Young, Finance Republicans: Innovation-Killing Government Price Control Mandates Must Not Become Law

Source: United States Senator for Indiana Todd Young

January 20, 2022

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) joined Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee, including Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), to send a letter to Senate colleagues emphasizing the wide-ranging drawbacks of the drug price control mandates contained in the House-passed Build Back Better Act(BBBA). 

 

The senators note the tax-and-spending proposal includes a number of problematic drug pricing provisions that risk undermining biomedical innovation, exacerbating inflationary pressures, imposing payment cuts on frontline health care providers, and compromising the United States’ global leadership.  

 

From the letter:

 

“Under the unprecedented and constitutionally dubious system of bureaucratic drug price controls included in the Build Back Better Act, Americans would see fewer new treatments and vaccines, greater inflation pressures, and reductions in health care quality and access for years to come.  The bill would substantially undermine incentives for biomedical innovation, as unaccountable federal officials would compel a growing number of manufacturers each year to partake in a mandatory price-setting program, with non-compliance punished by an impossibly steep penalty of up to 95 percent on gross drug sales across all markets.  Private-sector pricing practices would also come under federal control, moving us closer to a government-run health care system.

 

“BBBA’s government drug pricing mandates would also put access to high-quality health care at risk by burying small businesses in burdensome bureaucratic demands and instituting aggressive payment cuts for frontline health care providers.

 

“…From lifesaving treatments to provider access, BBBA represents an unwarranted step backwards for health care quality and sustainability, and it poses a grave threat to our global competitiveness.  As the Chinese Communist Party and other rivals abroad look to leverage life sciences innovation to seize market dominance and strengthen their defense capabilities, our national security and international leadership demand a more responsible path forward.”

 

Full text of the letter, signed by all Republican members of the Finance Committee, is available here and below. 

 

January 20, 2022

 

Dear Colleague,

 

Over the course of the past year, Americans have faced a range of pressing challenges. From skyrocketing inflation and workforce shortages to rising crime and COVID-19 testing supply strains, this growing list of urgent issues demands consensus-driven policy solutions. Unfortunately, in spite of these struggles, the Biden Administration and Congressional Democratic leadership appear to have chosen to move forward on a reckless tax-and-spending bill that risks exacerbating the problems at hand and creating new ones. 

 

We are deeply concerned with the legislation’s proposed price control mandates for prescription drugs. As a number of independent analyses have indicated, such bureaucratic government-run price-setting schemes pose a credible threat to the creation of new medical treatments. They also jeopardize our efforts to combat inflation, mitigate workforce disruptions, enhance access to care, and maintain our global competitiveness. 

 

Under the unprecedented and constitutionally dubious system of bureaucratic drug price controls included in the Build Back Better Act (BBBA), Americans would see fewer new treatments and vaccines, greater inflation pressures, and reductions in health care quality and access for years to come. The bill would substantially undermine incentives for biomedical innovation, as unaccountable federal officials would compel a growing number of manufacturers each year to partake in a mandatory price-setting program, with non-compliance punished by an impossibly steep penalty of up to 95 percent on gross drug sales across all markets. Private-sector pricing practices would also come under federal control, moving us closer to a government-run health care system. 

 

Basic legal protections and safeguards, meanwhile, would have no place in the BBBA plan, as the bill expressly and permanently bans judicial and administrative review of virtually every aspect of the draconian new price control regimes. 

 

According to researchers from the University of Chicago, these problematic policies would slash projected biomedical research and development funding by more than $660 billion in the next decades, resulting in 135 fewer new drug approvals and a potential loss of more than 331 million life years, roughly 31 times the toll inflicted by the pandemic in the U.S., as of last November. As innovators work to produce and enhance vaccines and therapies to curb the incidence and effects of COVID-19, these disincentives for biomedical discovery and development would prove particularly devastating. 

 

Imagine the world today without COVID vaccines or treatments, and imagine a world with a weak or nonexistent pipeline for combating conditions like Alzheimer’s, sickle cell disease, or cancer. These policy proposals imperil our hopes for the lifesaving cures and life-enhancing therapies of tomorrow. 

