News Digest – February 15, 2018

In the news this past week, Cardin and Van Hollen vote ‘yes’ on new budget deal, Cardin rains on Trump’s plan for a military parade, and Cummings seeks more information on security clearances (and the lack thereof) in the White House.

Government shutdown

  • President Trump signed a new spending plan that ended a hours-long government shutdown early Friday.  
  • The House voted 240-186 and the Senate voted 71–28 to approve the budget deal, which appropriates money for the military, several large health-care programs, and disaster aid for victims of recent hurricanes and wildfires.  The legislation also suspends the national debt limit for a year and extends billions of dollars of expiring tax breaks.
  • The spending plan does not include protection for “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children and face losing work permits granted under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that President Trump rescinded.  
  • Senator Cardin and Senator Van Hollen both voted for the spending plan.  Senator Van Hollen said the budget deal “provide[s] increased stability and significant investments in programs that grow our economy and serve American families,” and “the fight continues to find a solution to protect our Dreamers[,] with debate scheduled to start next week in the Senate.”
  • Here’s the Baltimore Sun’s take on how the budget deal affects Maryland.  (And check out Dave’s quote!)
  • Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger is the only one of our MoCs that voted for the budget bill.

Defunding Planned Parenthood

  • Trump’s HHS worked with conservative group on Planned Parenthood policy.
  • Rep. Elijah Cummings cited a whistleblower who shared emails and documents:“The documents provided by the whistleblower raise serious concerns about whether the Trump administration is now taking orders from an extreme right-wing interest group that is trying to deny American citizens the ability to exercise their right to obtain family planning services from the provider of their choice, which is guaranteed by federal statute,” Cummings wrote in a letter to HHS Monday.
  • More articles here, here, here, and here.

Raining on Trump’s parade

After news broke that President Trump is planning a military parade, Senator Cardin introduced legislation that would bar federal money from funding the spectacle.

Foreign affairs

Senator Cardin will give up his post as top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez returns to his role of ranking member.

2018 election

Senator Cardin has officially filed for reelection.  Meanwhile, an independent has joined the race.  

FEMA/Puerto Rico Relief Efforts

  • Rep. Elijah Cummings (D- Md.) and Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-U.S. Virgin Islands) wrote a letter to House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) asking him to to subpoena the Federal Emergency Management Agency for documents related to a botched contract for Hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico.  Tribute Contracting, an Atlanta-based company, received a FEMA contract of nearly $156 million to deliver 30 million meals in Puerto Rico, but did not deliver anywhere near the number of meals it promised.
  • “It is difficult to fathom how FEMA could have believed that this tiny company had the capacity to perform this $156 million contract.”
  • Additional articles here, here, and here.

Personal News

Rep. Elijah Cummings’ mother, Ruth Cummings dies at 91.

Post-Pelosi world

  • Some wonder whether Rep. Elijah Cummings would be her replacement..

Uranium One probe

  • Reps. Elijah Cummings and Adam Schiff, the top Democrats on the House Oversight and Intelligence committee, sent a letter to the CPO Chairmen of those Committees about their plan to interview a “confidential informant” for the Uranium One probe without allowing Democrats access.
  • The informant, Douglas Campbell, said in the statement that he was told by Russian nuclear executives that Moscow had hired the American lobbying firm APCO Worldwide specifically because it was in position to influence the Obama administration, and more specifically Hillary Clinton.
  • DOJ Officials have concluded that the much-touted informant presented by the GOP did not, as the GOP claimed, have damning information about Clinton. And specifically, the whistleblower did not offer up any telling information about the 2010 sale of a uranium company with extensive U.S. holdings to the Russian firm Uranium One.

Party Divisions

  • In a sign of increasing partisan hostilities, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee plan to construct a wall — a physical partition — separating Republican and Democratic staff members in the committee’s secure spaces, according to multiple committee sources.
  • “It’s very hurtful to me to see the degradation of this committee and it’s wrong,” said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, who served on the it for twelve years and was Ranking Member for four.
  • More here, here, and here.

Sexual Misconduct

  • Rep. Elijah Cummings is looking for answers on federal agencies’ spending to settle sexual misconduct cases, asking the Justice Department for detailed information on each use of a special fund over the last six years.

Domestic Abusers in the White House

AT&T and Time Warner Deal:House Democrats ask Sessions for White House documents about AT&T deal

  • A letter from four Democratic Congressmen (Representatives Jerrold Nadler, Elijah Cummings, Gerald Connolly and David Cicilline) demanded information about presidential interference in the Department of Justice’s decision to sue to block the AT&T/Time Warner deal has highlighted a political quandary for Democrats, who support blocking the merger but are wary of political interference, antitrust observers say.

Cybersecurity Concerns with Chinese Firms

  • Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, is adding cosponsors to his bill banning Chinese telecom companies Huawei and ZTE from government contracts due to cybersecurity concerns.
  • Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger is the only Democratic sponsor.

Nassar Sexual Abuse

  • The House Oversight Committee announced Thursday that it will investigate the beleaguered national gymnastics group over concerns that its officials might have looked the other way as disgraced team doctor Larry Nassar sexually assaulted dozens of young athletes.
  • “One of the most disturbing aspects of the survivors’ accounts is how this reprehensible conduct went undetected or ignored for years,” the committee, led by Reps. Elijah Cummings and Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), said in a joint statement. “Coaches, instructors, law enforcement, and other trusted adults all failed these young athletes.”

Weakening the Consumer Protection Bureau

  • Senator Jeff Merkley and Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Elijah Cummings introduced the Stopping Abuse and Fraud in Electronic (SAFE) Lending Act Tuesday, aimed at cracking down on some of the worst abuses of the payday lending industry, particularly in online payday lending, and protect consumers from deceptive and predatory practices that strip wealth from working families.
  • Under Trump administration leadership, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which previously was set to institute national rules related to payday loans, has suddenly reversed course on consumer protections from payday predators. Without strong CFPB protections at a national level, state laws protecting consumers will be all the more important.

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