WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement after the House Rules Committee rejected a CPC amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act requiring the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community to audit the use of targeted lethal force operations conducted by unmanned aerial vehicles.

“Congress must exercise its oversight authority and demand more transparency in the U.S. drone program. The White House acknowledged last month that a drone accidentally killed Warren Weinstein, an American hostage, while targeting al-Qaeda operatives.  Mr. Weinstein’s death is not an isolated tragedy; U.S. drone strikes have killed at least five Americans since 2002.  

“Targeted drone strikes claim the lives of innocent civilians too often, creating deep resentment towards the U.S. around the world. We are disappointed that the Rules Committee rejected this opportunity to begin bringing accountability to this program.”

The Progressive Caucus amendment would have required that the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community audit the effectiveness of existing U.S. efforts to report, track and investigate civilian deaths caused by the drone program. The Progressive Caucus also attempted to offer this amendment on last year’s intelligence authorization bill and has held ad-hoc hearings on accountability for the drone program.

 #   #   #

WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement after The Trade Act failed on the floor of the House of Representatives after the defeat of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which included Medicare cuts.

“The defeat of The Trade Act is a big step towards stopping the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership. Today’s victory belongs to people who rely on Medicare, union members, environmental organizers and every single working family in America.  

“The fight is far from over. President Obama and the Republican majority will not stop pushing until they get the rubber-stamp they need to sign another bad trade deal. The Progressive Caucus will push too, but on the side of Americans who are already struggling to make ends meet. We will oppose any trade deal that lowers wages, endangers our air, land and water and supports human trafficking.” 

A vote on the Trade Adjustment Assistance portion that failed is expected as early as next week. 

#    #    #

WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement after introducing an amendment to The Trade Act in the Rules Committee.

“The Trade Act continues to force seniors to pay for trade deals that destroy American jobs. Chairman Ryan is attempting to change how Trade Adjustment Assistance is funded in a separate bill, but it’s nothing more than a bait-and-switch effort to gin up support for a quick passage of Trade Promotion Authority. There is no guarantee the Senate will pass the separate bill removing Medicare cuts. The only way to ensure seniors won’t be hurt is to remove these cuts from The Trade Act itself. If Chairman Ryan recognizes the need to protect seniors from these cuts in separate legislation, why not remove the cuts completely?

“Seniors should not have to pay when trade deals go bad. A vote for The Trade Act is a vote to cut Medicare. Progressives will oppose any bill that includes Medicare cuts.”

The Progressive Caucus amendment removes the Medicare cut, increases overall funding for Trade Adjustment Assistance to $575 million and expands Trade Adjustment Assistance to include public sector workers.

#    #    #

WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), reacted after the Department of Education outlined its debt relief process for students who attended Corinthian Colleges. 

“Yesterday, the Department of Education took the first step in providing relief for student debt resulting from the Corinthian College for-profit scheme,” Rep. Grijalva said. “I am glad to see progress in helping some students who are now unfairly burdened with debt for an education they never received, but I urge the department to take their actions further and ensure all students who are in a similar situation receive relief from these deceptive practices of for-profit schools. We have an obligation to ensure no one is unfairly burdened from these schemes, and we must live up to that commitment.”

“The Department of Education’s announcement is a good first step, but the process to get debt-relief will be very difficult for students who were ripped off by Corinthian,” Rep. Ellison said. “The Progressive Caucus urged Secretary Duncan to issue automatic and class-wide discharge of debt for students. Instead, the Department of Education placed the burden of proof on individuals. The Progressive Caucus will keep pushing for a better deal for students.” 

The Progressive Caucus previously sent a letter to Secretary Duncan in April urging the Department of Education to forgive loans incurred by all students attending Corinthian Colleges. 

# # #

WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting an audit detailing the enforcement of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).

The full text of the letter is below and a signed copy can be seen here

Dear Attorney General Lynch:

We write to request a formal audit detailing state level compliance and federal enforcement of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).

Our representative democracy is threatened by chronically low levels of voter turnout. In 2014, only thirty-six percent of eligible voters cast ballots, the lowest turnout since WWII. Even more alarming is the income disparity between voters and non-voters. In 2012, sixty-two percent of those making $150,000 a year or more voted, while only twenty-seven percent of those earning less than $10,000 a year voted.