 

BBBA’s government drug pricing mandates would also put access to high-quality health care at risk by burying small businesses in burdensome bureaucratic demands and instituting aggressive payment cuts for frontline health care providers. An analysis by the nonpartisan American Action Forum found that the Biden Administration finalized more than $200 billion in new regulatory costs in 2021, imposing a staggering 131.2 million new paperwork hours on job creators. The tax-and-spending proposal currently under consideration would double down on this concerning trend toward over-regulation and advance a series of sweeping new government mandates for stakeholders across the health care system. 

 

For health care providers, the bill’s price-setting program would have an even more onerous economic impact, which, according to health care experts at Avalere, would amount to a roughly 40 percent reduction in add-on payments for the providers who furnish the medications most likely to be targeted. The doctors’ office setting would see particularly steep cuts, potentially accelerating health system consolidation and independent practice closures, with stark access implications for patients across the nation. 

 

In short, from lifesaving treatments to provider access, BBBA represents an unwarranted step backwards for health care quality and sustainability, and it poses a grave threat to our global competitiveness. As the Chinese Communist Party and other rivals abroad look to leverage life sciences innovation to seize market dominance and strengthen their defense capabilities, our national security and international leadership demand a more responsible path forward. 

 

We stand ready to work with the administration and our colleagues in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle to develop policies to help address the myriad challenges facing Americans, including health care access, affordability, and innovation. We must not, however, enable the unproductive and innovation-killing government price control mandates included in BBBA to become law. They would serve only to expand federal control over health care and to undermine Americans’ ability to compete globally, at the expense of the real and pressing health care needs facing our country.

 

Sincerely,

 

Shaheen & Bipartisan Group Introduce Legislation to Counter Russian Aggression Toward Ukraine

Source: United States Senator for New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen

January 20, 2022

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, today introduced the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act with Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Roger Wicker (R-MS). This legislation would provide the President with the enhanced authority to more swiftly enter into lend-lease agreements directly with Ukraine and expedite the delivery of military equipment necessary to protect vulnerable civilian populations from a Russian military invasion.

“On the heels of a bipartisan delegation I helped lead to Ukraine, it’s clear the U.S. must take decisive and urgent action to support our Ukrainian partners and deter a Russian incursion. This legislation shows there is bipartisan unity in Congress to provide President Biden with the tools needed to swiftly deliver critical defense capabilities to Ukraine and stand firm against the Kremlin,” said Sen. Shaheen. “This bill ensures bureaucratic hurdles won’t hinder the administration from acting quickly to provide Ukraine with the tools needed to protect civilians should Putin decide to invade. The Kremlin will pay a hefty price if they escalate this crisis, and the U.S. will put its money where its mouth is to help Ukraine defend itself. There is too much at stake; Congress must act swiftly, and most critically – work together – to get legislation across the finish line.”

Senator Shaheen has long led efforts in the Senate to hold Russia accountable for its malign activity against the U.S. and our allies. This week, Senator Shaheen and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) led a bipartisan delegation to Ukraine to reaffirm the U.S.’ commitment to Ukraine as it faces an increasingly belligerent Russia. Yesterday, Senator Shaheen participated in video call with President Biden to debrief on the delegation and discuss next steps. On Christmas Eve, Senators Shaheen participated in a video conference call with President Zelenskyy to discuss the security situation in the country. Last week, Shaheen helped introduce the Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022, which would impose crippling sanctions on the Russian banking sector and senior military and government officials if President Putin escalates hostile action in or against Ukraine. Through her leadership on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Shaheen and Portman announced that through the FY22 NDAA bill, the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative has been extended through 2022 with funding increased from $250 million to $300 million per year, with at least $75 million specifically for lethal assistance, as part of the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Shaheen also authored an op-ed in the Washington Post with Senator Portman in December, which can be read here. A member of the Ukraine Caucus, Shaheen previously led a bipartisan delegation to Eastern Europe, which included a stop in Ukraine, in June 2021.

