In The News
Top House Democrats on Tuesday savaged the Trump administration’s plan to blow up the Office of Personnel Management, calling the effort to close the major federal agency a backdoor power play to weaken the federal workforce. The hostile reception, alongside tepid support from Republicans, left the plan’s chances in doubt and raised the possibility that the administration would dismantle some of the agency’s functions on its own, even if Congress fails to pass legislation to do it…. The proposed breakup, which has consumed the personnel agency for more than a year, would pull apart OPM and its 5,565 federal employees and divide it among three other departments…. Critics say the proposal is a ploy to politicize the civil service by installing political appointees close to the White House…. [Acting OPM director, Margaret] Weichert said the staff is so bogged down by technology problems that it cannot carry out its core mission of enacting policies to improve the 2.1 million-strong civil service — particularly by raising morale — and conduct succession planning for an aging workforce…. But the most pointed criticism was left to Democrats, who, while acknowledging the problems with OPM’s legacy computer systems, questioned the administration’s motives in breaking up a department with a government-wide role. “It just sounds like you’re proceeding on a wing and prayer here,” Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) told Weichert, calling her justification “quite facile and a kind of double talk.”
House Democratic committee leaders recently introduced a comprehensive election security bill that would commit more than $1 billion in grants to secure America’s election systems and mandate states to use paper ballots for votes. This could be the first election security directive that Congress passes since foreign actors shook up the nation’s 2016 election through a hacking and disinformation operation…. Reps. John Sarbanes, D-Md., [Bennie] Thompson, [D-Miss.] and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., introduced the Election Security Act in an effort to protect future elections from “malevolent attacks and foreign interference.” The legislation is a key provision of the H.R.1 For the People Act, which is a reform bill that was recently passed in the House and involves a total rehaul around election integrity and ethics. The standalone bill gives the Election Security Act two possible paths forward, a committee representative told Nextgov. Aside from requiring states to use paper ballots and authorizing more than $1 billion in funding grants to help states improve election security, the bill would also establish cybersecurity standards for voting systems vendors and require that voting machines be manufactured in the United States. The legislation would also order voting systems to be tested nine months prior to elections and require the president to produce a national strategy around protecting democratic institutions. Under the bill, the Director of National Intelligence would also be required to conduct threat assessments at least 180 days ahead of elections and the Homeland Security Department would be directed to expand the assistance it provides to state election officials, including expediting their security clearances.
The day after our nation commemorated the 54th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Ala., the House of Representatives passed H.R.1, the For the People Act, to strengthen voting rights, take big money out of politics, and clean up corruption on Capitol Hill. Before the vote on March 8, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a foot soldier for civil rights who marched in Selma, implored lawmakers to recognize their moral responsibility to restore access to democracy…. Democracy is foundational to America’s highest values. From its base grow equity and justice, and freedom and opportunity. But when people’s voices are blocked from civic participation — as they increasingly are today — our hard-won progress becomes vulnerable. Americans are hungry for change. State by state, voters cast their ballots last November for measures like automatic voter registration, redistricting reform, and rights restoration for formerly incarcerated people. The For the People Act would implement those changes nationwide. It would also create a small donor matching system for funding campaigns, which would empower everyday Americans and lift up the historic number of candidates who have pledged to take no corporate PAC money…. When our democracy is closed to the people, we cannot make progress on civil and human rights issues like immigration, affordable health care, educational equity, and economic security. Similarly, without government accountability and transparency, the people lose their power to ensure lawmakers represent their interests. The government in turn loses legitimacy among the people. When our democracy is in peril, so too are our civil rights. The For the People Act offers a transformative vision for democracy that puts the American people and our shared values first. Importantly, it also commits to restoring the heart of the Voting Rights Act. Rep. Lewis was beaten and bloodied as he crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma for daring to expand access to our political process. Fifty-four years later, we are again at a crossroads — and not one of politics, but of what is right and just. Leader McConnell, let the senators vote.
Rep. John Sarbanes tells Lawrence O’Donnell that Trump has made Democrats "more determined" to conduct robust oversight in the wake of his stonewalling efforts and refusal to provide any witnesses or documents before congressional committees. Lawrence also discusses with Matt Miller and Adam Jentleson.
