number of previous occasions, I want to remind my colleagues and others regarding the facts of the workload of the D.C. Circuit.

First I’d like to remind my colleagues that in 2006, Democrats argued that the D.C. Circuit caseload was too light to justify confirming any additional judges to the bench.  Since that time, the caseload has continued to decrease.

In terms of raw numbers, the D.C. Circuit has the lowest number of total appeals filed annually among all the circuit courts of appeals.  In 2005, that number was 1,379.  Last year, it was 1,193, a decrease of 13.5 percent. 

There are a lot of different ways to look at these numbers, but perhaps the best numbers to examine are those that measure the workload per active judge.

The caseload has decreased so much since 2005, that even with two fewer active judges, the filing levels per active judge are practically the same.

In 2005, with 10 active judges, the court had 138 appeals filed per active judge.  Today, with only 8 active judges, it has 149.  This makes the D.C. Circuit caseload levels the lowest in the nation and less than half the national average.

It has been suggested that there are other circuits, namely the 8th and the 10th, that have lighter caseloads than the D.C. Circuit.  This is simply not accurate.

The D.C. Circuit has fewer cases filed and fewer cases terminated than either the 8th or the 10th Circuits.  Cases filed and cases terminated measure the amount of appeals coming into the court and being resolved by the court, respectively.

Now, some of my colleagues have been arguing that the 8th and 10th Circuits are similar to the D.C. Circuit, based on a comparison of “pending cases.”  But “cases pending” does NOT measure how many cases are being added and removed from the docket.

When looking at how many cases are added, or filed, per active judge, the D.C. Circuit is lowest with 149.  It’s nowhere near the 8th Circuit’s 280 or the 10th Circuit’s 217.

When looking at the number of cases being terminated by each court, the D.C. Circuit is once again the lowest at 149.  Again, the 8th Circuit and 10th Circuit courts are much higher at 269 and 218, respectively.

Now, let me mention one other important point about “pending appeals” and the statistics that my colleagues have been citing.

Several of my colleagues said on the floor yesterday that in 2005 there were only 121 pending appeals per active judge.

Now, that number seemed a little odd to me, so we looked into it a bit further.  In order to arrive at that number, my colleagues appear to be taking the total appeals for the 12 month period ending on June 30, 2005, and dividing by 11.

But as it turns out, there were nine active judges for almost that entire 12 month period.

Janice Rogers Brown was sworn in on June 10, 2005, and Judge Griffith was sworn in on June 29, 2005.

As a result, during that 12 month period, there were 10 active judges for a total of 19 days. There were 11 active judges on the D.C. Circuit for a grand total of 1 day.

And just a few months later in 2005, the court was back down to nine active judges after Judge Roberts was elevated to the Supreme Court, and Judge Edwards took senior status.

This is how hard-pressed the other side is to refute what everyone knows to be true – the caseload for the D.C. Circuit is lower now than it was back in 2005.
  
In order to have a statistic that supports their argument, the other side is claiming there were 11 active judges for that 12 month period, when that claim was true for a total of 1 day.

The bottom line is this:  The objective data clearly indicate the D.C. Circuit caseload is very low and that the court does not need any additional active judges.  And that is especially true if you use the standard Senate Democrats established when they blocked Mr. Keisler.

In addition to the raw numbers, in order to get a firsthand account, several months ago I invited the current judges on the court to provide a candid assessment of the caseload.

What they said shouldn’t surprise anyone who has looked at this issue closely.  The judges themselves confirmed that the workload on the D.C. Circuit is exceptionally low, stating, “the Court does not need additional judges.”  And, “If any more judges were added now, there wouldn’t be enough work to go around.”

Those are powerful statements from the judges themselves.

Given these concerns, it is difficult to see why we would be moving forward with additional nominations to this court, especially in a time when we are operating under budget and fiscal constraints.

Unfortunately, the justification for moving forward with additional D.C. Circuit nominees appears to be a desire and intent to stack the court in order to determine the outcome of cases this court hears.

It is clear that the President wants to fill this court with ideological allies for the purpose of reversing certain policy outcomes.

This is not just my view, but has been overtly stated as an objective of this administration.

Earlier this year, a Washington Post Article observed, “Giving liberals a greater say on the D.C. Circuit is important for Obama as he looks for ways to circumvent the Republican-led House and a polarized Senate on a number of policy fronts through executive order and other administrative procedures.”

Even a member of the Democrat leadership admitted on the Senate floor that the reason they needed to fill these seats was because, as he saw it, the D.C. Circuit was “wreaking havoc with the country.”

This is perplexing, given the current make-up of the court.  Currently, there are four Republican-appointed judges and, with the most recent confirmation, there are now four Democrat-appointed judges.  But now, apparently, some on the other side want to make sure they get favorable outcomes from this Court.

So I have concerns regarding filling seats on this court, which clearly has a very low caseload.  And I have greater concerns about this President’s agenda to stack the court and upset the current make-up, simply in order to obtain favorable judicial outcomes.

Given the overwhelming lack of a need to fill these seats based on the caseload, and especially considering the cost to taxpayers of over $1 million per judge, per year, I cannot support this nomination and I urge my colleagues to reject it as well. 