As part of the Arms Export Control Act authority, the President can currently lend and lease defense articles to U.S. partners and allies when it is in the United States’ national security interest. However, bureaucratic barriers and other limitations make these authorities impractical for the current crisis facing Ukraine. 

This enhanced lend-lease authority would be specific to Ukraine to help remove obstacles to lending arms to Ukraine. It would not create a new program but would streamline the President’s current authority to lend the defense articles necessary to defend civilian populations in Ukraine. In addition, this legislation would:

  • Require the President to certify to the appropriate congressional committee that any military equipment provided under this authority is necessary to protect vulnerable civilian populations;
  • Require the President or his designee to establish expedited delivery procedures for any military equipment loaned or leased to Ukraine to ensure timely delivery to Ukraine; and
  • Categorize any cyberattack on major critical infrastructure originating from within Russia against Ukraine to be treated as an armed attack by Russia
  • Remain in effect until Russia restores its troops’ presence on the Ukraine border to pre-March 2021 levels.

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Reed Votes to Protect Voting Rights for All Americans

Source: United States Senator for Rhode Island Jack Reed

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a cosponsor of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (S.4), the Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747), and the Right to Vote Act (S. 2615), issued the following statement on the need to protect election integrity, safeguard the voting rights of all Americans, and potential changes to Senate procedural rules:

“The right to vote is sacred, the heart of any democracy.  And in a proud, though painful tradition, successive generations of Americans have fought to expand and protect that right and ensure that we as a country live up to our democratic ideals.  Many risked their safety and even gave their lives in the fight for the right to vote.  From Frederick Douglass to Lucy Burns, from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to John Lewis, and countless other unnamed and unknown patriots, Americans have long taken it upon themselves to make their union more perfect.

“It is because of the sacrifice and unyielding activism of those brave Americans that the 14th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, 24th, and 26th amendments were ratified; the Indian Citizenship Act was passed; the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed; and in 1965, the landmark legislation of the Voting Rights Act was enacted.  That transformative law, along with its bipartisan renewals over the following decades, helped set us on a path to representation across the nation that better reflected the diversity of the American people and better ensured the right to vote. 

“We cannot allow these hard-earned advances to be reversed. 

“At the state level, at least 19 states passed laws restricting access to voting in 2021, and a number of states have begun to allow partisan actors to interfere with election processes or even reject election results entirely.  Blatant gerrymandering is diluting the voice of minorities and election procedures are being tampered with as nonpartisan safeguards fall to the wayside.

“In the face of this dire onslaught against our democracy, the Constitution is clear that Congress has both the power and the responsibility to restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act and to ensure greater election integrity in our country. 

“And this isn’t a case of so-called Red States and Blue States.  Every state needs to do more to preserve access to the ballot box, and the bill before us ensures that federal elections in every state will be more secure and more accessible to voters.  It sets standards that every state can meet and provides the resources for them to do so.

“Considering the magnitude and urgency of the need for election reforms, I am dismayed by Republicans who have spent months blockading a discussion of these bills on the Senate floor while also refusing to negotiate over any specifics. 

“Sadly, we’ve been here before.  In 1890, then-Representative Henry Cabot Lodge introduced a federal elections bill that would reinforce the 15th amendment and combat the wave of laws disenfranchising Black voters in the South.  Though it passed the House, a week-long Senate filibuster by Southern Democrats and some Western Republicans led to the defeat of the legislation in 1891.  Imagine—where would we be if voting rights legislation had existed in the 1890s instead of having to wait until 1965?  How many thousands of lynchings that took place in those 75 years may have been avoided if Black voters could have had a voice in who was their sheriff, their judge, their mayor, their Representative, their Senator, their President?  How many generations of Black children would have had running water, proper books, and qualified teachers in their school houses? 

“I hope and believe that history will not repeat itself in such a gruesome fashion.  But I do believe that the impact of the current disenfranchisement will be felt acutely in minority communities, by seniors and those with disabilities, and among young people.  Without a voice, their legitimate claims for opportunity and equality will be muted, and huge discrepancies in income, education, and opportunity will be perpetuated.