U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes on Wednesday criticized insulin producers for their lack of transparency in setting prices. “I do not buy the argument that the patient is going to be worse off, the consumer is going to be worse off, if we have complete transparency,” the Baltimore County Democrat said at a hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s oversight and reform subcommittee. “I think the lack of transparency is allowing for a lot of manipulation….” Last week, the committee heard testimony from a diabetic patient who rationed her insulin to make it last longer because she couldn’t afford her next bottle. Also at that hearing, the committee explored the influence of pharmacy benefit managers, companies that negotiate prices for insulin with insurance companies and uninsured consumers. The testimony led Sarbanes, whose 3rd District includes a part of central Anne Arundel County, to question whether witnesses were optimistic that businesses could be transparent in their negotiations for the drug. On Wednesday, Sarbanes asked why the general public does not have access to information about how the net price of the drug is often negotiated to a significantly higher cost for the patient through price benefit managers. “Should it be a trade secret? is that the problem? Like proprietary?” Sarbanes asked one pharmacy benefit manager company executive. “The reason I am able to get the discounts that I can from the manufacturer is because...,” Amy Bricker, senior vice president of Express Scripts, started. The congressman cut her off: “It’s a secret.” “Because it’s confidential,” Bricker responded. “Yeah, because it’s a secret,” Sarbanes said. Sarbanes then asked if the executives would support Congress taking steps to make the process transparent…. The Maryland lawmaker condemned what he called “hocus pocus” negotiations going on behind closed doors, saying that the whole price-setting system for insulin is “screwed up.” “They’ve managed to figure out a way to structure the system so they can be negotiating at a level that always protects, it appears to me, the profits of the companies and PBMs at the expense of the patients,” Sarbanes said.
In November, the American people elected Democrats to take back the reins of power in the House of Representatives and put it back to work on their behalf. In our first 100 days in the majority, we have begun to deliver on that promise…. In the first days of the 116th Congress, House Democrats moved swiftly to implement new rules to make the legislative process more open and transparent and hold elected officials to higher ethics standards. In the weeks that followed, led by Rep. John Sarbanes and many of our freshmen, Democrats passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act. This major legislation puts power back into the people's hands by ending the unrestricted influence of big money in our politics, promoting national redistricting reform, and requiring new standards of transparency from those who serve in government. The legislation also broadens access to the ballot box, with automatic voter registration and expanded early voting.
Debate continues this week over regulating the internet. The house is expected to vote this week on the Save the Internet Act, which would restore net neutrality. A vote against the bill would leave the control of the internet in the hands of the isp companies. In this month's Your Voice segment Representative John Sarbanes joins Fox45 to talk about net neutrality and the issues around the affordable care act.
U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes is to be applauded for leading a discussion this week on gun violence as a public safety concern. During a roundtable discussion at Anne Arundel Medical Center, there were some interesting ideas: making gun safety an issue for pediatricians to discuss with families, or pushing to make guns safer by making them less likely to be involved in accidental shootings. As advocates for more sensible rules on long gun sales have learned in this year’s General Assembly session, the political process is a difficult one to wield in addressing gun violence. It was disturbing earlier this year to see the annual assessment of county public health concerns ignore gun violence. We previously have suggested more information on gun violence is a crucial step toward any efforts to gain consensus. Discussions such as the one Monday are helpful. They should continue by leaders of the government agencies responsible for public health.
A group of politicians, community leaders, law enforcement, gun control advocates and public health officials gathered at Anne Arundel Medical Center Monday to talk about gun violence as a public health crisis and concluded that change starts with more productive conversations. The key to advancing that conversation and finding common ground, those gathered for the roundtable hosted by U.S Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) said, could be focusing on safety — as was the case with cars in the past…. An approximately one-hour roundtable discussion can only scratch the surface of a problem as diverse and complex as gun violence. And at the beginning of the meeting of minds, Sarbanes said he wanted to know what he should bring back to Congress…. Sarbanes called the discussion “extremely helpful” in closing. He said he’d returned to Washington armed with new ideas and that he’ll push for those on the opposite ends of the spectrum to come together over the idea of gun safety. “I think there’s real opportunity there,” he said.