Grassley Judiciary Executive Committee Statement

Senator Chuck Grassley Press Release:

For Immediate Release
October 31, 2013

Grassley Judiciary Executive Committee Statement

Wilkins, Davis, Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act of 2013 and Justice for All Reauthorization Act

Prepared Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Ranking Member, Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Executive Business Meeting
To consider:
Robert Leon Wilkins, to be United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit
Brian J. Davis, to be United States District Judge for the Middle District of Florida
Timothy L. Brooks, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Arkansas
James Donato, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of California
Beth Labson Freeman, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of California
Pedro A. Delgado Hernandez, to be United States District Judge for the District of Puerto Rico
Carolyn B. McHugh, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Tenth Circuit
Pamela L. Reeves, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee
Vince Girdhari Chhabria, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of California
James Maxwell Moody, Jr., to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas
S.42, Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act of 2013 (Leahy, Grassley)
S.822, Justice for All Reauthorization Act (Leahy, Cornyn, Coons, Klobuchar, Franken, Feinstein)
Thursday, October 31, 2013


Mr. Chairman,

Today on the agenda we have the nominations of ten judicial nominees.   Four are on the agenda for the first time, and we request they be held over.   They are McHugh, Reeves, Chhabria, and Moody

Of the other six that are ripe for consideration, I believe that we can voice vote four of these nominees (Brooks, Donato, Freeman and Hernandez).  There are also two bills on the agenda.  I’ll turn to the legislation in a few minutes, but first I am going to speak about the other two nominees – Judge Wilkins for the D.C. Circuit, and Judge Davis, to serve on the Middle District of Florida.

First, I’d like to discuss Judge Wilkins’ nomination to the D.C. Circuit.  I will not repeat all of things that I’ve said regarding the workload of the D.C. Circuit.  But I would like to mention a couple points.

As I’ve said on a number of occasions, I believe an objective review of the data demonstrates that the caseload for the D.C. Circuit has continually declined for the past 20 years.

Let me just mention a couple statistics.  In 2006, the other side argued -- based on the 2005 numbers – that the caseload didn’t merit confirming any additional judges.

Since 2005, the numbers have continued to decline.  For instance, in 2005 there were 1,379 total appeals filed.  Last year, there were 1,193.  That’s a decrease of over 13 percent.

When you consider the total appeals filed per authorized judgeship, the number has fallen as well – even though there are fewer authorized judgeships now than there were in 2005.

Let me emphasize that point.  The total number of cases filed has fallen so much since 2005, that there are fewer cases filed per authorized judgeship in 2012, even though there are fewer authorized judgeships today than there were then.

Another way to look at the numbers is to compare the statistics per active judge.  In 2005, there were 10 active judges.  Today there are 8.  Since 2005, the numbers have declined so much that the number of cases filed per active judge is nearly the same today that it was then, even though we have two fewer active judges.

Let me add one additional point on this topic.  All of these statistics that I’ve been discussing don’t even take into account the work that the senior judges on the court are contributing.

Right now, there are six senior judges.  According to Chief Judge Garland, those judges are contributing the equivalent of 3.25 full time judges.  When you add this to the 8 active judges, the court is currently running at the equivalent of 11.25 full time judges.  That is more than the 11 judgeships that are currently authorized.

For all of these reasons, it should come as no surprise that even current members of the court confirm that if these vacancies were filled, “there wouldn’t be enough work to go around.”

There are additional considerations that I will not take the time to outline today, but I will oppose Judge Wilkins’ nomination and urge my colleagues to do the same.

Second, I’d like to make a few comments on Judge Davis’ nomination to the Middle District of Florida.

As my colleagues are aware, Judge Davis’ nomination is not without some controversy, related primarily to some remarks he made a few years ago.

During his hearing last Congress, Judge Davis was asked to provide some clarification regarding those comments.  After carefully reviewing his answers from the hearing, many of us concluded that they didn’t provide the clarity that we had hoped for.  For that reason, I asked Judge Davis some follow-up Questions for the Record, hoping to get the clarity, in writing, that I didn’t hear him provide during his hearing.

Unfortunately, after reviewing his written answers, I concluded that Judge Davis didn’t fully appreciate why many found his comments so troubling.  Therefore, I reluctantly opposed his nomination.

Judge Davis, of course, was re-nominated this Congress.  On September 12th, he submitted a letter to the Florida senators.

In that letter, Judge Davis apologized for his comments – without qualification.

He wrote, “I believe that several of the statements I made in the past were inappropriate and improper.”  He went on to write, “I apologize for any inappropriate statements and deeply recognize the harm that they could cause if they gave the misimpression that I am anything other than impartial or that I maintain any bias or prejudice.”

As I wrote to Judge Davis in a follow-up letter on September 25th, his apology for those comments without qualification, in my view, demonstrated both courage and humility.

In my letter to Judge Davis, I asked him simply to confirm that he was apologizing for his comments regarding Dr. Henry Foster, Dr. Joycelyn Elders and Justice Thomas.

In a letter he wrote to me on September 26, he confirmed those were the “inappropriate comments” he referenced in his letter to the Florida senators.

I ask consent that both my letter to Judge Davis, and his response, be made part of the record.

I have given this nomination a great deal of consideration.

I believe Judge Davis has taken steps this Congress that, in my view, he didn’t appear willing to take last Congress.  And as I said, that requires both courage and humility – which are traits a district judge should possess.

Taking this into consideration, together with the fact that he enjoys the support of his home state Senators, I’m willing to give Judge Davis the benefit of the doubt and not oppose his nomination moving forward.

At the conclusion of debate on these nominations, we request any vote on these two nominations be by roll call.

With that, let me turn to the legislation on the agenda.

Too often whistleblowers who risk their careers to expose waste, fraud and abuse are treated like second-class citizens.

The Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act, which Chairman Leahy and I’ve introduced, will protect criminal antitrust whistleblowers.

In 2004 Congress passed the Antitrust Criminal Penalty Enhancement and Reform Act.
That bill encouraged self-reporting of criminal antitrust activity.

