In The News
The House Oversight Committee held a hearing Thursday on a bill that would pave the way for the District of Columbia to become the country’s 51st state. The hearing on H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, was the first hearing of its kind in more than 25 years, the Oversight Committee’s Democratic press office said.... In total, 220 representatives — all Democrats — are co-sponsoring the legislation, which was first introduced in January. Among the sponsors are Maryland Reps. Elijah Cummings, Steny Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes.
Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., said Congress must strengthen federal agencies tasked to investigate nonprofits, political committees or their fundraisers — including the Federal Trade Commission, the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission. “If you take cops off the beat, if you dilute oversight, scrutiny, accountability and transparency, you’re asking for the wild wild West, and increasingly that seems to be the reality we’re living in,” Sarbanes said. “And it’s just completely unfair to the average citizen” who expects the federal government to protect consumers.
Congressional Democrats renewed their call for election security legislation during a national day of action on Tuesday, as a Senate Appropriations subcommittee left out funding for it in its annual spending bill.... One of the bills Democrats have called for a Senate vote on is H.R. 1, a sweeping voting rights and election security bill passed by the House along party lines in March. Republicans have blocked this bill.... Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), the primary sponsor of the bill in the House, said during the same press conference on Tuesday that in blocking H.R. 1, McConnell “is standing in the way with his arms folded at the gates of democracy and saying to the American public, you shall not pass.”
With the growing number of cases of severe pulmonary illness connected to electronic cigarette use, state and federal officials have rapidly sounded the alarm. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, launched an investigation into the four largest vaping manufacturers in late August. Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, who sits on the panel, said he was “committed to fully investigating the health risks associated with vaping products and to holding e-cigarette manufacturers accountable.”
Three Maryland representatives are urging Immigration and Customs Enforcement to end an alleged practice of luring immigrants into the deportation process by misleading them into believing they’re visiting an immigration office to discuss a green card eligibility related to marrying a U.S. citizen. In a letter to ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence, the three Democratic congressmen — Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger. Rep. Elijah Cummings and Rep. John Sarbanes — urged the department to end the practice after a lawsuit filed last month alleged that agents at the Baltimore field office were using the tactic. “It is concerning that ICE and [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] appear to be coordinating to arrest immigrants attending marriage interviews at USCIS offices,” the three wrote. “Please provide any policies, memorandums, agreements, or guidance between ICE and USCIS related to this practice,” the letter continues.
U.S. House lawmakers approved bipartisan legislation Wednesday that would block new offshore drilling off the majority of the U.S. coast – despite pushback from many Republicans. The legislation would put in place far-reaching new protections, blocking drilling off most of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Lawmakers are scheduled to vote Thursday on a similar ban for drilling in the Arctic Ocean. The efforts take aim at the Trump administration’s push to open up vast new areas of the U.S. coasts to oil and gas exploration.... “Reckless decisions by the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans to expand offshore drilling along our coastlines pose serious risks to local economies, to public health and to marine ecosystems and wildlife,” said Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.). “In the midst of a global climate crisis, we cannot afford to bow down to dirty polluters.”
More than three dozen Maryland lawmakers are calling on U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to answer questions about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which has attracted attention in recent months for nearly universally denying applications from federal workers. Del. Lesley Lopez (D-Montgomery) spearheaded the leader to DeVos, noting the heavy presence of eligible government and nonprofit workers in Maryland. An unknown number of Marylanders relied on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program when they chose their career paths. But “a growing body of evidence” has shown that the U.S. Department of Education has “mishandled this program and skirted its obligation to provide student debt relief to public servants,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent shortly before Labor Day. The program – first established in 2007 by legislation from U.S. Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.) – was faulted in an October 2018 Government Accountability Report for denying 99.6 percent of all applications for student loan forgiveness. It was created to forgive federal student loans for borrowers who work in local, state and federal government or certain nonprofit employers for at least 10 years while making 120 payments. Given the implementation timeline and employment requirements, flaws with the program have come to light in the last couple of years, as workers who thought they were on track for forgiveness have been turned down in droves. Last year, Congress sought a solution. Lawmakers, Sarbanes among them, pushed for and created the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which would extend loan forgiveness to workers who paid their loans in good faith but may have been enrolled in an ineligible repayment program or been given bad advice by the government or a loan provider. Last week, a new GAO report concluded that the expanded program also has an extraordinary denial rate: 98.7 percent.
Millions of dollars from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was allotted to Baltimore to help meet the needs of Baltimore City’s homeless youth. Mayor Jack Young, Senators Ben Cardin, and Chris Van Hollen and Congressman John Sarbanes announced $3.7 million in federal funding from HUD’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program. The money will help link Baltimore’s homeless youth with city programs that can help get them the services they need. The funding can be used for permanent housing, transitional housing, supportive services, Homeless Management Information Systems, or homelessness prevention.
Baltimore, Prince George’s County and the D.C. are among 23 communities receiving a total of $75 million in federal funds to combat youth homelessness. The $75 million was awarded as part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, which started in 2016. The third year of the program is a significant expansion over the $33 million awarded to 10 communities in 2017 and the $43 million awarded to 11 communities in 2018. Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both Democrats, and Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Timonium, and John Sarbanes, D-Towson, issued a joint statement last week praising the grant to Baltimore and other communities. “Every young person in Baltimore and around the nation deserves a safe place to call home. Connecting homeless youth with the services that they need will make an enormous difference in the course of their lives,” the lawmakers said.