Friday, December 18, 2009

UN Summit on Climate Change

“EC from DC” today is actually “EC from Copenhagen”. Late Wednesday night, after the House recessed for the holiday, I joined a bi-partisan delegation who boarded a plane for Denmark. As climate change and the creation of green jobs have become a huge part of my agenda in Washington and back home in our District, it was my honor to be asked to represent the United States Congress during the UN Conference.

We have met with representatives from key countries involved in the negotiations and also with advocacy and business leaders to discuss job creation. This morning, the President joined our delegation as the Conference entered its final crucial negotiations. Unlike prior Climate Conferences, on the ground here in Copenhagen it is clear that the world is looking for American leadership on this issue of global significance.

We have worked to put our nation in a place where it can negotiate from a position of strength on the issue of climate change.

Earlier this year there was great excitement about the legislation that had been enacted in the latter part of May through the Energy and Commerce Committee and my Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming in the House of Representatives. While the Senate has failed to act, I do believe there is recognition around the world that our nation is finally taking the issue of climate change seriously, and that we are here to lead, not follow.

We have certainly been late to the table. As an example, Denmark was 99 percent dependent on foreign oil at the time of the 1973 embargo. Unlike in America, where we quickly forgot the lessons of fuel shortages and long lines at the pump, in 1976 the Danish public supported a massive effort to transform energy in Denmark. In the last 30 years the Danes have reduced their reliance on fossil fuels by more than 20 percent even though modernization, population growth, energy demand has remained constant.

There is much we can learn here, but also a great deal we can teach the world.

The day our delegation arrived in Denmark, I took great pride in watching my friend the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton announce that America will develop a fund over the next 10 years that will devote $100 billion to the developing world. The Secretary’s announcement signals that the United States is committed, serious and recognizes the needs of other countries in the world, especially the developing countries.

But as much as these talks are about partnering with the world, it is far more about what we can do for ourselves. We believe climate change is an issue of national and economic security. But also, as the Speaker of the House said, we come to Copenhagen with one word uniting us: jobs.

These negotiations are about changing the trajectory of a warming planet, but also about fundamentally shifting America’s workforce to once again be a supplier to the world. Over 100 years after the industrial revolution, the green revolution is upon us.

This is a singular and extremely rare moment. 193 representatives from every nation in the world are here dedicated to tackling an issue that is truly universally agreed upon will effect every man, woman, and child across the globe. We have a chance for different countries to agree to work together rather than work against each other. Perhaps it is a shame that it requires a global calamity to draw us together, but we must not waste this moment.

As we wrap up negotiations, there seems to be two large sticking points emerging:

1) China remains a stumbling block. They have put on the table a target of 40 to 45 percent intensity reductions, but they didn’t put in place any transparency standards to prove they are reaching those goals. Our position reminds me of the old Cold War adage: Trust but verify. It remains to be seen if this can be worked through, but barring verification of reductions from the world’s fastest growing polluter, the world will have real difficulties meeting its reduction targets — even with significant commitments from the United States.

2) One big debate at this conference has been setting a target for the limit on the global temperature rise between 2 degrees Celsius and 1.5 degrees Celsius. We believe that 2 degrees Celsius is the proper goal for this moment in history.

The targets that the United States set out in our legislation call for a 17 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2020 and then an over 80 percent reduction by 2050. These goals are consistent with the science that will limit global warming.

The American goals were developed to avoid reaching the tipping point where dire consequences may be irreversible. The United States believes these are very important targets and we would hope that other countries would recognize that as well.

The bottom line is the next few hours will be difficult. For the first time, America and European nations have largely agreed on a series of carbon emission cuts and a package of financial aid for poor nations. However, developing nations, led by China, have refused to accept several key provisions.

It is an honor to be here. I hope that something good can come from this conference, but regardless of the final agreement, we are further along in this critical discussion than ever before.

The President just briefed us on a tentative deal reached as a result of the Summit. Considering where negotiations were just hours ago, this announcement represents a herculean effort by President Obama.

According to the President he has reached a deal with China, India and Brazil that has broken the stalemate for an agreement that will be ratified by the full convention later.

BOTTOM LINE: It is not perfect, but what appears to be up for ratification is that developed and developing countries will agree to list their national actions and commitments, there will be a financing mechanism to assist poorer nations, the world will set a critical mitigation target of 2 degrees Celsius and nations will provide information on the implementation of their actions that will be analyzed under clearly defined guidelines.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Vietnam veterans: Thank you

By Jeff Martin - The Examiner

Independence, MO — Congressman Emanuel Cleaver sounded more like a preacher on Saturday afternoon than a representative, calling on the hundreds of people sitting on the front lawn of the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum to honor Vietnam Veterans because they deserve it.

"This is the perfect event to honor those who should have been honored five decades ago," Cleaver said to a roaring applause.

While it's difficult to say with certainty when the Vietnam War began, most agree it was on Sept. 27, 1959, when the United States established the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Saigon to aid the French military. By the end, 58,000 American troops would lose their lives.

Cleaver, who organizers acknowledged Saturday has devoted his life to public service, expressed his disappointment that those who risked and gave their lives for public safety were treaty so poorly."These are the Americans who fought for the United States," he said, his voice sometimes booming over the loudspeaker. "These are the Americans who fought, who did not demonstrate."

Cleaver acknowledged that many of those gathered at the event carry difficult memories, but that those same memories could be forged into a sense of pride.

"You carried the memories of fighting and suffering," he said, "but you also carry with you a sense of courage and pride. If you look into the eyes of these warriors, you'll see pain, but you'll also see a sense of pride."

Cleaver was joined by several local and state officials, including Independence Mayor Don Reimal and his wife; members of City Council; Raytown Mayor David Bower and Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders; others in attendance included state Rep. Paul LeVota and state Rep. Gary Dusenberg.

The event was organized by Cleaver, and he said there was no better place to celebrate such sacrifice than at the Truman Library. He recognized Truman's service: serving in World War I and, as president, commanding the largest United States active military in history in World War II.

Many family members of those who served in the Vietnam conflict were honored with a certificate and special coin minted for the occasion. Siblings and mothers and fathers stepped up to the podium and, with cracking voice, offered a brief description of their lost loved one(s).

"My two brothers both served and died in Vietnam," one woman said, adding they graduated from Oak Park High School in 1966 and 1968 and gave their lives for their country.

Another man's son was killed in 1970 while leading an infantry patrol. He volunteered for the United States Army after graduating from Rockhurst College.

To demonstrate the military's might, Cleaver directed everyone's eye to the sky, where a B-2 bomber sailed over the crowd.

Speakers following Cleaver told of more and more veterans signing up for benefits and recognizing their worth. Approximately 25 percent more veterans, one speaker said, were treated last year because of increased awareness of veterans programs and services, as well as an increase and expansion in veteran service offices and treatment centers.

Trial by YouTube

I would like to make a point about my vote not to end federal funding of the group ACORN. We are starting down a slippery slope into a culture where we react in knee jerk fashion to the daily whims of Fox News and its cast of characters. I would have been willing to vote for a suspension of ACORN’s funding pending an investigation. I would have liked to have been able to vote on that measure in a stand alone bill that addressed concerns and put in place a plan to evaluate the complaints. But instead, ACORN was tried on YouTube, convicted n Fox News and sentenced by the Congress. The same purveyors of truth, justice and the American way that continue to promote the myth of “death panels”, delivered the death knell to a national non-profit organization that serves the urban poor. I am not saying ACORN is innocent of wrong doing. I am saying YouTube is not the proper venue in which the Congress should decide guilt or innocence. It seems there are many who promote process and transparency when it suits their needs and then promptly abandon those noble needs when it’s convenient to a vendetta.

Even in our own community, the paper of record one day will boldly shout for transparency and a proper public process and the very next day criticize those who thought an amendment to the Student Aid bill, which had zero funding for ACORN, was not the place to address these YouTube concerns.