“We have tried negotiating with the other side.  We have offered an open debate to the other side.  We have held hearings and taken to the floor to outline the dangers of these state voting changes to our democracy, but the other side continues to say “no” to a debate and “no” to a vote. 

“While many of my colleagues on the other side voted to certify the 2020 election and some even voted to impeach the former President for his role in the January 6 assault on the Capitol, by blocking this bill, they are abetting the former President and his unelected media allies in spreading the lie that an election that brought more Republicans to the House of Representatives was somehow “stolen.”  That claim was false then, and it is false now. 

“In allowing falsehoods about the election results of 2020 to proliferate, in celebrating and minimizing the horrors of January 6, Republicans have chosen a path of seeking short-term wins, not realizing that when democracy loses, we all lose. 

“I have a deep respect for Senate rules and precedent, and I have a strong skepticism when I hear suggestions of changing those rules.  I know that what goes around can come around, so what may seem beneficial in the moment can become deeply detrimental in the future. 

“The filibuster has its place, but at a certain point, the right of every eligible American to exercise their right to vote takes precedence because you cannot have a democracy if your citizens cannot vote.  It’s that simple.

“For that existential reason, I will vote to change the rules for the purposes of this bill and enforce Rule XIX so that Senators must actually take to the floor and make their case to the American people rather than hide behind procedure when it comes to voting rights. 

“Our future as a democracy depends on the willingness of this body to do the right thing and protect voting rights by passing the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.  I implore my colleagues: let’s do the right thing, and let’s do it now.”

Maine Delegation Presses Dept. of Transportation to Help Alleviate Bus Driver Shortage

Source: United States Senator for Maine Angus King

WASHINGTON — In response to a serious and sustained shortage of school bus drivers across Maine, the state’s congressional delegation is pushing the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to take steps to safely address the urgent need for additional drivers. The lawmakers, in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, called for the agency to delay or temporarily waive certain training and certification requirements that could keep prospective bus drivers from quickly filling open jobs.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has hit both the education and transportation sectors especially hard, and this is distinctly true for the school bus drivers who bridge these two sectors,” wrote Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME) and Representatives Chellie Pingree (ME-01) and Jared Golden (ME-02) in their letter to Buttigieg. “First, in 2020, extended suspensions of in-person learning reduced the work available for drivers, leading many to seek other jobs. Now that demand has returned, many school districts are facing short-staffed bus fleets, forcing difficult decisions about canceling bus routes, which undermine children’s ability to access the educational opportunities they need and deserve. The federal government must work with states to grant temporary regulatory flexibilities to ease these pressures for school bus providers and drivers while continuing to ensure road safety.” 

The Maine delegation’s letter follows an earlier request from Governor Mills to the DOT, a request that has not received an official response in over two months. 

In the last year, the shortage of school bus drivers in Maine has led to school cancellations, last-minute notifications that parents would have to drop off their children, limited high school sports, and more.

Read a copy of the letter here.

After Senate Vote to Alter Filibuster Falls Short, King Says It Is Time to “Pick Ourselves Up and Keep Fighting”

Source: United States Senator for Maine Angus King

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) voted to adjust the Senate’s procedures to defend the democratic process and voting rights after a GOP filibuster blocked key voting rights protections. Long reluctant to change the filibuster, Senator King signaled in March 2021 that he would change his thinking if the tactic was used to “simply obstruct” rather than in good faith as a negotiating tool.

Earlier this evening, he spoke on the Senate floor urging this limited reform, but the measure failed to meet the 50 vote threshold. In his full statement below, Senator King reflected on how the new threats to American democracy changed his longstanding opposition to filibuster changes and urging proponents of voting rights legislation to continue pushing forward.

“I have long opposed changes to the filibuster, because I believe that bipartisan work produces better, longer lasting results for the American people,” said Senator King. “I also believe that today’s annoying nuisance for a member of the majority will become tomorrow’s priceless shield when the balance of power shifts and that member finds him or herself in the minority.

