Congressional Dish

By Jennifer Briney

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Subscribers: 499
Reviews: 3

 Nov 12, 2019
objectively great breakdowns in policy that only a value for value business model can assure. that said, her political opinions can get a bit waffly but never extreme or in bad faith, so if you get mad its your problem.

 May 2, 2019
Simply the best podcast/information to learn what's really going on in Congress. 7 stars!!!!!

 Jan 17, 2019
This is a great podcast to learn about what's going on in Congress.


Congressional Dish is a twice-monthly podcast that aims to draw attention to where the American people truly have power: Congress. From the perspective of a fed up taxpayer with no allegiance to any political party, Jennifer Briney will fill you in on the must-know information about what our representatives do AFTER the elections and how their actions can and will affect our day to day lives. Hosted by @JenBriney. Links to information sources available at

Episode Date
Thank You FinCEN Files

How did Jen miss the FinCEN files? In this bonus thank you episode, Jen adds some information to the sanctions topic that should have been in CD235, shares some clues that suggest that the Afghanistan withdrawal is a bunch of malarkey, and responds to lots of notes from producers. Thanks for supporting the show!

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Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations

Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Jul 19, 2021
CD235: The Safe Haven of Sanctions Evaders

Sanctions are weapons of economic war. In this episode, learn the troubling history of ever-expanding sanctions powers granted to the President designed to allow him to cut off people, companies, and governments from our financial system. You'll also hear fascinating testimony to Congress about how the targets of U.S. sanctions are getting around them. Their evasion techniques are probably not what you think.

Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

Thank you for supporting truly independent media!

Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD230: Pacific Deterrence Initiative

CD190: A Coup for Capitalism

CD187: Combating China

CD176: Target Venezuela: Regime Change in Progress

CD167: Combating Russia (NDAA 2018) LIVE

CD156: Sanctions – Russia, North Korea & Iran

CD102: The World Trade Organization: COOL?


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Speeches & Remarks: Remarks by President Biden in Press Conference, White House Briefing Room, June 16, 2021

Watch on C-SPAN


12:10 President Joe Biden: How would it be if the United States were viewed by the rest of the world as interfering with the elections directly of other countries, and everybody knew it? What would it be like if we engaged in activities that he is engaged in? It diminishes the standing of a country that is desperately trying to make sure it maintains its standing as a major world power.

President Joe Biden: And, by the way, we talked about trade. I don’t have any problem with doing business with Russia, as long as they do it based upon international norms. It’s in our interest to see the Russian people do well economically. I don’t have a problem with that. But if they do not act according to international norms, then guess what? That will not — that only won’t it happen with us, it will not happen with other nations."

Hearing: Schemes and Subversion: How Bad Actors and Foreign Governments Undermine and Evade Sanctions Regimes, House Committee on Financial Services: Subcommittee on National Security, International Development and Monetary Policy, June 16, 2021

Watch on Youtube


  • Eric Lorber
    • Senior Director at the Center on Economic and Financial Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies
    • Managing Director at K2 Integrity
    • Former Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the Department of the Treasury
    • Former corporate lawyer at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
  • Lakshmi Kumar
    • Policy Director at Global Financial Integrity
  • Jesse Spiro
    • Global Head of Policy & Regulatory Affairs at Chainalysis
  • Dr. Jeffrey Taliaferro
    • Professor of Political Science at Tufts University
  • Ivan Garces
    • Principal and Chair of Risk Advisory Services at Kaufmann Rossin

07:13 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): Sanctions are an important instrument in foreign policy designed to be both a carrot and a stick in persuading an entity, an individual, a group or a country to change its behavior. A step beyond traditional diplomacy. It also avoids the downsides of kinetic action. We've seen the success of our sanctions regimes in bringing the Iranians to the table and isolating human rights violators through the Global Magnitsky Act amongst others. Our sanctions programs can only be as impactful as they are effective. When designated entities evade our sanctions, we lose an important tool from our diplomatic toolbox, increasing the likelihood that military action would be necessary to maintain international order.

08:09 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): This committee has worked to address some of these issues through the passage of the Corporate Transparency Act authored by Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and the Anti Money Laundering Act sponsored by Chairman Emanuel Cleaver as part of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. These bills give law enforcement the resources and authority to better track money launderers, including sanction evaders, and their success will depend in large part on this body adequately funding their implementation.

11:20 Rep. Andy Barr (KY): The US employs a robust sanctions program to deny adversaries the funding, logistics and resources to conduct illicit behavior or to compel them to change misguided behaviors.

12:14 Rep. Andy Barr (KY): The US maintains four major sanctions programs against Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela. These sanctions are a result of actions by those nations that are in direct conflict with US national security and global economic stability.

17:09 Dr. Jeffrey Taliaferro: The primary aim of sanctions whether unilateral or multilateral, whether comprehensive or targeted, is to induce a change in the cost benefit calculations of the target and thus a change in the targets behavior.

18:13 Dr. Jeffrey Taliaferro: Having won the Cold War and pushed the crumbling Soviet Union out of the ranks of the great powers, the United States emerged as the unit pole, the only great power left standing in 1990 and 1991. And for better or worse for two decades, weak systemic that has international constraints and the availability of opportunities to further improve its strategic position before the United States wide latitude in the definition and in the pursuit of its foreign policy, and national security objectives. This extreme imbalance of international power, however, had several consequences which are relevant to the subject of today's subcommittee hearing. First, the United States impose sanctions and even waged wars against recalcitrant states such as Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan and non state actors such as Al Qaeda and later the Islamic State with relative impunity. And even when confronting state adversaries against whom the use of kinetic force would have been prohibitively costly, such as North Korea and Iran, the imposition of sanctions became a preferred tool of statecraft for successive administrations and Congresses second US military command of the comments along with American Economic and Technological dominance gave various state and non state actors and incentive to pursue asymmetric strategies, for example, the clandestine employment of cyber criminal organizations and individual hackers by the foreign intelligence services of Russia, China, North Korea and other states. Third, this uni polar distribution of power gave targeted states and other disadvantaged actors and incentive to collaborate with one another to evade or subvert US sanctions. And finally, as the Biden administration's interim national security, strategic guidance acknowledges the distribution of power across the world is changing, creating new threats.

20:13 Dr. Jeffrey Taliaferro: The United States now faces two great power adversaries a rising China and a declining and revanchist Russia, along with two regional power adversaries, Iran and North Korea. All four including their irrespective and their respective clients and allies will seek to evade sanctions.

20:38 Dr. Jeffrey Taliaferro: Might behoove policymakers to perhaps lower their expectations about what coercive economic diplomacy alone can achieve.

25:39 Ivan Garces: We can benefit from increased cooperation between public and private sectors such as is contemplated with the proposed OFAC exchange and the Combating Illicit Finance Public Private Partnership Act, legislation noted for this hearing. Government should be in a position to be able to take, analyze and interpret information we see not only from financial institutions, but other industry stakeholders and connect the dots identifying trends and relationships across the financial system.

26:46 Lakshmi Kumar: US sanctions regime is expansive and currently includes more than 30 different sanctions programs.

27:00 Lakshmi Kumar: Despite the ever increasing reach of sanctions, with evidence showing that the number of sanction vessels imports rather than annual rate of 6%. oil exports by Iran and Venezuela and oil imports by North Korea keep increasing every year.

27:56 Lakshmi Kumar: It is unsurprising that a leading mechanism to evade sanctions involves the use of TBML techniques, I've learned after a year of the pandemic. TBML or trade based money laundering is the process of disguising the proceeds of crime and moving value to trade transactions. It includes tech in techniques like falsifying the origins of a commodity of good over invoicing under invoicing and Phantom invoicing where no goods really move for just money.

28:14 Lakshmi Kumar: TBML was particularly challenging because there are no international standards, even at the level of a financial Task Force and little regulation internationally. It is therefore the perfect ally for sanctions evaders.

28:35 Lakshmi Kumar: The Iranian government was able to pocket $100 billion by falsifying trade records.

28:42 Lakshmi Kumar: Similarly, the Venezuelan Government to get around US sanctions on its gold sector has flown its gold all over the world changing its origins. So the gold is now supposed to be from the Caribbean, from Colombia from Uganda from Dubai, barely anywhere but Venezuela.

29:08 Lakshmi Kumar: Erasing its history in this way means that the US has no way of knowing whether the gold it imports is the same goal that it is seeking to sanction. Sanctioned entities continues to look at the US as a safe haven to get around sanctions.

29:35 Lakshmi Kumar: Professionals that have helped Iran and North Korea evade sanctions invested their lucrative commissions in real estate through the EB five investor program and invest in commercial real estate and buying real estate in states like Alaska. Both commercial real estate in many of the jurisdictions where these investments take place are not part of the geographic targeting orders for real estate. Similarly, vehicles like private equity, hedge funds, venture capital funds that are exempt from carrying out customer due diligence obligations are also involved in sanctions evasion schemes. A recent FBI leak showed that London and New York hedge funds proposed using a scheme to sell prohibited items from sanctioned countries to the US.

30:12 Lakshmi Kumar: Finally, sanctions evasion does not just exploit the gaps in regulation. It exploits the lack of resources that enforcement agencies need to protect. The FinCEN files one problematic, revealed two different sanctions evasion schemes tied to Russia and Syria. It will file their source for financial institutions, but did not necessarily receive the treatment they should have given the resource constraints of the agency. The way forward therefore, is to prompt addressing regulatory gaps but also providing the requisite support to enforcement supervision and oversight agencies.

34:27 Jesse Spiro: Through blockchain analysis, we can confirm that adversarial nations terrorist organizations, malicious enabled cyber actors and transnational criminal organizations under US sanctions have used cryptocurrency in an attempt to weaken the impact or fully circumvent sanctions, just as they have done through traditional banks, trade based money laundering and cash.

40:10 Eric Lorber: The key to countering sanctions evasion is the ability to detect such activity. The Treasury Department's Office of Intelligence and Analysis along with other members of the intelligence community as well as FinCEN should be provided with the tools necessary to identify sanctions evasion. A legislative proposal under consideration by this can be the OFAC fusion center act could help achieve this. This legislation would create an interagency group designed to share data and allow for better detection and disruption of illicit networks, providing the private sector with the right tools. In recent years, Treasury has armed the private sector with information on sanctions, evasion tactics and red flags that can help companies spot such evasion through a series of advisories combined with clearly signaling to the private sector, their compliance obligations and pursuing aggressive enforcement actions against those who fail to comply. This additional information can help the private sector more effectively counter evasion.

43:33 Eric Lorber: The number of transactions which are elicit that use Bitcoin or blockchain technology is actually fairly low percentage wise it's in I believe, below 1% or somewhere around there. So it's fairly small.

49:40 Eric Lorber: There needs to be political pressure put on those who are supporting and continue to support North Korea. It's it's not a secret that for example, China has created at least a permissive environment for North Korean operators to to work in the country. That was detailed most recently, I believe in that in the UN DPRK panel of experts report from I believe is March 2021. As well as North Korea maintains a series of financial facilitators throughout the world, including in I believe in Russia and China and other jurisdictions that helps North Korea evade US and UN sanctions and these individuals need to be shut down, need to be targeted, and pressure to put on the governments that are hosting them to kick them out of the country.

51:35 Eric Lorber: That's something that we tried to do and I tried to do while we were at Treasury was that clarify very clear the sanctions targets if you change the behavior you're engaged in, these sanctions will be lifted.

1:04:29 Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA): Ms. Kumar, I'd like to start with you. In your testimony, I read with interest how you discussed the role that United States real estate, especially commercial real estate plays in sanction evasion regimes. You specifically mentioned the geographic targeting order GTO issued by FINcen, which I might note includes 12 metropolitan areas only to require us title insurance companies to identify natural persons behind shell companies used in all cash purchases of residential real estate. Given the limited Metropolitan list covered by GTO and the fact that commercial real estate is not covered, can you can you speak to both of those problems? Number one, the limited number of metropolitan areas my own suburban Philadelphia or Philadelphia count among them, and also the fact that it's residential, not commercial. Where does this fall short in terms of our regulating evasion?

1:05:42 Lakshmi Kumar: The sanctions program doesn't just target big actors like Iran, North Korea. The sanctions program also targets individuals involved in drug trafficking. And what we see is a lot of those individuals often to evade sanctions, including sort of former officials of the Venezuelan administration, all move or hide assets and move it into real estate and the US real estate market is a popular Avenue. Now, when we talk about commercial real estate, you're absolutely right. And that the sort of often cited example of the Iranians owning that massive skyscraper in New York was a purchase of commercial real estate, it continues to be unrecognized. The EB5 investor program is investments that ultimately go into commercial real estate. Now a lot of this is particularly complex because commercial real estate involves multiple investors, it is not as simple as a residential purchase by a homeowner. To that end, we have to what is necessary is to sort of rethink how we are going to apply the GTO. The title insurance agents may not be the most relevant actors, however, to sort of identify gatekeepers that do continue to play a critical role in sort of putting together these transactions because commercial real estate transaction always take place through legal structures, they are never in the names of an individual. So identifying actors like lawyers, who often play a critical role in this as sort of the the pressure point at which you can conduct due diligence to know who is behind these transactions is one way forward. You've also rightly said that it only covers 12 metropolitan areas, and a lot of the evasion schemes that we often see tied to individuals, but also generally more generally, the use of real estate, you often see an equal split between cases that occur in GTO areas versus cases that occur in non GTO areas. And I will say that we have a report forthcoming in the next month that will actually that shows evidence that when looks at a series of reported cases that actually shows that over the last five years, the number of cases that occur in non-GTO areas actually slightly significantly more than GTO areas.

1:43:57 Rep. Warren Davidson (OH): Currently the SDN list statistics as of yesterday the 15th we have 277 aircraft, 3668 entities, 4603 individuals and 406 vessels.

1:44:40 Eric Lorber: The end goal is is twofold one or one of two. It's either to prevent them from engaging in illicit activity, right? So you mentioned an aircraft prevent that aircraft from shuffling or sending illicit drugs to a destination. Or it's to get the targets to actually change their behavior. So to essentially impose restrictions on them, to get them to say, 'well, this is not worth it.' We are no longer going to engage in material support for terrorism.

1:51:12 Rep. Jake Auchincloss (MA): Blockchain offer you an advantage in authenticating your identity over a different type of currency. Jesse Spiro: No, I would actually posit the complete opposite Congressman, what I would say is that the only vulnerabilities that I would address in relation to KYC are the fact that people could circumvent them. But even if they were to, if they're engaged in illicit activity that can be seen in relation to illicit crypto activity. It is going to be very difficult for them to do anything within the ecosystem.

1:51:59 Rep. Jake Auchincloss (MA): If you are able to advise Congress to take any steps that would influence OFAC's measures, what would you advise that we do? Jesse Spiro: I would just imply to apply congressmen more resources to that agency specifically in relation to the risks associated with cryptocurrency and sanctions evasion, wherein they can produce more designations that include cryptocurrency wallets, because as identifiers for the private sector when they have access to that information, that is how they can potentially mitigate the illicit activity. And because of the activity with cryptocurrency, when a wallet is put on that designation list, any associated activity, or within a designation, excuse me, any associated activity and legacy activity in relation to that look back can also be visible.

Hearing: Dollars Against Democracy: Domestic Terrorist Financing in the Aftermath of Insurrection, Committee on Financial Services: Subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy, February 25, 2021

Watch on Youtube


  • Iman Boukadoum
    • Senior Manager, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • Lecia Brooks
    • Executive Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center
  • Daniel Glaser
    • Global Head Jurisdictional Services and Head of Washington, DC Office at K2 Integrity
    • Senior Advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies
    • Board member at the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority
    • Former Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, U.S. Department of the Treasury
  • Daniel Rogers
    • Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer at Global Disinformation Index
  • Daveed Gertenstein-Ross
    • CEO of Valens Global

03:02 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): As we heard from Merrick Garland during his confirmation hearing earlier this week, the country faces a 'more dangerous period in the wake of January 6th, than we did after the Oklahoma City bombing,' the single deadliest act of domestic terrorism in American history.

03:28 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): In the wake of the attacks of September 11th, we recast the entire federal government and worked feverishly to defund terrorist streams. To effectively disrupt domestic extremist groups, we need to better understand their financing.

03:54 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): Unlike ISIS, for example, these organizations are not pyramid shaped where funding comes from a handful of easily disruptable areas. An online fundraising drive for a legitimate charity, and one that helps support an extremist group can look very similar.

04:57 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): We need to conscientiously be mindful of the civil liberties concerns at play here. Unlike international extremist groups, law enforcement is constrained by the Constitution when dealing with domestic extremists, balancing the desire to give law enforcement the tools necessary to disrupt these groups with the need to respect the rights of all Americans and the Constitution to which we have all pledged an oath is essential.

05:36 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): While we all live through a brutal event on January 6th, undertaken by right wing extremists, no location on the political spectrum has a monopoly on extremism or violence.

10:08 Rep. Maxine Waters (CA): We're here against the backdrop of the January 6th insurrection. A deplorable yet predictable display of white supremacists such as the Proud Boys, the oathkeepers QAnon and others and nationalist violence incited by President Trump against the members of this body and against democracy itself.

12:51 Iman Boukadoum: Last month violent insurrection heavily fueled by white supremacy and white nationalism shocked the world.

13:52 Iman Boukadoum: We know, however, that even well intentioned national security laws are invariably weaponized against black, brown and Muslim communities. And that white nationalist violence is not prioritized making that policy failure the fundamental reason for what transpired on January 6th, not lack of legal authority. For this reason we oppose any legislation that would create new charges for domestic terrorism or any enhanced or additional criminal penalties. The federal government, including the Treasury Department, has many tools at its disposal to investigate. And also the FBI and DOJ have 50 statutes, at least 50 statutes and over a dozen criminal statutes, 50 terrorism related statutes, excuse me and over a dozen criminal statutes that they can use. They just need to use them to target white nationalist violence.

19:33 Lecia Brooks: Today, some white nationalist groups and personalities are raising funds through the distribution of propaganda itself. In November SPLC researchers reported that dozens of extremist groups were earning 1000s of dollars per month on a popular live streaming platform called D-Live.

20:21 Lecia Brooks: Crowdfunding is also being exploited by hate groups to earn money in this new decentralized landscape. Crowdfunding sites played a critical role in the capital insurrection, providing monetary support that allowed people to travel to Washington DC. They've also played a crucial role in raising hundreds of 1000s of dollars in legal fees for extremists.

20:43 Lecia Brooks: The violent insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6 should serve as a wake up call for Congress, the Biden administration, Internet companies, law enforcement and public officials at every level.

23:11 Daniel Glaser: Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to talk about how the US government can employ similar tools and strategies against white nationalists and other domestic terrorist groups as it has employed against global jihadist groups over the past two decades.

23:33 Daniel Glaser: During my time at the Treasury Department, I fought to cut off funding to terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and Hezbollah, as a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bush Administration, and eventually as the Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing in the Obama Administration. My primary responsibility was to lead the design and implementation of strategies to attack the financial networks of these groups and other threats to our country's national security. And while we should never let down our guard with respect to those still potent terrorist organizations, it has become tragically clear that there are domestic extremist groups that in some ways present an even greater threat to our ideals and our democracy. We have the responsibility to target those groups with the same determination, creativity and sense of purpose that we displayed in the years following 9/11.

27:42 Daniel Glaser: Potential measures in Treasury's toolbox include the issuance of guidance to financial institutions on financial type policies, methodologies and red flags, the establishment of public private partnerships the use of information sharing authorities and the use of geographic targeting orders. Taken together these measures will strengthen the ability of financial institutions to identify, report and impede the financial activity of domestic extremist groups and will ensure that the US financial system is a hostile environment for these groups.

30:10 Daniel Rogers: These groups leverage the Internet as a primary means of disseminating their toxic ideologies and soliciting funds. One only needs to search Amazon or Etsy for the term q anon to uncover shirts, hats, mugs, books and other paraphernalia that both monetize and further popular popularized the domestic violent extremist threat. Images from that fateful day last month are rife with sweatshirts that say, Camp outfits that until recently were for sale on websites like Teespring and cafe press. As we speak at least 24 individuals indicted for their role in the January 6 insurrection, including eight members of the proud boys have used crowdfunding site gifts and go to raise nearly a quarter million dollars in donations. And it's not just about the money. This merchandise acts as a sort of team jersey that helps these groups recruit new members and form further hatred towards their targets. We analyze the digital footprints of 73 groups across 60 websites, and 225 social media accounts and their use of 54 different online fundraising mechanisms, including 47 payment platforms and five different cryptocurrencies, ultimately finding 191 instances of hate groups using online fundraising services to support their activities. The funding mechanisms including included both primary platforms like Amazon, intermediary platforms, such as Stripe or Shopify crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe, payments facilitators like PayPal, monetized content streaming services, such as YouTube, super chats, and cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin. All of these payment mechanisms were linked to websites or social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, telegram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, gab, picshoot and others. The sheer number of companies I just mentioned, is the first clue to the scale and the scope of the problem.

31:40 Daniel Rogers: We also found that a large fraction of the groups we studied have a tax exempt status with the IRS, a full 100% of anti muslim groups. 75% of anti-immigrant groups, and 70% of anti LGBTQ groups have 501-C-3 or 501-C-4 status. Over 1/3 of the militia groups that we identified, including the oathkeepers, whose leadership was recently indicted on charges related to January 6, have tax exempt status. This status gives them access to a whole spectrum of charity fundraising tools, from Facebook donations to amazon smile, to the point where most of the most common fundraising platform we identified across all of our data was Charity Navigator.

32:30 Daniel Glaser: I think it's important to remember that if you want to be able to use a cryptocurrency in the real economy, to any scale, it at some point doesn't need to be converted into actual fiat currency into dollars. That's the place where the Treasury Department does regulate cryptocurrencies.

42:10 Daniel Glaser: Cryptocurrency exchanges are regarded as money service businesses. They have full customer due diligence requirements. They have full money laundering program requirements, they have reporting requirements. The US Treasury Department just last month, issued a proposed rule relating to unhosted wallets of cryptocurrencies. And that's out for notice and comment. Right now. It addresses the particular issue of, of wallets that are not hosted on a particular exchange. And I think it's an important rule that's out there and I do encourage people to take a look at it, the comment period closes in May, and then hopefully, Treasury will be able to take regulatory action to close that particular vulnerability.

42:46 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): Mr. Glaser, you you, though suggested something new that I'd like to give you a maybe 30 seconds, 42 seconds I have left to elaborate on you said you were taught you were hopeful for sanctions like authorities against domestic actors. You did not to constitutional civil liberties concerns. But give us another 30 seconds on exactly what you mean. And perhaps most importantly, what sort of fourth amendment overlay should accompany such authority? Daniel Glaser: Well, thank you, thank you for the question. The fact is, the Treasury Department really does not have a lot of authority to go after purely domestic groups in the way that it goes after global terrorist organizations that simply doesn't have that authority. You could imagine an authority that does allow for the designation of domestic organizations, it would have to take into account that, the constitutional restrictions. When you look when you read the a lot of the court decisions, there's concerns could be addressed in the statute, there's concerns. A lot of the scrutiny is heightened because sanctions are usually accompanied with acid freezes. But you could imagine sanctions that don't involve asset freezes that involve transaction bounds that involve regulatory type of requirements that you see in Section 311 of the Patriot Act. So there's a variety of ways that both the due process standards could be raised from what we see in the global context.

44:37 Daniel Rogers: The days leading up to the insurrection, the oathkeepers founder Stuart Rhodes appeared on a podcast and solicited charitable donations to the oathkeepers Educational Fund. It can only be presumed that these funds which listeners were notably able to deduct from their federal taxes, went to transporting and lodging members of the group slated to participate in the ensuing riots.

46:06 Rep. French Hill (AZ): In looking at the draft legislation that the majority noticed with this hearing, one bill stuck out to me and I think it's a good follow up for your from your most recent exchange. It seeks to amend title 31 to require the Secretary of the Treasury to establish a program to allow designated employees of financial institutions to access classified information related to terrorism, sedition, and insurrection. Now, over the past three congresses, we've talked about the concept of a fusion center, not unlike we do in monitoring cyber risk and cyber crimes for this terror finance arena. We've never been able to come ashore on it legislatively. So I found that interesting. However, I'm concerned that when you deputize bank employees without any oversight, as to how the information would be protected or if there's really even a need for that.

46:53 Rep. French Hill (AZ): Could you describe how banks share information with law enforcement today and how they provide feedback on how we might change these protocols or if they're if that protocol change is necessary. Daveed Gertenstein-Ross: Thank you ranking member, there are four primary ways that banks share information now. The first is suspicious activity reports or the SAR. Financial institutions have to file these documents with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network or FinCEN. When there's a suspected case of money laundering or fraud, the star is designed to monitor activity and finance related industries that are out of the ordinary are a precursor to illegal activity, or can threaten public safety. Second, there's law enforcement's 314 a power under the Patriot Act, in which obtains potential lead information from financial institutions via FinCEN. Third, law enforcement can use its subpoena power, if a court issues a subpoena pursuant to an investigation, or to an administrative proceeding and forth where there are blocked assets pursuant to OFAC authorities, sanctions or otherwise, banks are required to report block assets back to OFAC. The information sharing in my view is currently quite effective. Treasury in particular has a very strong relationship with the US financial institutions.

48:24 Rep. French Hill (AZ): On 314 in the Patriot Act, is that a place where we could, in a protected appropriate way make a change that relates to this domestic issue? Or is that, in your view, too challenging? Daveed Gertenstein-Ross: No, I think it's a place where you could definitely make a change. The 314-A process allows an investigator to canvass financial institutions for potential lead information that might otherwise never be uncovered. It's designed to allow disparate pieces of information to be identified, centralized and evaluated. So when law enforcement submits a request to Finicen, to get information from financial institutions, it has to submit a written certification that each individual or entity about which the information is sought is engaged in or reasonably suspected of engaging in terrorist activity or money laundering. I think that in some cases 314-A, may already be usable, but I think it's worth looking at the 314-A process to see if in this particular context, when you're looking at domestic violent extremism, as opposed to foreign terrorist organizations, there are some tweaks that would provide ability to get leads in this manner.

1:15:15 Iman Boukadoum: What we submit is that the material support for terrorism statute, as we know, there are two of them. There's one with an international Nexus that is required. And there's one that allows for investigating material support for terrorism, domestic terrorism, in particular, as defined in the patriot act with underlying statutes that allows for any crimes that take place within the United States that have no international nexus. And we believe that that second piece of material support for terrorism statute has been neglected and can be nicely used with the domestic terrorism definition as laid out in the Patriot Act. And we hope that statutory framework will be used to actually go after violent white nationalists and others.

1:50:25 Daniel Rogers: I think there are a number of regulatory fronts that all kind of go to the general problem of disinformation as a whole. And I don't know that we have the time to get into all of them here, but I think they, they certainly fall into three three big categories, with the one most relevant to today's discussion being this idea of platform government and platform liability, that, you know, our data is showing how what a key role, these sorts of platforms play in facilitating the activities of these groups. And the fact that the liability is so nebulous or non existent through things like Section 230 and whatnot, which what we found is that there's there's already policies in place against all of these hate and extremist groups, but they're just simply not enforced. And so updating that kind of platform liability to help drive enforcement I think is one of the key areas that that that we can focus on.

Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations

Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Jul 11, 2021
Thank You Tom Malinowski

President Biden is dropping bombs. Another congressman made suspicious stock market trades before the lockdowns. Ivermectin might be a COVID wonder drug (and this episode might be censored for that sentence). Race based COVID relief programs are getting shut down in court. In this episode, get updates on all those topics and more while Congressional Dish producers are thanked for supporting the show.

Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

Thank you for supporting truly independent media!

Recommended Podcast Episodes

CD232: American Rescue Plan

The Joe Rogan Experience: Bret Weinstein & Dr. Pierre Kory


Additional Resources

Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations

Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Jul 04, 2021
CD234: AWOL Recall: The Rock and Play Sleeper

In 2009, Mattel's Fisher-Price started selling the Rock and Play Sleeper, a recklessly designed baby bed. During the ten years that it was sold to parents around the world, dozens of babies died and thousands were injured due to the design of the Rock and Play Sleeper. In this episode, learn the results of a congressional investigation into how the Rock and Play Sleeper was invented, why Mattel and Fisher-Price refused to recall their their dangerous but profitable product, what the government did - or didn't do - about it, and why we desperately need Congress to change to our product safety laws as soon as possible.

Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

Thank you for supporting truly independent media!

Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD231: Lights Out: What Happened in Texas?

CD224: Social Media Censorship



Additional Resources

Sound Clip Sources

Hearing: House Committee on Oversight and Reform, House Committee on Oversight and Reform, June 7, 2021

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  • Ynon Kreiz
    • CEO of Mattel Inc.
  • Chuck Scothon
    • Senior Vice President and General Manager of Fisher-Price, Global Head of Infant and Preschool at Mattel Inc.

00:01 Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney: In 2019, this committee launched an exhaustive investigation and to how the Rock 'N Play was developed, marketed and later recalled. Our staff conducted interviews and reviewed 1000s of pages of documents. This morning we are going to be releasing this report, which you can get on the core website or on my congressional website. What we found was absolutely shocking. It is a national scandal.

01:37 Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney: When Mattel released the Rock 'N Play in 2009, it was the only product of its kind on the market. pediatrician said advice for years that infants should sleep on a firm flat crib mattress to prevent death or injury. But Rock 'N Play was a padded seat holding infants at a 30 degree angle. Even though this new design conflicted with safety guidelines, our investigation shows that Mattel did not consult with a single pediatrician or conduct a single scientific study to find out if it was safe for babies to sleep at an angle. Internal documents also show that over the decade this product was sold, but Mattel repeatedly ignored urgent warnings from international regulators, pediatricians, and even its own customers that the Rock 'N Play was unsafe.

02:34 Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney: For example, in 2010, a regulator in Australia warned Mattel that using this product as a sleeper "is at odds with widely accepted and promoted best practices." In quote, in 2011, the company was banned from marketing the rockin play as a sleeper in Canada because of safety concerns.

03:13 Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney: Mattel also received a steady drumbeat of reports that infants as young as two months old, had stopped breathing or even died in the rockin play. Mattel employees admitted to the committee that the company knew about these deaths and injuries, but Mattel claimed that its product was not the problem.

04:35 Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney: In fact, Mattel only agreed to recall it after it became clear that the Consumer Reports was about to publish a very damning evidence that dozens of infants died using the rock in play.

05:07 Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney: On Friday, we learned that Mattel is recalling two more inclined infant infant products that the company marketed for sleep. The Rock 'N Glide Soother and Sooth 'N Play Glider after four infants rolled over in the Rock 'N Glide and suffocated. In other words, they died because of the exact same dangerous product design as the infants who died in Rock 'N Play.

25:58 Chuck Scothon: Around our headquarters in Buffalo, New York. After the product launch, Fisher Price regularly examined and analyzed any safety incident that was reported and regularly shares the reports of fatalities and serious incidents with the CPSC for its own analysis. We asked two top doctors to evaluate the safety of the product specifically related to observing the breathing of infants sleeping in an incline in the product. These doctors confirmed the Rock 'N Play Sleeper was safe when used in accordance with the warnings and instructions. In 2018, we had extensive discussions with the CPSC about the rockin play. And as one of the top engineering firms to assess independently whether infants were at risk of rolling over when using the product. We are confident that all of our products are safe when uses intendance and intended in accordance with the warnings and instructions. At the same time, we take into account reports of injuries that are associated with other patterns of use. In light of the risks of accidents and the use of inclined sleepers, the safety restraints were not used. We decided two years ago to recall the rock and play voluntarily is the best way to reduce this risk.

27:14 Chuck Scothon: Recently we considered a similar situation with a 4-in-1 Rocking Glide Soother. Although this is not a sleeping product, the data indicated a risk of accidents if the safety restraints were not used, or children were left unsupervised. Based on this, we decided to recall the glider, which we announced last Friday. We also recall the 2-in-1 Soothe 'N Play Glider, even though there are no reported fatalities associated with this product, because it is similar to the 4-In-1 glider. Importantly, with these two actions, we no longer make any products in either the inclined sleep category, or the glider category and we have no intention of doing so in the future.

28:11 Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney: Mr. Kreiz, the report that the committee released today is based on interviews and internal documents from your company, Mattel, and these internal sources are damning. They show Mattel did not do any independent research. As to the safety to see if rockin play was safe for sleeping before starting to sell it in 2009. They show that Mattel did not consult a single licensed pediatrician to make sure that the product was safe. And they show that rockin play. After it came to market. They ignored Mattel ignored a pediatricians warning and writing and brushed off reports from mothers who had lost their children that babies had stopped breathing and even died from the product. They were worn from foreign countries that had taken it off the market. And the documents show that after the Consumer Product Safety Commission, raise concerns with Mattel in 2018, your company fought back for nearly a year. Even though you knew at least 14 infants had died in your product. 14 babies lost. This is a national scandal. It is breathtakingly irresponsible. It is corporate conduct that cannot be tolerated. And it has to change in the future. Mr. Kreiz, on behalf of Mattel Will you accept responsibility for this tragedy and apologize to the dozens of families whose children died using your product? Ynon Kreiz: Well, let me first say that our hearts go out to every family who suffered the loss. The Rock 'N Play Sleeper was safe when used in accordance with its instructions and safety warnings. The Sleeper was designed and developed following extensive research, medical advice, Safety Analysis, and more than a year of testing and reviews. The product met or exceeded all applicable regulatory standards as recent as 2017. The CPSC proposed to adopt the SDM standard for 30 degree Sleeper as a federal law. After the product launched different independent medical and other expert analysis verified that it was safe when use in accordance with instructions and warnings. Two studies confirmed that the rock and play sleeper was as safe or safer than other slip environment such as cribs, and bassinets. And one of these studies found that the product Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney: Reclaiming my time, The bottom line is 50 children, infants died 50. You did not conduct any studies. You didn't even you didn't even talk to a licensed pediatrician. You didn't even talk to the medical profession. You didn't do anything. But pump it out there and sell it.

35:19 Rep. Michael Cloud (TX): Okay, previously there had been pushback from authorities in Canada, UK and Australia. Do you think aggressively in retrospect, aggressively marketing the Rock 'N Play as a sleeper in the US was the right thing to do? Ynon Kreiz: We consult with all regulators in all jurisdictions and meet or exceed every every standard. In the US The product was was approved. We met rather we met we met all their standards, all applicable standards.

44:35 Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (DC) : Do you think that Mattel took Dr. Benner-Roach's warning seriously enough? Ynon Kreiz: I'm aware of that interaction and I know we took his considered his recommendation and consider those seriously. That said, As my colleague just mentioned, we did not see an issue with what he raised because with the product did meet the bassinet standard. And while we did consider his his observation, we did not agree with them.

45:00 Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (DC) : Mattel's decision not his head Dr. Benner-Roach's warning seriously seems to me to be inexcusable. It also demonstrates why it is important that we repeal section 6B of the Consumer Product Safety Act and stop letting corporations hide behind the law to hide deaths associated with their products from the public. Dr. Benner-Roach knew in 2013 the Rock 'N Play was dangerous. At that time, Mattel also knew that infants had died and Rock 'N Pay. Perhaps if the public knew as well. Dr. Benner-Roach's warning would not have fallen on deaf ears.

51:26 Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) : A July 2020 Consumer Reports found that 96% of American people believe that products that they buy for their home are governed by mandatory safety standards that are set by the government. But, as we know, on this committee for the vast majority of products on the market, that is simply not true. Most products, including the Rock 'N Play are only governed by voluntary standards set by an organization called ASTM. International, the formally the American Society for Testing and Materials.

52:09 Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) : Mr. Scothon, I understand that the Rock and Play and Glide and Sooth glider were all subject to a voluntary standards set by ASTM International, is that right? Chuck Scothon: They were... Yes, they were set by the ASTM standards, as well as the CPSC guidelines where appropriate. Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) : Right. And ASTM is comprised of and again, I hate to use acronyms, but the American Society for Testing Material International, is comprised of a bunch of different groups and individuals, including product manufacturers, like shelves, testing labs, some consumer advocates and others. But what many consumers don't know that, Is that the ASTM committees, manufacturers, like yourself, can influence the voluntary standards that are set for their own products, is that correct? Chuck Scothon: We are involved in those standards. It's a consensus based organization, which takes into account all of the different expertise from all of the different individuals. So that consensus is really designed to ensure that no single company or group can influence Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) : Right but Mattel employees, including the people who helped design the rock and play actually sit on the ASTM committees that design standards foot for infant products, don't they? Chuck Scothon: They are involved in the asdm standard setting process. Correct? Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) : Right. And when they participate in AFC ns work to set safety standards they are doing so as representatives of the company and not as independent individuals. Is that correct? Chuck Scothon: Well, they are representatives of the company, but typically their roles are to facilitate the process to focus on getting the groups together to aggregating and putting all the information together and coming back with consensus points of view.

1:00:04 Chuck Scothon: The incident rate up until approximately February we're looking at we were aware of approximately 14 in 2018. We are aware of 14 incidents through 2018. That is when we filed the 15B report with the CPSC. Throughout the course of those previous years, we were notifying the CPSC upon learning of any incident immediately, right? Rep. Glenn Grothman (WI): How many children have died totally in this toy or whatever, how many total died? Chuck Scothon: Today we are aware of approximately believe it is the numbers currently 97. Although those numbers change, as we are also finding that some of the products that have been attributed to the Rock and Play, we're not Fisher Price or incline sleep. So the data one of the things are in it's why it's making it more difficult is typically when we find into report the data is very inconsistent. It is sometimes inaccurate or incorrect. That is why we investigate things individually. And that is what we did. Rep. Grossman: Sorry, the only give us five minutes here, is 97. Is that for all over the world or just United States? Chuck Scothon: I believe that as a US number. Rep. Glenn Grothman (WI): Okay, so it could be significantly more how many other condoms is marketed. Chuck Scothon: I'd have to get back to it specifically on that. And by the way, I believe that actually is a worldwide number. I apologize, but it was a worldwide number.

1:14:15 Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL): I think that the statement was made Mr. Scothon and you said that essentially the rockin play comported with the bassinet standard, didn't you? Chuck Scothon: That's correct at the time of launch, it was part of the bassinet standard. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL): And I'm looking at I'm looking at the CPSC website right now and the final rule clearly states that the standard limits the allowable angle to 10 degrees incline, so your Rock 'N Play absolutely did not did not comport with the bassinet final rule.

2:16:12 Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Now it's been well established at this point that incline sleep can be harmful even deadly to infants. And today Mr. Scothon, Fisher Price and Mattel are no longer selling any inclined sleeper products. Is that correct? Chuck Scothon: That is correct. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): And you've recalled all inclined sleeper incline sleepers and you've notified parents that they're dangerous Is that correct? Chuck Scothon: The Rock and Play was our inclined sleeper product that was recalled in 2019. And we have done all the outreach to try to bring the product back. Yes. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): You mentioned, I asked about all inclined sleepers and you responded about the Rock 'N Play? Do you have other inclined sleepers on the marketplace today? Chuck Scothon: No, once again, to clarify, there is an inclined sleeper which is something that is considered for long term or overnight sleep. And then there are other products that are intended where a baby may fall asleep. But we suggest that are then move to a hard flat surface. So the rock Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Babies, babies like exhausted moms can fall asleep anywhere because they need sleep. But Mr. Scothon and you're a marketing expert. So I want to ask you a marketing question drawing on your expertise. If you wanted to sell someone a product related to sleep, would you mention things like counting sheep, catching some Z's having Sweet dreams? This sleeping and dreaming are pretty closely tied together and folks minds you can't dream while you're awake. Correct? Chuck Scothon: Yes. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Okay, so I want to ask you about a fisher price product that I found on target's website. It is called the Fisher Price, The Sweet Snug-A-Puppy Dreams Deluxe Bouncer. What a baby sleeping in this fell asleep in this dreams. Deluxe bouncer has been an incline. Chuck Scothon: If a baby fell asleep, yes, they would be at an incline. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Okay, and they would be asleep in this incline situation. It's marketed as dreams Deluxe bouncer. But nowhere in your sales information on your website on target's website or Amazon's website. Does it say that a child should not be allowed to sleep in it? In fact, in response to a question in a on the Mattel's website, it just says it shouldn't be used for prolonged periods of sleep. What is prolonged mean? Chuck Scothon: Well, the way the fact is, we know that babies with the amount of hours that they sleep in a year will occasionally fall asleep wherever they might be. And that's why we recommend in the warning statements, state to not leave them unsupervised to move them and don't use it for prolonged sleep. And it's why we bought... Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Reclaiming my time. How long can my child safely sleep at an incline? Chuck Scothon: Again, if you're I don't have that specific number I you know, what I would say is that if you are when you're a child, Rep. Katie Porter (CA): But spending my time how long can they have sweet snuggle puppy dreams? Why are you marketing this as a product that will give people dreams? If it's not for sleeping? Chuck Scothon: Again, we referenced that as as a product where a baby will sit and play and Susan and I understand your point. But Rep. Katie Porter (CA): You market it, just reclaiming my time, Mr. Scothon, you market it as a product where babies will dream, aka sleep. And yet it is not safe for a baby to sleep in this position. So I have two questions for you. Will you commit to parents, consumers right now to change the name of this product to avoid and remove any mention of dreams or sleep from the name. Chuck Scothon: Back in 2019, we removed any reference to sleep on all those products, I will commit to going back through all of our current offering evaluating everything and to ensure that we are as clear because again, our commitment is to safety. And I will commit to going back through every item to make sure that we're sending the right message. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Okay, last question. Will you commit to including in all future bouncer or similar products like this, clear information for their parents that their children should never be allowed to sleep in these products because right now the only way you can find that is visiting the Fisher Price Q&A. Will you put it on the product and in the description of the product that it is not shown and should never be allowed to sleep? I will, we will, we do put that there. We have also committed to the safe start campaign which is an educational video campaign to help parents understand this just goes on Rep. Katie Porter (CA): It does not say on the target webpage not to allow your baby to sleep on this product. And it's called the Dreams Bouncer. Look at it. Look how cute the snuggle puppy is. I feel like taking a nap right now. Mr. Scothon, please don't market things about dreams or sleep or counting sheep or catching some Z's. If the product isn't safe to sleep in, I'm sure it's a wonderful bouncer. I raised my kids and Fisher Price products. I care about your company. I counted on your company. Please commit to taking action so that other parents can count on their kids getting safely to the teen years like mine have. Thank you very much and I yield back.

2:31:08 Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney: I want to be clear that I hold the federal government to the very same standard. And just this last week I reintroduced 3716 along with Congresswoman Presley with whom I've worked on the Children's Protection Act. Right now, federal agencies are not required to analyze or disclose the impact of regulatory changes on children, and they rarely provide evidence that their policies do no harm to America's youth.

2:32:16 Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney: HR 3716 would require federal agencies to undertake a childhood trauma impact study, before a rule is finalized to ensure the health and well being of all children are prioritized. These analysis would be conducted by review panels with expertise in children's health and education, as well as experience in advocating for the health and welfare of all children. It is absolutely crucial that the actions of industry and government alike are informed by expert analysis when it comes to the health and well being of children before it is too late.

Hearing: Hazardous Products and Consumer Safety, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection, June 20, 2019

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  • Ann Marie Burkle
    • Acting Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Robert Adler
    • Commissioner on the Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Elliot Kaye
    • Commissioner on the Consumer Product Safety Commission

16:45 Robert Adler: I must caution that much of our work has been stymied by several statutory roadblocks. When the agency was established in 1973, we promulgated numerous critical safety rules, dealing with hazards that ranged from flammable children's sleepwear, shattering glass panes and unsafe toys. And we did it under the traditional rulemaking approaches in the Administrative Procedure Act. by my count, the agency wrote 24 safety rules in its first eight years or about three per year. In 1981, however, Congress imposed a set of cumbersome procedures on CPSC that have had the effect of stalling and lengthening our rulemaking efforts. And here's a statistic in the following 38 years since 1981, we've managed to eke out only 10 safety rules under these procedures, and that's about one every three and a half years versus three per year. And we've really written only one safety rule using these procedures in the past 10 years. Let me be blunt. I have little doubt that lives have been lost in injuries incurred because of these delays in our rulemaking, with no particular improvement in the quality of the standards that we write.

18:00 Robert Adler: I'd also must mention the owners information disclosure restrictions under which CPSC must operate. I refer to the provisions of Section 6B. Unlike any other federal Health and Safety Agency when CPSC wants to warn consumers about a particular hazard associated with the company's product, we first have to run our press release past the company to see whether they have any objections to it. And especially in recalls, that means companies can object to our proposed hazard warning, can threaten to sue us unless staff waters down the release.

32:33 Elliot Kaye: As I stated during our house oversight hearing earlier this year, people die because of Section 6B. It is that simple.

