THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - Making the case to raise the cap

Mar 5, 2018


March 2, 2018


Making the case to raise the cap

Once again this week, I made the case to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen to raise the planned CW cap for FY 2019 or risk harming the Marianas economy. Applications for 2019 begin in April and the Marianas stands to lose 5,000 workers. In January, I recommended the Secretary wait, while legislation was drafted to raise the cap. Senator Murkowski and I have now introduced the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act and a hearing has been held. For DHS to implement a cap of 4,999 for FY19, as it decided to do before Nielsen became Secretary, while legislation is moving forward that would raise the cap to 13,000, not only harms the economy, but might do so needlessly. For now, I proposed setting the cap to 9,997, the maximum allowed under law. Or, I suggested, the Secretary could hold off returning applications in excess of 4,999, keeping them active and giving Congress the time we need to pass the U.S. Workforce Act.

Parole concern

One concern I talked about with the press on Thursday was the parole system that allows Chinese and Russian tourists to enter the Marianas without first getting a visa. We worked hard in 2009 to convince the Obama administration to set up the parole system to protect our tourist economy. But the Trump administration has made clear that parole should not be used as Obama did. President Trump is sending people back to Haiti and El Salvador, who had temporary protected status in the U.S. He is ending the DACA program Obama set up for people who entered as children illegally with their parents. Parole for Marianas tourists could be next. Governor Torres made the case for parole in an extensive white paper, when the President was sworn in. Chinese are 35 percent of our tourism market. Unfortunately, the economic benefits to the Marianas could take second place to concerns about fraud and abuse of parole here and to the President’s promise to protect America’s borders.

Blocking special interests

The National Labor Relations Board has vacated a decision based on the conflict of interest complaint I raised with Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), Patty Murray (Washington) and Margaret Hassan (New Hampshire) and my House Democratic colleagues Bobby Scott (Virginian) and Donald Norcross (New Jersey). The complaint was part of our oversight responsibilities on the Senate and House committees responsible for labor law. We maintained that Board member William Emanuel should have recused himself from a case involving his former law firm. This week, the NLRB Inspector General agreed with our position, forcing the Board to vacate the decision Emanuel had voted on. Americans have a right to a government that serves the public, not private interests. And Members of Congress have a responsibility to enforce that right everywhere we can.


We want net neutrality

In the Marianas we know what slow internet feels like. That is why I am cosponsoring a Congressional Review Act resolution to overturn a recent Federal Communications Commission decision that ended the long-held policy of net neutrality. Net neutrality means internet service providers cannot block or slow down online content. Power is in the hands of the user. Ending net neutrality, as the FCC wants to do, will lead to higher prices for consumers, slower internet traffic, or both. Some websites could be blocked entirely. Start-ups and small businesses would not have a chance against big companies that can pay extra for faster speeds for their sites online. The Congressional Review Act gives Congress 60 days to take action to negate the FCC order and restore net neutrality for the benefit of all Americans.


Backing bipartisan gun controls

The continuing rise in mass shootings makes clear we must do more to reduce gun violence and keep our communities—especially our children—safe. We must also respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners. That is why I am a cosponsor of H.R. 4240, the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2017. The bipartisan bill provides grants to help local law enforcement improve criminal reporting systems, and to make those records available to the federal background check system. The bill also closes gun-sale loopholes by requiring comprehensive background checks on all commercial gun sales, including sales at gun shows, over the internet, and through classified ads. Reasonable exceptions to the background check for firearm transfers between family and friends, as well as an explicit ban on the federal government from creating a registry are also in the bill. H.R. 4240 has over 200 cosponsors.

Passport fee to increase

On April 2, 2018, The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs will increase the passport execution fee from $25 to $35. The $10 increase applies to U.S. passport applicants using the DS-11 form including: first-time applicants over age 16, children under age 16, and applicants who re-apply after reporting their previous passport lost or stolen. Customers applying with the DS-11 form pay two separate fees: an application fee to the U.S. Department of State and the execution fee to the Passport Acceptance Facility. The fee increase does not apply to adults eligible to renew their passport by mail using the DS-82 form. For information on applying for a U.S. passport, forms, fees, and processing times, please visit Travel.State.Gov.






On the Floor

  • H.R. 4296 – To place requirements on operational risk capital requirements for banking organizations established by an appropriate Federal banking agency (Passed, 245-169)
  • H.R. 1865 – Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (Passed, 388-25)
  • H.R. 5078 – TRID Improvement Act of 2018 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 767 – SOAR to Health and Wellness Act of 2018 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 880 – MISSION ZERO Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 1222 – Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act of 2017 (Passed, 394-7)
  • H.R. 2410 – Sickle Cell Disease Research, Surveillance, Prevention, and Treatment Act of 2017 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 2422 – Action for Dental Health Act of 2017 (Passed, 387-13)
  • H.Res. 443 – Recognizing the importance and effectiveness of trauma-informed care (Agreed to by voice vote)

Legislation I Cosponsored

  • H.R. 5087 — Assault Weapons Ban of 2018
  • H.R.4775 — FAIR Act
  • H.Res.720 — Recognizing the coordinated struggle of workers on the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers strike to voice their grievances and reach a collective agreement for rights in the workplace.


On the Floor

  • H.R.1917 - Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns Act of 2017
  • H.R.1119 - SENSE Act

Committee Activity
Tuesday, March 6

  • Committee on Natural Resources Oversight Hearing on "Exploring Innovative Solutions to Reduce the Department of the Interior’s Maintenance Backlog”
  • Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees Joint Hearing - Legislative Presentation of Multiple Veterans Service Organizations: PVA, AMVETS, VVA, AXPOW, IAVA, AUSN, WWP, NGAUS, NCOA

Wednesday, March 7

  • Committee on Natural Resources Full Committee Markup
  • Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees Joint Hearing - Legislative Presentation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
  • Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Legislative Hearing - H.R. 3497, H.R. 4245, a draft bill regarding purchase card misuse, and a draft bill regarding the Medical Surgical Prime Vendor program