“However, the benefits of the filibuster do not outweigh the benefits of a functioning democracy. As partisan state legislatures across the country used simple majorities to enact laws making it harder for Americans to vote, Congress had a responsibility to exercise its explicit Constitutional power to ‘make or alter’ elections laws and protect access to the ballot box. We repeatedly invited Republican leaders to join us at the table to build consensus on a bill that could address these threats. Time and time again, we were rebuffed. Taking a step back here, you realize that state legislatures are passing voting restrictions on a strictly party-line basis, while we in the Senate are forced to defend our constituents’ access to vote while playing by a different set of rules.

“In less than two decades, protecting voting rights has shifted from an obvious, unanimous move to strengthen our democracy to a partisan wedge issue. Here’s an example of how bad it’s become: one of the bills under discussion today, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, would reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. The VRA was last reauthorized in 2006 by a vote of 98-0; this time around, only one GOP Senator, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, supported the legislation. This sudden change has, without doubt, weakened the fabric of our nation.

“To be truthful, I’m discouraged right now. With the majority of my colleagues dug in against either changing the filibuster or supporting commonsense voting rights protections, it’s hard to see where we go next. But even as I am saddened that these votes fell short, I know that giving up is not an option. America’s experiment in self-government has endured unimaginable trials throughout its existence, pushing through challenges expected and unforeseen to create a stable democratic system that bucks the historical norms of kings, pharaohs, and czars. Our forefathers would not be deterred from fulfilling the Constitution’s instruction to form a more perfect union. Now it is our turn to pick ourselves up and continue carrying the flame of American democracy forward to the next generation.”

Senator King is committed to increase voter trust and promote access to the ballot for all registered voters. In October 2021 he delivered an impassioned speech on the Senate floor urging action on voting rights, stating that we are currently “at a hinge of history” that will determine the future of the American experiment in self-government. He has recently made the argument for these bills in op-eds for the Boston Globe and TIME. In addition to the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement ActSenator King cosponsored the For the People Act and Senator Jon Ossoff’s (D-Ga.) Right to Vote Act, which would establish a first-ever statutory right to vote in federal elections — protecting U.S. citizens from laws that make it harder to cast a ballot.   

Wyden and Lummis Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Protect Attorney-Client Privilege In the Digital Age

Source: United States Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore)

January 20, 2022

Effective Assistance of Counsel in the Digital Era Act Ensures Email Between Incarcerated Individuals and their Attorneys Is Protected from Unconstitutional Surveillance

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Senator Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., today introduced the Effective Assistance of Counsel in the Digital Era Act, to protect the confidentiality of email communications between incarcerated individuals and their attorneys.

Although mail, phone calls and in-person meetings at federal prisons are currently protected against government surveillance, inmates at Bureau of Prison facilities must allow the government to review all attorney-client emails, under current federal policies. The Wyden-Lummis bill closes this loophole and ensures that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel and attorney-client privilege applies to digital communications as well.

“This bill is the definition of common sense – attorney-client privilege that applies to snail mail and phone calls should absolutely apply to email as well,” Wyden said. I’m pleased to partner with Senator Lummis and Congressman Jeffries to close this loophole. Adding a computer to the equation shouldn’t mean a person’s Constitutional rights go out the window.”

“Attorney-client privilege is a key right of our Constitution. In the 21st Century, it’s frankly unacceptable that an incarcerated person and their lawyer can’t have a private email conversation free from government monitoring,” Lummis said. “I’m proud to work with my friend Senator Ron Wyden and Representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Van Taylor to make sure that Bill of Rights protections extend to all.”

The bill is a companion to legislation by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and Rep. Van Taylor, R-Texas, which was endorsed by the following organizations: American Bar Association, American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Prosperity, Dream Corps, Due Process Institute, Fair and Just Prosecution, Faith and Freedom Coalition, FAMM, Federal Public & Community Defenders, Freedom Works, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, National Action Network, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Prison Fellowship and Right on Crime.