Yet it didn’t provide any protections for innocent third-parties who blow the whistle on such activity.

Thus, when this law was reauthorized in 2010, we asked the Government Accountability Office to examine whether whistleblower protection would be appropriate.
 
The Government Accountability Office suggested that Congress consider adding a civil remedy for antitrust whistleblowers that are retaliated against.

That’s what this bill does.

Over the past few weeks we’ve worked to address some concerns raised by other offices.

The managers’ amendment reflects those changes.  This is a narrowly focused bill that will strengthen the enforcement of our criminal antitrust laws.

I appreciate the Chairman’s work on this, and that from others who have been involved, and urge my colleagues to support this bill.

I ask unanimous consent that my full statement on S. 42 be placed into the record.

I’m pleased that we are considering S. 822 today, the Justice for All Act Reauthorization.  This bill reauthorizes a number of victim’s rights programs and grant programs that provide important funding for state and local governments to conduct DNA testing.

The bill reauthorizes funding for crime victims’ rights programs and enhances protection for victims in several ways.

For example, it ensures that money appropriated to assist victims will go directly to victims, not for other programs that DOJ operates.  This is especially necessary given that President’s budgets have raided the Crime Victims Fund to pay for non-victim related services in the past.

At the same time, the bill is fiscally responsible.

It reduces authorizations by more than 20 percent compared to the 2004 reauthorization.  This helps to better align authorizations with actual amounts funded by the Appropriations Committee.

However, it does so without reducing the funding authorized for crime victims or for programs authorized under the Debbie Smith program.

Finally, the act includes crucial oversight and accountability provisions that I’ve consistently sought for DOJ grant programs.

Sessions, EPW Republicans Release Report On ‘Cooperative Federalism’ Concerns With EPA Actions

Senator Jeff Sessions Press Release:

Sessions, EPW Republicans Release Report On ‘Cooperative Federalism’ Concerns With EPA Actions

Thursday, October 31, 2013
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, released a report today with Environment and Public Works Committee Republicans entitled, “Neglecting a Cornerstone Principle of the Clean Air Act: President Obama’s EPA Leaves States Behind.” The report chronicles EPA’s increasing departure from the cooperative federalism approach established in the Clean Air Act. After releasing the report, Sen. Sessions commented:
 
“Our nation’s level of air pollution and air quality has improved dramatically over the past four decades under the Clean Air Act. A cornerstone of this important law is the principle of ‘cooperative federalism,’ which recognizes that achieving environmental goals in our constitutional republic requires mutual collaboration between the States and Federal government. Regrettably, as shown in this report, the vast majority of States are increasingly concerned that EPA, under this administration, is not working with the States in the cooperative manner required by law. The evidence suggests that EPA routinely tries to ignore or circumvent the States or to control them by heavy-handed actions.
 
These kinds of unnecessary and improper actions by EPA threaten to undermine the very law that has helped to improve air quality in the United States. I believe Congress should take a close look at these concerns and take the time to hear from the States about ways to improve our nation’s air quality programs.”
 
To view the report as a PDF, please click here.

▶ Iraq's Maliki Asks for Help - YouTube

▶ Iraq's Maliki Asks for Help - YouTube

Inhofe Statement on Iraq Prime Minister's White House Meeting

Senator Jim Inhofe Press Release:

Inhofe Statement on Iraq Prime Minister's White House Meeting


WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today released the following statement concerning President Obama's scheduled meeting Friday with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki:
 
"I warned in 2011 that the failure of the Obama Administration to negotiate a well-planned transition in Iraq would jeopardize the country’s long-term stability and would threaten to undo all that our men and women in uniform fought and died for.  The hasty withdrawal of the United States  from Iraq nearly two years ago has been followed by a deteriorating security situation, an increasingly confident Iran, and a resurgence of al-Qaeda.  Violence is at its highest level in years, Iranian influence is growing, and al-Qaeda has regained a safe haven from which to plan and launch terrorist attacks.   Until Prime Minister Maliki undertakes  the security, political and economic reforms necessary to bring stability and prosperity to the Iraqi people, the situation will continue to deteriorate and U.S. security interests in the region will be increasingly threatened. President Obama must make clear the urgency of these reforms to Prime Minister Maliki during their meeting this week. Such reforms will enable the United States to more effectively support Iraq and advance our mutual interests of security and stability." 
 
On Oct. 29, Inhofe joined SASC Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and Sens. McCain (R-Ariz.) and Graham (R-S.C.) in sending a letter to President Obama urging him to take steps that will bring stability to the country and protect U.S. national security interests in Iraq. The full text of the letter can be read by clicking here
###

Trick or Treat for Congress Today on Obamacare | National Review Online

Trick or Treat for Congress Today on Obamacare | National Review Online

▶ Alexander on FOX Business's "The Willis Report": Sebelius should step down. - YouTube

▶ Alexander on FOX Business's "The Willis Report": Sebelius should step down. - YouTube

▶ #TBT: If You Like Your Plan, You Can Keep It - YouTube

▶ #TBT: If You Like Your Plan, You Can Keep It - YouTube

Rubio, Nelson Welcome Temporary Relief For Apalachicola Bay Water Crisis

Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) today announced it would grant economic injury loans under its disaster assistance program to residents of Franklin County, Florida to assist the area in coping with the economic hardships it is currently facing due to the water conditions in the Apalachicola Bay. Apalachicola is home to one of the largest commercial oyster fisheries in the U.S., and much of the local economy thrives on the health of the bay.
“Two months ago I met with and listened to small business owners and families in Apalachicola who are being directly impacted by this disaster, and it was heartbreaking,” said Senator Marco Rubio. “Today’s announcement means that those same hard-working Floridians will finally receive some of the relief they’ve so desperately needed, and I thank Governor Scott and the SBA for their decisive action in this matter. The effects of this disaster on the local community, supporting industries, and regional economy have been significant, and a permanent solution is still desperately needed. We need to keep trying to solve the problem through every avenue possible and I remain committed to fixing the problem so that we have an effective solution.”