59:24 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Don't you agree that the public is better informed when you use the word recall rather than information campaign, they have no idea what an information campaign is, especially when products are sold secondhand on the internet. Ann Marie Burkle: I think that you're absolutely correct. Recall a certain clear than an information campaign. However, our recalls, mostly all of our recalls are voluntary. And so whenever we put out a press release, it has to be the parties have agreed to this press release and the language in it. In the event in the Britax. situation, the decision was made, we need to get this information out, and rather than suing it and be in prolonged litigation, as we have been, in other cases, the Magnus case in particular, where the consumer ends up with no remedy. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): But this lawsuit itself is a warning to consumers, correct. It's a public act. Ann Marie Burkle It can be. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): It's saying this product is unsafe. Ann Marie Burkle: But it isn't clear, it certainly raises the issue, but it isn't clear to the consumer what their remedies, and the lawsuit doesn't provide any remedy to the consumer. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): It eventually can provide remedies, but the lawsuit itself sends a signal when you allege as the CPSC that a product is unsafe. That's much more informative and dramatic to consumers then saying that this company has an information campaign, wouldn't you agree? Ann Marie Burkle: I agree, except for the the concern of the agency has to get unsafe products out of the marketplace. And is it in the magnets case that we get that case was sued and for six and a half years, we had no remedy for the consumer and the product is this in the marketplace to this day. And so the concern with britax or any other product where we've identified an issue with it, how we can get that out of the market quickest and away from the consumer to avoid any additional injuries or incidents is really the goal.

1:02:55 Sen. Ed Markey (MA): Instead of issuing recalls to protect the public, CPSC has increasingly relied on voluntary settlement agreements. And it has not even tracked whether the companies that have entered into these settlement agreements are adhering to them. Instead of loving civil penalties against bad actors, CPSC has been turning a blind eye to their wrongdoing, and instead of finalizing mandatory safety standards CPSC has continued to kick the can down the road allowing products like dangerously inclined infant newborn sleepers to proliferate.

1:03:42 Sen. Ed Markey (MA): Chairman Berkel since 2012, The CPSC has been aware of spontaneous crashes caused by the popular Bob jogging stroller made by Britex. crashes resulting in broken bones, torn ligaments and smashed teeth. After months of investigating the CPSC staff recommended the stroller be recalled. And in 2018 the commissioners voted in support of that recall with you Chairwoman Burkle being the lone dissenter. After the CPSC shifted to a Republican majority, the commission drastically changed his position instead of a recall. It decided on a voluntary settlement agreement with a stroller company, which centered on a one year public safety campaign. We are now almost halfway through the year. What evidence, Madam Chair, do you have that this information campaign has adequately addressed the hazard? Ann Marie Burkle: Sir, if I could, I would just like to correct the record. It wasn't a recall that I voted against it was a lawsuit because the company refused to do a recall and the recalls that we do at CPSC for the most part are voluntary. We reach an agreement with a company to get that product as quickly as we can out of the consumers hands to avoid any additional injuries or deaths.

1:06:15 Elliot Kaye: It is anticipated by Commissioner Adler and I that this education campaign would be a total debacle. I think that that has played out. And I think consumers have been very poorly served by it. And I've seen zero evidence that what has been done to date has been even remotely effective.

1:08:00 Elliot Kaye: But I do think the culture of the agency has changed from in my experience from one that was driven hard to try to take these products off the market, to making sure that industry was not upset with whatever is being done.

Fight Club - The Recall Coordinator's Formula, Montag Beeblebrox, December 28, 2009

Warren G - Regulate (Official Music Video) ft. Nate Dogg, Warren G, December 24, 2009

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Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Jun 27, 2021
Thank You Variants

It's been a long month since the last bonus Thank You episode! In this episode, get an update on the ongoing regime change operation in Belarus and find out why the vaccine intellectual property waiver actually has a chance of becoming a reality. After those updates, Jen responds to a lot of notes from producers. Thanks for supporting the show!

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CD229: Target Belarus

CD233: Long COVID

CDTY: Thank You Alcee


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Hearing: U.S. Policy on Belarus Senate Foreign Relations Committee, June 9, 2021

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  • Julie Fisher: US Ambassador to Belarus
  • Sviatlana Tsikhaouskaya: Want-to-be President of Belarus
  • Jamie Fly: President and CEO of Radio Free Liberty/Radio Liberty

2:45 - Sen. Bob Menendez (NJ) confirms that Senators Rob Portman (OH), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), and Chris Murphy (CT) all traveled to visit the people trying to change the government of Belarus in early June.

14:30 - Julie Fisher confirms that more sanctions are imminent

30:40 - Sen. Rob Portman's (OH) main takeaway from his visit is that Belarus's military partnership with Russia threatens Ukraine

1:35:00 - Julie Fisher confirms that U.S. diplomats access to Belarus will be limited

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Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Jun 20, 2021
CD233: Long COVID

"Long COVID" is the name for the phenomenon experienced by people who have "recovered" from COVID-19 but are still suffering from symptoms months after the virus invaded their bodies. In this episode, listen to highlights from a 7 hour hearing in Congress about Long COVID so that you can recognize the disease and know where to turn for treatment. Even if you didn't catch the rona yourself, Long COVID is far more common that you probably think and is almost certainly going to affect someone you know.

Executive Producer: Michael Constantino

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CD145: The Price of Health Care


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Hearing: THE LONG HAUL: FORGING A PATH THROUGH THE LINGERING EFFECTS OF COVID–19, House Committee on Energy and Commerce, April 28, 2021

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  • Francis Collins, M.D., Ph. D.
    • Director of the National Institutes of Health
  • John T. Brooks, M.D.
    • Chief Medical Officer for COVID-19 Response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Steven Deeks, M.D.
    • Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco
  • Jennifer Possick, M.D.
    • Associate Professor at Yale School of Medicine
    • Director of Post-COVID Recovery Program at the Winchester Center for Lung Disease at Yale-New Haven Hospital
  • Natalie Hakala
    • COVID patient
  • Lisa McCorkell
    • COVID patient
  • Chimere Smith
    • COVID patient

1:01:34 Francis Collins: We've heard troubling stories all of us have people who are still suffering months after they first came down with COVID-19, some of whom initially had very few symptoms or even none at all. And yet today these folks are coping with a long list of persistent problems affecting many different parts of the body, fatigue, brain fog, disturbed sleep, shortness of breath, palpitations, persistent loss of taste and smell, muscle and joint pain, depression and many more

1:02:35 Francis Collins: I would like to speak directly to the patient community. Some of you have been suffering for more than a year with no answers, no treatment options, not even a forecast of what your future may hold. Some of you have even faced skepticism about whether your symptoms are real. I want to assure you that we at NIH hear you and believe you. If you hear nothing else today here that we are working to get answers that will lead to ways to relieve your suffering.

1:03:13 Francis Collins: New data arrived every day. But preliminary reports suggested somewhere between 10 to 30% of people infected with SARS COVID2 to may develop longer term health issues. To get a solid measure of the prevalence, severity and persistence of Long COVID we really need to study 10s of 1000s of patients. These folks should be diverse, not just in terms of the severity of their symptoms and type of treatment received, but in age, sex, race and ethnicity. To do this rapidly, we are launching an unprecedented metacohort. What is that? Well, an important part of this can be built on existing longitudinal community based cohorts are also the electronic health records of large healthcare systems. These resources already include 10s of 1000s of participants who've already contributed years worth of medical data, many of them will by now suffer from long COVID. This approach will enable us to hit the ground running, giving researchers access to existing data that can quickly provide valuable insights on who might be most at risk, how frequently individual symptoms occur, and how long they last.

1:04:24 Francis Collins: Individuals suffering with long COVID including those from patient led collaborative groups will be invited to take part in intensive investigation of different organ systems to understand the biology of those symptoms. Our goal is to identify promising therapies and then test them in these volunteers.

1:05:07 Francis Collins: Finally we need a cohort for children in adolescence. That's because kids can also suffer from long COVID and we need to learn more about how that affects their development.

1:05:35 Francis Collins: As we recruit volunteers, we will ask them to share their health information in real time with mobile health apps and wearable devices.

1:08:09 John Brooks: Although standardized case definitions are still being developed, CDC uses the umbrella term Post COVID conditions to describe health issues that persist for more than four weeks after a person is first infected with SARS-CoV-2 to the virus that causes COVID-19. Based on our studies to date, CDC has distinguished three general types or categories of post COVID conditions, although I want to caution that the names and classifications may change as we learn more. The first called Long COVID involves a range of symptoms that can last for months. The second comprises long term damage to one or more body systems or an organ and the third consists of complications from prolonged treatment or hospitalization.

1:09:45 John Brooks: Among these efforts are prospective studies that will follow cohorts of patients for up to two years to provide information on the proportion of people who develop post COVID conditions and assess risk factors for their development.

1:10:00 John Brooks: CDC is also working with multiple partners to conduct online surveys about long term symptoms and using multiple de-identified electronic health record databases to examine healthcare utilization of patient populations after initial infection.

1:20:21 John Brooks: Not only are there persons who develop post COVID symptoms, who we later through serology or testing recognizes having had COVID. But there's also there also were people who develop these post COVID conditions who have no record of testing, and we can't determine that they had COVID. So we've got to think carefully about what that how to manage that when we're coming up with a definition for what a post COVID condition is.

1:20:55 John Brooks: One of the most important things is to make sure that this condition is recognized. We need to make sure that folks know what they're looking at, as you've heard it's sort of protean. There are all sorts of different ways. Maybe we'll talk about this later. But the symptoms and ways that people present are very varied. And people need to be thinking, could this be post COVID and also taking patients at their word. You know, we've heard many times of patients have been ignored or their symptoms minimized, possibly because they didn't recognize that and COVID previously.

1:24:33 John Brooks: It's common, it could be as common as two out of every three patients. Study we recently published in our flagship journal, the Morbidity and Mortality weekly report suggested two out of three patients made a clinical visit within one to six months after their COVID diagnosis. So that is unprecedented, but people who've recovered from the flu or a cold don't typically make a scheduled visit a month later. It does seem that for some people, that condition gets better but there are definitely a substantial fraction of persons in whom this is going on for months.

1:25:37 Francis Collins: Basically what we did was to think of all of the ways in which we could try to get answers to this condition by studying people, both those who already have self identified as having long COVID, as well as people who just went through the experience of having the acute illness to see what's the frequency with which they ended up with these persistent symptoms. And if you look around sort of what would be the places where you'd find such large scale studies, one would be like we were just talking about a minute ago, with Mr. Guthrie, the idea of these long standing cohort studies, Framingham being another one where you have lots of people who have been followed for a long time, see if you can learn from them who got long COVID. And what might have been a predisposing factor that's part of the medical work. You could also look at people who have been in our treatment trials, because there are 1000s of them that have enrolled in these clinical trials. And they've got a particular treatment applied like a monoclonal antibody, for instance, it would be really interesting to see if that had an effect on how many people ended up with long COVID did you prevent it, if you treated somebody acutely with a monoclonal antibody, and then there are all these patient support groups, and you'll be hearing more for them in the second panel, were highly motivated, already have collected a lot of data themselves as citizen scientists, we want to tap into that experience and that wise advice about how to design and go through the appropriate testing of all this. So you put those all together, and that's a metacohort, where you have different kinds of populations that are all put together in a highly organized way with a shared database and a shared set of common data elements so we can learn as quickly as possible.

1:32:59 John Brooks: Extreme fatigue. I mean fatigue, as you probably heard, so bad, you can't get out of bed, it makes it impossible for you to work and limits your social life, anxiety and depression, lingering, chronic difficulty breathing with either cough or shortness of breath. That loss of smell persists for a very long time, which incidentally is particularly unique to this infection to the best I know.

1:37:10 Francis Collins: So the idea of trying to assemble such a large scale effort from multiple different kinds of populations of patients, is our idea about how to do this quickly and as vigorously and accurately as possible. But it won't work if we can't actually compare across studies and figure out what we're looking at. So part of this is the ability to define what we call common data elements, where the individuals who are going to be enrolled in these trials from various sources have the same data collected using the same formats so that you can actually say, if somebody had shortness of breath, how did you define that? If somebody had some abnormality in a lab test, what were the units of the lab test that everybody will agree so you can do apples to apples comparisons? That's already underway, a part of this metacohort is also to have three core facilities. One of those is a clinical sciences core, which will basically come up with what are the clinical measures that we want to be sure we do accurately on everybody who's available for those to be done. Another is the data sciences core, which will work intensively on these common data elements and how to build a data set that is both preserving the privacy and confidentiality of the participants, because these are people who are human subject participants in a trial, and also making sure that researchers have access to information that they can quickly learn from. And then there's a third core, which is a bio repository where we are going to be obtaining blood samples and other kinds of samples. And we want to be sure those are accurately and safely stored. So they can be utilized for follow up research. All of that has to fold into this. And so I'm glad you asked that question. That is the mechanism by which we aim to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts here even though the parts are pretty impressive. The whole is going to be pretty amazing.

1:41:03 Francis Collins: Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the launch of RADX, Rapid Acceleration and Diagnostics. Another program made possible by the Congress by providing us with some additional funds to be able to build new platforms for technology to detect the presence of that SARS COVID-2 virus, increasingly being able to do those now as point of care instead of having to send your sample off to a central laboratory. And even now doing home testing, which is now just in the last month or so become a reality and that's RADX that developed those platforms.

1:41:30 Francis Collins: It was a pretty amazing experience actually.

1:41:40 Francis Collins: We basically built what we call the shark tank. And we became venture capitalists. And we invited all of those people who had really interesting technology ideas to bring them forward. And the ones that looked most promising, got into the shark tank and got checked out by business people, engineers, various other kinds of technology experts, people who knew about supply chains and manufacturing and all of that to make sure that we put the funds into the ones that were most promising. And right now, today, Congressman, there's about 2 million tests being done today, as a result of RADX that otherwise would not have been. 2 million a day, or 34 different technologies that we put through this innovation funnel. And that has opened up a lot of possibilities for things like getting people back to school where you have testing capacity that we didn't have before.

1:42:32 Francis Collins: What did we learn about that that applies to long COVID? Well, one thing I learned was we can do things at NIH in really novel ways that move very quickly when we're faced with a crisis like COVID-19 pandemic, we're applying that same mentality to this effort on long COVID normally would have taken us more than a year to set up this kind of metacohort. We're doing it in a couple of months because we need to utilizing some of those same mechanisms that you gave us in the 21st Century CARES bill, which has been a critical part of our ability to move swiftly through something called Other Transactions Authority.

1:43:16 Francis Collins: You saw in the President's budget proposal for FY-22, something called ARPA H, which is basically bringing the DARPA attitude to health that also builds on these experiences and will give us, if approved by the Congress, the ability to do even more of these very rapid, very ambitious, yes, high risk, but high reward efforts as we have learned to do in the face of COVID and want to continue to do for other things like Alzheimer's disease, or cancer or diabetes, because there's lots of opportunities there, too.

2:02:53 John Brooks: The number of people seeking care after recovering from COVID is really unprecedented. And it's not just people who had severe COVID it may include people had very mild COVID and in fact, we know there's a number of people who never had symptomatic COVID who then get these long symptoms.

2:03:09 John Brooks: Just historically, the other disease I can think of that may have a little analogy to this is polio. It was a more devastating sequentially that people lived with the rest of their lives. But it was thanks to the enrollment of some early cohorts of these patients followed over the course of their life, that when post polio syndrome later came up in the population, we had the wherewithal to begin to understand it. And it happens with been a condition in many ways, sharing some characteristics of this post COVID condition.

2:16:33 Francis Collins: The virus has been evolving. So one question is, how long will you be immune to the same virus that infected you the first time. And we think that's probably quite a few months. But then are you immune to a variant of that virus that emerges like the one called B117, which now is almost 60% of the isolates we're seeing in the United States after it ran through the UK and then came to us, that degree of immunity will be somewhat lower. The good news here, though, is that, and this may surprise people, the vaccine actually provides you with better broad immunity, then the natural infection, and you don't quite expect that to be the case. Usually, you would think natural infection is going to be the way that revs your immune system to the max and the vaccine is like the second best, it's flipped around the other way in this case, and I think that's because the vaccine really gets your immune system completely awake. Whereas the natural infection might just be in your nose or your respiratory tree and didn't get to the rest of your body. With a vaccine. We think that immunity lasts at least six months. But is it longer than that? We don't know yet because this disease hasn't been around long enough to find that out. And so far, the vaccines, the Pfizer, the Moderna, do seem to be capable of protecting against the variants that are now emerging in the US like this B117.

2:26:09 John Brooks: Anosmia are the loss of smell or change and smell is an often overlooked, but surprisingly common problem among people. This disease really seems to target that and cause it. I can say this, you know, I've been I've had a particular interest in this topic, the reading that I've been doing seems to suggest that the virus isn't necessarily targeting the olfactory nerves, the nerves that transmit smell, but more of the nerves that are sort of around in supporting those nerve cells, and it's the swelling and the inflammation around those cells that seems to be leading to some kind of neurologic injury. I will say the good news is that many people will eventually recover their sense of smell or taste, but there are others in whom this is going to be a permanent change in terms of treatment, smell training, interesting therapy, but it really works. And it's I really want to raise people's awareness around that because the earlier you can begin smell training, the better the chances that you'll recover your sense of smell.

2:43:13 John Brooks: We hold regular webinars and calls for clinicians they can call into these often are attended by 1000s of providers. We use these as an opportunity to raise awareness because I think you made a really critical point that patients feel like their doctors don't recognize their problem or they don't accept that it's possible they have this condition. We use those calls and webinars to raise awareness that this is a real entity. We also then publish papers and put out guidelines that illustrate how to diagnose and begin to pull together what we know about management.

2:52:27 Francis Collins: But it certainly does seem that the risk of developing Long COVID goes up. It's fairly clear that the initial seriousness of the initial illness is somewhat of a predictor. Certainly people are in the hospital have a higher likelihood of long COVID than people who stayed out of the hospital but people who weren't hospitalized can still get it. It's just at a somewhat lower rate.

2:53:07 Francis Collins: Risk factors. older age people higher likelihood, women have a slightly higher chance of developing long COVID than men. BMI, obesity also seems to be a risk for the likelihood of long COVID. Beyond that, we're not seeing a whole lot of things that are predictive. And there must be things we don't know about yet. That would give you a chance to understand who's most vulnerable, to not be able to just get this virus out of there and be completely better, but we don't know the answer is just yet.

3:29:30 Francis Collins: First of all, let me say anxiety and depression is a very common feature of long COVID. But there are instances of actual induction of new psychoses sees individuals who previously were normally functioning who actually fall really into a much more serious psychiatric illness. We assume there's must be some way in which this virus has interfered with the function of the brain maybe by affecting vascular systems or some other means of altering the the way in which the brain normally works. But we have so little information right now about what that actual anatomic mechanism might be. And that's something we have to study intensively.

3:33:13 Francis Collins: When you look at what is the likelihood that somebody who is just diagnosed with COVID-19 is going to go on too long COVID It looks as if it's a bit higher for older people, but on the other hand, they're more young people getting infected. So if you go through the mathematics, you can see why it is that long. COVID seems to be particularly prominent now. And younger people who may not have been very sick at all with the acute infection, some of them had minimal symptoms at all, but now are turning up with this.

3:34:10 Francis Collins: We have 32 million people who've been diagnosed with the acute infection. SARS-COVI-2 to COVID-19. Let's say 10% is right. That means there are 3 million people going to be affected with this are already are and whose long term course is uncertain and may very well be end up being people with chronic illnesses.

3:35:07 John Brooks: It's a great opportunity to remind young people they're not immune to this right? This is really the audience you want to reach. Vaccination is something you should strongly consider. This affects people like you.

3:44:06 John Brooks: Some of the symptoms are the ones you see in adults, as you would expect, particularly pulmonary conditions, persistent shortness of breath, maybe cough, as well as persistent fatigue. There is also some evidence that he experienced what is called a brain fog, but it's probably some issue or probably neurocognitive in nature. And this is important for kids when they're growing and developing that, that we understand what's happening there because we don't want that to impair their ability to learn and grow properly.

4:35:54 Lisa McCorkell: I'm testifying today as a long COVID patient and as a member at the leadership team of the patient led research collaborative, a group of long COVID patients with backgrounds in research, policy and data analysis, who were the first to conduct research on Long COVID. My symptoms began on March 14 2020. Like many of what we call first waivers, I was not afforded a COVID test, because at the time tests were limited to hospitalized patients and those with shortness of breath, cough and fever, the last of which I didn't have. I was told that I had to isolate and within two weeks I'd be recovered. A month later, I was in worse health than in that initial stage. I couldn't walk more than 20 seconds without having trouble breathing, my heart racing and being unable to get out of bed the rest of the day.

4:37:18 Lisa McCorkell: Our ost recent survey asked about 205 symptoms over seven months and received almost 7000 responses. In our recent paper, 92% of respondents were not hospitalized, but still experienced symptoms in nine out of 10 organ systems on average. We found that patients in their seventh month of illness still experienced 14 symptoms on average. Most commonly reported were fatigue, post exertional, malaise and cognitive dysfunction. In fact, 88% experienced cognitive dysfunction and memory loss impacting their ability to work, communicate and drive. We found that this was as likely an 18 to 29 year olds as those over 60. Lesser known symptoms include tremors, reproductive changes, months long fevers and vertigo. Over two thirds require a reduced work schedule or cannot work at all due to their health condition. 86% experienced relapses were exerting themselves physically or mentally can result in a host of symptoms returning.

4:38:14 Lisa McCorkell: Long COVID is complex, debilitating and terrifying. But patients aren't just dealing with their symptoms. They're dealing with barriers to care, financial stability and recovery. Due to the lack of a positive COVID test alone, patients are being denied access to post COVID clinics, referrals to specialists, health insurance coverage, COVID related paid leave, workers comp, disability benefits, workplace accommodations and participation in research. When we know that not everyone had access to COVID testing that PCR tests have false negative rates of 20 to 40%. That antibody tests are more accurate on men and people over 40 and that multiple studies have shown that there's no difference in symptoms between those with the positive test and those without. Why are we preventing people who are dealing with real symptoms from accessing what they need to survive?

4:39:00 Lisa McCorkell: Even with a positive test patients are still being denied benefits or have to wait months until they kick in. Medical bills are piling up. People are being forced to choose between providing for themselves and their family and doing what's best for their body.

4:39:58 Lisa McCorkell: The stimulus checks that you all provided us to get through the pandemic. I do really appreciate them. But every cent of mine was spent on urgent care and doctor's visits where I was repeatedly told that mycotic cardio my inability to exercise and brain fog was caused by anxiety and there was no way that I could have had COVID since I didn't have a positive test.

4:41:37 Jennifer Possick: I hope to share my perspective as a pulmonologist caring for people with post COVID disease including Long COVID. So in Connecticut, the surge initially arrived in March of 2020. And within weeks thereafter, people were reaching out to us about patients who remained profoundly short of breath after their acute illness had passed. My colleagues and I were struck by how difficult it was to tell the difference between people recovering from mild, acute COVID and those who had required ICU level care. Both groups had the physical, cognitive and psychological fallout we would expect from a critical illness or a prolonged intubation. And in addition to being short of breath, they reported a host of other symptoms. I saw a teacher who had recurrent bouts of crushing chest pain, mimicking a heart attack, a young mother, who would have racing heartbeat and dizziness every time she played with her toddler, a local business owner who couldn't remember the names of his long term customers or balance his books, and a home health aide who didn't have the stamina or strength to assist her elderly clients.

4:42:53 Jennifer Possick: We've spent this year learning alongside our patients, about half of whom are never hospitalized. They are mostly working age, previously high functioning. Many were frontline or essential workers. Many were initially disbelieved. Their quality of life has been seriously impacted. Some can't walk to the mailbox or remember a shopping list, much less resume their everyday lives and work.

4:43:16 Jennifer Possick: They've used up their paid sick leave. They've cut back their hours they have left or lost jobs. They have difficulty accessing workman's compensation benefits and FMLA or securing workplace accommodations. Some have even cut back on food, rent or utilities to pay for mounting medical expenses.

4:44:03 Jennifer Possick: Consensus practice supports many forms of rehabilitation services but insurance approval and coverage have been beyond challenging and demand outpaces availability in any case. For patients with ongoing oxygen needs, requests for portable oxygen concentrators can be delayed or even denied complicating physical recovery and mobility.

4:44:27 Jennifer Possick: We are a well resourced program at an academic medical center. But we are swamped by the need in our community. This year, we have seen more patients with post COVID-19 conditions in our clinic alone then we have new cases of asthma and COPD combined. Looking ahead, the magnitude of the challenge is daunting. There are over 31 million survivors of acute COVID-19 in the United States, and we don't know how many people will be affected, what kind of care they will need, or how long, or what kind of care that will entail or how long they'll need it. Research will ultimately help us to understand the origin of the symptoms and to identify effective treatment, but in the meantime, their care cannot wait.

4:49:37 Steven Deeks: First, we don't have a way of measuring this, right? Everyone everyone has got a cohort or a clinic measures it differently. They report stuff differently. As a consequence, the epidemiology is a mess, right? We don't really have a good sense of what's going on we need and this has been said before, a general consensus on how to define the syndrome, how to measure it and study so that we can all basically be saying the same thing.

Deeks we don't know prevanlence Deeks we don't know prevanlen... 270.5 KB

4:50:06 Steven Deeks: We don't really know the prevalence of either the minimally symptomatic stuff or the very symptomatic stuff.

4:50:27 Steven Deeks: Women in almost every cohort, women are more likely to get this than the men. And This to me is probably the strongest hint that we have in terms of the biology, because women in general are more susceptible to many autoimmune diseases and we know why. And so paying attention to that fact why it's more common in women I think is providing very important insights into the mechanism and is directing how we are going about our science to identify therapies.

4:51:09 Steven Deeks: The same time people are getting acute COVID. They're living in a society that's broken. There's lots of social isolation. There's lots of depression, there's lots of people struggling, who did not have COVID. And the way this social economic environment that we're living in, has interacted with this acute infection is likely contributing to what's happening in ways that are very important but I think ultimately going to be hard to untangle and something that has not been discussed.

6:00:36 Jennifer Possick: I don't think that we can broadly say that there is any treatment that is working for all patients. We don't have that answer yet. As Dr. Deeks had suggested, there are things we try empirically. Sometimes they work for some patients other times not, but we're not in a position yet to say that this is the regimen, this is the treatment that works.

Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations

Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Jun 14, 2021
CD232: American Rescue Plan

In March 2021, a year after the official beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fully Democratic Party controlled Congress sent President Joe Biden their version of a COVID relief bill to sign, a bill that was rejected by the entire Republican Party. In this episode, examine the new law in detail to learn how it could help you and to judge whether this new law was something you would have liked your representatives in Congress to support.

Executive Producer: Michael Constantino

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CD213: CARES Act - The Trillions for COVID-19 Law

CD161: Veterans Choice Program

American Rescue Plan Outline

House vote 1

House vote 2

Senate vote


The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021


Subtitle A - Agriculture

Sec. 1001: Food Supply Chain and Agriculture Pandemic Response

  • Appropriates $4 billion for food purchases and grants for food suppliers to protect their workers from COVID

Sec. 1002: Emergency Rural Development Grants For Rural Health Care

  • Appropriates $500 million for "emergency pilot program" grants to impoverished rural communities to help them distribute vaccines with infrastructure and staffing, give them medical supplies, reimburse them for lost revenue. The program has to be in operation by mid-August 2021.

Sec. 1005: Farm Loan Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers

  • Provides "such sums as may be necessary" for the Secretary of Agriculture (Tom Vilsack) to give "socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers" payments covering "up to 120% of the outstanding indebtedness" as of January 1, 2021, which will pay off loans they received from the Farm Service Agency or Commodity Credit Corporation and loans guaranteed by the Department of Agriculture. "Socially disadvantaged farmers" are farmers or ranchers who "have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities."

Subtitle B - Nutrition

Sec. 1101: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Extends food assistance benefits provided by the Coronabus from June 30, 2021 to September 30, 2021 and appropriates an additional $1.15 billion.

Sec. 1103: Additional Funding For Nutrition Assistance Programs

  • Provides $1 billion in food assistance benefits to be split among the territories, which they will have until September 30, 2027 to use.

Sec. 1105: Improvements to WIC Benefits

  • Allows, but does not require, the Secretary of Agriculture to increase the amount of WIC benefits by $35 until July 11, 2021, if requested by the states. Appropriates $490 million.

Sec. 1108: Pandemic EBT Program

  • The Family's First Coronavirus Response Act said that during 2020 and 2021, if a school is closed for more than 5 consecutive days under a public health emergency designation, families of children who are eligible for free or discounted school lunches will be able to get benefits valued at least as much as the school meals, to be distributed via the food stamp program, with money on EBT cards. This changes the dates so that it's valid "in any school year in which there is a public health emergency declaration" or "in a covered summer period following a school session" which will allow the state to continue the benefits for 90 days so that kids can continue to receive the meal credits during the emergency summers.


Subtitle A - Education Matters

Part 1 - Department of Education

Sec. 2001: Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund

  • Appropriates over $122.7 billion, which can be used through September 30, 2023, for grants to the states. 90% of the money has to be given to local education agencies, including charter schools. 20% of the money needs to be used to address learning loss, via summer programs and extended school days and school years. The rest of the money can be spent at the local agencies discretion for activities they're already authorized to use Federal tax money for and to fund measures needed to protect students and staff from COVID. Any money not used must be returned to the Secretary of Education after one year.

Sec. 2002: Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools

  • Appropriates $2.75 billion, which can be used through September 30, 2023, for private schools that "enroll a significant percentage of low-income students and are most impacted by the qualifying emergency."

Sec. 2003: Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

  • Appropriates $39.5 billion, which can be used through September 30, 2023, for colleges and universities.

Part 2 - Miscellaneous

Sec. 2021: National Endowment for the Arts

  • Appropriates $135 million for the National Endowment for the Arts

Sec. 2022: National Endowment for the Humanities

  • Appropriates $135 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities

Sec. 2023: Institute of Museum and Library Services

  • Appropriates $200 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services

Subtitle B - Labor Matters

Sec. 2101: Funding for Department of Labor Worker Protection Activities

  • Appropriates $200 million, with half of that going to OSHA. Only $5 million is required to be spent on "enforcement activities related to COVID-19 at high risk workplaces"

Subtitle C - Human Services and Community Supports

Sec. 2201: Child Care and Development Block Grant Program

  • Appropriates almost $15 billion, which has to be used before September 30, 2021, for the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program, which gives money to states for child care for low income families with children under the age of 13. States are authorized to provide child care funding to health care employees, emergency responders, and "other workers deemed essential" regardless of their income levels during the emergency period.

Sec. 2202: Child Care Stabilization

  • Appropriates almost $24 billion for states to give to child care providers, regardless of any other federal money they have received. The grant will be determined by the child care provider's operating expenses and can be used to pay for employee salaries, benefits, and recruitment; rent or mortages; PPE and training; and mental health support for children or employees.

Subtitle D - Public Health

Sec. 2301: Funding for COVID-19 Vaccine Activities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • Appropriates $7.5 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to plan, prepare for, promote, distribute, administer, monitor, and track COVID-19 vaccines.

Sec. 2302: Funding for Vaccine Confidence Activities

  • Appropriates $1 billion, that does not expire, for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for activities "to strengthen vaccine confidence in the United States" in order to "improve rates of vaccination throughout the United States"

Sec. 2303: Funding for Supply Chain for COVID-19 Vaccines, Therapeutics, and Medical Supplies

  • Appropriates a little over $6 billion, which does not expire, "for necessary expenses with respect to research, development, manufacturing, production, and the purchase of vaccines, therapeutics, and ancillary medical products" to prevent and respond to COVID and "any disease with potential for creating a pandemic."

Sec. 2305: Reduced Cost-Sharing

  • Expands subsidies for health insurance provided by the Affordable Care Act to anyone who has been approved for unemployment insurance in 2021, and their subsidy level will be determined as if they didn't make more than 133% above the poverty level, regardless of actual income. This makes them eligible for the most general subsidy levels, which reduces their out-of-pocket limit by two-thirds and the insurance provider must pay 90% of health care costs.

Subtitle E - Testing

Sec. 2401: Funding for COVID-19 Testing, Contact Tracing, and Mitigation Activities

  • Appropriates $47.8 billion, which does not expire, to "detect, diagnose, trace, and monitor SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 infections". This money must be used to implement a national testing and contract tracing strategy, provide technical assistance to states, "support the development, manufacturing, procurement, distribution, and administration of tests", which includes the supplies needed for those tests, PPE, and "the acquisition, construction, alteration, or renovation of non-federally owned facilities."

Sec. 2402: Funding for Sara-COV-2 Genomic Sequencing and Surveillance

  • Appropriates $1.75 billion for genomic sequencing, analytics, and disease surveillance, which will identify mutations and survey their transmission in our communities. This money can be used to "award grants for the construction, alteration, or renovation of facilities to improve genomic sequencing and surveillance capabilities at the State and local level."

Sec. 2403: Funding for Global Health

  • Appropriates $750 million to combat COVID "and other emerging infectious disease threats globally"

Subtitle F - Public Health Workforce

Sec. 2501: Funding for Public Health Workplace

  • Appropriates $7.66 billion, which does not expire, to fund the creation and expansion of local public health workforces. The money will be granted to states who will then fund the wages and benefits for individuals hired to be contract tracers, community health workers, epidemiologists, laboratory personnel, communications and policy experts who are employed by the government or a non-profit, which can be public or private.

Subtitle G - Public Health Investments

Sec. 2601: Funding for Community Health Centers and Community Care

  • Appropriates $7.6 billion, which does not expire, for grants for community health centers, which can be used for vaccine distribution, testing and contact tracing, to hire health care workers, and for community outreach. This money can be used to reimburse community health centers that they provided for COVID response sine January 31, 2020.

Subtitle H - Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder

Sec. 2701: Funding for Block Grants For Community Mental Health Services

  • Appropriates $1.5 billion, that must be spent by September 30, 2025, for states to give to mental health service providers.

Sec. 2702: Funding For Block Grants For Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse

  • Appropriates $1.5 billion, that must be spent by September 30, 2025, for states to give to substance abuse treatment providers.

Subtitle K - Ratepayer Protection

Sec. 2911: Funding for LIHEAP

  • Appropriates $4.5 billion, that expires on September 30, 2022, for payment for energy expenses of low income families.

Subtitle L - Assistance for Older Americans, Grandfamilies, and Kinship Families

Sec. 2921: Supporting Older Americans and Their Families

  • Appropriates over $1.4 billion for COVID related expenses of senior citizens.


Subtitle A - Defense Production Act of 1950

Sec. 3101: COVID-19 Emergency Medical Supplies Enhancement

  • Appropriates $10 billion, available until September 30, 2025, to use the Defense Production Act for "the purchase, production (including the construction, repair, and retrofitting of government-owned or private facilities as necessary)" for distributing medical supplies and equipment to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Starting on September 30, 2022, the money left over can be used for any activity "necessary to meet critical public health needs of the United States, as determined by the President.

Subtitle B - Housing Provisions

Sec. 3201: Emergency Rental Assistance

  • Appropriates over $21.5 billion (on top of the $25 billion provided by the Coronabus), available until September 30, 2027, for grants to states that will be used to pay rent, utilities and "other expenses related to housing incurred due, directly or indirectly," to COVID for up to 18 months. People who qualify for unemployment benefits, had their income reduced, are low income, or can demonstrate that they are at risk of homelessness. The payments will be made directly to the landlord until the landlord does not agree to accept the payment, in which case the household can receive the money.
  • All eligible grantees (states and territories) must be given at least 40% of their payments by May 11
  • States and territories can use up to 15% of the money for administration
  • Unused money will begin to be returned and redistributed starting on March 31, 2022

Sec. 3202: Emergency Housing Vouchers

  • Appropriates $5 billion, available until September 30, 2030, for emergency housing vouchers (Section 8) to people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or escaping a domestic violence or human trafficking situation.
  • Prohibits families from getting another voucher after their voucher expires starting on September 30, 2023.

Sec. 3205: Homelessness Assistance and Supportive Services Program

  • Appropriates $5 billion, available until September 30, 2025, for "tenant-based rental assistance", development of affordable housing, housing counseling, and individual shelters than may be converted to permanent housing. Eligible people include people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, escaping a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, or veterans and their families if the veteran meets one of the other criteria. These services can be contracted out and the government "shall" enter into contracts "that cover the actual total program costs and administrative overhead"

Sec. 3206: Homeowner Assistance Fund

  • Appropriates over $9.9 billion, available until September 30, 2025, for a new Homeowner Assistance Fund. The fund will make payments "for the purpose of preventing homeowner mortgage delinquencies, defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities... of homeowners experiencing financial hardship after January 21, 2020."
  • Assistance will include payments of mortgages, payments to take a loan out of forbearance, principal reduction, facilitating interest rate reductions, payments for utilities and internet service, insurance, and homeowner association fees.
  • 60% of the money given to states has to be used to help homeowners at or below the median income level for their household size or the median income level for the United States, whichever is greater. The rest of the money has to go to "socially disadvantaged individuals".
  • The states must receive their payments by April 25. If a state does not request payments by that date, that state will become ineligible for payments and the money will be divided among the other states.

Subtitle C - Small Business (SSBCI)

Sec. 3301: State Small Business Credit Initiative

  • Appropriates $10 billion to bring back a program last used after the 2008 global recession to support small businesses recovering from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • $1.5 billion must be spent on businesses owned and controlled by "socially and economically disadvantaged individuals" This includes privately owned businesses owned 50% or more by "socially and economically disadvantaged individuals" Publicly owned businesses with 51% or more of the stock owned by "socially and economically disadvantaged individuals" Institutions where a majority of the board, account holders and the community are "socially and economically disadvantaged individuals". "Socially and economically disadvantaged individuals" are two different legal categories, but the "economically" disadvantaged group comes from the "socially" disadvantaged group. "Socially disadvantaged individuals" are those who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity as a member of a group without regard to their individual qualities.
  • $500 million must be spent on businesses with fewer than 10 employees, which "may" include independent contractors and sole proprietors.

Subtitle D - Public Transportation

Sec. 3401: Federal Transit Administration Grants

  • Appropriates almost $30.4 billion, available until September 30, 2024, for... Over $26 billion: Urbanized area formula grants For capital projects, planning, job access and reverse commute projects and operating costs for public transportation facilities and equipment in cities with fewer than 200,000 people. Over $1.6 billion: Fixed guideway capital investment grants, For rail, ferry, and bus public transportation systems that increase the capacity of the route by at least 10%. Over $417 million: Formula grants for rural areas. For planning for rural areas, public transportation capital costs, public transportation facilities and equipment, joe access and reverse commute projects, and private providers of public transportation services. The grants cover 80% of the net project cost. $50 million: Grants for enhancing the mobility of seniors, "For public transportation projects designed, and carried out to meet the special needs of seniors and individuals with disabilities when public transportation is insufficient, inappropriate, or unavailable."
  • The money is allowed to be used for operating expenses beginning on January 20, 2020, including payroll, operating costs due to lost revenue, purchase of PPE, and the administrative leave of personnel due to service restrictions.
  • Increases the government's share of the costs from 80% to 100%.
  • Prohibits money paying for route planning to be used to privatize a public transportation service.


Sec. 4001: Emergency Federal Employee Leave Fund

  • Appropriates $570 million, available through September 30, 2022, for up to 600 hours of paid leave for full time employees, capped at $2,800 for each bi-weekly paycheck, for employees that have to quarantine, who have COVID, is caring for a family member with COVID, or is getting vaccinated or is sick from getting the vaccination.
  • Eligible employees include executive branch employees, USPS employees, and working people in the DC court system.
  • Eligibility ends on September 30, 2021.

Sec. 4005: Federal Emergency Management Agency Appropriation

Appropriates $50 billion, available until September 30, 2025 for FEMA for "major disaster declarations"

Sec. 4006: Funeral Assistance

For the COVID emergency declared on March 13, 2020 "and for any subsequent major disaster declarations that supercedes such emergency declaration", FEMA funds "shall" be paid for 100% of disaster-related funeral expenses.

Sec. 4007: Emergency Food and Shelter Program Funding

  • Appropriates $400 million, available until September 30, 2025 for FEMA's emergency food and sh


Sec. 5001: Modifications to Paycheck Protection Program

  • Adds non-profit organizations with fewer then 500 employees per location to the eligibility list for forgivable PPP loans. They can be eligible if they receive up to 15% of their money from lobbying activities and that amount was less than $1 million during the tax year that ended prior to February 15, 2020.
  • Adds "internet only periodical publishers" who are "assigned a North American Industry Classification System code of 519130" to be eligible for forgivable PPP loans if they have fewer than 500 employees per physical location.
  • Appropriates an additional $7.25 billion to the PPP program

Sec. 5002: Targeted EIDL Advance

  • Appropriates $15 billion, which does not expire, for the Small Business Administration to make loans to businesses with fewer than 300 employees in low income communities.

Sec. 5003: Support for Restaurants

  • Appropriates $28.6 billion for restaurants, food stands, food trucks, caterers, bars, tasting rooms, including locations inside of airports. Does not include chains that had more than 20 locations on March 13, 2020, or publicly traded companies. $5 billion of that is reserved for businesses that made less than $500,000 in 2019. The maximum amount of each grant is $10 million, and no more than $5 million per physical location. The amount up to those caps of the grants is the amount of the business's pandemic related revenue loss.
  • Valid for expenses from February 15, 2020 through at least December 31, 2021. The Administrator of the Small Business Administration can extend that until no later than March 11, 2023.

Sec. 5005: Shuttered Venue Operators

  • Appropriates an additional $1.25 billion, that doesn't expire, to the Coronabus grant program for live performance venues. Reduces the grant amounts by any amount of PPP money that was received on or after December 27, 2020.


Subtitle A - Transportation and Infrastructure

Sec. 7101: Grants to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation

  • Appropriates almost $1 billion to Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and $730 million to Amtrak's national network, available until September 30, 2024 for coronavirus related expenses.

Sec. 7102: Relief for Airports

  • Appropriates $8 billion, available until September 30, 2024 for airports. No more than $800 million can be used to pay the rent and required minimum payments of airport concessions operators. To qualify for the funding, airports have to retain 90% of the number of employees they had on March 27, 2020 until September 30, 2021, unless granted a waiver due to environmental hardship.

Subtitle B - Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection

Sec. 7202: Payroll Support Program

  • Appropriates $3 billion, available until September 30, 2023 for a new program that pays airplane manufacturers for some payroll expenses if they have "significant operations in, and a majority of its employees" in the United States, if they have laid off at least 10% of their workforce or experienced a 15% or more loss of revenue. Businesses that got money from the CARES Act or PPP program are ineligible.

Subtitle C - Airlines

Sec. 7301: Air Transportation Payroll Support Program Extension

  • Appropriates $14 billion for airlines and $1 billion for contractors conditioned on their agreement not to furlough anyone or reduce pay for workers before September 30, 2021, not buy back their own stock or pay out dividends before September 30, 2022, and limit executive pay.

Subtitle D - Consumer Protection and Commerce Oversight

Sec. 7402: Funding for E-Rate Support for Emergency Educational Connections and Devices

  • Appropriates over $7.1 billion, available through September 30, 2030 to reimburse elementary and high schools and libraries for new telecommunications equipment and services including wi-fi hotspots, modems, routers, and connection devices.


Sec. 8002: Funding Availability for Medical Care and Health Needs

  • Appropriates $14 billion in additional funding, available until September 30, 2023 for the "Veterans Community Care program"

Sec. 8007: Prohibition on Copayments and Cost Sharing for Veterans During Emergency Relation to COVID-19

  • Prohibits the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from charging any co-pay or cost sharing for health care received by a veteran, and any co-pays and cost sharing already charged must be reimbursed, for the period between April 6, 2020 and September 30, 2021. Appropriates an additional $1 billion, available until spent.


Subtitle A - Crisis Support for Unemployed Workers

Part 1 - Extension of CARES Act Unemployment Provisions

Sec. 9011: Extension of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

  • Extends unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021 and extends the total number of eligible weeks from 50 to 79.

Part 3 - Department of Labor Funding for Timely, Accurate, and Equitable Payment

Sec. 9032: Funding for Fraud Prevention, Equitable Access, and Timely Payment to Eligible Workers

  • Appropriates an additional $2 billion, available until fully spent, to the Secretary of Labor to detect and prevent fraud and ensure the timely payment of unemployment benefits.

Part 4 - Other Provisions

Sec. 9042: Suspension of Tax on Portion of Unemployment Compensation

  • For taxpayers whose gross income for "any taxable year beginning in 2020" is less than $150,000 and whose unemployment payments were less than $10,200, that income will not be taxable.

Subtitle F - Preserving Health Benefits for Workers

Sec. 9501: Preserving Health Benefits for Workers

  • People who lose their employer paid health insurance due to being laid off or having their hours reduced can elect to have COBRA (a continuation of their health insurance) paid for by the government, which will provide tax credits to the employer who will pay the premiums. This applies between April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021.

Subtitle G - Promoting Economic Security

Part 1 - 2021 Recovery Rebates to Individuals

Sec. 9601: 2021 Recovery Rebates to Individuals

  • Provides $1,400 per person stimulus checks to people making less than $75,000 per year, with a phase out up to $100,000 per year. No checks are allowed to be issued after December 31, 2021. They check amounts will be determined based on either 2019 or 2020 tax filings, whatever the government has on file. Appropriates over $1.4 billion.

Part 2 - Child Tax Credit

Sec. 9611: Child Tax Credit Improvements for 2021

  • For 2021, for taxpayers living in the United States will get a $3,000 payment for each child ages 6-18 and $3,600 for each child under the age of 6. The payments will be reduced for individuals who make more than $75,000 and couples who make more than $150,000. Payments will be made between July 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021.

