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NATCA’S Proven, Powerhouse Leadership Team, Will Continue To Lead NATCA For The Next Three Years

NATCA Convention 2010 (Micah Maziar (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0))

NATCA Convention 2010 (Micah Maziar (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0))

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi and Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert
to Serve Historic Third Term
 

Over the past twenty-seven years the National Air Traffic Controllers Association has grown to become one of the biggest power players in Washington D.C. NATCA was formed from the ashes of the PATCO strike, when President Ronald Reagan summarily fired over 12,000 air traffic controllers on August 3rd 1981.

The problems that the PATCO controllers talked about – safety, fatigue, and equipment failures – did not go away when the workers were terminated. A few years after that dreadful day, a new generation of controllers began to organize and eventually formed the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA).

NATCA was officially certified as the sole representative for Federal air traffic controllers in an overwhelming election in 1987. Since that small and humble beginning, NATCA has grown to represent over 20,000 public and private air traffic controllers, as well as engineers and safety professionals who help make the National Airspace System the safest and most efficient in the world.

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi

This week the National Air Traffic Controllers Association announced the reelection of President Paul Rinaldi and Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert. They will be the first President and Executive Vice President in the history of NATCA to serve three terms in their respective positions. They ran for the third term unopposed.

“I am honored that the incredible professionals of NATCA give their full support for Executive Vice President Gilbert and me to represent them for another term,” said Rinaldi. “We look forward to continuing our work as their voices in Washington and around the world to enhance collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration and the aviation industry, and to advance the safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System.”

“The opportunity to continue representing my NATCA brothers and sisters is a true privilege,” said Gilbert. “The dedication and passion they have for their professions and the system is unrivaled. Together, we have accomplished so much over the past six years; I’m eager to continue building on the work we’ve done and take NATCA and the National Airspace System to new heights.”

 

Labor Struggles Shape NATCA’s Future

Paul Rinaldi began his career as a controller at Dulles (IAD) Tower where he served as the Facility Representative and the Alternate Regional Vice President for the Eastern Region. Rinaldi’s diverse history in NATCA includes time as an Air Safety Investigator and arbitration advocate.

In 2006, Rinaldi was elected to the National Executive Board as NATCA’s Executive Vice President. At the time, NATCA was in a bitter labor dispute with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA and NATCA could not come to an agreement on their Collective Bargaining Agreement and the FAA unilaterally forced its “last best offer” on to the membership. These “imposed work rules” slashed the pay for newly hired controllers and sparked outrage by the membership.

These were tough times for NATCA members and it would take strong leadership from their then-President Patrick Forrey and his newly elected Executive Vice President Rinaldi. As push came to shove, and speaking became yelling, NATCA members banded together to fight the oppressive work rules. NATCA would later describe this “as the worst time in our union’s history.”

To overcome these “imposed work rules,” NATCA needed a legislative fix and leadership change from the White House down. At the time, Trish Gilbert was the chair of NATCA’s Legislative Committee. This very difficult but prestigious position was responsible for making NATCA’s issues known to the members of Congress.

NATCA had many friends on the Hill, both Republican and Democrat. Trish Gilbert and all of NATCA’s legislative team lobbied the members to help resolve this dispute. NATCA found help from the relatively unknown Junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.

In 2006, then-Senator Barack Obama, spoke to NATCA members at their annual lobby week, NATCA in Washington.

 

Just prior to speaking at the NATCA in Washington event, Senator Obama co-sponsored bi-partisan legislation written by Senators Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and James M. Inhofe, R-Okla — The Federal Aviation Administration Fair Labor Management Dispute Resolution Act of 2006 — to block the FAA from imposing its work rules and require it to bargain in good faith with NATCA.

Though the bill failed to stop the FAA from imposing their “work rules,” Senator Obama solidified his relationship with NATCA and the 15,000 air traffic controllers it represents.

NATCA worked with other labor unions across the nation to help Senator Obama become President Obama.

On top of his other union obligations, (then-Executive Vice President) Rinaldi spend much of his time traveling the country, speaking directly to members about the importance of standing strong against the “imposed work rules” and the importance of electing a President who would stand with NATCA.

(Then-Senator Barack Obama Addresses NATCA members at their convention in 2008)

“President-elect Obama supported NATCA from the beginning in our long struggle for fair collective bargaining rights with the Federal Aviation Administration,” Patrick Forrey, then-President of NATCA wrote in a 2008 statement. “We were proud to support him and join with working men and women across the country to win this campaign.”

Shortly after taking office, President Obama directed the FAA to open negotiations with NATCA and resolve the three-year labor dispute. By the fall of 2009, NATCA and the FAA reached a tentative agreement that was ultimately ratified by the members.

In 2009, just after the agreement was ratified by the membership, NATCA President Forrey stated, “Today, the members of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association overwhelmingly approved a collective bargaining agreement with the FAA. It is a testament to our membership that they have endured the worst time in our union’s history, working towards and holding out for a contract that was negotiated in a fair process and agreed to by the parties.”

“This would not have been possible without the support and commitment of the Obama Administration, key members of Congress and the AFL-CIO in providing a fair and transparent process,” Forrey said. “Now is the time to move forward and forge a working relationship that will stabilize the workforce, effectively train the large number of new hires and keep the current system safe and efficient while we transition to the Next Generation Air Transportation System.”

 

A NEW ERA

Just prior to reaching an agreement with the FAA, Paul Rinaldi was elected President of NATCA and Trish Gilbert was elected Executive Vice President.

“I’m honored that my NATCA brothers and sisters have chosen me to represent them and am equal to the task. Throughout my career, I’ve made it my mission to further the goals of this union and I’m not stopping now,” said Rinaldi.