The federal government should be doing more to ensure that our political system works for all Americans. A healthy democracy requires the highest possible rate of voter participation. One of the most successful ways to increase voter participation is to simply& the voter registration process.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of implementation of the National Voter Registration Act. The goal of the NVRA is to simply the voter registration process and make it more accessible by requiring voter registration services to be provided where government delivers public services to its citizens. Since 1995, states subject to the NVRA have offered citizens the opportunity to register to vote whenever they obtain a driver’s license or apply for Medicaid, and in some states, at public libraries. Unfortunately, data suggests that voter registration at places like the Department of Motor Vehicles has remained stagnant in the twenty years that the NVRA has been in effect. This suggests significant problems with implementation, compliance and enforcement. Studies indicate that failure to comply with and properly enforce the NVRA has translated to millions of missed opportunities to register Americans to vote.

We write to request an audit of the NVRA that addresses the following questions:

I. How is state compliance with the NVRA currently measured, and what data is collected and reported?

2. What is the federal response to states that fail to comply with NVRA requirements?

 3. What kind of training is provided by state and federal officials to social service providers that are charged with implementing NVRA?

4. The NVRA stipulates that voter registration services must be provided where government delivers public services. What measures is the DOJ taking to ensure that the NVR.A is being implemented elsewhere beyond the Department of Motor Vehicles?

 5. What states are registering the most voters through the NVRA and how are their best practices being observed and implemented in states failing to register voters?

After twenty years, it is time to analyze the NVRA’s effects and implement meaningful changes to ensure that the goals set forth twenty years ago are being met.

We look forward to working with you on the important issue of improving access to voter registration.



# # #

WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with 59 House Democrats sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi urging them to not use Medicare as an offset for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).

The letter was also signed by Reps. Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Brendan F.Boyle (D-PA), Robert A. Brady (D-PA), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), G. K. Butterfield (D-NC), Michael E. Capuano (D-MA), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), Bonnie Coleman (D-NJ), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Donna F. Edwards (D-MD), Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Gene Green (D-TX), Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Michael M. Honda (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Henry C. "Hank" Jr. Johnson (D-GA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Dan Kildee (D-MI), John B. Larson (D-CT), Brenda L. Lawrence (D-MI), Barbara Lee (D-CA),  Ted Lieu (D-CA), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Richard M. Nolan (D-MN), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Chellie Pingree (D-ME),  Mark Pocan (D-WI), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL), Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-VA), José E. Serrano (D-NY), Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Mark Takai (D-HI), Mark Takano (D-CA), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL).

The full text of the letter is below and a signed copy can be seen here.

Dear Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi:

We write to urge you to fund a more robust Trade Adjustment Assistance program that is not offset by cuts to critical social programs like Medicare.

American workers rely on Trade Adjustment Assistance when trade deals send jobs overseas. While it is clear we need Trade Adjustment Assistance, it is not clear why the offset should be extended budget limitations on Medicare, as proposed. More than 50 million seniors rely on Medicare; we should be investing in the trust fund, not using savings to fund other programs.

We ask that the current Trade Adjustment Assistance legislation change in two ways. We should find an offset to Trade Adjustment Assistance that does not cut from critical programs that working families rely on. We should also increase funding for Trade Adjustment Assistance to account for projected job losses due to big trade deals, and extend assistance to public sector workers who have lost their jobs.

Trade Adjustment Assistance supports displaced workers and Medicare provides America's seniors the healthcare they need. We look forward to working with you to fund a Trade Adjustment Assistance program that leaves no one behind.


# # #

WASHINGTON—Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Rep. Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA), and Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) applauded the passage by voice vote through the House of Representatives of an amendment to prevent the Department of Justice, the FBI and local law enforcement from using money in the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to engage in profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender and sexual orientation.

“When law enforcement profiles a person based on skin tone or appearance, they diminish that individual’s humanity,” said Rep. Grijalva. “It sews the seeds of distrust in the victim and their community, and sends a message that those enlisted to serve and protect will, in fact, do neither. Those sentiments could not be further from the truth for countless men and women who risk their lives as first responders, which makes the need to ban profiling all the more urgent.”

