WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), tonight issued the following statement after the Wisconsin State Senate passed a measure that restricts the collective bargaining rights of public workers.

"I am appalled by the actions of the Republicans in Wisconsin.  They trampled over the democratic process, ramming through legislation taking away a fundamental right of Wisconsin's public servants - the right to organize.  The law has nothing to do with budgets.  It is blatant political scapegoating, and it is shameful.  Our elected leaders at every level of government should be focused on helping working families succeed, not tearing them down."

IEPA Director Doug Scott to Lead Commerce Commission, Manny Flores to Lead IDFPR Division of Banking

CHICAGO - February 28, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today announced several top appointments to his executive cabinet. Today's actions are the next step in a series of appointments Governor Quinn will continue making throughout the first quarter of 2011 as he continues to fulfill his commitment to creating jobs, recovering our economy and making state government more efficient and accountable to the people of Illinois.

Today Governor Quinn named Doug Scott as chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) and Manuel "Manny" Flores as director of the Division of Banking of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Scott has served as director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) since 2005 and Flores has chaired the ICC since January 2010. Governor Quinn also named Andrew Ross as the state's chief operating officer and Lisa Bonnett as interim director of IEPA.

"Throughout their careers, Doug Scott and Manny Flores have proven themselves to be strong advocates for the interests of Illinois' working families," said Governor Quinn. "Today's appointments will allow them to keep fighting for Illinois' consumers by ensuring proper oversight and regulation of utility companies and banks throughout our state."

As director of the IEPA, Scott has protected Illinois' consumers by working to significantly reduce emissions from the state's power plants. He has also worked to support low-emission coal technology, wind power, and other alternative energy and fuel sources. Prior to leading the IEPA, Scott served as mayor of Rockford, and from 1995 to 2001 he served as state representative from Illinois' 67th District. Scott has a bachelor of arts from the University of Tulsa and a juris doctorate from Marquette University.

As chairman of the ICC, Flores worked to ensure consumers received efficient, reliable, safe and fairly-priced utility services. Before leading the ICC, Flores served on the Chicago City Council and as a prosecutor in the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. He received his undergraduate degree in political science from Dominican University and juris doctorate from George Washington University Law School.

Lisa Bonnett will serve as the interim director of the IEPA. Bonnett is currently serving as the agency's acting deputy director and previously served at its chief fiscal officer. Bonnett has worked in state government for more than 30 years and lives in Springfield. She has a bachelor's degree and master's degree from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Today Governor Quinn also named Andrew Ross as the state's chief operating officer. Ross, who for the last two years has served as a deputy chief of staff in the governor's office, will lead efforts to promote continued job growth in Illinois. He will manage efforts in the governor's office and across state government to keep and attract new companies, encourage expansion of the green economy, and spur entrepreneurship and innovation across Illinois. In his previous position, Ross worked on an incentive package to keep Navistar and 3,000 jobs in Illinois, aided implementation of the state's $31 billion capital program and helped overhaul the regulation of the Illinois cemetery industry following the tragedy at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - February 11, 2011 - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today issued the following statement after learning that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had resigned.

"Today is an historic day on many levels, but none of greater significance than for the people of Egypt, who have clearly spoken.  It seems that the departure of President Mubarak is a step toward democracy.  But despite their intent, I cannot help but be concerned over the role of the Egyptian military in this transition.  There must be a transition to stable, civilian governance - something that will honor the Egyptian people's will - not just another strongman."

Names Two Senior Advisors and Five Agency Heads to Continue Efforts to Boost Illinois' Economic Recovery, Address State's Fiscal Challenges

CHICAGO - February 7, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today named two senior members to his administration and re-appointed five members of his executive cabinet. Today's actions are the second step in a series of appointments Governor Quinn will make over the first quarter of 2011 as he continues to fulfill his commitment to creating jobs, recovering our economy and making state government more efficient and accountable to the people of Illinois.

Today Governor Quinn named Cristal Thomas to serve as his Deputy Governor for Public Policy and Sean Vinck to serve as Chief Information Officer. Governor Quinn also re-appointed Secretary Brent Adams to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Director Arthur Bishop to the Department of Juvenile Justice, Director Dan Grant to the Department of Veterans' Affairs, Director Michael McRaith to the Department of Insurance and Director Marc Miller to the Department of Natural Resources.

