They represent the interests of the tobacco industry,” said Dr. Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, the head of the Secretariat that oversees the W.H.O treaty, called the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. “They are putting their feet everywhere where there are stronger regulations coming up.

The big footprint mentioned by Dr. Luiza da Costa e Silva, in today’s New York Times piece, “U.S. Chamber works Globally to Fight Anti-Smoking Measures” is that of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and their affiliated American Chambers abroad.

The Chamber is a U.S. trade association with an annual revenue of $165 million. It spends more on lobbying than any other interest group in the country and has more than 100 affiliates around the globe. The U.S. Chamber’s positions on public policies around the world, including public health policies, are often perceived as carrying the weight of the U.S. business community. As such, disregarding their positions can carry an implied economic threat.

The influence peddling of the Chamber is evident in many international fights, so it’s unsurprising that pushing back on tobacco control is a top priority for the corporate group. A top executive at the tobacco giant Altria Group serves on the chamber’s board, though the cigarette makers’ payments to the chamber are not disclosed.

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Statement of Keith Wrightson, Worker Safety and Health Advocate, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee is marking up the Fiscal Year 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services funding bill today. If it becomes law, the draft legislation (PDF), which passed through the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, would hinder the ability of many of critical agencies to do their jobs. These include the Department of Labor (DOL), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). For example, the legislation would delay stronger oversight by OSHA of American workplaces. Unfortunately, it is expected that the funding legislation will pass – on strict party lines.

The House majority is stacking this legislation with inappropriate policy riders and providing far less funding than necessary to appropriately support the agencies under its purview.

Included in the underlying bill are seriously damaging and ideological policy riders, including:

  • $11.7 billion in funding for the DOL, which is $206 million below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $1.4 billion below the president’s request.
  • $535 million in funding for OSHA. This is nearly $18 million less than the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and more than $57 million less than the fiscal year 2016 request.
  • $371 million for MSHA, which is $4.9 million below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $23.9 million below the budget request.
  • A prohibition on the DOL spending any funds to finalize or implement a recently proposed rule that would reduce financial professionals’ conflicts of interest.
  • A provision restricting the interpretation of laws and regulations governing OSHA “walk around” inspections.

We urge the full House to vote down this reckless legislation. Provisions that undercut consumer financial and worker protections should not be part of essential government funding legislation. The House should protect our workers and reject this bill.

DavidArkush1Statement of David Arkush, Managing Director, Public Citizen’s Climate Program

Note: This morning, the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing on S. 1324, the Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act. On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act. Both bills contain multiple provisions to undermine or block the proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which, when finalized this summer, will be the first-ever U.S. rule designed to curb carbon pollution from existing power plants.

This week, Republicans in the House and Senate are advancing bills to undermine the Clean Power Plan. One of their arguments is that they are protecting consumers from rate hikes under the rule. But electricity rates are the wrong focus. Consumers don’t care about electricity rates. They care about what they pay: their bills. Under the Clean Power Plan, states will improve their energy efficiency policies, and as a result, people will use substantially less electricity. That means their bills will go down even if the raw price of electricity is higher.

Members of the Kentucky and West Virginia delegations are key opponents of the Clean Power Plan, claiming, among other things, that it will hurt consumers in their states. They are wrong.

Today, we are releasing analyses of the Clean Power Plan’s impact on electricity bills in both states. We project that Kentuckians (PDF) will pay 7.7 percent less for electricity in 2030 under the Clean Power Plan, saving the average household $104 annually. West Virginians’ (PDF) electricity bills will be 9.9 percent lower, for a savings of $160.

It is time for Kentucky and West Virginia politicians to stop hiding behind the claim that they are protecting people’s pocketbooks. What they’re really doing is enriching the coal industry at the expense of electricity consumers, as well as everyone else on the planet.

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

Following elaborate legislative contortions and gimmicks designed to hand multinational corporations their top priority, today the U.S. Senate paved the way for Fast Track legislation that aims to advance the corporate wish list known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as well other trade deals.