Part 3 - Earned Income Tax Credit

Sec. 9621: Strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit for Individuals with No Qualifying Children

  • Doubles the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit for qualified taxpayers for 2021 who don't have children, increasing the maximum credit from $538 to $1,500. To qualify, you have to live in the United States at least half the year and have investment income below $10,000. People who make more than $21,430 as a single person or $27,830 jointly are not eligible.

Part 4 - Dependent Care Assistance

Sec. 9631: Refundability and Enhancement of Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

  • For 2021, eligible taxpayers can get up to 50% of up to $8,000 in childcare costs (capped at $16,000 for multiple children under the age of 12) reimbursed via a refundable tax credit. The credit phases out for families with income higher than $400,000 per year.

Part 5 - Credits for Paid Sick and Family Leave

Sec. 9641: Payroll Credits

  • Provides a 100% refundable tax credit for employers that provide paid sick leave, capped at $511 and 10 days per quarter. Provides a 100% refundable tax credit for employers who provide family leave, capped at $200 per day and $12,000 total.

Sec. 9642: Credit for Sick Leave For Certain Self-Employed Individuals

  • Allows self employed individuals to receive a tax credit for sick day related to COVID-19 from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021, including getting tested, quarantining, illness, and getting the vaccine. The number of days is capped at 10 and its capped at $200 per day.

Sec. 9643: Credit For Family Leave For Certain Self-Employed Individuals

  • Allows self employed individuals to receive a refundable tax credit for family leave for COVID-19 testing, illness, or vaccines. It's capped at 60 days and $200 per day.

Part 6 - Employee Retention Credit

Sec. 9651: Extension of Employee Retention Credit

  • Provides employers who had to partially or fully close during 2021 with a refundable tax credit up to 70% of the wages they pay to their employees capped at $10,000 per employee per quarter.

Part 7 - Premium Tax Credit

Sec. 9661: Improving Affordability by Expanding Premium Assistance for Consumers

  • Increases the amount of money the government will pay towards the health insurance premium of low income individuals. People with incomes at or below 150% of the poverty level ($19,320 for individuals) can get coverage with no monthly premiums. Lifts the cap on the income level of individuals eligible for subsides, so now everyone is eligible and no one will pay more than 8.5% of their income towards health insurance premiums. This is only applicable for 2021 and 2022.

Part 8 - Miscellaneous Provisions

Sec. 9671: Repeal of Election to Allocate Interest, Etc. on Worldwide Basis

  • Repeals a tax benefit for corporations that would have become effective in 2021.

Sec. 9672: Tax Treatment of Targeted EIDL Advances

COVID relief money provided via the Small Business Administration's program for restaurants will not count as gross income for tax purposes.

Sec. 9673: Tax Treatment of Restaurant Revitalization Grants

  • COVID relief money provided via the Small Business Administration's program for small businesses, nonprofits, and venues will not count as gross income for tax purposes.

Sec. 9675: Modification of Treatment of Student Loan Forgiveness

  • Student loan forgiveness amounts will not be included in gross income from 2021 through 2025.

Subtitle H - Pensions

Subtitle I - Child Care for Workers

Sec. 9801: Child Care Assistance

  • Appropriates over $3.5 billion for grants to states and territories for child care assistance.

Subtitle J - Medicaid

Sec. 9811: Mandatory Coverage of COVID-19 Vaccines and Administration and Treatment Under Medicaid

  • From March 11, 2021 until one year after the COVID emergency is declared over, Medicaid must pay for COVID testing, treatment, and vaccines free of out of pocket charges.

Subtitle K - Children's Health Insurance Program

Sec. 9821: Mandatory Coverage of COVID-19 Vaccines and Administration and Treatment Under CHIP

  • From March 11, 2021 until the first day of the quarter after the one year anniversary of the COVID emergency being declared over, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) must cover COVID testing, treatment, and vaccines with no cost sharing requirements. The Federal government will pay 100% of the costs to the states.

Subtitle M - Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds

Sec. 9901: Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds

  • Appropriates $219.8 billion, available through the end of 2024, for states, territories, and tribal governments to "mitigate the fiscal effects stemming from the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)". The money can be spent on "assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality" and "premium pay (up to $13/hour, capped at $25,000) to eligible workers... performing such essential work" and "for the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction of revenue... due to the COVID-19 public health emergency" and "to make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure." The money can NOT be used to offset a reduction in revenue caused by a tax cut or to deposit into pension funds.
  • Appropriates over $130 billion, available through the end of 2024 for metropolitan cities ($45.5 billion), nonentitlement units of local government ($19.5 billin), and counties ($65 billion) to "mitigate the fiscal effects stemming from the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)" for the same purposes with the same conditions placed upon the states (see above).
  • Appropriates $10 billion, available until fully spent, for states, territories, and tribal governments to "carry out critical capital projects directly enabling work, education, and health monitoring, including remote options." Each state will get at least $100 million.
  • Appropriates $2 billion, available until September 30, 2023, for counties and tribal governments for "any governmental purpose other than a lobbying activity."

Subtitle N - Other Provisions

Sec. 9911: Funding For Providers Relating to COVID-19

  • Appropriates $8.5 billion, available until fully spent, for health care providers for "health care related expenses and lost revenues that are attributable to COVID-19. Health care providers must apply and can't double dip for the same expenses that have already been reimbursed or are supposed to be reimbursed some other way (for example, via insurance.)
  • The money can be used for expenses derived from new construction of temporary structures, leasing property, purchasing medical supplies, hiring new workers and their training, and others.


Sec. 10003: Global Response

  • Appropriates over $8.6 billion, available until September 30, 2022, for international health programs "to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus". $3.75 billion will go to the State Department for "the prevention, treatment, and control of HIV/AIDS" in order to mitigate the impact on these programs from impacts of the coronavirus and support recovery from them. The vast majority of this money will be for "a United States contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria" $3.09 billion will go to USAID for COVID-19 relief that "shall include support for international disaster relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction, for health activities, and to meet emergency food security needs." $930 million will be for "activities to address economic and stabilization requirements resulting from" coronavirus. $905 million will go to USAID and "shall include a contribution to a multilateral vaccine development partnership to support epidemic preparedness."

Sec. 10004: Humanitarian Response

  • Appropriates $500 million, available until September 30, 2022, to carry out the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act, but the money can't be used to resettle refugees in the United States.

Sec. 10005: Multilateral Assistance

  • Appropriates $580 billion, available until September 30, 2022, which "shall include support for the priorities and objectives of the United Nations Global Humanitarian Response Plan to COVID-19 through voluntary contributions to international organization and programs administered by such organizations."


Sec. 11001: Indian Health Service

  • Appropriates over $6 billion for the Indian Health Service for COVID-19 related expenses.

Sec. 11002: Bureau of Indian Affairs

  • Appropriates $900 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs for tribal housing improvements, welfare services and water deliveries.

Sec. 11003: Housing Assistance and Supportive Services Programs for Native Americans

  • Appropriates $750 million for housing assistance for native American communities.

Sec. 11005: Bureau of Indian Education

  • Appropriates $850 million for the Bureau of Indian Education, available until fully spent.


Additional Resources

Sound Clip Sources

McConnell: I hope EVERY REPUBLICAN votes against American Rescue Plan, Forbes, YouTube, March 3, 2021

Rep. Kurt Schrader explains his vote against $1.9T coronavirus relief bill, KGW, March 1, 2021

"A Payoff For Pelosi": Kevin McCarthy Slams Spending Items In $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan, Forbes, YouTube, May 1, 2021

Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations

Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

May 27, 2021
Thank You Alcee

Rep. Alcee Hastings: We just lost a good one. As we thank CD producers in this bonus thank you episode, we flashback to our favorite Alcee moment, learn why Bill Gates is a monster, ponder what the dingleberry method could be used for in 2021, hear apologies for various Thank You episode ramblings, and air our first producer voicemail!

Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

Thank you for supporting truly independent media!

Recommended Episodes

CD151: AHCA - The House Version (American Health Care Act)

CD066: A Hunter’s Point of View


Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations

Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

May 03, 2021
CD231: Lights Out: What Happened in Texas?

In mid-February 2021, a not-as-rare-as-it-used-to-be winter storm swept across the country, causing massive power outages in the state of Texas with deadly consequences. In this episode, hear the highlights of the congressional investigation into the causes of the extended power outages. They were foreseeable, and in fact foreseen, and similar power outages can be prevented; the only question is whether they will be.

Executive Producer: Shelley Stracener

Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

Thank you for supporting truly independent media!

Recommended Podcast/YouTube Episodes

100 Days of Biden w/ David Dayen & Jennifer Briney Bad Faith Podcast with Briahna Joy Gray and Virgil Texas. 


Additional Resources

Sound Clip Sources

Hearing: POWER STRUGGLE: EXAMINING THE 2021 TEXAS GRID FAILURE, House Committee on Energy and Commerce: Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, March 24, 2021

Watch on Youtube


  • Sylvester Turner
    • 2015 -: Mayor of Houston, TX
    • 1989 - 2016: Member of the TX House of Representatives
  • Bill Magness
    • President and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of TX (ERCOT)
    • Testified after being given notice that he would be getting fired at the beginning of May
  • Christi Craddick
    • Chairman of the Railroad Commission of TX
  • Michael Shellenberger
    • Founder and President of Environmental Progress
    • Website: "He has helped save nuclear reactors around the world."
  • James Robb
    • President and CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC)
    • The standard setting body for reliability associated with the electric power industry
    • 1988 - 2002: Principal at McKinsey

35:45 Cathy McMorris Rodgers: Recent trends show a transition away from coal and nuclear power plants designed to function as baseload capacity toward variable renewable energy sources with just in time natural gas backup. States like California that rely more on weather dependent renewables experienced energy failures on a regular basis. Indeed, California residents experienced blackouts on an ongoing annual basis as the state fails to manage summer electricity demand and wildfire risk. These events suggest that replacing nuclear plants with variable renewable energy sources could make energy grids less resilient. Policies that drive renewables at the expense of firm baseload put lives at risk.

49:09 Bill Magness: Let me give you a bit of background to explain ERCOT's role in the provision of electric power in Texas. We manage the flow of electric power to more than 26 million Texas customers. That's about 90% of the state's electric load and about 75% of the landmass of Texas, ERCOT does not own power plants. We do not own poles and wires. We are the grid operator, like air traffic control for the grid. We're also the settlement agent for the market. We do the bookkeeping and billing, we don't participate in the financial side of our market. Our number one job is to see that supply and demand on the grid are in balance at all times. As the independent system operator for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects more than 46,500 miles of transmission lines and over 680 generating units. It also performs financial settlement for the competitive wholesale bulk power market and administers retail switching for 8 million premises in the competitive areas in ERCOT. We're a membership based 501 c four nonprofit corporation governed by a board of directors and subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature. Our members include consumers, cooperatives, generators, power marketers, retail electric providers, and best droned electric utilities, transmission and distribution providers and municipally owned electric utilities. ERCOT's not a policymaking body. We implement the policies adopted by the Public Utility Commission and the Texas Legislature and we operate under reliability rules adopted by the North American Electric Reliability corporation or NERC. Generators produce power from a variety of sources in ERCOT such as gas, coal, wind, solar and nuclear. These are private and public entities subject to regulation by various state and federal agencies. Transmission and distribution providers own the wires and transport the power to consumers subject to their own sets of federal and state regulations. 24 hours a day, seven days a week ERCOT monitors the entirety of the system to make sure that when transmission lines go down, we can work around them. We talk to generators instructing them to bring load onto the system or to back it down as needed. We oversee the scheduling of maintenance and more. The work is done with one purpose to maintain the 60 hertz frequency that's needed to ensure the stability of the grid. There's a constant balancing act to manage the supply and demand to ensure a stable frequency. During the week of February 15, the Texas electric market experienced more demand than available supply. At its worst the storm took out 48.6% of the generation available to ERCOT to balance the grid. We always keep reserves, but when you lose nearly half your generation, you're going to have a problem. And supply quickly diminished the frequency of the grid dipped perilously low. Many generators stayed off for days and this led the system unable to serve that high demand. We use the last tool in our toolkit. Planned outages. Calling for load shed to manage the stability of the grid. This crisis required are caught using procedures established for emergencies like this to call on Transmission providers to use control load shedding to balance the system and prevent a devastating blackout for the entire grid. avoiding a complete blackout is critical. Were to occur, the Texas grid could be down for several days or weeks while the damage to the electrical grid was repaired and the power restored in a phased and highly controlled process. The cost of restoration of the system. The economic loss for Texas and the personal costs of the well being of Texas citizens would be unfathomable. as terrible as the consequences of the controlled outages in February were if we had not felt the blackout power could have been out for over 90% of Texans for weeks. The steps we took were difficult, but they had to be taken and when power was able to be fully restored. The Texas electric delivery system immediately returned to its pre emergency conditions.

57:36 Christi Craddick: As the storm sat over Texas wind, solar, coal, nuclear oil and natural gas all experienced challenges. Through numerous conversations with the oil and gas industry and operators, we learned of frozen roadways preventing crews from accessing the fields. But the number one problem we heard reported from operators was a lack of power at their production sites. As outages spread across the state operators were unable to keep their systems functioning as power was cut. Some operators did need to preemptively shut in their wells for safety and well integrity purposes prior to the storm, beginning as early as February 9. Starting on Tuesday, February 16, as it was safe to return to the oilfield, crews arrived to find that their facilities were experiencing electricity outages. The oil fields simply cannot run without power, making electricity the best winterization tool.

59:13 Christi Craddick: For just one moment, I'd like to highlight the overall success of our LDC's our local distribution companies. They are the companies that provide gas directly to residential customers. If you have a gas powered stove, fireplace, furnace heat, you're an LDC customer. As millions of homes lost electricity in Texas, only 2,153 LDC customers experienced service disruption. That means that 99.95% of all customers did not lose gas. 4.6 million households in Texas utilize natural gas in their homes representing about 13 million Texans and these families were able to continue to heat their homes.

1:11:19 Rep. Diana DeGette (CO): ERCOT has stated publicly that the recent extreme weather in Texas, 'caused many generating units across fuel types to trip offline and become unavailable.' Isn't it true that during the extreme weather event, natural gas, wind, coal, solar and even nuclear power were forced offline? Bill Magness: Yes, Chairman, we did see periods of time where each one of those types of generation flipped offline. Rep. Diana DeGette: And as devastating as this was, I guess a lot of people who are surprised because, Mayor, you were in the Texas legislature for more than 25 years. And you said in your written testimony, the magnitude, and also today, that magnitude of damages was foreseeable, and preventable. The Texas grid must be designed with the full appreciation that climate change is real and extreme weather events can occur with throughout the year. Is it your view that Texas ignored these warnings, and missed several opportunities to fortify the grid against the threat of extreme weather? Sylvester Turner: Madam chair? The answer is yes. I was in the legislature when the winter storm occurred in 2011. In fact, I found House Bill 1986. That's specifically what mandated the Public Utility Commission to have ERCOT have a sufficient reserve to prevent blackouts. That was in 2011. Rep. Diana DeGette: Mr. Rob, I understand that NERC has issued a series of recommendations in recent years warning about reliability risk to the Texas grid, including after this same storm that hit Texas in 2011. Now, I know nurse inquiry is ongoing, but based on the information you have, did Texas winterize its power infrastructure to the degree NERC had recommended after the 2011 storm? Jim Robb: Well, the inquiry will affirm this but evidence was just absolutely not. Rep. Diana DeGette: Absolutely not.

1:14:05 Sylvester Turner: I will tell you we're not just relying on generators. We had a number of generators go under in wastewater treatment facilities. When the grid failed, some of those generators didn't kick in. What we are doing now is looking at piloting micro grids that actually tie into the Texas grid. And they are always on, they never turn off. They're on 24 seven. And so we're looking at power utilizing that for our key infrastructure projects with it for city facilities as well as in low income communities in the city.

1:15:03 Jim Robb: But the key to integrating large amounts of renewable resources is the balancing resource that that picks up generation when the renewable resources can't perform because of weather conditions or what have you. And today, the only real resource we have that can do that would either be hydro, as was mentioned earlier, or natural gas. And natural gas of those fuels is the most easily transported to to where it's needed. So gas is the answer to making this transition work.

1:17:36 Michael Shellenberger: I just will also mention I this talk and this idea that there is some inevitability to a transition towards variable renewable energy sources is incorrect. It is not shared by most energy experts. It is a consequence of policy choices. And if we want to have affordable, reliable, resilient electricity sources, we need reliable sources of electricity produced in large, efficient power plants, whether nuclear natural gas or coal.

1:33:06 Jim Robb: The report that we put out in 2011, called for very clear freeze protection on the generating plants and raised the issue as to whether that should extend into the natural gas supply as well. And what I understand Texas did was to put in place legislation that required weatherization, but not to a specific level. And it was not aggressively enforced standard. I think it was spot checked. And, and enforcement against that was relatively modest is my understanding. Why we're... No, I think that's one of the reasons why after the 2018 event, we concluded that we needed to move to a mandatory freeze protection standard for equipment and to have that be monitored and enforced by us.

1:50:24 Michael Shellenberger: If we're going to shut down all of our nuclear plants which are 20% of our electricity, and we better keep our coal plants around, and I say this is somebody that has long advocated the transition from coal to natural gas and nuclear.

1:58:32 Christi Craddick: I believe that transmission pipes are in the ground and that's natural insulation, where we do have some challenges when you had the electric TriCity roll off into fields and across the state than we did our problems with compressors that are electric compressors and or natural gas compressors. Like you can't move stuff in a pipe if you've got an up compressor without electricity. So but the pipes themselves did not freeze and I think that's been a mis communication across the board when you've looked at the press communication

2:04:12 Michael Shellenberger: Civilization depends on reliable electricity. I think everybody agrees with that. But then you need to people need to explain how it is that variable renewable energy sources which are weather dependent, are somehow add up to being reliable and resilient at grid levels they don't, that actually just adds up to less reliability and less resilience, all else being equal.

3:02:55 Rep. Marc Veasey (TX): We also know that many natural gas producers and processors failed to file the necessary paperwork with the electric utility to be listed as critical infrastructure. That meant that when we have rolling blackouts, and when they were initiated, these natural gas companies didn't have the electricity necessary to pull gas from underground, which in turn led to a natural gas shortage of power plants and created a downward spiral of more blackouts. Right now, it's optional for these companies to file this paperwork, but Charlie Garin also from Fort Worth, he has a bill, Commissioner Craddick, that he is going to file that will answer some of these concerns that I just laid out. And I want to ask you, Commissioner Craddick should ease energy producers, who we all know are critical to keep the lights on. So we won't have a repeat of what we saw, should they be required to file this paperwork? And should it be included on the electric utilities critical list? Christi Craddick: I think it's an important piece that frankly, my agency hadn't been communicated from ERCOT that this existed, but to if you look at for these forums, and the second the the time when we finally realize this form existed, because it was based on summertime, not winter time. But when we realized that we've now sent it from our agency sent a letter to every single operator that we regulate, suggesting that they file this form, but youdon't think it should be required.The challenge we still have though, is ERCOT today doesn't prioritize gas fields. It's only gas processing plants for it, so we'd like to encourage ERCOT to remap the system and understand that the the whole system needs to be included not just part because we had operators who told us they would have been happy to file the form had one, they known about it and two, had have been included in the form and they were not.

Hearing: ELECTRIC SERVICE AND EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, March 11, 2021

Watch on Youtube


  • Mark A. Gabriel
    • Administrator, Western Area Power Administration, Department of Energy
  • James B. Robb, North American Electric Reliability Corporation
  • Pat Wood, III, Hunt Energy Network, former Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • Michael D. Shellenberger, Environmental Progress
  • Manu Asthana, PJM Interconnection

11:51 Jim Robb: There are three major trends which are fundamentally transforming the bulk power system and challenging our historic reliability paradigms. First, the system is decarbonizing rapidly and this evolution is altering the operational characteristics of the grid. policies, economics and market designs are resulting in significant retirements of traditional generation, new investment is increasingly focused on developing carbon free generation with variable production profiles. And in this resource mix, natural gas fired generation is becoming ever more critical, both for both energy to serve load and balancing energy to support the integration of these variable resources. Second, the grid is becoming more distributed. The improved economics of solar is a key example. These smaller scale resources have been deployed on both the bulk electric as well as distribution systems and in many cases reside behind the meter. And third, the system is becoming increasingly digitized through smart meters and digital control systems. These investments greatly enhanced the operational awareness and efficiency of grid operators, but at the same time, it heightens our exposure to cybersecurity risk.

12:59 Jim Robb: Our reliability assessments are one important way we evaluate the performance of the grid, identify reliability trends, anticipate challenges, and provide a technical platform for important policy discussion. With growing reliance on variable and just in time resources, we are developing more advanced ways to study energy supply risk. Our assessments consistently have identified three regions of the country, particularly exposed to these dynamics: California, Texas and New England. Last August, a massive heat wave across the west caused an energy supply shortage in California in the early evening, solar energy was ramping down and the grid operator was unable to import power as planned. due to high demand throughout the West, Cal ISO was forced to cut power to approximately 800,000 customers. Among the lessons learned from this event are one the critical need for reliable ramping resources to balance load, and second, the need for improved ways to estimate resource availability when the system is under stress. In New England, cold weather exacerbates its dependence on limited pipeline capacity and a handful of critical fuel assets. An early January coldsnap in 2018, led to natural gas shortages and fuel oil was burned to preserve reliability. Had that coldsnap not abated when it did. The fuel oil inventory would eventually be exhausted, and I assume New England almost certainly would have needed to shed load. It was a classic near miss event. Insufficient and inadequate weatherization of generation in Texas in the middle South states has been a growing concern for us since 2012. After a cold weather event caused loadshedding for 3 million customers in Texas in 2011. We developed a winter preparation guideline to focus industry on best practices and started conducting significant outreach on winter preparedness. Following additional extremes and unplanned load shedding in that region in 2018. We concluded that these events could no longer be treated as rare, and that a mandatory approach was warranted. As a result, nerf began the process of adding mandatory weatherization requirements into our reliability standards.

15:00 Jim Robb: First, more investment in transmission and natural gas infrastructure is required to improve the resilience of the electric grid. Increased utility scale wind and solar will require new transmission to get power to load centers. Next, the regulatory structure and oversight of natural gas supply for the purposes of electric generation needs to be rethought. The natural gas system was not built and operated with electric reliability. First in mind, policy action and legislation will likely be needed to assure reliable fuel supply for electric generation. As the critical balancing resource natural gas is the fuel that keeps the lights on. Third, the electric and natural gas systems must be better prepared for extreme weather conditions which are frankly becoming more routine. Regulatory and market structures need to support this planning and the necessary investment to assure reliability. And finally, investment in energy storage or alternative technologies needs to be supported to have a viable alternative to natural gas for balancing variable resources. A technology which can be deployed cost effectively and at massive scale with adequate duration to deal with supply disruption lasting for days rather than hours is required.

19:13 Mark A. Gabriel: First, every former generation can be disrupted by extreme temperatures. Second, a competitive market can discourage long term capital investment in reliability and resilience measures. And finally, costs move in both directions in competitive markets, and electricity will flow often times at impractical prices.

21:07 Mark A. Gabriel: In conclusion, power and gas markets in the United States are marvelously efficient at driving out inefficient, generating huge units, increasing financial liquidity and expanding the sale of electricity. However, the real question is whether electricity and to a lesser extent natural gas are logical commodities to participate in open markets. Unlike pork bellies and orange juice trading electrons has consequences far greater than the availability of bacon or a morning refreshment.

23:25 Pat Wood: Today I'm CEO of the hunt energy network. We're building storage batteries, small batteries at the distribution level around the state of Texas. I think the role of energy storage in the future is going to be one that will be just nowhere to go but up. As we bring on intermittent resources, understand the members concerns and lived through them as well with intermittent resources or variable resources that we've got to do something to firm those up. Storage is that golden bullet that as a regulator, I didn't have 15-20 years ago, and we were talking through market issues across from California to New England. But storage is just beginning. It's got to scale up but it's a pretty interesting place to be.

46:00 Sen. John Barrasso (WY): You've written and you see, 'California is big bet on renewables and shunning of natural gas and nuclear is directly responsible for the state's blackouts and high electricity prices.' Could you expand upon your comments for the committee? Michael D. Shellenberger: Well, sure, there was a root cause analysis published by the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Energy Commission, and the California grid operator Kaiso, which made a very similar point though, in a more muted fashion. That point was made very dramatically in the midst of the crisis last August in a conference call with reporters, where the grid operator specifically pointed to the closure of San Onofre nuclear power plant, which was about 2200 megawatts of power, as well as the closure of natural gas plants as the really the main factors that resulted in the shortage of energy.

46:49 Sen. John Barrasso (WY): You know, you've written a bit and you said, quote, have some have long pointed to batteries is the way to integrate unreliable renewables onto the grid. However, that batteries you say are simply not up to the task today and you went on to explain indeed for renewables to work batteries would need to be able to store the power for weeks, and perhaps even months. Can you expand upon the comments for the committee? Michael D. Shellenberger: Sure. Well, we have one of the largest battery installations in the world in Escondido, California, and it provides power for 16,000 Californians for about four hours. There's almost 40 million Californians, the cost is prohibitive prohibitively high and in fact, most advocates of renewables now, no longer think that lithium batteries are going to be an important form of storage beyond you know, managing minutes or hours.

52:38 Mark A. Gabriel: I think what we also have to look at and understand is how can we use the existing transmission system differently. For example, there are seven ties between the eastern and western grid that are perfect examples of 1980s technology, which could clearly be upgraded and quite frankly, could be done within a two to four year timeframe. So we'd have some immediate benefit there.

59:47 Mark A. Gabriel: Gotta consider in the United States only 3% of the 90,000 dams have power capabilities to them. And if anything, I think it's a it's a valuable discussion to have to make sure that we are thinking about increasing hydro power, as it is a carbon free resource, and one that can help bolster a grid in times of great stress.

1:02:08 Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM): Coal has become completely unaffordable as a power source. If you look at Lazard or any of the independent analysis of what wholesale costs are for various different generations, and you have solar at three to four cents a kilowatt and wind at three to five cents a kilowatt, and then you have coal at 7 to 16 cents a kilowatt, or nuclear at 13 to 20 cents a kilowatt, you understand what some of the market pressures are here, and why we're being asked for example, to subsidize nuclear power.

1:03:00 Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM): I'd ask what policies you think would be wise to accelerate the deployment of the storage that you mentioned, on the grid both in Texas and nationally? Pat Wood: Well, I think getting a diversity of supply chain, we clearly are dependent on China and a few other countries in East Asia for the current technologies that I think Mr. Shallenberger pointed out correctly, that there are a lot of things other than lithium ions, but those are what are in all the EV's and in certainly all the storage technology. So the cost upstream if there could be some American or at least North American European suppliers to that. The policies in the US make it easy make it as easy to interconnect a battery as we've made it to connect gas plants and windmills. Yeah, we're of course version 1.0 talking with our utilities. We haven't done it before, but it's it's not easy. Learning to get these things done one by one. I think the market policies in most of the organized markets are very friendly to battery so I think we've got that box checked. Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM): So interconnection is really a big... Pat Wood: Interconnection is important.

1:04:40 Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM): Would it have been helpful for Texas to be able to import power either from the east or the west? In this recent episode, because I noticed that El Paso power for example, El Paso didn't have the same rolling blackouts because they were able to pull from the western grid. Pat Wood: And they are directly interconnected with it. We do have some gates in the wall. Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM): Yes, you have DC connections. But if you don't have direct connections? Pat Wood: Correct, that's right. And there actually are proposals to put more of the DC ties in both east and west. To be honest, a few gigawatts wouldn't wouldn't hurt. But it wouldn't have saved us from really what was a 20 gigawatt short shortfall at the... Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM): What was the single largest shortfall from which generation source? If you look at it Pat Wood: Well, our largest supplier on a normal day is gas. So the impact of gas dropping both at the supply level and then at the power plant level. That's that's the interesting thing to figure out is how much was related to the lack of winterization, which we should have learned from the 2011 experience, how much was done from that, and how much actually had to do with the supply system or the upstream issues from the gas wells all the way down to the power plant.

1:23:15 Sen. James Lankford (OK): Natural gas is quick to be able to turn on. But when you're not asked for much for a long period of time, and then suddenly you ask for a lot in a short period of time, especially an extremely cold weather event, then suddenly it's like, you know what, we can't turn it all on that fast that much. Is there a tipping point that you're seeing for providing other fuels that are out there that for instance, were 40, 50, 60% renewables and you've got a very small portfolio of natural gas, and then the wind stops blowing, and it's a cloudy day, and you suddenly don't have those. And he asked natural gas to turn on 50% suddenly, that's just not realistic, because what is upstream is not able to turn on that fast. Is that a realistic conversation? Jim Robb: I think that's that is the conversation that needs to take place. Natural gas plants are the most flexible that we have in the system to accommodate the variability that we see with large amounts of variable resources. And it is a real challenge for the natural gas industry to provide that kind of capacity that quickly. It's not designed to do that. But that's what the electric industry needs. And this is the question that I think policymakers and probably legislators are going to have to tackle which is how do we create a construct for natural gas to be able to serve these very unique needs of the electric system for which it's not designed to do

1:35:40 Sen. Roger Marshall (KS): How could Burke investigate if there was anything nefarious, what does that process look like? And I'm not saying there is. I'm just it just hard for me to imagine just prices going up exponentially. And again, I think of that, you know, my parents on a fixed income, what's happening to their electric bill and their heating bill coming up? Right now was well, how would Burke investigate this? Pat Wood: NERC does have authority over market manipulation, or just markets in general in the interstate markets, of course, interstate natural gas pipeline serve Kansas, Oklahoma and parts of Texas as well. We have an interest state that separate but the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, they were certainly involved with us 20 years ago, when we unpacked the issues in the California crisis. The state attorneys general, as I mentioned, the one in Texas is already investigating this issue. Those three, three camps for CFTC. For the futures foryour experiences, that takes decades to go through,well, no, it doesn't. I mean, you can unpack in this digitized age. We have a lot more capability that in 2021 than we did in 2001 to review trades in this matter or in any matter much more expeditious.

1:37:40 Sen. Angus King (ME): Can you tell us unequivocally that wind turbines did not cause the problem in Texas? Pat Wood: They did not cause the problem, they were honestly the only thing was like gas and coal and everywhere. Sen. Angus King (ME): So every... Pat Wood: Everything could have helped solve it more faster. But you know, when was slow to get back, and so was coal and so was gas.Sen. Angus King (ME): And I want to mention that the wind project that I worked on in Maine has been online in 10 years in Maine. And it's never been down because of the cold that I know of it was a question of they're not weatherizing their entire turbine. So there's nothing intrinsic in the wind power that can't survive cold weather.

1:40:25 Manu Asthana: But I think the the really exciting part of electric vehicles and PJM did a study with the University of Delaware on vehicle to grid. We actually piloted having vehicles provide regulation services off of their batteries. And, you know, people were able to earn $100 a month in the pilot, so I think there's a lot of capability that will come to the grid that hopefully can add resilience through EV's as well.

Republicans LIE, Say Texas Blackouts Caused by Wind Power, David Pakman Show, February 17, 2021

Chris Hayes Debunks GOP, Right-Wing Media Lies About Texas Power Outages | All In | MSNBC, MSNBC, February 16, 2021

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Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Apr 26, 2021
Thank You Matt Gaetz

Rep. Matt Gaetz is accused of sex trafficking. In this episode, we look at the trustworthiness of the allegations before turning our attention to another powerful member of Congress whose selfish actions are far easier to prove. Jen then thanks the wonderful producers who make Congressional Dish possible.

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CLIP OF HOUSE DEBATE ON ARIZONA ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTE CHALLENGE, PART 3: User Clip: Matt Gaetz speaks to joint session on Objection to Arizona Electoral Votes, Joint Session of Congress, January 6, 2021

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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Apr 18, 2021
CD230: Pacific Deterrence Initiative

The 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Coronabus both enacted laws aiming to stop China from advancing their Belt and Road economic system that may soon be able to compete with the "rules based international order", which the United States has been leading the implementation of since the end of WWII. In this episode, learn about the NDAA's most significant changes, including a new U.S. military build up in China's neighborhood: The Pacific Deterrence Initiative.

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Recommended Episodes

CD218: Minerals are the New Oil

CD187: Combating China


National Defense Authorization Act for 2021

Bill Text

Sec. 158: Expansion of Economic Order Quantity Contracting Authority for F-35 Aircraft Program

  • Doubles the amount of money allowed to be spent on longer term contracts from $574 million to over $1 billion


Subtitle D - Industrial Base Matters

Sec. 841: Additional Requirements Pertaining to Printed Circuit Boards

  • Beginning January 1, 2023, the Defense Department will be prohibited from buying printed circuit boards that are either fully or partially manufactured in North Korea, China, Russia, or Iran.
  • The Defense Secretary has the ability to waive these restrictions


Subtitle E - Miscellaneous Authorities and Limitations

Sec. 1052: Expenditure of Funds for Department of Defense Clandestine Activities that Support Operational Preparation of the Environment

  • Authorizes the Secretary of Defense to spend up to $15 million from the Operations and Maintenance account "in any fiscal year for clandestine activities for any purpose the Secretary determines to be proper for preparation of the environment for operations of a confidential nature."
    • Intelligence activities are excluded.
  • This authority can be delegated for expenses up to $250,000.
  • The Defense Secretary has to tell Congress about these expenditures in a report due once per year at the end of the year.

Sec. 1053: Sale or Donation of Excess Department of Defense Personal Property for Law Enforcement Activities

  • Prohibits the military from transferring free bayonets, grenades (but they can still transfer stun and flash bang grenades), weaponized tanks, and weaponized drones to domestic law enforcement.

Sec. 1062: Limitation on Provision of Funds to Institutions of Higher Education Hosting Confucius Institutes

  • Beginning in 2023, Defense Department funding - except for funding given directly to students - can be given to an college or university that hosts a Confucius Institute.
    • "Confucius Institute" is defined as "a cultural institute directly or indirectly funded" by the Chinese government.
  • The Defense Secretary has the ability to waive this prohibition.
  • This was based on a bill co-authored by Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio and Rep. Donna Shalala of Fl

Sec. 1064: Requirements for Use of Federal Law Enforcement Personnel, Active Duty Members of the Armed Forces, and National Guard Personnel in Support of Federal Authorities to Respond to Civil Disturbances

  • Whenever a member of the armed forces, including the National Guard, respond to a civil disturbance, each individual has to display their name and the name of the Federal entity they are representing.
  • This won't apply to individuals who don't wear uniforms when performing their regular duties or who are performing undercover operations.


Subtitle B - Matters Relating to Afghanistan and Pakistan

Sec. 1215: Limitation on Use of Funds to Reduce Deployment to Afghanistan

  • Prohibits troop levels in Afghanistan from being reduced below 2,000 until the Defense Secretary submits a report

Subtitle C - Matters Relating to Syria, Iraq, and Iran

Sec. 1221: Extension and Modification of Authority to Provide Assistance to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

  • Reauthorizes the Department of Defense military assistance for training, equipment, supplies, and support for the Government of Iraq and "other local security forces" for combatting ISIL and security the territory of Iraq until December 31, 2021 but cuts the funding to $322.5 million, down from $645 million. The original funding amount t was over $1.6 billion in 2016.

Sec. 1222: Extension and Modification of Authority to Provide Assistance to Vetted Syrian Groups and Individuals

  • Reauthorizes the Department of Defense assistance for training, equipment, supplies, support, stipends, and facilities for "vetted elements of the Syrian opposition and other appropriately vetted Syrian groups and individuals" until December 31, 2021

Subtitle E - Matters Relating to Europe and NATO

Sec. 1241: Determination and Imposition of Sanctions with Respect to Turkey's Acquisition of the S-400 Air Defense System

  • In response to Turkey's decision to buy an air defense system from Russia on July 12, 2019, the President "shall" impose five or more sanctions on each person who participated in buying that system. The sanctions were required to be implemented by the end of January 2021.
  • The sanctions are allowed to be removed after one year if the S-400 air defense system has been removed from Turkey

Sec. 1246: Report on United States Military Force Posture in Southeastern Europe

  • By the end of 2021, the Secretary of Defense has to submit a classified report with an unclassified summary describing the military postures of Russia and China in southeastern Europe and assess the cost, feasibility, and infrastructure requirements of increasing US Armed Forces in Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, and other locations.

Subtitle F - Matters Relating to the Indo-Pacific Region

Sec. 1251: Pacific Deterrence initiative

  • Requires the Secretary of Defense to create a Pacific Deterrence Initiative to improve the force posture in the Indo-Pacific region, primarily west of the International Date Line
  • The purpose is to...
    • Strengthen the presence of the US Armed Forces in the region
    • Pre-position equipment, weapons, and fuel.
    • Perform exercises, training, and experiments
    • Build the militaries of allies and partners and enhance cooperation with them
  • Authorizes over $2.2 billion

Sec. 1252: Extension and Modification of Prohibition on Commercial Export of Certain Covered Munitions Items to the Hong Kong Police Force

  • Extends the prohibition on export licenses being issued to send weapons to the Hong Kong police force that was enacted on November 27, 2019 until December 31, 2021 and expands the prohibition on exports to include "crime control items".

Sec. 1260: Statement of Policy and Sense of Congress on the Taiwan Relations Act

  • 'The Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances provided by the United States to Taiwan in July 1982 are the foundation for United States-Taiwan relations"
  • "Any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including boycotts and embargoes, is a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States."
  • We will "resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system of the people of Taiwan"
  • It is US policy to continue selling weapons to Taiwan, including weapons for air defense, undersea warfare, intelligence, surveillance, anti-armor, anti-ship, and coastal defense systems.
  • US policy is to perform joint military exercises with Taiwan.

Sec. 1260E: Sense of Congress on the Aggression of the Government of China Along the Border with India and its Growing Territorial Claims

  • Congress says that...
    • "continued military aggression by the Government of China along the border with India is a significant concern"
    • "attempts by the Government of China to advance baseless territorial claims, including those in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and with respect to Bhutan, are destabilizing and inconsistent with international law."

Subtitle G: Sudan Democratic Transition, Accountability, and Fiscal Transparency Act of 2020

Sec. 1263: Statement of Policy

  • It is United States policy to...
    • "support a civilian-led political transition in Sudan that results in a democratic government..."
    • "support the implementation of Sudan's constitutional charter for the transitional period" (which began on August 17, 2019 and is effective for 39 months, which would be November 17, 2022)
    • Part of our strategy is "promoting economic reform, private sector engagement, and inclusive economic development..." and "supporting improved development outcomes, domestic resource mobilization, and catalyzing market-based solutions to improve access to health, education, water and sanitations, and livelihoods..."

Sec. 1264: Support for Democratic Governance, Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Fundamental Freedoms

  • Authorizes the President to "provide assistance" authorized by the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which allows him to use money from the State Department's Economic Support Fund, and development assistance in agriculture, health, education, housing, counter-drug operations, disaster relief, energy, technology, natural resources, and technical assistance for the government and/or central bank.
  • Authorizes $20 million per year in 2021 and 2022

Sec. 1265: Support for Development Programs

  • Authorizes the President to "provide assistance" using the same authorities from Section 1264 and the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act of 2018 (BUILD Act) ,which created the United States International Development Finance Corporation, to "promote economic growth, increase private sector productivity and advance market-based solutions to address development challenges"
  • Authorizes $80 million per year for 2021 and 2022

Sec. 1266: Support for Conflict Mitigation

  • Authorizes the President to "provide assistance" using the same authorities from Section 1264 and money for international military education and training and money for peacekeeping operations to "support civil society and other organizations", for "professional training of security force personnel", and to support provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 and Abyei protocol.
  • Authorizes $20 million per year for 2021 and 2022

Sec. 1267: Support for Accountability for War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, and Genocide in Sudan

  • Authorizes the President to "provide assistance" using the same authorities from Section 1264 to assist investigators to document violations of human rights committed by the former President Omar al-Bashir and the Transitional Military Council since June 30, 1989.
  • Authorizes $10 million per year for 2021 and 2022.

Sec. 1270E: Repeal of Sudan Peace Act and the Comprehensive Peace in Sudan Act

Subtitle H - United States Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2020

Sec. 1273: Security Assistance for Israel

  • The United States will give Israel at least $3.3 billion per year from the Foreign Military Financing Program from 2021 through 2028 (at least $26.4 billion).
    • The amount used to be capped; this law changed it so that is a minimum payment.

Sec. 1275: Rules Governing the Transfer of Precision-Guided Munitions to Israel Above the Annual Restriction

  • Authorizes the President to transfer precision-guided missiles from our reserves to Israel
  • The authority to transfer our missiles to Israel will expire at the beginning of 2024


Subtitle C - Arctic

Sec. 8421: Coast Guard Arctic Prioritization

  • Congress is concerned that "Russia and China have conducted military exercises together in the Arctic, have agreed to connect the Northern Sea Route, claimed by Russia, with China's Maritime Silk Road, and are working together in developing natural gas resources in the Arctic."


Subtitle B - Other Matters

Sec. 9414: Study on Chinese Policies and Influence in the Development of International Standards for Emerging Technologies

  • The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology will conduct a study that can include...
    • How China's role in international standards setting organizations has grown over the last 10 years
    • China's standardization strategy outlined in "Chinese Standard 2035"
    • An examination of whether international standards for technology are being designed to promote Chinese interests outlined in the "Made in China 2025" plan
    • Recommendations on how the United States can "mitigate" China's influence in setting standards and increase the United States public and private sector participation in the standards setting institutions


Subtitle C - Other Matters

Sec. 9723: Accountability for World Bank Loans to China


Sec. 9902: Semiconductor Incentives

  • The Secretary of Commerce has to create a program that provides tax money to "a private entity, a consortium of private entities,, or a consortium of public and private entities..." to incentivize them to invest in creating, assembling, testing, packaging, or researching semiconductors in the United States.
  • The money can not be given to "a foreign entity of concern"
  • Tax money for any individual project is capped at $3 billion, but that limit can be waived with the recommendation of the Defense Secretary, the Director of National Intelligence, and the President.

Sec. 9905: Funding for Development and Adoption of Measurably Secure Semiconductors and Measurably Secure Semiconductors Supply Chains

  • Authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to create a "Multilateral Semiconductors Security Fund"
  • The fund would be used to create "measurably secure semiconductor supply chains"
  • The Secretary of State can use money in the fund to give to foreign governments on the condition that those countries enact restrictions on exports to China.
  • The Secretary of State is encouraged, but not required, to establish transparency requirements for subsidies or other financial benefits given to semiconductors inside or outside the participating countries and "promote harmonized treatment and verification processes for items being exported to a country considered a national security risk by a country participating".

Coronabus Outline

Bill Text



Sec. 526: Prohibits NASA, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), or the National Space Council (NSC) from working with, contracting from, or coordinating "in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company" unless the activities are "specifically authorized" by a law enacted after the Coronabus. This can be waived if NASA, the OSTP, or NSC consults with the FBI and finds that the cooperation would "pose no risk of resulting in the transfer of technology, data, or other information with national security or economic security implications to China or a Chinese-owned company."



Insecure Communications Networks

Sec. 7030: State Department funds must be used to advance the adoption of 5G in countries receiving our tax money and prevent the creation of communications networks, including 5G, promoted by China "and other state-backed enterprises that are subject to undue or extrajudicial control by their country of origin."

East Asia and the Pacific

  • $1.482 billion must be spent implementing the Indo-Pacific Strategy and the Asia Reassurance Initiative of 2018.
  • Requires at least $300 million in additional money to be spent on a new Countering Chinese Influence Fund

Sec. 7043: Funding for China's neighbors...

  • Almost $135 million was appropriated for the government of Burma before the military coup.
  • At least $85 million is appropriated for the government of Cambodia, conditioned on Cambodia "verifiably maintaining the neutrality of Ream Naval Base, other military installations in Cambodia, and dual use facilities such as the Dara Sakor development project. There is no certification required for "democracy, health, education, and environment programs, programs to strengthen the sovereignty of Cambodia, and programs to educate and inform the people of Cambodia of the influence activities of the People's Republic of China in Cambodia."
  • At least $80 million will be given to Laos
  • At least $3 million from the "Democracy Fund" will be given to Hong Kong for "democracy and internet freedom programs for Hong Kong, including legal and other support for democracy activists" as long as none of this money goes to the Chinese government.
  • Prohibits counter-drug money for the Philippines, "except for drug demand reduction, maritime law enforcement, or transnational interdiction."
  • At least $170 million will be given to Vietnam

Europe and Eurasia

  • Requires at least $290 million to be spent on the Countering Russian Influence Fund

Latin America and the Caribbean

Sec. 7045: Requires over $500 million to be available for "assistance" for Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, which can be spent on the Central America Regional Security Initiative. Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras can only get 50% of their allotted funding unless the Secretary of State certifies that the governments are taking actions against corruption, enacting reforms, informing their citizens that it’s dangerous to come to the United States, enhancing border security, and “resolving disputes involving the confiscation of real property of United States entities.” Those three countries are also ineligible for foreign military financing.

The Caribbean

  • Requires at least $74.8 million to be spent on the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative


  • Requires at least $33 million to be spent on "democracy programs" in Venezuela

Bilateral Economic Assistance

  • Adds an additional $700 million to the Economic Support Fund, available until September 30, 2022 for Sudan.