NATCA's Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert

NATCA’s Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert

Trish Gilbert was very well known throughout NATCA. Over her 21-year career, Gilbert was the Facility Representative at the Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center, chaired NATCA’s National Legislative Committee from 2005-2009, chaired NATCA’s National Organizing Committee and was the NATCA Charitable Foundation’s Vice President, and then its President.

“I congratulate my colleague, friend and NATCA president-elect and am ready to work with him to move our organization to the next level,” said the newly elected Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert in 2009.

The new leadership team of Rinaldi & Gilbert faced both new and familiar challenges. For the three years prior to their taking office, the relationship between NATCA and the FAA was completely broken. Rinaldi and Gilbert led NATCA to a new era of mutual collaboration with the agency. They have made improving the working relationship between NATCA, the FAA and Department of Transportation a top priority. Efforts like the Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP), Professional Standards, and Partnership For Safety are a result of their focus on progress and safety. These processes have led to collaborative decisions on important issues involving airspace, procedures, technology, staffing and training while also raising NATCA’s leadership role and voice in the aviation industry.

 

Political Strife Results In NATCA’s Rise To Power In Washington

2013 would prove to be an especially difficult year for NATCA and its members, as NATCA began warning people about the possible effects the Sequester cuts could have on the National Airspace System and the flying public.

“Sequestration cut nearly $493 million from the FAA’s Operations budget, $142 million from its Facilities and Equipment budget, and $8.6 million from its Research, Engineering, and Development budget,” Rinaldi testified to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “These sequestration cuts were not the result of a research-driven strategy to increase safety and efficiency, but rather for the sole purpose of saving money.”

NATCA Stop the Furloughs“Today’s announcement from the FAA unfortunately confirms the concerns we have been warning about for months – sequestration will significantly and perhaps permanently undermine the capacity of the National Airspace System. The fact that they will not just be furloughing critical FAA personnel but closing air traffic control towers means the system will be even more compromised than anticipated,” said Rinaldi. “The National Air Traffic Controllers Association continues to urge the nation’s policy-makers to find a solution that prevents or mitigates the impact of sequestration in a way that does not diminish the world’s safest and most efficient national airspace system.”

As March 2013 approached, it became clear that the Sequester cuts were going to take effect, and they were going to be painful for the American public. NATCA produced its own report on exactly how the Sequestration cuts would affect the flying public, and explained how every air traffic controller would be forced to take between 11-22 furlough days – forced time off without pay – between March and the end of the fiscal year.

The forced furloughs would mean that at least 10% of the available controllers would be forced off without pay on any given day. The Department of Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, and NATCA warned that this would mean immediate and significant delays throughout the National Airspace System.

NATCA, under the strong leadership of Rinaldi and Gilbert, tried to overturn these disastrous cuts. NATCA worked with legislators from both sides of the political aisle to pass legislation to stop the controller furloughs.

Like many things in life, sometimes you have to lose something to realize how much you really needed it. This was the case with Congress as air traffic controllers were furloughed in April of 2013.

“After just two days of furloughs for air traffic controllers, more than 10,000 flights have been delayed and more than 600 canceled,” wrote the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. “This is no way to run the world’s safest, most efficient national airspace system. Controllers continue to do their best every day to keep the system running. It’s time policymakers show the same amount of effort and dedication.”

Within three days, a bill was put on the floor of the House to end the controller furloughs. Within one week the FAA Furlough Bill was signed into law and controllers returned to work. It clearly showed the importance of the air traffic system and the political might of NATCA.

“Thanks to the action taken this week in Congress, they will be able to return to work full time,” NATCA said. “We applaud the bipartisan nature of the votes and look forward to working closely with the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure the newly granted flexibility is exercised in a way that maintains our national airspace system’s status as the safest and most efficient in the world.”

As 2013 continued, it became more and more obvious that House and Senate were never going to agree on a federal budget. Without a budget the government was forced to shutdown on October 1st. NATCA President Rinaldi and Executive Vice President Gilbert worked with Congress and informed the public of the dire effects on the air traffic system if Congress did not act to end the government shutdown.

“It is unacceptable that thousands of our aviation safety professionals have been forced to stay home due to partisan posturing in Congress,” said Rinaldi. “I implore Congress to reach an agreement to end this shutdown, which is hurtful to our nation’s aviation system, our economy and the American people.”

Image From NATCA

Image From NATCA

15,000 air traffic controllers were forced to go into work without knowing if they would be paid for their work.

“There are grave repercussions as a result of the shutdown on all aspects of the system,” said Rinaldi. “There are real people suffering real consequences as a result of this shutdown. The only way to restore the aviation system to full staffing and speed is to end it right away. This is an increasingly difficult situation that will only worsen as it drags on. The shutdown must be stopped immediately.”

NATCA was not alone in the fight to protect the National Airspace System from the government shutdown. NATCA partnered with unions and aviation advocacy groups calling for an end to the government shutdown.

It took two full weeks before the political winds shifted and the government reopened. NATCA began to make a call for a more stable form of funding, to avoid these problems in the future.

“Sequestration, the shutdown and the uncertainty they have wrought have disrupted flight schedules, peeled away layers of safety redundancies and threatened our ability to maintain fully staffed and trained workforces,” NATCA wrote.

It is clear to see why Paul Rinaldi, Trish Gilbert, and NATCA are helping to shape policies that affect not only the National Airspace System but all of labor as a whole.

At the AFL-CIO 2013 Convention, Rinaldi was elected as a vice president of the labor federation’s Executive Council. Rinaldi also serves as a union representative on the FAA National Labor-Management Forum, a group whose formation was mandated by a presidential executive order to improve labor relations within the federal government.

 

Looking Forward

As Rinaldi and Gilbert begin their historic third term they are facing some significant and pressing political issues. With the Republicans regaining control of the Senate and retaining their control in the House, the attacks on federal workers have already begun.

