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Duncan Seeks Transparency in Presidential Library Fundraising

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn. 02; February 25, 2015:

WASHINGTON – Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) introduced bipartisan legislation Wednesday to shine light on the closed and secretive process of presidential library fundraising.

The Presidential Library Donation Reform Act of 2015 would require presidential library fundraisers to disclose any donation of more than $200.  Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, joined as the lead Democratic co-sponsor of the bill.

“Presidential library fundraising organizations are formed while a president is in office and collect donations from individuals, corporations and foreign governments with no limit on the contribution amount.  When there is no requirement for disclosing the donor or the amounts being donated, there is great potential for abuse,” Duncan said.

“I first introduced this bill in 1999 after learning that foreign governments from the Middle East were making very large donations to the proposed library for President Clinton. However, this is not a partisan issue. I introduced and have supported this legislation under both Democratic and Republican presidents,” Duncan continued.

“The Presidential Library Donation Act is a bipartisan, good government bill that would bring transparency to the process under which presidential libraries are built,” said Ranking Member Cummings. “The bill would require that the identities of those who donate to help construct a president’s library be disclosed.”

In 2013, Sunlight Foundation Policy Director Daniel Schuman endorsed this bill during a hearing on federal government transparency in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, saying it “would provide valuable information on special interests whose donations put them in close proximity with presidents.”

Swift action on the measure is expected in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Rep. Duncan’s presidential library transparency bill passed the U.S. House with large bipartisan majorities in 2002, 2007, and 2009.

Watch Rep. Duncan speak about this bill on the House floor HERE.

Duncan Introduces Bill to End ‘Cadillac’ Crop Insurance Subsidy

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Duncan, Jr., R-Tenn. 02; February 12, 2015:

Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.) introduced bipartisan legislation Thursday to eliminate a little-known “Cadillac” crop insurance subsidy that costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year and is used mostly by large corporate farmers.

The Harvest Price Subsidy Reduction Act would end taxpayer support for harvest price option insurance plans.  The measure is supported by a wide range of taxpayer watchdog groups and would save $19 billion over 10 years.

Under a traditional crop insurance plan, farmers purchase a policy that pays out if they earn less money at harvest time than they were projected to make when they planted their crop. It is meant to be a safety net to protect farmers from catastrophic and unanticipated losses.

Under harvest price option plans, however, if the crop ends up higher than projected, the farmer is paid out at that higher price.  Since harvest price option policies are purchased with taxpayer subsidies, it amounts to taxpayer-subsidized profit guarantees.

“Our crop insurance system is not fair to the 99-percent of business owners in my District who do not get subsidies from the federal government to run their business,” Duncan said. “Big agro businesses and insurance corporations have a sweetheart deal.  The largest corporate farms collect the lion’s share of the money, creating an unfair playing field for small, family farmers. It’s crony capitalism at its best.”

“Of the 20 largest crop insurance companies operating in the U.S., eight are foreign-owned and have been receiving U.S. taxpayer money to provide these policies,” Duncan continued.

Under the bill, farmers could continue to purchase harvest price option insurance policies, just without taxpayer subsidy support.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate.

“Making a living in agriculture is not easy or predictable. That’s why there are safety net programs like traditional crop insurance,” said Flake. “But HPOs are not safety net programs: They put taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars even when huge profits are being made.”

The Crop Insurance Subsidy Reduction Act is supported by the following groups: Heritage Action; American Enterprise Institute; R Street Institute; Club for Growth; National Taxpayers Union; Campaign for Liberty; Taxpayers Protection Alliance; Center for Individual Freedom; Coalition to Reduce Spending; Less Government; and the Environmental Working Group.

Read a joint letter of support from these organizations HERE.

Duncan Files Bill to Require Floating Black Boxes on Aircraft

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn. 02; February 6, 2015:

WASHINGTON– In response to recent aviation tragedies, Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) and Congressman David E. Price (D-NC) introduced two bills Thursday to prevent lengthy searches for missing airliners by improving flight tracking and the recovery of in-flight data.

The Safe Aviation Flight Enhancement (SAFE) Act, sponsored by Rep. Duncan, would require the installation of floating “Black Box” data recorders on domestic commercial aircraft.

These recorders, which are already used in military aircraft around the world, eject on impact and immediately transmit a signal identifying the location of a crash site, thereby enabling quick recovery of missing aircraft and data critical to investigations. The requirement would apply only to newly manufactured aircraft in the United States.

The Safe Aviation Flight Emergency Tracking (SAFE-T) Act, sponsored by Rep. Price, would direct the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to require passenger aircraft to be equipped with technology to better identify and track instances when aircraft experience abnormalities or distress and to more quickly recover information when accidents occur.

