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163 Members of Congress Demand a Vote, Not Silence, to Prevent Gun Violence

Gun

Reps. Shea-Porter, Thompson Lead 163 House Members in Calling for a Vote on Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

WASHINGTON, DC – In the wake of recent shootings in Portland, Las Vegas, and Santa Barbara, Representatives Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), a member of the House’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, and Task Force Chairman Mike Thompson (CA-05) led a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) signed by 163 Members of Congress demanding a vote on substantive legislation to address gun violence.

“Our nation has suffered at least 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre,” Shea-Porter, Thompson, and 161 of their colleagues wrote. “The factors allowing these rampages are no mystery: loopholes in the background check laws, straw purchases, restrictions on law enforcement, and gaps in our mental health system. Dozens of legislative proposals that address these factors have been introduced and await consideration. But despite wake-up call after wake-up call, a shameful tradition of Congressional inaction continues.”

“Moments of silence on the floor of the House are not enough.  The last thing these victims and their families need is further silence from this Congress. They deserve a vote,” they continued.

Recently on the floor of the House of Representatives, Shea-Porter called on Speaker Boehner to allow a vote on legislation to help prevent more deaths from senseless gun violence.

The Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, which is chaired by Thompson, released a comprehensive set of policy principles that will reduce gun violence and respect the Second Amendment.

Of those recommendations, one of the most important pieces is H.R. 1565, bipartisan legislation written by Reps. Thompson and Peter King (R-NY) and cosponsored by Rep. Shea-Porter, to strengthen and expand background checks. This legislation bolsters the Second Amendment rights of lawful gun owners and helps keep guns from criminals, terrorists, and the dangerously mentally ill.

Right now, a criminal in many states can buy a firearm at a gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad because those sales don’t require a background check.  H.R. 1565 requires comprehensive and enforceable background checks on all commercial gun sales, including those at gun shows, over the Internet, or through classified ads, while providing reasonable exceptions for family and friends. Background checks would be conducted though a licensed dealer in the same manner as they have been for more than 40 years. The Thompson-King bill bans the creation of a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“Congressional silence is not a sign of respect, but rather an institutional indictment. We must right this wrong. You must allow a vote on substantive legislation to address gun violence,” Shea-Porter, Thompson and others concluded in their letter.

Full text of the letter to Speaker John Boehner is below. The full list of signatories can be found here.

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June 26, 2014
Speaker John Boehner
Office of the Speaker
H-232, US Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

We agree with you that we must honor the victims of the recent shootings in Portland, Las Vegas and Santa Barbara. But moments of silence on the floor of the House are not enough.  The last thing these victims and their families need is further silence from this Congress. They deserve a vote.

Our nation has suffered at least 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre. The factors allowing these rampages are no mystery: loopholes in the background check laws, straw purchases, restrictions on law enforcement, and gaps in our mental health system. Dozens of legislative proposals that address these factors have been introduced and await consideration. But despite wake-up call after wake-up call, a shameful tradition of Congressional inaction continues.

Gun violence has affected constituents in every Congressional district, and as their representatives, Members of Congress deserve the opportunity to vote on bills that would address this epidemic. 

Congressional silence is not a sign of respect, but rather an institutional indictment. We must right this wrong. You must allow a vote on substantive legislation to address gun violence.

Sincerely,

 

Congresswoman Kuster Calls For A Vote On Unemployment Insurance

Annie Kuster Introducing Bill

With time running out, Congresswoman Kuster presses for a vote on bill to extend Unemployment Insurance for Granite Staters

In letter to Speaker Boehner, Kuster urges action on legislation to renew the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which would give Granite Staters struggling to find work a vital lifeline

Without Congressional action, 1.3 million Americans – including 1,300 Granite Staters – will be cut off from vital unemployment insurance benefits just days after Christmas

Kuster to Boehner: With less than 10 legislative days remaining before benefits expire, the time to act is now

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With critical unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed set to expire just days after Christmas, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) today called on Speaker Boehner to allow a vote on legislation to renew the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for another year. In a letter to Speaker Boehner, Kuster said that an extension of unemployment insurance benefits will provide a vital lifeline to Granite Staters and other Americans who are still struggling to find work as the economy continues to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression. Kuster, who also reiterated her call for Congress to focus like a laser on job creation, underscored that with only ten legislative days remaining before benefits are set to expire, the time for action is now.

“While our economy has made important progress since the Great Recession, too many people in New Hampshire and across the country are still struggling to find work. Now is not the time to cut off unemployment insurance benefits that are helping these families survive as they search for jobs,” Kuster wrote. “I therefore respectfully request that you allow a simple vote on legislation that will protect these benefits and the hardworking families who count on them.”

Last month, Kuster cosponsored legislation that would extend unemployment insurance benefits for another year and highlighted a report which estimated that without Congressional action, 1.3 million Americans – including 1,300 Granite Staters – would be cut off from their benefits on December 28.