We have seen this pattern before. In 1950 Joe McCarthy stepped to the microphone in Wheeling, West Virginia and held up a piece of paper that he claimed listed 205 card-carrying communists in the US State Department.

There was no trial. There were no hearings prior to that accusation, just a Senator at a microphone making a claim to grab headlines. The same day, the Senator sent a telegram to President Truman, revising his figure to 57 known communists and demanding that Secretary Acheson dismiss these enemies within. The telegram to the President concluded, “Failure on your part will label the Democratic Party of being the bedfellow of international communism. Certainly this label is not deserved by the hundreds of thousands of loyal American Democrats throughout the Nation, and by the sizable number of able loyal Democrats in both the Senate and the House.”

Much like today’s calculus, the goal is to tar all who do not bend to the will of the righteous who make accusations. The current drum beat says I must be with ACORN because I did not vote to end their funding. The truth is no one in the chamber yesterday knew enough about this situation to make a truly informed vote. Most, including many of my Democratic colleagues and friends, voted because they did not want to be associated with ACORN and found themselves in the crosshairs of Beck, O’Reilly or Dobbs.

President Truman wrote a response that was never sent to Senator McCarthy that I found in the Archives. It seems almost naive compared to what we hear from the halls of Congress today. It read:

Dear Senator:

I read your telegram of February eleventh from Reno Nevada with a great deal of interest and this is the first time in my experience, and I was ten years in the Senate, that I ever hear of a Senator trying to discredit his own Government before the world. You know that isn’t done by honest public officials. Your telegram is not only not true and an insolent approach to a situation that should have been worked out between man and man but it shows conclusively that you are not even fit to have a hand in the operation of the Government of the United States.

I am very sure that the people of Wisconsin are extremely sorry that they are represented by a person who has as little sense of responsibility as you have.

Sincerely yours,


On far too many subjects and issues important to our nation, reasoned discussion and passionate debate have been replaced by lies, distortions and a race to the bottom. Why debate, when one Member standing at a microphone can make whatever accusations he/she may like without evidence? Why have a conversation when all the proof one needs can be found on YouTube?

The Congress is letting itself be bullied by the purveyors of partisanship, and truth and fairness are becoming afterthoughts. The immediate satisfaction of a resignation or elimination has become intoxicating to some. It is not healthy for our institution, our democracy or our future.

There was a moment I had hoped the tone of Congress would make a turn for the better, but it seems the old tried and true ways of slash and burn politics prevail. Needless to say, it has been a frustrating week.

House rebukes Rep. Joe Wilson

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House of Representatives voted this afternoon to admonish Rep. Joe Wilson over his “You lie’ comment to President Barack Obama.

The 240-179 vote on the resolution of disapproval reflected the sharp partisan divide over the issue. Democrats insisted that the South Carolina Republican take responsibility for what they said was a serious breach of decorum.

Republicans characterized the vote as a political stunt.

Wilson himself would not back down on his position that he owed the House no apology. Surrounded by Republican supporters, Wilson said Obama had “graciously accepted my apology and the issue is over.”

He’s not happy about it, but Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver intends to vote to ‘disapprove’ of Rep. Joe Wilson, who yelled, “You Lie!” at President Obama last week.

The Missouri Democrat said that he felt bound to do so because he voted last year to condemn the liberal anti-war group,, when it published a newspaper ad referring to Gen. David Petraeus as “General Betray Us.”

Petraeus was the military commander in Iraq at the time.

Cleaver, vice chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said that he feared the resolution would only sharpen the nastiness of the political mood that the debate over health care has unleashed.

“I think this will serve to further push the nation toward a partisan divide and will ultimately prevent the government from dealing with major problems we face,” Cleaver said.

Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina, interrupted the president when he was speaking about health care reform before a joint session of Congress last week.

He apologized later to the president. But many Democrats - and a few Republicans – said that he violated the rules of House and needed to apologize to his colleagues.

Speaking metaphorically, Cleaver said, “The nation is in trouble. It is in far more trouble than most people believe. I don’t think there are that many ready to put their guns back in their holsters. I think they're ready to fire. I wish we could get involved in some real civil debates on health care. The nation has not had that yet.”

House passes Animal Corridor Legislation

Tuesday, I was pleased to join a bipartisan cross state effort with my friends Congressman Dennis Moore (KS-3) and Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (KS-2) to achieve passage of a resolution, H.Res. 317, recognizing the region from Manhattan, Kansas, to Columbia, Missouri, as the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor. The resolution passed the House by a vote of 312-108-

The Kansas City Animal Health Corridor is all about leveraging partnerships and the delegation supporting it is a perfect example of the sort of diverse group an idea like this can pull together. I am proud to support the opportunities for high-paying jobs the Corridor represents. This is a great idea done very well. More information about the corridor can be found here >>>

Friday, August 07, 2009

5,312 constituents talk health care

Last night, 5,312 households in Independence and Sugar Creek joined me for a telephone town hall and together we discussed the complicated issue of health care reform. I am proud to say that, while the questions were hard, our friends and neighbors were thoughtfully engaged and I think we both learned a great deal.

Unlike the divisive and disrespectful displays that have confronted my colleagues in other parts of the country, last night was a courteous conversation that showed just how seriously the people I am honored to represent take their responsibilities. It was my pleasure to hear their thoughts and concerns and will take their well reasoned suggestions back to Washington as we continue this crucial debate.

Telephone town hall meetings are a relatively new format to allow up to thousands of participants to talk together so families from across our district can share their views and hear my thoughts on issues of mutual concern. I have now used this tool twice. Last spring, I discussed the auto industry bail out with residents of Raytown. I have yet to find a better tool to reach a large audience and hear from a wide range of constituents. Thursday night the technology allowed me to speak with over 5,000 people and none of them had to leave their homes, find a sitter or even leave their arm chairs.

If you would like to hear the complete town hall, it is now posted on my website. Feel free to click here to listen anytime >>>

Thanks again to the people of Independence and Sugar Creek who took time out of their busy schedules to join me and their neighbors as we try to find an answer to one of our critical national needs.

Coffee with Cleaver tomorrow

Tomorrow morning we will have our 52nd monthly Coffee with Cleaver in Lee’s Summit. The event, as always, is a chance for you to talk one-on-one with me about whatever issue is on your mind.

My understanding is that there will be folks at the Coffee representing views on both sides of the health care debate. Civil debate and vigorous dialogue are part of the fabric of our nation and I welcome all who will join me in Lee’s Summit tomorrow.

This coffee, like the ones before it, will be a chance for people to talk with me personally about whatever issue is concerning to them, whether that be health care or not. We have never had protestors at one of our Coffees, but I am sure they will be respectful. Civility is valued by the people of our District. I am confident that the importance we place on meaningful conversation is the reason our Coffees have been so successful all these years.

I hope to see you tomorrow for August’s Coffee with Cleaver:

Tomorrow, August 8, 2009
JP Coffee
3390 SW Fascination Dr.
Lee's Summit, MO
8-10 AM

$40 Million in Recovery funds come to our area

Pictured from left to right: Bryan Hansel, CEO of Smith Electric; Congressman Cleaver; Mike Chesser, CEO of KCP&L; Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke

I was very proud to be on hand with Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke as two Kansas City vehicle-manufacturing plants received money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the production of hybrid and electric vehicles.

Smith Electric, a company which I was pleased to help to get into Kansas City just last year, won a $10 million grant to help produce electric vans, pickups and the company’s Newton medium-duty trucks. Kokam America Inc., a great battery-manufacturing company Senator Bond and I worked to locate in Lee’s Summit won $161 million for its Michigan plant. I think both announcements bode well for the Lee’s Summit plant’s bid for a significant Recovery Act grant to be announced later this year.

The men and women who make Ford trucks at the Claycomo Plant received part of a $30 million grant to produce hybrid vehicles in Kansas City.

