In The News
House Democrats this week are trying to hitch a slate of amendments to the appropriations minibus, all targeting the business, family members and scandals of President Donald Trump…. The amendments, offered in the Rules Committee, are part of the minority party’s larger effort to tie their Republican colleagues to Trump’s possible conflicts of interest stemming from his business holdings and the government’s probe of alleged collusion by Trump campaign officials with Russia to influence the 2016 elections…. “Democrats need to use whatever tools are at their disposal,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., his party’s point man on ethics. Using the appropriations process, he added, is “fair game.”
Also on Tuesday: Members of Maryland’s Congressional delegation sent a letter to the Federal Transit Administration urging the agency to sign on to a funding agreement with the Maryland Transit Administration. The letter calls the 16-mile, 21-stop Purple Line a “shovel-ready project” and declared that a federal Court of Appeals decision July 19 cleared the way for construction.... The letter — signed by Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Reps. Steny Hoyer, John Delaney, John Sarbanes and Jamie Raskin — said the Purple Line would spur economic growth in the area, providing as many as 6,000 construction jobs and 27,000 permanent jobs.
In a largely party-line 231-190 vote this afternoon, the House passed a Congressional Review Act resolution that, if also adopted by the Senate and signed by the President, would overturn recently finalized rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau…. Those rules seek to curb the use of “forced arbitration” in many consumers’ financial contracts. These arbitration clauses dictate that any legal dispute between the customer and the bank must be resolved outside of the legal system. Instead, these matters — no matter the scope of the allegation — must go through a closed-door arbitration process, where the results are often confidential, so there is no public record of the alleged wrongdoing…. Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes questioned the GOP’s reason for trying to undo these protections…. “Who back home is asking for this?” asked Sarbanes. “Who is coming to the town hall and asking for you to repeal this?” … In the end, only one Republican — Walter Jones of North Carolina — voted against repealing the CFPB rule. No Democrats strayed across the aisle to vote in favor of repeal.
Last week, tech companies joined in a day of action that encouraged letter-writing to Congress, our sister site Technical.ly Philly reported. The FCC received 9 million comments in response to the proposed changes. That’s a record, USA Today reports…. In Baltimore, the effort to spread the word is continuing with a public forum this week. Congressman John Sarbanes and former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler will be at Betamore in City Garage on Wednesday, July 26, discussing the issue in a public forum…. The 11 a.m. forum, titled “The Fight to Preserve a Free & Open Internet,” will also feature remarks from the former FCC General Counsel Jonathan Sallet and Demand Progress Campaign Director Kurt Walters. It’s open to the public, and will include a chance to ask questions.
Amid the collapse of a signature piece of GOP health legislation and continued revelations about the Trump team’s ties to Russia, House Democrats have turned their spotlight on proposals to revamp ethics, campaign finance and voting rights laws…. “We’re fighting back against the lack of accountability that we see in the Trump administration and from special interests,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, the Maryland Democrat who chairs his party’s Democracy Reform Task Force…. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Sarbanes told reporters during a Tuesday news conference that their party was developing a series of legislative proposals they dubbed the "By the People Project" that would include updates to the nation’s ethics and elections systems…. Some of the measures, such as one (HR 20) to encourage small-dollar campaign donations and another (HR 1134) to require additional public disclosures of political spending, have already been introduced.
Federal employees victimized by discrimination would receive stronger protections under a bill agreed to unanimously by the House on Tuesday, while those found to have discriminated would face stronger repercussions…. Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., said the bill was one of many he would support to give federal employees the “workplace protections they deserve.” … “This bill is a tremendous win for our nation’s civil servants, and an important step forward in providing federal employees with equal protections under the law,” Sarbanes said after the House approved the legislation by voice vote on Tuesday.
Big plays an increasingly corrosive role at many levels of politics in the United States. One response that has shown some success is public financing of campaigns. We hope the D.C. Council decides to join the ranks of local and state governments that have pioneered this useful tool…. Now before the council is a bill that would offer limited public matching funds to candidates who meet certain qualifications, including forgoing corporate or political action committee contributions. The measure, the Fair Elections Act, is modeled on public-financing systems that have been successfully implemented in other cities and states, including New York City, Connecticut and Maine, and that recently were adopted in neighboring Montgomery and Howard counties. Legislation championed in Congress by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) would apply the idea to national politics.
One of the unintended effects of the Senate’s Obamacare repeal bill would be to slash money that pays for a project popular among Republicans — using long-distance video hookups called telemedicine to connect sick kids in rural schools to big-city medical experts…. In poor and rural areas, the school nurse is not just handing out bandages anymore; she’s become a de facto medical guide, marshaling medical care for poor kids with obesity, asthma and diabetes, while on the lookout for issues like child abuse and teen pregnancy…. Public schools in Howard County, Maryland, introduced telemedicine in 2014 and have since expanded its use to six elementary schools. The program’s success caught the eye of Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) who has sponsored the Hallways to Health Act (H.R. 1027), which would create a demonstration program for school-based telemedicine programs nationally.
Democratic lawmakers asked Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt on Wednesday to disclose procedures to prevent billionaire Carl Icahn from influencing U.S. biofuels policy for personal gain…. The letter is the latest in a string of missives from Democrats concerned about Icahn's dual role as a special adviser to President Donald Trump on regulation and as a major investor in heavily regulated industries…. Signing the letter were Reps. Frank Pallone, the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee; Bobby Rush; Diana DeGette; Paul Tonko; and John Sarbanes.
The Trump administration has ignored hundreds of congressional letters of inquiry…. It is also brandishing a legal opinion, crafted by the Justice Department, holding that most of Congress lacks the constitutional power to conduct oversight of the executive branch…. It isn't just an attack on Democrats, currently the minority party in both chambers on Capitol Hill…. Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., contrasts the administration's position with Trump's "drain the swamp" rhetoric last fall. He told NPR, "They certainly put an emphasis, with this idea of draining the swamp, on accountability and transparency. But so far, they seem to have moved in the complete opposite direction."