Last year, unemployment compensation helped keep 2.5 million Americans out of poverty, including 600,000 children. Not only would losing these benefits hurt New Hampshire families, it would also have a negative impact on economic growth. Recent estimates have found that allowing the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program to expire would cost our economy 310,000 jobs and reduce first-quarter economic growth by roughly four-tenths of a percentage point in 2014.

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was first authorized in 2008 and has been reauthorized on several occasions since then, most recently as part of the Jan. 1, 2013 fiscal cliff agreement, with the number of weeks of federal benefits substantially reduced over the last two years.

Key findings from the report Kuster highlighted last month include:

  • 1,300 Granite Staters will lose unemployment insurance on December 28, 2013
  • Failure to extend unemployment insurance would cost economy 310,000 jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute
  • 37% of unemployed have been without a job for longer than six months
  • Economy still has 2 million fewer jobs than before Great Recession began

A member of the House Small Business Committee, Kuster has prioritized efforts to foster job creation, grow the economy, and expand opportunity for middle class families. Last month, she hosted a Career and Opportunities Fair,  toured a West Lebanon brewery to discuss legislation that would cut taxes on New Hampshire’s small brewers, visited a Salem company to highlight the importance of boosting small business exports, and hosted a 21st century workforce roundtable in Hudson with students, business owners, and education leaders.

She has also introduced legislation to extend and expand a federal pilot program to help boost small businesses exports, supported legislation to make permanent the federal research and development tax credit, helped lead the fight to prevent pending regulations from harming New England farmers, and worked to protect New Hampshire small businesses from burdensome online sales tax collection requirements.

The full text of the letter is below:

December 3, 2013

Dear Speaker Boehner:

With fewer than ten legislative days remaining before unemployment insurance benefits are set to expire, I write to urge you to immediately allow a vote on legislation that will extend these vital benefits for individuals who are still struggling to find work.  As you know, without Congressional action, 1.3 million jobless Americans – including more than 1,300 individuals in my home state of New Hampshire – will lose their unemployment insurance benefits just days after Christmas. 

Not only would losing these benefits be a painful blow to my constituents who are still struggling to find work, but it would also hurt our economy. Some recent projections have found that allowing the Emergency Unemployment Insurance program to expire would cost our economy more than 300,000 jobs while shaving four-tenths of a percentage point from first quarter economic growth in 2014.  That would hurt the long-term unemployed in my district and negatively impact our entire economy.

While our economy has made important progress since the Great Recession, too many people in New Hampshire and across the country are still struggling to find work.  Now is not the time to cut off unemployment insurance benefits that are helping these families survive as they search for jobs.  I therefore respectfully request that you allow a simple vote on legislation that will protect these benefits and the hardworking families who count on them.  With fewer than ten days to act, Congress needs to immediately extend these vital benefits and focus like a laser on creating jobs and opportunity for the middle class. 

Thank you for your attention to this critical issue.

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

Ann kuster head shot LG

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.

Only Two Months until the NEXT Congress-Created Crisis

is_this_tomorrow

Congress creates another crisisLate last night, one-third of House GOP members voted with the Democrats to pass legislation avoiding the “Fiscal Cliff”.  Congressman Bass voted in favor of the bill; Congressman Guinta voted against it.

Even though the Senate had passed the bill almost unanimously, until dinnertime, it looked like the bill would fail in the House.  What happened at dinnertime?  The House took up a brand-new bill bashing federal employees and attempting to rescind their 0.5% cost-of-living increase, which is scheduled to go into effect at the end of March.  [Federal employees have already supplied $108 billion in “budget savings” through a two-year pay freeze and increased retirement contributions.]

Sure, there were only a few hours left for Congressional action.  Sure, there was no chance whatsoever that a brand-new bill would become law.  The House still took 90 minutes to debate it and hold a roll call vote. [Both Guinta and Bass voted for the bill.  Please remember that, if either of them run again for Congress in 2014.]

And after that last symbolic attack on federal employees, GOP House leadership was finally able to get around to the business of avoiding the Fiscal Cliff.  Gotta wonder about their priorities.

When it finally passed at 11:00 last night, the Fiscal Cliff bill was a true compromise.  It included concessions that angered people on both sides.   (Read the bill here.)

But it also set up yet another Congress-created crisis, scheduled to hit in only two months.

  • The bill did not address the federal debt limit – and two months from now, the Treasury will have exhausted the debt limit “headroom” created by taking “extraordinary measures” with government and postal employee pension funds.
  • The bill did not resolve “sequestration” spending cuts – but rather postponed them for two months.

So, the nation is rolling straight from one Congress-created crisis into another Congress-created crisis.

Gotta wonder why Congress keeps creating crises.  (Journalist Naomi Klein has an interesting theory about how crises – real or perceived – are used to further corporate goals.  Read more here.)

——————–

One of many things the Fiscal Cliff bill didn’t address was restoring the state share of federal estate taxes.

In a “sponge tax” system dating back to 1924, estate tax revenues were historically shared between the states and the federal government.  Back in 2001, Congress federalized the states’ portion of these revenues to help pay for the “temporary” Bush tax cuts.