"Continuing our mission of recovering Illinois' economy and addressing our budget challenges requires hard work by a team of dedicated and talented individuals," said Governor Quinn. "These seven appointees have an ethic of service and I am confident that they will work collaboratively and creatively to address our problems and move Illinois forward."

As Deputy Governor for Public Policy, Cristal Thomas will help develop and implement the Quinn administration's public policy priorities. Thomas previously served as Region V Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), acting as the official representative of Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Previously, Thomas was Executive Director of the Ohio Executive Medicaid Management Administration, serving as a member of Governor Ted Strickland's cabinet. Thomas previously served as Assistant Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), Director of Strategic Planning for HFS, and Policy Analyst in the White House Office of Management and Budget. She holds a Master's Degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago.

As Chief Information Officer, Vinck will direct the state's information technology policies, focusing on improving and updating IT infrastructure. Additionally, he will oversee information technology officers throughout state government. Since January 2010, Vinck has served as Special Administrator for the Department of Corrections, where he was tasked with overhauling and modernizing the agency's electronic Offender Tracking System. Previously, he served as Governor Quinn's Chief Legislative Counsel and Chief of Intergovernmental Affairs. Vinck also served then-Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn as his Legislative Counsel. He holds a Master's Degree in Political Science and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Notre Dame.

Secretary Brent Adams partnered with legislative leaders, industry experts, and consumer advocates to develop and pass the Cemetery Oversight Act, one of the most pro-consumer cemetery laws in the country. He also chaired the Mortgage Fraud Task Force and coordinated the Mortgage Relief Project, a statewide program that has helped thousands of homeowners take advantage of programs that can help them save their homes. He drafted and served as a lead negotiator for consumers on the Homeowner Protection Act, the Payday Loan Reform Act, the Consumer Installment Loan Reform Act, and regulations to protect consumers from predatory auto title loans.

Director Arthur Bishop brings more 35 years of experience in administering child welfare, community mental health and substance abuse programs including 15 years serving in the Department of Child and Family Services where he led several initiatives requiring interagency collaboration between public, private and community-based partners, including family advocacy centers, paternal involvement centers and the Fatherhood Initiative. Bishop has also represented DCFS on the Governor's Task Force on the Condition of African American Males.

Director Dan Grant, a graduate of West Point, has led the Department of Veterans' Affairs since 2009. Grant has worked with members of the Illinois legislature and testified at hearings to help secure passage of a bill that ensured interest payments were made on delayed Line-of-Duty Benefit payments to bereaved military families (SB 2489.) He also spearheaded legislation to establish the Task Force on Service Member and Veterans Education and the Military Family Interstate Compact Implementation Statute Drafting Advisory Committee (HB 5368). Grant is also a captain in the U.S. Army and led 28 men in a combat arms platoon during a year-long deployment in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served throughout the Sunni Triangle in Bayji, Samarra, Balad, and Tikrit in a wide range of roles, including leading a 120 person team of soldiers, local Iraqi's, U.S. contractors, and coalition allies in the excavation, collection and destruction of 3 million pounds of enemy ammunition during a 120 day mission.

Director Michael McRaith is leading the state's implementation of federal health care reform and serves as chairman of the board of directors for the Illinois Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan (a high risk health insurance pool). He also supervises the state's Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP), and has actively participated in developing, drafting and advocating for statewide and national health insurance modernization, including boosting reporting requirements to guard against unreasonable premium hikes by Illinois health insurance providers. McRaith also serves on the executive committee of the board of directors for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and serves on board of directors for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Chicago Chapter.

Director Marc Miller has led the Department of Natural Resources since 2009 after serving on then-Lieutenant Governor Quinn's staff since June 2004. Miller was instrumental in the development and implementation of many environmental programs including the Dam Safety Initiative and the Mud-to-Parks program, which promoted the beneficial reuse of river settlement. He has also been instrumental in dozens of park development and land acquisition projects throughout Illinois. Miller is also an avid outdoorsman with an interest in fly fishing, hunting, canoeing, wildlife viewing, camping and hiking.

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CHICAGO - February 4, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today took action on the following bills:

Bill No.: HB 1631

Extends the Marquette TIF District in the Village of Romeoville from 23 years (ending in 2012) to 35 years (ending in 2024).

An Act Concerning: Local government

Action: Signed                        

Effective Date: Immediately

 

Bill No.: HB 1720

Expands the definition of a "hospital" to include "buildings on a campus" and aligns the definition of "campus" with the definition used by federal Medicare regulations.