The funds were announced as part of $2.4 billion in U.S. Department of Energy grants for the manufacturing and deployment of electric vehicles, batteries and components. Forty-eight projects won the competitive grants. The President and Vice President and four cabinet secretaries, fanned out across the nation to make the awards.

I am also pleased to say that our local utility, Kansas City Power and Light was on hand to announce that KCP&L has committed to buy three Smith Electric vehicles, two of which will be transformed into bucket trucks. Mike Chesser, CEO of KCP&L has also committed to put recharging stations for those trucks and future electric vehicles in the Green Impact Zone.

It is starting to happen, my friends, we are taking substantial steps toward transforming our local economy and leveraging green initiatives to help our environment and put people back to work. Congratulations to Smith, Kokam, Ford and KCP&L.

Federal Recovery Grant goes to Green Zone

I am proud to say the Environmental Protection Agency awarded $1.6 million in Recovery Act money to clean up polluted land in the Green Impact Zone.

Most importantly, about half the money will be used to train 80 people in handling hazardous waste associated with cleaning up contaminated sites.

$560,000 will be used for grants to clean up brownfields, fund redevelopment and employ nearby residents of the sites.

The plan is to recruit unemployed and underemployed people within the 150-block Green Impact Zone in the urban core of Kansas City.

Friday, July 31, 2009

August Recess-Health Care FAQs

Congress broke camp today for the August recess without passing health care in either chamber. This gives us more time to examine the proposals, listen to constituents and build bi-partisan support for something everyone in Congress knows has to happen. We must reform health care to control costs for many reasons, but the most basic and practical is that if cost continue to climb as they have been we simply will not be able to pay for two of our cornerstone social programs — Medicare and Medicaid.

While I am home working in the District, during this break from the heated rhetoric of Washington, I will be spending a great deal of time listening to you on this critical issue. Next week I will be doing a tele-town hall with thousands of you to get feedback, and next Saturday health care will be the subject of our monthly Coffee with Cleaver.

I did want to address many of the calls and questions we are getting in our office about this subject and have put together this group of Frequently Asked Questions. It is far more important to get this right than to do it right now, and so I am looking forward to hearing from you as we continue to work on this legislation.

Health Care Frequently Asked Questions can be found here >>>

Funding for 54 new Police

It was my pleasure to announce this week that over $9 million in grants have been awarded to hire police in Missouri’s Fifth District. The grants come as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which allocated $1 billion to fund the hiring and rehiring of law enforcement officers all across the country. Nationwide, the announcement will fund 4,699 officers for three years. Kansas City was awarded $8.3 million to hire 50 officers. Independence received $543,393 to hire 3 officers and Sugar Creek received $158,847 to hire one additional officer. Police departments receiving the grants will then be required to retain the grant-funded positions for a fourth year.

While I was mayor of Kansas City, I helped write the original Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring grants program with President Bill Clinton. After its passage, our nation experienced a significant drop in crime rates.

Almost 12 years ago, I remember standing with Mayor Rudy Giuliani and President Bill Clinton as he described the very first COPS program. The program encouraged mayors and police chiefs from around the nation to build a partnership with the federal government. I can tell you first-hand, the partnership really worked. This week’s announcement adds 50 more police to Kansas City’s streets at a time when they are desperately needed. To put that in perspective, in the first 10 years Kansas City was eligible for the COPS program we were able to hire 100 police officers. In other words, this is five times the number of officers we were ever able to hire in a single year before. As is always the case, a downturn in the economy requires cities to cut their budgets just as those same economic troubles lead to an increase in crime. This week’s award, and the cadet class that can be saved because of it, will go a long way toward making our streets safer.

The Recovery Act grants, will be administered by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) through the federal agency’s COPS Hiring Recovery Program. These funds will provide much needed financial support to state, local and tribal governments, and will help the nation’s law enforcement agencies add and retain the workforce needed to fight crime more effectively through community policing. The Department of Justice received over 7,200 applications for more than 39,000 officer positions, representing a total of $8.3 billion in requested funding

Praise for Lee’s Summit’s first House Page

This summer, I was very proud to nominate and sponsor the first House Page from Lee’s Summit Missouri, Ms. Abigail Allen. Her selection is full of firsts in that she is also my very first nominee to have served as a Page since my election to Congress.

In early July, Ms. Allen donned the navy blazer of the House Pages and joined the ranks of a very special group of students. Pages run errands, deliver flags, transport messages, raise and lower our flag over the Capitol to begin and end our daily business and every four years, they are entrusted with transporting the Electoral College ballots from the Senate to the House Chamber to tally the votes for our President. These juniors in high school get a firsthand look at the inner workings of Congress.

The Page Program is invaluable to our nation. Without the House Pages, the Capitol simply would not function. The nearly 100 high school students, who serve as pages for both the House and Senate, are an integral part of a system that keeps Congress running. Originally, Pages filled ink boxes and sand shakers for Members. They stocked the Chamber lamps with oil and kept candles on Member’s desks lit for night sessions. They started fires and filled the wood boxes to keep the offices warm.

Today, while their errands have changed, their importance has only increased. These young, bright Americans, like Ms. Allen, are part of an illustrious, rarified group, many of whom have gone on to become Congressmen, Senators, Governors, Cabinet Secretaries and captains of industry. As we see the Pages moving quickly through the complex in their navy blazers, we all wonder which of these young scholars will go on to be the next Congressman John Dingell, Bill Gates, Bill Owen or even Tiger Woods — all of whom served as Pages.

Tomorrow, Ms. Allen will return home to prepare for her senior year at Blue Springs South High School. She will be able to share with her classmates an in-depth knowledge of Congress few others have been able to acquire.

Ms. Allen is a member of her school’s cross country team, track and field team, Young Democrats and most importantly a member of the National Honor Society. She is also a member of the St. James United Methodist Church Youth Group in Kansas City, Missouri.

It has been my pleasure to have Ms. Allen as a House Page. I can say with zero hesitation that she has represented the Fifth District and her hometown well.

Relgious Freedom Luncheon

Pictured left to right: Ambassador of Iraq, Samir Sumaida'ie; Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II; Ambassador of Sudan, Akec Khoc; Ambassador of Bahrain, Ms. Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo; Ambassador of Uzbekistan, Abdulaziz Kamilov

Yesterday afternoon, I was very glad to Co-Chair the International Religious Freedom Caucus’s Luncheon in the Library of Congress. In the midst of a hectic week, Representative Trent Franks (AZ-02) and I were honored to have a very well attended luncheon. The lunch included many Ambassadors from nations around the world, Members of Congress, and staff who joined us to bring attention to, and to promote, the essential need for religious tolerance not only in the United States, but throughout the world.

The foundation of our democratic nation rests on the establishment of the freedom to practice one’s religion, express one’s beliefs, or abstain from involvement in religion if one so chooses. It is telling that the very first amendment drafted by our founders addressed religious freedom, emphasizing the fact that religious freedom is indeed a fundamental right. I think the worldwide interest in our work, represented by the crowd of foreign dignitaries who gathered for this luncheon, shows the eager and earnest way the world is looking to us to advocate for those rights around the globe.

Friday, July 24, 2009

We cannot afford to wait

Wednesday night, the President came before the American people to talk about the plan we are working on to reform health care. This is no small task. In fact, we as a nation have been working on it since Harry Truman first proposed a plan 60 years ago. I wanted to share President Obama’s remarks with you to perhaps clarify some of what we are debating in Congress. But, let me be clear. There is no debate between the parties that something desperately needs to be done. Doing nothing is no longer an option. While we may not choose these economic conditions and this time to take on this task, the urgency of now has been thrust on us by 60 years of inaction. As the President put it, “if somebody told you that there is a plan out there that is guaranteed to double your health care costs over the next 10 years, that's guaranteed to result in more Americans losing their health care, and that is by far the biggest contributor to our federal deficit. I think most people would be opposed to that. Well, that's the status quo. That's what we have right now.” We literally cannot afford to wait any longer.