“That was the right thing to do,” said Senator Bill Nelson. “We’re supposed to help people facing tough times.”
Florida Governor Rick Scott submitted a request to the SBA last week for an Economic Injury Declaration for the county after drought conditions and low water flows have caused the fishery and the surrounding community, including several small businesses dependent on the resource, to suffer significantly. 


For information on how to apply to receive assistance through the Small Business Administration’s Disaster Loan Program, please see the fact sheet here. 


In August, Rubio and Nelson attended a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation field hearing and heard firsthand testimony from those affected by the ongoing crisis. Rubio also toured Apalachicola Bay and met with local oystermen, families, and businesses to examine the dire effects of the water shortage on Apalachicola Bay and Florida industry. For more information, click here.

McConnell Calls on Congress to Pass Flex-Time Bill

Press Releases

Oct 31 2013

McConnell Calls on Congress to Pass Flex-Time Bill

The McConnell bill is a ‘commonsense measure Congress can take to help alleviate burdens on millions of families by providing greater flexibility in managing their time.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell introduced the Family Friendly and Workplace Flexibility Act today, which would allow flexible workplace arrangements such as compensatory time and flexible credit hour agreements to be extended to businesses with hourly workers. Senator McConnell’s bill is cosponsored by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).
Currently, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibits employers from offering compensatory time, or “comp time,” to their hourly employees. By contrast, federal employees are eligible to receive comp time and flexible credit hour agreements.
“The Family Friendly and Workplace Flexibility Act will help provide America’s workers with the flexible work arrangements they need. Countless Americans have become increasingly familiar over the past several years with the same reality: more and more to do, with less and less time to do it. And while Congress can’t legislate another hour in the day, we can help working Americans better balance the demands of work and family,” Senator McConnell said. “My legislation is a commonsense measure Congress can take to help alleviate that burden for millions of families by providing greater flexibility in managing their time.”
“This legislation extends the same options currently available to those in the public sector to working families in the private sector,” Senator Ayotte said. “Comp time/flex time would enable employees and employers to choose to enter into a voluntary agreement that would allow greater flexibility for workers who are looking to better balance work-life demands.”
The bill would amend the FLSA to allow private employers to offer comp time to employees at a rate of one-and-one-half hours for every hour of overtime work. A completely voluntary process, an employee can still choose to receive monetary payments as their overtime compensation. This bill simply allows the option for employees to choose paid time off for overtime work instead.
This bill also institutes a flexible credit-hour program, under which the employer and employee can enter into agreements that allow the employee to work excess hours beyond the typical number of hours he or she is typically required to work in order to accrue hours to be taken off at a later time. This option is for employees who do not get the opportunity to work overtime, but still want a way to build up hours to use as paid leave.
Like comp time, this program is voluntary and may not affect collective bargaining agreements that are in place. Under this legislation, employers would not be mandated to offer the flexible workplace arrangements, just as employees are not mandated to choose these benefits rather than direct compensation for overtime work.
“We all know working moms who are stretched between a job and supporting her kids. And Baby Boomers with elderly parents who require care and attention. A large number of hourly workers employed by private employers are forced to make tough choices when trying to balance work and family. So it’s not surprising that study after study has found that many Americans are calling for greater workplace flexibility,” Senator McConnell said.

A 2010 study conducted by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, for example, found that work flexibility programs can “reduce turnover and improve recruitment, [increase] the productivity of an employer’s workforce, and are associated with improved employee health and decreased absenteeism.”
Another study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Managers found that women’s responsibilities have increased at work and men’s responsibilities have increased at home, resulting in 60 percent of wage and salaried employees feeling they don’t have enough time to spend with their loved ones.
The McConnell bill is supported by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. David Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber, said “the Family Friendly and Workplace Flexibility Act would allow private employers to give employees the flexibility they want by permitting them to offer paid time as overtime compensation for non-exempt hourly employees. Our members throughout the Commonwealth would find value in being able to provide this benefit to their employees. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce strongly supports this legislation and we appreciate Senator McConnell’s leadership on this issue.”
The effort to provide greater flexibility and support for families in the workplace is one Senator McConnell has long supported. He previously supported legislation allowing flexible workplace arrangements. This is the fifth time Senator McConnell has sponsored legislation to establish comp time.

Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-AL) introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives. It was passed earlier this year. 
Senator McConnell spoke about the bill on the Senate floor this morning. Click below to view his speech:

Information for Those Affected by Severe Weather in Texas

Senator John Cornyn Press Release:

Oct 31 2013

Several areas of Texas are experiencing significant flooding. Please be safe and follow local advisories.
For more information about current flooding and emergency road closures in Austin and Travis County, please click here.
For alert information and safety tips for the Houston area, please click here.
Click here for updates from Tyler County Emergency Management.

