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Appeals Court Confounds Military Justice by Importing Foreign Law into the U.S. Constitution

WLF Legal Pulse - Thu, 06/18/2015 - 4:58pm
Since the war against militant Islamists began in earnest in 2001, a cornerstone of U.S. national security policy has been to employ military commissions to hear criminal charges filed against al Qaeda leaders responsible for the September 11 (and subsequent) attacks. A decision last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, […]
Categories: Latest News

Thune and Wicker Statement on Lifeline Program Expansion

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 on a proposal marking the first step in the process of expanding the Lifeline universal service program to broadband Internet services. U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, issued the following joint statement:
“Today, the FCC adopted a proposal to expand the Lifeline program t...

Commerce Committee Leaders Introduce Coast Guard Reauthorization

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who respectively serve as the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who serve as chairman and ranking member of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the U.S. Coast Guard, today announced the introduction of S. 1611, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015.

“This reauthorizati...

Small Businesses Achieve Victory with House Passage of TPA

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 06/18/2015 - 12:00am
Small Businesses Achieve Victory with House Passage of TPA

WASHINGTON—Small businesses hoping to play a role in international trade achieved victory today with the passage of the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015. This legislation aims to bring clarity and communication to American trade deals, chiefly trade promotion authority (TPA).

Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) said: “Better trade agreements mean small businesses will be able to access new customers, offer their products more easily, and that more products will be built and sold. When that happens, jobs are created, wages are lifted, and more opportunity is available to all.”

Chabot added, “TPA will ensure communication between the people negotiating trade deals and the people representing small businesses at home: Congress. Put an American worker against anyone in the world and I’ll take that bet every day of the week and twice on Sunday. But we can’t get there without TPA.”

Over the last few months, Chairman Chabot and members of the Small Business Committee have heard from small business owners and operators about the need for TPA. Chairman Chabot shared these view in a speech on the House floor:

Michael Stanek, VP & Chief Financial Officer of Hunt Imaging, Berea, OH – May 20, 2015
“Free trade agreements are extremely important as they lower foreign barriers to our exports and produce a more level playing field. Without TPA, the U.S. is relegated to the sidelines as other nations negotiate trade agreements without us – putting American workers and companies – especially small ones – at a competitive disadvantage.”

Dyke Messinger, President of Power Curbers, Inc., Salisbury, N.C. – May 20, 2015
“Passage of TPA, which lapsed in 2007, is critical to restore U.S. leadership on trade…Manufacturers in the U.S. face steeper trade barriers abroad than virtually any other major country, including Mexico, China and Europe, largely because those countries have entered into more market-access agreements that the United States. Trade and foreign markets are critical for small business like Power Curbers.”

Brian Bieron, Executive Director of the Global Public Policy Lab for eBay – May 20, 2015
“Through our experience, we have found that technology is transforming trade by allowing Main Street businesses to directly take part in globalization, reaping the benefits of markets previously only open to the largest global companies. This is good economics because it means more growth and wealth, and it is good for society because it means a more inclusive form of globalization.”

Kevin Severns, Owner of Severns Farm, on behalf of California Citrus Mutual, Sanger, CA – June 11, 2015
“Without [TPA] critical negotiations with some of our key export markets may well stall. My understanding is that on average, U.S. citrus exports to the countries included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership can currently face tariffs as high as 40 percent. Given that 35 percent of California’s citrus crop is exported around the world, access to these markets is vital to us.”

For more on the Small Business Committee’s recent trade hearing, click here. For recent Small Business Committee trade legislation, click here and here.  For Chairman Chabot’s recent op-ed in the Washington Examiner on small business and trade, click here.


Senate Commerce Committee to Hold Hearing on Takata Investigation

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a full committee hearing entitled “Update on the Recalls of Defective Takata Air Bags and NHTSA’s Vehicle Safety Efforts” on Tuesday, June 23, 2015, at 10:00 a.m.

