Bring More Transparency to Congress

P1010565

In November 2006, Speaker Pelosi pledged to lead the “most honest” and “most open” Congress in history.  Yet, in my first year alone, I’ve watched as Congressional Leadership rammed through thousand-page bills, amendments crafted in the dead of night and, now, closed door negotiations on a massive health care overhaul.

It’s just common sense: the American people, as well as members of Congress, should know what bills contain before votes take place.  Previous Congresses, including those led by both parties, have too often failed to live up to this standard.  Now is the time for Congress to change, and I’m committed to bring more sunlight and transparency to the entire legislative process.

In fact, just yesterday I took part in a press conference with other House freshman that called for greater transparency in the pieces of legislation that are coming before us for a vote.  As representatives fresh to Capitol Hill, we are determined to change business as usual as we continue through our first term.

Furthermore, earlier this year, I successfully passed a bill to bring previously nonexistent transparency to spending of bailout funds.  However, Congress must do much more.  Some examples of additional measures I am working to increase transparency are:

  • READ THE BILL. Put all bills online for at least 72 hours before they come to a vote.
  • BAN “PHANTOM AMENDMENTS.” Require committees to post bill text online within 24 hours of adoption.
  • OPEN HEALTH CARE NEGOTIATIONS TO THE PUBLIC . Prevent secret deals behind closed doors and ensure a full and open debate.
  • BRING SUNLIGHT TO THE RULES COMMITTEE. Allow cameras in the secretive Rules Committee, which decides which bills come to a vote.

 

Advertisements

From the Wall Street Journal: The Spending Rolls on

From the Wall Street Journal:  The Spending Rolls on

Despite the ever-increasing national debt, and the recent completion of the largest budget deficit in U.S. history, the Majority Leadership in the House seems intent on driving up government spending even further.   Check out an editorial in the Wall Street Journal today, which puts the current situation in clear context.

OCTOBER 26, 2009

The Spending Rolls On

The fiscal 2010 bills grow domestic programs by 12.1%.

The White House disclosed the other day that the fiscal 2009 budget deficit clocked in at $1.4 trillion, amid the usual promises to do something about it. Yet even as budget director Peter Orszag was speaking, House Democrats were moving on a dozen spending bills for fiscal 2010 that total 12.1% in more domestic discretionary increases.

Yes, 12.1%.

Remember, inflation is running close to zero, or 0.8%. The good news, if we can call it that, is that Senate Democrats only want to increase nondefense appropriations by 8% for 2010. Because these funding increases become part of the permanent baseline for future appropriations, the 2010 House budget bills would permanently raise annual outlays for discretionary programs by about $75 billion a year from now until, well, forever.

These spending hikes do not include the so-called mandatory spending programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which exploded by 9.8% and 24.7%, respectively, in the just-ended 2009 fiscal year. All of this largesse is also on top of the stimulus funding that agencies received in 2009. The budget for the Environmental Protection Agency rose 126%, the Department of Education budget 209% and energy programs 146%.

Read the full piece HERE:

Medical Device Tax Hearing

Yesterday, I held a field hearing in Plymouth to examine the impact of the proposed medical device tax.  During the hearing, I heard stories from five panelists who testified about the impact this tax would have on  Minnesota jobs, medical innovation and patients.  Minnesota’s medical device industry is an American success story –and a tax on the medical device industry is the last thing Minnesota’s economy needs.

This is a critical issue and yesterday’s hearing was the subject of several news stories, which are available below.

To see the television clips, CLICK HERE.

You can read about the hearing via the following links:

+  Star Tribune Story, Pleas to spare med-tech firms from federal tax

+ Minnesota Public Radio, Rep Paulsen says medical device tax a ‘wrongheaded approach’

+ Finance and Commerce, Medical device makers argue against fee in health care legislation

Stories on TV About Medical Device Tax Field Hearing

From the Pioneer Press: Erik Paulsen: Medical-device tax could whack Minnesota companies

By Erik Paulsen

The national unemployment rate in the United States recently hit a 26-year high of 9.8 percent. Minnesota, despite a lower unemployment rate, also continues to lose jobs and suffer under the weight of the ongoing economic recession.

