July 2013 Update
E-NEWSLETTER ~ July 24, 2013
With two weeks to go in its July work schedule, the conservative House majority has, just since July 4, blocked funding for food stamps, refused to consider the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill, and locked in harmful cuts to U.S. elementary and secondary schools. It’s an astonishing track record, and the month isn’t over yet.
In the stories below, I cover those issues and also the Supreme Court’s decisions on gay marriage and the Voting Rights Act; my introduction of the “Flexibility for Working Families Act” and the “Fair Access to Co-Ops for Veterans Act”; and an award I was honored to receive from the Consumer Federation of America for my work on credit card reforms.
I hope you were able to stay cool and survive last week’s heat wave!
Carolyn B. Maloney
Member of Congress
FOOD STAMPS & IMMIGRATION BLOCKED BY HOUSE MAJORITY
Earlier this month, the conservative House majority gave an ample demonstration of their true colors.
Driven by a rigidly ideological hyper-conservative minority, the House majority forced through, on a party-line vote, a farm bill introduced just 24 hours prior to passage which for the first time in 40 years does not include funding for food stamps (now known as SNAP, the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”) for 47 million low income Americans-- almost half of them of them children. (Learn more at “Everything you need to know about SNAP”: LINK https://www.cbpp.org/research/index.cfm?fa=topic&id=31)
The bridge between farm and nutrition programs was first built by Senator George McGovern and Senator Bob Dole in 1973, and it ensured that legislators from “producer” states-- typically rural-- and “consumer” states-- usually urban-- had self interest at stake when the legislation came up for a vote.
This latest action is a testament to how broken Washington has become-- and it’s quite simply an outrage.
Food stamps are one government program that is highly efficient at what it sets out to do: put food in the mouths of hungry people. And they’ve been especially vital to millions of families during the recession and the current drawn-out recovery. For the House Majority to break the funding stream for the program-- while continuing multi-billion subsidies for agribusiness-- is to show a heartless disregard for those who, in our land of plenty, can still go to bed hungry each night through no fault of their own.
Also last week, the conservative House majority refused to take up the Senate-passed Comprehensive Immigration Reform package in another illustration of Washington’s current state of disrepair. Speaker Boehner said they would, instead, deal with immigration changes “in smaller, bite-size chunks that members can digest and the American people can digest.” LINK: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=200996679
The Senate’s passage of comprehensive immigration reform in late June seemed like an historic step toward solving one of our nation’s longest-standing challenges. By creating a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, families can be kept intact, our economy can grow, and the American dream is made achievable for millions of new Americans. While far from perfect, the Senate bill was the product of collaboration and compromise-- something that the “Hyperconservative Caucus” within the House majority caucus abhors.
For them, it’s their way or the highway. It’s a shame that basics like food and keeping families intact were treated so shabbily last week.
For my part, I will continue to reach across the aisle to seek cooperation on issues facing our country-- and will continue to highlight where I believe the majority is falling short.
HOUSE PASSES BILL TO CUT SCHOOL FUNDING
Last week, House Republicans again proved they are more interested in talking points than helping middle-class families. With the “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) act up for reauthorization, the House passed a bill that cuts education funding by over $1 billion and eliminates important protections for English Language Learners and disabled students.
The bill would cut the School Improvement Grants program which delivers targeted funding to low-performing schools-- vital to New York City. The City Department of Education has used this program to turn around several of its worst-performing schools and increased graduation rates by 44%—which is 2,000 more high school graduates each year.
I joined many of my Democratic colleagues to oppose this bill and support an alternative that invests in students and teachers and improves the outdated mandates of the NCLB to promote college- and career-readiness for all high school graduates.
SUPREME COURT DECISIONS ON VOTING RIGHTS AND GAY MARRIAGE
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions at the end of June striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and allowing a lower court ruling to stand which strikes down California’s Proposition 8 are giant steps forward on the inevitable path toward legalizing marriage equality nationwide.
Much work remains, of course; there are still tens of thousands same-sex American couples who live in states where they are still treated as second-class citizens. But this is great news for those in states like New York where same sex marriage is already legal and for same-sex federal employees seeking various spousal benefits and coverage.
Sadly, in another ruling the Court weakened the essential right of all Americans to equal access to the polls by striking down a vital part of the Voting Rights Act. This decision upends decades of efforts to make sure that voting is fair in all parts of our country, especially those that have suffered historically from voting discrimination policies. It’s particularly disappointing since the Court itself recognized that voting discrimination still exists, and Act had recently been reauthorized in 2006 with strong bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate.
We in Congress must rise to the challenge set by the Court, address the formula they found unconstitutional, and renew our commitment to voting rights and enfranchisement for all.
VA BENEFITS FOR VETS BUYING CO-OPS UNDER MALONEY BILL
I’ve introduced the “Fair Access to Co-Ops for Veterans Act,” which would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to extend its Home Loan Guaranty Program to include financing for housing co-ops, a major form of housing in cities like New York. Senator Schumer is sponsoring the companion bill in the Senate.
I’ve always believed that a home is a home, regardless of its underlying financial structure—single-family, co-op or condo. And since co-ops make up such a large share of housing units in New York City, and are often a less expensive option than condo units, too many veterans can be locked out of attractive housing opportunities. By allowing VA loan guarantees to include co-ops, we can ensure that our brave veterans have the same access to housing as everyone else.
There are over 1.2 million housing cooperative units nationwide. In New York City, more than 500,000 families make their homes in nearly 6,000 co-ops in the five boroughs, according to the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums.
“FLEXIBILITY FOR WORKING FAMILIES ACT” INTRODUCED
On the heels of the New York City Council’s vote to require paid sick days for hourly employees, I’ve again introduced national legislation to guarantee employees the right to request flexible work arrangements from their employers-- in terms of hours, schedules, or work location-- and provides employers with the flexibility to review these requests, propose changes, and even deny them if they are not considered in the best interest of their business.
Studies have shown such voluntary arrangements have been shown to boost employee satisfaction and their physical and mental health as well as improve businesses bottom line by helping to retain key talent, reduce absenteeism, and improve productivity. The President’s Council of Economic Advisors conducted one such study which is viewable here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/files/documents/100331-cea-economics-workplace-flexibility.pdf
I believe that flexible work arrangements are a key to meeting the 21st Century’s diverse workforce needs. These voluntary arrangements between employees and employers to change the time, amount, or location that work is conducted, allows workers to meet the needs of job and home. Studies show that these policies help businesses reduce turnover and boost employee productivity. It’s a clear win-win for all.
Similar “right to request” laws have successfully increased productivity, attendance and overall job satisfaction in Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand.
MALONEY HONORED BY THE CONSUMER FEDERATION OF AMERICA
I was honored to receive the “Philip Hart Public Service Award” from the Consumer Federation of America, presented to me by my good friend Rep. Charlie Rangel (shown at left) at CFA’s 43rd Annual Awards Dinner in honor of my work on consumer banking issues.
Passing the Credit CARD Act, which has saved consumers $10 billion
a year since its enactment, is one of my proudest achievements in
Congress-- and it could never have happened without the support of the Consumer Federation of America and other consumer organizations.
The way consumer groups and I worked together on it is a perfect model
for the way representative government can work.