Civic News & Info
Cain Requests That Justice Elena Kagan Recuse Herself from the Supreme Court’s Obamacare Hearing PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by J D Gordon   
Monday, 21 November 2011 16:36
Republican presidential candidate and businessman Herman Cain today requested that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan recuse herself from the upcoming Supreme Court hearing on Obamacare.

As a political appointee in President Obama’s Justice Department, Justice Kagan strongly advocated for the government takeover of health care and during the bill’s debate, then- Solicitor General Kagan actively supported a government-run system and sent a jubilant email to then-Justice Department colleague Laurence Tribe saying: ““I hear they have the votes, Larry!! Simply amazing.”

“I request that Justice Kagan recuse herself immediately from hearing the Obamacare case,” Cain said. “Members of the highest court in the land should be impartial, strictly follow the Constitution and should not carry water for former employers in the White House.”

According to 28 USC 455, Supreme Court justices must recuse from “any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned” and if they have at any time “expressed an opinion concerning the merits of the particular case in controversy” while he or she “served in governmental employment.”

 
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES MORE THAN $2 MILLION TO FUND HOUSING FOR VERY LOW-INCOME SENIORS IN BURLINGTON, IOWA PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by HUD Public Affairs   
Monday, 21 November 2011 15:49

In addition to this capital advance, three-year rental subsidy will help cover rent and operating costs

WASHINGTON – More very low-income senior citizens in Iowa will have access to affordable supportive housing thanks to $2.3 million in housing assistance announced today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These funds will help non-profit organizations produce accessible housing, offer rental assistance, and facilitate supportive services for the elderly

The grant funding awarded under HUD’s Sections 202 Supportive Housing program will kick start construction or major rehabilitation for more than 97 housing developments in 42 different states and Puerto Rico.  In Iowa, 15 additional elderly households will be affordably housed with access to needed services in Burlington where “West Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging” was awarded $2,147,500.

“The Obama Administration is committed to helping our senior citizens find a decent, affordable place to live that is close to needed healthcare services and transportation,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.  “Recent bipartisan changes to HUD’s supportive housing programs will allow us to better serve some of our more vulnerable populations who would otherwise be struggling to find a safe and decent home of their own.”

In Burlington, the capital advance funds will be used to construct a single story 15 unit facility and an additional $156,300 three-year HUD rental subsidy will help cover rent and operating costs.  The one-bedroom units will feature adjustable height shelving, lever handles and be designed for wheelchair adaptability.  The project is in close proximity to a grocery store, wellness center, and other desirable neighborhood amenities.  Residents will have access to a daily door-to-door transport service.

Enacted early this year with strong bipartisan support, the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act and the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Act provided needed enhancements and reforms to HUD’s programs.  Nonprofit grant recipients will now receive federal assistance that is better connected to state and local health care investments, allowing greater numbers of vulnerable elderly individuals to access the housing they need even more quickly.

Section 202 Capital Advances will provide $545 million nationwide to 97 projects in 42 States and Puerto.  In addition to funding the construction, acquisition, and rehabilitation of multifamily developments, HUD’s Section 202 program will also provide $54 million in rental assistance so that residents only pay 30 percent of their adjusted incomes.  Section 202 provides very low-income elderly persons 62 years of age or older with the opportunity to live independently in an environment that provides support services to frail elderly resident.

HUD provides these funds to non-profit organizations in two forms:

 

  • Capital Advances.  This is funding that covers the cost of developing, acquiring, or rehabilitating the development.  Repayment is not required as long as the housing remains available for occupancy by very low-income elderly persons for at least 40 years.

  • Project Rental Assistance Contracts.  This is funding that goes to each development to cover the difference between the residents’ contributions toward rent and the cost of operating the project.

 

Residents must be “very low income” with household incomes less than 50 percent of their median for that area.  However, most households that receive Section 202 assistance earn less than 30 percent of the median for their area.  Generally, this means that a one-person household will have an annual income of about $13,500.