An Act Concerning: Regulation

Action: Signed                        

Effective Date: Immediately

 

Bill No.: HB 5178

Exempts ticket sales and membership fees sold at the Brookfield Zoo from a municipal amusement tax.

An Act Concerning: Revenue

Action: Signed                        

Effective Date: Immediately

 

Bill No.: HB 5417

Removes language providing that members of a downstate police pension fund receive a "pro rata" share of the benefits should such fund have insufficient money to pay the entirety of the benefits owed to its members.

An Act Concerning: Public Employee Benefits

Action: Signed                        

Effective Date: Immediately

 

Bill No.: SB 902

Deletes a provision regarding the dispensation of money from the State Migratory Waterfowl Stamp Fund, which is in conflict with another state law.

An Act Concerning: Fish

Action: Signed                        

Effective Date: Immediately

Bill No.: SB 2525

Ensures insurance availability for state employees and their dependents, and makes corrective changes regarding the Military Leave of Absence Act.

An Act Concerning: Public Employee Benefits

Action: Signed                        

Effective Date: Immediately

 

Bill No.: SB 3342

Provides that instruments issued by the Bi-State Development Authority mature at 40 years - rather than 30 years - after the date of issuance.

An Act Concerning: State Government

Action: Signed                        

Effective Date: Immediately

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Six Appointees to Help Lead Administration's Continued Efforts to Reform State Government, Address Fiscal Challenges

CHICAGO - January 31, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today made six appointments to his executive cabinet. Today's actions begin a series of appointments Governor Quinn will make over the first quarter of 2011 as he continues fulfilling his commitment to creating jobs, recovering our economy and making state government more efficient and accountable to the people of Illinois.

Today Governor Quinn re-appointed Director Rocco Claps to the Department of Human Rights, Director Brian Hamer to the Department of Revenue, Director Julie Hamos to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Secretary Gary Hannig to the Department of Transportation, Director Erwin McEwen to the Department of Children and Family Services and Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler to the Department of Human Services.

"I am proud to appoint these trusted members of my cabinet to continue their dedicated service to the people of Illinois," said Governor Quinn. "Over the course of my administration they have shown themselves to be unparalleled stewards of the public trust, and I look forward to their continued service."

As Director of the Department of Human Rights, Rocco Claps has led efforts to establish civil unions, prevent sexual harassment on college campuses, reduce bullying in schools and increase gang prevention. Prior to his appointment to head the department, Claps served as deputy assessor for Cook County and held a number of positions within the administration of President Bill Clinton. He previously worked in the Illinois House of Representatives and is a graduate of Illinois State University.

Brian Hamer has led the Department of Revenue's efforts to save Illinois millions of dollars by boosting electronic filing of tax returns as well as collecting tens of millions of dollars from gasoline tax evaders. He also administered the state's 2010 tax amnesty program. He is a former deputy director of the Chicago Department of Revenue and previously served in Chicago's corporation counsel office. Prior to his work in government, Hamer graduated from Yale University and earned a law degree from Columbia University, where he edited the school's law review journal.

As Director of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Julie Hamos is leading the state's implementation of national healthcare reform, and negotiated and led passage of Illinois' historic Medicaid reform law. Hamos previously served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1999 to 2010, representing the 18th District. Prior to her election to the General Assembly, Hamos worked as the legislative counsel and policy advisor to then-State's Attorney Richard M. Daley, before being appointed director of the Child Support Division, which oversees more than 300,000 child support cases each year. Hamos earned a Bachelor's degree from Washington University and a law degree from George Washington University.

As Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Gary Hannig is leading implementation of Illinois Jobs Now!, the largest capital construction and job creation plan in Illinois' history. Previously, Hannig served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1979 to 2009, representing the 98th district, eventually becoming Deputy Majority Leader. He graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in accounting.

Prior to his appointment to head the Department of Children and Family Services, Erwin McEwen served as child welfare administrator at Lakeside Community Committee, where he oversaw four core child welfare programs. He has committed 20 years of service to youth and families in the Illinois social services community, serving at Kaleidoscope, DCFS, Hull House and Lakeside. McEwen has also served as a member of the Illinois Statewide Foster Parent Advisory Council, the Illinois Child Care Association Board of Directors, the Child Welfare Advisory Committee on Performance-Based Contracting, and the African American Family Commission's Monitoring and Oversight Committee.

Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler has led the Department of Human Services since October 2009, except during a time when she served as Governor Quinn's Chief of Staff from August 2010 to December 2010. Saddler led implementation of the state's nationally-recognized Put Illinois to Work program, which put more than 26,000 people to work throughout the state, giving them valuable job experience to ensure that they are competitive in the workforce. Her  past positions include Vice President for International Adoptions for the Lifelink Corporation and Executive Director of the Illinois Metropolitan Investment Fund. She also served as Director of Investments with then-Illinois State Treasurer Quinn and is a Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of Protestants for the Common Good.

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WASHINGTON - January 27, 2011 - Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden have scored a major victory in their bipartisan effort, which started more than a decade ago, to end the secrecy of Senate holds, a practice that allows individual senators to object to Senate action on legislation or nominations and, thereby, prevent a measure from moving forward.

The Senate passed a binding resolution sponsored by Grassley and Wyden today by a vote of 92 to 4.  It is the first time a Senate vote for the reform sought by Grassley and Wyden was on a freestanding resolution, and the change took effect upon passage.  The Standing Order created by the Grassley-Wyden legislation will require senators to make their objections in writing and the objections to be printed in The Congressional Record two days after they are made, whether or not the bills or nominations have been brought up for floor consideration.  Grassley said the goal is to increase transparency and achieve greater accountability.

"Holds are an important right of individual senators as they work to represent their constituents and for the best interests of the country, but the right ought to be exercised in the light of day," Grassley said.  "Disclosure will be good for the legislative process.  The requirements of our resolution will be meaningful in helping to make the public's business public."

Grassley and Wyden started their crusade against secret holds more than 10 years ago and have been joined in recent years by Senators Claire McCaskill and Susan Collins in making an effective case.

Over the years, Grassley and Wyden have made progress but also met opposition.  Leadership pledges to end the practice were disregarded.  In 1997, a Senate-passed Grassley-Wyden amendment to stop the secrecy was gutted by a legislative conference committee.  In 2006, Wyden-Grassley reform legislation passed the Senate as an amendment only to be altered to the point of ineffectiveness by 2007-passed legislation.

All along, Grassley and Wyden have made their own holds public information by routinely putting statements in The Congressional Record whenever they placed a hold.

The text of the floor statement delivered today by Grassley follows here.

Floor Statement of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Thursday, January 27, 201

Mr. President.  I'm pleased to see this day come where the Senate will finally have the opportunity for an up or down vote on our freestanding Senate Resolution to require public disclosure of holds.

Senator Wyden and I have been at this for a long time.  We've made progress at times, and we have also had many disappointments where things didn't work out like we had hoped.  It's also been good to have Senator McCaskill join us in helping push this issue to the forefront recently.

Ending secret holds seems like a simple matter, but that hasn't proven to be the case.  Because secret holds are an informal process, it is easier said than done to push them out into the open using formal Senate procedures.  It's kind of like trying to wrestle down a greased hog.  However, after a lot of thought and effort, two committee hearings, and many careful revisions, I think this resolution does a pretty good job of accomplishing our simple goal.

That goal is really just to bring some more transparency into how the Senate does business.  This isn't the only proposal we are considering today related to Senate procedure, and I don't want there to be any confusion.  This proposal is not about altering the balance of power between the majority and minority party; neither does our resolution alter the rights of individual senators.

Over the time I've been working on this issue, I have occasionally encountered arguments purporting to defend the need for secret holds.  However, the arguments invariably focus on the legitimacy of holds, not secrecy.  I want to be clear that secrecy is my only target and the only thing that this resolution eliminates.

I fully support the fundamental right of an individual senator to withhold his or her consent when unanimous consent is requested.  Senators are not obligated to give their consent to anything they don't want to,and no senator is entitled to get any other senator's consent to their motion.

I think the best way to describe what we seek to do with this resolution is to explain historically how holds came into being, as senators have heard me do before.  In the old days, when senators conducted much of their daily business from their desk on the Senate floor, it was a simple matter to stand up and say, "I object" when necessary.  These days, most senators spend most of their time off the Senate floor.  We are required to spend time in committee hearings, meeting with constituents, and attending to other duties that keep us away from the Senate chamber.  As a result, we rely on our respective party's leaders here in the Senate to protect our rights and prerogatives as individual senators by asking them to object on our behalf.

Just as any senator has the right to stand up on the Senate floor and publicly say, "I object," it is perfectly legitimate to ask another senator to object on our behalf if we cannot make it to the floor when consent is requested.  By the same token, Senators have no inherent right to have others object on their behalf while keeping their identity secret.