Here is an excerpt of the President’s remarks as delivered. Full text, including the question and answer portion of the press conference can be found here>>

“…we spend much more on health care than any other nation but aren't any healthier for it.

That's why I've said that even as we rescue this economy from a full-blown crisis, we must rebuild it stronger than before. And health insurance reform is central to that effort.

This is not just about the 47 million Americans who don't have any health insurance at all. Reform is about every American who has ever feared that they may lose their coverage if they become too sick, or lose their job, or change their job. It's about every small business that has been forced to lay off employees or cut back on their coverage because it became too expensive. And it's about the fact that the biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid.

So let me be clear: If we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit. If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket. If we don't act, 14,000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance every single day. These are the consequences of inaction. These are the stakes of the debate that we're having right now.

I realize that with all the charges and criticisms that are being thrown around in Washington, a lot of Americans may be wondering, "What's in this for me? How does my family stand to benefit from health insurance reform?"

So tonight I want to answer those questions. Because even though Congress is still working through a few key issues, we already have rough agreement on the following areas:

If you have health insurance, the reform we're proposing will provide you with more security and more stability. It will keep government out of health care decisions, giving you the option to keep your insurance if you're happy with it. It will prevent insurance companies from dropping your coverage if you get too sick. It will give you the security of knowing that if you lose your job, if you move, or if you change your job, you'll still be able to have coverage. It will limit the amount your insurance company can force you to pay for your medical costs out of your own pocket. And it will cover preventive care like check-ups and mammograms that save lives and money.

Now, if you don't have health insurance, or you're a small business looking to cover your employees, you'll be able to choose a quality, affordable health plan through a health insurance exchange -- a marketplace that promotes choice and competition. Finally, no insurance company will be allowed to deny you coverage because of a preexisting medical condition. I've also pledged that health insurance reform will not add to our deficit over the next decade. And I mean it. In the past eight years, we saw the enactment of two tax cuts, primarily for the wealthiest Americans, and a Medicare prescription program -- none of which were paid for. And that's partly why I inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit.

That will not happen with health insurance reform. It will be paid for. Already we've estimated that two-thirds of the cost of reform can be paid for by reallocating money that is simply being wasted in federal health care programs. This includes over $100 billion of unwarranted subsidies that go to insurance companies as part of Medicare -- subsidies that do nothing to improve care for our seniors. And I'm pleased that Congress has already embraced these proposals. While they're currently working through proposals to finance the remaining costs, I continue to insist that health reform not be paid for on the backs of middle-class families.

In addition to making sure that this plan doesn't add to the deficit in the short term, the bill I sign must also slow the growth of health care costs in the long run. Our proposals would change incentives so that doctors and nurses are free to give patients the best care, just not the most expensive care. That's why the nation's largest organizations representing doctors and nurses have embraced our plan.

We also want to create an independent group of doctors and medical experts who are empowered to eliminate waste and inefficiency in Medicare on an annual basis -- a proposal that could save even more money and ensure long-term financial health for Medicare. Overall, our proposals will improve the quality of care for our seniors and save them thousands of dollars on prescription drugs, which is why the AARP has endorsed our reform efforts.

Not all of the cost savings measures I just mentioned were contained in Congress's draft legislation, but we're now seeing broad agreement thanks to the work that has done over the last few days. So even though we still have a few issues to work out, what's remarkable at this point is not how far we have left to go -- it's how far we've already come.

I understand how easy it is for this town to become consumed in the game of politics -- to turn every issue into a running tally of who's up and who's down. I've heard that one Republican strategist told his party that even though they may want to compromise, it's better politics to "go for the kill"; another Republican senator that defeating health care reform is about "breaking" me.

So let me be clear: This isn't about me. I have great health insurance, and so does every member of Congress. This debate is about the letters I read when I sit in the Oval Office every day, and the stories I hear at town hall meetings. This is about the woman in Colorado who paid $700 a month to her insurance company only to find out that they wouldn't pay a dime for her cancer treatment -- who had to use up her retirement funds to save her own life. This is about the middle-class college graduate from Maryland whose health insurance expired when he changed jobs and woke up from the emergency surgery that he required with $10,000 worth of debt. This is about every family, every business, and every taxpayer who continues to shoulder the burden of a problem that Washington has failed to solve for decades.

This debate is not a game for these Americans, and they can't afford to wait any longer for reform. They're counting on us to get this done. They're looking to us for leadership. And we can't let them down. We will pass reform that lowers cost, promotes choice, and provides coverage that every American can count on. And we will do it this year.”

President Barack Obama
News Conference
White House, East Room
July 22,2009

New Green Impact Zone Director comes to to U.S. Capitol

Tuesday, in my role as First Vice-Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and Co-Chair of the Caucus’ Energy and Environment Task Force I was pleased to welcome Anita Maltbia, the newly hired director of the Green Impact Zone, to the U.S. Capitol Building. Anita was asked to participate in the CBC’s Inaugural Green Roundtable which I am proud to chair.

The purpose of the meeting was to develop a “green Agenda” for African American communities by gathering minority business, energy industry, faith, labor, research and elected leaders to discuss this critical issue. I am pleased to introduce my colleagues to Anita in her role as Director of the Green Impact Zone. She is an exceptional leader, and along with neighborhood and civic leaders in the Green Impact Zone I am confident she will demonstrate to the rest of the nation how green community revitalization is accomplished with a tide that raises all ships. Her insight and experience have been critical at today’s Roundtable and my colleagues from across the nation are excited to learn from the Green Impact Zone.

Anita will officially begin work Aug. 3. She will oversee a staff responsible for implementing and coordinating initiatives in the Green Impact Zone. She will work with neighborhood leaders to coordinate programs and outreach in the zone as well as build partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders.

A long time resident of the City’s eastside, Anita brings to the position many years of management and community experience, including eight years as Assistant City Manager for the City of Kansas City, Mo.

During her nearly 27 years working for the City of Kansas City, she worked closely with me in several roles. In 1993, I asked her to step in as interim director of the Convention and Entertainment Centers Department and to oversee the planning and execution of the grand opening of the 500,000 square foot expansion of Bartle Hall.

Anita is past president of the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration, and served on the national board and as vice-chair of the Strategic Planning Committee of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators.

More local Funding Secured

The Labor HHS Appropriations bill was approved by the House of Representatives today, and I am pleased to report that I was able to direct funding to several local education programs.

1.) $150,000 for Graceland University in Independence

The Graceland University School of Nursing in Independence graduates 40 to 50 new nurses every year in the medical profession, currently experiencing worker shortages. This funding will help build a simulation lab on the Independence campus to assist students in providing holistic care for their patients.

2.) $200,000 for Guadalupe Centers Culinary Arts Institute Job Training Center

Founded in 1919, the Guadalupe Centers, Inc. was established to assist underprivileged Mexican immigrants who had settled in the Westside community of Kansas City, Missouri. The Guadalupe Center was one of the nation’s first social service agencies for Latinos. Currently, the Guadalupe Centers is “the longest continually operating organization serving Latinos in the United States.”

The Culinary Arts Institute is a 12 week job training/employment program that provides everything from culinary instruction to case management services and job placement career services including a follow-up component. The purpose for establishing this program is to help individuals become financially stable. They are given tools to become successful in their chosen career path

3.) $500,000 for Metropolitan Community College Sustainability Training Center

Centered on the Green Impact Zone, Metropolitan Community Colleges is starting a program to train individuals in the Kansas City area to become technical experts in the green industry. This project will develop the Sustainability Training Center (STC). During the initial three years, the center will create a clearinghouse of resources related to sustainability and measurement and reduction of carbon footprints for small businesses. Faculty, research associates and student researchers will provide assistance in conducting sustainability audits for small businesses and help them find cost-effective solutions for reducing their carbon footprint.