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Lt. Governor Simon testifies on rural EMS issues PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Kathryn Phillips   
Monday, 21 November 2011 15:25

Asks state to consider more online training for rural EMTs

GALESBURG – November 15, 2011. As chair of the Governor's Rural Affairs Council, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon asked a state task force today to consider expanding online training for rural emergency medical service (EMS) providers.

Simon said greater online training could improve recruitment and retention of paid and volunteer workers who must take 120 hours of continuing education every four years to remain certified. Rural emergency medical technicians often pay out-of-pocket for continuing education, which can require costly overnight travel and lost wages for volunteers who must take time off from their regular jobs, Simon said.

Simon's request came during a House EMS task force hearing at Galesburg City Hall. The 24-member House EMS task force, which is co-chaired by Reps. Don Moffitt (R-Galesburg) and Lisa Dugan (D-Kankakee), is holding public hearings across the state and will issue recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly by the end of the year.

"The EMS providers we rely on to handle life or death situations are finding themselves on life support," Simon said. "We need to find creative ways to help them attract qualified employees and manage the high cost of doing business in large areas with small populations."

Rural providers are facing revenue problems because reimbursement rates from third-party sources such as Medicaid do not cover the increased cost of providing services, Simon said. Rural providers also report that non-emergency calls for transportation or assistance, which may not be billable or go unpaid, place further strain on budgets.

“It is a privilege to work with Lt. Governor Simon, Rep. Moffitt, fellow task force members and all the EMS personnel on this important state issue,” Dugan said. “It is imperative that we realize and help solve some of the problems EMS providers face so they can continue to serve the public.”

Under the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council, Simon is creating an EMS subcommittee to improve emergency services for rural residents. Dottie Miles, the executive director of Jackson County Ambulance Service, and Greg Scott, EMS coordinator for the McLean County Area EMS System, will serve as co-chairs of the subcommittee.

“This subcommittee will bring together a diverse group of volunteers from across rural Illinois with a variety of EMS experience,” Simon said. “I look forward to working with the subcommittee, as well as the House EMS task force, to identify innovative solutions to the problems facing rural providers and residents.”

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Facts are Stubborn Things: Setting the Record Straight on the Justice Department Oversight Hearing PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Sen Chuck Grassley   
Tuesday, 15 November 2011 13:46

Senate Judiciary Committee Oversight Hearing with Attorney General Eric Holder, Nov. 8, 2011

•           Senator Grassley: “Who will be held accountable for allowing a letter to Congress with a statement that many people in the Justice Department knew was false?

Attorney General Holder: “Well again I – I have to dispute, with due respect, the assertion that people in the Justice Department knew it was false.”

•           Attorney General Holder to Senator Cornyn: “February the 4th, the information that was contained in that letter was thought to be accurate.  It wasn’t until sometime after that that we had a sense that the information was not, in fact, accurate.  So it wasn’t as if the date upon which we knew the information was inaccurate was on February the 4th.”

•           Senator Lee: “And – and you’ve reiterated several times that people within the Department of Justice believed that the initial statements denying knowledge of Fast and Furious were accurate.  They believed they were accurate.  Obviously these were some people and not all people, right?  Because clearly some people knew.

Attorney General Holder: “Exactly.”

FACT

On November 1, 2011, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer admitted in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism that he knew the statement in the February 4th letter to Senator Grassley was absolutely false.  Mr. Breuer had admitted in a statement issued the day before, on October 31, 2011, that gunwalking in a case known as Operation Wide Receiver was brought to his attention in April 2010.  Documents produced by the Justice Department show that in addition to Mr. Breuer, his Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, leadership within the Gang Unit of the department’s Criminal Division, and various Gang Unit prosecutors were also aware that guns had been walked in Operation Wide Receiver.  Thus, many senior officials at Justice Department headquarters clearly knew that it was false to assert that “ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally” — because they at least knew that ATF had walked guns in Wide Receiver.  Correspondence that has been produced in response to Freedom of Information Act requests makes clear that the Criminal Division reviewed the February 4 letter multiple times before it was sent to Senator Grassley.

