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.”

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement after House Republicans passed H.R. 36, which would eliminate safe abortion services after 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

“The bill passed by Republicans today is an attack on women’s reproductive health. Young women, women of color, and low-income women already struggle to get the health care they need. But Republicans continue working to restrict health care options for American women. H.R. 36 jeopardizes the well-being of women and punishes physicians who provide compassionate care. 

“Americans overwhelmingly trust women to make their own health decisions. They support upholding Roe v. Wade, but H.R. 36 violates that Supreme Court decision. Republicans should stop passing bills that violate women’s constitutional rights. Rather than focusing on limiting a woman’s right to choose, we should pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would ensure women do not face significant barriers to the care they deserve.” 

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) joined New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and national progressive leaders today to launch The Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Inequality

The Progressive Agenda is an important first step in growing the paychecks of working Americans. The coalition assembled today is proof we can do great things for people when we organize together. Mayor de Blasio and all of the partners involved in creating The Progressive Agenda are dedicated to the idea that no one working full-time in America should live in poverty.

“Too many Americans leave work wondering if they can afford to make ends meet every month. If we enact the initiatives in The Progressive Agenda our economy will work for all Americans — not just the super-wealthy. We want to thank Mayor de Blasio and we look forward to working with this coalition to move all the priorities of working Americans to the forefront of the national conversation.  It is time to meet the calls of the American people for justice, fairness and an end to income inequality.” 

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement today after the Senate blocked consideration of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

“Today’s delay of Trade Promotion Authority is just a taste of the fierce opposition ‘fast track’ will face — if it is ever brought up for a vote. Republicans and Democrats in the House know agreeing to TPA denies them the chance to protect working families from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership. A bipartisan coalition will stand together against fast tracking a trade deal that puts corporate profits over working families.”

In March, the CPC released its Principles for Trade, a model to put working Americans first in trade negotiations.

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement today after the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the bulk collection of phone records by the National Security Agency (NSA) violates federal law.

“The Second Circuit’s ruling today is welcome news to Americans who want their civil liberties protected. Mass collection of phone records violates our right to privacy and makes for bad law enforcement. The Congressional Progressive Caucus called for the end of the NSA’s bulk telephone data collection program in 2013 when its existence became public.

“Our resources are too important to waste on programs that don’t make American families any safer and come at the expense of the freedoms we swear to protect. We applaud the court’s ruling that the NSA’s systematic collection of data on the private lives of Americans is unjustified and illegal.”

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement today after Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe addressed a joint session of Congress.

“While we appreciate hearing directly from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today, the fact remains that a Trans-Pacific Partnership withoutenforceable protections against currency manipulators will leave working families behind. In 2013, currency manipulation by Japan, which held down the price of the Yen in relation to the dollar, displaced nearly 900,000 American jobs. But President Obama says draft text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership doesn’t include enforceable currency manipulation chapters.

"If the Administration wants the U.S. to lead good trade deals, we must include rules to stop Japan and other countries from inflating the value of the dollar. Congress should not be asked to fast track a Pacific trade deal without a chapter on currency manipulation.”

In March, the CPC called for enforceable currency manipulation protections in its Principles for Trade, a model to put working Americans first in trade negotiations.

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WASHINGTON— Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), CPC Peace and Security Task Force Chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and CPC Equal Protection Task Force Chair Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) released the following statement today after Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) introduced a renewal of the PATRIOT Act with no reforms and no amendments.  

“We oppose Senator McConnell's proposed reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act. Americans have been clear that mass collection of private data and invasions of privacy by intelligence agencies must be addressed. We would be abdicating our oath to uphold the constitution if we reauthorized the PATRIOT Act without meaningful reform. Ensuring our safety shouldn’t come at the cost of our civil liberties. ”

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WASHINGTON– Today, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs U.S. Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and U.S. Representative Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) introduced resolutions in the Senate and House of Representatives supporting efforts to ensure that students have access to debt-free higher education.  Over the last 30 years, the cost of college has increased by 300 percent, forcing some students to take on overwhelming student loan debt or putting a college degree entirely out of reach for others. Student loan debt is now the highest form of personal debt in the nation, reaching over $1.3 trillion for 38 million student loan borrowers across the country.

“A higher education is the best way for people to move up the economic ladder, but the rising cost of college in Hawai‘i and across the country has made it harder for students to earn a degree and get ahead,” said Senator Schatz.  “Our message is clear: we need to do more to make college more affordable for all students so that they can graduate without debt holding them back.  The federal government, states, and schools all have a role to play in cutting the cost of college.  This is a problem we can solve, and we can start by working to make sure institutions receiving federal funding are doing their part to make a degree more affordable and accessible for all students.”

