Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

By Michell K. McIntyrepolicy riders weigh don budget bill

Each year, Congress and the White House must pass a series of appropriations bills – spending bills – that fund our government for the year ahead. If they fail to do so before the current year’s funding expires, the government shuts down until funding is restored.

The U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate each have their own appropriations committees, made up of 12 subcommittees, whose job is to draft spending bills that fund different parts of the government. The danger is that harmful poison pill riders may be attached to any or all of these bills.

Here are ten reasons why ideological riders don’t belong in appropriations legislation.

1. The budget process is not the place to shove unpopular and damaging legislation down the throats of the unwitting public. Examples: Restrictions to women’s reproductive health and the application of broad religious refusal language that would allow employers, insurers and health care providers to deny others access to health services are unpopular and controversial.

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By Amanda Warner

Last week, some members of the House Financial Services Committee lavished praise on a piece of legislation they said would “restore due process rights to all Americans.”

“All the bill says is that if somebody wants their day in court, they should have their day in court,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), explained, adding that “preserving the rights of Americans to defend themselves in a fair and impartial trial…is one of the most fundamental rights, and it is enshrined in our Constitution.”

Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Chair of the committee, championed the measure as well. “Every American deserves to be treated with due process,” Rep. Hensarling declared. “They ought to have the opportunity to have a trial by jury. They ought to be able to engage in full discovery. They ought to be subject to the rules of evidence.”

A listener might have thought these legislators were standing up against forced arbitration – “rip-off clauses” that big companies bury in the fine print of contracts to prevent people from suing them, even if they have broken the law.

Astoundingly and unfortunately, the legislators were actually moving in the opposite direction. They were extolling HR 3798, the so-called “Due Process Restoration Act,” which would extend special legal protections to Wall Street banks and other financial firms charged with violating federal securities law by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

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Privatization is the age-old right-wing response to imagined problems.

But if a public function like preventing plane crashes is transferred to corporations, the result could mean tragedy.

A threat to our wallets and flight safety, the air traffic control privatization effort currently underway in Congress is another move by right-wing lawmakers to deliver a favor for corporate interests while ignoring the consequences for consumers.

This week, Public Citizen joined with our partners in the Americans Against Air Traffic Privatization coalition to deliver more than 130,000 petition signatures to members of Congress demanding that air traffic control stay under federal government purview and not be spun off to a new corporatized entity.

The air traffic control system is neither broken nor bankrupt, and the only uncertainty in its running is the confusion instigated by Congress around Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding reauthorizations. The solution to the funding issue is not to privatize air traffic control but to give the FAA the stability it deserves.

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By Sonia Gill

Smart and effective consumer protection is preconditioned on the availability of data and information. For this reason, Public Citizen – and numerous leading consumer and privacy groups – strongly support robust and purposeful data collection and analysis by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The CFPB’s consumer financial data collection practices allow it to monitor emerging market trends and business practices that are harmful to consumers and to respond in an effective and proportional manner – in other words, to fulfill the pro-consumer mission created for the agency by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Not all are on board. Despite being the only federal agency dedicated to protecting the average American consumer from the abusive and unfair business practices of the financial industry, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations dedicated its last hearing of 2015 to attacking the CFPB for purported consumer privacy risks associated with the CFPB’s collection and analysis of consumer data. In yet another attempt to discredit the work of the CFPB, the subcommittee dusted off time-tested, paranoia-inducing talking points and catapulted a series of accusations at the CFPB ranging from the fantastical – likening the CFPB to an NSA-style spy agency, secretly collecting personal information from unsuspecting Americans – to the conceivable, such as potential cyberattacks against the CFPB that might result in data breaches.

While this last concern is at least a plausible one, the reality is that political opponents of the CFPB are looking for ways to  stifle the agency to protect their friends on Wall Street (friends who happen to donate generously to their reelection campaigns). These legislators are smart enough to understand the exceptional importance of data to enforce federal consumer financial law and inform the agency’s actions. By blocking access to information, they know they can cripple the CFPB’s ability to hold financial fraudsters accountable.

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We’ve had a busy few weeks at Public Citizen.

This month we delivered over 2 million petition signatures for five different campaigns for public justice and a more democratic government.

One of the most rewarding parts about working here is seeing how our actions take shape both before and after the petitioning process.

The frustration with pay-to-play politics and greed is always there, but it’s worth it to see the shock on a staff member’s face as we deliver thousands of petition signatures to congressional offices, the crowds that gather to watch millions of voices being heard in front of the White House, or the actions taken across the country to make the system a little more just.

Public Citizen will continue to fight for a stronger democracy and public protections and we will continue to oppose threats to the public interest that reward greed and recklessness.

Here’s what we’ve been up to recently:

Over 200,000 Signatures Delivered to Congress on the #NoRiders #CleanBudget Petition

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