“Had Malaysia 370 been equipped with a deployable flight recorder, it would have likely led to the plane’s discovery and provided closure for the families of those onboard,” said Congressman Duncan. “It also could have saved many millions of dollars in search costs that are still being accrued and possibly provide answers critical to preventing a future crash.”

“Unfortunately, the recent searches for Malaysia Airlines 370 and AirAsia 8501 are just the latest reminders of how desperately aviation recovery reforms are needed,” said Congressman Price. “These bills would vastly improve our ability to learn from aircraft in distress and would all but eliminate costly and dangerous searches for downed planes.”

The SAFE Act and SAFE-T Act would address several issues recently identified by the National Transportation Safety Board and bring domestic aviation regulations in line with international standards.

Jim Hall, who served as Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board for seven years, said the U.S. government has the responsibility to lead the implementation of new standards for flight recorder and distress tracking upgrades.

“I know I echo the praise by the passenger and victim family groups who appreciate the body of congressional leaders led by Congressmen Duncan and Price who have been unwilling to give up on efforts to ensure the industry implement some of these common sense and low cost aviation safety upgrades,” Hall said.  “Several crashes have occurred over the last 6 years, let alone the 14 years since I was Chairman, that continue to demonstrate the need for these technology upgrades. Floating Recorders, distress signals, 25 hour Cockpit Voice Recorders, and Cockpit Image Recorders are all existing, ready to install technologies.”

Congressman Duncan and Congressman Price first introduced the SAFE Act in the 108th Congress and the SAFE-T Act in the 113th Congress.  Both bills have been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Aviation.

Rep. Duncan is the former Chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee and Current Vice Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

TN Congressional Delegation Responses to Obama Budget Proposal

On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama submitted a nearly $4 trillion budget to Congress, calling for an end to the across-the-board cuts in federal spending brought about by the sequestration agreed to by Congress in 2011.

Instead, Obama suggested a 7 percent budget increase over the agreed-upon sequester levels for domestic and defense spending.

“I’m not going to accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward. It would be bad for our security and bad for our growth,” Obama said in a speech at the Department of Homeland Security offices Monday.

The U.S. national debt exceeded $18 trillion for the first time in mid-December 2014, just about 14 months after it exceeded $17 trillion in mid-October 2013.

Republican members of Congress have indicated the budget proposal is “dead on arrival.”

Responses from Tennessee’s congressional delegation to the president’s proposed budget follow:

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2015 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016:

“We need to address Washington’s spending problem and fix the federal government’s $18 trillion debt, and the way to do it is by reducing the growth of out-of-control entitlement spending. I plan to work with our Republican majority – and, I hope, the president – to make tough choices so we can pass a real plan to fix the debt while supporting other priorities like national defense and national labs and medical research.”

Alexander noted that mandatory spending – which includes out-of-control entitlement spending that is driving the growth in the federal debt – makes up about 60 percent of overall federal spending each year. Discretionary spending – the part of the budget that is already subject to spending caps under the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the Bipartisan Budget Act – makes up about 34 percent of federal spending each year and funds national defense, national labs, national parks and other federal priorities.

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, released the following statement today regarding President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget proposal.

“Our inability to get our nation’s fiscal house in order continues to be one of the most critical national security threats our country faces. The president’s budget makes little effort to solve that problem and is not a serious proposal,” said Corker. “The spending limits put in place in 2011 have generated the only real fiscal progress our nation has made in decades, yet the president wants to not only break the promise we all made to the American people, but also revert back to the bad habits that created our massive deficits in the first place. I hope Congress will show courage and finally address the largest drivers of our deficits so we can generate economic growth and create more opportunities for Tennesseans.”

Corker, also a member of the Senate Banking Committee, commented on the president’s renewed commitment to work with Congress to pass comprehensive housing finance reform.

“On the other hand, I am pleased the administration has renewed its commitment to working with Congress to pass comprehensive legislation to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” said Corker. “The biggest issue this year for the Senate Banking Committee, and the last major unfinished business from the 2008 financial crisis, is finally addressing this tremendous taxpayer liability and ending the failed model of private gains and public losses.”

The president’s budget says bipartisan housing finance legislation passed last year by the Senate Banking Committee was a “meaningful step” in the right direction. The bill, the Housing Finance Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2014 (S.1217), passed the committee in May 2014 by a vote of 13 to 9 and was first introduced by Corker and Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) in June 2013.

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Duncan, Jr., R-Tenn. 02; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON – Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. released the following statement Monday in response to President Obama’s 2016 budget:

This budget would result in a nearly half-trillion dollar deficit next year alone, and our deficits and interest payments on the National debt would continue to go way up every year.