HHS Haunts Taxpayers by Paying Millions to Deceased and Undocumented Individuals

Senator Tom Coburn Press Release:

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) highlighted two new reports from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General that show Medicare paid millions to dead doctors, dead beneficiaries, undocumented workers and illegal aliens.  The reports show Medicare wasted $23 million in care on the deceased in 2011, $25 million on dead doctors between 2009-2011, and $29 million for prescription drugs to more than 4,000 unlawfully present beneficiaries between 2009-2011.  
“Awarding benefits to the deceased is dead wrong,” Dr. Coburn said.  “I am particularly concerned about this latest development because, despite being notified of this problem five years ago, the administration continues to pay dead doctors.  Every individual wrongfully awarded benefits, be it the deceased or undocumented, diverts scarce resources away from those who need it most.  That is why Chairman Carper and I introduced theImproper Payments Agency Cooperation Enhancements Act, which enhances coordination between agencies with anti-fraud and waste mechanisms that will curtail this egregious practice.  Congress should pass this bill without delay. At the same time, the administration must take action to work with all agencies to ensure those who do not qualify for benefits do not receive them.” 
Key findings include: 
Medicare Wrongly Paid $29 Million in Drug Costs for 4,000 People Illegally in U.S.
Under federal law, health care benefits are not allowed to be paid for services provided to unlawfully present beneficiaries.  However, a new report from the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finds that the Medicare program wrongly paid drug costs totaling $29 million on behalf of 4,139 unlawfully present individuals.  Medicare program officials have said they will correct the problem, but have not given a timeframe for implementing needed corrective actions, nor have they agreed to recoup monies lost during this year and last year for the same reason. 
Medicare Wrongly Paid $23 Million for Dead Patients in 2011 
Under federal rules, Medicare claims for health care benefits are not supposed to be paid for dead people who were enrolled in Medicare beneficiaries. However, a new report from the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finds that the Medicare program wrongly paid $23 million in 2011 for services after a Medicare patient was already dead. These dollars represent a preventable waste of taxpayer dollars and have a harmful effect on an already cash-strapped program cumulative effect year over year. Medicare program officials have said they will correct the problem, but have not given a timeframe for implementing needed corrective actions. Moreover, despite ongoing Congressional oversight and concerns about the program’s integrity, Medicare officials clearly failed to take proactive preventative steps in this area.
Medicare Wrongly Paid $25 Million to Dead Doctors Over 3-Year Period 
Under federal rules, Medicare is not supposed to pay the bills of dead doctors. Yet, a 2008 Congressional hearing that Dr. Coburn participated in revealed Medicare was paying millions of taxpayer dollars for dead doctors. Earlier this year, Dr. Coburn asked the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to see if this was still a problem within Medicare. The Inspector General reviewed Medicare claims and found that Medicare had paid $25 million to dead doctors from 2009 to 2011. Given some the lag time in billing, there may be some circumstances where some of those payments may be legitimate. Yet, even the most conservative approach to eliminating potentially valid claims found Medicare paid at least $8.2 million for dead doctors!  Despite that Medicare officials have told this was a problem five years ago, they still have not given a timeframe for implementing corrective actions. 
Reports available here:
Supporting Documents:
###

Democrats now pushing back against Obama

Democrats now pushing back against Obama

Americans keep moving to states with low taxes and housing costs | WashingtonExaminer.com

Americans keep moving to states with low taxes and housing costs | WashingtonExaminer.com

Tax delinquents by the thousands have security clearances, GAO finds

Tax delinquents by the thousands have security clearances, GAO finds

▶ Rubio Pushes Legislation In Response To Glaring ObamaCare Problems - YouTube

▶ Rubio Pushes Legislation In Response To Glaring ObamaCare Problems - YouTube

▶ ObamaScare: It's Coming - YouTube

▶ ObamaScare: It's Coming - YouTube

Chicago Medical Marijuana Clinic Inundated With Calls | NBC Chicago

Chicago Medical Marijuana Clinic Inundated With Calls | NBC Chicago

Why Obamacare could raise your premiums at work

Why Obamacare could raise your premiums at work

Obama blames 'bad apple' insurers for dropped coverage

Obama blames 'bad apple' insurers for dropped coverage

Cornyn Discusses Democrats Court Packing with Bill Bennett

News Releases - Home - United States Senator John Cornyn, Texas

Report: Health premiums to rise significantly for many Texans | Business | Dallas Busine...

Report: Health premiums to rise significantly for many Texans | Business | Dallas Busine...

CAGW goes Trick-or-Treating | Citizens Against Government Waste

CAGW goes Trick-or-Treating | Citizens Against Government Waste

▶ Senate Democrats Deny Americans Extension To Meet ObamaCare Mandate - YouTube

▶ Senate Democrats Deny Americans Extension To Meet ObamaCare Mandate - YouTube

'Why Do You Decide What's Lousy?!' Megyn Kelly Challenges Democrat Over ObamaCare | Fox News Insider

'Why Do You Decide What's Lousy?!' Megyn Kelly Challenges Democrat Over ObamaCare | Fox News Insider

Government memo warned of high security risk at health care website - CNN.com

Government memo warned of high security risk at health care website - CNN.com

La. lawmakers release insurance reform bill, hope to ease flood insurance costs | wwltv.com New Orleans

La. lawmakers release insurance reform bill, hope to ease flood insurance costs | wwltv.com New Orleans

Spionieren die Deutschen in Washington? | Deutschland | DW.DE | 30.10.2013

Representatives of U.S. intelligence agencies accuse their German colleagues of spying on the United States. German politicians and experts find that absurd. And for several reasons:

Spionieren die Deutschen in Washington? | Deutschland | DW.DE | 30.10.2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Boehner: President Obama Needs to Come Clean About his Health Care Promises | John Boehner - 8th District of Ohio