Those contortions were necessary because the American people overwhelmingly oppose these deals, notwithstanding an endless barrage of propaganda.

They oppose these deals because they know from personal experience that the NAFTA model fails miserably.

They know that these deals will mean more export of jobs and more downward pressure on wages. They know that these deals will undermine our ability to maintain and adopt strong environmental and consumer protections. They know that these deals are designed to help giant corporations, and not communities.

Today’s action means that Congress will tie its hands to prevent it from exerting positive influence over negotiations of the TPP. It means that the final TPP agreement will very likely include provisions empowering foreign corporations to sue our own government for policies that they claim impinge on their expected future profits. It means that the final TPP will very likely include provisions that will extend Big Pharma monopolies, raising prices for consumers and health systems – and, even in the United States, and especially in the poorer TPP countries, denying people access to needed medical treatment. It means that the final TPP will very likely include provisions undermining our food safety.

What it doesn’t mean is that Congress must pass such a TPP. When the inexcusable and anti-democratic veil of secrecy surrounding the TPP is finally lifted, and the American people see what is actually in the agreement, they are going to force their representatives in Washington to vote that deal down. Members who fail to do so can expect their constituents to hold them accountable.

Business for DemocracyAfter a busy week of pressing ahead with Fast Track trade authority, undermining consumer financial protections and trying to throw a wrench into basic efforts to require publicly held companies to disclose political spending, the Corporate Congress next week will launch more public interest attacks. Public Citizen is tracking these:

More Fast Track: The U.S. Senate on Tuesday holds a procedural vote that could either put Fast Track on the fast track or slow it down until after the July 4 recess. The U.S. House of Representatives passed this undemocratic measure this week after employing yet another procedural gimmick. Fast Track’s fate in the Senate remains unclear at best as Americans’ concerns that more of the same trade policy would kill more jobs and push down our wages remain unaddressed.

Clean Power Plan in the crosshairs: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan (designed to curb climate-warming emissions from power plants) comes under fire again next week. First, at 2 p.m. Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works’ Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety holds a hearing about the impacts of the plan on energy costs for families, among others. Impacts? Glad you asked!

The plan will benefit consumers. The EPA, which admits to conservative estimates, projects that the Clean Power Plan would lower consumer bills by 8.4 percent by 2030. In addition, it would fight climate change by boosting energy efficiency and switching to renewable energy sources like wind and solar. In the first two reports in a series, Public Citizen has found that the plan would lower electricity bills for Ohio consumers by $144 annually by 2030 and Maine consumers by as much as $129 annually.

And the House is expected to vote Tuesday or Wednesday on a bill that would let states opt out of the Clean Power Plan altogether. We can’t afford to delay; we need urgent, assertive action to combat climate change.

Regs attack: At 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 23, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Senate Committee on the Budget hold a hearing titled “Accounting for the True Cost of Regulation: Exploring the Possibility of a Regulatory Budget.” We expect this to focus on establishing regulatory budgets for rulemaking, enforcement and inspections. The flawed premise of the regulatory budget is that our country cannot afford basic, commonsense public health and safety protections. In fact, what our country cannot afford is another Wall Street collapse, irreversible damage from climate change, more tainted food crises, unsafe and toxic children’s toys and products, exploding oil trains and dangerous workplaces that kill and injure dozens of workers a day. By limiting the regulations that agencies can implement, the regulatory budget shifts social, environmental, health and economic costs onto the backs of consumers and working families.

• Finally, at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24, the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures will hold a hearing on using so-called repatriation to fund the government’s highway program. Under a “repatriation holiday,” corporations are allowed to voluntarily repatriate profits at much lower tax rates than would have otherwise been due. This experiment was tried and failed in 2004, and as a country we must learn our lesson and not repeat the same mistake. In addition to losing money in the long run, a repatriation holiday only would be a one-time source of money that would do nothing to fix the long-term funding shortfall for infrastructure investments. Additionally, allowing another repatriation holiday would reward corporations that for years have avoided paying taxes by using accounting gimmicks to shift profits to the books of related foreign corporations.
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