4.) $100,000 for the Polycyclic Kidney Disease Foundation

The PKD Foundation is the only organization, worldwide, dedicated to fighting polycystic kidney disease (PKD). The mission of the PKD Foundation is to: "Promote programs of research, advocacy, education, support and awareness in order to discover treatments and a cure for Polycystic Kidney Disease and improve the lives of all it affects."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Over 10.5 million for local projects

This afternoon the U.S. House of Representatives approved The Energy and Water Appropriations Act (H.R. 3183) appropriating funding for a series of regional flood control projects I requested. The bill also invests in new technologies that will create the next generation of vehicles with improved fuel efficiency, better and cleaner engines and longer-lasting batteries. It also helps modernize our electric grid by investing in “smart grid” technology which we are seeking to pilot with Kansas City Power & Light as part of the Green Impact Zone project.

The bill increases funds for weatherization grants to help struggling families improve their homes’ energy efficiency and save hundreds of dollars annually in electricity and heating costs. It also invests in the water infrastructure needs of our communities to improve water quality and spur economic development after years of neglect. These funds will be particularly valuable in accomplishing the goal of weatherizing every home in the Green Impact Zone.

I am proud of the funding I was able to secure for Missouri’s Fifth District in this bill. Not only does the bill make significant investments in a new green economy and support our work locally in the Green Impact Zone, it also funds important flood control projects. I was Mayor of Kansas City during the Flood of 1993 and understand very well that funding our area’s flood control plans and systems is key to protecting life and property. These are earmarks that save lives, and build on projects I have secured funding for in previous years. I think it is clear these levee, basin and channel improvement projects will continue to significantly reduce our major flood events in the District.

H.R. 3183 provides:

Authorization to the U.S. Corps of engineers to fund the Blue Valley Wetlands Restoration - Jackson County (amount to be determined after study)

$2,500,000 for the Turkey Creek Basin - City of Kansas City ($15.2 million in Recovery Act dollars also allocated)

$5,600,000 for the Blue River Channel - City of Kansas City/Independence ($13.5 in Recovery Act dollars also allocated)

$750,000 for the Blue River Basin - City of Kansas City

$700,000 for the Kansas Citys, MO & KS (Seven River Levees) - City of Kansas City

$300,000 for the Brush Creek Basin, MO & KS – City of Kansas City

$700,000 Missouri River Degradation, MO & KS – City of Kansas City

The Energy and Water Appropriations Act builds on the investments in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to move toward American energy independence and rebuild our infrastructure – major tenets of the long term economic plan that President Obama laid out and this Congress approved.

H.R. 3183, which was approved in the House by a vote of 320 to 97, now moves to the Senate for approval.

President Obama dispatches his Cabinet to Green Impact Zone

In a sign that the hard work of neighborhood leaders is getting noticed at the highest levels, President Obama has directed his Cabinet to visit Kansas City as part of a three city national tour. Denver and Philadelphia will also be visited. I am proud to say David Warm, Executive Director of the Mid-America Regional Council was at the White House at the invitation of the Office of Urban Policy to promote Kansas City’s urban needs including the Green Impact Zone. Warm was on hand for the announcement delivered by the President.

“Instead of waiting for Washington, a lot of cities have already gone ahead and become their own laboratories for change and innovation, some leading the world in coming up with new ways to solve the problems of our time.

So you take an example like Denver. Their metropolitan area is projected to grow by 1 million residents over the next 15 years or so. But rather than wait for a congestion crisis, they're already at work on plans to build and operate a public transit system up to the challenge, and to surround that system with smart new housing, retail, and office development near each stop.

Philadelphia is an example of what's been called ‘urban agriculture.’ It may sound like an oxymoron, but one proposal is trying to make a situation where fresh, local food supplies are within a short walk for most city residents, which will have a direct impact not only on the economy and on the environment, but also make an immeasurable difference in the health of Americans.

Or Kansas City. One idea there focuses on transforming a low-income community into a national model of sustainability by weatherizing homes and building a green local transit system.

Three different cities with three unique ideas for the future. And that's why they're three of the cities that are members of my -- that members of my Cabinet and Office of Urban Affairs will visit this summer as part of a ongoing national conversation to lift up best practices from around the country, to look at innovations for the metropolitan areas of tomorrow. Forward-looking cities shouldn't be succeeding despite Washington; they should be succeeding with a hand from Washington. We want to hear directly from them, and we want to hear directly from all of you, on fresh ideas and successful solutions that you've devised, and then figure out what the federal government should do or shouldn't do to help reinvent cities and metropolitan areas for the 21st century.”

President Barack Obama
July 13, 2009

This announcement from the President is confirmation that the work being done by the neighborhoods, MARC, the city and all the partner agencies is getting noticed by the Administration. When the President is citing your initiative as a model for the nation, you have done something right. My thanks and congratulations go to the neighborhood leaders and community groups who continue to work hard to make this vision a reality. The nation is looking to us to lead.

The White House said more details about the visit will follow.

Complete remarks can be found here >>>

I would also like to thank the City Council of Kansas City and particularly Council members Circo and Riley who achieved passage of a $1.5 million dollar operating budget for the Green Impact Zone which will be designated for the Mid-America Regional Council to hire staff to administer the Zone, open a service center, and support data collection and planning activities in the Green Impact Zone.

Health-Care Reform: What It Means For You

The Ways and Means Committee and Health, Education and Labor Committee passed a health care reform bill that, for the first time in our nation’s history, will guarantee health care for all Americans. The proposal is complicated but seeks to reign in the spiraling cost of health care while allowing those who like the health care they have to keep those plans.

The proposal will provide for a group of private plans as well as a public plan that will be offered as part of an “exchange” where all Americans can compare and choose a plan that best suits their needs.

To participate in the “exchange” and have the opportunity to enroll some of the millions of Americans that are currently uninsured, private insurers would have to cover all pre-existing conditions. On this “exchange” Americans could also select to be insured by a public health insurance option. That option would help drive down costs across the board.

This bill is still evolving, but the Washington Post put together a few bullet points that outline potential benefits under the proposal now moving through the House (see below). And

If you are Uninsured- Currently 46 Million Americans
-How you could benefit from reform:

If you have a low income, you could have an easier time qualifying for Medicaid, a program funded by the state and federal governments.

In addition, based on your income, you could receive federal aid to purchase private insurance and vouchers for preventive care.

The proposal gives you the option of buying insurance through “exchanges” which lay out all of the options, benefits and price points available.

Insurers would be prohibited from denying coverage for preexisting conditions or taking into account your medical risk when setting your premium.

Insurers in the” exchanges” would offer a minimum set of benefits. For example, an annual cap on out-of-pocket expenses and end co-payments and deductibles for preventive care.
Older people could pay relatively lower premiums, because age-based variations in rates could be restricted.

Along side private options you would also buy coverage from a public option whose scale would enable it to pass along savings.

If you are on Medicare and Medicaid- Currently 42 million and 37 million Americans
- How you could benefit from reform: Medicare

The “doughnut hole” for prescription drug coverage, which leaves you responsible for the cost when you’ve racked up $2700 to $6100 of annual prescription expenses, would be closed.
You can obtain preventive services without paying anything out of pocket.

You can qualify for drug subsidies with more assets than current recipients are allowed.
Income from the sale of your primary residence could be excluded from determinations of who pays higher premiums for outpatient coverage.

Premiums would be reduced for seniors who enroll in wellness of disease-management programs.

Payments to primary-care doctors could be increased, paving the way for them to play a larger role in your care.

Your annual out-of-pocket expenses could be capped, protecting you from catastrophic bills.

- How you could benefit from reform: Medicaid
Increased reimbursements for physicians could make it easier to find doctors. You could also gain access to private health plans.