 

Further, as a follow-up to the letter, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Weinstein conducted a widely-attended briefing on February 10, 2011 for staff of Senate Judiciary Committee members.  In that briefing, Mr. Weinstein did not disclose the gunwalking to staff, and clearly left the impression that they stood by the Justice Department’s Feb. 4 denial of the whistleblowers allegations, even though he was the same individual who brought gunwalking to Mr. Breuer’s attention nine months earlier in April 2010.

 
News from Senator Grassley's Office PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 15 November 2011 12:53

Good Government 101:  Public’s Right to Know

by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

A bit of wisdom attributed to a 16th century philosopher has nearly become cliché’ in today’s 21st century information age:  Knowledge is power.

The Internet and widespread, user-friendly technology allow people from around the world to mobilize, communicate and share unfiltered information and ideas like never before.  Going digital has revolutionized consumer behavior, the global economy and the public’s expectations for information.

The public’s right to know dates back to America’s founders whose advocacy and altruism planted the seeds of our republic that would create a lasting government created of, by and for the people.

James Madison, hailed as the father of the U.S. Constitution, served as the primary architect of our system of checks and balances and embraced the rights of the individual, saying, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Representing Iowans in the U.S. Senate, I have championed the public’s right to know and to protect freedom of information.

Meeting with Iowans in each of Iowa’s 99 counties at least once every year for the past three decades helps keep me accountable to the people who elect me to public office.  Keeping in touch with constituents – whether it’s face-to-face or by e-mail, with traditional news outlets or via social media – helps me to uphold the public trust.

What’s more, I take seriously my oath of office to uphold the Constitution.  As an elected caretaker of our representative democracy, I work to nurture and cultivate the freedoms and responsibilities of all Americans.

Transparency, openness, accessibility and accountability are non-negotiable cornerstones of good government that build faith in the three branches of the federal government.  Bureaucratic stonewalling and judicial over-reaching foster cynicism and distrust that harm public confidence.  In turn, this damages the government’s ability to effectively serve its citizens and, for example, could lead to an erosion of voluntary tax compliance.

From City Hall, to the Statehouse, to Capitol Hill, the taxpaying public has a vested interest in the people’s business.  Taxpayers deserve scrupulous stewardship of their tax dollars and assurance that our system of checks and balances is working to root out waste, fraud and abuse and to protect the integrity of the rule of law.

That’s why I have worked year after year to keep the people’s business open for public consumption.  Most recently, that includes my ongoing oversight of the:

  • Department of Justice’s “Fast and Furious” gun walking fiasco that allowed the illegal sale of thousands of weapons to flow to Mexico;
  • Department of Health and Human Service’s decision to shut down a public website with information on malpractice cases involving thousands of the nation’s doctors;
  • Federal Communications Commission and its attempt to block information from members of Congress and the public about a fast-tracked licensing agreement for a politically-connected applicant;
  • Securities and Exchange Commission’s missteps in its mission to protect investor confidence and the integrity of capital markets, including my efforts to support whistleblowers, tighten the revolving door between investment firms and regulatory and law enforcement, and to protect record-keeping relevant to investigations of wrongdoing on Wall Street.

The public’s right to know is a fundamental liberty of citizenship.  So whether it’s protecting watchdogs and whistleblowers or clearing out bureaucratic cobwebs with stronger sunshine laws, I’m working in Washington to promote access to government information.  The taxpaying public pays the bills, and the taxpaying public deserves to know how its government operates.

As James Madison wrote, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”  That’s why I’m committed to encourage, enable and engage the public to, as Madison also said, “arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Friday, November 11, 2011

 

Q&A on the Deficit Reduction Committee

with U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Q:        What exactly is the deficit reduction committee in Congress, and under what authority was it created?