NATCA continues to call for a more stable funding process, one that will not be affected by the shifting political winds. President Rinaldi testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation. Rinaldi delivered his remarks during a hearing about the upcoming Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization process and options for FAA air traffic control reform.

“NATCA looks forward to working with Congress and other stakeholders to determine a solution that protects air traffic control and secures it for future growth,” said Rinaldi.

Now the entire government is facing deeper cuts due to the Sequester beginning again in this October. This is compounded by the cuts proposed by the House and Senate budgets that would force workers to pay more for benefits, push workers into a new retirement system, hinder the FAA from continuing their modernization efforts and would put addition strain on the workforce.

“End sequester,” Rinaldi said. “It is not conducive to modernizing our system, running our day-to-day operations, and growing aviation, which is an economic engine. We need a predictable funding system so that we can enhance the NAS and continue to be the world leader.”

It will take strong leadership and strong political influence to overcome the issues facing NATCA in the near future. NATCA clearly has both.

 

President Obama To Address The Nation On Immigration, Republicans Threaten Shutdown

Image by Chuck Kennedy (Official White House photo) CC FLKR

Image by Chuck Kennedy (Official White House photo) CC FLKR

Today is the day that millions of aspiring Americans have been waiting for. The day when President Obama stands up to Congress and states clearly that if they will not do something to pass meaningful immigration reform then he will do what he can through executive orders.

It was announced last night that the President would make a prime-time address announcing his plans to stop the deportations of millions of aspiring Americans seeking citizenship. He will also stop the ripping apart of families, by stopping the deportation of the parents of children who are legal US Citizens.

A group of immigration lawyers from across the country sent a letter to President Obama citing his legal authority to defer deportations through executive actions.

“Our letter confirms that the administration has specific legal authority to use prosecutorial discretion as a tool for protecting an individual or group from deportation,” said Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar at Penn State Law. “This legal authority served as foundation for prosecutorial discretion policy across several administrations. Historically, this policy has been premised on the twin policy goals of managing limited resources and shielding people with compelling situations from removal.”

“This letter reflects a clear, broad, and informed consensus on two key points,” said Hiroshi Motomura, Susan Westerberg Prager Professor at UCLA School of Law. “First, the president has the legal authority, exercising his discretion as the nation’s top immigration prosecutor, to establish enforcement priorities. Second, the president’s lawful discretion includes the authority to set up an orderly system, modeled on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), for granting temporary relief from deportation.”

“It is well established that the President has the legal authority to end this crisis by granting temporary relief to a broad class of workers,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “It is also equally established that current enforcement of immigration law is at odds with our American vision of a just society and our values of family, hard work and fairness.”

President Obama’s Executive Order would protect nearly 5 million people currently residing in the United States.

Of course the Republicans were quick to respond to the announcement with more threats to harm real Americans if the President takes action without Congress.

“If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his Constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for Congressional action on this issue — and many others,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.

Senator Marco Rubio who once championed immigration reform in the Senate now is hints of a government shutdown if the President takes executive action on Immigration.

The Des Moines Register reported that Rep Steven King wants to tie executive action on immigration to funding the government.

“If the president wields his pen and commits that unconstitutional act to legalize millions, I think that becomes something that is nearly political nuclear …,” King said. “I think the public would be mobilized and galvanized and that changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution and how we might deal with that.”

King said if that happens, House-passed legislation on border security, including rolling back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, order, “becomes a requirement” for a continuing resolution.

Over the last six months conservative pundits has indicated that President Obama’s threat to defer action on deportations is unlawful and would warrant everything from a government shutdown to all out impeachment.

The irony of this is that Republicans have already forgotten that their hero, President Ronald Regan, took similar action to provide amnesty to over 3 million undocumented residents.

“The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) gave up to 3 million unauthorized immigrants a path to legalization if they had been “continuously” present in the U.S. since January 1, 1982 (The Hill).

The IRCA was not without issues, forcing the government to deport the immediate family members of those who were covered under the new order.

President George H.W. Bush followed up the IRCA with a “family fairness” policy that would close the loophole in the IRCA in turn protecting another 1.5 million aspiring Americans. The combination of the “family fairness” policy and President Reagan’s executive action provided amnesty to over 40% of the undocumented population living in the United States.

President Obama’s proposal to some seems extreme, however it would cover approximately 40% of the undocumented population currently residing in the United States.

The battle is set to begin tonight as President Obama lays out his plan to help millions of aspiring Americans.

The current government funding extension will expire on December 11th and we will have to wait to see if the Republicans will harm millions of Americans in their opposition to the President by completely shutting down the government.

 

Related Articles:

When Reagan and GHW Bush took bold executive action on immigration.

The American Immigration Council And The AFL-CIO Push For An Executive Order On Immigration

Obama’s Immigration Plan Could Shield Four Million

Rep Shea-Porter Votes For Omnibus Budget Bill Ending Threat Of Shutdown

Shea-Porter Supports Bipartisan Appropriations Bill to Invest in New Hampshire and Avert a Government Shutdown

Compromise spending bill would restore COLA funding for disabled veterans and alleviate some of sequestration’s reckless cuts to NH’s economy

Legislation includes key funding for PNSY, NH National Guard, Granite State Veterans, Seacoast Fishermen, LIHEAP, Head Start, Meals on Wheels, and First Responders

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3547, an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government through Fiscal Year 2014. The legislation earned the support of Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) because it prevents another government shutdown and invests in New Hampshire’s economy and programs vital to the middle class.

“I think it’s shameful that this omnibus bill did not include emergency unemployment insurance and only partially restores the COLA adjustment for military retirees, but I voted for this bill because it’s a bipartisan compromise that invests in New Hampshire’s economy, keeps our post offices open, and reverses some of sequestration’s damaging cuts to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the New Hampshire National Guard, Head Start, Meals on Wheels, LIHEAP, and other vital programs,” Shea-Porter said.