For individuals buy their own insurance- 15 million Americans
- How you could benefit from reform:

You would have the option of buying insurance through “exchanges”, with an annual cap on out-of-pocket expenses, an end to co-payments and deductibles for preventive care, and no more annual or lifetime limits on coverage.

Insurers in the “exchanges” could be barred from denying coverage based on your medical history. Insurers would be required to cover your preexisting conditions.
Older people could end up paying relatively lower premiums, because age-based variations in rates could be restricted.

You could gain the option of buying coverage from a public plan whose scale and purchasing power could enable it to pass along savings.

Based on your income, you could receive federal aid to purchase insurance.
Your employer would be required to provide health benefits or pay a penalty, increasing the odds that you would receive coverage at work.

If your employer pays for your insurance-sponsored: 158 million Americans
- How you could benefit from reform:

If you’re employed at a small business, you and your employer would gain the option of buying coverage through the “exchange”, in which insurers would have to offer a minimum set of benefits and factors such as health status would not count against you. The government might help your employer pay for health benefits.

The proposal will increase the quality of care as a result of efforts to increase coordination among providers, identify and encourage best practices, automate medical records, avoid unnecessary tests and procedures, and reduce medical errors.

With expanded coverage for the uninsured, you and your employer would experience a reduction in hidden health tax you now pay to cover the cost of care that hospitals provide without compensation.

If you leave or lose your job and have to buy your own insurance, you would have much better options than those now available to you. Having new alternatives could make it easier for you to leave a job in which you feel trapped; if you get laid off, it could save you from joining the ranks of the uninsured.

Friday, June 26, 2009

America draws the line here

I have spent a great deal of time in the last few weeks working with my colleagues on the Energy Independence and Global Warming Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee on a measure that will curb greenhouse gas emissions. This legislation, which is being debated as I write this, is designed to reduce America’s contributions to global warming. This is not an easy task nor will it come with zero cost.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), includes a cap-and-trade global warming reduction plan designed to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020. Other provisions include new renewable requirements for utilities, studies and incentives regarding new carbon capture and sequestration technologies, energy efficiency incentives for homes and buildings, and grants for green jobs, among other things.

Not passing a measure that curbs greenhouse gas emissions is simply not an option, and while this is not a perfect bill it strikes a balance between aggressive environmental regulations and protections for consumers. Not everyone is happy, both the environmental lobby and advocates for the poor think the balance should shift their direction. However, with Chairmen Markey and Waxman’s guidance, the bill is frankly as good as anyone could reasonably hope for.

The time for action is now. In fact, had we heeded warnings twenty years ago, we would be in a much better position today. The scientific consensus is that greenhouse gas emissions contribute to global warming, and that warming will result in rising seas and more violent weather and shorter growing seasons. Inaction will cause global catastrophe.

Carbon based emissions that result from our dependence on coal and oil for energy cause health and environmental problems and deadly consequences for the health of humans and our planet.

If that weren’t enough reason to act, or to those who still doubt the science of global warming, there is more than enough reason to break our addiction to oil in the gigantic additional costs on taxpayers to support our military and political operations in the Middle East.

The system Congress is debating called “cap-and-trade” would be America’s first comprehensive effort to combat the threat of global warming. There is zero doubt it will limit harmful human-generated emissions, accelerate development of renewable energy sources, create "green economy" jobs and help reduce dependence on oil.

This cap-and-trade has wide support among environmental groups and many industries. It is not perfect, but it is a policy that I think we have the votes to pass and certainly is a bold first move to curb the damage we have sown on our planet.

However, there are certainly those who have legitimate concerns about this policy and bill. I received this letter yesterday from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and it is a good demonstration of 1) the misinformation that is surrounding this debate and 2) how some natural allies are turning against one another because of these falsehoods and fear.

Dear Representative Cleaver:

I am writing to urge your strong and vocal opposition to the so-called Waxman-Markey climate tax bill.

For the past 60 years, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) has worked and fought in the trenches of public policy to defend the interests of working class and poor families across America. In my 40-plus years as CORE's Chairman, I have seen few federal bills that would do more harm to America's working class and low-income citizens and families than the Waxman-Markey climate tax bill.

This bill represents an immoral assault on poor Americans because it is designed to purposely raise the cost of energy in order to force the working poor to reduce their standard of living.

By making the use of fossil fuels more costly, it will have a disproportionate and negative impact on those who now benefit most from the affordable and reliable power that fossil fuels provide: poor and working-class families.

The underlying goal of this legislation is the morally repugnant concept that constricting sources of domestic energy and raising energy costs is a good thing because it will force conservation by consumers. That elitist view assumes that poor, working class families have the ability to bear that 'social cost.'

The plain truth is this: the poor and working families we represent cannot bear that luxury.

Americans don't want 'energy welfare' payments from the government to help ease the sting of these government-driven cost increases. They want continued affordable and reliable energy, which this bill will constrict.

This is an explicitly anti-consumer package that will have huge impacts - both direct and indirect - on the struggling families we represent. On behalf of CORE's more than 100,000 members nationwide, I urge you to announce your public opposition to it today.

Thank you very much for your consideration of this urgent request. We are today sending alerts against this bill to thousands of citizens across the state of Missouri and to news media outlets nationwide.

Roy Innis
Chairman, Congress of Racial Equality

Before a bill comes to the floor, the Congress uses an independent agency to “score” the bill and provide an authoritative, nonpartisan opinion on the cost associated with passage of a measure. This group, called the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), provided its assessment on the average household implementing the proposed American Clean Energy and Security Act.

The CBO concluded the act would result in a net cost to the average American household of $175 per year by 2020. The CBO estimated that the poorest American households would, in contrast, see a net annual benefit of $40. (see attached scoring document)

The CBO's estimates of net costs are substantially lower than the predictions offered or feared by critics of the bill.

I do not blame people for being confused. Again, this is a complicated bill. What has happened is that many of the numbers being used in the debate are good examples of what we call apples-to-oranges comparisons. I have seen many estimates that rather than estimating the cost to 2020, they extrapolated beyond the CBO’s accounting to 2035 using who knows what matrix.

The CBO has a good reputation for providing accurate and independent assessments -- and based on their report the average cost to an American household is $14.58 per month.

That's a relatively small price to pay over a long term. The letter I received from CORE, did not address some of the work I have been heavily involved in the final negotiations with the bill.

I was please to be a part of establishing five programs to protect consumers from energy price increases: one for electricity price increases; one for natural gas price increases; one for heating oil price increases; one to protect low- and moderate-income families; and one to provide tax dividends to consumers. In combination, these programs substantially reduce the impact of ACES on American consumers. Confirming the CBO estimate the EPA has assessed that ACES would cost the average household $80 to $111 per year, less than a postage stamp per day. According to EPA, families would actually spend less on utility bills in 2020 than they would in the absence of legislation because of the energy efficiency provisions in ACES.

Here is an example of the average cost of this bill per household that included a series of tax credits that assist those in the lowest income levels pay for rate increases.

Income bracket: Cost to consumer after credits applied
Lowest Quintile -40
Second Quintile 40
Middle Quintile 235
Fourth Quintile 340
Highest Quintile 245
Average per household 165

But we should also focus on what was not included in the CBO's assessment and estimates by most other analysts.

The report from the CBO says its cost estimates do "not include the economic benefits and other benefits of the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the associated slowing of climate change." And CBO didn't include the economic "effect of other aspects of the bill, such as federal efforts to speed the development of new technologies and to increase energy efficiency by specifying standards or subsidizing energy-saving investments."

These are huge potential economic generators and encourage America to use this essential change to how we power our nation as a means to restart our economy and get people back to work.

Inaction is simply not an option. We have done a great deal to mitigate the impact this bill will have on the pocketbooks of the poor, but there is one last point I would like to make about allegations about the burden on those less fortunate. The poor, unfortunately, have been the canaries in the mineshaft on the effects of global warming. They have been the first to feel the impact of global climate change and it will continue to affect them without mercy.