If a senator has a legitimate reason to object to proceeding to a bill or nominee, then he or she ought to have the guts to do so publicly.  We need have no fear of being held accountable by our constituents if we are acting in their interest as we are elected to do.

Transparency is essential for accountability, and accountability is an essential component of our Constitutional system.  Transparency and accountability are also vital for the public to have faith in their government.

As I've said many times, the people's business ought to be done in public.  In my view, that's the principle at stake here.

Examining the 2010 Campaign and Vote

 WHAT: Panel discussion on what the 2010 judicial elections can teach voters and judges about the politics of judicial elections when faced with a complex, hot-button social issue like same-sex marriage.

WHEN:         Thursday - February 3, 2011 @ 7:00pm CT

WHERE: Levitt Auditorium

University of Iowa College of Law

130 Byington

Iowa City, IA 52242

WHO: Professor Brian T. Fitzpatrick, Vanderbilt Law School

Michael Streit, former Iowa Supreme Court Justice

Seth Andersen, Executive Director, American Judicature Society

Kathie Obradovich, Columnist, Des Moines Register

Professor David Perlmutter, University of Iowa

Professor Todd Pettys, University of Iowa - Moderator

To RSVP, please contact Caitlin Carroll at carroll@crcpublicrelations.com or 703-683-5004 ext. 115.

 

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By
Darrell Castle
Vice-Chairman
Constitution Party National Committee

Last night, January 25, 2011, President Obama delivered his State of the Union address, as he is required by the Constitution to do once each year. Although he covered many different areas, he concentrated on only three: the domestic economy, which includes what he called job creation, domestic policy topics such as education and energy, and foreign policy, which includes military and defense issues.

The President told us that the nation is doing well economically and is on its way to recovery from recession. Evidence of this recovery, according to the President, is the "booming stock market."

My response is that it is utterly ridiculous to say that we are well into recovery because the stock market is booming. Tell that news to the 43 million plus who have to use food stamps to eat. Tell that to the 15 million plus unemployed people. That number would be much higher than 15 million if the government kept honest numbers and counted the people who are no longer looking for jobs. Tell that to the millions of underemployed who used to have good jobs in manufacturing with benefits and who now work in service-related jobs with no benefits.

The President said that we can't live in the past with regard to our economy. For example, it used to take about 1000 jobs to operate a steel mill, but now it only takes 100, so we must adjust to that reality and innovate. What he didn't say is that any jobs in steel are being performed in Korea and other countries and no amount of innovation will change that.

What then is the answer to our economic problems? First, do no more harm with bailouts. Stop all bailouts and recover any money previously committed to bailouts that has not already been spent. Withdraw from all so-called free trade agreements such as NAFTA, CAFTA, WTO, and GATT which have been largely responsible for the destruction of America's manufacturing base. Remove the regulations and restrictions that prevent businesses from doing business in America and from hiring the people they need to make the things that people want to buy.

Finally, the economy cannot recover until the debt and deficit are resolved through de-leveraging of debt and control of spending.  Stop spending more than you take in. It is a simple concept that Americans understand but that apparently their politicians don't. Once the debt and deficit are under control, the President should endeavor to drive a stake through the heart of the entire Federal Reserve system and return to a monetary system based on sound money principles. Stop the destruction of our currency immediately.

The President also told us that educationally we are doing well, but we can do better, so he launched a program called Race to the Top in all fifty states to replace No Child Left Behind. This is also total nonsense. The United States continues to lag behind other nations in math, science, and reading skills. Our system of education, controlled and paid for by the federal government, is a failure and should be scrapped and replaced with state and local control, with primary responsibility left to parents. There is no role for the federal government in education whatsoever.

The nation's energy needs could be met largely by domestic production if we were to allow our own domestic sources of energy to be exploited by repeal of harmful laws that unnecessarily restrain production. Technology will now allow energy exploration and production with minimal damage to the environment.  This would prevent the US government from exploring for oil in the Middle East through military force and help foster a more peaceful world.

Finally, the President talked about "shaping" a better world through strengthening NATO and rebuilding our relationship with Russia. He stated that 100,000 of our troops have come home from Iraq with their heads held high. That is also complete nonsense. It's not his job to shape the world, it's his job to protect and defend the Constitution and the American people. Many of those 100,000 troops didn't come home but went to Afghanistan instead. Thousands of others did come home but in boxes or in rehab hospitals.