“This legislation ensures that Congress won’t repeat another costly government shutdown, but it is far from perfect. It only repeals the 1% reduction in the annual military pension cost-of-living adjustment for disabled military retirees and their survivors because my amendment to fully repeal the cuts was not accepted by the Republican-controlled Rules Committee. However, this bill is a modest step down the long road towards growing our economy and governing responsibly,” Shea-Porter said.

H.R.3547 adheres to the compromise funding levels agreed to in Bipartisan Budget Act, legislation which passed in December. As mandated by the bipartisan budget agreement, it includes a total of $1.012 trillion in regular defense and non-defense discretionary funding.

This bill makes significant strategic investments in New Hampshire, and includes a number of measures championed by Shea-Porter. Highlights follow.

AVERTS A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

·         The compromise $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill would fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2014, thus keeping the government open. The legislation passed the House of Representatives 359-67 earlier today, and the Senate is expected to vote on the bill tonight. President Obama urged swift passage of the legislation, which needs to be signed by January 18, 2014 in order to prevent another government shutdown.

PORTSMOUTH NAVAL SHIPYARD

·         The bill provides $11.5 million for new military construction at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The legislation also includes a strong mark in favor of submarine programs – fully funding the second 2014 Virginia class submarine, preserving funding for the Virginia Payload Module, and continuing development of the Ohio Replacement.  Congresswoman Shea-Porter and other members of the House New England delegation advocated for full funding of these submarine programs.

NEW HAMPSHIRE NATIONAL GUARD

·         KC-46A Tanker:  The legislation appropriates $1.6 billion to fully fund continued development of the KC-46A air refueling tanker. Shea-Porter has strongly supported bringing the KC-46A to Pease. In the 110th Congress, she secured almost $9 million in funding to build a new facility for the WING Headquarters Operations and Training facility at the base. In the 111th Congress, she also secured $10 million to help the 157th Operations Group, which is responsible for the air refueling mission, consolidate its components into a single building, thus improving its command communications and overall efficiency of operations. In March, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter toured the Pease Air National Guard base to meet with Air Force and Air Guard leaders and show her continued support for Pease and the 157th Air Refueling Wing as the Air Force evaluated final candidates to receive the KC-46A tanker. Prior to that, Congresswoman Shea-Porter joined New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation in sending a letter to the Air Force Chief of Staff expressing support for the selection of Pease.

·         National Guard equipment procurement: The bill exceeds full funding for National Guard and Reserves equipment.

DEFENSE, VETERANS, AND WOUNDED WARRIORS

·         Veterans Backlog: The bill appropriates $320 million to deal with the claims backlog at the Veterans Administration. Shea-Porter has worked consistently to reduce the Veterans Administration’s (VA) disability claims backlog. In October, she voted in favor of bipartisan reforms to help reduce the backlog.

·         Veterans Homelessness: The bill fully funds the President’s request for $10,000 new veterans’ housing vouchers at $75 million.

·         PTSD Therapy: The bill contains Shea-Porter’s bipartisan amendment to provide $4 million in funding for an innovative dog-training therapy program that is a safe, effective, non-drug intervention to treat the symptoms of PTSD and TBI in returning service members. Shea-Porter championed the program along with Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ). The amendment was fully paid for.

·         Retired Military COLA: The omnibus appropriations legislation repeals the 1% reduction in the annual military pension cost-of-living adjustment for disabled military retirees and their survivors.  Yesterday, Shea-Porter offered an amendment to fully repeal reductions in the military retiree cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) that were included in the Bipartisan Budget Act.

·         TRICARE: The legislation includes $218 million increase for the TRICARE health insurance program for military personnel, military retirees and their dependents, to protect beneficiaries against increases in out-of-pocket costs. Shea-Porter included  language in the National Defense Authorization Act would help military families receive access to alternative physical therapies under the TRICARE program.

·         Wounded Warriors: The legislation includes $585.6 million for prosthetic research, which is $3.5 million above the 2013 enacted level.

·         Military Pay Raise: The agreement would fund a requested 1 percent pay raise for members of the Armed Forces and the DOD civilian workforce.

·         Defense and Small Business: Exceeds full funding by $175 million for the Defense Rapid Innovation Program to incorporate small business developments into Department of Defense programs.

DISASTER RELIEF AND FIRST RESPONDERS

·         Federal Emergency Management Agency: The bill allocates $6.2 billion for disaster relief – fully funding FEMA’s stated requirement. The bill also provides a total of $2.5 billion for first responder grants, $39 million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level, including:

o   $1.5 billion for state and local grants,

o   $680 million for Assistance to Firefighter Grants, and

o   $350 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants.

o   Additionally, the bill includes a House amendment that delays certain premium increases in the National Flood Insurance Program.

EDUCATION

·         TRIO: 95 percent of the sequestration cuts to TRIO were restored. Congresswoman Shea-Porter has been a leading advocate of investments in effective programs such as TRIO. In June, she led a group of 21 Representatives in sending a letter to the House Appropriations Committee requesting that Federal TRIO Programs be protected from further cuts under sequestration in Fiscal Year 2014.

·         K-12 Funding: The $625 million increase in Title I funds over post-sequester funding levels will help support an additional 1 million students, and the $498 million increase over post-sequester funding for IDEA grants will cover the costs of an additional 6,000 special education staff.

·         Head Start: The bill restores the Head Start sequestration cuts and gives grantees a 1.3 percent cost-of-living increase.  Allows the Education Department and HHS to jointly administer a new $250 million competitive grant program for states to develop or expand high-quality preschool programs for low-income families.  In addition, the bill provides a $36 million boost to the Child Care Block Grant program for a total of $2.36 billion.