“Going to college is absolutely essential to getting into the middle class and getting ahead once you're there, but far too often it ends up breaking students' banks,” said Senator Schumer.  “When students graduate with loads of debt, the ripple effects are endless; they're less likely to start a business, to buy a house, and to realize their full potential.  When it comes to making college affordable, I'm hopeful that debt-free college is the next big idea."

“A student at a public university today faces tuition prices that are more than 300 percent of what his or her parents faced just 30 years ago, and total outstanding student loan debt now stands at a staggering $1.3 trillion,” said Senator Warren.  “Our country should be investing in higher education and working with colleges and universities to bring down tuition costs so that students don't have to take on crushing debt to get an education.”

“Education remains the single greatest avenue of upward mobility our society has ever known,” said Representative Grijalva.  “But the mounting costs of higher education place it out of reach for too many Americans, holding them back from their full potential or burdening them with unimaginable debt for years to come. In the richest nation on earth, there is no excuse for erecting and maintaining these barriers to professional growth.”

“Americans—young and old—know continuing their education is the best path to a financially secure future. But students who go to college face mountains of debt, and too many face difficult choices about their careers and their families because of it,” said Representative Ellison.  “The Debt Free College Resolution is critical because students shouldn’t be punished for investing in their own future—they should walk across the stage on graduation day and take their diploma into a brighter future.”

“Too many young people I’ve talked to are saddled with insurmountable debt just as they’re beginning their adult lives,” said Representative Clark.  “Congress can and should ensure that students who are working hard to begin their careers, start a family, and contribute to our economy are able to graduate from public colleges debt-free so they can focus on pursuing their dreams rather than being held back by a lifetime of debt."

“We all know a college education is important towards achieving long-term success.  However, an entire generation is being weighed down by more than $1 trillion in student loan debt,” said Representative Pocan.  “It’s time to end the reliance on debt as a way to finance a college education for many low- and middle-income students. I’m proud to stand with my progressive colleagues to fight for the goal of providing debt-free college at public institutions across the country. Debt free college is a big, bold way to ensure every student has a chance at success.”

“Crushing student loan debt is making it harder for graduates to save to buy a house, start their own business, or put money aside for a secure retirement,” said Representative Israel.  “A college education is the most important investment that young people can make and should be viewed as a tool of opportunity rather than a financial burden. That is why I am proud to add my name to this initiative calling for a goal of debt-free college that will hopefully generate more conversation about how to alleviate that financial strain and empower graduates to achieve the American dream.”

“A highly educated workforce is key to the success of our nation. However, higher education has become increasingly inaccessible as costs have skyrocketed,” said Representative Rangel.  “We must ensure that everyone can afford to attend college and become more competitive.  Students should be spending more time focused on thriving at school and less time worrying about how they'll pay for it. I look forward to working with my colleagues to reduce the burden of student loan debt and to help expand opportunities for our future generations.”

“We tell students that education opens the doors of opportunity. But when these students pursue higher education, even at public institutions, they too often graduate saddled with debt that takes decades to payback, keeps them from investing in their families, and suffocates our nation’s economic growth,” said Representative Watson Coleman.  “Like a high school diploma in the past, a college degree has become a virtual prerequisite for a middle class job. We need to make affordable higher education a right for all, not just a privilege for the fortunate.  Congress has the ability to make debt-free higher education a reality, supporting our students and continued American competitiveness.”

“A college education provides opportunities and breaks down inequalities,” said Representative McGovern.  “As a nation, we should encourage and incentivize those who wish to pursue a higher education - not penalize them by saddling them with debt for years to come.”

The resolutions were introduced by the following: U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Janice Hahn (D-Calif.), Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Peter Welch (D-Mass.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), and Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.).

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Washington, D.C. – Members of the Progressive Caucus sent a letter inviting U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to discuss their concerns with the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

The letter was signed by Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), David Cicilline (D-RI), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), John Conyers (D-MI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Alma Adams (D-NC), Brenda L. Lawrence (D-MI), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Maxine Waters (D-CA).

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

The Honorable Michael Froman
Office of the United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20508                                        

Dear Ambassador Froman:

We are writing to invite you to speak at an upcoming Congressional Progressive Caucus member meeting about the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. Members of the Progressive Caucus are eager to talk with you about concerns they have regarding the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus includes 70 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and is one of the largest and most active caucuses within Congress. The caucus meets on a weekly basis when the House of Representatives is in session, and we can accommodate a meeting time that works for your schedule.