Unfortunately, these unemployment problems could be exacerbated if Congress adopts the health reform proposal finalized by the Senate Finance Committee last week, which includes a nearly $40 billion tax on American medical manufacturers. There is still the possibility of the House of Representatives including a similar tax in a final health care reform package.

The impact of this tax – which will hit manufacturers of technologies common in modern medicine, such as pacemakers, stents and MRI scanners – would have a disastrous impact in Minnesota.

Minnesota is one of the top medical technology alleys in the world. We are among the top five states in the entire country for medical technology jobs, with about 20,000 direct jobs and tens of thousands more related jobs in the industry. Home to some of the top medical-device manufacturers in the nation, Minnesota also boasts more than 200 small- to medium-sized medical and bio-technology firms and companies.

The problems with this tax are numerous, but the primary one is simple: It will kill jobs. I’ve heard directly from Minnesota medical technology companies, both large and small, that this tax will result in employee layoffs. Several states around the country with high numbers

of medical device manufacturers would surely face a similar fate.Medical technology is a vital export industry for both Minnesota and the entire country, generating tens of billions of dollars in international sales. Given the state of our economy, we should be looking at every possible option to open markets and increase opportunities for our job creators. This tax would have the exact opposite effect.

Especially concerning is that this tax will burden many smaller Minnesota medical technology companies that face financial challenges and heavy start-up costs as they seek new breakthroughs. If companies are faced with a massive new tax increase, the result will inevitably be a slower pace of breakthroughs, at best. At worst, the tax will serve as a serious disincentive to expand jobs and seek new growth.

Along with the negative impact on jobs, a medical device tax will stifle innovation and reduce the number of life-saving technologies that many of these manufacturers continue to develop. As is the case with nearly any tax increase on private industry, increased costs are not simply absorbed. They are passed on to consumers or pulled from critical areas like research and development – or sometimes both. In the end, patients will pay more for fewer medical technologies.

Only in Washington would people proclaim to lower the cost of health care by taxing it and making it more expensive.

As co-chair of the House Medical Technology Caucus, I am committed to protecting the thousands of jobs and numerous life-saving technologies created by the medical device industry here in Minnesota. Along with joining Reps. Betty McCollum and Michele Bachmann in expressing concerns with the Senate’s innovation tax proposal, I’m fighting to ensure any health care reform legislation in the House does not include this misguided tax.

To that end, I will hold a field hearing today in Plymouth to further examine this issue. The hearing, entitled “The Impact of the Medical Device Tax on Jobs, Innovation, Patients and the Cost of Health Care,” will include testimony from several representatives within the medical technology community in Minnesota. I’m hoping this will help draw further attention to the real-world impact of this proposal.

Congress should examine each action it takes through the lens of job creation. The negative impact of the proposed medical device tax is a perfect example of why we must do so and I’m proud to be working with colleagues from both sides of the aisle in order to help, not hinder, Minnesota job growth.

Erik Paulsen, a Republican from Eden Prairie, represents Minnesota’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

AP: House allows states to sell funds linked to Iran

House allows states to sell funds linked to Iran

By JIM ABRAMS (AP) – 54 minutes ago

WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday sent a message to Iran that pursuit of nuclear capability will not go unpunished, approving legislation that allows state and local governments to curtail investments in international corporations doing business in Iran’s energy sector.

The legislation also protects from shareholder lawsuits those investment managers who divest funds from companies that are involved in Iran’s energy sector or have provided equipment for the transport of oil or liquefied natural gas from Iran.

The bill passed the House 414-6 and now goes to the Senate.

The bill does not impose new sanctions, said its author, Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass.

“What it does is to make it very clear that Americans who are deeply concerned about the prospect of Iranian nuclear power, and other aspects of Iranian governance, that they are able to act on those (concerns),” he said.

“The Iranian government will be more responsive if the United States can isolate the regime and apply some distinct pressure,” added Erik Paulsen, R-Minn.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have clamored for the imposition of tougher sanctions on Iran since it was revealed that the Tehran government was operating a previously undisclosed uranium enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom.

Iranian officials have pledged to the United States and five other world powers that the plant would be opened to U.N. inspectors and that Iran would ship low enriched uranium out of the country to show it is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

But lawmakers question whether Iran can be trusted, and the Obama administration says it is hoping to craft an international consensus on new multilateral sanctions if Iran acts in bad faith.

The difficulty of coming up with a common approach on new sanctions was highlighted Wednesday when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, speaking to reporters in Beijing, said talking about sanctions against Iran could disrupt negotiations with Tehran regarding its nuclear program.

The House bill, which passed in similar form twice in the past two years ago, makes clear that the federal government will not interfere — citing its sole authority to determine foreign policy — when states or local governments decide to divest themselves of investments in an organization that has spent $20 million in Iran’s energy sector. Frank said about 20 states have enacted legislation to cut investment ties to corporations associated with Iran.

The second part of the bill provides safe harbor from lawsuits to investment companies or asset managers who divest from or avoid investing in Iran’s energy sector.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., has a similar bill pending in the Senate.

The Frank bill is one of numerous measures to beef up penalties against Iran waiting congressional action. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., is backing a comprehensive bill that would extend the range of sanctions on financial transactions, restrict the export of refined petroleum products to Iran, strengthen the ability of the administration to freeze the assets of Iranians involved in weapons programs and, like the Frank bill, allow divestiture of investments.

The bill is H.R. 1327.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hX04BzCuerC5MMIN7szQ0UWsfEuwD9BB2I4O0

It is high-time we begin to act on the threat of a nuclear Iran

“It is high-time we begin to act on the threat of a nuclear Iran”

Congressman Erik Paulsen Statement Before the U.S. House of Representatives on The Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2009 (H.R. 1327)

October 13, 2009

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fb2hxjkKb1k

Mr. Speaker, with the recent disclosure of a second site for enriching uranium in Iran, our relations with that country continue to be at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy.  The Iranian regime has made no secret of its ambitions to acquire nuclear technology, while it continues to engage in human rights violations and suppressing dissent.

The U.S. should demand Iran take specific, concrete actions in the near-term.  This legislation is going to help in that effort.

The Iranian government will be more responsive if the United States can isolate the regime and apply some distinct pressure that help will force Tehran to deliver on its commitments, and not merely to do what it has done in the past — and that’s use negotiations to merely run out the clock.

This legislation increases the economic pressure that’s placed on Iran by permitting state governments, local governments, and educational institutions to divest from investments related to Iran’s energy sector.

In addition, the legislation would extend to private actors the ability to consider the U.S.-Iran relationship in their investment calculus.  This means that registered investment advisors are provided a safe harbor, allowing them to divest from – or elect not to invest in – securities of companies that invest in Iran’s energy sector.

And many states, as the Chairman had noted, including my state of Minnesota have already moved in this direction.

Today, we have the opportunity to push this important initiative a step closer at the federal level.  In doing so, we can help leverage and we can help slow down Iran’s nuclear program and move one step closer to helping diminish this major security threat to the Middle East and the rest of the world.

With the recent revelation of the second enrichment site, passage of this legislation is imperative and ever more important than it has been in the past.  I urge immediate passage of H.R. 1327, Mr. Speaker, and I reserve the balance of my time.

Closing Remarks:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPmpC08bk44

At the end of last month, Iran finally got around to notifying the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency of a previously-undisclosed nuclear-enrichment facility, located on a military base near the city of Qom.

This additional enrichment facility will allow Iran to make more enriched uranium – and make it faster.  This means that previous estimates on when Iran could achieve a nuclear weapons breakout are now inaccurate.

What is especially disconcerting to me is that this is supposed to be a civilian facility — but it is located on a military base.  This raises quite a few red-flags, and we must not allow the Iranian regime to buy even more time.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, this is another violation of Iran’s obligation under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which requires all members to declare all nuclear facilities and allow inspection.
Mr. Speaker, it is high-time we begin to act on the threat of a nuclear Iran by demanding action. The Iran Sanctions Enabling Act is an important step in that direction and I urge its passage today.  I yield back the balance of my time.

###