“Diversity is America’s strength, but discrimination by law enforcement undermines that strength,” Rep. Ellison said. “The amendment passed by the House of Representatives today will protect Americans from racial profiling. I want to thank my colleagues in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus today for moving us closer to ending discrimination in our nation.”

“I applaud the passage of the amendment to end racial profiling.  It is critical that we, as members of Congress, work to take bold, vigorous, and steadfast action by challenging any and all policies that would permit racial discrimination and profiling,” said Rep. Butterfield. “Racial profiling is having a negative impact in communities across the country and we must continue our efforts to ensure such discriminatory policies cease.  Today is a step forward in our work to end profiling and policies based on race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender and sexual orientation.”

“Racial profiling has no place in our country, and as such, we should ensure that taxpayer dollars do not support law enforcement activity that uses discriminatory practices,” Rep. Sánchez said. “Latinos and minorities – like all other Americans – deserve equal justice under the law. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus joins the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus in leading this appropriations effort that is so critically important to protecting communities of color.”

“Racial profiling isn’t just a violation of our principles, it’s an ineffective practice that hurts our safety by weakening the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they protect,” Rep. Chu said. “It trains police to see people of color as threats, not individuals. The Federal Government should have no role in supporting this discrimination, and I am so pleased that our amendment was adopted today. Building on the new guidelines released by the FBI earlier this year, this amendment will take us one step closer towards a more just country for all.” 

#   #   #

WASHINGTON — Today, Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) applaud the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Water Rule to limit pollution in rivers, lakes, and wetlands. 

“I congratulate the Obama Administration for bringing long-overdue clarity to the vital issue of clean water,” Rep. Grijalva said. “One in three Americans gets their drinking water from streams currently lacking clear protection. This Rule will help prevent the destruction of our nation’s water resources and support the numerous industries and jobs that depend on clean water.

“The Supreme Court left the scope of the Clean Water Act unclear, but protecting clean drinking water is far too important to be open to interpretation,” Rep. Grijalva continued. “It’s time to implement a clear Clean Water Rule that protects our drinking water supplies and ends the regulatory uncertainty that allows unscrupulous polluters to hide in the regulatory shadows. The new Rule does exactly that, without creating any new permitting requirements and maintaining all existing exemptions.”

 "Clean water is vital to life in Minnesota. 970,000 Minnesotans drink water from public water systems that would be further protected under the EPA’s final rule, while others rely on our state’s waterways for business and recreation,” Rep. Ellison said. “But an ongoing statewide assessment of our waterways by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency found that half of the waters assessed so far are unfit for swimming and fishing. This is why the EPA’s rule is so critical to our state.

 “I applaud Administrator Gina McCarthy for writing a strong Clean Water Rule,” Rep. Ellison continued. “I look forward to working with my state and local partners to keep Minnesota’s water clean for generations to come.”

# # # 

WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement after the Department of Labor (DOL) announced guidance on President Obama’s Executive Order to increase workplace protections.

“We applaud the Department of Labor for their commitment to workers, who deserve dignity on the job. The guidance released today will allow the federal government to be a leader in the fight for good jobs and hold federal contractors accountable to fair work standards. Taxpayer money should never support companies that exploit their workers. We are happy to see that DOL is taking clear steps to ensure that all federal contract workers are safe on the job and receive the pay they deserve. ”  

The Progressive Caucus has led the fight in calling for better workplace protections since March 2014 when they sent a letter to Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to collect data on contractors that engage in wage theft. Last summer, CPC members successfully attached wage theft amendments to four appropriations bills. The Progressive Caucus has continued to stand with workers calling for an end to wage theft and for increased workplace protections.

# # #

WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement after President Obama announced a federal ban to limit certain types of military equipment from being transferred to local police departments.

“We applaud President Obama for taking an important first step to de-militarize local police departments. Weapons made for war zones do not belong on the streets of our communities.

“While the president is making our neighborhoods safer, House Republicans are trying to expand the use of military weapons in border communities. At a time when the relationship between police and the communities they serve is in crisis, Congress should be limiting the transfer of military weapons to local law enforcement, not increasing it. We should build on President Obama’s actions today by passing Rep. Hank Johnson’s Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2015 (H.R. 1232) to rein in the Pentagon’s surplus weaponry program.”

# # #