“There are more than 135,000 individuals currently in BOP custody, many of whom are in pretrial detention and have not been convicted of a crime,” Jeffries said. “In our system, defendants are innocent until proven guilty. Like any person involved in a criminal proceeding, these individuals who are incarcerated must be able to communicate with their attorneys confidentially. The bipartisan Effective Assistance of Counsel in the Digital Era Act, which passed out of the House last year by an overwhelming vote of 414-11, would enable incarcerated individuals to communicate with their legal representatives privately, safely and efficiently by prohibiting the Bureau of Prisons from monitoring privileged electronic communications. I thank Senators Wyden and Lummis for their leadership on this issue and for introducing this incredibly important companion legislation.”

The legislation:

  • Requires the Department of Justice to ensure the BOP’s email system excludes from monitoring the contents of privileged electronic communications between incarcerated clients and their legal representatives; 
  • Stipulates that the protections and limitations associated with the attorney-client privilege — including the crime-fraud exception — apply to electronic communications sent or received through the BOP email system;
  • Allows BOP to retain the contents of the electronic communications of an incarcerated person, and make these accessible to the person, only until their date of release from custody, after which these privileged communications are to be purged; 
  • Establishes narrow procedures for an investigative or law enforcement officer, pursuant to a warrant issued by a court, to access privileged electronic communication; and
  • Allows for the suppression of evidence obtained or derived from access to the retained contents if such contents were accessed in violation of the Act.

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Cardin, Van Hollen Praise Judiciary Committee Approval of Judge Julie Rubin for Maryland U.S. District Court Seat

Source: United States Senator for Maryland Ben Cardin

January 20, 2022

Senators recommended Judge Rubin to President Joe Biden

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) today praised the Judiciary Committee’s bipartisan approval of Judge Julie Rubin to serve as U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Maryland.

“We are pleased that today the Judiciary Committee favorably recommended Judge Julie Rubin,” the senators said.  “Judge Rubin brings tremendous experience to the federal bench having served as a Baltimore City Circuit Judge for nearly a decade, where she handles a busy and diverse caseload in our state court.  We’ll be pushing for her swift approval by the full Senate in the coming weeks, and we look forward to her continued public service to Marylanders in upholding the rule of law and providing equal justice for all.”

Judge Rubin was nominated to fill the future vacancy created when Judge Ellen Hollander, appointed by President Obama in 2011, announced her intention in January 2021 to take senior status.  President Joe Biden nominated Judge Rubin for this vacancy on November 3, and the Judiciary Committee held hearing confirmation hearing on December 15.  The ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary unanimously rated her “well qualified” to serve in the federal judiciary, the highest possible rating. The ABA evaluates the integrity, professional competence, and judicial temperament of nominees. 

BALTIMORE CITY CIRCUIT JUDGE JULIE RUBIN

Judge Julie Rubin has served as a judge on the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland since 2013. From 2000 to 2012, Judge Rubin worked at Astrachan Gunst Thomas Rubin, P.C. in Baltimore where she handled intellectual property and employment law matters. From 1998 to 2000, Judge Rubin was an associate at another Baltimore law firm, Shapiro and Olander, P.A.

Judge Rubin received her J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1998 and her B.A., cum laude, from Mount Holyoke College in 1995.

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Rosen Leads Letter to President Biden in Opposition to Extending Job-Killing Solar Tariffs

Source: United States Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV)

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) is leading a bipartisan group of Senators in a letter to President Joe Biden urging him not to extend the current Section 201 tariffs on imported solar panels and cells, which are currently set to expire on February 6, 2022. As a result of these tariffs, first imposed by the Trump Administration, domestic prices for solar panels are now among the highest in the world and significantly above the global average, which has severely and negatively impacted clean energy job creation in the United States.

The bipartisan letter was signed by a group of eight U.S. Senators, including Rosen, and Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Michael Bennet (D-CO). 

“As you know, in February 2018, the Trump Administration imposed Section 201 tariffs on imported crystalline silicon solar panels and solar cell imports above an annual 2.5-gigawatt tariff rate quota,” wrote the Senators. “According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), this led to the loss of more than 62,000 American clean energy jobs and 10.5 gigawatts of foregone solar deployment. The Section 201 tariffs are currently set to expire on February 6, 2022, and we believe that extending the tariffs will do nothing but add unnecessary costs to U.S. consumers, hurt American solar jobs, and artificially stymie the deployment of otherwise viable solar projects in the United States.”