Sec. 7003: Monitoring Mineral Investments Under Belt and Road Initiative of People's Republic of China

  • The Director of National Intelligence, starting in the beginning of 2022 and every year after, will have to conduct a detailed report on China's investments in minerals and if their investments have increased their control over the global supply of those minerals.



Subtitle B - Taiwan Assurance Act of 2020

Sec. 314: Taiwan's Inclusion in International Organizations

  • Congress finds that...
    • "China's attempts to dictate the terms of Taiwan's participation in international organizations has, in many cases, resulted in Taiwan's exclusion from such organizations even when statehood is not a requirement..."
  • Makes it US policy to advocate for Taiwans inclusion in international organizations that do not require statehood, including the United Nations, World Health Assembly, and others.

Subtitle F - The United States Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act

Sec. 352: By the beginning of July, the Secretary of State has to submit a five year strategy to Congress for changing the governing, economic, and security structures of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

  • Economically, the priorities must include:
    • "Supporting market-based solutions to eliminate constraints to inclusive economic growth"
    • "Identifying... a role for relevant United States agencies and United States private sector in supporting efforts to increase private sector investment..."
  • Security priorities must include:
    • "Implementing the Central America Regional Security Initiative"
  • The strategy can be created in partnership with "civil society and the private sector in the United States, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras."
  • The strategy will have to be posed on the State Department's website, but it is allowed to be partially classified.

Sec. 353: By the beginning of July, President Biden has to submit a list of people who will be sanctioned for their actions in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Sanctions will prohibit the targets from traveling to the United States. The authority to impose these sanctions will expire at the beginning of 2024.

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018

Bill Text

Sec. 1251: Authorized the “Indo-Asia-Pacific Stability Initiative” to “increase the presence and capabilities” of the United States Armed Forces in the region by building new infrastructure, “enhance the storage and pre-positioning in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region of equipment of the United States Forces”, and with military training and exercises with allies.

John S. McCain National Defense Authorization for Fiscal Year 2019

Bill Text

Sec. 1252:

  • Amends the NDAA for 2016, which authorized the South China Sea Initiative providing military equipment and training to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, to change the name of the program to the “Indo-Pacific Maritime Security Initiative” and expands the authorization to include the Indian Ocean in addition to the South China Sea and the countries of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
  • Adds India to the list of countries allowed to be paid for expenses, along with Brunei, Singapore, and Taiwan.
  • Extends the expiration date from September 30, 2020 to December 31, 2025.

Sec. 1253:

  • Changes the name of the military build-up authorized in NDAA 2018 from the “Indo-Asia-Pacific Stability Initiative” to the “Indo-Pacific Stability Initiative”.
  • Changes the activities authorized to include an increase in “rotational and forward presence” of the US Armed Forces and adds the prepositioning of “munitions” in addition to equipment.
  • Expands the options for funding by removing the requirement that funding come “only” from a section 1001 transfer authority.
    • Section 1001 transfer authority allows the shifting of up to $4.5 billion.
  • Requires a 5 year plan be submitted to Congress by the Secretary of Defense by March 1, 2019.

Asia Reassurance Initiative Act of 2018 Outline

[Bill Text](

Sec. 2: Findings

  • The "United States-backed international system" is being challenged by:
    • China constructing islands in the South China Sea and challenging US economic interests
    • North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities
    • ISIS
  • "Without strong leadership from the United States, the international system, fundamentally rooted in the rule of law, may wither, to the detriment of the United States, regional, and global interests."


Sec. 101: Policy

  • The United States policy for the region...
    • "Promotes American prosperity and economic interests by advancing economic growth and development of a rules-based Indo-Pacific economic community"

Sec. 102: Diplomatic Strategy

  • We will support...
    • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
    • Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
    • East Asia Summit
  • We want...
    • Freedom of navigation under international law
    • Expansions of security and defense cooperation with allies and partners
    • Denuclearization of North Korea
    • "To develop and grow the economy through private sector partnerships between the United States and Indo-Pacific partners"
    • To pursue trade agreements and "build a network of partners in the Indo-Pacific committed to free markets"


Sec 201: Authorization of Appropriations

  • $1.5 billion per year from 2019 through 2023 ($7.5 billion total)
  • The money can be used for...
    • Foreign military financing
    • Foreign military education and training
    • Counterterrorism partnership programs
    • "To encourage responsible natural resource management in partner countries, which is closely associated with economic growth"
    • Military and Coast Guard training exercises
    • Expanding cooperation with Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka
    • "Multilateral engagements" with Japan, Australia, and India
    • Intelligence
  • The goal is to counter "China's influence to undermine the international system"

Sec. 205: United States-ASEAN Strategic Partnership

  • The goal of our commitment to ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is to "build a strong, stable politically cohesive, economically integrated, and socially responsible community of nations that has common rules, norms, procedures, and standards which are consistent with international law and the principles of a rules-based Indo-Pacific community."

Sec. 209: Commitment to Taiwan

  • To enforce all existing commitments to Taiwan made by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 and the 3 joint communiques and the Six Assurances agreed to by President Reagan in July 1982
  • The United States "should" regularly transfer weapons to Taiwan "that are tailored to meet the existing and likely future threats from the People's Republic of China."


Sec. 301: Findings

  • By 2030, 66% of the global middle class will be living in Asia and 59% of middle class consumption will take place in Asia
  • The United States has free trade agreements in effect with Australia, Singapore, and Korea The member states of ASEAN represent the fifth largest economy in the world

Sec. 302: Indo-Pacific Trade Negotiations, Multilateral Agreements, and Regional Economic Summits

  • Congress supports "full implementation of the World Trade Organization's Trade Facilitation Agreement by Indo-Pacific countries"

Sec. 304: Trade Capacity Building and Trade Facilitation

  • Authorizes "such sums as may be necessary" for the President to produce a trade facilitation strategy that levels the playing field for American companies competing in the Indo-Pacific region.


Sec. 409: Authorization of Appropriations

  • Authorizes $210 million per year from 2019 through 2025 (over $1 billion total) to "promote democracy, strengthen civil society... etc" in the Indo-Pacific region. This money can be used to promote democracy and the "rule of law" inside of China.


Additional Resources

Sound Clip Sources

Hearing: Secretary Blinken: The Biden Administration’s Priorities for U.S. Foreign Policy, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, March 10, 2021

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40:53 Antony Blinken: So on Nord Stream II, a couple of things at the outset, just to be very, very clear, President Biden thinks it's a bad idea. He said so repeatedly, I share his his view. It violates the European Union's own energy security principles. It jeopardizes the economic and strategic situation for Ukraine, for Poland as well. And so he opposes it. We oppose it will continue to do so. I've been on the job, I think, five weeks. The pipeline is 95% complete. It started construction started in 2018. So I wish we didn't find ourselves in a situation with a pipeline that's virtually complete.

1:06:17 Antony Blinken: We have to deal with the drivers of migration, to your point. And I think there is real opportunity there to do that. When President Biden was Vice President, as you may remember, he led an effort, very successful effort, a bipartisan effort with Congress to secure significantly more resources to help Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador deal with some of these drivers, whether it came to security, whether it came to corruption, whether it came to economic opportunity, and we did this in a way that was simply not simply throwing money at the problem, but demanding concrete reforms from these countries, that actually materially improved the situation for people there and took away some of the incentives for them to come to the United States. We now have a proposal with additional resources over four years to do that, and to do that in a, I think, potentially effective way.

1:10:35 Antony Blinken: First we have in President Biden, as you know, someone who believes strongly in NATO, in the Alliance, the most successful alliance in history and something as he see that he sees as the glue that joins us to to Europe and so this is something as you know, he spent a lot of time on himself in the past and he's doing so now as well.

1:12:37 Antony Blinken: When we see democracy being challenged by China or by Russia, one of the things that they're trying to do constantly, is not just to divide us from other democracies, but of course, to divide us from ourselves, and in particular, to try to make the case that the system that we all believe in and are dedicating our lives to professionally doesn't work and that their systems are better.

1:13:09 Antony Blinken: Demonstrate together, that democracy actually delivers for our people and for other democracies. That is the single best answer and response to this effort by autocratic countries around the world to try to make the case that democracy doesn't deliver an autocracy does. So I hope we can work on that together because that's the path to success.

1:13:43 Rep. Joe Wilson (SC): The International Criminal Court has taken actions leading to the unjustified prosecution of American Israeli nationals despite neither country being a member of the court. Most recently, the ICC issued a ruling that had jurisdiction to try Israelis for alleged war crimes in Palestine. I appreciate your statement opposing the recent moves by the ICC. What are the steps the State Department are taking to counter these recent actions? And how will you work to prevent ICC prosecutions of Americans or Israelis?Antony Blinken: Thank you for the question. I appreciate it. We of course share the goal, the broad goal of accountability for international atrocity crimes. That's not the issue. In the case that you raise, as well as the attempt to assert jurisdiction over American troops in Afghanistan, we have strongly opposed those assertions of jurisdiction. It's been our view, it remains our view that jurisdiction is reserved when a state consents to it or if there's a referral by the United Nations Security Council. Neither is true in the case of of Israel and the Palestinian matter that you just mentioned, or is it true in the case of Afghanistan, we have the capacity ourselves to provide accountability when those issues arise. And so we will continue to make clear our opposition, I think the question for us, and it's an appropriate one is how can we most effectively do that and that's something that we're looking at right now.

1:15:37 Rep. Joe Wilson (SC): My youngest son served in Afghanistan. So identify as a family member of the threats of ICC what they could mean to the American people.

1:16:30 Antony Blinken: We applaud the steps that have been taken toward normalization with Israel by a number of countries including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco. These are very important and we want to build on them.

1:16:50 Rep. Joe Wilson (SC): But unfortunately then we go to Nordstrom, too. And that is a Do you agree that Nord Stream II pipeline is a Russian malign influence project, if completed, that would threaten European and US security? Antony Blinken: Yes, I think as we've we were discussing a little bit earlier, we we oppose the president opposes Nordstrom, who has been clear about this for some time. So have I, and unfortunately, the pipeline is, you know, is 95% complete. But we are making clear that we, we stand against its completion. We issued an initial report and sanctioned the the leading pipeline, ship, and we continue to review other possibilities for sanctions going forward.Rep. Joe Wilson (SC): And I appreciate you actually referenced the threat to Poland. What about threat is already on with the aggression in Ukraine.Antony Blinken: There are two and this is something that I worked on a lot when I was last in, in the Obama administration. We strongly stand against Russia's attempted annexation of Crimea, we stand strongly against its aggression in the Donbass in eastern Ukraine, and we are strongly in support of Ukraine, we intend to strengthen that support, whether its security, economic, or its efforts to strengthen its own democracy, which are vitally important because one of the challenges as you know, for Ukraine is it has to face aggression from the outside from from Russia, but it also has to deal on the inside with its own challenges, including the problem of corruption. We're determined to work on all of that.Rep. Joe Wilson (SC): Another alternative would be as Azerbaijan to Bulgaria, the Black Sea with pipelines that I urge you to make every effort on that. I yield back.

2:54:30 Antony Blinken: First when it comes to the the Houthis, just to be very clear, we we see them as a bad actor that has tried to overrun Yemen, interrupted a peace, effort and led by the United Nations, committed acts of aggression against Saudi Arabia, as well as atrocities of one kind or another, in Yemen itself, and of course, have helped create an environment where we have the worst humanitarian crisis in the world right now. And that's precisely why we took the action we did in terms of lifting the designation on the entity itself. We continue to have designations against individual who the leaders, including some that we've imposed recently, but we wanted to make sure that nothing that the United States was doing, made the provision of humanitarian assistance to Yemen even more difficult than it already is. And it was our judgment, that was those designations, that designation of the group was having that effect, but we stand strongly for the proposition that we have to deal with the Houthis and also try to advance current efforts to end the war.

Hearing: The State of Democracy Around the World, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, March 10, 2021

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  • Madeleine K. Albright, former Secretary of State
  • Paula J. Dobriansky, former Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs
  • Peter Biar Ajak, National Endowment for Democracy, all of Washington, D.C.; Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, Burma Campaign UK, Geneva, Switzerland
  • Nathan Law, former Hong Kong Legislative Council Member, London, United Kingdom.

35:54 Ambassador Paula J Dobriansky: Venezuela is a flashpoint for Chinese and Russian investment and malign influence. both nations have invested billions into Venezuela taking advantage of its economic and political weakness, its vast petroleum resources and their close relationships with a corrupt Maduro regime. Russian arms manufacturers sold $4 billion worth of weapons to Venezuela over the last 10 years, and China has invested some 67 billion in Venezuela since 2007. These instruments have propped up an illegitimate government and have undermined prospects for democracy.

37:07 Ambassador Paula J Dobriansky: Russia and China have expanded investments in Africa as well. In 2003, annual Chinese direct investment in Africa was just 75 million, but by 2009, it reached 2.7 billion. Through its One Belt One Road Initiative. China is offering fragile democracies in Africa, new rail lines, highways and other infrastructure projects. African nations are finding that these projects have left them with massive debt and a lack of control. Russia is also increasing its investments in Africa to especially its military presence. It's striving to create a Red Sea naval logistics facility in Sudan.

40:49 Madeleine Albright: And I do think that there's no question that China is our biggest problem, and that they are out there, hustling in every single way. And I have made very clear that with the Belt and Road policies that they are undertaking, the Chinese must be getting very fat because the belt keeps getting larger and larger. And some of it does have to do with the fact that we have been absent and they are filling a vacuum and so we need to make clear that we need to be back and really do need to make clear in so many ways that we are a leader in restoring and building democracy in other countries.

1:13:46 Sen. Chris Coons (DE): Senator Cornyn and I have a bipartisan bill about strengthening civics education within the United States. In recent surveys, there's as many young Americans who support and believe in socialism as believe in capitalism. There's profound doubts about democracy, particularly after the events of January 6th, and the disinformation, about the value and legitimacy of free and open societies that we've lived through. It's my hope that on a bipartisan basis, we can move a renewed investment in civics education to strengthen our own democracies, you've both spoken to.

1:48:30 Peter Biar Ajak: The United States need to send a clear message to here, there is repression of our people will no longer be tolerated, nor any further delay of elections. We should sanction perpetrators of gross human rights violations like which, while urging the African Union to urgently set up the hybrid court on South Sudan to end impunity. If Kiran doesn't hold the election on time, he's already illegitimate regime will have expired since he was never elected by our people. This will necessitate a new political paradigm to ensure a successful transition to democracy. Despite severe depression, our people made it clear in the recently concluded national dialogue that Kiran Machar must exit the political scene. I hope the United States, this committee will stand with our people.

Hearing: National Security Challenges and U.S. Military Activities in the Indo-Pacific, House Committee on Armed Services, March 10, 2021

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  • David F. Helvey, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Affairs, Department of Defense
  • Admiral Philip S. Davidson, U.S. Navy, Commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command
  • General Robert B. Abrams, U.S. Army, Commander, United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command/U.S. Forces Korea

31:54 Admiral Philip S. Davidson: The threat as it's developed in the western Pacific has moved in a way in which we need to have better integrated air and missile defense capability on Guam in order to defend it. What you have in place right now is fad radar, which only has 120 degree wide look at threats in the region and in fact, it's oriented on North Korea. And it's meant to defend against rogue shot of intermediate range from North Korea. We supplement that with an Aegis destroyer. As we look at the expanse of Chinese weapon systems, and their employment of air and maritime forces in the region. We need a 360 degree defense now of Guam, and must be able to meet the ballistic missile threat that can come from PRC land as well as PRC ships. But it also should meet the 360 degree threat around Guam that comes from circumnavigations of Guam by PRC naval assets, including submarines that could shoot land attack cruise missiles, for example. As well as bomber approaches, and its ability to shoot land attack cruise missiles as well. We have to be able to defend against all those threats. Aegis Ashore is a proven technology that you have today at sea and you have it ashore in Romania and Poland to help in the defense of Europe. That system would enable all the capabilities that you have today and begin to meet the threats in the future. As China develops hypersonic weapons during the course of this decade., clearly there's going to be a need to have space sensing associated with that. You're still gonna have to have an interceptor to meet the threat. In my view, that's going to rectify that by bridging Aegis Ashore with our space capability that is to come.

49:14 David F. Helvey: And the reality is that we're not asking nations to choose between the United States or China. In fact, we welcome and encourage all nations across the Indo Pacific to maintain peaceful, productive relations with all of their neighbors, China included. Framing the strategic competition that we find ourselves in with China, as a choice between us or China, or as a choice between nations is really a false choice. The choice that our allies and our partners and everyone in the region faces is between supporting the existing international order, the existing system that's free and open. It's the system that we helped to create that we've supported, and that we believe has benefited everybody in the region, including in particular, including China. And the alternative now that China is presenting, which is a closed system in a more authoritarian governance model. So it's a competition between systems, that's a choice between systems. Do you want to choose a free and open system? Or do you want to choose a closed and authoritarian one? And so we're only asking countries to do their part to uphold the international laws, rules and norms, which support their interests, which they've benefited from, and helped to provide for security and prosperity for all of us. And so that's that's the ask that we've got our allies and our partners.

57:27 Rep. Joe Courtney (CT): Admiral Davidson on page 35 of your testimony you set forth China's sort of brazen, repeated violations of the Law of the Sea treaty. And mentioned the fact that at South China Sea geographic features were renamed with, I guess, Chinese names. Can you flesh that out a little bit what that means in terms of, you know, maritime territorial claims, and the impact in terms of freedom of navigation? Admiral Philip S. Davidson: Well, the Chinese are trying to basically impose Chinese national law on the international regime that provides for the freedom of navigation and freedom of the seas. We've spoken quite a bit about the Chinese use of lawfare. This is, one of the methodologies in which they do it. It's not just the naming, or renaming of features that have had long standing names in the region. It's the redefinition of what they might be. Because, rocks, is slits, islands all have very specific navigational rights associated with them, as well as their continued militarization of the features that they built out early in the last decade. Their continued militarization is to frankly, deter not only the United States, but truly cow, all of our allies and partners in the region, and certainly the South China Sea claimants from their absolute rights to operate and those rights that they enjoy for economic resource extraction of freedom of the seas, freedom of the airways, etc.Rep. Joe Courtney (CT): Well, thank you for that answer. Because, again, as you point out, this isn't just about sort of names. It's also about sort of territorial claims and what that means to the rules based system that has been so successful over the last 75 years.

1:29:46 Rep. Scott DesJarlais (IA): Admiral Davidson What do you consider the most likely potential target of Chinese aggression or military action in the next five to 10 years? Admiral Philip S. Davidson: Given what they've said both publicly and over time, and certainly during the tenure of Chairman Xi Jinping. I would say Taiwan is the first.

Hearing: United States Indo-Pacific Command, Senate Committee on Armed Services, March 9, 2021

4:23 Sen. Jack Reed (RI): At his confirmation hearing Secretary Austin accurately described china as the pacing threat for the department of defense under president Xi Jinping china has moved away from greater integration with the liberal world order and instead created a style of authoritarian capitalism that it now seeks to explore throughout the region and the world additionally China seeks to co op international institutions or create parallel organization to support its strategic interest.

8:23 Sen. Roger Wicker (MS): China invested in military capabilities many americans naively assumed that China's entry into the WTO and the global integration of its economy would somehow make the Chinese communist party more friendly and open to the west. The result now is america's military advantage and the credibility of our deterrent is eroding that is why the 2021 NDAA was the toughest bill on china ever with several national security committees involved and that is specifically why this committee put the Pacific Deterrence Initiative or PDI into last year's NDAA to stop aggression from the Chinese Communist Party.

18:50 Admiral Philip S. Davidson: I think the Pacific deterrence initiative funded in FY21 for about $2.2 billion was a good first start. I recognize that the committee has put a cap of $5.5 billion on the fund going forward.

22:45 Admiral Philip S. Davidson: i'm quite encouraged by the potential power of an organization like the quad my brain in my view India Japan Australia in the United States that's a diamond of democracies that could bring so much more not only to the region but to the globe not not in terms of security alone, but in terms of how we might approach you know the global economy, critical technologies like telecommunications and 5G, collaboration on the international order, just much to be done diplomatically and economically and I have great hope that our ministerial level meetings with the clot as it's known and returned we'll build into something much bigger for the sake of the globe.

24:24 Sen. Roger Wicker (MS): With regard to the projected 2025. It shows that at that point, China will have three aircraft carriers to our one in the region. Is that correct? Admiral Philip S. Davidson: Yes, sir. Sen. Roger Wicker (MS): And then with regard to amphibious assault ships, it's projected in 2025, that we'll have six to our two. Admiral Philip S. Davidson:* Yes, sir. **Sen. Roger Wicker (MS): And then with regard to modern multi warfare, combatant ships 50 for two hours, six, is that correct? Admiral Philip S. Davidson:* Yes, sir. **Sen. Roger Wicker (MS): And what is the significance of that last figure Admiral? Admiral Philip S. Davidson: Really, the three charts work together, Senator, one to show the change in capability and capacity that the Chinese have undertaken during the course of the 21st century. And the relatively static nature of our own forward positioned forces. As I described, our effort to do a deterrence to sustain a deterrence posture and the reason it's so important on our ability to respond in time and without question, you know, is this an old novel in the 70s is to say, the importance of us presence forward is incredibly important, perfect speed is being there. And it's to show that if we don't make changes in our posture forward, that that it will demonstrate that the Chinese have much greater capacity than we have.

26:42 Admiral Philip S. Davidson: But the important factor here is time. It takes almost three weeks to respond from the west coast of the United States and 17 days to respond from Alaska to get all the way to the first island chain and to conduct operations within the second islands.

28:26 Admiral Philip S. Davidson: Certainly advocating for Aegis Ashore and Guam the mission partner environment as well as the Pentek. That the Pacific Range Improvements that I seek for our structure in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and so forth.

35:43 Sen. Deb Fisher (NE): Last year, the strategic forces subcommittee authorized and additional $77 million to begin fielding a persistent air and missile defense system on Guam. Unfortunately, this funding was removed in conference and replaced with language requiring the department to study the issue. Can you walk us through the need for this system?

38:24 Admiral Philip S. Davidson: In partnership with the Missile Defense Agency we believe that the aegis assures system as is being put to sea right now and has been constructed previously in Romania and Poland delivers the kind of capabilities that would meet the threat that's excellent here by mid decade and we'll help us pace the threat into the future.

1:03:35 Admiral Philip S. Davidson: I worry that they're accelerating their ambitions to supplant the United States and our leadership role in the rules based international order which they've long said that they want to do that by 2050, I'm worried about them moving that target closer. Taiwan is clearly one of their ambitions before then and i think the threat is manifest during this decade in fact in the next six years.

1:05:58 Sen. Maizie Hirono (HI): I noticed that you significantly increased the requested amount from last year's PDI report to this year's report to strengthen our allies and partners over the next five years in the region from over $300 million to about $2.8 billion, can you discuss your rationale for the significant increase and what that additional funding is intended to do or where will it go?Admiral Philip S. Davidson: Well you hope you highlighted the key aspects ma'am it's to enhance and make improvements in our joint exercise program and that's principally because not only the united states but our key allies and partners Japan, Korea, Australia is just three examples are buying important capabilities that match ours integrated air missile defense for example fifth generation fighters like the F35 they're being actually delivered in the theater we've got to advance our exercise capabilities or excuse me our exercise program in a way that allows us to exercise those capabilities deliberately.

1:34:07 Sen. Tim Scott (SC): My first question is about Taiwan. I think you agree that it we've got to prevent Communist China from Controlling taiwan is a strategic necessity for the united states and the loss would devastate our ability and and the ability of japan to counter china's aggression does you agree with that and rightAdmiral Philip S. Davidson: As a combatant commander out there in the Indo-Pacific I have an obligation to you know support the Taiwan Relations Act and and in a geostrategic sense i think it's critically important to the united states global status, yes.

1:44:04 Admiral Philip S. Davidson: The Aegis Ashore is a system that's in fact already been developed we we have built and are employing one actually already in Romania and there's one building and imminently operational in Poland as well and it's to help nato with the defense of Europe it is essentially a radar the command and control the information technology communications conductivity and the interceptors missiles that are capable of defeating ballistic missile cruise missile threats in and around today you know an aegis ashore system on Guam fixed site on Guam would enable 360 degree defense of Guam from any military attacks from china whether they come by sea by air or by ballistic missile in the future it is technology that is available today we've built it ashore we've built it at sea and it's our you know it's our number one priority for funding in Guam.

2:13:13 Sen. Mark Kelly (NJ): You know a couple of questions here about command and control, communications. And we rely heavily on satellites to do that. And in in January of 2007, China conducted an anti anti satellite test against one of their own non operational weather satellites, with a kinetic Kill vehicle. And it's been reported that in the year since China has an operational capability that can attack satellites in low Earth orbit and that they're developing the capability that goes all the way out to geosynchronous orbit. So how does this affect the strategic balance of power in the region from your perspective?Admiral Philip S. Davidson: Thanks for that, Senator. Yes, both China and Russia have demonstrated capability to disrupt satellites, testing capabilities on their own assets in the past, as you've articulated, it clearly, I think demonstrates that space which we've long considered a domain and which would be unthreatened for the United States. The potential is there actually, for it to be threatened. We have to build resiliency into our space apparatus that happens with other space assets. It happens with creating airborne and other terrestrial alternatives to fulfill that. And it changes the calculus in space as well. We have to recognize that again, this goes back to some earlier comments I made about to turn theory we were not going to be able to play defense alone, in this particular regard. If we can't demonstrate to others, that their capabilities and space might be at risk, then, you know, we run the risk of a deterrence failure. That's that the space layer is critically important to how we sense in the strategic nuclear deterrent, how we communicate across the Joint Force, and even how we sense and distribute information to the conventional forces as well. Its resiliency is incredibly important to us.

Hearing: Global Security Challenges and Strategy, Senate Committee on Armed Services, March 2, 2021


  • Thomas Wright, The Brookings Institution
  • Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, USA (Ret.), former United States National Security Advisor, Stanford University Hoover Institution, both of Washington, D.C.

Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster: The most significant flashpoint now that that could lead to a large scale war is Taiwan. And I think that has to do with really Xi Jinping's belief that he has a fleeting window of opportunity that's closing. And he wants to his view, make China whole again, you see this with the extension of the party's repressive arm into Hong Kong. And this horrible genocidal campaign in Shinjang, Taiwan is the next big prize. And so I think what we have to be able to do is have four position capable forces. Because what Xi Jinping wants to do with what would be the largest land grabs, so to speak in history, if he succeeds in the South China Sea, is to weaponize the South China Sea and just make it too difficult for us to be able to employ forces inside of that inner island chain. So you know, if you have four position forces there, that automatically transforms denied space with China with the PLA, The People's Liberation Army when it comes to deny space.

Twitter Update: Ned Price rattle off a regime change rant revamping Trump's policy on Venezuela, Anya Parampil February 3, 2021

Hearing: Secretary of State Confirmation Hearing, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, January 19, 2021

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24:50 Sen. Jim Risch (OH): After our conversations earlier today and after hearing our opening statements, Senator Menendez's input net regard, as you can see here and a whole lot of daylight between us on most of these issues, certainly, almost none whatsoever when it comes to objectives, strategy and how to get there.

34:06 Antony Blinken: Both the President Elect and I believe that we have to restore Congress's traditional role as a partner in our foreign policy making, in recent years, across administration's of both parties, Congress's voice and foreign policy has been diluted and diminished. That doesn't make the executive branch stronger. It makes our country weaker. President Elect Biden believes and I share his conviction that no foreign policy can be sustained without the informed consent of the American people. You are the representatives of the American people. You provide that advice and consent.

39:20 Antony Blinken: First President Elect Biden is committed to the proposition that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon. And we share I know that goal across this committee. An Iran with a nuclear weapon, or on the threshold of having one with the capacity to build one on short order would be in Iran that is even more dangerous than it already is, when it comes to all of the other malicious activities that's engaged in, whether it is support for terrorism, whether it is fueling and feeding it's proxies, whether it is destabilizing the region. An Iran with a nuclear weapon, or with a threshold capacity to build one is in Iran that would act potentially with even greater impunity than it already is. So I think we have an urgent responsibility to do whatever we can to prevent Iran from acquiring or getting a weapon or getting close to the capacity to having the fissile material to break out on short notice. In my judgment, the JCPOA, for whatever its limitations, was succeeding on its own terms in blocking Iran's pathways to producing fissile material for a nuclear weapon on short order. It also featured and a feature that continues the most intrusive inspections and monitoring regime in the history of arms control. The challenge we face now is that we pulled out of the agreement, Iran is now taking steps to undo the various constraints that were imposed on it by the agreement. And so it has increased his stockpile of low enriched uranium, it is now enriching at a higher level. It is deploying centrifuges in ways that were prohibited under the agreement. The result is based on public reporting. The breakout time, the time it would take Iran to produce enough fissile material for one weapon has gone from beyond a year as it was under the JCPOA to about three or four months based at least on public reporting. And that potentially brings us right back to the crisis point that we were reaching before the deal was negotiated. And so the President Elect believes that if Iran comes back into compliance, we would too. But we would use that as a platform with our allies and partners who would once again be on the same side with us to seek a longer and stronger agreement. And also, as you and the chairman have rightly pointed out, to capture these other issues, particularly with regard to missiles and Iran's destabilizing activities. That would be the objective.

53:46 Sen. Ron Johnson (WI): Okay, one of the things that Congress did unanimously is we approved $300 million of lethal defensive weaponry for Ukraine. The Obama administration never implemented, the Trump administration did. Do you still disagree with providing that lethal defensive weaponry or do you think and, over time now, that's been proven to be the correct decision by Congress and the Trump administration? Antony Blinken: Senator, I support providing that lethal defensive assistance to Ukraine. In fact, I had the opportunity to write exactly that in the New York Times about three years ago.

1:14:09 Antony Blinken: There's been a strong and long bipartisan commitment to Taiwan. Taiwan Relations Act, also that communicates with China, and part of that commitment is making sure that Taiwan has the ability to defend itself against aggression. And that is a commitment that will absolutely endure. In a Biden administration, we will make sure that Taiwan has the ability to do that. I would also like to see Taiwan playing a greater role around the world, including in international organizations. When those organizations don't require the status of a country to be a member, they should become members. When it does, there are other ways that they can participate.

1:35:15 Sen. Marco Rubio (FL): Is it your view that our stance towards Venezuela should change in essence, that we should no longer recognize Juan Guido and an intern in negotiations with Maduro? Antony Blinken: No, it does not. I very much agree with you, Senator, first of all, with regard to a number of the steps that were taken toward Venezuela in recent years, including recognizing Mr. Guido, recognizing the National Assembly as the only democratically elected institution in Venezuela, seeking to increase pressure on the regime, led by a brutal dictator in Maduro.

1:46:21 Antony Blinken: First senator, we need to be clear eyed about the Houthis. They overthrew a government in Yemen. They engaged in a path of aggression through the country. They directed aggression toward Saudi Arabia, they've committed atrocities and human rights abuses. And that is a fact. What's also a fact though is that the the Saudi led campaign in Yemen, pushback against the Houthi aggression, has contributed to what is by most accounts, the worst humanitarian situation that we face, anywhere in the world. And one aspect of that situation is that about 80% of the Yemeni population right now is in areas controlled by the Houthis. And whether we like it or not, we have to find ways to get assistance to them, if we're going to do anything about addressing this situation. And so my concern, deep concern about the the designation that was made is that, at least on its surface, it seems to achieve nothing particularly practical in advancing the efforts against the Houthis. And to bring them back to the negotiating table, while making it even more difficult than it already is to provide humanitarian assistance to people who desperately need it. So I think we would propose to review that immediately, to make sure that what we are doing is not impeding the provision of humanitarian assistance, even under these difficult circumstances, I recognize that some have talked about carve outs for American providers of humanitarian assistance. The problem there is that if the carve outs don't apply to everyone around the world, it's not going to get the job done, because most of the humanitarian assistance provided to Yemen is not coming from the United States. It's coming from other countries. So I think we've got a very specific and concrete problem that we need to address very quickly, if we're going to make sure we're doing everything we can to alleviate the suffering of people in Yemen.

2:09:10 Antony Blinken: President Elect has made clear that we will end our support for the military campaign led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

2:46:30 Sen. Rand Paul (KY): You've advocated for expanding NATO, do you still support putting Georgia in NATO? Antony Blinken: If a country like Georgia is able to meet the requirements of membership, and if it could contribute to our collective security? Yes, the door should remain open. Sen. Rand Paul (KY): So if you're successful, then we'd be at war with Russia. Now, Antony Blinken: I actually think just the opposite. I think that, Senator with regard to NATO membership, there's a very good reason that Russia has proved aggressive against countries that are not actually in NATO, and under the umbrella and it is reason why I chose not to attack Sen. Rand Paul (KY): This would be adding Georgia that's occupied to NATO, under Article five, then we would go to war. Antony Blinken: Well, I think we've seen again, in the past that countries that have joined NATO have not been the same target of Russia, that we've seen. Sen. Rand Paul (KY): We were talking about 20 years ago, we might have a valid argument now Russia occupies Georgia Russia occupies, or proxy troops occupy part of Ukraine. So I think adding either of them to NATO Not only is provocative, but you'd have to, you'd have to think what comes next. I mean, if we're obligated to defend our NATO allies, I mean, basically would be voting for war.

3:42:48 Sen. Cory Booker (NJ): I think we see what's beginning to look like a civil war in Ethiopia. I think the the grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam conflict is growing and could potentially boil over the Sudan and Ethiopia have growing attention and growing conflicts. As you know, the Horn of Africa is of extraordinary importance. We have seen humanitarian disasters there before, of staggering human toil. We also have one of the more important shipping lanes where about 10% of all global cargo goes by, you use the words with him that you want to have diplomatic active engagement, what does that mean? Antony Blinken: Well, in the first instance, it means actually showing up at the at the right levels to use what diplomatic weight we have, with the government, with leadership in, in Ethiopia in the first instance. And there are a number of things that I think at the very least, would need to be done on short order.

3:53:11 Antony Blinken: First of all, President Elect strongly agrees with you that Nord Stream two is a bad idea and he's been very clear about that.

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Apr 12, 2021
Thank You Erik

The 2021 hits just keep on coming. In this episode, learn about a wonderful soul who left this Earth far too young before Jen thanks Congressional Dish producers. Also in this episode is a request for producer opinions about how to present our Congressional Dish episodes to the public in the future, an update on the state of the firing wave, and the most absurd Congressional Dish pink slip of all time.

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Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Mar 29, 2021
CD229: Target Belarus

We are in the process of regime changing Belarus. In this episode, I prove it.

Executive Producer: Nich Secord

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Recommended Episodes

CD225: Targets of the Free Marketeers

CD206: Impeachment: The Evidence

CD190: A Coup for Capitalism

CD176: Target Venezuela: Regime Change in Progress

CD102: The World Trade Organization: COOL?

CD068: Ukraine Aid Bill

CD067: What Do We Want In Ukraine?


Omnibus 2021 Outline

Bill Text



SUBTITLE C - Support for Human Rights in Belarus

Belarus Democracy, Human Rights, and Sovereignty Act of 2020

Sec. 322: Findings

  • "Alyaksandr Lukashenka has ruled Belarus as an undemocratic dictatorship since the first presidential election in Belarus in 1994."
  • "Subsequent presidential election in Belarus have been neither free nor fair..."
  • In response to the 2006 presidential election, "Congress passed the Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act of 2006"
  • 2006: President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13405 which authorized sanctions
  • 2011: Senate Resolution 105 condemned the December 2010 elections in Belarus as illegitimate
  • Repeatedly says, "The Government of Belarus, led illegally by Alyaksandr Lukashenka..."
  • Accuses the government of conducting flawed elections, retribution against protestors, the suppression of the media, "a systematic campaign of harassment, repression, and closure of nongovernmental organizations", and pursuit of policies that make Belarus "subservient" to Russia by integrating into a "so called 'Union State' that is under the control of Russia".
  • Accuses the government of arresting journalists, activists, and "3 leading presidential candidates" ahead of the August 2020 election.
  • Accuses the government of conducting a fraudulent election on August 9, 2020, which reelected Alyaksandr Lukashenka and says the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Canada refuse to recognize Alyaksandr Lukashenka as the legitimate President of Belarus.
  • The opposition candidate, Sviatlana Tsikhaouskaya fled to Lithuania in the days following the election, and from Lithuania, she "announced the formation of a Coordination Council to oversee... a peaceful transition of power..."
  • The government of Belarus is accused of arresting journalists, including six who report for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
  • Alyaksandr Lukashenka has requested security assistance from Russia, which Russia has promised to provide

Sec. 323: Statement of Policy

  • "To continue rejecting the invalid results of the fraudulent August 9, 2020 presidential election in Belarus..."
  • "To continue supporting calls for new presidential and parliamentary elections..."
  • "To refuse to recognize Alyaksandr Lukashenka as the legitimately elected leader of Belarus"
  • "To not recognize any incorporation of Belarus into a 'Union State' with Russia..."
  • "To continue calling for the fulfillment by the Government of Belarus of Belarus's freely undertaken obligations as an OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) participating state and as a signatory of the Charter of the United Nations"
  • "To recognize the Coordination Council as a legitimate institution to participate in a dialogue on a peaceful transition of power."
  • "To impose targeted sanctions, in coordination with the European Union and other international partners..."

Sec. 324: Assistance to Promote Democracy, Civil Society, and Sovereignty in Belarus

  • Authorizes "Belarusian groups outside of Belarus" to receive assistance
  • Authorizes assistance to be used for "enhancing the development of the private section, particularly the information technology sector, and its role in the economy of Belarus, including by increasing the capacity of private sector actors..."
  • Authorizes "such sums as may be necessary" for fiscal years 2021 and 2022.

Sec. 325: International Broadcasting, Internet Freedom, and Access to Information in Belarus

  • Gives the Biden administration's State Department 120 days to submit a strategy, with a cost estimate, for expanding radio, television, live stream, and social network broadcasting and communications in Belarus to provide news and information, to develop and deploy circumvention technologies to allow people in Belarus to communicate on the internet without interference from the government of Belarus, to monitor the cooperation between Belarus and other countries in regards to internet monitoring or censorship capabilities, and "build the capacity of civil society, media, and other nongovernmental organizations and organizations to identify, track, and counter disinformation."
  • Part of this report can be classified

Sec. 326: Sanctions Against the Government of Belarus

  • Allows sanctions to be applied to "a member of any branch of the security or law enforcement services of Belarus...", or is "an official in the so-called 'Union State' between Russia and Belarus (regardless of nationality of the individual) and their family members.



Additional Resources

Visual References

alt text

Sound Clip Sources

Meeting: Biden and Belarus: A strategy for the new administration, Atlantic Council, January 27, 2021

Authors Dr. Anders Åslund, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, Melinda Haring, deputy director at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, Ambassador John Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, and Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, join to present their key findings and ideas for the Biden administration. They are joined by Valery Kovaleuski, an adviser to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, to discuss the report. The event will be moderated by Eurasia Center Nonresident Fellow and Tsikhanouskaya adviser Hanna Liubakova.

Watch on Youtube


  • Melinda Haring
    • Deputy Director of the Atlantic Council’s
    • Eurasia Center
    • Eurasia Foundation
    • Freedom House
    • National Democratic Institute
    • Council on Foreign Relations
  • John Herbst
    • Director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council
    • 2003-2006: US Ambassador to Ukraine
    • 2000-2003: US Ambassador to Uzbekistan - played a critical role in the establishment of an American base to help conduct Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan
    • Former Principal Deputy to the Ambassador at Large for the New Independent States
  • Dr. Anders Åslund
    • Senior fellow at the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council
    • Chairman of the Scientific Council of the Bank of Finland Institute for Economies in Transition
    • Former Director of the Russian and Eurasian Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Valery Kovaleuski
    • Adviser to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

9:40 Melinda Haring: The problem, though, is that there's all kinds of limitations on moving money into Belarun. It's A, it's a security state, B, we have COVID. And people can't move in and out of the country very easily. So this has to be handled sensitively. The folks that I'm talking to say that cryptocurrencies are the way to do it, but there's a bigger problem. The US government is not very good at moving money. They are tied up in all kinds of reporting requirements. The European Union has the same issues. But we need to be more creative. If we don't think with some new creative energy. This protest movement is going to fizzle out. So it's time to go back to the drawing boards and talk to people who are good at moving money and make it happen now.

14:40 Dr. Anders Åslund: Lukashenko today has only reserves for about one month of imports normally said it should be for three months. And he has a$3 billion of cash he needs $6 billion more to carry, to cover this year. And traditionally there are two sources to get that. One is from the IMF and back is not available because the IMF is not prepared to deal with Lukashenko because he is normally cheating them. And they know that. And the other source is Russia. Putin declared when Lukashenko came to his knees to Putin in Sochi on the 14th of September, but he's ready to give one and a half billion dollars as loans. But, Lukashenko needs much more, and well to Putin hinted at it is that Russian private money can come in and buy the big companies, and the Belarusian economy is quite concentrated to a few big companies. So there are four big companies: two fertilizer plants and two oil refineries that account for two thirds of the Belarus's exports to the west. And then where do they get the raw material from? All the oil comes from Russia, and the gas for one of the fertilizer plants come from Russia. So the natural thing is that the Russian private businessmen by these Belarusian companies, we have seen it before. It has happened with gas assets in Belarus and half of one of the refineries is already bought by Russian companies. But where does the money come from? It comes from Russian state banks. So what Putin is essentially saying it is a couple of my most loyal oligarchs are allowed to get billions of dollars of Russian state bank financing in order to buy Belarusian companies cheaply, and that would completely tie up the Belarusian economy and this is what we have to avoid.

18:07 Valery Kovaleuski: Biden has expressed a lot of interest in the situation in Belarus, he showed himself as fairly well informed about the events in those. And he was very vocal in kind of demanding the action and kind of defining the policy of the United States government. At this stage, I think the most important than the sort of doses are waiting for very specific steps that will be tangible, and that will be impactful. And number one is fast reintroduction of economic sanctions. And you might know that the United States have has imposed the sanctions since long, but they were suspended when Russia invaded Ukraine and the United States and European Union decided to engage with those and normalize relations. And that was one of the steps that they made. They introduced the waiver to the sanctions and now they are in the the suspension state. The other one would be to continue not recognizing Lukashenka's legitimacy as he is not legitimate ruler of Belarus at the moment. Very important would be to start implementation of the those Democracy Human Rights and Sovereignty Act that was adopted just last year, and actually it was, it was adopted in a very kind of fast, fast pace in just three months since in introduction in the house. But the whole Act has as a kind of arsenal of tools and mechanisms to to influence the situation that was to influence, the behavior of Lukashenka.

21:46 John Herbst: The first is to promote the legitimacy of the opposition in Ms. Tsikhanouskaya and the delegitimization of Lukashenko. So, for example, our ambassador when she goes out, Julie Fisher, a wonderful diplomat, should not present credentials to Lukashenko, she should be spending most of our time in Vilnius near Ms. Tsikhanouskaya to wish to organize the US government to manage this crisis. So we should have a senior coordinator to manage sanctions against Lukashenko regime, and maybe against appropriate Russians, and also should have a senior official designated to manage assistance to the opposition and to the people of Belarus. And finally, this this combines both organization and resources, we should double the budget of RFP and RL. So we can get out our message to the people of Belarus. The third category is to increase specific support to the opposition. So for example, Melinda already mentioned the need to get resources to the opposition using cryptocurrency, we should also push to give legitimacy to the opposition. The fourth, the next element is to keep Russia out of the conflict. I mean, they're already in. We've seen what they've done by sending media experts, for example. But this this involves I say, a series of measures that have to be conducted simultaneously. One, we don't want to frighten Russians into thinking that Belarus is is now going to become part of the West. So we would encourage the opposition not to talk about NATO not to talk about the EU talk simply about the need for Belarus to choose its own president to work with the EU should be in dialogue with Moscow about the crisis in Belarus. But three, we should send a very clear signal to Moscow that if they intervene with their repressive opperatives, whether with their secret police, with their regular police with their military, to repress the people of Belarus, or to prop up Lukashenko or Lukashenko-like alternative, there will be serious sanctions against the Russian economy against Russian officials.

43:09 Melinda Haring: I think that Ukraine can definitely play a role here. And you know, there's a lot of Belarusians who are in Ukraine. One of the more interesting things I found in in my section of the report, I focused on the domestic picture, is where Belarusians have gone since August, so Belarusians have gone to give, they've got to Riga, they've got to Vilnius and they've gone to Warsaw. And they're creating massive civil society organizations that are helping people who had to leave quickly. And many of the people in Kiev are students so you can help students, you can, you can send a pizza, you can provide a house for them. You can do very basic things.

55:09 Dr. Anders Åslund: The aim of the sanctions is to put sufficient pressure on a bilateral so that Lukashenko has to go. This is a really a regime change group of sanctions.