Boehner: President Obama Needs to Come Clean About his Health Care Promises | John Boehner - 8th District of Ohio

Prepared Statement, Nominations Hearing, Kadzik, Ninth Circuit

Senator Chuck Grassley Press Release:

For Immediate Release
October 30, 2013

Prepared Statement, Nominations Hearing, Kadzik, Ninth Circuit

Prepared Statement of Ranking Member Chuck Grassley of Iowa
U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Nominations of John B. Owens, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit
Matthew Frederick Leitman, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan
Judith Ellen Levy, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan
Laurie J. Michelson, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan
Linda Vivienne Parker, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan
Peter Joseph Kadzik, to be an Assistant Attorney General (Office of Legislative Affairs)
Wednesday, October 30, 2013



Madame Chairwoman,

I join you in welcoming the nominees who are here today with their families and friends.  It is a milestone in each of nominees’ careers, and a proud moment for their families.

Today’s hearing is the 14th judicial nominations hearing this year during which we will have considered a total of 48 judicial nominees.   This hearing record is especially remarkable when you compare this pace to the first year of President Bush’s second term.  At this stage in President Bush’s second term, the Committee had held only 4 hearings for 8 nominees.  In fact, for the entire year of 2005, the Judiciary Committee held only 6 hearings for 15 district and circuit nominees.  Again, we have greatly exceeded that number – 14 hearings and 48 judicial nominees.

Today we consider a nominee to the 9th Circuit, and regarding this particular seat, a bit of history is in order.  For nearly a decade, there has been some dispute over this seat.  It became vacant on December 31, 2004 when Judge Stephen Trott, took senior status.  I would note that Judge Trott was from Virginia at the time of his nomination.  He moved to Idaho upon confirmation, where he maintained his chambers throughout his service on the Court.  When Judge Trott took senior status, President Bush nominated Randy Smith, of Idaho, to fill the vacancy.  The Smith nomination was blocked by Senate Democrats because the California delegation asserted that the seat belonged to California.

Mr. Smith had his hearing in March 2006 and was voted out of Committee that May. But Senate Democrats repeatedly refused to grant the request to hold the nominee in the Senate during a recess, and demanded his nomination be returned to the President.  Of course, at the same time, Senate Democrats were filibustering another nominee to the Ninth Circuit, William Myers.  After a failed cloture vote and repeatedly returning his nomination to the President during recess periods, Myers was forced to withdraw.

Ultimately, after this dual track obstruction in the Ninth Circuit, the President withdrew Mr. Smith’s original nomination and nominated him to the seat to which Mr. Myers had been nominated.  Judge Smith was confirmed to this position in February 2007 by a vote of 94 – 0.   Mr. Myers was never confirmed.  After the Smith nomination was blocked, the seat remained vacant, with no nominee throughout the remainder of President Bush’s second term and with no nominee throughout President Obama’s first term.

That is the recent history of this seat. I am not suggesting that I know the right way to handle the situation here, but it is important to remember how the Democrats treated the last nominee to this seat – a seat, I would like to remind my fellow committee members, that does not ‘belong’ to any state.  In fact, this seat has been filled by judges sitting in Idaho, California, Washington and Oregon.

But in 2005, one senior Judiciary Committee Member accused the White House of attempting to “steal a seat” by nominating Mr. Smith. Another Member said that she would not “sit by and let this happen… If I have to filibuster this judge I will do so”.  And that’s essentially what happened, as I have outlined.

In addition to the judicial nominees, we are considering the nomination of Peter Kadzik, to be an Assistant Attorney General to head the Office of Legislative Affairs.  He is presently serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and in that capacity he heads that office.  I have concerns about Mr. Kadzik’s history in dealing with Congressional oversight.

On May 14, 2002, the House Committee on Government Reform released a report on the White House’s pardon of Marc Rich.  That report details how the Committee received records on the Rich pardon from Mr. Kadzik’s law firm, Dickstein, Shapiro, Morin & Oshinsky, which represented the billionaire tax fugitive in his quest for a pardon.

According to the Committee’s report, those records reflected that Mr. Kadzik had worked on the pardon.  Mr. Kadzik was called to testify at a hearing on the matter.  According to the House Committee report, “Kadzik declined to testify voluntarily.  Then, when he was informed that the Committee would issue a subpoena to compel his attendance at the hearing, he left Washington, mistakenly assuming that the Committee would not be able to serve him.”

The record of the Committee’s interactions with Mr. Kadzik’s attorneys is well-documented.  Through consultation with the House Committee, I was able to obtain the contemporaneous handwritten notes documenting the Committee’s interactions with Mr. Kadzik’s attorneys.

The notes show that Government Reform Committee staff first had contact on Friday, February 16, 2001, with Richard Conway, Andrew Zausner, and Henry Cashen, all colleagues of Mr. Kadzik’s at Dickstein Shapiro.  Committee staff had several interactions with Mr. Kadzik’s attorneys throughout the next week.  Then, on Friday, February 23, 2001, at 5:25 pm, Committee staff left a message for Mr. Conway stating that Mr. Kadzik would be called to testify at a Committee hearing the next Thursday, March 1, 2001.

According to contemporaneous notes, Mr. Conway returned the call on Monday, February 26, and spoke again with Committee staff later that day.  In the second conversation, Mr. Conway said Mr. Kadzik’s schedule reflected that he planned to fly to California on Wednesday.  Committee staff reiterated that Mr. Kadzik would be required to attend the Thursday hearing.  That day, the Committee Chairman sent Mr. Kadzik a letter notifying him that he would be called to testify.