“We write to request that you allow the Section 201 tariffs currently imposed on imported solar panels and cells to lapse,” the Senators’ letter continued. “At a minimum, we ask that you retain the Section 201 tariff exclusion for bifacial solar panels and not apply the tariffs to imported solar cells. Such actions will support good-paying jobs in the clean energy sector here in the United States and promote investments in clean, renewable energy at a time when our nation and our environment need them most.”

Senator Rosen has been a leader in the pushback against these job-killing solar tariffs. In 2018, as a member of the House of Representatives, Senators introduced the Protecting American Solar Jobs Act, bipartisan legislation to repeal the solar tariffs, which began under the Trump Administration. In December 2020, Senator Rosen joined a letter to the Biden-Harris transition team urging the Administration to repeal the prior Administration’s solar tariffs. 

Last September, Senator Rosen led a group of a dozen Senators urging U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to carefully assess the validity of a series of anonymously filed petitions to expand job-killing tariffs on solar panels. Then in November, following Senator Rosen’s call to action against this threat, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it would reject the petitions to expand the solar tariffs.

The full text of the letter can be found here.

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Senator Markey and Rep. Bowman Introduce Legislation to Transform Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Source: United States Senator for Massachusetts Ed Markey

Washington (January 20, 2022) Today, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Congressman Jamaal Bowman (NY-16) introduced the Heating and Cooling Relief Act, legislation to invest in and expand the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to universalize energy assistance for all of those who need it. Currently, it is estimated that only 16 percent of households eligible for LIHEAP are actually served.

“Access to life-saving heating and cooling is a basic human right that ensures our health and safety and should not be reserved only for those who can afford it,” said Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.). “This winter, families should not have to choose between paying energy bills or suffering chills. I am grateful that Congressman Bowman and I are fighting to make sure that home energy funding—a critical lifeline for families throughout the country—will be available to all of those who need it. Our Heating and Cooling Relief Act would provide LIHEAP funding to millions more Americans and ensure that the program has all the support it needs to enhance outreach efforts and serve all eligible households. The bill also takes steps to reduce the energy burdens of LIHEAP recipients and cut down our fossil fuel use by increasing investments in weatherization. The Heating and Cooling Relief Act is the ambitious and comprehensive legislation we need to help ensure the health and safety of American families and support a just transition away from fossil fuel consumption.”

“There is no reason why, in the richest nation on Earth, people in our communities should be forced to choose between staying warm in the winter or cool in the summer and being able to make rent or put food on the table,” said Congressman Jamaal Bowman (NY-16). “Senator Markey and I are working toward an America that respects our collective humanity and our Heating and Cooling Relief Act makes it so that every family can afford their energy bills. This is a racial and economic justice issue, with Black, Latino and Indigenous households all experiencing disproportionately high energy burdens. The lack of energy assistance is also a public health crisis, with high energy burdens associated with a greater risk for respiratory diseases and heat strokes. The fact is that no one, anywhere in this country, should have to resort to using their stoves or turning on space heaters because of exorbitantly high bills. This legislation is a bold approach to energy assistance that meets the moment by making energy assistance much more accessible to tens of millions more people and I am proud to have a partner in Senator Markey as we take on this fight.”

“No person or family should ever go without adequate heat,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). “This bill would ensure that low-income families never pay more than 3% of their annual income on energy costs, even in the coldest winter months. As New York continues facing extreme and potentially dangerous cold weather, we must ensure that every person has access to reliable, affordable, and sufficient heat to stay safe at home.”

 

“No family should have to choose between paying their energy bills and putting food on the table during the cold winter months. LIHEAP is a lifeline for our communities. The Heating and Cooling Relief Act will expand LIHEAP access and will save families from housing and food insecurity as they cope with high energy bills. It will also increase funding for weatherization, promote renewable energy use, and aid with climate adaptation – all crucial to our work tackling the climate crisis,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

 

A copy of the bill text can be found HERE.

