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>>