The most wasteful, least efficient way to spend money is to turn it over to the federal government.  The best way to create more good jobs and keep the cost-of-living low is to decrease federal spending and leave more money in the hands of American families.

I strongly support tax cuts for the middle class.  The president claims he is trying to help the middle class, but during his years in office, the gap between the wealthy and the middle class has grown faster than ever, primarily because of big government policies that help only big federal contractors and the federal bureaucracy.

Like all presidential budgets, it will undergo significant changes.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischman, R-Tenn. 03; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON− Rep. Chuck Fleischmann released the following statement in response to President Obama’s proposed budget for FY2016.

“Much like in his State of the Union speech, the President has taken an opportunity to work with Congress and turned it into a partisan game. This budget would increase spending by $2.4 trillion, never balances and simply isn’t a real option. As Tennessee’s sole House Appropriator, I will use my oversight responsibility to comb through the President’s request and ultimately make sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and responsibly.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05; February 2, 2015:

Nashville’s federal courthouse is Judiciary’s top priority

NASHVILLE – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) announced today that President Barack Obama’s newly released budget for FY 2016 includes funding for construction of a new federal courthouse building in Nashville.

“Nashville is #1 in the nation on the list of priorities for courthouse construction. This announcement is a critical next step in getting the courthouse built, but we’re not done yet,” Cooper said. “We still need Congress to appropriate the funds, and I hope that happens this year.”

Nashville has been waiting for a new courthouse since 1992, when the Estes Kefauver Federal Courthouse was first deemed “inadequate.”

In 2002, the federal government selected the downtown property on Church Street as the site of the new building and purchased the parcels making up the site from 2002-2005. Since then, further studies and an economic downturn have delayed construction on any new federal courthouse. Neither the President’s budget nor Congressional appropriations has included funding for courthouses in four of the last five years, with the exception of the Mobile, Ala., courthouse in FY 2014.

Federal courthouse funding is supposed to follow the Judicial Conference’s five-year plan that contains a priority list of proposed courthouses ranked by need. But for many years, the Judicial Conference’s priorities were routinely ignored in favor of political favoritism and earmarks, a process Cooper opposes.

Cooper has pushed for a transparent, fair funding process and has led bipartisan efforts to award projects based on priority, not politics. Cooper was a founding member of the Congressional Courthouse Caucus, which was formed to address the urgent need for functional, secure courthouses around the country. Cooper has written to President Obama and Members of the House Appropriations Committee several times asking them to prioritize courthouse funding. Cooper has also met with the General Services Administration regarding the public safety hazard that sits atop the site designated for Nashville’s new courthouse, urging its immediate demolition.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; February 2, 2015:

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06), member of the House Budget Committee, released the following statement on President Obama’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2016:

“I had hoped to congratulate President Obama on finally delivering a budget to Congress by the legal deadline for the first time in five years, but this proposal isn’t really a budget at all – it is a messaging piece. This so-called budget ignores both the reality of our already crippling $18 trillion national debt and of a new Republican majority in Washington that will not allow this laughable tax-and-spend proposal to pass.” said Congressman Diane Black.

Congressman Black added, “The President promised in his State of the Union address to present ‘a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan.’ Sadly, he has done just the opposite. This budget is not practical, it is political. By adding nearly $8.5 trillion to our debt over the budget window, the President’s plan prioritizes the next election over the next generation – which would be forced to foot the bill for his costly agenda. This budget does nothing to address the strain of our mandatory spending programs and never achieves balance. I look forward to working with my Republican colleagues on the House Budget Committee to craft a responsible, timely budget that offers a substantive alternative to the President’s reckless proposal.”

Additional information:

  • The President’s budget calls for $2.1 trillion in new tax increases, on top of $1.7 trillion in tax hikes already imposed by the AdministrationThis budget would grow total federal spending by $259 billion next year alone
  • Under this plan, interest on our debt would rise to $785 billion by 2025
  • The President’s budget increases annually-appropriated spending for next year by $74 billion over current law
  • Under the President’s budget, gross debt would climb to $26.3 trillion in 2025

(Source: House Budget Committee)

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.07; February 2, 2015:

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who is a member of the House Budget Committee, issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2016.

“President Obama has declared that the time for ‘mindless austerity’ is over, but there is nothing ‘mindless’ about creating a responsible budget and spending within one’s means. The President’s $4 trillion budget proposal will increase taxes and add to our $18 trillion national debt. At a time when our economy is still trying to get back on track, it isn’t prudent to raise taxes and stifle small business as a way of paying for wasteful government spending.