The next day, on Tuesday, February 27, Mr. Conway contacted Committee staff at 11:47 am to say that he had informed Mr. Kadzik about the hearing, but that Mr. Kadzik still intended to go to California instead.  Mr. Conway spoke with Committee staff again at 2:55 pm, according to contemporaneous notes.  According to the Committee report, Mr. Kadzik sent a letter to the Committee at 7:40 pm that night declining to testify.  Notes from Government Reform Committee staff show that they then tried to reach Mr. Conway, Mr. Zausner, and Mr. Cashen.  Committee staff left messages for all three of the Dickstein Shapiro attorneys on Tuesday February 27, stating that Mr. Kadzik would be required to attend the Thursday hearing.

The next morning, Mr. Kadzik’s flight was scheduled to leave for California at 11 am.  At 8:19 am, Mr. Conway and Mr. Zausner telephoned Government Reform Committee staff.  According to contemporaneous notes, Mr. Conway and Mr. Zausner stated that neither of them was authorized to accept service of the subpoena.  These notes make absolutely clear that attorneys for Mr. Kadzik were aware of the subpoena, and that they refused to cooperate in facilitating service of the subpoena informally.

At 9:29 am, Committee staff spoke with Mr. Cashen.  That was followed by a third call, this time with just Mr. Zausner.  According to the notes, Mr. Zausner told Committee staff that Mr. Kadzik had said he had to go to California.  These three contacts were all before Mr. Kadzik’s scheduled flight at 11 am.

The notes also indicate a fourth call with Mr. Kadzik’s attorneys at 11:15 am.  Committee staff asked Mr. Zausner for Mr. Kadzik’s flight information and told him that the Committee would have to serve the subpoena in California.  Mr. Kadzik was served by a U.S. Marshal at 1:58 pm on Wednesday, and ultimately flew back to Washington that night to testify at the hearing on Thursday.

Mr. Kadzik and his attorneys’ initial refusal to cooperate required the Committee to expend the time, effort, and resources to effect service in person through the U.S. Marshals.  That is an extraordinary level of non-cooperation, even if Mr. Kadzik had not additionally boarded a plane for California, further frustrating the Committee’s attempt to serve him.  That level of resistance from a reluctant witness sometimes occurs, but committees of Congress ought to able to expect better conduct from a professional member of the bar, let alone from someone seeking Senate confirmation.

The Government Reform Committee’s May 14, 2002 report, which documented this entire episode, concluded: “While the Committee was able to serve Kadzik and receive testimony from him, his attempts to avoid compulsory process were unseemly.”

Upon reviewing the initial report, Mr. Kadzik sent the Government Reform Committee a letter on March 13, 2002.  In his letter, he claimed: “First, and most importantly, at no point before I boarded an airplane to California on February 28, 2001, did any member of the Committee’s staff inform me or any attorney with my firm that the Committee would subpoena me to attend the hearing.”

The final report called that claim “utterly false.”  The Government Reform Committee had 24 contacts with Mr. Kadzik’s attorneys leading up to the subpoena.  The Committee Chairman promptly responded to Mr. Kadzik on March 15, 2002, documenting the Committee’s interactions with Mr. Kadzik’s attorneys.  Both Mr. Kadzik’s letter and the Chairman’s reply were attached as exhibits to the May 14, 2002 report.

It is clear that Mr. Kadzik’s attorneys were informed both the day before and the morning of his flight that he would be required to attend the hearing.  They had known at least a week earlier that the Committee planned to call him to testify.  Mr. Kadzik’s attorneys were obviously aware of the subpoena before he boarded the flight, since they refused to accept service of the subpoena informally on his behalf.  Thus, the most charitable reading of these facts possible for Mr. Kadzik would be that his claim, that there were no contacts with his attorneys about the subpoena, was made without any basis for knowing whether or not it was true.  And that can only be believed either if he failed to consult with his attorneys or if his attorneys failed to inform him of their contacts about the subpoena.

In Operation Fast and Furious, the Inspector General documented this exact type of problem with the Office of Legislative Affairs at the Justice Department.  That office made representations to Congress that were false, and at best, the result of a failure to find out whether the claim was true before writing it down and sending to Congress.  It later had to withdraw the letter later for its inaccuracies.  Now, it appears to be well documented that Mr. Kadzik engaged in the same conduct with a congressional committee in another controversy.  However, he has not yet withdrawn his inaccurate letter.

Whether in Fast and Furious or in Mr. Kadzik’s case, shooting letters willy-nilly to Congress without checking on their accuracy is simply unacceptable.  And that’s just the most charitable interpretation of Mr. Kadzik’s letter.  Many might look at the same facts and seriously question whether there was an intentional attempt to evade service of a Congressional subpoena to avoid testifying at a contentious public hearing.

The Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs is our official direct point of contact with the Department of Justice.  We interact with his office more than anyone else in the Department.  His job requires him to ensure Congress receives accurate and prompt information from the Department.  I have serious concerns about whether this nominee’s record demonstrates an ability to restore trust and confidence to the Office of Legislative Affairs.

Even in his current position at the Department, his office’s conduct raises questions about his ability and willingness to fully respond to Congressional requests.  Last week the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was instructed by Mr. Kadzik’s office not to brief my staff.  After a phone call with the Office of Legislative Affairs, ATF staff walked out of the briefing citing supposed concerns about the Privacy Act, even though the Act authorizes disclosures to congressional committees and even though my staff had a Privacy Act waiver from the ATF whistleblower whose personal information was to be discussed.  This sort of obstruction of Department components is extremely disturbing.