Meeting: A conversation with Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Atlantic Council, December 7, 2020

Watch on Youtube


  • Damon Wilson
    • Executive VP of the Atlantic Council
    • 2007-2009: Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council
    • Former Executive Secretary and Chief of Staff at US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq
    • 2004-2006: Director for Central, Eastern, and Northern European Affairs at the National Security Council
    • 2001-2004: Deputy Director in the Private Office of NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson - Played a lead role on the Alliance’s response to 9/11 and its operations in Afghanistan and the Western Balkans
  • Melinda Haring
    • Deputy Director of the Atlantic Council’s
    • Eurasia Center
    • Eurasia Foundation
    • Freedom House
    • National Democratic Institute
    • Council on Foreign Relations
  • Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

1:37 Damon Wilson: After her husband was jailed by Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenka, while running for President, Svetlana stepped in. Running a historic campaign for change. Much of the world recognizes that she overwhelmingly won the August 9th election, but Tsikhanouskaya was forced to flee the country after the regime threatened her family. The people of Belarus have protested for months demanding that Lukashenka resign, they are the true source of legitimacy. Tsikhanouskaya and the coordination Council for the transition of power which she leads from Vilnius, Lithuania, is recognized by the European Union and many others as the true voice of the Belarusian people.

5:42 Melinda Haring: How can the people of Belarus change the dynamic on the ground and force out Lukashenka?

8:07 Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya: We are asking the west to act faster. In my opinion, Western countries should demand new and fair elections and release of all political prisoners. Belarus democracy Act would serve as timely and extremely helpful step from the head of the US government in support of their brave people.

19:57 Melinda Haring: Look, I wanted to tell our audience if they haven't had a chance to get a copy of The Washington Post. Ms. Tsikhanouskaya has a piece in it this weekend. It's called 'The people of Belarus are Still Marching, Help Us.' And she writes very passionately about the need to pass the Belarus Democracy, Human Rights and Sovereignty Act of 2020. There's two weeks left to pass this act before Congress is out. Ms. Tsikhanouskaya what's in it and why is it important? Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya: The proceeds the bipartisan support received in favor of this act. We hope that this draft bill becomes law as soon as possible, as it would inspire the US to act decisively and urgently to support Belarus. Belarusian peaceful protest is a turning point. People struggle, people suffer. People struggle everyday with great dedication, yet there is a need of support on behalf of the international community. And when the new democracy act becomes low, it would send a strong signal to the Belarusian regime and the rest of the world on non recognition of Lukashenka's legitimacy, call for new presidential elections and oversee standards and demand the release of all political prisoners. You know, in our opinion, the Act would allow prompt US assistance to the civil society, media and urgent actions such as counter internet blockages in Belarus.

Meeting: Backing Batka: Russia's strategic economic integration with Belarus, Atlantic Council, November 6, 2020

Watch on Youtube


  • Host: John Herbst
    • Director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council
    • 2003-2006: US Ambassador to Ukraine
    • 2000-2003: US Ambassador to Uzbekistan played a critical role in the establishment of an American base to help conduct Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan
    • Former Principal Deputy to the Ambassador at Large for the New Independent States
  • Dr. Katerina Bornukova, academic director of the BEROC Economic Research Center
  • Professor Vladislav Inozemtsev
    • Senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Dirk Schuebel Ambassador of the European Union to Belarus
  • Dr. Anders Åslund
    • Senior fellow at the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council
    • Chairman of the Scientific Council of the Bank of Finland Institute for Economies in Transition
    • Former Director of the Russian and Eurasian Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

5:58 Dirk Schuebel: The pro-democracy movement and Belarus now faces the difficult prospect of dislodging Mr. Lukashenko, the unrecognized President who refuses to leave office.

6:47 Dr. Katerina Bornukova: So, if we take a look at the recent economic growth, over the last 10 years, we will see stagnation, average growth rate was around 1.7% only, which is too low for a developing economy, which needs to catch up. And the reason for this is structural problems, lack of reforms and privatization. As a result, we have a very large state owned sector, which is inefficient and which has accumulated a lot of debt, and this debt was slowly transferred to the government. So, which means that, well, right now, over the years, Belarus has also accumulated public debt. And right now that that is up to 35% of GDP. It's not relatively large, but it's quite difficult to serve because the majority of this debt is nominated in foreign currencies and that means that the liquidity and currency is always a problem with Belarus, and it often turns to Russia to solve this problem. So right now 50% of the debt is held by Russia or Russia associated funds.

10:45 Professor Vladislav Inozemtsev: Even if the government in Belarus changes, Russia will cannot decouple from better because there are a lot of links, which tightens the two countries. First of all, Belarus is a part of the so called union state with Russia existing from like 99. It's a part of the Eurasian Economic Union. And in this case, Russia can allow to lose Belarus. There is a huge difference between Belarus and Ukraine for example, in this case, because Ukraine never was a part of any Russian led organizations but Belarus is.

13:49 Professor Vladislav Inozemtsev: The difference between Ukraine for example and Belarus is that Belarusian economy is state owned, it is not controlled by the oligarchy groups as it is in Ukraine. So therefore, for participating in this privatization for getting this shares or stakes in Belarus enterprise, the Russian private companies should be allowed to do so. So, therefore, there were several moves from the Russian side from the Russian private companies in direction of somehow changing the situation and to being allowed to jump in.

24:40 Dr. Anders Åslund: More money must come. And as we have discussed, all of us, this essentially has to come from the private sector. Ideally, this would be an IMF program, but the IMF is not ready to go for any program way of Lukashenko. They haven't had anything since 2009. Because Lukashenko refuses to do the elementary thing, stop subsidies to state enterprises and deregulated certain prices. So this is out of question.

Hearing: Markup Hearing including Belarus bill, U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, October 1, 2020

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1:18:30 Rep. Chris Smith (NJ): Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you as well for bringing the Belarus Democracy Human Rights and Sovereignty Act of 2020. And thank you to Ranking Member McCall for his leadership on this Chairman Keating and Mr. Kissinger for their leadership as well. And Marcy Kaptur, who is also one of the co sponsors originals of this bill.

1:20:15 Rep. Chris Smith (NJ): We are now approaching almost two months since the fraudulent poll. And the people of Belarus despite the brutal crackdown, are still organizing rallies of 100,000 people or more demanding that Lukashenko leave power, and lead Belarus to the people to whom it belongs. I would note to my colleagues that according to the UN Special Rapporteur, more than 10,000 peaceful protesters have been detained as of September 18. And they need our help. Recent reports indicate that the police are using now, today increasingly violent tactics against these peaceful demonstrators. We do have a window of opportunity, and we need to seize it with everything that we have. As my colleagues know, the leading opposition presidential candidate, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who won the election by most accounts. Of course, there's not access to the ballots, but it seems clear that she won the election formed the coordination Council. Svetlana is an incredibly brave woman. She ran a brilliant campaign. But today she has an exile in Lithuania, where she continues to rally the Belarusian people and the world. I want to thank Mr. Keating for putting together that WebEx a few weeks ago with her and some of the coordination leaders from the council. We all saw a new and a fresh, just how important it is that we stand behind her. And behind all of the people of Belarus who have aspirations for free and fair elections and for democracy.

1:21:50 Rep. Chris Smith (NJ): This bill today updates the Belarus Democracy Acts of 2004, 2006, and 2011 that I authored, and renews the personal economic and visa sanctions on an expanded list of bad actors in the Belarusian government. And, this is new, Russian individuals complicit in the crackdown. It calls for new elections, it recognizes the coordination council as a legitimate institution to participate in a dialogue on a peaceful transition of power.

1:23:15 Rep. Chris Smith (NJ): So I just want to thank my colleagues. It's a totally bipartisan bill. I want to thank Katie Earle for her work on the bill. I want to thank Jackie Ramos, Pierre Tosi, Patrick, the Doug Anderson, there are just many who have worked together fast, quickly and effectively, and members to put together this bipartisan legislation.

Hearing: Protecting Democracy During COVID–19 in Europe and Eurasia and the Democratic Awakening in Belarus, Committee on Foreign Affairs: Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment, September 10, 2020

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  • Douglas Rutzen
    • President and CEO of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law
    • Professor at Georgetown University Law Center
    • Advisory Board member of the United Nations Democracy Fund
  • Therese Pearce Laanela
    • Head of Electoral Processes at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance
  • Joanna Rohozinska
    • Resident Program Director for Europe at the Beacon Project at the International Republican Institute
    • Senior program officer for Europe at the National Endowment for Democracy at least as of 2019. She has worked there for about a decade
  • Jamie Fly
    • Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund and Co-Director of the Alliance for Security Democracy
    • Senior Advisor to WestExec Advisors
    • Co-founded by incoming Secretary of State, Antony Blinken
    • Former President and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in 2019 & 2020
    • Former counselor for foreign and national security affairs for Sen. Marco Rubio from 2013-2017
    • Former Executive Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative from 2009-2013
    • Former member of GWB's National Security Council from 2008-2009
    • Former member of GWB's Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2005-2008

53:30 Joanna Rohozinska: Lukashenko must be held responsible for his choices and actions. Word mating strategies with transatlantic allies should be priority and to call for dialogue, immediate release of political prisoners and support for the political opposition's demands for holding elections under international supervision and beginning negotiations on a Lukashenko transition.

53:56 Joanna Rohozinska: Support for democracy requires patience as well as long term commitment and vision. This has been made possible with the support of Congress to IRI and the family. Thank you and I look forward to your questions.

1:03:05 Therese Pearce Laanela: Institutions that are as strong...What we are seeing... those that are able to safeguard and against disinformation for example, they are working in innovative ways because this isn't a challenge that existed really as much before social media and one of the things that we're seeing is a kind of interagency cooperation, a partnership between private and public. That's really hasn't been seen before. Let me just take Australia as a case, but the working together with social media companies and government agencies and security agencies and election officials for rapid reaction to anything that comes in and that kind of seamless communication between agencies, that is one of the ways in which we can protect.

1:04:15 Jamie Fly: We have tools. Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty has a Bella Russian language service Radio Svoboda which has significant of followers inside Belarus. The problem is that Lukashenko like many other authoritarians have realized that when they face significant pressure, they should take the country offline. And Belarusian authorities have done that on a regular basis, which makes it much more difficult to communicate and allow information to spread freely. So what they really need outlets like Svoboda and other independent media are access to internet circumvention tools, which are also funded by the State Department and the US Agency for Global Media.

1:09:57 Douglas Rutzen: China is providing surveillance technology to countries including Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Serbia. They also provided a $2 billion dollar loan to Hungry to construct a railway which Hungry then classified as a state secret in terms of the construction.

1:19:28 Brian Fitzpatrick: In 2013, in 2000, and he saw large scale protests in Ukraine, following what many believed to be a falsification of elections by their federal officials. So my first question for the entire panel, do you believe that Belarus protests could lead to a revolution similar to the one we saw in Ukraine and secondarily, on Tuesday, President Lukashenko, refused to rule out the idea of holding new elections, and acknowledge that he may have overstayed his time at office, whether or not you see revolutions similar to Ukraine, do you think that these protests could lead to an actual change in leadership? Joanna Rohozinska: So I take it as a question to me. I mean, I think that things have been building up and I would say that with this similarity to Ukraine was that there was also a deep seated frustration with corruption. Here, it's less about corruption. But it's still meets, where you have the accountability and transparency aspect of it that I was mentioning in my testimony. And I think that the frustration with the lack of responsive government and being treated like animals, frankly, is what they say, is what finally boiled over, but there's been, there's been an uptick in protests in Belarus, if you watch these kinds of things over the past two years, over the parasite tax, for example, which was also was a special tax that was put on unemployment, and on to penalize people who are unemployed, is trying to target civic activists, but it ended up reaching far farther than that. So you can see things percolating below the surface for quite a long time. Now. You never know when it's going to blow. Here, I think that there was just the COVID, underlay everything and it mobilized such a broad swath of society, that the trigger event was finally the elections, which again, demonstrating a degree of hubris they decided not to put off right, they figured that holding the elections at the beginning of August was the best thing to do, because there is always a low torque turnout and all this, frankly, because people tend to go out to the countryside. So they simply miscalculated. They did not understand how the people were feeling. And here, you do have a similarity with Ukraine, I think. And in terms of in terms of the other questions to going forward? No, you have to appreciate that this is a country that's never experienced democracy ever. Which means that even the democratic opposition leaders basically know it from textbooks, they don't know what from firsthand practice. And, Lukashenko himself, ironically, has been supporting the notion of sovereignty and independence in the face of the Russian state for the past couple of years. And he only changed his tune a couple of weeks ago, when he started getting backed into a corner. And in terms of, you know, his promises and calling new elections, I would be wary. He does not have a particularly good track record of following through on promises. And so I would probably take that as a lesson learned and be extremely cautious. I personally think he's just buying time. Because he also said that he would consider holding the elections after introducing constitutional changes and the constitutional changes that he's proposing is to introduce term limits. So I mean, he's still looking at the succession. He understands that this is the end of his time in office. I don't know if he wants to do that right, exactly now, however, understanding that this would have been his last term anyways, you're probably preparing for an exit strategy.

1:23:00 Joanna Rohozinska: I would certainly invest in looking at quality early parliamentary elections as being much more significant. Because once you turn the house, once you turn the parliament and then at least you start building up a degree of political capital that can start carrying forward into into the governance.

1:52:37 Therese Pearce Laanela: Your people are excellent. I really want to say that I'm calling in from Sweden. I'm not American myself. But I have worked in this business for 28 years working in different countries in really tough situations. And some of the best experts out there are from organizations that are very close to those of you when you're normally working in Washington. So the United Nations as well based in New York, but also organizations like IFIS, NDI, our colleagues from IRI they are doing excellent work supported by USA ID. So and they've kind of got it figured out how to support institutions for the long term, so you can trust the people that you are supporting.

Hearing: Foreign Affairs Issue Launch with Former Vice President Joe Biden, Council on Foreign Relations, January 23, 2018


  • Richard Haass - President of the Council on Foreign Relations
  • Joe Biden

State Department Daily Briefing, Department of State, February 6, 2014

Ukraine coup - leaked phone call between Victoria Nuland and Geoffey Pyatt, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, February 6, 2014

Watch on YouTube

Hearing: Economic Aid to New Independent States, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, January 24, 1994


  • Brian Atwood
    • Then: USAID Adminstrator
    • Now: NDI board member - Was the first president of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs
  • Stephen Cohen
    • Then: Professor at Princeton with emphasis in Russian studies
    • Married to Katrina Vanden Heuvel
    • Criticized the Obama administration for starting the new Cold War
    • Said in 2014 that Ukraine crisis was a result of US actions, starting with Clinton, aimed at expanding NATO up to Russia's border.
    • Wrote about our role in the 2014 Ukraine coup 
  • Strobe Talbot
    • Then: Deputy Secretary of State
    • Former Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization
    • President of the Brookings Institution for 15 years
    • Member of CFR

14:23 Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT): There is no greater United States national security objective today than to assist Russia make a peaceful transition to a stable democratic form of government, an open pluralistic society, a market economy. Such a transition offers the best prospect of a long term cooperative, peaceful relationship with the only other nuclear power capable of destroying the United States.

26:39 Strobe Talbot: Our approach from the beginning, our strategy has been to reinforce those trends in Russian political and economic life that together we believe, constitute the essence of the Great Transformation underway in that country. Those trends are democratization and privatization. They are in fact interlocking. They are mutually reinforcing. The more people work in private enterprise, the more they are likely to participate in the democratic process and the more they are likely to vote for candidates who will support economic as well as political freedom.

27:27 Strobe Talbot: Our bilateral foreign aid program is intended in its essence, to help prime the pump for the flow of much higher levels of support from two other sources from the international business community in the form of trade and investment, and from the international financial institutions in the form of loans to help Russia make the transition from a command to a market economy.

28:25 Strobe Talbot: President Yeltsin needs to have the confidence that if he continues to press forward on a strong economic reform program, Western support will be swift and substantial. But he and his colleagues in both the executive and the legislative branches of the Russian government must also understand something else. And that is the cause and effect relationship between internal reform and outside support. Our support will follow their reform. It cannot be the other way around.

29:30 Strobe Talbot: Privatization involves closing down inefficient state enterprises while the shift to market economics at least initially brings higher prices. The result is social pain, disruption and fear of the future. If they reach critical mass, those ingredients can explode into a political backlash against reform.

1:46:00 Strobe Talbot: The world has capital flows, potential for investment that can move into societies like Russia, where the population is highly educated. It's a tremendous human resource where there are natural resources that can be exploited for the good of Russia and for the entire world economy.

2:23:47 Strobe Talbot: Now we do not know what the future holds. We do not know what kind of Russia we will be sharing the planet with early in the 21st century. We do not know if it will have stayed on a reform path and have continued to move in the direction of integration.

2:53:10 Stephen Cohen: Now, to be fair, this unwise American policy toward Russia began under President Bush in the end of 1991, with the breakup of the Soviet Union, but for a full year now President Clinton has expanded that policy, made it worse and therefore now, it is his policy.

2:54:10 Stephen Cohen: The guiding principle of that policy since 1991 has been, and evidently based on the hearing today remains, an exceedingly missionary and highly interventionist idea that the United States can and should intervene in Russia's internal affairs in order to convert or transform that nation into an American style system at home, and a submissive junior partner of the United States abroad.

Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations

Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Mar 15, 2021
CD228: The Second Impeachment Trial of Donald Trump

Donald Trump was acquitted of "Incitement of Insurrection" at the end of his second impeachment trial. Many seem to think this result was inevitable, but that wasn't the case. In this episode, by examining the evidence and how it was presented by the House Impeachment Managers, learn how the trial could have been structured to provide the possibility of a different outcome.

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CD226: The 116th Lame Duck

CD206: Impeachment: The Evidence


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Hearing: Senate Impeachment Trial Day 1 - Impeachment Managers, U.S. Senate, February 9, 2021


Congressional Record Transcript: Impeachment Day 1


David Shoen: A review of the house record reveals that the speaker streamlined the impeachment process. House Resolution 24 to go straight to the floor for two hour debate and a vote without the ability for amendments. The house record reflects no committee hearing no witnesses, no presentation or cross examination of evidence, and no opportunity for the accused to respond or even have counsel present to object. House managers claim the need for impeachment was so urgent that they had to rush the proceedings, with no time to spare for a more thorough investigation, or really any investigation at all. But that claim is belied by what happened or didn't happen next. The House leadership unilaterally and by choice waited another 12 days to deliver the article to this Senate to begin the trial process. In other words, the House leadership spent more time holding the adopted article than it did on the whole process leading up to the adoption of the article. We say respectfully, that this intentional delay by Speaker Pelosi such that in the intervening period, President Trump became private citizen Mr. Trump constitutes a lapse or waiver of jurisdiction here for Mr. Trump no longer is the president described as subject to impeachment in Article One, Section three, clause six, and in Article two, Section four, and this body therefore has no jurisdiction as a function of that additional due process violation by Speaker Pelosi. Moreover, with all due respect, then President Trump suffered a tangible detriment from Speaker Pelosi has actions which violates not only his rights to due process of law, but also his expressed constitutional right to have the Chief Justice preside. The impeachment articles should be treated as a nullity and dismissed based on the total lack of due process in the house.

David Shoen: For example, they contend, citing various law professors that quote any official who betrayed the public trust and was impeached could avoid accountability simply by resigning one minute before the Senate's final conviction vote. This argument is a complete canard. The Constitution expressly provides in Article One, section three clause seven, that a convicted party following impeachment shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment according to law after removal. Clearly, a former civil officer who's not impeached is subject to the same. We have a judicial process in this country we have exactly an investigative process in this country, to which no former office holder is immune. That's the process that should be running its course.

Bruce Castor: I mean, let's let's understand why we are really here. We are really here, because the majority in the House of Representatives does not want to face Donald Trump as a political rival in the future. That's the real reason we're here.

David Shoen: Presidents are impeachable because presidents are removable. Former presidents are not because they cannot be removed. The Constitution is clear, trial by the Senate sitting as a court of impeachment is reserved for the President of the United States, not a private citizen, or used to be President the United States. Just as clear, the judgment required upon conviction is removed from office and a former president can no longer be removed from office.

Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): Indeed, the most famous of these impeachments occurred, while the famed framers gathered in Philadelphia to write the Constitution. It was the impeachment of Warren Hastings, the former Governor General of the British colony of Bengal, and a corrupt guy. The framers knew all about it, and they strongly supported the impeachment. In fact, the Hastings case was invoked by name at the convention. It was the only specific impeachment case that they discussed at the convention. It played a key role in their adoption of the high crimes and misdemeanors standard. And even though everyone there surely knew that Hastings had left the office, two years before his impeachment trial began, not a single framer, not one raised a concern, when Virginia and George Mason held up the Hastings impeachment as a model for us in the writing of our Constitution.

Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): Senators, Mr. President, to close, I want to say something personal about the stakes of this decision whether President Trump can stand trial and be held to account for inciting insurrection against us. This trial is personal Indeed, for every senator, for remember the house, every manager, all of our staff, the Capitol Police, the Washington DC, Metropolitan Police, the National Guard, maintenance and custodial crews, the print journalists and TV people who were here, and all of our families and friends. I hope this trial reminds America how personal democracy is. And how personal is the loss of democracy to distinguished members of the Senate. My youngest daughter Tabitha, was there with me on Wednesday, January 6. It was the day after we buried her brother, our son Tommy, the saddest day of our lives. Also, there was my son in law, Hank, who's married to our oldest daughter, Hannah, and I consider him a son too, even though he eloped with my daughter and didn't tell us what they were gonna do. But it was in the middle of COVID-19. But the reason they came with me that Wednesday, January sixth, was because they wanted to be together with me in the middle of a devastating week for our family. And I told them, I had to go back to work, because we were counting electoral votes. That day, on January 6, it was our constitutional duty. And I invited them instead to come with me to witness this historic event, the peaceful transfer of power in America. And they said they heard that President Trump was calling on his followers to come to Washington to protest and they asked me directly, would it be safe? Would it be safe? And I told them, of course, it should be safe. This is the Capitol. Steny Hoyer, our majority leader had kindly offered me the use of his office on the House floor, because I was one of the managers that day and we were going through our grief. So Tabitha, and Hank were with me and Stephanie's office, as colleagues dropped by to console us about the loss of our middle child, Tommy, our beloved Tommy, Mr. Newsome, Mr. Cicilline, actually came to see me that day, dozens of members, lots of Republicans, lots of Democrats came to see me. And I felt a sense of being lifted up from the agony and I won't forget their tenderness. And through the tears, I was working on a speech for the floor, when we would all be together in joint session, and I wanted to focus on unity. When we met in the house, I quoted Abraham Lincoln's famous 1838 Lyceum speech, where he said that if division and destruction ever come to America, it won't come from abroad. It'll come from within, said Lincoln. And in that same speech, Lincoln passionately deplored mob violence. Right after the murder of Elijah Lovejoy, the abolitionist newspaper editor, and he did Lincoln deplored mob violence. And he deplored mob rule. And he said it would lead to tyranny and despotism in America. That was the speech I gave that day, after the house, very graciously and warmly welcomed me back. And Tabitha and Hank came with me to the floor, and they watched it from the gallery. And when it was over, they went back to that office, Steny's office, off of the House floor. They didn't know that the house had been breached yet, and that an insurrection or riot, or a coup had come to Congress. And by the time we learned about it, about what was going on, it was too late. I couldn't get out there to be with them in that office. And all around me, people were calling their wives and their husbands their loved ones to say goodbye. Members of Congress in the house anyway, we're removing their congressional pins, so they wouldn't be identified by the mob as they tried to escape the violence. Our new chaplain got up and said a prayer for us and we were told to put our gas masks on. And then there was a sound I will never forget the sound of pounding on the door like a battering ram, to most haunting sound I ever heard and I will never forget it. My Chief of Staff truly taken was with Tabitha and Hank locked and barricaded in that office. The kids hiding under the desk, placing what they thought were their final texts, and whispered phone calls to say their goodbyes, they thought they were gonna die. My son in law have never even been to the Capitol before. And when they were finally rescued over an hour later by Capitol officers, and we were together, I hugged them. And I apologized. And I told my daughter Tabitha, who's 24 and a brilliant algebra teacher in Teach for America. Now, I told her how sorry I was. And I promised her that it would not be like this again. The next time she came back to the Capitol with me. And you know what she said? She said, Dad, I don't want to come back to the Capitol. Of all the terrible brutal things I saw and I heard on that day. And since then, that one hit me the hardest. That and watching someone use an American flag pole. The flag still on it, to spear and pummel one of our police officers ruthlessly mercilessly tortured by a pole with a flag on it that he was defending with his very life. People died that day. Officers ended up with head damage and brain damage, people's eyes were gouged. Officer a heart attack. Officer lost three fingers that day. Two officers have taken their own lives. Senators, this cannot be our future. This cannot be the future of America. We cannot have presidents inciting and mobilizing mob violence against our government and our institutions, because they refuse to accept the will of the people under the Constitution of the United States. Much less can we create a new January exception in our precious beloved constitution that prior generations have died for and fought for, so the corrupt presidents have several weeks to get away with whatever it is they want to do. History does not support a January exception in any way. So why would we invent one for the future?

Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): And there can be no doubt that the Senate has the power to try this impeachment. We know this because Article One, Section Three gives the senate the sole power to try all impeachments the Senate has the power, the sole power to try all impeachments all means all and they're no exceptions to the rule because the Senate has jurisdiction to try all impeachments It most certainly has jurisdiction to try this one.

Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): The first point comes from English history, which matters because in Hamilton road, England provided the model from which the idea of this institution has been borrowed, and it would have been immediately obvious to anyone familiar with that history that former officials could be held accountable for their abuses while in office. Every single impeachment of a government official that occurred during the framers lifetime concerned a former official.

Rep. Joe Neguse (CO): Let's start with the precedent with what has happened in this very chamber. I'd like to focus on just two cases. I'll go through them quickly. One of them is the nation's very first impeachment case, which actually was of a former official. In 1797, about a decade after our country had ratified our Constitution, there was a senator from Tennessee by the name of William blunt, who was caught conspiring with the British to try to sell Florida and Louisiana. Ultimately, President Adams caught him. He turned over the evidence to Congress. Four days later, the House of Representatives impeached him. A day after that, this body the United States Senate, expelled him from office. So he was very much a former official. Despite that, the house went forward with its impeachment proceeding in order to disqualify him from ever again, holding federal office. And so the senate proceeded with the trial with none other than Thomas Jefferson presiding. Now, blood argue that the Senate couldn't proceed because he had already been expelled. But here's the interesting thing. He expressly disavowed any claim that former officials can't ever be impeached. I mean, unlike President Trump, he was very clear that he respected and understood that he could not even try to argue that ridiculous position. Even impeached, Senator Blunt, recognized the inherent absurdity of that view. Here's what he said. 'I certainly never shall contend that an officer may 1 commit an offense and afterwards avoid by resigning his office.' That's the point. And there was no doubt because the founders were around to confirm that that was their intent and the obvious meaning of what is in the Constitution.

Rep. Joe Neguse (CO): William Belknap I'm not going to go into all the details, but just in short in 1876, the House discovered that he was involved in a massive kickback scheme. hours before the House committee that discovered this conduct released its report documenting the scheme. Belknap literally rushed to the White House to resign tender his resignation to President Ulysses Grant to avoid any further inquiry into his misconduct, and of course, to avoid being disqualified from holding federal office in the future. Well, later that day, aware of the resignation, what did the house do? The House move forward and unanimously impeached him, making clear its power to impeach a former official and when his case reached the Senate, this body Belknap made the exact same argument that President Trump is making today. That you all lacked jurisdiction any power to try him because he's a former official. Now many senators. At that time when they heard that argument. Literally, they were sitting in the same chairs you all are sitting in today, they were outraged by that argument. outraged. You can read their comments in the record. They knew it was a dangerous, dangerous argument with dangerous implications. It would literally mean that a president could betray their country, leave office and avoid impeachment and disqualification entirely. And that's why, in the end, the United States Senate decisively voted that the constitution required them to proceed with the trial.

Rep. Joe Neguse (CO): And just imagine the consequences of such an absurd interpretation of the Constitution. I mean, if, if President Trump were right about that language, then officials could commit the most extraordinary destructive offenses against the American people high crimes and misdemeanors, and they'd have total control over whether they can ever be impeached. And if they are, whether the Senate can try the case, if they want to escape any public inquiry into their misconduct, or the risk of disqualification from future office, and it's pretty simple, they just could just resign one minute before the house impeaches or even one minute before the Senate trial or they could resign during the senate trial. It's not looking so well. That would effectively erase disqualification from the Constitution. It would put wrongdoers in charge of whether the senate can try them.

Bruce Castor: The argument about the 14th amendment is absolutely ridiculous. The house managers tell you that the president should be impeached because he violated the 14th amendment. And here's what the 14th Amendment says. no person shall be a senator or representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military under the United States, or any other state, who having previously taken an oath as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial Officer of any state to support the Constitution, and shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may vote by two thirds of each house to remove such disability. Now, it doesn't take a constitutional scholar to recognize that that's written for people who fought for the Confederacy, or previous military officers who were in the government and not the Confederacy. And it does take a constitutional scholar to require that they be convicted first. In a court with due process of law. So that question can never be right until those things have happened.

Bruce Castor: If my colleagues on this side of the chamber actually think that President Trump committed a criminal offense, and let's understand a high crime is a felony, and a misdemeanor is a misdemeanor, the words haven't changed that much over the time. After he's out of office, you go and arrest him. So there is no opportunity where the President of the United States can run rampant in January the end of his term and just go away scot free. The Department of Justice does know what to do with such people. And so far, I haven't seen any activity in that direction. And not only that, the people who stormed this building and breached it. We're not accused of conspiring with the President.

Hearing: Senate Impeachment Trial Day 2 - Part 1, U.S. Senate, February 10, 2021

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Congressional Record Transcript: Impeachment Day 2


Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA): He then contacted Majority Leader of the Michigan Senate, Mike Shirkey, and the Speaker of the Michigan House, Lee Chatfield to lobby them to overturn Michigan's results. Trump invited Mr. Chatfield and Mr. Shirkey to Washington to meet with him at the White House, where the President lobbied them further. Let's be clear, Donald Trump was calling officials, hosting them at the White House, urging them to defy the voters in their state and instead award votes to Trump. The officials held strong and so Trump moved on to a different state, my home state of Pennsylvania. I am certain my Senators, Casey and Senator Toomey remember what happened there in early December as he did in Michigan. He began calling election officials, including my former colleagues in the Pennsylvania legislature, Republicans, Majority Leader Kim Ward, and Speaker of the House, Brian Cutler. Majority Leader Ward said the president called her to, "declare there was a fraud in the voting," then on November 25, President Trump phoned into a Republican state senate policy hearing, trying to convince the Republican legislators, Senators and House members, there had been a fraud in the vote. He even had his lawyer hold a phone up to the microphone in that hearing room. So the committee could hear him. Here is what he said.Donald Trump: We can't let that happen. We can't let it happen for our country. And this election has to be turned around because we won Pennsylvania by a lot. And we won all of these swing states by a lot. Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA): This was a gathering. I've attended many I have to tell you, as a former state legislator, a lot of policy hearings, I have to say with some confidence that was likely the first time a President of the United States of America called into a state legislative policy hearing. And remember, here is the President saying he won Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania had been certified for that Biden had won by more than 80,000 votes. Less than a week after calling into that meeting, he invited multiple Republican members of the Pennsylvania legislature to the White House, the same scheme he had used on the Michigan legislators. It didn't work with those public servants either. Think about it. The President of the United States was calling public officials from the White House, inviting them into the Oval Office, telling them to disenfranchise voters of their state, telling them to overturn the will of the American people. All so he could take the election for himself.

Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA): And then in Georgia, a state Trump had counted on for victory, his conduct was perhaps the most egregious. On November 11, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger confirmed that he believed ballots were accurately counted for Biden. Trump went on a relentless attack. Here are just a few examples. In all Trump tweeted at Raffensperger 17 times in the coming week. Show us just a few calling him "a disaster, obstinate, not having a clue, being played for a fool" and being a "so-called Republican" all because Raffensperger was doing his job ensuring the integrity of our elections.

Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA): In early December, Trump called Brian Kemp, the Governor of Georgia and pressured him to hold a special session of the state legislature to overturn the election results and to appoint electors who would vote for Trump. A few weeks later on December 23, Trump called the Chief Investigator for the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, who was conducting an audit. An audit of the signature matching procedures for absentee ballots. Trump urged him, "find the fraud" and claimed the official would be a national hero if he did. Let's call this what it is. He was asking the official to say there was evidence of fraud when there wasn't any. The official refused and the investigation was completed. And on December 29, Raffensperger announced that the audit found, quote, no fraudulent absentee ballots with a 99% confidence level. On January 3rd, Trump tweeted about a call he had with Georgia election officials the day before. He said, "I spoke to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger yesterday about Fulton County and voter fraud in Georgia. He was unwilling or unable to answer questions such as the ballots under the table scan, ballot destruction, out of state voters, dead voters and more. He has no clue." On January the fifth, The Washington Post released a recording of that call, which had occurred on January 2nd, remember, just four days before the attack on the Capitol. Here is what President Trump said: Donald Trump: It's more illegal for you than it is for them. Because you know what they did and you're not reporting it. That's it. You know, that's a criminal offense. And as you know, you can't let that happen. That's that's a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyers. That's a big risk. Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA): Let's be clear. This is the President of the United States telling a secretary of state that if he does not find votes, he will face criminal penalties. And not just any number of votes. Donald Trump was asking the Secretary of State to somehow find the exact number of votes Donald Trump lost the state by. Remember, President Biden won Georgia by 11,779 votes. In his own words, Trump said 'All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes.' He wanted the Secretary of State to somehow find the precise number plus one so that he could win. Here's what he said Donald Trump: Well, look, I want to do is this I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA): He says it right there. The President of the United States, telling a public official to manufacture the exact votes needed so he can win.

Rep. Ted Lieu (CA): But when Rosen took over, President Trump put the same pressure on him that he had done with state officials, members of Congress, US senators and his former Attorney General. President Trump reportedly summoned acting Attorney General Rosen to the oval office the next day, and pressured Rosen to appoint special counsels to keep investigating their election, including unfounded accusations of widespread voter fraud, and also to investigate Dominion, the voting machines firm. According to reports, Mr. Rosen refused. To maintain that he will make decisions based on the facts in the law and reminded President Trump what he had already been told by Attorney General bill Barr, that the department had already investigated and quote found no evidence of widespread fraud. But President Trump refused to follow the facts in the law. So the President turned to someone he knew would do his bidding. He turned to Jeffrey Clark, another Justice Department lawyer, who had allegedly expressed support for using the Department of Justice to investigate the election results. Shortly after acting Attorney General Rosen followed his duty and the law to refuse to reopen investigations. President Trump intended to replace Mr. Rosen with Mr. Clark, who could then try to stop Congress from certifying the electoral college results. According to reports, White House Counsel Pat Cippollone advised President Trump, not to fire acting Attorney General Rosen. Department officials had also threatened to resign en mass if he had fired Rosen.

Rep. Ted Lieu (CA): Trump reportedly told almost anyone who called him to also call the Vice President. According to reports, when Mike Pence was in the Oval Office, President Trump would call people to try to get them to convince the Vice President to help him.

Rep. Ted Lieu (CA): You can either go down in history as a patriot, Mr. Trump told him, according to people briefed on the conversation or you can go down in history as a pussy.

Del. Stacey Plaskett (VI): Pezzola has since been charged with eight federal crimes for his conduct related to January sixth. According to an FBI agents affidavit submitted to the court, the group that was with him during the sack of the capital confirm that they were out to murder 'anyone they got their hands on.' Here's what the FBI said. And I quote, 'other members of the group talked about things they had done that day. And they said that anyone they got their hands on, they would have killed, including Nancy Pelosi,' and that, 'they would have killed Vice President Mike Pence. If given the chance.'

Rep. David Cicilline (RI): Rep. David Cicilline (RI): Those around Donald Trump, as was later reported, were disgusted. His close aides, his advisors, those working for him former officials, even his family were begging him to do something. Kelly Anne Conway, the President's close advisor call to quote, add her name to the chorus of aides urging Donald Trump to take action. Ivanka Trump, the President's own daughter went to the Oval Office as soon as the writing escalated and was as confirmed by Senator Graham "trying to get Trump to speak out to tell everyone to leave." Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called Jared Kushner pleading with him to persuade Trump to issue a statement or to do something. And Kushner too, went down to the White House after that call. And it wasn't just the people at the White House. Members of Congress from both parties who were trapped here, calling the White House to ask for help.

Rep. David Cicilline (RI): The President, as reported by sources, at the time was delighted to see watch the violence unfold on television. President Trump was reportedly and I quote 'borderline enthusiastic, because it meant the certification was being derailed.'

Rep. David Cicilline (RI): Senator Ben Sasse related conversation with senior White House officials that President Trump was "walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren't as excited as he was."

Rep. David Cicilline (RI): He attempted to call Senator Tuberville, dialed Senator Lee by accident. Senator Lee describes it, he had just ended a prayer with his colleagues here in the Senate chamber and phone rang. It was Donald Trump. And now Senator Lee explains that the phone call goes something like this. Hey Tommy, Trump asks, and Senator Lee says this isn't Tommy and he hands the phone to Senator Tuberville. Certainly then confirm that he's stood by as Senator Tuberville and President Trump spoke on the phone. And on that call, Donald Trump reportedly asked Senator Tuberville to make additional objections to the certification process. That's why he called.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX): An aide to Mark Meadows, the President's Chief of Staff, urged his boss to go see the president saying, "they are going to kill people."

Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX): On January 6th, President Trump left everyone in this capital for dead.

Hearing: Senate Impeachment Trial Day 3 - Part 1, U.S. Senate, February 11, 2021

Part 2

Congressional Record Transcript: Impeachment Day 3


Rep. David Cicilline (RI): Senators, simply put, this mob was trying to overthrow our government.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX): According to charging documents, Riley Williams allegedly helped steal a laptop from Speaker Pelosi his office to, 'send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then plan to sell the device to SVR Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service.' While we can't be certain if or how many foreign spies infiltrated the crowd, or at least coordinated with those who did, we can be sure that any enemy who wanted access to our secrets would have wanted to be part of that mob inside these holes.

Hearing: Senate Impeachment Trial Day 4, U.S. Senate, February 12, 2021

Part 1

Part 2

Congressional Record Transcript: Impeachment Day 4


Michael Van Der Veen: According to publicly available reporting, it is apparent that extremists of various different stripes and political persuasions, preplanned and premeditated an attack on the Capitol. One of the first people arrested was a leader of Antifa. Sadly, he was also among the first to be released. From the beginning, the President has been clear. The criminals who infiltrated the Capitol must be punished to the fullest extent of the law. They should be in prison for as long as the law allows. The fact that the attacks were apparently premeditated, as alleged by the house managers, demonstrates the ludicrousness of the incitement allegation against the President. You can't incite what was already going to happen.

Michael Van Der Veen: Law enforcement officers at the scene conducted themselves heroically and courageously and our country owes them an eternal debt. But there must be a discussion of the decision by political leadership regarding force posture and security in advance of the event.

Michael Van Der Veen: Consider the language that the house impeachment article alleges to constitute incitement. If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore. This is ordinary political rhetoric that is virtually indistinguishable from the language that has been used by people across the political spectrum for hundreds of years.

David Schoen: Speaker Pelosi herself on February 2nd, called for a 9-11 style commission to investigate the events of January 6th. Speaker Pelosi says that the Commission is needed to determine the causes of the events she says it herself. If an inquiry of that magnitude is needed to determine the causes of the riot, and it may very well be, then how can these same Democrats have the certainty needed to bring articles of impeachment and blame the riots on President Trump? They don't.

David Schoen: As any trial lawyer will tell you reportedly is a euphemism for I have no real evidence.

Michael Van Der Veen: Brandenburg versus Ohio is really the landmark case on the issue of incitement speech. After the case was mentioned yesterday, in the Brandenburg v. Ohio case, another landmark, the court held that the government may only suppress speech for advocating the use of force or a violation of law. If such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action, and is likely to incite or produce such action. The Brandenburg holding has been interpreted as having three basic prongs to determine if speech meets the definition of incitement. The Brandenburg test precludes speech from being sanctioned as incitement to a riot, unless, this: one, the speech explicitly or implicitly encouraged use of violence or lawless action. Two, the speaker intends that his speech will result in use of violence or lawless action. And three, the imminent use of violence or lawless action is likely is the likely result of the speech. The house managers cannot get past the first prong of the Brandenburg test. They have not and cannot prove Mr. Trump explicitly or implicitly encouraged use of violence or lawless action period.

Bruce Castor: Did the 45th President engage in incitement? They continue to say insurrection? Clearly, there was no insurrection. Insurrection is a term defined in the law and involves taking over a country, a shadow government, taking the TV stations over and having some plan on what you're going to do when you finally take power. Clearly, this is not that. What our colleagues here across the aisle meant is incitement to violence. To riot.

Bruce Castor: Several of my colleagues and the house managers got up and spoke about the proceeding in the House being like a Grand Jury proceeding. Well, I've been in Grand Jury proceedings. I have run grand juries, in Grand Jury proceedings you call witnesses. You hear evidence. You make transcripts. You take affidavits, you develop physical evidence. You hear reports from police officers, you hear forensic analysis from scientists. In fact, you invite the target of the grand jury to come in and testify if he or she pleases to be heard by the grand jury. Which one of those things happened in the house prior to the impeachment article?

Bruce Castor: The House managers told you that the President demanded that the Georgia Secretary of State, "find just over 11,000 votes." The word find like so many others, the house managers highlighted is taken completely out of context. And the word "find" did not come out of thin air. Based on an analysis of publicly available voter data, that the ballot rejection rate in Georgia in 2016, was approximately 6.42%. And even though a tremendous amount of new first time mail in ballots were included in the 2020 count, the Georgia rejection rate in 2020, was a mere four tenths of 1%. A drop off from 6.42% to 0.04%.

Bruce Castor: With that background, it is clear that President Trump's comments and the use of the word "find" were solely related to his concerns with the inexplicable dramatic drop in Georgia's ballot rejection rates.

Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): The problem was when the President went from his judicial combat, which was fine to intimidating and bullying, state election officials and state legislators. And then finally, as Representative Cheney said, summoning a mob, assembling a mob and then lighting the match for an insurrection against the union. When he crossed over from non violent means, no matter how ridiculous or absurd, that's fine, he's exercising his rights, to inciting violence. That's what this trial is about.

Speaker: Exactly when did President Trump learn of the breach of the Capitol? What specific actions did he take to bring the writing to an end? And when did he take them? Please be as detailed as possible.

Speaker: Exactly when did the President learn of the breach at the Capitol? And what steps did he take to address the violence? Please be as detailed as possible.

Del. Stacey Plaskett: Mr. President, Senators, This attack was on live TV on all major networks in real time. The President as President has access to intelligence information, including reports from inside the Capitol. He knew the violence that was underway. He knew the severity of the threats. And most importantly, he knew the Capitol Police were overwhelmingly outnumbered in a fight for their lives against 1000s of insurgents with weapons. We know he knew that. We know that he did not send any individuals. We did not hear any tweets. We did not hear him tell those individuals stop. This is wrong. You must go back. We did not hear that. So what else do the president do? We are unclear. But we believe it was a dereliction of his duty. And that was because he was the one who had caused them to come to the Capitol. And they were doing what he asked them to do. So there was no need for him, to stop them from what they were engaged in.

Michael Van Der Veen: This is an article of impeachment for incitement. This is not an article of impeachment for anything else. So one count, they could have charged anything they wanted. They chose to charge incitement.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX): Senators, Donald Trump spent months inciting his base to believe that their election was stolen. And that was the point. That was the thing that would get people so angry. Think about that. What it would take to get a large group of 1000s of Americans so angry to storm the Capitol. That was the purpose behind Donald Trump saying that the election had been rigged, and that the election had been stolen. And to be clear, when he says the election is stolen, what he's saying is that the victory and he even says one time the election victory is being stolen from them. Think about how significant that is to Americans. Again, you're right over 70 million, I think 74 million people voted for Donald Trump. And this wasn't a one off comment. It wasn't one time it was over and over and over and over and over again with a purpose.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX): We let the people decide the elections, except President Trump. He directed all of that rage that he had incited to January 6. The last chance. Again, this was his last chance this was certifying the election results. He needed to whip up that mob. Amp them up enough to get out there and try to stop the election results. The certification of the election.

Sen. Ron Johnson: House managers assert that the January 6th attack was predictable and it was foreseeable. If so, why did it appear that law enforcement at the Capitol were caught off guard and unable to prevent the breach? Why did the house Sergeant at Arms reportedly turned down a request to activate the National Guard stating that he was not comfortable with the optics? Michael Van Der Veen: Holy cow. That is a really good question. And had the House Managers done their investigation, maybe somebody would have an answer to that. But they didn't. They did zero investigation. They did nothing. They looked into nothing. They read newspaper articles, they talked to their friends who know a TV reporter or something or someone or another. But Jimmy Crickets, there is no due process in this proceeding at all. And that question highlights the problem. When you have no due process. You have no clear cut answers.

Del. Stacey Plaskett: He put together the group that would do what he wanted. And that was to stop the certification of the election so that he could retain power to be President of the United States, in contravention of an American election.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX): He intended, wanted to, and tried to overturn the election by any means necessary. He tried everything else that he could to do to win. He started inciting the crowd, issuing tweet after tweet, issuing commands to stop the count, stop the steal, worked up the crowd, sent a save the date. So it wasn't just one speech or one thing he was trying everything. He was pressuring elected officials, he was riling up his base telling him the election had been stolen from them, that it had been stolen from him. It was a combination of things that only Donald Trump could have done.

