Top Menu

Archive | Legislation

Congress Passes Law to Drug-Test More Unemployment Recipients

Well, at least the GOP isn’t only trying to mess with women’s bodies on this one.

In yet another action that should scare the hell out of Americans, the Republican-controlled Senate yesterday passed H.J. Res. 42, which abolishes a Labor Department regulation from the Obama administration which severely restricted a state’s authority to require drug testing on recipients of unemployment benefits.

It was passed by a 51-48 party line vote, with no members of the Democratic caucus voting in favor. It passed the House on February 15 and is expectedly to go swiftly to Trump’s desk for his signature.

The repealed 2012 law restricted who could be compelled to take a drug test to people who had been terminated from previous employment for drug use or those at high-risk occupations where the testing requirement could be argued on safety grounds. As they so often do, Republicans argued that this was federal overreach and said the decision on who to drug test should be left to the states.

“Congress specifically intended to provide states the ability to determine which applicants for unemployment insurance should be drug-tested,” said Ted Cruz (R-TX) “The Obama Department of Labor substantially narrowed the law to circumstances where testing is legally required, not merely allowed.”

Democrats contend that such testing is a clear Fourth Amendment violation and that it would allow states to order drug tests arbitrarily and with uneven standards.

“This measure before us is simply bizarre,” said Ron Wyden (D-OR), debating the bill on the Senate floor. “If, like me, you believe that drug testing can in instances be ineffective and mean spirited, you ought to oppose this measure because it simply vilifies unemployed workers who are actually less likely to use drugs than the general population.”

“The fact is the courts have ruled that suspicionless drug testing violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Wyden also made the case that drug-testing programs do not yield results commensurate with their costs and that this money might be better used helping Americans addicted to opioids or other harder drugs.

“For states that have implemented drug testing policies, there’s evidence that the costs dwarf the potential savings.  The costs of operating drug testing programs are charged to state health and human services accounts and I think we all understand those have been squeezed mightily by the effort to treat opioid addiction.

“Instead of wasting money by drug testing Americans who are looking for jobs, the states ought to be putting those very same dollars towards substance abuse treatment given the fact that opioid addiction has hit our country like a wrecking ball.”

Finally, Wyden argued that allowing this testing is especially unfair given that Americans pay for unemployment insurance out of every paycheck and said that benefit ought to be there when needed with no rights-violating strings attached.

“Just like social security, unemployment insurance is an earned benefit. It is an earned benefit that ought to be there for workers who fall on the hard times.”

Text and Video of Schumer, Pelosi Slamming TrumpCare

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gave a short news conference yesterday to discuss the damning report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which revealed that the new GOP  health-care bill would leave 24 million Americans with no health insurance whatsoever.

Republicans have wasted no time trashing the CBO over this report and the Democratic leaders gave their talk to explain exactly what the numbers mean and the impact on so many Americans. It was really chock-full of good information that will give you what you need to know about this disastrous Republican proposal.

Here’s some key statements made by both Pelosi and Schumer along with video of the first seven minutes of the news conference below.

Nancy Pelosi

“Well the accounting is in. The CBO has reported that the Republican bill pushes 24 million people out of health care – off of health coverage. This is a remarkable figure. It speaks so eloquently to the cruelty of the bill that the Speaker calls ‘an act of mercy.’ I don’t know if he thinks it’s an act of mercy to all the people who will lose coverage, to people who will lose jobs or to the hospitals they will have to close down, especially in rural areas. I don’t know if he thinks this is an act of mercy to people on opioid addiction and other addictions who are looking to Medicaid as an answer, as many Republican Governors have spoken to.

“So they’re taking 24 million people and pushing them off their coverage, and as they do so, they are implementing the biggest transfer of wealth in our history – $600 billion dollars going from working families to the richest people and corporations in our country. In terms of insurance coverage, it’s immoral. In terms of giving money to the rich at the expense of working families, it is indecent and it is wrong.

“The Republicans are confused right now. Some of them are discrediting the CBO and others are glorifying pushing 24 million people off of coverage. So I would hope that they pull the bill, it’s really the only decent thing to do.

“Numbers are important. They see the numbers. They should know how that transfers into peoples’ lives. They are finding that out from their constituents. How can they look their constituents in the eyes, when they say to them, ‘24 million of you will no longer have health insurance, and those of you that do have it will have less in terms of coverage at more cost to you?’”

Chuck Schumer

“The Republican hand-picked head of CBO has confirmed what we democrats have been saying all along. TrumpCare would be a nightmare for the American people, causing tens of millions to lose coverage and millions more seeing the cost of their health care going up.

“That is un-American. That’s wrong. Premiums for seniors will rise a whopping 20 to 25 percent and co-payments and deductibles for millions more. If there was ever a war on seniors, this bill, TrumpCare, is it.