To get to the bottom of how this happened I sent Mr. Kadzik a letter asking four specific questions and requesting copies of all records and communications related to the briefing.

Mr. Kadzik’s reply letter failed to answer the questions or provide the documents requested.  Nothing in his response indicates that he intends to answer my questions or provide the documents.  Instead, my questions and requests were simply ignored.  These types of non-response responses are unacceptable and disrespectful of this institution.  Specific questions and requests should be acknowledged, and if there is a reason not to answer or to withhold the documents requested, then those reasons should be explained in the reply.

This sort of interference with component agencies’ communications with my office is not limited to ATF.  On May 3, 2012, Senator Whitehouse and I wrote to the Government Accountability Office to request a study of the extent to which the Drug Enforcement Administration policies and regulations may contribute to the growing drug shortage crisis with regard to controlled substances.  In order for GAO to complete our request, GAO needs to analyze information in possession of DEA.  This should not be a hard request, as GAO has a statutory right of access.

However, it has been over a year and DEA has refused to provide GAO with access to the records necessary to complete our request.

DEA’s refusal to honor its legal obligation to cooperate with GAO has unnecessarily delayed GAO’s work and thwarted its ability to respond to our request.  I tried to help resolve the dispute by requesting a meeting with the DEA Administrator and the GAO to discuss the issues.  But the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs under Mr. Kadzik’s leadership instructed DEA not to even meet with me and GAO to discuss it.   In refusing to meet with me, DEA cited a “DOJ policy” against meetings with Members of Congress and “third parties.”  Essentially, the DEA, due to this policy, refused to meet and discuss this issue with GAO present.

This makes absolutely no sense.  The GAO is part of the legislative branch of government, not a “third party.”  Further, I have been a Senator conducting oversight of DOJ for 33 years and I have never heard of this third party policy.  By statute, GAO has a broad right of access to agency records.  Deputy Attorney General Cole has admitted to GAO that DEA has a legal obligation to comply, but Mr. Kadzik’s office continues to obstruct my efforts to help GAO get access to the records it needs to do their work.  Mr. Kadzik’s office should not be interfering with my attempts to meet with the DEA administrator to resolve these issues with GAO.  More importantly, DOJ’s standoff with GAO risks wasting time and taxpayer’s money on litigation with GAO that the DEA will eventually lose.

So, this is a troubling nomination, and I have questions for Mr. Kadzik.

Again, I welcome the nominees and their families to this hearing and look forward to the testimony.

Cornyn, Vela Host Texas Officials To Discuss Joint Efforts to End Texas Water Shortage

Senator John Cornyn Press Release:

Oct 30 2013

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and U.S. Representative Filemon Vela (TX-34) today hosted a meeting with various elected officials and stakeholders from the Rio Grande Valley, including State Representative Eddie Lucio, III (Brownsville), Texas Water Development Board Chairman Carlos Rubinstein, and Rio Grande Valley Partnership President Julian Alvarez, to discuss joint efforts to address Mexico’s failure to uphold its water obligations and eliminate the deficit owed to the U.S. 
Under a 1944 Treaty, Mexico is required to deliver average annual allotments of water to the Rio Grande Valley.  Sen. Cornyn and Congressman Vela have previously introduced the WATER Act and met with Mexico’s Ambassador to the U.S., Medina Mora, to discuss a pathway forward earlier this year.  Unfortunately, Mexico is still behind on water deliveries to the U.S., and further action is needed to produce a solution in the long-term interest of South Texans. 
“Because the obligations of this treaty have not been met, Texas farmers, ranchers, and small businesses have lost hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Sen. Cornyn. “I want to thank everyone who traveled from the Rio Grande Valley to Washington today to demonstrate a united front with me and Rep. Vela in working on this important issue. I’m hopeful we can soon remove the unnecessary uncertainty Texans face concerning their water supply.”
“Mexico's continued non-compliance with the 1944 water treaty hurts South Texas’ farmers and municipalities,” said Congressman Vela.  “I continue to work with Senator Cornyn, Carlos Rubenstein, Chairman of the Texas Water Development Board and Representative Eddie Lucio, III to solve this problem.  The United States meets its treaty obligations to deliver water to Mexico on the Colorado River.  If Mexico were to abide by the 1944 treaty and deliver water to South Texas on-time, we could focus on other issues such as increasing trade between our two countries.”
“It is hard to explain to water stakeholders in South Texas that despite the fact that the U.S. has never failed to comply with its obligations to deliver water to the Colorado and Rio Grande, we continue to have these problems with Mexico,” said State Representative Eddie Lucio, III.  “It seems only fair that we treat Mexico with the same courtesy, or lack thereof, that they treat us.  Every relationship requires two parties who are committed to one another and we are asking Congress to help establish a context for our relationship with Mexico to flourish.”
“The fundamental problem is that Mexico does not recognize the United States as a user under the treaty and does not set aside water for treaty compliance,” said Carlos Rubinstein.  “Until that changes, water certainty for South Texas remains at risk.”
“The opportunity to meet with both Senator Cornyn and Congressman Vela only confirms how important the water issue is to the Rio Grande Valley and regional economic development,” Julian Alvarez.  “We will continue to work with our local, state and federal partners on this very important issue.”
Full List of Attendees
U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)
U.S. Representative Filemon Vela (TX-34)
State Rep. Eddie Lucio, III (Brownsville)
Carlos Rubinstein, Chairman, Texas Water Development Board
Curtis Seaton, Chief of Staff, Texas Water Development Board
Herman Settemeyer, Rio Grande Compact Commission
Julian Alvarez, President, Rio Grande Valley Partnership