Hearing: Senate Impeachment Trial Day 5, Vote on Calling Witnesses, U.S. Senate, February 13, 2021

Additional Session Video

Closing Arguements

Congressional Record Transcript: Impeachment Day 5


Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): But last night, Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Butler of Washington State issued a statement confirming that in the middle of the insurrection, when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the president to beg for help, President Trump responded and I quote, 'Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.' Needless to say this is an additional critical piece of corroborating evidence further confirming the charges before you, as well as the President's willful dereliction of duty and desertion of duty as Commander in Chief of the United States, his state of mind, and his further incitement of the insurrection on January 6th, for that reason, and because this is the proper time to do so under the resolution that the Senate adopted to set the rules for the trial. We would like the opportunity to subpoena Congresswoman Herrera regarding her communications with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and to subpoena her contemporaneous notes that she made regarding what President Trump told Kevin McCarthy in the middle of the insurrection, we would be prepared to proceed by zoom deposition of an hour or less, just as soon as Congresswoman Herrera Butler is available, and to then proceed to the next phase of the trial, including the introduction of that testimony shortly thereafter, Congresswoman Butler further stated that she hopes other witnesses to this part of the story, other patriots as she put it, would come forward and if that happens, we would seek the opportunity to take their depositions via Zoom also for less than an hour, or to subpoena other relevant documents as well.

Michael Van Der Veen: What you all need to know and the American people need to know is as of late yesterday afternoon, there was a stipulation going around that there weren't going to be any witnesses. But after what happened here in this chamber yesterday, the house managers realize they did not investigate this case before bringing the impeachment. They did not give the proper consideration and work they didn't put the work in, that was necessary to impeach the former president. But if they want to have witnesses, I'm going to need at least over 100 depositions, not just one, the real issue is incitement. They put into their case, over 100 witnesses, people who have been charged with crimes by the federal government. And each one of those they said that Mr. Trump was a co-conspirator with. That's not true. But I have the right to defend that. The only thing that I ask if you vote for witnesses, do not handcuff me by limiting the number of witnesses that I can have. I need to do a thorough investigation that they did not do.

Michael Van Der Veen: We should close this case out today.

Michael Van Der Veen: It's about the incitement. It's not about what happened afterwards. That's actually the irrelevant stuff. That's the irrelevant stuff. It's not the things that were said from the election to January 6th. It's not relevant to the legal analysis of the issues that are before this body. It doesn't matter what happened after the insurgence into the Capitol Building, because that doesn't have to do with incitement. Incitement, it's a point in time, folks. It's a point in time when the words are spoken, and the words say, implicitly say, explicitly, say, commit acts of violence, or lawlessness. And we don't have that here. So for the house managers to say we need depositions about things that happened after it's just not true.

Michael Van Der Veen: Nancy Pelosi's deposition needs to be taken comm Vice President Harris's deposition absolutely needs to be taken and not by zoom. None of these depositions should be done by Zoom. We didn't do this hearing by Zoom. These depositions should be done in person in my office in Philadelphia. That's where they should be done.

Bruce Castor: Donald John Trump, by his counsel, is prepared to stipulate that if the if representative Herrera Butler were to testify under oath as part of these proceedings, her testimony would be consistent with the statement she issued on February 12 2021. And the former President's Council is agreeable to the admission of that public statement into evidence at this time.

Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): I will now read this statement. This is the statement Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Butler February 12 2021. In my January 12 statement in support of the Article of Impeachment, I referenced a conversation House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy relayed to me that he'd had with President Trump, while the January 6th attack was ongoing. Here the details. When McCarthy finally reached the President on January 6, and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot. The President initially repeated the falsehood that it was Antifa that had breached the Capitol. McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That's when according to McCarthy, the President said, 'Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.'

Rep. David Cicilline (RI): There was a lot of discussion yesterday about what the President knew. And when he knew it. There are certain things that we do not know about what the President did that day. Because the President, that is former President Trump has remained silent. But what he was doing during one of the bloodiest attacks on our capital since 1812. Despite a full and fair opportunity to come forward, he's refused to come and tell his story.

Rep. David Cicilline (RI): There can be no doubt. At the moment we most needed a president to preserve, protect and defend us, President Trump instead willfully betrayed us. He violated his oath. He left all of us in offices like Eugene Goodman, to our own devices against an attack he had incited and he alone could stop.

Interviewer: Can you give a direct answer you will accept the election to see Donald Trump: I have to see, oh, I'm not going to just say yes. And this election will be the most rigged election in history, this is going to be the greatest election disaster in history. And the only way they can take this election away from us, is if this is a rigged election, we're gonna win this election, which a rigged election, the only way we're gonna lose, do you commit to making sure that there's a nice little word for all of we want to have get rid of the ballots, and you'll have a very transfer will have a very peaceful, they won't be a transfer, frankly, there'll be a continuation, it's the only way we're gonna that's the only way we're gonna lose is if there's mischief, mischief, and it'll have to be on a big scale. So be careful. But this will be one of the greatest fraudulent and most fraudulent elections ever. We're not going to let this election be taken away from us. That's the only way they're gonna win. This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election. We were winning in all the key locations by a lot, actually. And then our numbers started miraculously getting whittled away in secret. And this is a case where they're trying to steal an election. They're trying to rig an election. And we can't let that happen. You can't let another person steal that election from you. all over the country. People are together, in holding up signs stop this deal. If we don't root out the fraud, the tremendous and horrible fraud that's taken place in our 2020 election. We don't have a country anymore. We cannot allow a completely fraudulent election to stand. We're gonna fight like hell, I'll tell you, right. If you don't fight to save your country with everything you have, you're not gonna have a country left. We will not bend we will not break we will not yield. We will never give in. We will never give up we will never back down. We will never ever surrender. All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen. We will never give up. We will never concede it doesn't happen. You don't concede when there's steps. And you use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with. We will stop the steel. Because you'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. Make no mistake, this election was stolen from you from me and from the country. And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not gonna have a country anymore.

Michael Van Der Veen: Because their case is so weak that house managers have taken a kitchen sink approach to the supposedly single article of impeachment. They allege that Mr. Trump incited the January 6th violence. They alleged that he abused power by attempting to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Raffensburger to undermine the results of the 2020 election and they allege that he gravely and endangered the democratic system by interfering with a peaceful transition of power. At least three things there. Under the Senate rules, each of these allegations must have been alleged in a separate article of impeachment.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT): It is therefore ordered and adjudged that the said Donald John Trump is hereby acquitted the charge in said article.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: Indeed, Justice Story specifically reminded that while former officials were not eligible for impeachment or conviction, they were, and this is extremely important, still liable to be tried and punished and the ordinary tribunals of justice. Put another way, in the language of today, President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office. As an ordinary citizen, unless the statute of limitations is run, still liable for everything he did, while he's in office. Didn't get away with anything. Yet. Yet.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: January 6th was a disgrace. American citizens attacked their own government. They use terrorism to try to stop a specific piece of domestic business they did not like. Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House. They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the Vice President. They did this because they'd been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth. Because he was angry he lost an election. Former President Trump's actions preceded the riot or a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty. The house accused the former president of "incitement." That is a specific term from the criminal law. Let me just put that aside for a moment and reiterate something I said weeks ago. There's no question, none. That President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth. The issue is not only the President's intemperate language on January 6, it is not just his endorsement of remarks, in which an associate urged "trial by combat." It was also the entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe. The increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was somehow being stolen. Some secret coup by our now president. Now I defended the President's right to bring any complaints to our legal system. The legal system spoke the electoral college vote. As I stood up and said clearly at that time, the election was settled, over. That just really opened a new chapter of even wilder, wilder and more unfounded claims. The leader the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feigned surprise when people believe him and do reckless things. Sadly, many politicians sometimes make overheated comments or use metaphors, we saw that, that unhinge listeners might take literally. But that was different. That's different from what we saw. This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories, orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters decision or else torch our institutions on the way out. The unconscionable behavior did not end when the violence actually began. Whatever our ex president claims he thought might happen that day whatever right reaction he says he meant to produce by that afternoon. We know he was watching the same live television as the rest of us. A mob was assaulting the Capitol in his name. These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags and screaming their loyalty to him. It was obvious that only President Trump could end this. He was the only one who could. Former aides publicly begged him to do so. Loyal allies frantically called the administration did not act swiftly. He did not do his job. He didn't take steps so federal law could be faithfully executed and order restored. No. Instead, according to public reports, he watched television happily. Happily, as the chaos unfolded, pressing his scheme to overturn the election. Now, even after it was clear to any reasonable observer that Vice President Pence was in serious danger, even as the mob carrying Trump banners, beating cops and breaching parameters. Their president sent a further tweet attacking his own vice president. Now predictably and foreseeably. Under the circumstances, members of the mob seem to interpret this as a further inspiration, lawlessness and violence, not surprisingly, later, even when the President did half heartedly began calling for peace. He didn't call right away for the right, good and who did not tell the mob to depart until even later. And even then, with police officers bleeding and broken glass covering Capitol floors, he kept repeating election lies and praising the criminals. In recent weeks, our ex presidents associates have tried to use the 74 million Americans who voted to reelect him as a kind of human shield against criticism. Using the 74 million who voted for him is kind of a human shield against criticism. Anyone who describes his awful behavior is accused of insulting millions of voters. That's an absurd deflection. 74 million Americans did not invade the capital. Hundreds of rioters did. 74 million Americans did not engineer the campaign of disinformation and rage that provoked it. One person did. Just one. I've made my view of this episode very plain. But our system of government gave the Senate a specific task. The Constitution gives us a particular role. This body is not invited to act as the nation's overarching moral tribunal. We're not free to work backward from whether the accused party might personally deserve some kind of punishment. Justice Joseph Story, our notions first great constitutional scholar. As he explained nearly 200 years ago, the process of impeachment and conviction is a narrow tool. A narrow tool for a narrow purpose. Story explained this limited tool exists to, "secure the state against gross official misdemeanors," That is to protect the country from government officers. If President Trump were still in office, I would have carefully considered whether the house managers prove their specific charge. By the strict criminal standard, the President's speech probably was not incitement. However, however, in the context of impeachment, the Senate might have decided this was acceptable shorthand for the reckless actions that preceded the ride. But in this case, the question is moot because former President Trump is constitutionally not eligible for conviction. Now, this is a closed question. No doubt. Donald Trump was the president when the House voted, though not when the House chose to deliver the papers. Brilliant scholars argue both sides of this jurisdictional question. The text is legitimately ambiguous. I respect my colleagues who've reached either conclusion. But after intense reflection, I believe the best constitutional reading shows that article two, Section Four exhausts the set of persons who can legitimately be impeached tried or convicted. It's the president. It's the Vice President and civil officers. We have no power to convict and disqualify a former officeholder who is now a private citizen.

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Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Feb 28, 2021
Thank You Sludge

After an introduction to Sludge, a fantastic independent journalism outlet that investigates Congress, Jen thanks all the producers who make Congressional Dish possible.

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Recommended Episodes

CD192: Democracy Upgrade Stalled

CD129: The Impeachment of John Koskinen



Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations

Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Feb 21, 2021
CD227: Coronabus Health Care

The 116th Congress finished their reign by passing every section of government funding into law with COVID relief attached. In this episode, learn about the new COVID relief law after you hear about a surprise dingleberry that promises to end surprise medical billing in the United States. That's right! Something good happened! Find out in this episode how the new provisions will positively affect you.

Executive Producer: Anonymous

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Recommended Episodes

CD219: Oversights of CAREs

CD213: CARES Act - The Trillions for COVID-19 Law

CD199: Surprise Medical Bills

Coronabus Outline

CBO Score of COVID provisions (Division N)

CBO Score of COVID provisions (Division M)

CBO Score of the omnibus


Explanatory Statement 1

Explanatory Statement 2


Sec. 201: General Provisions

The Federal government will pay 100% of the cost of funeral expenses that the Governor of a state chooses to pay for expenses through 12/31/2020.

Child Care and Development Block Grant: Provides $10 billion and expand eligibility by waiving eligibility restrictions tied to income. It specifically mentions health care sector employees, emergency responders, sanitation workers, farm workers, and other "workers deemed essential during the response to coronavirus by public officials". The money can be used to pay for co-payments and tuition payments for families.

Public Health and Social Services Fund: Provides $22,945,000,000 for vaccines and $22,400,000,000 for testing and contract tracing.

Education Stabilization Fund: Provides almost $82 billion available through September 2022 to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus domestically or internationally”. $2.75 billion will go to "non-public schools". Non-public schools can not also take PPP money if they apply for this money.

Federal Aviation Administration: Provides $2 billion for airports, and requires them to retain at least 90 percent of their workforce as of March 27, 2020 (minus retirements and employees who quit) until February 15th



Sec. 101: Supporting Physicians and Other Professionals in Adjusting to Medicare Payment Changes During 2021

Medicare fee schedules will be increased by 3.75% from January 1, 2021 through January 1, 2022. Prohibits judicial review of the fee schedules that determine payment amounts. Funds it with $3 billion plus "necessary" amounts from the Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund.


Subtitle A - Unemployment Insurance

Sec. 201: Extension and Benefit Phaseout Rule For Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

Extends the eligibility period for COVID-19 unemployment payments through March 14, 2021. People who haven't used their benefit eligibility of 50 weeks can get payments through April 5, 2021. Gives individuals the right to appeal denials of their unemployment benefits, but any denials issued before the end of 2020 will stand.

Sec. 203: Extension of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation

Adds $300 in federal tax money to the weekly unemployment benefits we receive from our states from December 26, 2020 through March 14, 2021.

Sec. 241: Requirement To Substantiate Employment or Self-Employment and Wages Earned or Paid to Confirm Eligibility for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

Requires people filing for COVID unemployment benefits who aren't usually eligible (such as self-employed people, people who can't work because they are sick with COVID or caring for a COVID, etc.) to provide documentation to prove they are employed or self employed. The law is not specific about what kind of documentation is required.

Sec. 263: Continuing Eligibility for Certain Recipients of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

Starting in February 2021, people in this category have to submit documents every week proving they are still, caring for someone who is sick, or can't work for another eligible reason.

Sec. 242: Requirement for States to Verify Identity of Applicants for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

Requires the states to verify the identity of any approved to receive COVID unemployment payments. States need to start doing this by February 1.

Sec. 251: Return to Work Reporting For CARES Agreement

By February 1, states have to set up a snitching hotline or website for employers to use to rat on employees who refuse to return to work "without good cause." The definition of good cause is left up to the states.

Subtitle B - COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020

Sec. 272: Additional 2020 Recovery Rebates For Individuals

Individuals making up to $75,000 - based on 2019 taxes - will receive a $600 "tax credit", in addition to $600 per dependent

Sec. 276: Clarification of Tax Treatment of Forgiveness of Covered Loans

A business that receives a PPP loan that is forgiven does not have to count that money as income and expenses paid with the PPP money can be deducted.

Sec. 277: Emergency Financial Aid Grants

Students who receive emergency financial aid grants don’t have to count the money as income

Sec. 286: Extension of Credits For Paid Sick and Family Leave

Extended a tax credit for employers which would cover 100% of the costs of paid sick and family leave they offer to their employees and the tax credit for self-employed people for the days they can’t work because of COVID until March 31, 2021.


Sec. 304: Additional Eligible Expenses

Expands the list of expenses that can be paid using PPP funds to include operations expenditures, property damage caused by the BLM protests in summer 2020 that were not covered by insurance, supplier costs, and worker protection measures related to COVID safety.

Sec. 305: Hold Harmless

Exempts the banks that administer the PPP program from lawsuits related to loan origination or forgiveness for a second draw of PPP loans as long as they collect required paperwork "in good faith".

Sec. 307: Simplified Forgiveness Application

Creates a simplified application process for PPP loan forgiveness for loans less than $150,000. Those loans "shall be forgiven" if the person submits a 1 page document describing how many employees were retained thanks to the loan, how much of the loan was spent on payroll, and the total loan amount. The recipient will have to retain employment records for 4 years after submitting the application. The banks are not allowed to require any other documents for loan forgiveness. This is effective from the signing of the CARES Act.

Sec. 308: Specific Group Insurance Payments as Payroll Costs

Clarifies that "group life, disability, vision, or dental insurance" counts as payroll costs, which can be paid using PPP loan money.

Sec. 311: Paycheck Protection Program Second Draw Loans

Allows people to get a second round of forgivable PPP loans with the amount based on their payroll expenses for the last year or 2019 with a maximum loan amount of $2 million. Limits the size of the business to one with fewer than 300 employees per location, instead of 500 employees per location.

Sec. 318: Eligibility of 501(c)(6) and Destination Marketing Organizations For Loans Under the Paycheck Protection Program

Allows PPP funds to be given to tax exempt business organizations, including organizations that engage in lobbying Congress.

Sec. 319: Prohibition on Use of Loan Proceeds For Lobbying Activities

Prohibits PPP funds from being used on lobbying expenses.

Sec. 322: Conflicts of Interest

A business that is more than 20% owned or controlled by the President, Vice President, the head of an Executive department or a member of Congress or their spouses is not eligible to receive PPP loans.

Sec. 324: Grants for Shuttered Venue Operations

Live performance venues, except ones that "present live performances of a prurient sexual nature", that have taken in 30% or less of their 2019 revenues can get grants to help make up for 45% of their lost revenue during the pandemic. $2 billion is set aside for businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

Sec. 342: Prohibition of Eligibility For Publicly-Traded Companies

Prohibits publicly traded companies from receiving PPP loans.


Subtitle A - Airline Worker Support Extension

Sec. 402: Pandemic Relief for Aviation Workers

Provides $15 billion to pay the salaries and benefits of passenger airlines and $1 billion for contractors.

Sec. 404: Required Assurances

Conditions the money on the promise from the airlines and contractors that they won't lay anyone off or reduce their pay until March 31, 2021 and that the money won't be used to buy the companies stock or pay out dividends until March 31, 2022. Airlines or contractors that accept this money will have 72 hours from the time they accept the agreement with government to recall any employees they laid off. The employees who return will receive back pay from December 1, 2020 (minus any severance they received).

Sec. 406: Limitation of Certain Employee Compensation

Freezes the pay of anyone in the airlines accepting our tax money funded bailout who made more than $425,000/year in 2019 to their 2019 pay levels until October 1, 2022. No one in the company will be allowed to collect more than $3 million plus 50% of the amount over $3 million that they earned in 2019.

Sec. 407: Minimum Air Service Guarantees

Authorizes the Secretary of Transportation (Pete Buttigeg) to require an airline to maintain service to any destination that airline served on March 20, 2020, if the airline accepts the COVID bailout money. This authority automatically expires on March 1, 2022.

Subtitle B - Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services Act

Sec. 421: Assistance For Providers of Transportation Services Affected by COVID-19

Provides $2 billion to transportation service companies that have lost at least 25% of their revenue due to COVID-19 that has fewer than 500 employees or a company with over 500 employees that hasn't received a bailout yet. The companies have to use at least 60% of the money to pay up to $100,000/yr per employee in salary as long as they don't furlough any more workers (they can spend the money on other things if all their workers are back and making their 2019 pay levels already).


Subtitle A - Emergency Rental Assistance

Sec. 501: Emergency Rental Assistance

Provides $25 billion for rental assistance . The money will be given to the states and 90% of it needs to be used to pay rent, utilities, home energy costs, and other costs as determined by the Treasury Secretary. Under no circumstance can any household get payments for more than 15 months. The money will flow from the government directly to the landlord or utility provider (unless the landlord or utility provider refuses to accept the payment, which is the only circumstance during which the household will get the money). To be eligible you either have to have income below 50% of the area median income or one or more individuals in the home have been unemployed for at least 90 days. Landlords are allowed to apply on behalf of their tenants, with their permission and signature on the application. The funding expires December 31, 2021.

Sec. 502: Extension of Eviction Moratorium

Extends the eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021.

Subtitle B - Community Development Investment

Sec. 522: Capital Investments For Neighborhoods Disproportionately Impacted By The COVID-19 Pandemic

Creates a new fund with $9 billion to give money to banks - by purchasing their stock - to lend out in low income and minority communities. The administration of these purchases can be outsourced to "any bank, savings association, trust company, security broker or dealer, asset manager, or investment advisor as a financial agent of the Federal Government." The law sets no limits on executive compensation, share buybacks, or dividend payments for the recipients of the bank's lending (the Secretary of the Treasury gets to make those rules). The authority for using this $9 billion is valid until 6 months after the emergency declared on March 13, 2020 is terminated.

Subtitle C - Miscellaneous

Sec. 540: Extension of Temporary Relief and Emergency Authorities

Extends the provision from the CARES Act that exempted banks from relatively new reporting requirements on their credit losses until the end of the emergency or January 1, 2022, an extra year.

Sec. 541: Extension of Temporary Relief From Troubled Debt Restructurings And Insurer Clarification

Extends the provision from the CARES Act that allows banks to avoid counting troubled loans as troubled on their balance sheets until 60 days after the emergency declared on March 13th ends or January 1, 2022, an extra year. This law also expands the eligibility to include insurance companies.


Sec. 601: Job Corp Flexibilities

Temporarily allows people who have already turned 25 to qualify for the Jobs Corps.


Subtitle A - Nutrition

Sec. 702: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

From January 1, 2021 through June 30, 2021, food stamp beneficiaries will get 115% of the amount they received in June 2020. Money received from Federal unemployment payments - the money provided on top of state payments - will not be counted as income for the month the money was received or for the 9 months that follow for the purpose of determining food stamp eligibility.

Subtitle B - Agriculture

Sec. 751: Office of the Secretary

Provides over $11 billion for farmers and those that provide for local food systems such as farmers markers, restaurants, and schools. $1.5 billion will be used to purchase food for hungry Americans. $1 billion of this money can be used to pay up to 80% of the revenue losses of contract growers of livestock and poultry for the period beginning on January 1, 2020 (two months before COVID) through January 1, 2021.


Sec. 801: COVID-19 Funding For The United States Postal Service

Allows the postal service to keep the money it was loaned by the CARES Act


Sec. 904: Benefit For Broadband Service During Emergency Period Relating to COVID-19

Creates the "Emergency Broadband Benefit Program" funded with $3.2 billion, which allows households that qualify for some other COVID relief benefits can also get a monthly $50 discount on their internet service, or $100 if they are renting equipment, but only if their internet service provide elects to participate in the program. The FCC will reimburse the internet companies directly for the discounts. Companies that accept the money are not allowed to require an early termination fee of new customers who get service due to this benefit who then decide to cancel later. This is valid until 6 months after the end of the emergency is declared.


Sec. 1003: Rescissions

Rescinds $429 billion out of the $500 billion that was provided the CARES Act to provide loans and invest in corporate bonds by the Federal Reserve.

Sec. 1005: Termination of Authority

Terminates the authority created by the CARES Act for the Federal Reserve to make loans or purchase securities using the Main Street Lending Program, or the authorities granted to loan money to state and local governments. They can still make loans using the Term Asset-Back Securities Loan Facility. They are allowed to restructure and extend existing loans.

Sec. 1006: Rule of Construction

Clarifies that the Federal Reserve is not in any way restricted from using authorities it already had before enactment of the CARES Act.



Sec. 102: Health Insurance Requirements Regarding Surprise Medical Billing

Starting on January 1, 2022, any health insurance company that provides "any benefits" in an emergency department can not require pre-authorization of those services or deny coverage because the emergency department is out of their network. If emergency services are provided out-of-network, there can not be any limits on coverage any more restrictive than what would be covered by an in-network emergency department and the out-of-pocket costs can't be more than they would be in-network. Out-of-pocket payments at an out-of-network emergency room must count towards in-network deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.

Emergency services include any care that happens in connection to the emergency visit, regardless of what department of the hospital provides the services. After the patient is stabilized, inpatient or outpatient stays in connection to that event are also covered.

Loophole: Services are not covered if the patient is able to travel without medical transportation, is able to provide informed consent, and "other conditions" that will be determined by regulation.

The prices to be paid by insurers will be based on the median price paid in the geographic area for similar services, and it will increase along with the consumer price index.

In the case of a out-of-network doctor who works at an in-network hospital, if that doctor doesn't notify the patient that he/she is out-of-network, the health insurance company can't require the patient to pay any more out of pocket than they would pay if the doctor were in-network. Any cost-sharing payments must be applied to the in-network deductible and annual maximum out of pocket limits. This also applies to air ambulance providers.

Health insurance companies are no longer allowed to require referrals for women to go to the gynecologist. Health insurance plans are still allowed to require gynecologists to notify the plan and/or the primary care doctor of their treatment decisions.

Sec. 103: Determination of Out-of-Network Rates to Be Paid By Health Plan; Independent Dispute Resolution Process

To determine how much an insurance company will directly pay to an out-of-network provider, the provider has 30 days from receiving a payment or a denial of payment to start a negotiation process. If the negotiation fails, within four days, the provider or health insurance company can elect to start an independent dispute resolution. The Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury have until the end of 2021 to create this process by regulation. The regulation process will determine who will be certified to act as the dispute resolution judge, but it is not allowed to be an affiliate, subsidiary or trade group that represents a health insurance company or health care provider. The independent disputer settler will have 30 days to make the payment determination. The payment amounts can consider the comparable rates in the geographic region, the market share that provider controls in the region, the complexity of the patients case, and if either side made any effort to be in each other's network. They payment amounts can not consider the amount the provider usually chooses to charge or the rates usually paid by Medicare and Medicaid. The decisions will be binding and not subject to judicial review, unless there is evidence of fraud. The insurance company will have 30 days from the decision date to pay the bill. A lot of information about who uses this process and its results will be made public.

Sec. 104: Health Care Provider Requirements Regarding Surprise Medical Billing

The emergency departments and doctors can't send patients bills for anything more than their co-pay amounts. Out-of-network doctors working at in-network facilities are also prohibited from sending bills that are greater than the co-pay amounts.

Out of network doctors at in-network facilities that provide services such as anesthesiology, radiology, and lab services can send bills to patients if the the patient makes an appointment to see them 72 hours or more in advance of their treatment and if the patient signs a written notice or email. The notice has to inform the patient that getting treated by the out-of-network doctor is optional and that they have the option to get treated by an in-network doctor, along with a list of in-network doctors available to provide the service. The notice also has to inform the patient that the amount they pay may not apply to their out-of-pocket limits or in-network deductible. The notice has to be dated and signed by the patient before they receive the services.

Loophole: The notice has to have a "good faith estimated amount" that the provider "may" charge, but that that amount is not a contractual obligation. The states are given the authority to enforce these laws. If the state refuses to enforce them, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has the ability to enforce them, and issue fines to doctors (and specifically air ambulance operators) up to $10,000 per violation.

There will be a process for submitting complaints to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the department has 60 days to respond. The doctor or air ambulance operator can avoid the fine by withdrawing the bill, reimbursing the patient for the difference between what they were charged and what they should have been charged, plus interest, within 30 days.

Loophole: The law does give the Secretary of HHS the permission to create a "hardship exemption" to the fines.

Sec. 105: Ending Surprise Air Ambulance Bills

Establishes similar laws for air ambulance operators as are enacted for emergency rooms and out-of-network doctors working at in-network facilities. Patients with health insurance who receive air ambulance services can only be charged the in-network rate for a copay. Air ambulance companies are not allowed to bill patients with health insurance more than their co-pay amount.

Sec. 107: Transparency Regarding In-Network and Out-of Network Deductibles and Out-of-Pocket Limitations

By January 1, 2022, health insurances have to issue new insurance identification cards which include "any deductible", "any out-of-pocket limit", and a telephone number and internet website that patients can use to find out who is in-network.

Sec. 111: Consumer Protections Through Health Plan Requirement for Fair and Honest Advance Cost Estimate

Starting on January 1, 2022, before a patient receives a scheduled service, the health insurance company has to send them a physical notice or email - patient's choice - about whether they are schedule to see an in-network or out-of-network doctor. If they are scheduled for an in-network appointment, they have to tell the patients the contracted rate for the service. If they are scheduled for an out-of-network appointment, they have to tell the patient how to find an in-network doctor.

The notice also has to include cost estimates, including an estimate submitted by the doctor, how much the health insurance company will probably pay, the cost of any co-pays, and how close the patient is to reaching any out-of-pocket limits. The notice must also include a disclaimer that these are only estimates.

Sec. 112: Patient Protections Through Transparency and Patient-Provider Dispute Resolution

Starting on January 1, 2022, before a patient receives a scheduled service, the doctor needs to ask the patient if they have insurance, are covered bypass a government plan, or have no insurance. If the patient has insurance, they have to provide the health insurance company or the government with a "good faith estimate" of the expected charges with the billing codes for the expected services. If the person does not have insurance, the estimate has to be given directly to the patient.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services will have to create a process by January 1, 2022 for uninsured patients who are charged more than their estimates to have their bill determined by an independent dispute resolution authority.

Sec. 113: Ensuring Continuity of Care

If a health insurance plan ends its contract with a patient's doctor, the health insurance company has to notify the patient and give the patient the opportunity to request and be granted 90 days of keeping the co-payment structure they had while the doctor was in-network.

Sec. 114: Maintenance of Price Comparison Tool

Health insurance companies will have to offer patients - via telephone and internet - a tool that allows them to compare the co-pays they would be responsible for if they received a service from each of their in-network providers.

Sec. 116: Protecting Patients and Improving the Accuracy of Provider Director Information

Requires health insurance companies to accurately maintain their in-network provider database. If the patient gets information about a doctor from an outdated database, or if the patient's requests for information go unanswered, the insurance company must charge the patient in-network copays, but the deductible will be applied to the out-of-network maximum limit.


Sec. 201: Increasing Transparency By Removing Gag Clauses on Price and Quality Information

Health insurance companies will be prohibited from contractually preventing doctors from revealing their pricing agreements to referring doctors, the patient, the patient's employer, or people eligible to be a part of that health insurance plan. Restrictions can be placed upon what information is made public.

Sec. 204: Reporting on Pharmacy Benefits and Drug Costs

Starting at the beginning of 2022, health insurance companies will annually submit a report to the government about the 50 most common prescription drugs they pay for, the 50 most expensive prescription drugs, and the 50 prescription drugs with the greatest increase in price. The report also has to break down the costs of other categories of care, such as hospital visits, provider costs, and drug costs. They will also have to report on the average amount monthly premiums they receive from employers and patients.


Sec. 1401: Prohibiting Deceptive Acts or Practices In Connection with the Novel Coronavirus

For the duration of the public emergency, it will be illegal for "any person, partnership, or corporation" to deceive anyone in association with a COVID-19 treatment, cure, prevention, or diagnosis or a government benefit related to COVID-19. This will be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and violators can be fined up to $10,000 per violation.


Sound Clip Sources

News Clip: Dr. Fauci: It will be ‘open season’ by April for everyone to receive vaccines, Today, February 11, 2021

Hearing: Safeguarding American Consumers: Fighting Fraud and Scams During the Pandemic, House Committee on Energy and Commerce: Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, February 4, 2021

Watch on Youtube


  • Bonnie Patten
  • Jessica Rich
    • Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for Technology Law and Policy at Georgetown Law School
    • Former Director of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission
    • She served at the FTC for 26 years

44:40 Bonnie Patten: The list of deceptively marketed products and services exploiting this pandemic is extensive. CBD products marketed to military veterans as a Coronavirus treatment, bleach advertised as a liquid cure all, Wellness Centers targeting first responders, with IV vitamin drips to protect against COVID-19. Amazon and eBay sellers falsely claiming that their PPE FDA approved. Hand sanitizer marketed is protecting for 24 hours against COVID-19. Alleged immune immunity boosting supplements targeting children. Colloidal Silver solutions advertised as having the ability to kill the virus from within. Toothpaste and teeth whitening products claiming to prevent COVID-19 and Sham wellness kits targeting seniors. Unfortunately, the deception does not stop with outrageous health claims. Many are exploiting the economic desperation wrought by this pandemic. Multi level marketing companies claiming people can earn full time pay working part time. Lending companies deceptively using the cares act to exploit college students. Investment scams claiming to have patented COVID cures and financial entities pretending to be SBA authorized lenders to lure in small businesses struggling to keep their workers employed.

46:15 Bonnie Patten: And to make matters worse, the agency primarily charged with policing these deceptive acts, the FTC, is now at risk of losing a mainstay of its enforcement authority and the ability to make victims whole under Section 13-b. Because 13-b does not specifically say anything about equitable relief when a permanent injunction is issued, the Supreme Court is now deciding the remedial scope, if any of 13-b in the case AMG vs FTC. AMG was a payday lending scheme that extracted money from people in desperate circumstances and in its appeal, the company does not dispute that it violated the law. Instead, it argues that the $1.3 billion it's stole should be it's to keep. AMG asserts that it was never Congress's intention for the FTC to return money to victims of fraud under 13-b. Quite to the contrary. AMG argues that this legislative body fully endorsed the notion that wrongdoers should pocket the money they've illegally taken when it drafted 13-b. If the Supreme Court rules in AMG's favor, and this Congress does not act to empower the FTC to seek restitution under 13-b, then the deceptive practices I have enumerated will only multiply.

1:17:40 Jessica Rich: The new law covers a huge amount of scams. It's very broad as to COVID scams. So if a company engages in any of that activity, the FTC can pursue civil penalties and so just as Miss Patton just said, it's very important for deterrence to make it painful for fraudsters to rip off consumers.

1:18:20 Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ): But now that the FTC has this authority to find companies who've committed fraud and scams related to the pandemic under this new law, why is it still important to ensure that the FTC 13 b authority is preserved? Why is that so important? Bonnie Patten: COVID scams are terrible, but they're one of many frauds that the FTC has to fight all year long in and out of a pandemic. So in many of those cases, the FTC doesn't have civil penalty authority, and its rigorous authority is under threat. So it's a much broader problem that goes beyond the COVID scams that are occurring here. And so it still needs to be fixed.

2:23:25 Rep. Darren Soto (FL): Is this being sufficiently used already by the FTC? Do you anticipate gaps in all this law realizing it just was passed? Bonnie Patten: To my knowledge, the FTC has not yet used that act. But that's the only information I know, that there's no public on their website. It does have gaps. It does. You cannot target work from home scams using this, because it's really focused primarily on government benefits, scams and healthcare scams. But what I would say is that, while it's absolutely critical to have an act like this, at this time, during the pandemic, I would warn you that it doesn't provide for coverage for the next disaster. For the next earthquake for the next fire, what have you, there are unfortunately will always be a segment of our population that is in devastating events. And so I think that legislation is necessary that covers all such events and not just focused on the pandemic.

Hearing: Examination of Loans to Businesses Critical to Maintaining National Security, Congressional Oversight Commission, December 10, 2020


  • Eric Rosengren - President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
  • Gwen Mills - Secretary Treasurer of Unite Here
  • Lauren Anderson - Senior Vice President & Associate General Counsel of the Bank Policy Institute

03:20 Bharat Ramamurti: Four months ago, Congress gave the Treasury Department half a trillion dollars to stabilize the economy. The Treasury quickly pledged 75 billion of those dollars to the Federal Reserve's Main Street lending program for small and mid sized companies. After taking three months to set up the program, the Fed has now been operating it for about a month. In that time, it has supported only 18 loans for a total of $104 million. That is 0.017% of the $600 billion lending capacity that the Fed touted for the program in April.

16:07 Eric Rosengren: This facility is very different than some of the other traditional kinds of facilities that central banks operate during a time of crisis. So most of our facilities operate through markets, market securities, you can purchase them very easily through the market. They clear usually in a couple days depending on the security. So it's relatively easy to quickly purchase a large number of securities and hold those securities over time. This facility is a facility we didn't have during the financial crisis, and really tries to get to a different segment of the population, which is those businesses that are bigger than the PPP program was designed for and smaller than what the corporate facilities are designed for.

Session: The Senate confirmed two nominations to the National Labor Relations Board, Senate, July 29, 2020

Session: Senate Session, Part 2:The Senate confirmed two nominations, Senate, July 28, 2020

News Clip: Senate GOP outlines next coronavirus relief bill as deadline for enhanced unemployment benefits nears, CBS News, July 28, 2020

Hearing: NO MORE SURPRISES: PROTECTING PATIENTS FROM SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS, Committee on Energy and Commerce: Subcommittee on Health, June 12, 2019

Watch on Youtube


  • Sonji Wilkes: Patient Advocate
  • Sherif Zaafran, MD: Chair of Physicians for Fair Coverage
  • Rick Sherlock: President and CEO of Association of Air Medical Services
  • James Gelfand: Senior Vice President of Health Policy at The ERISA Industry Committee
  • Thomas Nickels: Executive Vice President of the American Hospital Association
  • Jeanette Thornton: Senior Vice President of Proiduct, Employer, and Commercial Policy at Americas’ Health Insurance Plans
  • Claire McAndrew: Director of Campaigns and Partnerships at Families USA
  • Vidor E. Friedman, MD: President of American College of Emergency Physicians

51:50 CEO Rick Sherlock: $10,199 was the median cost of providing a helicopter transport. While Medicare paid $5,998, Medicaid paid $3,463 and the uninsured paid $354. This results in an ongoing imbalance between actual costs and government reimbursement and is the single biggest factor in increasing costs.

53:45 Senior VP James Gelfand: We're focused on three scenarios in which patients end up with big bills they couldn't see coming or avoid. Number one, a patient receives care at an in-network facility, but is treated by an out of network provider. Number two, a patient requires emergency care, but the provider's facility or transportation are out of network. And number three, a patient is transferred or handed off without sufficient information or alternatives. It's usually not the providers you're planning to see. It's anesthesiologists, radiologists, pathologists, or emergency providers or transport or an unexpected trip to the NICU. Many work for outsourced medical staffing firms that have adopted a scam strategy of staying out of networks, practicing at in-network facilities and surprise billing patients. It's deeply concerning, but the problem is narrowly defined and therefore we can fix it.

Hearing: Safeguarding American Consumers: Fighting Fraud and Scams During the Pandemic, House Committee on Education and Labor, April 2, 2019

Watch on Youtube


  • Christen Linke Young: Fellow at USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative on Health Policy
  • Ilyse Schuman: Senior Vice President for Health Policy at American Benefits Council
  • Frederick Isasi, Executive Director at Families USA
  • Professor Jack Hoadley: Research Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute

33:50 Frederick Isasi: Take for example, one significant driver of this problem. The movement of hospitals to offload sapping requirements for their emergency departments to third party management companies. These hospitals very often make no requirements of these companies to ensure the staffing of the ED fit within the insurance networks that the hospitals have agreed to. As a result, a patient who does their homework ahead of time and rightly thinks they're going to an in network hospital, received services from an out of network physician and a surprise medical bill follows.

43:30 Chairman Frederica Wilson (FL): Under current law, who is responsible for making sure that a doctor or a hospital is in-network? Is it the doctor, the insurance company or the patient themselves? Frederick Isasi: Uh, chairman Wilson, thank you for the question. To be very clear, it is the patient themselves that has a responsibility and these negotiations are very complex. These are some of the most important and intense negotiations in the healthcare sector between a payer and a provider. There is absolutely no visibility for a consumer to understand what's going on there. And so the notion that a consumer would walk into an emergency department and know, for example, that their doctor was out of network because that hospital could not reach agreement on an in-network provider for the ED is absurd, right? There's no way they would ever know that. And similarly, if you walk in and you received surgery and it turns out your anesthesiologist isn't in-network, there's no way for the consumer to know that. Um, and I would like to say there's some discussion about transparency and creating, you know, sort of provider directories. We've tried to do that in many instances. And what we know is that right now the healthcare sector has no real way to provide real actual insight to consumers about who's in-network, and who's out of network. I would-probably everybody in this room has tried at some point to figure out if a doctor's in-network and out of network and as we know that system doesn't work. So this idea that consumers can do research and find out what's happened behind the scenes in these very intensive negotiations is absurd and it doesn't work.

46:30 Professor Jack Hoadley: Provider directories can be notoriously inaccurate. One of the things that, even if they are accurate, that I've seen in my own family is you may be enrolled in Blue Cross-You ask your physician, "are they participating in Blue Cross? They say "yes", but it turns out Blue Cross has a variety of different networks. This would be true of any insurance company, and so you know, you may be in this one particular flavor of the Blue Cross plan and your provider may not participate in that particular network.

1:01:25 Rep. Phil Roe (TN): I've had my name in networks that I wasn't in. That you-that you use, and many of those unscrupulous networks, will use that too to get people to sign up because this doctor, my doctor is in there when you're really not.

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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Feb 15, 2021
No Thank You, Project Owl

On a sad day, Jen provides some follow up to past episodes including correcting a possible mistake about the capitol storm story, an update on the congressional COVID count, and we get a confirmation on a suspicion we had about Google rigging their search results to favor corporate news sources. After the updates, Jen thanks all the wonderful souls who produce Congressional Dish.

Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

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Recommended Episodes

CD226: The 116th Lame Duck

CD225: Targets of the Free Marketeers

CD224: Social Media Censorship

CD209: USMCA with Lori Wallach


Sound Clip Sources

Marjorie Greene Confronts David Hogg, Marjorie Taylor Greene, YouTube, January 21, 2020

Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations

Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Feb 08, 2021
CD226: The 116th Lame Duck

We just lived through the craziest lame duck period - the time between when the President and members of Congress keep their power after being fired in an election - in United States history. In this episode, we look at everything that happened, from start to finish. That was literally one Hell of a ride.

Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

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Recommended Episodes

CD221: Kicking the Funding Can



Additional Resources

Sound Clip Sources

Video: @keithboykin, Twitter, Newsmax January 12, 2021

Debate: Counting of Electoral College Votes, Part 3, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, C-SPAN, January 6, 2021

Transcript: Proceedings and Debates of the 117th Congress, First Session, U.S. House of Representatives, January 6, 2021

Debate: Senate Debate on Arizona Electoral College Vote Challenge, Part 2, U.S. Senate, C-SPAN, January 6, 2021

Debate: Senate Debate on Arizona Electoral College Vote Challenge, Part 2, U.S. Senate, C-SPAN, January 6, 2021

Debate: Senate Debate on Arizona Electoral College Vote Challenge, Part 1, U.S. Senate, C-SPAN, January 6, 2021

Debate: House Debate on Pennsylvania Electoral College Vote Challenge, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, C-SPAN, January 6, 2021

Debate: House Debate on Arizona Electoral Challenge, Part 3, U.S. House of Representatives, C-SPAN, January 6, 2021

Debate: House Debate on Arizona Electoral Challenge, Part 1, U.S. House of Representatives, C-SPAN, January 6, 2021

Counting of Electoral College Votes, Part 2, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, C-SPAN, January 6, 2021

Video: House Chamber During Joint Session, U.S. House of Representatives, C-SPAN, January 6, 2021

Debate: House Debate on Pennsylvania Electoral College Vote Challenge, U.S. House of Representatives, C-SPAN, January 6, 2021

Debate: Senate Debate on Pennsylvania Electoral College Vote Challenge, U.S. Senate, C-SPAN, January 6, 2021

News Address: President Trump tells rioters at Capitol to 'go home', CNN, January 6, 2021

Footage: Shooting and Storming Of The US Capitol In Washington DC,, January 6, 2021

Debate: Senate Debate on Pennsylvania Electoral College Vote Challenge, The Washington Post, January 6, 2021

That Louie Gohmert lawsuit, The Hill, January 6, 2021

Video: Rally on Electoral College Vote Certification, White House, C-SPAN, January 6, 2021

Video: Donald Trump spoke at a “Save America” rally in Washington, D.C. on January 6 before Congress was set to confirm the election results. “We will never concede,” he said. Read the transcript of his speech remarks here., White House,, January 6, 2021

Call between Trump and Raffensperger, The Washington Post, January 5, 2021

Document: Court Document, U.S. District Court For The Eastern District of Texas, December 27, 2020

News Clip: McConnell congratulates President-elect Biden, Youtube, Reuters, December 15, 2020

News Clip: Stimulus: President Trump says stimulus checks need to be $2000, threatens to veto stimulus bill, Youtube, Yahoo Finance, December 11, 2020

News Clip: Meet the Press Blog: Latest news, analysis and data driving the political discussion, NBC News, December 11, 2020

News Clip: Sen. Rand Paul Condemns the 2021 NDAA for Prolonging War in Afghanistan - Dec. 10, 2020, Youtube, Senator Rand Paul, December 10, 2020

Ballot Count: Electoral College Ballot Count, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, C-SPAN, January 6, 2005

Senate Session, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, C-SPAN, January 6, 2005

Debate on Ohio Electoral Vote Objection, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, C-SPAN, January 6, 2005

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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Jan 25, 2021
Thank You for Failing, Capitol Stormers

2021 is off to quite a 2020 start! In this bonus thank you episode, Jen starts the show sharing a summary of and her thoughts about the January 6th storming of the election certification in Congress by President Donald Trump's misguided supporters and then thanks the producers who have ensured that this podcast exists to cover such insane events in Congress.

Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

Thank you for supporting truly independent media!



Internet Archive

Sound Clip Sources

  • Video: @RepKinzinger By Adam Kinzinger, Twitter, January 7, 2021

Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations

Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Jan 10, 2021
CD225: Targets of the Free Marketeers

While the focus of the world has been on the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has been busy preparing a war authorization for the incoming Joe Biden administration. In this episode, we examine the advice given to Congress in nine recent hearings to learn which countries are on the World Trade System naughty list, as Jen prepares to read the NDAA that's soon to become law.