A:        Last summer, Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011.  The law made it possible for the federal government to borrow more money, avoiding possible default on debt, and authorized the formation of a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.  Twelve members of Congress – six Democrats and six Republicans – were named by party leaders to the Joint Committee, and two of them are designated as co-chairs.  Committee members are charged with presenting a ten-year proposal for at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by November 23.  Both the Senate and the House are supposed to vote on the Joint Committee’s legislative package by December 23.  If the Joint Committee doesn’t agree on deficit reduction legislation or it is not enacted, then an automatic spending reduction process would be triggered beginning in January 2013.  These automatic reductions would be divided evenly between defense and non-defense spending.  The way that the Budget Control Act restricts amendments and limits time for debate is unusual.  I’m an advocate for regular order where standing committees develop responsible policy and legislative proposals in their areas of jurisdiction.  And, I voted against the Budget Control Act because the spending reductions weren’t proportional to the massive fiscal challenges we face.  But, Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution gives to both the Senate and House the power to “determine the Rules of its proceedings,” and the Budget Control Act was adopted by Congress and signed into law by the President on August 2, 2011.

 

Q:        Can Congress unravel the law if the Joint Committee isn’t successful, preventing the automatic deficit reduction from taking effect?

A:        As the director of the Congressional Budget Office recently said, “Any Congress can reverse the actions of a previous Congress.”  At the same time, there is tremendous pressure to begin reversing unsustainable growth in the federal debt and deficits.  In 2009, for the first time ever, the deficit was more than $1 trillion.  From 1946 to 2008, budget deficits averaged 1.7 percent of the gross domestic product and exceeded five percent only three times.  From 2009 to 2011, budget deficits will average 9.4 percent of the gross domestic product.  The federal debt held by the public has grown from 40 percent of the gross domestic product in 2008 to an estimated 69 percent of the gross domestic product in 2011.  The fact that Congress can vote to abandon plans put in place for spending restraint – and, too often, either has unraveled budget controls or never adopted them in the first place – makes the case for a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget.  I’m a co-sponsor of legislation that would establish a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.  The last time the Senate voted on a balanced budget amendment was in March 1997, when the nation’s debt was less than half of what it is today.  The resolution failed by one vote.  A balanced budget amendment passed the House of Representatives in 1995.  Both the Senate and the House of Representatives must vote on a balanced budget amendment this year, sometime before December 31, thanks to a requirement in the Budget Control Act.

 

Q:        Don’t tax increases need to be part of the solution for reducing deficits and debt?

A:        Fiscal discipline and economic growth need to be the top priorities for deficit and debt reduction.  Unchecked government spending will further threaten economic opportunity with higher debt and higher taxes.  It might be one thing if tax increases actually were used to reduce the deficit, but that’s not what happens.  Since World War II, every new dollar in tax increases has resulted in Congress’ spending $1.17.  Raising taxes has been a license for Congress to spend even more.  And, every dollar spent by Congress is a dollar taken out of the economy, and higher taxes leave fewer resources for the private sector to make investments, expand production, and create sustainable jobs.  The work of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction should stay focused on reducing spending, not on finding ways to increase revenue to fuel excessive government spending.  In addition to supporting reforms to entitlement spending to make sure valued programs are available to future generations of Americans and sustainable for taxpayers, I’ve submitted specific recommendations to the Joint Committee for spending reductions totaling hundreds of millions to even billions of dollars from administrative restructuring, reduction of duplicative  and overlapping programs, and unnecessary and wasteful programs under the authority and jurisdiction of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, where I serve as Ranking Member.  I also made recommendations to the Joint Committee for my bipartisan legislation that would save $4.8 billion in federal government spending on prescription drugs, including through Medicare and Medicaid, by stopping deals between name-brand and generic drug makers that keep less expensive drugs off the market.  I’ve urged the Joint Committee to adopt caps on farm payments, for a savings of $1.5 billion, and backed a goal of saving $23 billion in spending from programs that fall under the jurisdiction of the Senate Committee on Agriculture.  The bottom line is that Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.

 

Friday, November 11, 2011

 
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