Restoring the “sponge tax” system could mean more than $3 billion in annual revenues for state governments.  New Hampshire could receive an estimated $27 million in annual revenues.  Read more here.

frigateThe estate tax has a long and patriotic history.  It was created to raise funds for the country’s first Navy, and was used to fund almost every war before Iraq.  Read more here.

But for the past few decades, “members of a handful of super-wealthy families have quietly helped finance and coordinate a massive campaign to repeal the estate tax.  …The families also have helped finance outside groups that have spent millions on fear-mongering ad campaigns intended to sway public opinion against the estate tax.”  Read more here.

Who knows?  Maybe restoring these state revenues will be a part of whatever bill resolves this next Congress-created crisis.

According to Bush Economists: His Tax Cuts Don’t Really Improve the Economy

best case scenario

Another thing to remember, as you’re watching the Fiscal Cliff negotiations:

Back in 2006, President George Bush asked the US Treasury Department to analyze what would happen to the economy if his tax cuts were made permanent.  Treasury economists conducted a “dynamic analysis” of the tax cuts, which was clearly intended to provide a political justification for making the tax cuts permanent.

best case scenario for economic impacts of Bush Tax Cuts

This is the Treasury’s “best case” scenario, which
is based on extremely optimistic assumptions.
Source of chart: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

But here’s what they found, instead:

even under favorable assumptions, making the tax cuts permanent would have a barely perceptible impact on the economy.  Under more realistic assumptions, the Treasury study finds that the tax cuts could even hurt the economy. In addition, the study casts doubt on claims that the tax cuts are responsible for much of the recent growth in investment and jobs.  It finds that making the tax cuts permanent would lead initially to lower levels of investment, and would result over the longer term in lower levels of employment (i.e., in fewer jobs).

What ?!?

The Treasury study finds that making the tax cuts permanent would reduce long-run labor supply (i.e., the number of people working and the number of hours they work) by 0.3 percent.

Three-tenths of one percent in today’s labor market translates into about 468,000 jobs.

If we end the Bush tax cuts, will those jobs come back?

Speaker Boehner’s ‘New Offer’ is ‘to make top 2% tax cuts permanent’?!?

House Speaker John Boehner

Speaker Boehner

Was House Speaker Boehner joking?

The press is beginning to report the details of his latest “offer” in the fiscal cliff negotiations.

Guess what?

The GOP’s newest proposal is to make the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent of American… permanent.

Read about it here.

Guess the GOP still thinks they should be able to dictate the terms of the fiscal cliff “compromise”.  What a way to “fix” the crisis that Congress created.  Most of us are still hurting from one of the worst recessions in history; 12 million Americans are still unemployed.  Shouldn’t the GOP be concerned about something other than protecting the wealthy?

Fiscal Cliff: Who is “entitled” to what?

Washington Post Poll September 11 2001

Something else to remember, as you’re watching news coverage of the Fiscal Cliff negotiations:

The tax rates that GOP Congressional leaders are trying so hard to defend are relatively recent – and the public has never supported them.

Washington Post Poll September 11 2001Just months after the first round of tax cuts was passed, in 2001, a Washington Post poll found that 57% of Americans wanted to roll back the tax cuts in order to preserve the federal budget surplus. (Yes, we had a surplus, back then.)

There’s more:

President Bush’s budget director had just warned congressional Republicans that “it was likely the government would tap the Social Security surplus this year, contradicting what he had been saying only a few weeks earlier.”

That same Washington Post poll found that “an overwhelming 92 percent of those surveyed said they opposed using Social Security funds” for things other than retirement benefits.

That was in 2001. Two years later, it was clear that the first round of Bush tax cuts hadn’t “jump-started” the economy – so the White House pushed through another round. This time, the bill had so little support it almost didn’t pass the Senate. GOP stalwarts John McCain, Lincoln Chafee and Olympia Snowe all voted against it. The Senate split 50-50 – and Vice President Dick Cheney cast the deciding vote.

That’s right… Dick Cheney was responsible for passing the tax cuts that House Speaker John Boehner is now trying so hard to defend.

“Entitlements”?

In recent weeks, Speaker Boehner has been talking about tax cuts for the wealthy as if they’re somehow sacred. He doesn’t seem to care what he has to sacrifice, to protect those high-income taxpayers.

Speaker Boehner is insisting on cuts to “entitlement programs” such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – before he will agree to any fiscal cliff “compromise”.

And if taxes are going to be raised – well, guess who Speaker Boehner expects to pay the price? Here’s Senate President Harry Reid’s analysis of Speaker Boehner’s latest proposal, earlier today:

“Their proposal would raise taxes on millions of middle-class families,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “Their plan to raise $800 billion in revenue by eliminating popular tax deductions and credits would reach deep into pockets of middle-class families.”

Speaker Boehner wants to cut “entitlements”?!

The working families of America have paid into the Social Security system for decades, expecting to get benefits back when we retire.

High-income taxpayers owe their low tax rates to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Who, exactly, should be entitled to what?

Read more about the fiscal cliff here.

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