·         Pell Grants: The maximum annual award, which still must be confirmed by the Education Department and is based on inflation, is likely to rise by $85 to $5,730.

INFRASTRUCTURE

·         New Hampshire Rail: The bill restores funding for the Amtrak Downeaster passenger rail line that runs through New Hampshire’s Seacoast. Under previous appropriations bills, funding would have expired. By sending two letters to the Department of Transportation, Shea-Porter and the New England delegation worked toward restoration of the $6 million a year in Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funding that supports this critical regional infrastructure.

·         Highways: The bill includes a $557 million increase to Highway funding above the FY 2013 amount.

LIHEAP

·         The legislation includes $3.425 billion in funding for LIHEAP, a $169 million increase over FY 2013 levels. As Granite Staters face another cold winter, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has repeatedly called on Congress to increase funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). In April, she sent a bipartisan letter requesting that funding for LIHEAP be authorized at a level of $5.1 billion in FY2014.

MEALS ON WHEELS

·         The omnibus bill contains a $41 million increase for Meals on Wheels, a nutrition program for seniors. Shea-Porter has visited Meals on Wheels in New Hampshire and has spoken out about the fact that under sequestration, Meals on Wheels programs were forced to cut, on average, 364 meals per week and have increased their waiting lists on average by 58 seniors.

NEW HAMPSHIRE FISHERMEN

·         Disaster Relief: $75 million will be allocated toward fishery disaster, thanks to this legislation. Shea-Porter has been a vocal supporter of this program. In early 2013, Shea-Porter wrote to Speaker of the House John Boehner and cosponsored an amendment to reinstate disaster aid.

PRIVACY

·         National Security Agency (NSA): Today’s Appropriations bill would require the National Security Agency to provide Congress the number of phone records collected and reviewed during the last five years, including an estimate of the number belonging to U.S. citizens. The agency would also have to provide an unclassified report describing all spy programs that collect bulk data, including the cost of the programs and what type of records are being collected or what kind of data the agency plans to collect in the future. Shea-Porter has been an outspoken critic of the dragnet collection of data by government agencies. She has called for increased transparency, oversight, and accountability over domestic surveillance.

US POSTAL SERVICE

·         Saturday Mail: The legislation forbids ending Saturday mail or closing rural post offices. Shea-Porter is a cosponsor of H.Res 30, which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the Postal Service should maintain six-day delivery. She believes the US Postal Service is a vital resource for communities in New Hampshire and that eliminating Saturday mail delivery would hurt consumers and fail to adequately address the issues facing the United States Postal Service.

The bill shamefully does not include an extension of emergency unemployment compensation, an issue that Shea-Porter has repeatedly raised with Speaker Boehner and her colleagues. Today, Congresswoman Shea-Porter requested unanimous consent to end Republican’s refusal to allow a vote on extending emergency unemployment compensation.

“It is deeply disappointing that Republicans in Washington continue to block a vote to renew emergency unemployment compensation and help job-seekers in New Hampshire,” Shea-Porter said. “This is not the end of the line. I’ll continue to fight for a jobs bill and an extension of emergency unemployment insurance for those looking for work.”

The Rules change that could end gridlock in the US House

Record dysfunction in Congress: it’s NOT just the Senate, and NOT just the filibuster.

Republican extremists in the House have also been using parliamentary tricks to block legislation – including bills that had bipartisan support and would have passed if our elected Representatives were actually allowed to vote.

“The use of ‘closed rules’ has excluded most House members from full participation in the legislative process,” Rep. Louise Slaughter, ranking Democrat on the House Rules Committee, wrote earlier this week.

“Under a closed rule, no amendments are allowed on the House floor. As a result, House Republicans are able to pursue a politically driven agenda without allowing commonsense amendments that could achieve bipartisan compromise.  This approach has also empowered the most extreme members of the House to pursue narrow policy goals at all costs.”

Like, say, the government shutdown.

“On Sept. 30 — the eve of the government shutdown — Republicans on the House Rules Committee changed the rule so only House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) could call up a Senate-passed clean funding bill — a bill that has the votes to pass the House and would end the shutdown, if it were given a vote.”

One man, standing in the way of a vote that impacts millions of Americans.  (Remind you of anything?  Such as: then-Senator Scott Brown single-handedly blocking an extension of unemployment benefits, back in 2010?  The Senate couldn’t vote until they added an extension of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.)

This is what’s REALLY wrong with Congress:  our elected Representatives aren’t being allowed to vote on legislation that has bipartisan support.

GOP leadership is using the “closed rule” process to keep the House from passing legislation.  Last year was the most “closed” year in House history.  “In fact, the House GOP passed as many closed rules in a single week in October as during the entire last year of Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) speakership.”

The Senate is finally reforming the filibuster.

Isn’t it time for the House to reform the “closed rule” process?

Working Families Can’t Afford Another Shutdown Style Crisis (by Richard Trumka & Mark Mackenzie)

By Mark MacKenzie and Richard Trumka

NH AFL-CIO LogoLast month, we saw Washington at its worst. Driven by the Tea Party, Republican leaders, including Senator Ayotte, recklessly shut down our government and brought our nation to the brink of default. Ignoring voices of reason from working families across New Hampshire, some of our leaders in Congress listened to shouts of “shut it down” and inflicted unnecessary damage to our economy.

The shutdown cost 120,000 jobs in the first two weeks of October and will reduce economic growth by at least .25% in the fourth quarter. Here in New Hampshire it directly impacted 4,069 federal workers and countless residents who rely on federal services.

Thankfully, reason prevailed, Republican leaders relented and Congress appointed negotiators to work on a new budget agreement.