Our members are interested in discussing your statements about the United States' trade surplus with its 20 Free Trade Agreement partners. Your comments on the matter, including some made at a March 2015 briefing with Members of Congress, contradict trade data from the U.S. International Trade Commission (U.S.I.T.C.). The data show the United States had a $177.5 billion goods trade deficit with its Free Trade Agreement partners in 2014. We appreciate your April 1, 2015 response to our March 19, 2015 letter about calculating trade balances. Members of our caucus would like the opportunity to discuss the matter with you directly.

As the U.S. Trade Representative, no one is more qualified to explain the administration's positions on vital trade issues. We request the opportunity to discuss the data discrepancy, transparency surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and other issues pertaining to free trade agreements at your earliest convenience. We look forward to sitting down with you soon.  


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Washington –Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-CA), sent a letter to Secretary Arne Duncan urging the Department of Education to forgive loans incurred by students attending Corinthian Colleges, Inc. Corinthian Colleges is one of the country’s largest for-profit education institutions and is currently under investigation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for its predatory loan program.

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

The Honorable Arne Duncan
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202

Dear Secretary Duncan:

We write to ask that you provide debt forgiveness for the loans incurred from the predatory and deceptive practices by Corinthian Colleges Incorporated, which have left tens of thousands of current and former students with a huge amount of debt and little academic or vocational training to show for it. You have received petitions from current and former Corinthian students last month asserting a defense against repayment. While I commend you on the steps the Department has taken to hold these actors accountable, we ask that you exercise the full extent of your authority under the Higher Education Act to provide relief to the students who were harmed by Corinthian Colleges.

Complaints filed by the California State Attorney General’s Office[1]and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau[2]outline a clear pattern of abuse – all across the country potential students were lured into expensive education programs with false promises of job placement upon graduation. Executive level management at the schools stated in emails that their recordkeeping and auditing to determine job placement rates were inadequate. The same correspondence reveals that job placement rates for graduates were worse than the numbers the schools were reporting in marketing materials, disclosures to investors, and to the Department of Education.

These practices were so pervasive and egregious that they eventually agreed with the Department of Education, on July 3, 2014, that Corinthian would have limited access to Title IV funds and would sell off or close its U.S. schools. These schools should be shut down entirely so that current and former students may be refunded their tuition costs. While the Department of Education has chosen a different path forward, hundreds of students harmed by these schools continue to pursue relief from their predatory and debilitating debts.

The Department of Education’s own promissory notes signed by all borrowers states[3]:

In some cases, you may assert, as a defense against collection of your loan, that the school did something wrong or failed to do something it should have done. You can make such a defense against repayment only if the school’s act or omission directly relates to your loan or to the educational services that the loan was intended to pay for, and if what the school did or did not do would give rise to a legal cause of action against the school under applicable state law.

As the California Attorney General and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau complaints identify, these schools routinely violated state and federal consumer protection laws to mislead these students into taking on unsustainable debt to pay for educational services that were inadequate for obtaining employment. It has been widely reported that forgiveness of loans would cost taxpayers[4], but the Department’s own regulations at 34 CFR 685.206 clearly state:

The Secretary may initiate an appropriate proceeding to require the school whose act or omission resulted in the borrower’s successful defense against repayment of a Direct Loan to pay to the Secretary the amount of the loan to which the defense applies.

We ask that the Department honor these students’ defenses against repayment and collection on these fraudulent and predatory loans, and place the financial burden for these actions where it belongs – with the schools. We also request that the Department make it easier for students to submit such requests and provide clear guidance to Congress and to the public as to how the Department will evaluate similar requests in the future. The Department should also prevent dual-tracking by suspending wage garnishments and negative credit reporting while requests are being evaluated, and providing student loan servicers with clear instructions for handling defense against repayment petitions by students.

We are encouraged to see the Department is taking this matter seriously, as it recently fined Corinthian $30 million and imposed other penalties on its remaining campuses based on findings of fraud and misconduct.

We worry for the future of these hardworking men and women who were responsibly pursuing an education only to be lured into inescapable debt, but we also fear that the Department’s inaction on this matter could undermine the faith of future students in our education system.

We look forward to your prompt and thoughtful response to these students’ prayers for relief.


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[1]Filed Complaint:  CA v Heald;Corinthian;Sequoia;Career Choices;Titan;Rhodes;Florida Metropolitan; Everest, https://oag.ca.gov/system/files/attachments/press_releases/Complaint%2C%20filed%20stamped_0.pdf


[2]Filed Complaint: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v Corinthian Colleges Inc., http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201409_cfpb_complaint_corinthian.pdf


[3]Contents of Borrower Rights and Responsibilities Statement: http://loanconsolidation.ed.gov/borrower/brights.html


[4]A Revolt is Growing as More People Refuse to Pay Back Student Loans, The Washington Post : http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2015/03/30/a-revolt-is-growing-as-more-people-refuse-to-pay-back-student-loans/