What then is the foreign policy answer? Issue an order to General Patraeus and the other commanders to execute an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. Then order a military withdrawal from the other 100 nations around the world where we have over 700 foreign bases. That would save many lives, much money, and would create far fewer enemies than we are creating now.

We simply must stop acting as if we own the world or as if we are responsible for it. That would not be isolationism but instead a lack of military domination. The US would trade with all nations who were willing to trade with us. Creditor nations would probably appreciate our new monetary policy whereby they were paid with real instead of counterfeit money.

If the President were to dedicate himself to the ideas proposed in this response to his speech, we would be well on our way to the most dynamic period in American history.

Grassley re-introduces bill to apply health care reforms to White House and administration leaders, and equitably in Congress

WASHINGTON - January 26, 2011 - Senator Chuck Grassley today renewed his effort to apply the health care reform law to the President, Vice President, cabinet members, top White House staff, and the congressional staff who worked for passage of the massive overhaul enacted in March 2010.

Previous legislative initiatives by Grassley to establish accountability in Congress and the administration were rebuffed, both in 2009 and 2010, by the Democratic Majority Leader in the Senate.  "As a result, the health care reforms driven by President Obama and Senator Reid do not apply to President Obama and top administration officials or to the powerful congressional leadership staff who helped to make the overhaul the law of the land," Grassley said.  "The message to grassroots America is that health care reform is good enough for you, but not for us."

Grassley said that now that a new Congress has started, Senate leaders have another chance to make things right and should act immediately to pass his Health Reform Accountability Act.  "Until the health care overhaul is repealed and replaced with reforms that have broad-based support, the majority leadership in the Senate and the administration ought to make sure they are required to live under the health care law they put on the books."

Grassley started his accountability effort in September 2009, when the Finance Committee, where he served as Ranking Member, was acting on its reform proposal.  Committee members approved a Grassley amendment to have members of Congress and all congressional staff obtain their health insurance through the same health insurance exchanges where health plans for the general public would be available.  After the bill left committee and during the closed-door reworking of the legislation in the Senate Majority Leader's office, Senate committee and leadership staffs were exempted from the requirement.

In December 2010, when the carve-out was discovered, Grassley and Senator Tom Coburn offered an amendment to restore the requirement for all congressional staff and also to statutorily require the President, the Vice President, top White House staff and cabinet members to get their health insurance through the newly created exchanges.  The amendment did not apply to federal employees in the civil service.  The Grassley-Coburn amendment was never brought up for a vote.  The legislative fix also was not included in the final manager's amendment, controlled by the Senate Majority Leader, on Christmas Eve, when the Senate passed the legislation that ultimately became law.  Grassley made another attempt to have the special carve-out removed during Senate consideration of the health-care reconciliation bill in March 2010.  Again, he was rebuffed.  Grassley filed the same free-standing legislation introduced today immediately following final passage, but it has never been brought up by the Senate Majority Leader, who controls the calendar and Senate businesss.

Grassley said the motivation for his initiative is simple:  public officials who make the laws or lead efforts to have laws changed should live under those laws.  "It's the same principle that motivated me to pursue legislation over 20 years ago to apply civil rights, labor and employment laws to Congress," Grassley said.

That previous Grassley crusade met success in 1995, when President Clinton signed into law Grassley's Congressional Accountability Act.  Before then, Congress had routinely exempted itself from major laws, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Veteran's Employment and Reemployment Rights at Chapter 43 of Title 38 of the U.S. Code, and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1989.  All 12 of those laws now apply to Congress, thanks to Grassley's reform legislation.

Today, Grassley also is working to make sure Congress lives up to the same standards it imposes on others with legislation such as his Congressional Whistleblower Protection Act.

As far as the health care law, as it stands today, because of the amendment Grassley included in the Finance Committee bill, at least members of Congress and their personal office staffs will be required to obtain their health insurance coverage through the newly created health care exchanges, when the law takes full effect in 2014, instead of the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program.

In March 2010, the White House announced that the President planned to participate in the health insurance exchanges in 2014.  Grassley said at the time that the move effectively endorsed his legislation.  "I appreciate it, but the principle of living under the law shouldn't be voluntary for political leaders."

The companion bill to the legislation filed today by Grassley was introduced last week in the House of Representatives by Representative Michael Burgess of Texas.  It's H.R.360.

 

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