Crude Intentions: The Untold Story of the Ban, the Oil Industry, and America's Small Businesses

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 06/17/2015 - 11:00am
On Wednesday, June 17, 2015, at 11:00 A.M., the Committee on Small Business will hold a held a hearing titled, ​ Crude Intentions: The Untold Story of the Ban, the Oil Industry, and America's Small BusinessesThe hearing will be held in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.


The purpose of the hearing is to examine the possibility of lifting the crude oil export ban and the effect its removal will have on United States Small Businesses 

Opening Statement:

Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH)

Witnesses and Testimony:


  • Mr. Dale Leppo, Chairman, Leppo Group, Tallmadge, OH

  • Mr. Rory McMinn, President and Managing Director, Read and Stevens, Inc., Roswell, NM

  • Dr. Kenneth B. Medlock, III, Senior Director, Center for Energy Studies, James A. Baker,III and Susan G. Baker Fellow in Energy and Resource Economics

  •  Mr. Tyson Slocum, Energy Program director, Public Citizen, Washington, DC


    Additional Items:

    Oversight of the Consumer Protection Safety Commission

    Oversight Hearing on Consumer Protection Safety Commission

    Nelson Seeks Answers from Google on YouTube Kids App Content

    WASHINGTON, D.C -- U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) is seeking answers from Google CEO Larry Page on recent reports that YouTube Kids contained content inappropriate for children.  In a letter sent late Tuesday, Nelson is asking the company to detail, among other things, how it selects content for the new app and what steps it’s taking to ensure kids aren’t exposed to unsuitable content.  

    “As parents seek out safe and appropriate online venues for their children, it is...

    Roe Statement: Hearing on “Restricting Access to Financial Advice: Evaluating the Costs and Consequences for Working Families and Retirees”

    Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 06/17/2015 - 10:00am
    I wish we were here to discuss a proposal that enjoyed broad bipartisan support, one that would help strengthen our economy and improve the lives of hardworking men and women. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Instead, we are here to address a regulatory scheme that will hurt a lot of families, retirees, and small business owners, and it could not come at a worse possible time.

    One of the most difficult challenges we face as a country is a lack of real retirement security for America’s families. The defined benefit pension system continues to experience a decades-long decline, while many workers are still rebuilding the savings they lost in the recent recession. Due to these and other challenges – including a persistently weak economy – too many workers are retiring without the means necessary to ensure their financial security.

    Our goal as policymakers should be to advance bold, bipartisan solutions that will help more Americans plan, invest, and save for retirement. Regrettably, the department’s fiduciary regulation would move our country in the opposite direction. It would cut off a vital source of support many low- and middle-income families and small business owners rely on, and that is the help of a trusted financial advisor.

    Four years ago, the subcommittee examined a similar proposal that was later withdrawn under intense bipartisan opposition. I said at the time that anyone who provides investment assistance should be well trained, committed to high ethical and professional standards, and devoted to the best interests of those they are serving.

    That is why financial advisors have long been subject to a host of securities, tax, and disclosure requirements. It is a complex system of rules and regulations, but it is an important one that has worked well for decades. That does not mean we shouldn’t look for opportunities to improve current standards. But we cannot – in any way – make it harder for workers, retirees, and small business owners to receive the financial advice they may need.

    Yet that is precisely what this regulatory proposal would do. Offering some of the most basic assistance would be prohibited, such as advice on rolling over funds from a 401(k) to an IRA. Financial advisors would no longer be able to assist individuals in how to manage their funds upon retirement. And small business owners would be denied help in selecting the right investment options for their workforce, which will lead to fewer employees enrolled in a retirement plan.

    It has been suggested on numerous occasions that this proposal will simply apply to financial advisors the same standard recognized in the medical profession. Mr. Secretary, I believe you have drawn that comparison from time to time. It is a clever talking point, but one that couldn’t be more flawed.

    As a physician with more than 30 years of experience treating patients, let me just say that the approach reflected in this proposal would destroy what’s left of our health care system. Imagine what would happen if doctors were prohibited from receiving compensation, or were required to sign a contract with each patient before delivering services, or were forced to publish online each and every treatment that had been prescribed the following year. No doctor could run a successful practice under this type of regulatory regime, and no responsible financial advisor will be able to either.