The cost of the increased fury of Gulf hurricanes was borne by the poor in New Orleans to a much higher degree-and that trend will continue globally.

More intense weather, more intense heat waves, less productive crop seasons, and coastal flooding globally-all are costs borne more by the poor than any other.

A half-degree increase in global temperature will have, and has already had, catastrophic effects on the poor of Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

It has been an honor to be a part of crafting this monumental bill that has the potential to change the course of history. We are drawing the line in the sand here and saying we must go no further polluting our environment. The time has come to cease inflicting damage and heal our planet.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Coffee with Cleaver

It is that time again. Tomorrow’s Coffee with Cleaver will be at the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library in the Truman Forum. The Plaza Library is at 4801 Main and there should be plenty of parking and, as always, coffee will be provided.

It has been a busy few weeks and I look forward to updating and seeing you tomorrow!

Coffee with Cleaver-TOMORROW
June 20, 2009
Kansas City Public Library-Plaza Branch
4801 Main, Kansas City, MO
8 a.m. – 10a.m.

Keynote at Religious Liberty Dinner

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II delivers the keynote address of the Religious Liberty Dinner in Washington [photo: Megan Brauner]

Last night I was honored to be the keynote speaker for the 7th Annual Religious Liberty Dinner in Washington D.C. I told the hundreds assembled that while much has been done to further religious freedom, more needs to be done.I was invited to speak to this group both as a minister and as the co-chair of the International Religious Freedom Caucus.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, yet persecutions and atrocities are still taking place. In tyrannical governments around the world, frightened despots cling to power by restricting religious practice. As we are seeing in the streets of Iran this week, those policies often backfire.Worldwide, hundreds of millions of people are still mistreated because of their faith now more than 60 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The choice to privately or publicly practice a religious belief or the choice to abstain from a religious belief or the choice to change one's own religious beliefs is unmistakably fundamental to human rights.

I asked the group to focus on commonalities instead of differences. I think our International Religious Freedom Caucus is a good example. Unlike most House Caucuses which are made up of members usually from a single party, ours is co-chaired by Trent Franks a Republican and me, a Democrat.

By the same token, we should celebrate our differences along side our common human connections. The world and its people are a bouquet made all the more stunning because we are not the same. Freedom — and particularly religious freedom — is just that: recognizing and building on the things that unite us all, and respecting and embracing those things that make us different.

It was my great privilege to speak to this group that daily fights for one of mankind’s basic rights — the ability to worship, or not, in our own way. Previous speakers to the group have included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senators John Kerry and John McCain — it is my honor to have been added to this distinguished list.

Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations

Yesterday was one of those days in the House Chamber that just makes you shake your head. At the end of it all, we had set a new record, and passed the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill.

Members on the other side of the aisle were upset that only two-dozen amendments to the bill had been ruled in order. Recall that several times this spring I have proposed amendments that have also not been allowed to the floor. I have some sympathy; however this was a fairly typical number of allowed amendments and certainly in-line with the number allowed when they were in power. However, the past is quickly forgotten in the world of partisan politics and so my friends in the Minority party undertook their version of a filibuster.

For every one of the 24 amendments they required the maximum number of procedural votes, thus keeping the House in chamber all day and establishing a new record of 52 recorded votes in one day.

The next busiest day, according to House parliamentarians, was October 4, 1988, when 40 votes were cast.

It was within their rights to do so, but there are consequences to these sorts of games. The Financial Services Committee, where I serve, was scheduled to hear and question Secretary of the Treasury Geithner yesterday and that was cancelled. With the White House proposing a new financial regulatory structure it was an important hearing.

At the end of the day, the bill passed (which was never in doubt) and I was able to secure funding for three earmarked projects in this bill.

1.) $100,000 for the City of Kansas City Community Justice Program
2.) $250,000 for the Mattie Rhodes Latino Youth Crime Prevention Program
3.) $100,000 for the Jackson County CASA Legal Child Advocate program

Provided the Senate agrees, these important community projects will receive some much needed federal dollars in FY 2010.
Also included in the bill:
Law Enforcement

· State and Local Law Enforcement Overall: Provides $3.4 billion, $671 million above the President’s request and $197 million above 2009, for state and local law enforcement and crime prevention grants overall, in order to keep our communities safe.

· COPS: Provides $802 million, $41 million above the President’s request and $252 million above 2009, for the COPS program. This includes $298 million for COPS Hiring Grants. When combined with the $1 billion provided in the Recovery Act for COPS Hiring Grants, this will enable the hiring of more than 7,000 police officers.

· Byrne Justice Assistance Grants: Provides $529 million for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, $10 million above 2009 and the President’s request. These grants are used by local law enforcement agencies for a broad range of activities to better fight and prevent crime.

· State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP): The President’s budget proposes eliminating funding for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), which assists state and local governments with the costs of jailing undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes not related to their immigration status. The bill rejects this elimination – instead providing $300 million.

· Violence Against Women Programs: The bill provides $400 million, or $11 million above 2009, for Violence Against Women programs. These programs are designed to prevent and prosecute violence against women and strengthen services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

· Juvenile Justice: The bill provides $385 million for juvenile justice programs, $11 million above 2009. This includes funding for such items as $80 million for competitive youth mentoring grants; $75 million for delinquency prevention grants; and $55 million for Juvenile Accountability Block Grants.

· Second Chance Act Offender Reentry Programs: The bill provides $100 million, $75 million above 2009, for demonstration programs and other activities to reduce recidivism and the future costs of incarceration.

· Adam Walsh Act and Child Exploitation: The bill provides $325 million, $41 million above 2009, for the Adam Walsh Act (better protecting children from sex offenders) and other sex offender and child exploitation prevention and enforcement programs.

· Department-Wide Southwest Border Initiative: The bill provides $1.5 billion, $345 million above 2009, for activities to combat violence, stop the flow of illegal weapons and drug trafficking, bring dangerous criminals to justice, and improve law enforcement capabilities along the Southwest Border.

· FBI: The bill provides $7.7 billion, $654 million above 2009, for the FBI, to address national security needs, including cyber crime, WMD incidents, and surveillance, as well as criminal law enforcement priorities such as financial fraud.

Commitment to American Innovation

· Science Overall: The bill provides $30.6 billion, $1 billion above 2009, for investments in science, technology, and innovation – as part of an Innovation Agenda to keep America competitive in the global marketplace.

· National Science Foundation (NSF): The bill provides $6.9 billion, $446 million above 2009, for the NSF – supporting the most promising scientific research at America’s colleges and universities. This funding level continues to put the NSF budget on track to double over the next seven years, as called for under the America COMPETES Act (PL 110-69).

· National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): The bill provides $781 million for NIST – to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by investing in scientific and technical research services. This funding level continues to put NIST on track to double over the next seven years, as called for under the America COMPETES Act (PL 110-69). The funding includes:
o Manufacturing Extension Partnerships: $125 million to help small and mid-size manufacturers compete globally by providing them with technical advice and access to technology, as well as leveraging private funds to save and create jobs.
o Technology Innovation Program: $70 million to fund high-risk high-reward research into areas of critical national need done by U.S. businesses, colleges and universities, and national labs.

· National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): The bill provides $18.2 billion, $421 million above 2009, for NASA – recognizing that the science and research conducted at NASA is also critical to the nation’s science enterprise. It includes funding for scientific research in space; aeronautical research; manned exploration in space; and education programs that use space science to inspire our youth.

· National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): The bill provides $4.6 billion, $238 million above 2009, for NOAA, to increase important ocean, weather, and climate research activities and for satellite and ground-based measurement systems acquisitions.

· Science Education: The bill provides $1.08 billion for science education, $36 million above 2009, for science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – education. This funding is designed to give our young people the education and training they need – from elementary school through graduate study -- to become the innovation workforce of the future.