“The President’s budget is simply out of sync with the concerns of the American people – even 55% of Democrats believe that reducing the federal deficit is a ‘top priority.’ While I appreciate the President’s efforts to propose a budget on time, it would be more productive if he took our unprecedented level of national debt seriously. We need to stop spending money on failed policies from the past and instead craft a budget that will improve our country’s fiscal health and put more money back in the pockets of hard-working Americans.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; February 2, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal:

“President Obama’s budget is a positive vision for our nation’s future that will put us on a sustainable fiscal path. It will spur further economic growth by making critical investments to improve our roads and bridges—creating jobs in Memphis and around the country—and boost take-home pay for the middle-class while closing tax loopholes that allow the wealthiest one percent to avoid paying their fair share.”

“The President’s budget also gives middle-class families better access to higher education by making college more affordable and helps young adults climb out from under a mountain of student debt by capping monthly payments. And it will also help them find jobs by doing more to develop the high-paying, private-sector jobs that will keep our country competitive in the 21st century.”

“And by reversing mindless sequestration cuts, this budget proposal will reinvest in the National Institutes of Health, which is another U.S. department of defense that protects us from deadly diseases and illnesses—because Americans are far more likely to be stricken by Alzheimer’s, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, stroke, cancer, or Parkinson’s than by a terrorist attack. President Obama’s budget will help make our economy work for all Americans instead of just the wealthiest among us, and it is a step in the right direction.”

Duncan Reappointed Vice Chair of House Transportation Committee

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn. 02; January 13, 2015:

WASHINGTON – Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.) was reappointed Vice Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Tuesday, a key position that will allow him to help write and pass major transportation legislation the 114th Congress.

“I believe deeply in the work of the Transportation Committee, as it affects every American on a daily basis. Major highway and aviation bills are being crafted this year, and I am excited to continue my work to bring more efficiency to transportation projects,” Duncan said.  “We now take on average three times as long and incur three times the cost of any other developed nation to complete transportation infrastructure projects because of excessive rules, red tape, and environmental regulations.”

“Last Congress, the Committee was able to work together to accomplish a number of our policy and legislative goals to help strengthen America’s infrastructure and bolster the Nation’s competitiveness,” Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) said.  “A great deal of our success was attributable to our committee’s excellent leadership team.  With the return of Congressman Duncan as Full Committee Vice Chairman, I am confident we will be able to continue effectively addressing the needs of our transportation system.”

Rep. Duncan has served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee since 1989, serving in various leadership roles, including:  Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Economic Development (1993-1994); Chairman, Subcommittee on Aviation (1995-2000); Chairman, Water Resources Subcommittee (2001-2006); Ranking Member, Highways and Transit Subcommittee (2007-2010); Chairman, Highways and Transit Subcommittee (2011-2012); Vice Chairman, Full Committee (2013-present).

Rep. Duncan also serves as a Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

TNDP: Republicans Still Pitching ‘Failed Economic Policies’

Press Release from the Tennessee Democratic Party, Sept. 23, 2010:

Republicans from Washington, D.C., including Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, are crisscrossing the state in an attempt to confuse Tennessee voters into believing the weak job market is a result of current economic policies.

“I’m confident Tennessee voters remember what got us into this mess in the first place,” Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said. “It was the failed economic policies of a Republican White House that was more concerned about helping the bottom line of its Wall Street and Big Business buddies.

“This Congress and this White House have turned things around for us. We’ve emerged from a deep recession, but we still have a long way to go before this economy churns out the level of jobs it was before George Bush took office.

“Tennessee Republicans like Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, along with Reps. John Duncan, Phil Roe, Zach Wamp and Marsha Blackburn, seem to have a memory block about what happened. They want to blame Democrats when they know full well it was their Republican leadership that nearly sent our economy into a ditch.”

Forrester pointed out that the entire Republican congressional delegation from Tennessee voted against the Recovery Act last year, a package that has committed $6 billion in federal funding to help the state create or retain more than 10,000 jobs and provide much-needed infrastructure improvements. Included in that funding package is $500 million in Race to the Top funds helping Tennessee complete a comprehensive reform of its schools.

“It is shameful that each of them has the audacity to come back home and take credit for the very projects they voted against,” Forrester said of the state’s Republican congressional delegation.

“Whether it’s a new $11 million school construction project over in Hamblen County or a $483 million investment at the Spring Hill General Motors plant to create 500 jobs, Republicans want to take credit for it. If that isn’t the ultimate example of hypocrisy, I don’t know what is.”

Forrester also called the Republicans so-called “Pledge to America” a gimmick that would send our economy into the same ditch from which we are now climbing out.

“They would rather continue to protect corporate loopholes and their Wall Street buddies than help ordinary hard-working Tennesseans find a job or send their children to a good college,” Forrester said. “Their pledge is nothing more than a gimmick. We cannot afford to go down that path again.”