    Make no mistake, if this rule goes into effect, a lot of people will quickly learn that their financial adviser – someone they may have known and trusted for years – will no longer be able to take their call. And it is important to note that low- and middle-income families are the ones who will bear the brunt of this misguided proposal. They will lose access to the personal service they rely on and be forced to find suitable advice online or simply fend for themselves.

    As is often the case with big government schemes, the wealthiest Americans will do just fine and those we want to help will be hurt the most. Mr. Secretary, this latest fiduciary proposal will lead to the same harmful consequences as the first and should suffer the same fate: Please withdraw this proposal and work with this committee on a responsible, bipartisan approach that will strengthen protections for investors and preserve robust access to financial advice. Our nation’s workers and retirees deserve nothing less.

    # # #

    Thune Statement on Reversal of Proposed Carry-On Bag Guidelines

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which has jurisdiction over aviation and consumer protection matters, issued the following statement on today’s announcement by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that it was ...

    Roe Statement: Hearing on H.R. 511, Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2015

    Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 06/16/2015 - 2:00pm
    Upholding Native American rights of self-determination has long been a priority. As far back as the 1830s, when the governmental authority of tribes was first challenged, our courts have held that “tribes possess a nationhood status and retain inherent powers of self-government.” For decades, policymakers have agreed on the importance of protecting these fundamental rights. We should never stand idly by while the sovereignty of Native Americans is threatened, and that is exactly why we’re here today.
    A little more than 10 years ago, the National Labor Relations Board overturned long-standing precedent with the landmark San Manuel Bingo & Casino decision and began using a subjective test to determine when and where to exert its jurisdiction over Indian tribes.
    This action was met with significant opposition from the Native American community and considered by many to be an attack on tribal sovereignty. In fact, at a hearing of this subcommittee in 2012, Robert Odawi Porter, president of the Seneca Nation of Indians, called the move “unfounded” and a violation of treaty rights. During the same hearing, I myself expressed concern with the board’s policy and its flawed interpretation of the law. Unfortunately, the board has ignored these and similar concerns and continues to exert its authority over Indian tribes.
    To make matters worse, the NLRB’s actions have had ramifications that extend beyond threatening tribal sovereignty. The subjective nature of the board’s process for determining jurisdiction has also produced a mess of legal confusion. Years of litigation have produced inconsistent and misguided board decisions, compounding the uncertainty felt by Native American tribes and their businesses.
    To help address these concerns and preserve tribal sovereignty over labor policies, our colleague Todd Rokita introduced H.R. 511, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act. The bill would prevent the NLRB from asserting its jurisdiction over businesses owned by Native Americans on tribal lands, codifying a board standard that existed long before the San Manuel decision. In doing so, it would protect Native Americans from NLRB interference and provide legal certainty to the nation’s Indian tribes. It’s a commonsense proposal that has attracted bipartisan support.
    Today, we will hear from tribal leaders who will share their experiences and discuss the importance of protecting their cherished sovereignty. I look forward to hearing their views on the reforms outlined in the bill.

    # # #

    Thune Proposes Modernization for the National Weather Service

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) today introduced S. 1573, the National Weather Service Improvement Act. The bill modernizes the National Weather Service (NWS) in three critical areas: it reinvests some resources from the NWS's 122 local weather forecast offices to six regional centers, emphasizes improving clear communication of weather forecast warnings, and mandates disclosures following concerns about personnel contracting&nbs...

    Kline Statement: Hearing on "Child Nutrition Assistance: Are Federal Rules and Regulations Serving the Best Interests of Schools and Families?"

    Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 06/16/2015 - 10:00am
    We all know the important role nutrition plays in a child’s development and education. As I’ve said before, it’s just commonsense that if children are hungry or malnourished, then they are less likely to succeed in the classroom. That’s why the federal government has long invested in programs that aim to provide America’s most vulnerable students the nutrition assistance they need.
    Ensuring children have access to healthy food is a goal we all share and lies at the heart of our effort to reform federal child nutrition programs, many of which are set to expire later this year. We have conducted several hearings and briefings to learn more about these programs, as well as the rules and regulations that dictate their implementation at the state and local levels.
    What we have learned from students, parents, school nutrition professionals, government watchdogs, other key stakeholders, and yes, even the Department of Agriculture, is that the latest reauthorization of federal child nutrition laws is the most far-reaching and costliest in a generation. Current law requires the department to prescribe how much money schools charge for meals, what food can and cannot be served in schools, and how much of it can be served.
    In other words, Washington is responsible for deciding what and how much our children eat. These regulations have created an environment where students are not getting the nourishment they need, and food and taxpayer dollars wind up in the trashcan.
    Julia Bauscher, president of the School Nutrition Association, conveyed to the committee the concerns she is hearing from school nutrition professionals across the country. Julia described how regulations are resulting in harmful consequences that threaten the ability of schools to best serve students. She went on to decry the “sharp increase in costs and waste and the historic decline in student lunch participation under the new requirements.”
    We are often told that more than 90 percent of participating schools are complying with the law. First, as we learned from the Government Accountability Office, it is highly likely this number is overly optimistic. But let’s not forget that schools that choose to participate must comply with the law. The question isn’t how many schools are in in compliance, the question is: At what cost?
    The department estimates that participating school districts will be forced to absorb $3.2 billion in additional compliance costs over a five-year period. To make matters worse, fewer students are being served. Since the regulations were put in place, participation in the school meals programs has declined more rapidly than any other period over the last three decades, with 1.4 million fewer children being served each day.

    I saw these challenges firsthand during my visit to the Prior Lake School District in Savage, Minnesota. Students described smaller portion sizes and limited options that left students hungry and more likely to buy junk food. After students petitioned the school board, Prior Lake has decided to drop out of the school meals program next school year. It is the only way the school can meet the needs of its students.
    And the problems with the law do not stop there. The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Agriculture and the GAO identified examples of programs misusing taxpayer dollars, raising serious concerns about whether or not we are actually assisting those in need.
    As we work to reauthorize federal child nutrition programs, we must find solutions that will ensure taxpayer dollars are well spent and children are well served. We know developing a one-size-fits-all approach is not the answer. More mandates and more money aren’t the answer either. Instead, we should look to improve these programs by giving states and school districts the flexibility they need to fulfill the promise of child nutrition assistance.
    Duke Storen from the not-for-profit organization Share Our Strength advised at a recent hearing, “It’s critical … to remove bureaucratic barriers and create efficiencies that will allow us to reach those kids who currently go without.” I look forward to discussing how we can achieve just that without imposing more burdens on our schools.

    # # # 

    EPA Shifts its Legally Suspect “Environmental Justice” Agenda into Higher Gear

    WLF Legal Pulse - Mon, 06/15/2015 - 11:17am
    In one of our first WLF Legal Pulse posts five years ago, we wrote about efforts at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revitalize “environmental justice” (EJ), which had essentially laid dormant since the Clinton Administration. The EJ movement’s influence has gradually spread, with EPA citing “EJ concerns” among its reasons for opposing the Keystone […]
    Categories: Latest News

    Committee Probes Report of Self-Dealing by NOAA Employees

    U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) has requested answers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) about schemes by employees to enrich themselves with lucrative post-retirement contracts financed by taxpayers.

    Texas Uses Preemption Power to Shut Down Local Fracking Bans, Oklahoma Quickly Follows

    WLF Legal Pulse - Mon, 06/15/2015 - 9:00am
    Guest Commentary by Sara Thornton, a 2015 Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at the Washington Legal Foundation and a student at Texas Tech School of Law. The state legislatures in Texas and Oklahoma recently enacted bills that expressly preempt any local ordinance that prohibits hydraulic fracturing, also called “fracing” or “fracking.” Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed […]
    Categories: Latest News


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