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Hearing: THE BALKANS: POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE NEXT ADMINISTRATION, Committee on Foreign Affairs, December 8, 2020

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  • Madeleine Albright
    • Chairman of the National Democratic Institute
    • Chairman of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm
    • Chairman of Albright Capital Management , an investment advisory firm
    • Member of the Council on Foreign Relations
    • 2003-2005: Member of the Board of Directors of the NYSE
    • 1997-2001: Secretary of State
    • 1978-1981: National Security Council Staff
  • Daniel Serwer
    • Director of American Foreign Policy and Conflict Management at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University
    • Former Vice President at the US Institute of Peace
    • Former Minister Counselor at the State Department during the Clinton years
  • Janusz Bugajski
    • Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation
    • Former Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA)
    • Hosts a tv show in the Balkans

40:03 Rep. Eliot Engel (NY): Serbia has been importing Russian fighters and tanks and conducting military exercises with the Russian Army. A US Defense Department report told us that Belgrade's drift towards Moscow has mostly occurred since President Vučić took power. The same time democratic space in Serbia has shrunk in recent years. Freedom House describes Serbia as a, 'hybrid regime', not a democracy because of declining standards in governance, justice, elections and media freedom. If Serbia wants to become part of the European Union, and the North Atlantic family of nations, it needs to get off the fence and embrace a Western path.

56:17 Madeleine Albright: As you know, Mr. Chairman, the President Elect has been personally engaged in the Balkans since his time in the Senate. And he was one of the most outspoken leaders in Congress calling for the United States to help end the complex and I was honored to work closely with him throughout my time in office. And I know that he understands the region and its importance for the United States. The national security team that President Elect Biden is putting in place is deeply knowledgeable and committed to helping all the countries of the region move forward as part of a Europe that is whole free and at peace. And that's important, because today this vision is in peril. The nations of the Western Balkans are suffering deeply from the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Corruption remains a serious problem, and nationalist leaders continue to stoke and exploit ethnic tensions. China and Russia are also exerting new influence in the region, with Serbia in particular the target of much anti Western propaganda. As the pandemic eases there will be an opportunity for the United States and Europe to help the region build back better, particularly as Western European countries seek to bring supply chains closer to home. And as new funds become available to invest in energy diversification and environmental protection.

59:36 Madeleine Albright: The answer is for the United States and the EU to work together to champion initiatives that help custom Bosnia and others build economic ties to Europe and the neighborhood while also pushing for needed political reforms.

1:00:00 Madeleine Albright: On Bosnia, the Dayton accords stopped a war and continue to keep the peace. But the governing arrangements are not captured by leaders among the three groups that negotiated the peace. They want to hold on to power even if it means holding their society back. While Bosnia is neighbors move toward EU membership, the United States and the European Union must focus their efforts in Bosnia on the abuse of government and state owned enterprises. Taking away the levers of power that keep the current system in place.

1:05:30 Daniel Serwer: Europe and the United States want a post state in Bosnia, they can qualify for EU membership. That Bosnia will be based not on ethnic power sharing, but rather on majorities of citizens electing their representatives. [?] entities as well as ethnic vetoes and restrictions we'll need to fade. the Americans and Europeans should welcome the prospect of a new Civic constitution. But no one outside Boston Herzegovina can reform its constitution, a popular movement is needed. The United States along with the Europeans needs to shield any popular movement from repression while starting the entities with funding and redirecting it to the central government and municipalities.

1:12:07 Janusz Bugajski: Moscow views Serbia in particular, and the Republic of Srpska in Bosnia as useful tools to subvert regional security and limit Western integration.

1:12:40 Janusz Bugajski: Western Balkan inclusion in the Three Seas Initiative and its North South transportation corridor will enhance economic performance and help provide alternatives to dependence on Russian energy and Chinese loans.

2:00:41: Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA): Why do you think longer term in the Balkans its Chinese influence we need to be focused on? Janusz Bugajski:Thank you very much for that question. Let me begin with why Russia is not a longer term danger. Russia is a country in serious decline, economic decline. Its economies size of a medium sized European state. China has the second largest economy in the world. Russia has internal problems with its nationalities with its regions, with increasing public unrest with increasing opposition to put in them even be power struggles during the succession period over the next four years, Russia faces major internal problems. China, on the other hand, unless of course, there is opposition to the Chinese Communist Party from within, is in a different stage. It continues to be a very dynamic country in terms of its economic growth. It doesn't face the sort of internal contradictions and conflicts that Russia does. And it's increasingly.. China's always looked at the longer term. In other words, they don't even have to look at succession cycles, because of the dominance of the Communist Party. They are looking eventually to replace Russia as the major rival of the United States. And the best way to do that is to increase their influence not only militarily in East Asia, South Asia and other parts of the world, but economically, politically, diplomatically, culturally, and through the media and that's precisely what they're doing, not only in Europe, but in other continents.

2:18:38 Madeleine Albright: I think that democracy and economic development go together also. Because as I put it, people want to vote and eat.

Hearing: THE UNFOLDING CONFLICT IN ETHIOPIA, Committee on Foreign Affairs: Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, December 3, 2020

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  • Yoseph Badwaza
    • Senior Advisor for Africa at Freedom House
    • Former Secretary General of Ethiopian Human Rights Council
  • Susan Stigant
    • Director of the Africa Program at the United States Institute of Peace
    • Former program director at the National Democratic Institute, focused on South Sudan
  • Tsedale Lemma
    • Editor in Chief and Founder of Addis Standard Magazine
  • Lauren Ploch Blanchard
    • Specialist in African Affairs at the Congressional Research Service
    • Former East Africa Program Manager at the International Republican Institute

35:32 Yoseph Badwaza: The devastating developments of the past four weeks have brought inmeasurable human suffering and the destruction of livelihoods and appear to have returned to yet another protracted civil war and nearly 30 years after it emerged from its last. These tragic events have also dealt a deadly blow to what would have been one of the most consequential democratic transitions on the African continent.

37:09 Yoseph Badwaza: A series of missed opportunities in the last two and a half years led to the tragic derailment of a promising democratic experiment. A half hearted effort at implementing reforms by a ruling party establishment reluctant to shape its deeply authoritarian roots. Roots stands in the way of a genuine inclusive political process.

Hearing: U.S. DEFENSE POSTURE CHANGES IN THE EUROPEAN THEATER, Committee on Armed Services, September 30, 2020

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  • Dr. James Anderson
    • Former Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Department of Defense (resigned the day after Trump fired DoD Secretary Mark Esper)
    • 2006-2009: Director of Middle East Policy for the Secretary of Defense
    • 2001-2006 - Gap in LinkedIn resume
    • 2000-2001: Associate at DFI International, a multinational consulting firm
    • 1997-1999: Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation
  • Lt. Gen David Allen: Director for Strategy, Plans, and Policy, Joint Chiefs of Staff

17:14 Dr. James Anderson: As we continue to implement the NDS or efforts at enhancing our European posture beyond Eucom Combat Command Review, have shown recent successes, including the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with Poland in August that will enable an increased enduring US rotational presence in that country of about 1000 US military personnel.

Hearing: DEMOCRATIC BACKSLIDING IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA, Committee on Foreign Affairs: Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, September 30, 2020

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  • Christopher Fomunyoh
    • Senior Associate for Africa at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs
    • Has been at NDI since 1993
    • Has worked for the Cameroon Water Corporation and Cameroon Airlines Corporation
  • Dorina A. Bekoe, PhD
    • Research Staff Member at the Institute for Defense Analyses
  • Jon Temin
    • Director of the Africa Program at Freedom House
    • Freedom House gets most of its funding from the National Endowment for Democracy
    • 2014-2017: U.S. Department of State’s Policy Planning Staff
    • Director of the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Africa Program
    • Member of the Council on Foreign Relations
    • Non-resident Senior Associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Joshua Meservey
    • Senior Policy Analyst for Africa and the Middle East at the Heritage Foundation since 2015
    • Former Associate Director of the Atlantic Council
    • Former Field Team Manager for the Church World Service Resettlement Support Center
    • Former Volunteer with the US Peace Corps
    • Former intern for the US Army Special Operations Command
    • Former Loss Prevention Coordinator for Dollar Financial Corporation

7:13 Rep. Chris Smith (NJ): I fear that 2020 may see an even greater decrease in democracy on the continent. Today's hearing is also timely, as elections are approaching next month in Tanzania and the Ivory Coast, both countries which appear to be on a downward trajectory in terms of governance and respect for civil and political rights. And I want to note that Chairwoman bass has introduced legislation with respect to Tanzania, and I'm very proud to be a co sponsor of it and I thank you for that leadership.

8:37 Rep. Chris Smith (NJ): For example, was quite obvious to outside observers in the DRC that the declared winner of the latest presidential election held in late 2018. Felix Tshisekedi received less votes than Martin Fayulu low because of a corrupt bargain between the outgoing strongman Joseph Kabila Tshisekedi. The Constitutional Court packed by Kabila declared him to be the winner. What happened next was troubling, as our State Department issued a statement that said and I quote, 'the United States welcomes the Congolese Constitutional Court certification of Felix Tshisekedi as the next president of the DRC,' which was apparently driven by a handful of diplomats, including our ambassador.

9:26 Rep. Chris Smith (NJ): Elections in Nigeria were first postponed by sitting President Buhari and marred by irregularities in advance of the election date, quitting arson attacks on the independent national Electoral Commission offices in opposition strongholds in Buhari's his removal of Supreme Court Justice Walter Onnoghen.

10:40 Rep. Chris Smith (NJ): Before Sudan is delisted as a state sponsor of terrorism, I also believe there must be justice for all victims of its past bad acts including the victims of 911, many of whom live in my home state of New Jersey and in my district.

14:44 Rep. Karen Bass (CA): Most concerning is the situation in Tanzania, which I recently addressed in House Resolution 1120 where current leadership is repressing the opposition and basic freedoms of expression and assembly in a blatant attempt to retain power.

15:00 Rep. Karen Bass (CA): We see similar patterns in Cote d'Ivoire as the executive branch legalizes the deviation in democratic institutions to codify non democratic actions. We have similar concerns about Guinea and are going to be very watchful of upcoming elections there. And in Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Chad, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria and Somalia.

15:57 Rep. Karen Bass (CA): What concerns me most is the democratic backsliding is not limited to Africa and we seem to be in a place of retreat from democracy that I only hope is an anomaly. In Europe, we see the egregious behavior of Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, who claimed success in a disputed August 9 election and sought support from extra national resources such as Russia to justify his claim to power.

17:28 Rep. Karen Bass (CA): President Duterte of the Philippines is accused of lawfare, or weaponizing the law to deter or defeat freedoms, personalities and establishments that promote human rights, press freedoms and the rule of law while also cracking down on individual freedoms.

24:39 Christopher Fomunyoh: NDI has over three decades of technical assistance to and support for democratic institutions and processes in Africa and currently runs active programs in 20 countries.

26:09 Christopher Fomunyoh: Notably, West Africa, previously commanded as a trailblazer region has seen serious backsliding, as Mali experienced a military coup, and major controversies have arisen about candidacies of incumbent presidents in Guinea, Conakry and Cote d'Ivoire. The Central Africa region remains stocked with the three with the highest concentration of autocratic regimes with the three longest serving presidents in the world. In that sub region, notably Equatorial Guinea forty one years, Cameroon 38 years, and Congo Brazzaville 38 years.

26:50 Christopher Fomunyoh: In southern and East Africa, continued persecution of political opposition and civil society activists in Zimbabwe and similar worrying signs or patterns in Tanzania since 2016 seriously diminished citizen participation in politics and governance and also stand my prospects for much needed reforms.

31:31 Dorina A. Bekoe: Mali's 2012 coup took place even though there was a regularly scheduled election just one month away. And the coup in August of this year took place despite the fact that in 2018 there was a presidential election and last year there were legislative elections.

38:44 Jon Temin: The United States should consider changes to term and age limits that allow incumbent leaders to extend their time in office as essentially a coup against the constitution and respond accordingly. These moves by leaders who have already served two terms are an usurpation of power, that deny the country and its citizens the many benefits of leadership rotation.

40:07 Jon Temin: In Sudan the long overdue process of removing the country from the list of state sponsors of terrorism may soon conclude, but that is not enough. The United States needs to support the civilian component of Sudan's transitional government at every step of the long road toward democracy and do all that it can to revive Sudan's economy.

40:25 Jon Temin: In Ethiopia, there are deeply concerning signs that the government is reaching for tools of repression that many hoped were relegated to history. Nonetheless, Ethiopia remains on a tentative path to democratic elections that can be transformative. In this context, the decision by the United States to withhold development assistance from Ethiopia in a quixotic and counterproductive effort to influence Ethiopia's negotiating position concerning the grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is bad policy that should be reversed.

41:00 Jon Temin: Nascent democratic transitions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Gambia and Angola also call for strong US support.

1:10:21 Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN): I want to start with Dr. Fomunyoh. In your testimony you discuss the massacres committed in the Anglophone region of Cameroon. Did the United States provide training funding or arms to the Cameroonian security forces who committed those massacres?

1:12:20 Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN): Did the Millennium military officers who led the recent coup [??] receive US military training? And if you can just say yes or no, because I have a few more questions and we have limited time.

1:29:23 Jon Temin: Freedom in the world, which we do every year rates every country in the world that includes the United States, the United States score was decreasing before this administration, we have seen a slow slippage of democracy in America for some time, rating based on our scores. That decrease has accelerated under this administration.

1:30:00 Jon Temin: I think part of it has to do with freedom for journalists. I believe there's been some concern there. Part of it has to do with corruption and some of the indications that we've seen of corrupt activity within government. I'll leave it there. We're happy to go dig into that and provide you more detail. And I'm sure that when we look at the scores again later this year, there will be a robust conversation on the United States.

Hearing: THE ROLE OF ALLIES AND PARTNERS IN U.S. MILITARY STRATEGY AND OPERATIONS, Committee on Armed Services, September 23, 2020

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  • Christine Wormuth
    • On Joe Biden's presidential transition team
    • 2018- present: Director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation
    • 2017-2018: Founding Director of the Adrienne Arsht Center for Resilience at the Atlantic Council
    • 2017-2018: Senior Advisor for the Center for Strategic and International Studies
    • 2010-2014: Various DoD positions, rising to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
    • 2004-2009: Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
    • 2002-2004: Principal at DFI Government Services, an international defense consulting firm
  • Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges
    • Center for European Policy Analysis
    • Board of Advisors for the Spirit of America (not listed on hearing bio)
    • Board of Directors is made up of CEOs of mulitnational corporations
    • Board of Advisors is full of corporate titans and big names, including Michelle Flournoy, Jeh Johnson, Kimberly Kagan, Jack Keane, James Mattis, Stanley McChrystal, H.R. McMaster, & George Shultz
    • 2014-2017: Commanding General of the US Army in Europe
  • Elbridge Colby
    • Principal and co-Founder of the Marathon Initiative
    • Formed in May 2020
    • Senior Advisor to WestExec Advisors (not listed on hearing bio)
    • Co-Founded by incoming Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Michelle Flournoy, who told the Intercept in 2018, "we help tech firms who are trying to figure out how to sell in the public sector space, to navigate the DOD, the intel community, law enforcement."
    • 2018-2019: Director of the Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security
    • Northrup Grumman is one of its biggest donors, also gets funding from Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Boeing, and DynCorp.
    • 2017-2018: Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development
    • Lead official in the creation of the 2018 National Defense Strategy
    • 2010-2017: Center for a New American Security
    • GWB administration (not listed on his LinkedIn)
    • 2005-2006: worked with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence
    • 2004-2005: President GWB's WMD Commission
    • 2003: worked with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq

17:14 20:08 Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges: Second point of emphasis requires us to place importance on the greater Black Sea where. I believe the great power competition prevents great power conflict, failure to compete and to demonstrate interest and willingness to protect those interests in all domains, power vacuums and miscalculations which can lead to escalation and to actual conflict. This is particularly true in the greater Black Sea region, where Russia is attempting to maximize its sphere of influence. The Black Sea region should be the place where the United States and our NATO allies and partners hold the line. The Black Sea should matter to the west in part because it [was to the Kremlin.] taking the initiative away from the Kremlin denies the ability to support the Assad regime in Syria and then to live will reduce the flow of rich into Europe, or General Breedlove called the weaponization of refugee. Limit the Kremlin's ability to spread his thoughts of influence in the Balkans which is the Middle East and North Africa.

21:28 Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges: We must repair the relationship between Turkey and the United States. And see Turkey [?] as an exposed ally at the crossroads of several regions and challenges. Turkey is essential for deterrence of the Kremlin in the Black Sea region. And it is a critical both against ISIS and Iran we need to consider this relationship to be a priority, [but] condone or excuse several mistakes or bad choices about the Turkish Government. There are times are very quiet, but we think long term. The current Turkish administration will eventually change. But the strategically important geography of Turkey will never change.

23:31 Elbridge Colby: Allies and partners are absolutely essential for the United States in a world increasingly defined by great power competition, above all with China. Indeed, they lie at the very heart of the right US strategy for this era, which I believe the Department of Defense's 2018 National Defense Strategy lays out. The importance to the United States of allies and partners is not a platitude, but the contrary. For the first time since the 19th century, the United States is not far and away the world's largest economy. More than anything else, this is due to the rise of China. And that has become very evident. Beijing is increasingly using its growing power for coercive purposes.

24:08 Elbridge Colby: United States faces a range of other potential threats, including primarily from Russia against NATO, as well as from transnational terrorists, Iran and North Korea. In other words, there exists multiple challenges to US national security interests. Given their breadth and scope, America can no longer expect to take care of them essentially alone. Accordingly, we must address this widening shortfall between the threats we face and the resources we have to deal with them by a much greater role for allies and partners.

24:59 Elbridge Colby: Because of China's power and wealth, the United States simply must play a leading role in blocking Beijing's pursuit of hegemony in Asia. This means that the US defense establishment must prioritize dealing with China and Asia and particularly vulnerable allies and partners such as Taiwan and the Philippines.

25:24 Elbridge Colby: In particular, we will not be able to dedicate the level of resources and effort to the Middle East and Europe that we have in the past. We will therefore need allied partners to do their part not just to help defend our interests and enable a concentration on Asia but to defend themselves and their interests.

26:00 Elbridge Colby: The contemporary threats to us interest stem from China across Asia. Transnational terrorists largely in the Middle East, Russia and Eastern Europe, Persian Gulf area and North Korea in Asia.

26:11 Elbridge Colby: Yet the United States is traditional, closest and most significant allies are largely clustered in Western Europe in Northeast Asia. Many of these countries, especially Europe feel quite secure and are little motivated to contribute to more distant threats. This leaves wide areas such as South and Southeast Asia and the Middle East, for which long standing US alliances are of minimal help. The natural way to rectify this is for the United States to add partners and form necessary alliances to help address these gaps.

35:13 Elbridge Colby: In this effort, though, we should be very careful to distinguish between expanding our formal alliances or [?] alliances from expanding our partnerships, the former should be approached derivatively while the latter can be approached more liberally, when we extend an alliance commitment or something tantamount to it as in the case of Taiwan, we tie our credibility to that nation's fate. We should therefore be [cheery] about doings. In light of this, we should seek to expand our partnerships wherever possible. In particular, we should focus on increasing them in South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, where China otherwise might have an open field to [subordances] and add them to its pro hegemonium coalition.

27:41 Elbridge Colby: I do not see a near term need to add any allies to the US roster. But I do think we will increasingly need to consider this as the shadow of Chinese power darkens over the region.

27:53 Elbridge Colby: Our effort to expand our network of allies and partners should really be focused on states with shared threat perceptions. It has become something of a common place that shared values form the bedrock of our alliances. It is true that such values help allies, but the most useful alliances generally proceed from shared fears. The best motivator to fight is self defense. The states that have a shared interest in preventing Chinese or Russian or Iranian hegemony selves have a natural alignment with our own. This is true whether or not they are democracies.

29:00 Elbridge Colby: In Asia, given the scale proposed by Beijing, we should concentrate most of our allies like Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan on readying to defend themselves alongside US Armed Forces and provide access to US forces in the event of a contingency.

29:16 Elbridge Colby: Meanwhile, we should assist partners like Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, with whatever means available to enable their defense against an ever more powerful China while concurrently seeking greater access and logistics support for US and other allied forces.

29:39 Elbridge Colby: Europe Finally, the overall us goal should be while preserving the fundamental us commitment to NATO's defense to have Europeans especially in northern and eastern Europe shoulder more of the burden of defending the Alliance from Russia assault. The reality is that given the stakes and consequences, the United States must prioritize Asia. United States must therefore economize in its second theater Europe.

35:13 Elbridge Colby: And move away from using these tools as leverage for key partners for domestic political reform or secondary geopolitical objectives. United States should always of course, stand proudly for free government that treats its people with dignity. We must keep our eye on the prize though China is the primary challenge to our interest in the world, including our government, both at home and abroad. Our top priority must therefore be to block its gaining predominance in Asia, which is a very real prospect. This means strengthening states in the region against Chinese power, whether or not they are model democracies.

35:15 Rep. Adam Smith (WA): When we should we just say, look, we're not going to worry about your domestic politics. We want to build the Alliance, however possible. How would we deal with extreme human rights abuses, as are alleged in the Philippines in terms of extra judicial killings, or in the case of India, and of course, we're dealing with this with Turkey and Europe as well, as you know, doing the arm sales with Russia, should we significantly back off on our sort of sanctions policy for those things? And if so, how do we signal that without without undermining our credibility?

40:55 Elbridge Colby: In a sense, what we're going to need to do to leverage this greater power of this network, you know, allies, partners, whatever their role is going to be interoperability, the ability to work to different standards to communicate with each other. That's partially a technical problem and an equipment problem, but a lot of it is human training and an organizational issue. And Taiwan, I think I'm very enthusiastic about the arms sales to Taiwan. And I know that one was recently reported, I hope it goes through because it's the kind of equipment that we want to see this kind of A2AD denial kind of capabilities to Taiwan, but actually, where I think would be really valuable to move forward with. And that's a sensitive issue, but I think this would be within the context of our trade policy would personally be on training, you know, and that's something we could think about with Vietnam as well. Obviously, the Indians have a very sophisticated military, but they're maybe we can offer there too. So I think that's a real sort of force multiplier.

42:00 Rep. Mac Thornberry (TX): Turkeys geography, history, critical role is always going to be important is certainly valid. And yet, not only are there human rights and governance issues, the current leader of Turkey has policies that contradict the, in many ways the best interests of the United States. So, take that specific example. We don't want to make enemies of Turkey forever. But yet, what do we do now? To to preserve that future when there's a different government, but yet make clear or in some way help guide them on a better policy path?

57:50 Christine Wormuth: We need to make adjustments to our posture in the region to be able to better deal with China. And so the announcement by Palau, for example, that it's willing to host US airfields and bases could be quite helpful to us. Even though they're relatively small. We do need to diversify our footprint.

1:24:52 Christine Wormuth: The challenge is that the many of the countries in the indo Pacific don't want to have to choose between the United States and China. They want to engage with China for very clear economic interests, while most of them lean towards the United States for security interests, and I think they're trying to sort of thread that needle.

1:32:07 Christine Wormuth: Turkey is a very challenging geostrategic problem. I was in the Obama administration when we were fighting ISIS, and we knew there was tension between the necessity to have partners on the ground and the Syrian Democratic Forces were what we had. We knew Turkey had issues with that. In my experience, however, the United States worked very hard and very closely with Turkey to try to assuage their concerns and nothing was ever enough for them. So we do have a challenge, they are very important in terms of where they are located, but the authoritarianism that Erdogan has turned to is concerning. So I think we have to keep the dialogue open and continue to try to keep turkey inside the fold, but at the same time, communicate that doing whatever they want is not acceptable. And the the S400 for example, is a key example of that.

1:34:07 Christine Wormuth: AFRICOM’s Zero Based review, I hope will shed light on which kinds of activities are helping us and helping our African partners.

1:35:36 Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges: The UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain all have extensive efforts going on in Africa. So this is an opportunity once again, where we can work with allies to achieve what our objectives are.

1:40:00 Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges: What for sure brings a lot of military capability air landed forces to the a lot and that if for some reason, you know that it would have to be filled by us or the state or other allied to then that's a problem right? Sorry. But more importantly is control the strokes that can help the blacks in the Mediterranean. And so having a NATO ally has control and sovereignty over the strait we have the mantra.

Hearing: Stemming a Receding Tide: Human Rights and Democratic Values in Asia, Committee on Foreign Affairs: Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation, September 22, 2020

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  • Derek Mitchell
    • President of the National Democratic Institute
    • Returned to NDI in September 2018 after leaving in 1997
    • 2012-2016: Former US Ambassador to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Burma)
    • 2011-2012: U.S. Department of State’s first Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma
    • 2009-2011: Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Asian and Pacific Security Affairs (APSA)
    • 2001-2009: Senior Fellow and Director of the Asia Division of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
    • 1997-2001: Special Assistant for Asian and Pacific Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense
    • 1993-1997: Senior Program Officer for Asia and the former Soviet Union at the National Democratic Institute
    • 1986-1988: Foreign policy assistant for Sen. Ted Kennedy
  • Dr. Alyssa Ayres
    • Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations
    • Consultant for the Japan Bank for International Cooperation
    • Senior Advisor for McLarty Associates
    • A global consultant firm "at home in corporate board rooms & government cabinet rooms, anywhere in the world"
    • Member of the United States Institute of Peace
    • 2010-2013: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia
    • 2008-2010: Founding director of the India and South Asia practice at McLarty Asssociates
    • 2007-2008: Special Assistant to the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Daniel Twining
    • President of the International Republican Institute since 2017
    • Picked by outgoing President, Sen. John McCain
    • 2009-2016: Former director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund
    • 2007-2009: GWB State Department Policy Planning staffer
    • 2001-2004: Foreign Policy Advisor to Sen. John McCain

16:12 Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges: Last year I introduced the bipartisan Cambodia democracy act which passed the House overwhelmingly, it would impose sanctions on those in Cambodia responsible for undermining democratic rule of law in the country. We must be especially cognizant of democracies in Asia in danger of backsliding into autocracy, with China's help with their alternative to Western democracies, and that is Chinese socialism with Chinese characteristics that is communism, regardless of how they paint it and try to rename it.

21:10 Derek Mitchell: For nearly four decades, my organization, the National Democratic Institute, working alongside our partners at the International Republican Institute, and the National Endowment for Democracy has assisted the spread and institutionalization of democracy around the world. Let me say at the start that we can only do this work thanks to the sustained bipartisan support of Congress, including from this subcommittee. So for that we are truly grateful.

21:50 Derek Mitchell: Today NDI maintains nearly a dozen offices in the Indo-Pacific region. And last week we just received clearance from the Taiwan government to open an office in Taipei, which we will do soon.

30:07 Dr. Alyssa Ayres: Sri Lanka after a five year period of improvement is now moving in the other direction with the return of the Rajapaksa government. The new political configuration will not pursue progress on reconciliation and accountability for the end of the Civil War, and the newly elected parliament is already hard at work, the constitutional amendment to expand presidential powers.

34:21 Daniel Twining: Beyond China the past year has seen countries once viewed as bright spots for democracy like Malaysia and Sri Lanka, regress due to political infighting, personality politics and failure to deliver promised reforms.

1:48:50 Dr. Alyssa Ayres: I do believe that the creation of the DFC is important. It is my understanding that it is not quite up and running 100%. So we have yet to really see what it can do as a potential alternate to these kinds of infrastructure under writings. The other piece of the DFC is that is it in part designed to help crowd in private sector engagement and private sector investments. So that's another part of the story. I think we may need more time before we're able to see how effective this mechanism can be.

1:49:22 Dr. Alyssa Ayres: I would note that we also had another very effective source of US government assistance that depends on, his premise on good governance indicators. And that's the Millennium Challenge Corporation. And I would just caution that in the South Asia region, we have now seen two examples in Nepal and in Sri Lanka, were the long process of engaging toward a Millennium Challenge compact agreement, large investments, about 500 million in each case towards transportation and power infrastructure. These have actually been held up in both of those countries because of political concerns. The Nepali government doesn't want to be part of the US-Indo Pacific strategy or feel that it is somehow being brought into the Indo-Pacific strategy. The Rajapaksa government is suspicious of the US MCC. So I would just offer those two examples of cases where we've got a terrific tool, but it's run into some challenges for political reasons and the countries of concern.

1:50:29 Daniel Twining: Thank you, Congressman, you've been such a leader, including with your Cambodia democracy act. And you know, that's a reminder that we do have the tools and, and leverage. The Europeans in Cambodia have suspended trading privileges that they had offered to Cambodia. Cambodia is very reliant on our GSP still. So some of these economic instruments matter in both a negative sense, but also in a positive sense. When countries do well, we should be working with them on new trade and financial arrangements, the Chinese do come in and do this in their own way. And we should get back to that as a country. Sir, you mentioned, do we withdraw support when a country backslides, on democracy? You know, I would argue that most of our support for country should not go directly to their governments, should go to independent civil society, free media, independent institutions and not just go into a central coffer that disappears. In the past, we've gotten a lot smarter about this as a country, but in the past, a lot of us development assistance disappeared because we were giving it to friendly autocracies in some cases, who did not have any means of accounting for it. So let's make sure that we invest in these democracy and governance instruments because we want to make sure that US taxpayer money is being used well.

Hearing: U.S. ENGAGEMENT IN THE INDO-PACIFIC AND BEYOND, Committee on Foreign Relations, September 17, 2017

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  • Julie Chung
    • Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the State Department
  • Philip T. Reeker
    • 2019 to present: Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs
    • 2017-2019: Civilian Deputy to the Commander of the US European Command
    • 2014-2017:Principal Officer and Consul General at the US Consulate General in Milan, Italy
    • 2011-2014: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State fo rEuropean and Eurasian Affairs
    • 2008-2011: US Ambassador to Macedonia
    • 2007-2008: Counselor of Public Affairs at the US Embassy in Iraq
    • 2004-2007: Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Hungary
    • 1999-2004: Spokesman for the US State Dept
  • David R. Stilwell
    • Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the State Department

17:44 David R. Stilwell: For years, we in the international community credited Beijing's commitments that facilitating China's entry into the rules based international order would lead to increasing domestic reform and opening. Beijing's persistent flouting of these commitments has shattered those illusions. It is now clear to us and to more and more countries around the world that PRC foreign and security policy seeks to reshape the international environment around the narrow interests and authoritarian values of a single beneficiary. That is the Chinese Communist Party.

22:19 David R. Stilwell: We sincerely appreciate congressional leadership in establishing the new counter China influence fund in fiscal year 2020 Appropriations Bill. This very important provision provides the department with a flexible mechanism that will bolster our efforts to strengthen our partners resiliency to Chinese malign influence worldwide. The initial round of CCIF funding solicitation resulted in over 400 project submissions from around the globe, with demand far outstripping the appropriate funding.

29:57 Philip T. Reeker: By using platforms like the One Belt One Road initiative, the Chinese Communist Party endeavors to create dependencies and cultivate client state relationships through the 17 Plus One initiative which involves 12 countries that are both NATO and EU members primarily in Central and Eastern Europe, China aims to achieve access and ownership over valuable transportation hubs, critical infrastructure, ports and industries.

31:09 Philip T. Reeker: Using authorities granted by legislation members of this committee introduced, as mentioned the bipartisan Build Act and the European Energy Security and Diversification Act, we've been able to begin leveraging the New Development Finance Corporation to try to catalyze key investments in strategic projects. Most notable I'd point to Secretary Pompeo. His pledge at the Munich Security Conference earlier this year of $1 billion, a commitment to the Three Seas Initiative in the Czech Republic which Secretary Pompeo visited just last month, they have transformed from a target of Chinese influence to a leader in the European awakening.

33:29 Philip T. Reeker: Although China's GDP is about eight times the size of Russia's, Russia remains the primary military threat to Europe and the strategic priority for most of our allies and partners, particularly those in Central and Eastern Europe. Russia and China are more closely aligned strategically than at any point since the 1950s. And we see growing cooperation across a range of diplomatic, military, economic and information activities.

46:15 Julie Chung: In terms of [cepheus], and investment screening, we have extensive engagements in the region. We have been sending technical delegations to countries in the region to explain how public procurement processes and transparent processes work. We have helped governments build that capacity through the America Crece initiative. We have 10 mo use now signed with countries throughout the region. And that's part of the the tool to use in addressing the corruption issues that China is bringing to the region. How do we ensure the countries have the right tools in place, the practices in place, the procurement practices and regulatory framework to the private sector companies want to come and invest in those countries and ensure they have a level playing field to be working through the America Crece initiative.

47:17 Julie Chung: DFC has been a wonderful tool and resource that we've been able to now utilize more than ever, in from the former OPEX utilities, not expanding that broader base in Latin America and the Caribbean. So DFC in our region has already invested and has pledged to invest $12 billion in just the Western Hemisphere alone, and in Central America, $3 billion. So it's already invested in Central America, in El Salvador, for instance, on an LNG project, and other projects that are forthcoming.

1:17:16 Philip T. Reeker: Three Seas Initiative was developed by countries dozen countries in the Central and Eastern European region to provide alternatives particularly in a north-south direction for trade and infrastructure, and we have stepped in to support the Three Seas not as a member, but as an interested partner. And Secretary Pompeo outlined, as I mentioned, that the development Finance Corporation is offering up to a billion dollars in matching investment funds for opportunities throughout that region.

1:35:00 Julie Chung: Taiwan and the United States are working together in Latin America. So they announced financing to provide SME loan support for Latin American Central American region through the kabe. The Central American Bank of Government Integration. So that's one example of where we're providing that funding into the region. There's also a $26 million loan that DFCS provided to provide telecom towers in Peru and Ecuador 500 telecom towers, and this addresses both our strategic interest as well as a 5G telecommunications interest that where China is trying to take over and really control that that sector.

1:50:29 Julie Chung: In terms of DFC and working on digital authoritarianism, there's no better example in the region then in Maduro's regime, the authoritarian regime of Maduro and working in close concert with China, and China's ZTE has long had a relationship with the Maduro regime and providing the carnet de patria which spies on civil society and opposition leaders and determines how who gets what food allocations within that country. And so right now, of course, we are not engaging in DFC in Venezuela. But in a democratic future. When we have a democratic transition in that country. We would love to bring DFC into it and help rebuild.

Hearing: THE HEALTH, ECONOMIC, AND POLITICAL CHALLENGES FACING LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN, Committee on Foreign Affairs: Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade, September 15, 2020

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  • Monica de Bolle, PhD
    • Professor of Latin American Studies at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University
    • Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics
    • Senior Advisor with International Capital Strategies (not listed on her hearing bio)
    • Former professor of macroeconomics at the Pontifical Catholic Universtiy of Rio de Janeiro
    • Managing partner of Galanto MBB Consultants, a macroeconomic consultancy firm based in Brazil
    • Former economist at the International Monetary Fund
  • Michael Camilleri
    • Director of the Peter D. Bell Rule of Law Program for Inter-American Dialogue
    • Senior Advisor at WestExec Advisors since February 2018 (not listed on his hearing bio)
    • The firm founded by the incoming Secretary of State, Antony Blinken
    • Former Western Hemisphere adviser on Obama's Secretary of State's Policy Planning Staff and Director for Andean Affairs at the National Security Council from 2012-2017
    • Former human rights specialist at the Organization of American States
    • Former senior staff attorney at the Center for Justice and International Law
    • Member of the Council on Foreign Relations
  • Eric Farnsworth
    • Vice President of the Council of the Americas since 2003
    • Former Managing Director of ManattJones Global Strategies, a consulting firm from 1998-2005
    • Former member of the global public policy division of Bristol-Meyers Squibb, a multinational pharmaceutical company
    • Former Senior Policy Advisor to President Bill Clinton from 1995-1998
    • Former Foreign Affairs Officer at the State Department from 1990-1995
    • Former Services and Investment Industry Analyst at the Office of the US Trade Representatives in 1992

25:10 Rep. Francis Rooney (FL): US international development Finance Corporation will play a crucial role in investments in the region, which I believe can help the recovery and also as long term economic well being

2:08:13 Eric Farnsworth: Notably, Washington is taking actions to build a forward looking economic recovery agenda. Among them the Americas Crece, a program announced at the end of 2019 and enhanced financing facilities through the newly minted Development Finance Corporation.

2:09:21 Eric Farnsworth: Economic Recovery must be at the forefront of the pending summit of the Americas. Latin America already suffers from one of the lowest levels of intra regional trade worldwide, for example. The gains from expanded intra regional trade would establish sounder economic footing while helping to moderate the cyclical nature of commodities markets, as well. Nations across Latin America and the Caribbean can focus more attention on improving their respective investment climates. Mr. Rooney, the ranking minority member has made this case effectively many, many times. For its part, the United States should come to the 2021 summit with a robust economic expansion initiative. Absent a massive economic financial package of debt relief and new lending, renewal of a hemispheric trade and investment agenda will be the best way to promote regional recovery, support US and regional economic interests and renew a regional strategic posture that China has begun to challenge.

2:11:03 Julie Chung: So how does the United States continue to advocate democracy in Venezuela? I say sham of legislative election and the end of Guaido's mandate are rapidly approaching. How do we do that? Well, I don't if know if [inaudible] wanted this question.

2:13:03 Eric Farnsworth: There are huge amounts of illicit money being made and moved in Venezuela through illegal activities, illegal gold mining, drug trafficking and the like. And one of the best ways I think to get at the regime is to stanch the flow of those financial resources. And frankly, to identify and to freeze those funds and then also to begin to seize them and take them back at once the economic incentives for illegal behavior are removed or at least reduced, perhaps the political dynamic in Venezuela will change that people will begin to see that they really have to find a way out from this mess frankly, that Nicolas Maduro has created.

2:14:14 Monica de Bolle, PhD: It will be very hard to get other Latin American countries to focus on the issues in Venezuela given that they have runaway epidemics in their own countries. And we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that amongst the 10 countries that have the largest or the highest per capita death rate in the world right now are all in Latin America.

2:16:00 Michael Camilleri: Unfortunately, the Guaido interim government, the the National Assembly, the G4 are not in the same position they were in a year or your half ago, the balance of forces on the ground in Venezuela has tilted in favor of the Maduro regime. And so that will that will require us to calibrate our own efforts and invite view we need to be realistic about the fact that some sort of negotiated pathway to free and fair elections ultimately is the most realistic and the most peaceful, frankly, path out of the the awful situation that the country finds itself in.

2:23:21 Monica de Bolle, PhD: Apart from corruption, which is certainly a problem in the oil sector as well as in other parts of the Venezuelan economy, there's also been dramatic underinvestment in the oil industry, which has now led the country to this situation where, rather than being a very big net oil exporter, as they used to be in the 1980s in the 1990s, they've now become a net oil importer, which shows exactly how much you can squander your country's resources and just basically run an economy to the ground.

2:33:58 Eric Farnsworth: And what we're seeing is some concern in the investor community about actions that have been taken perhaps on the backtracking on the reform agenda around energy in particular, but in other sectors as well, canceling contracts that have been previously agreed, and some other actions like that and the investment community is very cautious.

Hearing: PROTECTING DEMOCRACY DURING COVID–19 IN EUROPE AND EURASIA AND THE DEMOCRATIC AWAKENING IN BELARUS, Committee on Foreign Affairs: Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment, September 10, 2020

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  • Douglas Rutzen
    • President and CEO of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law
    • Professor at Georgetown University Law Center
    • Advisory Board member of the United Nations Democracy Fund
  • Therese Pearce Laanela
    • Head of Electoral Processes at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance
  • Joanna Rohozinska
    • Resident Program Director for Europe at the Beacon Project at the International Republican Institute
    • Senior program officer for Europe at the National Endowment for Democracy at least as of 2019. She has worked there for about a decade
  • Jamie Fly
    • Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund and Co-Director of the Alliance for Security Democracy
    • Senior Advisor to WestExec Advisors
    • Co-founded by incoming Secretary of State, Antony Blinken
    • Former President and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in 2019 & 2020
    • Former counselor for foreign and national security affairs for Sen. Marco Rubio from 2013-2017
    • Former Executive Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative from 2009-2013
    • Former member of GWB's National Security Council from 2008-2009
    • Former member of GWB's Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2005-2008

53:30 Joanna Rohozinska: Lukshenko must be held responsible for his choices and actions. Word mating strategies with transatlantic allies should be priority and to call for dialogue, immediate release of political prisoners and support for the political opposition's demands for holding elections under international supervision and beginning negotiations on a Lukshenko transition.

53:56 Joanna Rohozinska: Support for democracy requires patience as well as long term commitment and vision. This has been made possible with the support of Congress to IRI and the family. Thank you and I look forward to your questions.

1:03:05 Therese Pearce Laanela: Institutions that are as strong...What we are seeing... those that are able to safeguard and against disinformation for example, they are working in innovative ways because this isn't a challenge that existed really as much before social media and one of the things that we're seeing is a kind of interagency cooperation, a partnership between private and public. That's really hasn't been seen before. Let me just take Australia as a case, but the working together with social media companies and government agencies and security agencies and election officials for rapid reaction to anything that comes in and that kind of seamless communication between agencies, that is one of the ways in which we can protect.

1:04:15 Jamie Fly: We have tools. Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty has a Bella Russian language service Radio Svoboda which has significant of followers inside Belarus. The problem is that Lukashenko like many other authoritarians have realized that when they face significant pressure, they should take the country offline. And Belarusian authorities have done that on a regular basis, which makes it much more difficult to communicate and allow information to spread freely. So what they really need outlets like Svoboda and other independent media are access to internet circumvention tools, which are also funded by the State Department and the US Agency for Global Media.

1:09:57 Douglas Rutzen: China is providing surveillance technology to countries including Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Serbia. They also provided a $2 billion dollar loan to Hungry to construct a railway which Hungry then classified as a state secret in terms of the construction.

1:19:28 Brian Fitzpatrick: In 2013, in 2000, and he saw large scale protests in Ukraine, following what many believed to be a falsification of elections by their federal officials. So my first question for the entire panel, do you believe that Belarus protests could lead to a revolution similar to the one we saw in Ukraine and secondarily, on Tuesday, President Lukashenko, refused to rule out the idea of holding new elections, and acknowledge that he may have overstayed his time at office, whether or not you see revolutions similar to Ukraine, do you think that these protests could lead to an actual change in leadership? Joanna Rohozinska: So I take it as a question to me. I mean, I think that things have been building up and I would say that with this similarity to Ukraine was that there was also a deep seated frustration with corruption. Here, it's less about corruption. But it's still meets, where you have the accountability and transparency aspect of it that I was mentioning in my testimony. And I think that the frustration with the lack of responsive government and being treated like animals, frankly, is what they say, is what finally boiled over, but there's been, there's been an uptick in protests in Belarus, if you watch these kinds of things over the past two years, over the parasite tax, for example, which was also was a special tax that was put on unemployment, and on to penalize people who are unemployed, is trying to target civic activists, but it ended up reaching far farther than that. So you can see things percolating below the surface for quite a long time. Now. You never know when it's going to blow. Here, I think that there was just the COVID, underlay everything and it mobilized such a broad swath of society, that the trigger event was finally the elections, which again, demonstrating a degree of hubris they decided not to put off right, they figured that holding the elections at the beginning of August was the best thing to do, because there is always a low torque turnout and all this, frankly, because people tend to go out to the countryside. So they simply miscalculated. They did not understand how the people were feeling. And here, you do have a similarity with Ukraine, I think. And in terms of in terms of the other questions to going forward? No, you have to appreciate that this is a country that's never experienced democracy ever. Which means that even the democratic opposition leaders basically know it from textbooks, they don't know what from firsthand practice. And, Lukashenko himself, ironically, has been supporting the notion of sovereignty and independence in the face of the Russian state for the past couple of years. And he only changed his tune a couple of weeks ago, when he started getting backed into a corner. And in terms of, you know, his promises and calling new elections, I would be wary. He does not have a particularly good track record of following through on promises. And so I would probably take that as a lesson learned and be extremely cautious. I personally think he's just buying time. Because he also said that he would consider holding the elections after introducing constitutional changes and the constitutional changes that he's proposing is to introduce term limits. So I mean, he's still looking at the succession. He understands that this is the end of his time in office. I don't know if he wants to do that right, exactly now, however, understanding that this would have been his last term anyways, you're probably preparing for an exit strategy.

1:23:00 Joanna Rohozinska: I would certainly invest in looking at quality early parliamentary elections as being much more significant. Because once you turn the house, once you turn the parliament and then at least you start building up a degree of political capital that can start carrying forward into into the governance.

1:52:37 Therese Pearce Laanela: Your people are excellent. I really want to say that I'm calling in from Sweden. I'm not American myself. But I have worked in this business for 28 years working in different countries in really tough situations. And some of the best experts out there are from organizations that are very close to those of you when you're normally working in Washington. So the United Nations as well based in New York, but also organizations like IFIS, NDI, our colleagues from IRI they are doing excellent work supported by USA ID. So and they've kind of got it figured out how to support institutions for the long term, so you can trust the people that you are supporting.


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  • Dr. Tanvi Madan – Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, The Brookings Institution
  • Dr. Evan Medeiros – Penner Family Chair in Asian Studies and Cling Family Distinguished Fellow, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
  • Mr. Orville Schell – Arthur Ross Director, Center on US-China Relations, Asia Society
  • Ms. Meredith Sumpter
    • 2020 October: Hired as the CEO of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism with the Vatican
    • 2017-2020: Head of Research Strategy and Operations, Eurasia Group
    • 2014-2016: Director at multinational consulting firm BowerGroup Asia

55:45 Ms. Meredith Sumpter: Beijing decision makers believe that their state directed economic system is the foundation of the livelihood of their political system. In other words, we have been spending our energies trying to force China to change and China is not willing to change an economic model that it believes underpins its political longevity.