Global Climate Change Research

The bill provides over $2 billion, $120 million above 2009, to study global climate change, one of the greatest challenges facing our country. This includes:

· NASA: $1.3 billion, including nearly $150 million to develop and demonstrate space-based climate measurements identified by the National Academy of Science and the science community.

· NOAA: Almost $400 million to enhance climate change research and regional assessments; climate data records, data access and archiving requirements; and climate change educational programs.

· National Science Foundation: An estimated $310 million for climate change research, modeling and education.
· Economic Development Administration: $25 million for green building initiatives.

· National Institute of Standards and Technology: $15 million for the development of greenhouse gas emission standards.

Friday, June 05, 2009

A New Beginning

Yesterday morning the world watched as our American President reached out his hand and asked for peace. Saying he came to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, President Obama told the audience at Cairo University that the cycle of suspicion and discord that has defined, deluded and destroyed the relationship for so long must end.

The President asked for a new beginning — “one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles, principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

“There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground,” the President said. “So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.”

There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, and while directed at them, the President sounded the call for peace in all corners of the globe.

The President said that problems the United States and Muslims worldwide confront must be dealt with through partnership and progress, and must be shared. Sources of tension must be addressed directly — and plainly.

He rightly asserted that America will confront violent extremists who pose a threat to U.S. national security because we “reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women and children.”

“None of us should tolerate these extremists,” he said.

But, then the President went further and acknowledged to the world that military power alone will not solve problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. To that end, Congress has approved the investment of billions of dollars each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build hospitals, schools, roads and businesses, and help those who have been displaced by the war.

Then the President took on the 800-pound gorilla that so many before him have ignored — the difficult, if not near impossible, task of finding a peaceful and just end to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. “The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security,” he said. “I will personally pursue this outcome. For peace to come, it is time for them — and all of us — to live up to our responsibilities.”

I was proud to hear balance and nuance in the voice of an American President. He acknowledged our unbreakable bond with Israel — one forged by President Truman and born of a need for a Jewish homeland that is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Today, the President is visiting Buchenwald, which was part of the Third Reich’s final solution for the Jews of Europe. Six million Jews were killed. As the President said, “denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful.”
He went on to turn to the equally legitimate needs of the Palestinians who have also suffered in pursuit of a homeland. He said, “ So, let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.”

The President said we can both be for democracy and still respect every nation’s sovereign right. He said that, while no form of government should be imposed on any nation by another, he believes strongly in a system of government that gives voice to the people, and that respects the rule of law and the rights of all.

“Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure,” he said. “Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.”

In an audience of students, he called for greater religious freedom as necessary for peoples of the world to be able to live together and said, “a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.”

I watched the President in Cairo, yesterday, express the feelings so many Americans have wished to express to the world. He concluded by quoting simply from each of the three great religions’ holy writs and said:

“We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us: "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."

The Holy Bible tells us: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.”


Please take a moment this weekend to read the full text of the speech. It can be found here>>

Friday, May 15, 2009

Greening our Schools

Yesterday, I voted in favor of legislation that will improve our public schools, create clean energy jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and lower energy costs for taxpayers. The 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act, which passed the House on a vote of 275 to 155, will invest in our schools in order to boost our economy now and help prepare our children for the jobs of the future.

This bill uses federal dollars to begin transforming America’s aging schools while at the same time putting our nation back to work. This is a smart investment that leverages the power of the new green economy to inspire a new generation of workers. This measure reduces operating costs of schools allowing our struggling districts to devote more money to educating our students. This is the perfect time to inject these federal dollars into our local school districts. Green will be the engine that turns our country’s economy around. There is no better way to set a course for a greener future than investing in our kids.

I was able to sponsor an amendment that will encourage school districts to link their green construction efforts with curriculum that explains the new technology to students at the school. The amendment, which I sponsored with my friend Congresswoman Giffords (AZ-8), passed on a vote of 334 to 97.

The 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act could provide over $6 billion in federal funds to upgrade school buildings to make them more energy efficient and more reliant on renewable sources of energy. The State of Missouri will receive approximately $97,833,000 in funding. Locally, the approximate allocations for Missouri’s Fifth District School Districts would be:

Center: $322,000
Grandview: $494,000
Hickman Mills: 1,165,000
Independence: $977,000
Kansas City: $7,855,000
Lee’s Summit: $405,000
Lone Jack: $17,000
Raymore-Peculiar: $161,000
Raytown: $596,000

Total for Fifth District: $12,295,000

The bill also generates long-term savings for schools by reducing energy expenses. Green schools reduce pollution by using about 30% less water and energy than conventional schools, and emit almost 40% less harmful carbon dioxide.

This bill is common sense. It saves money for our schools, creates jobs and helps us educate our students better. At the same time, it modernizes our schools and prepares our workers for a new, clean energy American economy.

According to calculations by the Economic Policy Institute, this legislation’s construction funding would support as many as 136,000 new jobs – many in areas that will give workers the valuable skills they need to excel in a clean energy economy. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

High Priority Projects now online

Reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs is required September 30, 2009. During the reauthorization process, I have an opportunity to include requests for High Priority Projects (HPP) to improve the transportation infrastructure in Missouri’s Fifth District.

To be more transparent in this important national policy and to ensure that projects that receive funding in this surface transportation authorization act result in tangible transportation and safety benefits, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure requires that Member-designated High Priority Projects be available online.

My requests can be found here >>>

More recognition for the Green Impact Zone

Van Jones has been on a crusade to, in his words, "green the ghetto" by killing two birds with one stone: reducing poverty and saving the environment — exactly the goals of the Green Impact Zone.

Recently Mr. Jones, who headed the non-profit “Green for All” was appointed as President Obama's special adviser for green jobs, enterprise and innovation. Jones now has an opportunity to implement his vision and once again cited the efforts underway here in Kasnas City as a model program the nation should be watching. This time, he used an interview on NPR’s Morning Edition to highlight our initiative.

Listen here >>>

Friday, May 01, 2009

Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights passes House

On Thursday, the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2009 (H.R. 627) which I Chairman Barney Frank (D-NY), and Subcommittee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) cosponsored, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 357-70. This comprehensive credit card reform legislation is aimed at leveling the playing field between credit card companies and consumers and abolishes industry abuses that are unfair, deceptive and anti-competitive.

I was sorry to see this important legislation die in the Senate last year and proud that it is one of the first pieces of legislation passed in this new Congress. In this economy, when far too many are relying on their credit cards for survival, we cannot tolerate abusive and unfair practices that exploit these difficult times.

First came the housing crisis, then the crisis in the financial institutions. The next shoe to drop is the credit card crisis. Yesterday’s action helps give teeth to the meeting the President held last week with the major Credit Card companies at the White House. Specifically, the bill protects cardholders against arbitrary interest rate increases, empowers them to set limits on their credit and requires card companies to fairly credit and allocate payments. It also prohibits charging fees just to pay a bill by phone, charging over-the-limit fees unless a consumer opts-in in advance or issuing credit cards to minors.

It is issuing credit cards to minors I have been particularly concerned about. The average college student has more than $3,000 in credit card debt on four or more credit cards. It is a horrible way to begin adult life and has contributed to the average age of bankruptcy continuing to get younger. I am pleased this bill tries to safeguard our young people.

Greensburg was amazing

My thanks to everyone who spent 11 hours on the bus Saturday to travel to Greensburg. As we were leaving one of the residents of the town came up to me and said, “This just feels right.” Indeed it did. The commitment they have to green was inspiring, and I think the only downside to the trip was that those who participated returned even more eager to start working than they were before.

I would like to extend a very special thanks to Mayor Dixson, the city administrator and school superintendent for hosting our group and spending the afternoon with us.

Truly, it was a helpful trip.

Councilwoman Cindy Circo, who was on the trip along with Council Members Jan Marcason and Sharon Sanders Brooks, wrote a great article about the trip and pictures on her blog. Please take a moment to visit the Councilwoman’s blog site found here >>>