Specifically, the Heating and Cooling Relief Act:

  • Increases annual funding for LIHEAP to $40 billion and expands eligibility to ensure that no household pays more than three percent of its annual income on energy costs;
  • Minimizes the barriers to administering and applying LIHEAP by allowing households to self-attest to eligibility criteria; increases the administrative cap for outreach, technological, and staffing purposes; and ensures LIHEAP coordinators are paid at least a living wage;
  • Protects consumers by ensuring that no eligible household has its utilities shutoff or pays late fees, that every household receiving funds can have its utility debt cleared, and that utility companies set up discounted payment plans to support consumers;
  • Ensures states can use LIHEAP to address climate adaptation by increasing funding for cooling assistance and ensuring households can access utility assistance during major disasters; and
  • Increases funding made available for weatherization through LIHEAP, and establishes a new Just Transition Grant for states and localities to help reduce energy burdens for LIHEAP-eligible households and promote renewable energy usage.

Senator Markey and Congressman Bowman have been champions for energy and utility justice issues throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. On January 5, 2022, Congressman Bowman, Senator Markey, and Congresswoman Schakowsky led a letter to the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) urging the Biden administration to protect consumers from unfairly high heating and energy prices. Last year, Congressman Bowman introduced the Public Power Resolution with Congresswoman Bush to make power a public utility, and he also introduced the Broadband Justice Act to deliver accessible, free broadband to every subsidized household in the nation. As part of the American Rescue Plan, Senator Markey advocated for $20 billion in funding for Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) and $4.5 billion in additional funding to LIHEAP. Last Congress, he also introduced a bill that would have set the sense of Congress that states and utilities should issue a moratorium on gas and electric service disconnections, late fees, reconnection fees, rate hikes, and other penalties for all consumers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Original co-sponsors of this legislation include Senators Gillibrand and Warren, and Representatives Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Mark Takano (CA-41), Emanuel Cleaver, II (MO-05), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24), Nydia Velazquez (NY-07), André Carson (IN-07), Gwen S. Moore (WI-04), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Grace Meng (NY-06) and Pramila Jayapal (WA-07).

Endorsing organizations include: National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA), National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), National Housing Law Project, Public Citizen, Sunrise Movement, Evergreen Action, Green and Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI), Sierra Club, Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC), Food and Water Watch, Rocky Mountain Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, Ecological Justice Initiative, Elevate, Dandelion Energy, Building Electrification Institute, Rewiring America, Association for Energy Affordability, Sustainable Westchester, New York Lawyers for Public Interest, Bloc Power, NY Geothermal Energy Organization, and NYC-Environmental Justice Alliance, Massachusetts Association for Community Action (MASSCAP), and NY Renews.

“The Heating and Cooling Relief act would end energy poverty in the US by providing that no family would spend more than 3 percent of their family’s budget on home energy and would provide states with the flexibility to weatherize up to 1 million homes per year,” said Mark Wolfe, Executive Director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA).  “The net result will be an end to the stubbornly high utility arrears and shut-offs that low income families have been struggling with for many years.”

 

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McConnell Welcomes Kentuckians and All Americans Marching for Life

Source: United States Senator for Kentucky Mitch McConnell

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding March for Life:

“Tomorrow, our nation’s capital will once again host many thousands of Americans gathering peacefully to support the most basic human right — the right to life.

“For 49 years, the March for Life has united people from diverse backgrounds, different faiths, and all 50 states. They celebrate the dignity of human life and confront the ways our society fails to protect it.

“This year, the marchers will arrive in a Washington controlled by a Democratic Party that has grown increasingly radical on this issue.

“Today’s Democrats work overtime to keep our country one of just seven nations on the planet that have abortion on demand even after unborn children can feel pain. Our shameful company includes China and North Korea. Fewer than 30% of Americans endorse this view, but Democrats have made it party dogma.

“On President Biden’s watch, Washington Democrats have even turned against the longstanding, bipartisan Hyde Amendment. Both parties used to agree that at least federal taxpayers should not be forced to fund abortions. Now Democrats on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue have declared war on even this.

“So I warmly welcome the marchers from Kentucky and across the country. This radical version of the Democratic Party needs to hear your voices more than ever.”

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