Now it’s on to the next fight in Washington.  But before we get caught up in another news cycle where extremists convince us we shouldn’t invest in our future, it is worth noting that a congressional budget is a vision. It is a blueprint that outlines our priorities as a nation. A good budget invests in America. It doesn’t rob our government of the resources it needs to succeed. A good budget properly funds its obligations and promotes the creation of well-paying jobs. It doesn’t bargain away protections for our seniors and it isn’t balanced on the backs of working families.

As Democrats and Republicans spend this month negotiating how to avoid another government shutdown, it is important to remind Washington politicians about what working families need.

The recovery is still being dragged down by the repeated budget crises manufactured by Republicans in Congress.  Budget austerity in the Tea Party Congress has already slowed annual economic growth by 0.7%, cost 1.2 million jobs, and increased the unemployment rate by 0.8%, according to Macroeconomic Advisers.

First, Congress should repeal the sequester it created, not replace it. The sequester’s dumb across-the-board cuts have hurt everything from education to child care to medical research. Here in New Hampshire, much attention has been given to the hardworking workers at our Shipyard and National Guard members who have faced furloughs as a result of defense cuts. But sequestration is also forcing layoffs and cutbacks to other critical programs that provide job training, education, and other services.

Repealing the sequester would generate 800,000 jobs by this time next year, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  The next budget should undo this painful damage— and not replace it with other harmful cuts.

Most importantly, policymakers in Washington must reject proposals to cut Social Security, Medicaid, or Medicare benefits.  They should avoid deficit hysteria promoted by billionaires and the 1%. Instead of terrifying our parents and grandparents with threats to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits they’ve earned, politicians should protect these vital programs that have shielded the elderly and vulnerable from poverty for generations. Our nation’s safety net should be strengthened, not weakened, because working people need more economic security, not less.

Instead, Congress should look to raise new revenue by repealing the tax subsidies that encourage corporations to send jobs overseas and ending special tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.  When the average CEO’s salary for the first morning on the job is the same amount the average worker makes in a year, it’s clear that the wealthiest Americans and corporations making record profits can pay their fair share.

Ending these undeserved and wasteful tax breaks would allow us to invest in our workforce and create the well-paying jobs millions so desperately need. By rebuilding our infrastructure, education, and manufacturing base, we can create good jobs with good benefits and provide relief to our struggling working and middle class. This is America, after all.  No job should trap anyone in a vicious cycle of poverty.

By focusing on helping working families instead of how to score political points, Congress can produce a budget that supports an economy that works for all. It is time for Senator Ayotte to realize that instead of shutting down progress, she needs to listen to the needs of the hardworking voters who sent her to Washington.

Richard Trumka is President of the AFL-CIO. Mark MacKenzie is President of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.

LTE: The Government Shutdown Cost Taxpayers $24 Billion – Why Is Senator Ayotte Not Upset About That?

Like many of my neighbors, I was relieved when the government shutdown ended. Yet unless Republicans in Congress stop throwing temper tantrums to get what they want, these fights will not be going away. They aren’t cheap: This 15-day shutdown cost our government $24 billion, and that doesn’t include the cost to New Hampshire’s economy. Navy yard contractors and Portsmouth businesses took a huge hit.

It is ridiculous that Sen. Kelly Ayotte harps on the value of fiscal responsibility but does nothing to reign in Tea Party excesses. Her Tea Party leaders nearly destroyed America’s credit rating while wasting billions of dollars. When she was sworn into office she promised to represent the interests of New Hampshire families, yet under her watch her own party has enacted policies that have cost New Hampshire families jobs and income. She has done nothing to stop them. She is, in fact, doing the opposite by putting forward so-called solutions that will perpetuate the Tea Party’s job killing agenda.

Ayotte’s priorities are backward. New Hampshire’s families should come before her Washington buddies.

Lew Henry
Gilmanton

LTE: Senator Ayotte Avoiding Her Constituents

Senator Kelly AyotteTo the editor:

I was excited to hear that Kelly Ayotte is hosting town halls to hear from her constituents about our country’s finances. Sadly, as they are being held in towns like Whitefield and Jackson, both considerable distances from me or most of her other constituents, I won’t have the opportunity to speak with her.

It is a shame because I would like to hear her plans for addressing our country’s finances. The government shutdown cost us $24 billion dollars alone and will reduce our country’s economic growth by 0.6% in the coming months. According to the economic forecasting company Macroeconomic Advisors, additional budget cuts since 2012 have cost 1.2 million jobs and increased our unemployment rate by 0.8%. Now there is talk of cutting into safety net programs like Social Security.

Here is what I would tell Senator Ayotte: your plans for addressing our country’s finances so far have hurt New Hampshire families, including my own, and they will be hurting New Hampshire seniors very soon if you don’t change course. So what is your plan for changing course?

Rick Rothwell
Manchester, NH

Kuster Leads 178 Democrats In Calling on Speaker Boehner to End Threat of Government Shutdown and Default

In letter to Speaker Boehner, Kuster and colleagues urge House Republican leadership to publicly declare they will not use threat of a government shutdown or default as leverage in budget negotiations 

Estimates show recent shutdown cost U.S. economy $24 billion, reduced 4th quarter GDP growth by 0.6 percent, and triggered higher interest rates that added $100 million to deficit in final week of shutdown alone 

Kuster to Boehner: No More Shutdowns

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As lawmakers from both parties begin to negotiate a long-term budget agreement, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (CT-05) are leading a coalition of 178 Democratic lawmakers in calling on Speaker Boehner and Republican leadership to publicly declare that they will not use the threat of another government shutdown or default as leverage in budget talks. Underscoring the economic damage caused by the recent shutdown, the group of lawmakers said that Congress must work together to pass a responsible budget agreement and take the crippling twin threats of a shutdown and default off the table for good.

“We are sending a clear message to the Republican leadership on behalf of the American people – No More Shutdowns,” said Kuster and Esty.