“So when Speaker Ryan says it is an act of mercy, yeah, for those who make over $250,000 a year, because they get big tax cuts. The only winners in this CBO report are the Health insurance executives and the wealthy Americans. Everyone else gets a cold shoulder from the Republicans in Congress and from President Trump.

“You remember when President Trump was a candidate? He said everybody will be covered and costs will go down. We now know he had no intention of keeping either promise. Today, the nonpartisan scorekeepers have spoken clearly. TrumpCare means higher costs, for less coverage. The CBO report should be a knockout blow for Republicans in Congress. They should heed this warning and turn back from their plan, which would be a disaster for the country.”

Pelosi on the raiding of Medicare

“At the same time, you’re seeing in the report that they are taking $170 billion dollars from Medicare , shortening the solvency of Medicare by three years. So, again, seniors have a lot to lose as do all of America’s families.”

Schumer on how the Republicans call everything they don’t agree with a lie

“It’s a pattern that is a disturbing, even alarming in this administration. When they hear something they don’t like, they label it a lie. CBO is virtually unassailable. Everyone, Democrats and Republicans, whether it be George Bush, Barack Obama, or anyone else has gone along with CBO. They appointed this person. He was supposed to be a conservative person. Unfortunately, for the Republicans, he is an honest person and they won’t be able to discredit this. This report is going to resound from one end of America to the other.”

Pelosi responding to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price trying to discredit the CBO report

“And of course he has no facts to back it up. Numbers are quite eloquent things and they speak very clearly. And we all respect and have acknowledged that we need to know the numbers — the number of people affected, the amount of money that it will cost and who wins and who loses in this equation.

“In Congress, they still haven’t come to terms with criticizing the CBO because 24 million people losing health insurance is not a problem for them. It’s an ‘act of mercy.'”

Schumer with the quip of the news conference

“I am sure that the Republicans regret that they can’t fire the CBO Director as easily as they fired the 46 U.S. attorneys.”

Pelosi on the irony of Trump voters being the hardest hit by this plan

“It is really a sad thing because in addition to what the senator said about those who are in red states and rural America who have largely benefitted from the Affordable Care Act and who will be pushed off, a lot of the benefit of the $600 billion will go to blue areas. And that’s just not right.

“But think of yourself as a Trump voter from West Virginia or Kentucky, which has really done a good job with the Affordable Care Act, and thinking ‘I’m going to lose my coverage and they’re going to give $7 million to each of the richest families in America every year, instead of giving me health care. Is that what I voted for? I don’t think so.'”

Gillibrand Rips GOP For “Fixation” on Taking Americans’ Health Care

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) went to the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday to talk about the new Republican health care measure but also took the time to question why the GOP always seem to be against the elderly and low-income Americans and why their default posture is always to deny health care.

“I’m struggling to understand why amid all of the problems we seem to have and all the problems we need to solve in this chamber, why this congress seems to have a singular fixation on taking away access to health care from some of the most vulnerable people in our communities,” said Gillibrand. “I continue to be amazed by how little empathy there seems to be in this chamber for the millions of women, older Americans, lower income Americans who don’t have the incredible resources that we have here in congress and desperately need the federal programs that this bill will cut.”

Here’s the full video of Senator Gillibrand’s comments:

Republicans Gut Important Anti-Corruption Law

In a rare early-morning session yesterday, the Senate approved H.J.Res.41, which nullified a Dodd-Frank provision designed to prevent corruption in oil, gas and mining companies via reporting requirements on payments made to foreign governments for extraction rights.

This law made it more difficult for Big Oil in particular to make massive payments to other countries for drilling rights — often in the form of bribes — and was lobbied against personally by newly-confirmed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his time as CEO of ExxonMobil.

“We cannot stand by while the interests of a few powerful oil companies trump the safety and values of our country,” Corinna Gilfillan, head of the U.S. office at Global Witness, said in a statement. “We need this law to protect investors, developing countries, and our own national security interests.”

The bill passed on a strict party-line vote 52-47 (Democratic Senator Ed Markey was absent) after being approved in the House of Representatives 235-187 on Wednesday.

As part of Donald Trump’s move to gut a wide swath of regulations, the bill moved quickly, having only been introduced in the House on Monday, passing there on Wednesday and being approved by the Senate Friday.

While critics of the Dodd-Frank provision say it adds an unreasonable compliance burden on American energy companies that doesn’t apply to their foreign competitors, former Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who proposed the amendment in 2012, said it was a necessary check on corruption.

“The Cardin-Lugar Amendment puts transparency — the key to citizens’ ability to hold their government to account — ahead of corruption,” said Lugar. “To do otherwise is a losing proposition for the United States and company shareholders.”

But that was the way yesterday’s Republican viewed the world.

Of course, the Trump White House will be ecstatic.

“The rule would impose unreasonable compliance costs on American energy companies that are not justified by quantifiable benefits,” said an earlier Trump administration statement. “Moreover, American businesses could face a competitive disadvantage in cases where their foreign competitors are not subject to similar rules.”

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes