IRS Mess / Credit cards for stay-home spouses / Increased cancer risk confirmed at Ground Zero / Student Loans / Keystone Pipeline / Queensbridge Park Seawall / FMLA Inclusion Act / Justice for Holocaust survivors

May 24, 2013
Newsletter

E-NEWSLETTER ~ May 24, 2013


Dear Neighbor,

On Wednesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on which I serve, conducted its own hearing on the IRS mess (following on the heels of a similar hearing held by the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee earlier this week and the House Ways& Means Committee last Friday).

The only thing more outrageous than the unlimited channeling of secret, tax-deductible money flowing into political campaigns via nonprofit groups is the targeting of applicants for 501(c)(4) tax deductible status for their political beliefs by the IRS.

There is simply no excuse for this tactic and I agree with President Obama that those who initiated these policies must be held accountable.

That said, the near-universal analysis by tax experts outside the IRS is that the law governing 501(c)(4) political activity is impossibly vague and difficult to administer. What’s really required here is for Congress to pass clarifying legislation on what level of political spending is permissible by these groups. What’s more, I’ve always believed that donor disclosure of political contributions acts as a disinfectant for the political process-- and I think Congress should require such public disclosure of political donors and spending.

Meanwhile, the House voted on two significant bills sponsored by the conservative House majority: a bill to approve the KeystoneXL pipeline from Alberta, Canada down to the United States’ Gulf Coast and a bill that would allow federal student loan interest rates to double. I voted against both bills, explained in articles below this letter.

I’ve also included updates on efforts to repair the Queensbridge Park seawall; my bill to expand the Family & Medical Leave Act to include same-sex relatives; new CFPB rules which will help stay-at-home spouses obtain credit cards in their own names; increased cancer rates among 9/11 first responders; and my bill to give Holocaust survivors their day in court against French railroad SNCF.


Sincerely,

Carolyn B. Maloney
Member of Congress


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CFPB IMPLEMENTS NEW RULE TO EASE STAY-HOME SPOUSES' ACCESS TO CREDIT CARDS

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has implemented a new rule that will make it easier for stay-at-home spouses and partners to obtain credit cards in their own name under the provisions of my Credit CARD Act.

This common-sense clarification of the rules for stay-at-home spouses and partners by the CFPB is recognition of how modern families work. When spouses choose to stay home, yet still have access and decision-making ability over household income, they should be able to use that access to obtain a credit card. It’s what was always intended when the CARD Act was debated and passed, and now card issuers have clear rules of the road going forward.

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15% INCREASED CANCER RATES AMONG 9/11 FIRST RESPONDERS

Study results from the World Trade Center Health Program recently published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1205894/ show a 15% increased incidence of cancers among 9/11 responders in just the first seven years after the attack are further testament to why the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was needed and why I fought so hard for so long to get it passed.

Because cancer has been included in the coverage under the Zadroga Act, and this peer-reviewed medical study confirms an increased incidence of cancer among first responders, I strongly urge anyone with exposure to the toxins at Ground Zero in the days, weeks and months after the attacks to register for the WTC Health Program and monitor their health status closely; early detection is crucial when fighting cancer.

Sign up here for health monitoring under the World Trade Center Health Program: https://www.cdc.gov/wtc/

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PROUD TO OPPOSE HR3, THE KEYSTONE PIPELINE BILL

I voted against the House majority’s bill, H.R. 3,  to approve the KeystoneXL pipeline and remove it from environmental reviews to expedite its construction.
 
H.R. 3 is one very bad deal-- bad for the environment, bad for energy policy, and bad for American workers.

The way this bill is written a Canadian oil company, pumping a very dirty form of oil all the way from Alberta to the Gulf Coast, would not have to pay a dime into the U.S. Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund the way American oil companies must. Even though a pipeline break and spill from that oil would be dirtier and more difficult to clean up than a regular oil spill.  It’s just not right.

What’s more, the oil that the pipeline proposes to carry would produce over 40% more carbon pollution than conventional oil, just as the predictions of climate change catastrophes grow more dire. And that is just not right.  
 
According to a recent study by the Cornell University Global Labor Institute, the pipeline project would not only create fewer jobs than its proponents claim, the project could actually kill more jobs than it creates.

And at a time when every job matters, that is certainly not right.

HR 3 leaves Americans with all of the risk of spills, environmental damage, and pollution– but few lasting rewards.
 
It’s bad policy and I was proud to vote against it.  


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STUDENT LOAN INTEREST RATE HIKES WILL DOUBLE IN JULY

On July 1st, absent Congressional action, the interest rate on subsidized Federal Direct Stafford Loans for undergraduate students originated after that date will double, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.  At a time when market interest rates are at historic lows, more than seven million students who rely on these loans to finance college shouldn’t have to take on any more debt than necessary.
 
President Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget would keep rates from doubling on July 1, with a long-term solution that is deficit-neutral and offers affordable, market-based rates, particularly for those students and families who struggle the most with college costs.  Under the President’s proposal, the rate on new Federal student loans would be set each year based on the Treasury’s actual cost of borrowing, and would remain fixed for the life of the loan so that borrowers would have certainty about the rates they would pay.  The President’s budget also expands the “Pay As You Earn” repayment option to ensure that no student borrower is required to pay more than ten percent of his or her discretionary income in student loan payments.

But the conservative House majority prefers a different approach. Their bill, H.R. 1911, would not guarantee low rates for today’s students.  A variable rate that continues to change after the loan has been taken out would create uncertainty and lessen transparency for students and their families who are making decisions about borrowing for college, and it would impose the largest interest rate hikes on low  and middle income students-- and does nothing to extend repayment options to borrowers who have already left school and often face the same debt burdens as current and future students.

We shouldn’t be reducing the deficit on the backs of students who are already struggling. The President has threatened a veto of H.R. 1911, and I voted against its passage. Hopefully some sanity will be displayed in the Senate and we can avert the interest rate hike in July.  


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QUEENS SEAWALL REPAIRS BEGINNING AT LAST!

The New York City Parks Department has begun $6.65 million in repairs to the 200-foot seawall on the edge of Queensbridge Park.  The work on this critical waterfront project is being coordinated by the Parks Department and the New York City Economic Development Corporation after a study I helped fund demonstrated the need for the repairs.

For too long, the only view of this waterfront has been through a chain-linked fence.  After these repairs are finished, Queensbridge Park will now be a gateway to the waterfront instead of a dead end.

Getting this project off the ground has been a very long process – and like most good things, many people had to work together to help us reach this day.  In 2002, at my urging, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure initiated a resolution calling for the Army Corps to do a Reconnaissance Study regarding the Queens seawall. Two years (!) later they formally refused, saying there was no federal issue.  I met with them and proved that the MTA’s electrical equipment is under the seawall and leaks were corroding F train switching equipment, and so there was a federal concern; the Corps changed their minds.  

The City then decided to fund the project itself and beautiful plans were drawn up, but for five years, there was no action. At my urging, in February 2011 the task force of elected officials and city officials was reconvened  and we came up with a plan.  

The repairs that have begun are proof positive that when people work together and are determined to succeed – anything is possible.  Millions of dollars for this project have been allocated by City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Borough President Helen Marshall, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, city agencies and the MTA.  I also want to recognize other elected colleagues for their leadership in this effort over the years: Senator Gianaris, Speaker Christine Quinn, Parks Commissioner White, Queens Commissioner Lewandowski and EDC Chief Operating Officer Zach Smith who have worked tirelessly to make sure this project would get underway.  


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“FAMILY & MEDICAL LEAVE INCLUSION ACT” INTRODUCED

In an effort to update the 20-year old Family and Medical Leave Act, I recently introduced the  “Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act,” which expands coverage to allow unpaid leave to care for a same-sex spouse or partner, parent-in-law, adult child, sibling, grandchild or grandparent.

FMLA provides almost 60 percent of the American workforce with leave protections; but, as same-sex marriage becomes a growing force, it’s time for the law to be upgraded.

The landmark Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) allows millions of Americans to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work to care for a new baby or to care for a spouse, child under age 18, or parent who has a serious health condition.

While ground-breaking at the time if its enactment, FMLA leaves a growing number of families unable to take advantage of the benefits that it provides. Under current law, employees are not permitted to take FMLA leave to care for a same-sex spouse or partner, making it impossible for some employees to be with their loved ones during times of severe medical need. The same restrictions apply to grandparents or adult children with serious health conditions, even if the employee is the only person that can provide the care needed.

The Family Medical Leave Inclusion Act is supported by over 80 organizations, including: National Association of Working Women; AFSCME; American Pediatrics Association; ACLU; Families USA; Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD); Human Rights Campaign; People for the American Way; SEIU; and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Richard Durbin (IL).


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MALONEY BILL TO GIVE U.S. HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS THEIR DAY IN COURT

I have reintroduced the the Holocaust Rail Justice Act, which would allow Holocaust survivors to sue SNCF, the French rail company that transported more than 75,000 Jews and thousands of others-- including U.S. air pilots— to concentration camps during World War II.
 
In the almost 70 years since the end of World War II, SNCF has never been held accountable for its actions, it has never paid reparations to its victims, and its victims have never had their day in court. SNCF’s refusal to fully acknowledge their culpability or take steps to make amends to their victims is a failure of morality. By hiding behind a veil of foreign sovereign immunity, SNCF’s ability to evade legal accountability it is also a failure of justice. The Holocaust Rail Justice Act will allow survivors to seek redress in U.S. Courts, providing a measure of relief.

The bill provides plaintiffs the right to seek damages against the French National Railway (Société Nationale Des Chemins De Fer Francais, or SNCF) in U.S. Federal Court for its transportation of French and other Jews, as well as thousands of others, toward such death camps as Auschwitz and Buchenwald. SNCF claims immunity from legal action due to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, yet the FSIA was passed 30 years after the action causing the damages for which the plaintiffs seek.

A copy of the legislation may be viewed here (PDF) or by visiting
https://maloney.house.gov/sites/maloney.house.gov/files/documents/foreign/genocidesudan/113thHolocaustRailJusticeBill.pdf