“The 16-day-long federal government shutdown is over and default on America’s debt has been averted, although no one is relieved that this latest crisis ever occurred.  Now, we are deeply concerned that the American people are in danger of another shutdown or threat of default early next year,” the lawmakers wrote. “The most powerful source of uncertainty to American families and businesses is the threat of a government shutdown and default on our debts. That is why we are writing to you to urge you and your leadership to publicly declare that you will not again use the threat of a government shutdown or default as leverage in the important discussions regarding long-term deficit reduction and economic growth.”

Earlier this month, Kuster was part of a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers that voted for a compromise measure that ended the shutdown, prevented a default, and gave Congress more time to work together on a balanced, long-term budget agreement. During the shutdown, Kuster wrote an op-ed calling on Speaker Boehner to let Congress vote on a simple, bipartisan bill to fully end the shutdown so that Congress could return its focus to helping create jobs and opportunity for middle class families.

 

The full text of the group’s letter is below:

October 31, 2013
Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House
Washington, D.C.  20515

Dear Mr. Speaker,

The 16-day-long federal government shutdown is over and default on America’s debt has been averted, although no one is relieved that this latest crisis ever occurred.  Now, we are deeply concerned that the American people are in danger of another shutdown or threat of default early next year.

The most powerful source of uncertainty to American families and businesses is the threat of a government shutdown and default on our debts. That is why we are writing to you to urge you and your leadership to publicly declare that you will not again use the threat of a government shutdown or default as leverage in the important discussions regarding long-term deficit reduction and economic growth. 

The American people depend on their elected representatives to be problem solvers and get our work done. When we fail to do our job, however, it is not the American people who should pay the price for our inability to reach critical agreements. 

The cost to our nation is too high. The absence of paychecks to hundreds of thousands of federal employees during the course of the shutdown caused real economic hardship to those employees and their families and to private businesses whose livelihoods were affected by the shutdown.

Ratings agencies and economists from across the political spectrum agree that the shutdown and threat of default took a real toll on our economy and that the possibility of repeating these crises is causing ongoing uncertainty and economic weakness. 

  • Standard & Poor’s estimated that the recent shutdown cost our economy $24 billion and reduced 4th quarter GDP growth by 0.6 percent. The shutdown triggered higher short-term interest rates, adding $100 million to the federal budget deficit in the last week of the shutdown alone.  And Standard & Poor’s said that the threat of another shutdown and possible default weighs heavily on the economy.  “The short turnaround for politicians to negotiate some sort of lasting deal will weigh on consumer confidence, especially among government workers that were furloughed,” the agency said in its October 16 report.
  • Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, “said he has downgraded his projected growth for the gross domestic product for the last quarter of this year from 2.6 percent to 2.1 percent because of the shutdown and simply the threat that Congress would not raise the debt ceiling on time,” according the Times-Tribune of Scranton, PA.
  • Joel Naroff, founder of Naroff Economic Advisors, said the “shutdown trimmed fourth-quarter growth by 20% – an outcome any business would ‘consider a disaster’,” according to USA Today.
  • Gennadiy Goldberg, economist at TD Securities, said, “’The recovery is on hold for another four months,’ citing the unresolved differences in Washington over the government budget,” according to Thompson/Reuters.
  • And Adam Posen of the Peterson Institute for International Economics said, “This will accelerate the rate at which the Chinese renminbi becomes accepted — at least throughout Asia — as an alternative to the dollar, or Chinese government bonds become accepted as an alternative [to U.S. Treasurys],” according to National Public Radio.

This sobering economic hardship should have never been visited upon the American people. The shutdown and threat of default were unnecessary and costly. 

Congress has voted itself 90 days to reach a long-term budget agreement. We respectfully request that Congress work hard to reach an agreement sooner than that and that you and your colleagues in leadership remove the threat of another shutdown or default on America’s debt as a weapon in these talks.

We are working in good faith to meet our responsibilities and achieve the goals set out in last week’s agreement to open the government and avoid default.  All House Democrats and some Republicans voted for that agreement.  By acting now to take the threat of another shutdown or default off the table you can provide certainty and economic relief that American families and privates businesses desperately need.

Unions Praise The End Of The Government Shutdown That Should Never Have Happened.

For the last two weeks federal workers across the country have been waiting for Congress to take action and reopen the government.  While the government shutdown is over, union leaders appear guarded.  They are all happy to see the end of the Government shutdown and make a plea to never let this happen again.

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. today issued the following statement:

“On behalf of the 670,000 federal employees represented by AFGE, I am thrilled that a deal was reached to put our members back to work and restore the services American taxpayers count on. But make no mistake about it, this is not a happy day for federal employees. The Senate deal is simply a brief reprieve from the suffering federal employees and their families have endured for the past sixteen days. We cannot accept another government shutdown in just a few short weeks; federal workers and the public they serve have suffered enough….”

“….I am glad that lawmakers were able to come together to end this crisis without giving in to a radical group of hostage takers. Particular credit goes to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who exhibited extraordinary leadership during this trying time and held firm to his convictions.  But those who perpetrated this inexcusable catastrophe on the American people should be turned out of office in 2014.

“In the coming weeks AFGE will fight all attempts to cut federal pay, retirement, or health care as Congress hashes out FY 14 spending levels. Federal employees are nobody’s bargaining chip. Our message to lawmakers is clear: No more cuts, no more furloughs, no more sacrifices on the backs of hardworking Americans. We will also fight to protect Social Security and Medicare benefits from any reductions, including cuts from the so-called chained CPI.”

AFSCME President Lee Saunders stated:

“For two weeks, Republican congressional leaders were derelict in their duty. They allowed a fringe element in their party – one vastly out of step with American values and priorities — to shut our government down and bring the country to the brink of defaulting on its financial obligations. Their actions demonstrated a callous disregard for this nation’s citizens, businesses and the economy.

The agreement reached is by no means perfect because it continues the Draconian cuts in public services until the next deadline in January. But after 16 days, this shutdown ordeal has come to an end. It should never happen again. The hardworking women and men of this country deserve better.” Via Facebook

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO released a statement after the debt deal was announced.

Finally — after more than two weeks of government shutdown, with hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work and billions of dollars in avoidable losses — Republican leaders have stood down.  While it is good news that we have avoided a crisis, we all know that it should never have happened.  No party or faction inside a party should hold our economy hostage to extract political gains.   We commend President Obama, Majority Leader Reid, and the leadership of the Democratic party for standing firm and resisting extortion….

“….We desperately need to create an economy that works for all.  The across the board sequester cuts hamper that effort and must be repealed.  We need to focus on big ideas and the future – rather than getting bogged down in petty political battles.

Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – issued the following statement:

“Thousands of LIUNA workers who have been furloughed due to the Republican government shutdown can breathe a brief sigh of relief. But the mere functioning of our democracy won’t be enough to avoid the economic brinksmanship we’ve witnessed over the past several weeks from those on the Tea Party fringe. Rebuilding America’s future will take more leaders with the moral courage to rebuild American bipartisanship. The partisan circus has to end because our tax dollars pay for both Republicans and Democrats to do their job of passing legislation that invests in our crumbling roads, bridges and waterways and reforms our broken immigration system, so that every worker has a chance to realize the American Dream.”

Even Congressional members chastised the GOP in holding the country hostage and forcing the government shutdown.  The shutdown cost taxpayers billions, all for nothing.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter stated:

“The shutdown cost our economy $24 billion, and it costs thousands of Americans access to vital government services. We cannot continue to govern by crisis. It hurts small businesses, working families, and America’s economic standing in the world.

“Going forward, Congress must work out a long-term budget to reduce the deficit, invest in job creation, and strengthen the middle class. I am hopeful that cooler heads will prevail in that debate and that our country will benefit from more common sense.”

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan echoed Congresswoman Shea-Porter’s sentiments.

“While I am pleased that Congress finally reached an agreement to end the federal government shutdown and avert a catastrophic default, this entire episode was reckless and unnecessary, and it caused real harm to New Hampshire’s families and economy. 

“With today’s agreement, there are new deadlines in place, but the days of Washington operating by showdown must end. The uncertainty caused by each successive confrontation hurts our economy and puts senseless strain on families.”

Even Senator Ayotte (R-NH) agrees that we need to stop jumping from crisis to crisis. 

Americans are rightfully tired and frustrated, and we owe it to them to stop governing by crisis and start working together to solve problems.”
(From the Union Leader)

This debit ceiling deal means the total economic collapse was avoided.  The deal also means that federal workers will return to work immediately and will receive back pay.  There is also another little piece of good news for federal workers.

Federal workers will received a “1 percent pay raise beginning Jan. 1.  It would be the first across-the-board pay raise for feds since 2010. ”

Where do we go from here? Do we need to start a new countdown clock till this continuing resolution expires in January and we hit the debt ceiling again in February?  This type of legislating from crisis to crisis must end.  This is one of the reasons why our national economy is still struggling to recover.  Every time things start moving forward, up pops another crisis.

The GOP is in for a rude awakening in 2014 if they do not start working with Democrats in the House and Senate.  The American people are pissed off at Congress at a whole but most of the blame falls squarely on the Republican leadership in the House.

 

Only 89 Days (or less) till the next crisis.

Senator Shaheen Reiterates Call To Reopen The Government

Image from Senator Shaheen's Website

Image from Senator Shaheen’s Website

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) hosted The Provident Bank President Chuck Withee this afternoon at a Small Business Committee hearing where she also renewed her call for a bipartisan solution to end the government shutdown.  At the hearing Shaheen cited the severe consequences the shutdown is having on the economy and Withee specifically noted how lending has stalled due to the shutdown which has caused uncertainty and hurt New Hampshire small businesses as a result.  The hearing provided a forum for multiple small business owners to discuss the government shutdown’s impact on their businesses.

“The brinkmanship in Washington is hurting New Hampshire businesses and jobs and it needs to end,” Shaheen said. “I share the frustration and worry about the very real consequences on small businesses and families of this unnecessary shutdown.

“Holding jobs, the economy and critical services hostage to score political points is irresponsible,” Shaheen added. “We need to work together to do what’s right for our country and get our government running again.”

The Small Business Committee hearing is the second official meeting this year focused on the impact of Congressional impasses on small businesses. Earlier this year, the Committee held a roundtable on the impacts of the indiscriminate budget cuts which Shaheen voted to replace in a responsible Senate Budget Resolution in March. In New Hampshire small businesses make up 96 percent of the state’s employers and nationally, small businesses create two out of every three new jobs. The shutdown has put a stop on critical sources of small business credit, services and economic certainty.

“Small businesses across New Hampshire are suffering for every day the government is shut down,” said Withee, who testified at the Small Business Committee hearing. “The impact is real – small businesses don’t have the certainty they need to function and that hurts every aspect of our economy.  Each day Congress doesn’t reopen the government only makes our situation worse.”

Withee also noted that The Provident Bank, which has offices in Southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts, has had twelve small business loans for a total of $2.7 million stall because of the shutdown, resulting in uncertainty for business owners.

Shaheen has been part of a bipartisan effort to end the obstructionism that has paralyzed Congress and has repeatedly urged for bipartisan cooperation to reopen the government.  Shaheen has also advocated for Congress to reform its broken budget process and convert it to a two-year biennial budget cycle. She joined Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) to introduce legislation  to convert the annual spending process to a two-year budget cycle, which the Senate adopted as an amendment to its budget resolution passed in March.

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