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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Dec 21, 2020
Thank You Hawley and Sanders

At the end of a frustrating week observing mind-boggling congressional disfunction, Jen rages against the monster preventing COVID relief for working people and small businesses, updates us on the status of government funding, previews the episodes to be produced at the start of the 117th Congress, reviews the results of the 2020 Election, explains why worrying about The Great Reset is a waste of brain power, and thanks the wonderful community of humans who produce Congressional Dish.

*Note: Jen knows Sen. Hawley's first name is Josh. She doesn't know why her brain keeps telling her it's Jeff. 

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Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

Thank you for supporting truly independent media!


Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations

Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Dec 14, 2020
CD224: Social Media Censorship

Everyone who uses Facebook, Google, and Twitter has probably noticed the disappearance of posts and the appearance of labels, especially during the 2020 election season. In this episode, hear the highlights from six recent House and Senate hearings where executives from the social media giants and experts on social media testified about the recent changes. The incoming 117th Congress is promising to make new laws that will affect our social media experiences; these conversations are where the new laws are being conceived. 

Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

Thank you for supporting truly independent media!

Recommended Episodes

CD196: The Mueller Report

CD186: National Endowment for Democracy


Additional Resources

Sound Clip Sources

Hearing: Breaking the News: Censorship, Suppression and the 2020 Election, Senate Judiciary Committee, November 17, 2020


  • Jack Dorsey, Twitter, Inc.
  • Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, Inc.

30:50 Jack Dorsey: We were called here today because of an enforcement decision we made against New York Post, based on a policy we created in 2018. To prevent Twitter from being used to spread hacked materials. This resulted in us blocking people from sharing a New York Post article, publicly or privately. We made a quick interpretation, using no other evidence that the materials in the article were obtained through hacking, and according to our policy, we blocked them from being spread. Upon further consideration, we admitted this action was wrong and corrected it within 24 hours. We informed the New York Post of our air and policy update and how to unlock their account by deleting the original violating tweet, which freed them to tweet the exact same content and news article again. They chose not to, instead insisting we reverse our enforcement action. We do not have a practice around retro actively overturning prior enforcement's, since then it demonstrated that we needed one and so we created one we believe is fair and appropriate.

35:13 Mark Zuckerberg: At Facebook, we took our responsibility to protect the integrity of this election very seriously. In 2016, we began to face new kinds of threats and after years of preparation, we were ready to defend against them. We built sophisticated systems to protect against election interference, that combined artificial intelligence, significant human review, and partnerships with the intelligence community, law enforcement and other tech platforms. We've taken down more than 100 networks of bad actors, we're trying to coordinate and interfere globally, we established a network of independent fact checkers that covers more than 60 languages. We made political advertising more transparent on Facebook than anywhere else, and including TV, radio and email. And we introduced new policies to combat voter suppression and misinformation. Still, the pandemic created new challenges, how to handle misinformation about COVID and voting by mail, how to prepare people for the reality, the results would take time, and how to handle if someone prematurely declared victory or refused to accept the result. So in September, we updated our policies again to reflect these realities of voting in 2020. And make sure that we were taking precautions given these unique circumstances. We worked with local election officials to remove false claims about polling conditions that might lead to voter suppression. We partnered with Reuters and the national election pool to provide reliable information about results. We attach voting information to posts by candidates on both sides and additional contexts to posts trying to de legitimize the outcome. We lock down new political ads and the week before the election to prevent misleading claims from spreading when they couldn't be rebutted. We strengthened our enforcement against militias and conspiracy networks like QAnon to prevent them from using our platforms to organize violence or civil unrest altogether. I believe this was the largest election integrity effort by any private company in recent times.

40:50 Jack Dorsey: We have transparency around our policies, we do not have transparency around how we operate content moderation, the rationale behind it, the reasoning. And as we look forward, we have more and more of our decisions of our operations moving to algorithms, which are, have a difficult time explaining why they make decisions, bringing transparency around those decisions. And that is why we believe that we should have more choice in how these algorithms are applied to our content, whether we use them at all so we can turn them on or off and have clarity around the outcomes that they're projecting and how they affect our experience.

45:39 Mark Zuckerberg: We work with a number of independent organizations that are accredited by the Poynter Institute. And they include Reuters, the Associated Press. AJans France presse, United States, USA Today,, Science Feedback, PolitiFact, Check Your Fact, Leadstories and the Dispatch in the United States.

48:54 Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Do both of you support change to 230? Reform of Section 230? Mark Zuckerberg: Senator I do. Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Mr. Dorsey? Jack Dorsey: Yes. Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Thank you.

54:10 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): How many times is Steve Bannon allowed to call for the murder of government officials before Facebook suspends his account? Mark Zuckerberg: Senator, as you say, the content in question did violate our policies and we took it down. Having a content violation does not automatically mean your account gets taken down. And the number of strikes varies depending on the amount and type of offense. So if people are posting terrorist content or child exploitation content, then the first time they do it, then we will take down their account. For other things. It's multiple, I'd be happy to follow up afterwards. We try not to disclose these... Sorry, I didn't hear that. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Will you commit to taking down that account? Steve Bannon? Mark Zuckerberg: Senator, no, that's not what our policies would suggest that we should do in this case.

1:07:05 Jack Dorsey: What we saw and what the market told us was that people would not put up with abuse, harassment and misleading information that would cause offline harm, and they would leave our service because of it. So our intention is to create clear policy, clear enforcement that enables people to feel that they can express themselves on our service, and ultimately trust it. Sen. John Cornyn (TX): So it was a business decision. Jack Dorsey: It was a business decision.

2:56:34 Mark Zuckerberg: We do coordinate on and share signals on security related topics. So for example, if there is signal around a terrorist attack or around child exploitation imagery or around a foreign government, creating an influence operation, that is an area where the companies do share signals about what they see. But I think it's important to be very clear that that is distinct from the content moderation policies that we or the other companies have, where once we share intelligence or signals between the companies, each company makes its own assessment of the right way to address and deal with that information.

3:59:10 Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI): I don't know what it what are both of you prepared to do regarding Donald Trump's use of your platforms after he stops being president it? Will he still be deemed newsworthy? And will he still get to use your platform to spread this misinformation? Mark Zuckerberg: Senator, let me clarify my last answer. We are also having academic study, the effective of all of our election measures and they'll be publishing those results publicly. In terms of President Trump and moving forward. There are a small number of policies where we have exceptions for politicians under the principle that people should be able to hear what their elected officials are saying and candidates for office. But by and large, the vast majority of our policies have no newsworthiness or political exception. So if the President or anyone else is spreading hate speech, or inciting violence, or posting content, that delegitimizes the election or valid forms of voting, those will receive the same treatment is anyone else saying those things, and that will continue to be the case Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI): Remains to be seen. Jack Dorsey: So we do have a policy around public interest, where for global leaders, we do make exceptions in terms of whether if a tweet violates our terms of service, we leave it up behind an interstitial, and people are not allowed to share that more broadly. So a lot of the sharing is disabled with the exception of quoting it so that you can add your own conversation on top of it. So if an account suddenly becomes, is not a world leader anymore, that particular policy goes away.

4:29:35 Sen. Marsha Blackburn (TN): Do you believe it's Facebook's duty to comply with state sponsored censorship so it can keep operating doing business and selling ads in that country? Mark Zuckerberg: Senator in general, we try to comply with the laws in every country where we operate and do business.

Hearing: BIG TECH AND SECTION 230 IMMUNITY, Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, October 28, 2020


  • Jack Dorsey, Twitter, Inc.
  • Sundar Pichai, Alphabet Inc.
  • Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, Inc.

10:10 Sen. Roger Wicker (MS): In policing, conservative sites, then its own YouTube platform or the same types of offensive and outrageous claims.

45:50 Jack Dorsey: The goal of our labeling is to provide more context to connect the dots so that people can have more information so they can make decisions for themselves.

46:20 Sen. Roger Wicker (MS): I have a tweet here from Mr. Ajit Pai. Mr. Ajit Pai is the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. And he recounts some four tweets by the Iranian dictator, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which Twitter did not place a public label on. They all four of them glorify violence. The first tweet says this and I quote each time 'the Zionist regime is a deadly cancerous growth and a detriment to the region, it will undoubtedly be uprooted and destroyed.' That's the first tweet. The second tweet 'The only remedy until the removal of the Zionist regime is firm armed resistance,' again, left up without comment by Twitter. The third 'the struggle to free Palestine is jihad in the way of God.' I quote that in part for the sake of time, and number four, 'we will support and assist any nation or any group anywhere who opposes and fights the Zionist regime.' I would simply point out that these tweets are still up, Mr. Dorsey. And how is it that they are acceptable to be to be there? Alan, I'll ask unanimous consent to enter this tweet from Ajit Pai in the record at this point that'll be done. Without objection. How Mr. Dorsey, is that acceptable based on your policies at Twitter? Jack Dorsey: We believe it's important for everyone to hear from global leaders and we have policies around world leaders. We want to make sure that we are respecting their right to speak and to publish what they need. But if there's a violation of our terms of service, we want to label it and... Sen. Roger Wicker (MS): They're still up, did they violate your terms of service? Mr. Dorsey? Jack Dorsey: We did not find those two violate our terms of service because we consider them saber rattling, which is, is part of the speech of world leaders in concert with other countries. Speech against our own people, or a country's own citizens we believe is different and can cause more immediate harm.

59:20 Jack Dorsey: We don't have a policy against misinformation. We have a policy against misinformation in three categories, which are manipulated media, public health, specifically COVID and civic integrity, election interference and voter suppression.

1:39:05 Sen. Brian Schatz (HI): What we are seeing today is an attempt to bully the CEOs of private companies into carrying out a hit job on a presidential candidate, by making sure that they push out foreign and domestic misinformation meant to influence the election. To our witnesses today, you and other tech leaders need to stand up to this immoral behavior. The truth is that because some of my colleagues accuse you, your companies and your employees of being biased or liberal, you have institutionally bent over backwards and over compensated, you've hired republican operatives, hosted private dinners with Republican leaders, and in contravention of your Terms of Service, given special dispensation to right wing voices, and even throttled progressive journalism. Simply put, the republicans have been successful in this play.

1:47:15 Jack Dorsey: This one is a tough one to actually bring transparency to. Explainability in AI is a field of research but is far out. And I think a better opportunity is giving people more choice around the algorithms they use, including to turn off the algorithms completely which is what we're attempting to do.

2:15:00 Sen. Jerry Moran (KS): Whatever the numbers are you indicate that they are significant. It's a enormous amount of money and an enormous amount of employee time, contract labor time in dealing with modification of content. These efforts are expensive. And I would highlight for my colleagues on the committee that they will not be any less expensive, perhaps less than scale, but not less in cost for startups and small businesses. And as we develop our policies in regard to this topic, I want to make certain that entrepreneurship, startup businesses and small business are considered in what it would cost in their efforts to meet the kind of standards to operate in a sphere.

2:20:40 Sen. Ed Markey (MA): The issue is not that the companies before us today are taking too many posts down. The issue is that they're leaving too many dangerous posts up. In fact, they're amplifying harmful content so that it spreads like wildfire and torches our democracy.

3:04:00 Sen. Mike Lee (UT): Between the censorship of conservative and liberal points of view, and it's an enormous disparity. Now you have the right, I want to be very clear about this, you have every single right to set your own terms of service and to interpret them and to make decisions about violations. But given the disparate impact of who gets censored on your platforms, it seems that you're either one not enforcing your Terms of Service equally, or alternatively, to that you're writing your standards to target conservative viewpoints.

3:15:30 Sen. Ron Johnson (MA): Okay for both Mr. Zuckerberg and Dorsey who censored New York Post stories, or throttled them back, did either one of you have any evidence that the New York Post story is part of Russian disinformation? Or that those emails aren't authentic? Did anybody have any information whatsoever? They're not authentic more than they are Russian disinformation? Mr. Dorsey? Jack Dorsey: We don't. Sen. Ron Johnson (MA): So why would you censor it? Why did you prevent that from being disseminated on your platform that is supposed to be for the free expression of ideas, and particularly true ideas... Jack Dorsey: we believe to fell afoul of our hacking materials policy, we judged... Sen. Ron Johnson (MA): They weren't hacked. Jack Dorsey: We we judge them moment that it looked like it was hacked material. Sen. Ron Johnson (MA): You were wrong. Jack Dorsey: And we updated our policy and our enforcement within 24 hours. Sen. Ron Johnson (MA): Mr. Zuckerberg? Mark Zuckerberg: Senator, as I testified before, we relied heavily on the FBI, his intelligence and alert status both through their public testimony and private briefings. Sen. Ron Johnson (MA): Did the FBI contact you, sir, than your co star? It was false. Mark Zuckerberg: Senator not about that story specifically. Sen. Ron Johnson (MA): Why did you throttle it back. Mark Zuckerberg: They alerted us to be on heightened alert around a risk of hack and leak operations around a release and probe of information. And to be clear on this, we didn't censor the content. We flagged it for fact checkers to review. And pending that review, we temporarily constrained its distribution to make sure that it didn't spread wildly while it was being reviewed. But it's not up to us either to determine whether it's Russian interference, nor whether it's true. We rely on the fact checkers to do that.

3:29:30 Sen. Rick Scott (FL): That's becoming obvious that your that your companies are unfairly targeting conservatives. That's clearly the perception today, Facebook is actively targeting as by conservative groups ahead of the election, either removing the ads completely or adding their own disclosure if they claim that didn't pass their fact check system.

3:32:40 Sen. Rick Scott (FL): You can't just pick and choose which viewpoints are allowed on your platform an expect to keep immunity granted by Section 230.

News Clip: Adam Schiff on CNN, CNN, Twitter, October 16, 2020

Hearing: MISINFORMATION, CONSPIRACY THEORIES, AND `INFODEMICS': STOPPING THE SPREAD ONLINE, Committee on the Judiciary: Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law, October 15, 2020

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Hearing Transcript


  • Dr. Joan Donovan: Research Director at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School
  • Nina Jankowicz: Disinformation Fellow at the Wilson Center
  • Cindy Otis: Vice President of the Althea Group
  • Melanie Smith: Head of Analysis, Graphika Inc

41:30 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): And I should acknowledge that we're pretty careful. We understand that we shouldn't be in the business of fighting misinformation that's probably inconsistent with the First Amendment. So what do we do? We ask that it be outsourced to people that we otherwise are pretty critical of like Mark Zuckerberg, and Jack Dorsey, we say you do it, which strikes me as a pretty lame way to address what may or may not be a problem.

42:00 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): Miss Jankowicz said that misinformation is dismantling democracy. I'm skeptical of that. And that will be my question. What evidence is that is out there that this is dismantling democracy, I don't mean that millions of people see QAnon I actually want to see the evidence that people are seeing this information, and are in a meaningful way, in a material way, dismantling our democracy through violence or through political organizations, because if we're going to go down that path, I need something more than eyeballs. So I need some evidence for how this is dismantling our democracy. And secondly, if you persuade me that we're dismantling our democracy, how do we get in the business of figuring out who should define what misinformation or disinformation is? Nina Jankowicz: To address your first question related to evidence of the dismantling of democracy. There's two news stories that I think point to this from the last couple of weeks alone. The first is related to the kidnapping plot against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. And the social media platforms played a huge role in allowing that group to organize. It allowed, that group to, it ceded the information that led them to organize and frankly, as a woman online who has been getting harassed a lot lately, lately, with sexualized and gender disinformation, I am very acutely aware of how those threats that are online can transfer on to real world violence. And that make no mistake is meant to keep women and minorities from not only participating in the democratic process by exercising our votes, but also keeping us from public life. So that's one big example. But there was another example just recently from a channel for in the UK documentary that looked at how the Trump campaign used Cambridge Analytica data to selectively target black voters with voter suppression ads during the 2016 election. Again, this is it's affecting people's participation. It's not just about fake news, stories on the internet. In fact, a lot of the best disinformation is grounded in a kernel of truth. And in my written testimony, I go through a couple of other examples of how online action has led to real world action. And this isn't something that is just staying on the internet, it is increasingly in real life. Rep. Jim Himes (CT): I don't have a lot of time. Do you think that both examples that you offered up Gov the plot to kidnap governor, the governor of Michigan, and your other example passed the but for test? I mean, this country probably got into the Spanish American War over 130 years ago because of the good works of William Randolph Hearst. So how do we, we've had misinformation and yellow journalism and terrible media and voter suppression forever. And I understand that these media platforms have scale that William Randolph Hearst didn't have. But are you sure that both of those examples pass the buck for they wouldn't have happened without the social media misinformation? Nina Jankowicz: I believe they do, because they allow the organization of these groups without any oversight, and they allow the targeting the targeting of these messages to the groups and people that are going to find the most vulnerable and are most likely to take action against them. And that's what our foreign adversaries do. And increasingly, it's what people within our own country are using to organize violence against the democratic participation of many of our fellow citizens. Rep. Jim Himes (CT): Okay, well, I'm out of time I would love to continue this conversation and pursue what you mean by groups being formed quote, without oversight, that's language I'd like to better understand but I'm out of time, but I would like to continue this conversation into, well, if this is the problem that you say it is, what do we actually do about it?

Hearing: ONLINE PLATFORMS AND MARKET POWER, PART 2: INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP, Committee on the Judiciary: Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law, July 16, 2020

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  • Adam Cohen: Director of Economic Policy at Google
  • Matt Perault: Head of Global Policy Development at Facebook
  • Nate Sutton: Associate General Counsel for Competition at Amazon
  • Kyle Andeer: Vice President for Corporate Law at Apple
  • Timothy Wu: Julius Silver Professor of Law at Columbia Law School
  • Dr. Fiona Scott Morton: Theodore Nierenberg Professor of Economics at Yale School of Management
  • Stacy Mitchell: Co-Director at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance
  • Maureen Ohlhausen: Partner at Baker Botts LLP
  • Carl Szabo: Vice President and Gneral Counsel at NetChoice
  • Morgan Reed: Executive Director at the App Association

55:15 Adam Cohen: Congresswoman we use a combination of automated tools, we can recognize copyrighted material that creators upload and instantaneously discover it and keep it from being seen on our platforms.

1:16:00 Rep. David Cicilline (RI): Do you use consumer data to favor Amazon products? Because before you answer that, analysts estimate that between 80 and 90% of sales go to the Amazon buy box. So you collect all this data about the most popular products where they're selling. And you're saying you don't use that in any way to change an algorithm to support the sale of Amazon branded products? Nate Sutton: Our algorithms such as the buy box is aimed to predict what customers want to buy, apply the same criteria whether you're a third party seller, or Amazon to that because we want customers to make the right purchase, regardless of whether it's a seller or Amazon. Rep. David Cicilline (RI): But the best purchase to you as an Amazon product. Nate Sutton: No, that's not true. Rep. David Cicilline (RI): So you're telling us you're under oath, Amazon does not use any of that data collected with respect to what is selling, where it's on what products to inform the decisions you make, or to change algorithms to direct people to Amazon products and prioritize Amazon and D prioritize competitors. Nate Sutton: The algorithms are optimized to predict what customers want to buy regardless of the seller. We provide this same criteria and with respect to popularity, that's public data on each product page. We provide the ranking of each product.

3:22:50 Dr. Fiona Scott Morton: As is detailed in the report that I submitted as my testimony, there are a number of characteristics of platforms that tend to drive them toward concentrated markets, very large economies of scale, consumers exacerbate this with their behavioral biases, we don't scroll down to the second page, we don't. We accept default, we follow the framing the platform gives us and instead of searching independently, and what that does is it makes it very hard for small companies to grow and for new ones to get traction against the dominant platform. And without the threat of entry from entrepreneurs and growth from existing competitors, the dominant platform doesn't have to compete as hard. If it's not competing as hard, then there are several harms that follow from that. One is higher prices for advertisers, many of these platforms are advertising supported, then there's higher prices to consumers who may think that they're getting a good deal by paying a price of zero. But the competitive price might well be negative, the consumers might well be able to be paid for using these platforms in a competitive market. Other harms include low quality in the form of less privacy, more advertising and more exploitative content that consumers can't avoid. Because, as Tim just said, there isn't anywhere else to go. And lastly, without competitive pressure, innovation is lessened. And in particular, it's channeled in the direction the dominant firm prefers, rather than being creatively spread across directions chosen by entrance. And this is what we learned both from at&t and IBM and Microsoft, is that when the dominant firm ceases to control innovation, there's a flowering and it's very creative and market driven. So the solution to this problem of insufficient competition is complimentary steps forward in both antitrust and regulation. Antitrust must recalibrate the balance it strikes between the risk of over enforcement and under enforcement. The evidence now shows we've been under enforcing for years and consumers have been harmed.

3:22:50 Stacy Mitchell: I hope the committee will consider several policy tools as part of this investigation. In particular, we very much endorse the approach that Congress took with regard to the railroads, that if you operate essential infrastructure, you can't also compete with the businesses that rely on that infrastructure.

3:45:00 Morgan Reed: Here on the table, I have a copy of Omni page Pro. This was a software you bought, if you needed to scan documents. If you wanted to turn it into a processor and you could look at it in a word processor. I've also got this great review from PC World, they loved it back in 2005. But the important fact here in this review is that it says the street price of this software in 2005 was $450. Now, right here, I've got an app from a company called Readdle, that is nearly the same product level has a bunch of features that this one doesn't, it's $6. Basically now consumers pay less than 1% of what they used to pay for some of the same capability. And what's even better about that, even though I love the product from Readdle, there are dozens of competitors in the app space. So when you look at it from that perspective, consumers are getting a huge win. How have platforms made this radical drop in price possible? Simply put, they've provided three things a trusted space, reduced overhead, and given my developers nearly instant access to a global marketplace with billions of customers, before the platforms to get your software onto a retail store shelf. companies had to spend years and thousands of dollars to get to the point where a distributor would handle their product, then you'd agree agree to a cut of sales revenue, write a check for upfront marketing, agree to refund the distributor the cost of any unsold boxes and then spend 10s of thousands of dollars to buy an end cap. Digging a little bit on this, I don't know how many of you know or aware that the products you see on your store shelf or in the Sunday flyer aren't there because the manager thought it was a cool product. Those products are displayed at the end of an aisle or end cap because the software developer or consumer goods company literally pays for the shelf space. In fact, for many retailers the sale of floor the sale of floor space and flyers makes a huge chunk of their profitability for their store. And none of this takes into consideration printing boxes, manuals, CDs, dealing with credit cards if you go direct translation services, customs authorities if you want to sell abroad in the 1990s it cost a million dollars to start up a software company. Now it's $100,000 in sweat equity. And thanks to these changes, the average cost for consumer software has dropped from $50 to three. For developers. Our cost to market has dropped enormously and the size of our market has expanded globally.

3:48:55 Stacy Mitchell: I've spent a lot of time interviewing and talking with independent retailers, manufacturers of all sizes. Many of them are very much afraid of speaking out publicly because they fear retaliation. But what we consistently hear is that Amazon is the biggest threat to their businesses. We just did a survey of about 550 independent retailers nationally, Amazon ranked number one in terms of being what they said was the biggest threat to their business above, rising healthcare costs, access to capital, government, red tape, anything else you can name. Among those who are actually selling on the platform, only 7% reported that it was actually helping their bottom line. Amazon has a kind of godlike view of a growing share of our commerce and it uses the data that it gathers to advantage its own business and its own business interests in lots of ways. A lot of this, as I said, comes from the kind of leverage its ability to sort of leverage the interplay between these different business lines to maximize its advantage, whether it's promoting its own product because that's lucrative or whether it's using the manufacturer of a product to actually squeeze a seller or vendor into giving it bigger discounts.

[3:53:15] Rep. Kelly Armstrong (ND): When we recognize, I come from very rural area, the closest, what you would consider a big box store is Minneapolis or Denver. So and so when we're talking about competition, all of this I also think we've got to remember, at no point in time from my house in Dickinson, North Dakota have I had more access to more diverse and cheap consumer products. I mean, things that often would require a plane ticket or a nine hour car ride to buy can now be brought to our house. So I think when we're talking about consumers, we need to remember that side of it, too.


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Hearing transcript


  • Nathaniel Gleicher: Head of Security Policy at Facebook
  • Nick Pickles: Director of Global Public Policy Strategy and Development at Twitter
  • Richard Salgado: Director for Law Enforcement and Information Security at Google

19:16 Nathaniel Gleicher: Facebook has made significant investments to help protect the integrity of elections. We now have more than 35,000 people working on safety and security across the company, with nearly 40 teams focused specifically on elections and election integrity. We're also partnering with federal and state governments, other tech companies, researchers and civil society groups to share information and stop malicious actors. Over the past three years, we've worked to protect more than 200 elections around the world. We've learned lessons from each of these, and we're applying these lessons to protect the 2020 election in November.

21:58 Nathaniel Gleicher: We've also been proactively hunting for bad actors trying to interfere with the important discussions about injustice and inequality happening around our nation. As part of this effort, we've removed isolated accounts seeking to impersonate activists, and two networks of accounts tied to organize hate groups that we've previously banned from our platforms.

26:05 Nick Pickles: Firstly, Twitter shouldn't determine the truthfulness of tweets. And secondly, Twitter should provide context to help people make up their own minds in cases where the substance of a tweet is disputed.

26:15 Nick Pickles: We prioritize interventions regarding misinformation based on the highest potential for harm. And the currently focused on three main areas of content, synthetic & manipulated media, elections and civic integrity and COVID-19.

26:30 Nick Pickles: Where content does not break our rules and warrant removal. In these three areas, we may label tweets to help people come to their own views by providing additional context. These labels may link to a curated set of tweets posted by people on Twitter. This include factual statements, counterpoint opinions and perspectives, and ongoing public conversation around the issue. To date, we've applied these labels to thousands of tweets around the world across these three policy areas.

31:10 Richard Salgado: In search, ranking algorithms are an important tool in our fight against disinformation. Ranking elevates information that our algorithms determine is the most authoritative, above information that may be less reliable. Similarly, our work on YouTube focuses on identifying and removing content that violates our policies and elevating authoritative content when users search for breaking news. At the same time, we find and limit the spread of borderline content that comes close but just stops short of violating our policies.

53:28 Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): Mr. Gliecher, you may or may not know that Facebook is headquartered in my congressional district. I've had many conversations with Sheryl Sandberg. And I'm still puzzled by the fact that Facebook does not consider itself a media platform. Are you still espousing that kind of position? Nathaniel Gleicher: Congresswoman, we're first and foremost a technology company. We may be a technology company, but it's your technology company is being used as a media platform. Do you not recognize that? Congresswoman, we're a place for ideas across the spectrum. We know that there are people who use our platforms to engage and in fact that is the goal of the platform's to encourage and enable people to discuss the key issues of the day and to talk to family and friends.

54:30 Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): How long or or maybe I should ask this when there was a video of Speaker Pelosi that had been tampered with - slowed down to make her look like she was drunk. YouTube took it down almost immediately. What did Facebook do and what went into your thinking to keep it up? Nathaniel Gleicher: Congresswoman for a piece of content like that, we work with a network of third party fact checkers, more than 60 3rd party fact checkers around the world. If one of them determines that a piece of content like that is false, and we will down rank it, and we will put an interstitial on it so that anyone who would look at it would first see a label over it saying that there's additional information and that it's false. That's what we did in this context. When we down rank, something like that, we see the shares of that video, radically drop. Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): But you won't take it down when you know it's false. Nathaniel Gleicher: Congresswoman, you're highlighting a really difficult balance. And we've talked about this amongst ourselves quite a bit. And what I would say is, if we simply take a piece of content like this down, it doesn't go away. It will exist elsewhere on the internet. People who weren't looking for it will still find it. Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): But it you know, there will always be bad actors in the world. That doesn't mean that you don't do your level best to show the greatest deal of credibility. I mean, if YouTube took it down, I don't understand how you couldn't have taken down but I'll leave that where it lays.

1:40:10 Nathaniel Gleicher: Congressman, the collaboration within industry and with government is much, much better than it was in 2016. I think we have found the FBI, for example, to be forward leaning and ready to share information with us when they see it. We share information with them whenever we see indications of foreign interference targeting our election. The best case study for this was the 2018 midterms, where you saw industry, government and civil society all come together, sharing information to tackle these threats. We had a case on literally the eve of the vote, where the FBI gave us a tip about a network of accounts where they identified subtle links to Russian actors. Were able to investigate those and take action on them within a matter of hours.

1:43:10 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): I tend to be kind of a First Amendment absolutist. I really don't want Facebook telling me what's true and what's not true mainly because most statements are some combination of both.

1:44:20 Nathaniel Gleicher: Certainly people are drawn to clickbait. They're drawn to explosive content. I mean, it is the nature of clickbait, to make people want to click on it, but what we found is that if you separate it out from the particular content, people don't want a platform or experience, just clickbait, they will click it, if they see it, they don't want it prioritized, they don't want their time to be drawn into that and all emotional frailty. And so we are trying to build an environment where that isn't the focus, where they have the conversations they want to have, but I agree with you. A core piece of this challenge is people seek out that type of content wherever it is. I should note that as we're thinking about how we prioritize this, one of the key factors is who your friends are the pages and accounts that you follow and the assets that you engage with. That's the most important factor in sort of what you see. And so people have direct control over that because they are choosing the people they want to engage.

Hearing: ONLINE PLATFORMS AND MARKET POWER, PART 1: THE FREE AND DIVERSE PRESS, Committee on the Judiciary: Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law, June 11, 2020

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  • David Chavern: President of the News Media Alliance
  • Gene Kimmelman: President of Public Knowledge
  • Sally Hubbard: Director of Enforcement Strategy at the Open Markets Institute
  • Matthew Schrurers: Vice President of Law and Policy at the Computer and Communications Industry Association
  • David Pitofsky: General Counsel at News Corp
  • Kevin Riley: Editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

55:30 David Chavern: Platforms and news organizations mutual reliance would not be a problem, if not for the fact that the concentration among the platforms means a small number of companies now exercise an extreme level of control over the news. And in fact, a couple of dominant firms act as regulators of the news industry. Only these regulators are not constrained by legislative or democratic oversight. The result has been to siphon revenue away from news publishers. This trend is clear if you compare the growth in Google's total advertising revenue to the decline in the news industry's ad revenue. In 2000, Google's US revenue was 2.1 billion, while the newspaper industry accounted for 48 billion in advertising revenue. In 2017, in contrast, Google's US revenue had increased over 25 times to 52.4 billion, the newspaper industry's ad revenue had fallen 65% to 16.4 billion.

56:26 David Chavern: The effect of this revenue decline in publishers has been terrible, and they've been forced to cut back on their investments in journalism. That is a reason why newsroom employment has fallen nearly a quarter over the last decade. One question might be asked is if the platforms are unbalanced, having such a negative impact on the news media, then why don't publishers do something about it? The answer is they cannot, at least under the existing antitrust laws, news publishers face a collective action problem. No publisher on its own can stand up to the tech giants. The risk of demotion or exclusion from the platform is simply too great. And the antitrust laws prevent news organizations from acting collectively. So the result is that publishers are forced to accept whatever terms or restrictions are imposed on them.

1:06:20 Sally Hubbard: Facebook has repeatedly acquired rivals, including Instagram and WhatsApp. And Google's acquisition cemented its market power throughout the ad ecosystem as it bought up the digital ad market spoke by spoke, including applied semantics AdMob and Double Click. Together Facebook and Google have bought 150 companies in just the last six years. Google alone has bought nearly 250 companies.

1:14:17 David Pitofsky: Unfortunately, in the news business, free riding by dominant online platforms, which aggregate and then reserve our content has led to the lion's share of online advertising dollars generated off the back of news going to the platforms. Many in Silicon Valley dismissed the press as old media failing to evolve in the face of online competition. But this is wrong. We're not losing business to an innovator who has found a better or more efficient way to report and investigate the news. We're losing business because the dominant platforms deploy our news content, to target our audiences to then turn around and sell that audience to the same advertisers we're trying to serve.

1:15:04 David Pitofsky: The erosion of advertising revenue undercuts our ability to invest in high quality journalism. Meanwhile, the platforms have little if any commitment to accuracy or reliability. For them, a news article is valuable if viral, not if verified.

1:16:12 David Pitofsky: News publishers have no good options to respond to these challenges. Any publisher that tried to withhold its content from a platform as part of a negotiating strategy would starve itself of reader traffic. In contrast, losing one publisher would not harm the platform's at all since they would have ample alternative sources for news content.

1:36:56 Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA): So Miss Hubbard, let me start with you. You were an Assistant Attorney General for New York State's antitrust division. You've also worked as a journalist, which online platforms would you say are most impacting the public's access to trustworthy sources of journalism? And why? Sally Hubbard: Thank you for the question. Congresswoman, I think in terms of disinformation, the platforms that are having the most impact are Facebook and YouTube. And that's because of their business models, which are to prioritize engagement, engaging content because of the human nature that you know survival instinct, we tend to tune into things that make us fearful or angry. And so by prioritizing engagement, these platforms are actually prioritizing disinformation as well. It serves their profit motives to keep people on the platforms as long as possible to show them ads and collect their data. And because they don't have any competition, they're free to pursue these destructive business models without having any competitive constraint. They've also lacked regulation. Normally, corporations are not permitted to just pursue profits without regard to the consequences.

1:38:10 Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA): The Federal Trade Commission has repeatedly declined to interfere, as Facebook and Google have acquired would be competitors. Since 2007, Google has acquired Applied Semantics, Double Click and AdMob. And since 2011, Facebook has acquired Instagram and WhatsApp. What do these acquisitions mean for consumers of news and information? I think sometimes antitrust is seen and regulation is seen as something that's out there. But this has very direct impact for consumers. Can you explain what that means as these companies have acquired more and more? Sally Hubbard: Sure, so in my view, those, of all of the acquisitions that you just mentioned, were illegal under the Clayton Act, which prohibits mergers that may lessen competition. Looking back, it's clear that all of those mergers did lessen competition. And when you lessen competition, the harms to consumers are not just high prices, which was which are harder to see when in the digital age. But its loss of innovation is loss of choice, and loss of control. So when we approve anti competitive mergers, consumers are harmed.

1:55:48 Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL): Section 230, as I understand it, and I'm happy to be corrected by others, would say that if a technology platform is a neutral public platform, that they enjoy certain liability protections that newspapers don't enjoy, that Newscorp doesn't enjoy with its assets. And so does it make the anti competitive posture of technology platforms more pronounced, that they have access to this special liability protection that the people you represent don't have access to? David Chavern: Oh, absolutely. There's a huge disparity. Frankly, when our contents delivered through these platforms, we get the liability and they get the money. So that's a good deal from that end. We are responsible for what we publish, we publishers can and do get sued. On the other hand, the platforms are allowed to deliver and monetize this content with complete lack of responsibility.

Hearing: Election Interference: Ensuring Law Enforcement is Equipped to Target Those Seeking to Do Harm, Senate Judiciary Committee, June 12, 2018

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  • Adam Hickey - Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division at the Department of Justice
  • Matthew Masterson - National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security
  • Kenneth Wainstein - Partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell, LLP
  • Prof. Ryan Goodman - New York University School of Law
  • Nina Jankowicz - Global Fellow at the Wilson Center

9:00 Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA): We know that Russia orchestrated a sustained and coordinated attack that interfered in our last presidential election. And we also know that there’s a serious threat of more attacks in our future elections, including this November. As the United States Intelligence Community unanimously concluded, the Russian government’s interference in our election—and I quote—“blended covert intelligence operations, such as cyber activity, with overt efforts by the Russian government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social-media users or trolls.” Over the course of the past year and a half, we’ve come to better understand how pernicious these attacks were. Particularly unsettling is that we were so unaware. We were unaware that Russia was sowing division through mass propaganda, cyber warfare, and working with malicious actors to tip scales of the election. Thirteen Russian nationals and three organizations, including the Russian-backed Internet Research Agency, have now been indicted for their role in Russia’s vast conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Hearing: Facebook, Google and Twitter Executives on Russian Disinformation, Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, October 31, 2017

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  • Colin Stretch - Facebook Vice President and General Counsel
  • Sean Edgett - Twitter Acting General Counsel
  • Richard Salgado - Google Law Enforcement & Information Security Director
  • Clint Watts - Foreign Policy Research Institute, National Security Program Senior Fellow
  • Michael Smith -New America, International Security Fellow

2:33:07 Clint Watts: Lastly, I admire those social-media companies that have begun working to fact-check news articles in the wake of last year’s elections. These efforts should continue but will be completely inadequate. Stopping false information—the artillery barrage landing on social-media users comes only when those outlets distributing bogus stories are silenced. Silence the guns, and the barrage will end. I propose the equivalent of nutrition labels for information outlets, a rating icon for news-producing outlets displayed next to their news links and social-media feeds and search engines. The icon provides users an assessment of the news outlet’s ratio of fact versus fiction and opinion versus reporting. The rating system would be opt-in. It would not infringe on freedom of speech or freedom of the press. Should not be part of the U.S. government, should sit separate from the social-media companies but be utilized by them. Users wanting to consume information from outlets with a poor rating wouldn’t be prohibited. If they are misled about the truth, they have only themselves to blame.

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Nov 30, 2020
Thank You Alaska

The Election is still not over but we did get some more results. In this bonus "thank you" episode, get updated on the election news before we thank the CD producers who are making this podcast possible.

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Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Nov 23, 2020
CD223: Election 2020: The Empire Returns

The election is... Actually not quite over but we have to record this episode sometime. In this episode, a breakdown of the notable winners and losers. Did we fire them all? Or... Any of them? 

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Recommended Episodes

CD129: The Impeachment of John Koskinen


Additional Resources

Sound Clip Sources

Video: 2020 Presidential Debates: Biden says Obamacare will have a public option, 'Bidencare', Politico, October 22, 2020

Facebook Live Video: Republican congressional candidate caught on video making series of racist and Islamophobic remarks, Independent, June 18, 2020

Facebook Live Video: House Republican leaders condemn GOP candidate who made racist videos, Politico, June 17, 2020

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Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Nov 15, 2020
CD222: 116th Congress Performance Review

In the last episode before the 2020 election, let's take a comprehensive look at what went on in the 116th Congress, a divided Congress during which the House of Representatives was controlled for the first time since Congressional Dish began by the Democratic Party. It was a chaotic two years, with a series of unprecedented events. Did our Congress serve us well in these crazy times?

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Recommended Episodes

CD221: Kicking the Funding Can

CD216: Dingleberries Against Police Brutality

CD213: CARES Act - The Trillions for COVID-19 Law

CD212: The COVID-19 Response Laws

CD211: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

CD209: USMCA with Lori Wallach

CD208: The Brink of the Iran War

CD207: State of Corporatism

CD206: Impeachment: The Evidence

CD192: Democracy Upgrade Stalled

CD188: Welcome to the 116th Congress

CD167: Combating Russia (NDAA 2018) LIVE

CD131: Bombing Libya

CD068: Ukraine Aid Bill

CD067: What Do We Want In Ukraine?


Additional Resources


alt text

alt text

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Tweet: Chris Murphy, Twitter

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Tweet: Joe Biden, Twitter

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Tweet: Joe Biden

Sound Clip Sources

News Clip: Mark Meadows: We're not going to control the pandemic, CNN, October 25, 2020

News Clip: Woodward tapes show Trump knew the dangers of COVID-19 but downplayed it, CBS News, September 9, 2020

Hearing: Leaked conversation between Joe Biden and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, May 20, 2020


13:00 VP Joe Biden: Hey, Mr. President. Joe Biden. How are you? Petro Poroshenko: Very well indeed, as is usual when I hear your voice. What we’re doing now, I think within the last three weeks, we have demonstrated a real, real great progress in the reforms. We voted in the Parliament 100% tariffs, despite the fact that the IMF expected only 75%. We are launching real reform of the state owned enterprises. We are launching reform for the prices for medicine, removing all the obstacles. VP Joe Biden: I agree, I agree.

14:45 VP Joe Biden: Hey, Mr. President. Joe Biden. How are you? Petro Poroshenko: Very well indeed, as is usual when I hear your voice. VP Joe Biden: You are doing very well. Congratulations on getting the new Prosecutor General. I know that there’s a lot more that has to be done but I really think that’s good and I understand your working with the Rada in the coming days on a number of additional laws to secure the IMF, but congratulations on installing the new prosecutor general. It’s going to be critical for him to work quickly to repair the damage Shokin did, and I’m a man of my word, and now that the new prosecutor general is in place we’re ready to move forward in signing that new one billion dollar loan guarantee. I don’t know how you want to go about that? I’m not going to be able to get to Kiev anytime soon, I mean, in the next month or so, and I don’t know whether you could either sign it with our ambassador…

26:20 VP Joe Biden: Hey, Mr. President. Petro Poroshenko: Very good to hear you. VP Joe Biden: Good to hear you. By the way, you know I’ve talked about this a lot before. I guess Monday is the second anniversary. Remember, I’m counting on you to be the founding father of the modern Ukraine. Petro Poroshenko: Thank you, Joe. And I… I just want to be a little bit proactive. So we have no doubt that we should… implement the reforms but we should implement the reforms in a way that the people trust because if people do not trust the reforms, the reforms will be impossible to implement.

Hearing: Coronavirus Preparedness and Response, House Oversight and Government Reform, March 12, 2020

Watch on Youtube


  • Dr. Anthony Fauci: Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the National Institutes of Health
  • Dr. Robert Redfield: Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Dr. Robert Kadlec: Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services

36:30 Anthony Fauci: In the spirit of staying ahead of the game, right now, we should be doing things that separate us as best as possible from people who might be infected. And there are ways to do that. You know, we use the word social distancing, but most people don't know what that means, for example, crowds. We just heard that they're going to limit access to the capital. That's a really, really good idea to do. I know you like to meet and press the flesh with your constituencies. I think not now, I think you need I need I think you need to really cool it for a while because we should we should be practicing mitigation, even in areas that don't have a dramatic increase. I mean, everyone looks to Washington State. They look to California, they're having an obvious serious problem. But their problem now may be our problem tomorrow.

News Clip: Trump praises Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó at the State of the Union | 2020 State of the Union, White House, PBS NewsHour, February 4, 2020

Hearing: Impeachment Inquiry, House Hearings, Impeachment Inquiry Hearing with E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, C-SPAN Coverage, November 20, 2019

Watch on Youtube



54:00 Gordon Sondland: As I testified previously, Mr. Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a white house visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 Election DNC server, and Burisma.

54:30 Gordon Sondland: Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew these investigations were important to the president.

55:10 Gordon Sondland: I tried diligently to ask why the aid was suspended, but I never received a clear answer. Still haven't to this day. In the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 elections and Burisma as Mr. Giuliani had demanded.

1:01:15 Gordon Sondland: Unfortunately, President Trump was skeptical. He expressed concerns that the Ukrainian government was not serious about reform, and he even mentioned that Ukraine tried to take him down in the last election. In response to our persistent efforts in that meeting to change his views, President Trump directed us to quote, "talk with Rudy." We understood that talk with Rudy meant talk with Mr. Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer. Let me say again, we weren't happy with the President's directive to talk with Rudy. We did not want to involve Mr. Giuliani. I believe then as I do now, that the men and women of the state department, not the president's personal lawyer, should take responsibility for Ukraine matters. Nonetheless, based on the president's direction we were faced with a choice, we could abandon the efforts to schedule the white house phone call and a white house visit between Presidents Trump and Zelensky, which was unquestionably in our foreign policy interest, or we could do as president Trump had directed and talk with Rudy. We chose the latter course, not because we liked it, but because it was the only constructive path open to us.

1:14:10 Gordon Sondland: I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question. Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously with regard to the requested white house call and the white house meeting, the answer is yes. Mr. Giuliani conveyed to Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and others that President Trump wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election. Mr Giuliani expressed those requests directly to the Ukrainians and Mr. Giuliani also expressed those requests directly to us. We all understood that these prerequisites for the white house call and the right white house meeting reflected President Trump's desires and requirements.

1:43:00 Gordon Sondland: Again, through Mr. Giuliani, we were led to believe that that's what he wanted.

2:06:25 Gordon Sondland: President Trump never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on the meetings. The only thing we got directly from Giuliani was that the Burisma and 2016 elections were conditioned on the white house meeting. The aide was my own personal guess based again, on your analogy, two plus two equals four.

3:44:10 Daniel Goldman: It wasn't really a presumption, you heard from Mr. Giuliani? Gordon Sondland: Well, I didn't hear from Mr. Giuliani about the aid. I heard about the Burisma and 2016. Daniel Goldman: And you understood at that point, as we discussed, two plus two equals four, that the aid was there as well. Gordon Sondland: That was the problem, Mr. Goldman. No one told me directly that the aid was tied to anything. I was presuming it was.

5:02:10 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): What did mr Giuliani say to you that caused you to say that he is expressing the desires of the president United States? Gordon Sondland: Mr. Himes, when that was originally communicated, that was before I was in touch with mr Giuliani directly. So this all came through Mr. Volcker and others. Rep. Jim Himes (CT): So Mr. Volcker told you that he was expressing the desires of the President of the United States. Gordon Sondland: Correct.

Hearing: [Impeachment Inquiry, House Hearings

Ambassador Kurt Volker and National Security Aide Tim Morrison](, House Judiciary Committee, C-SPAN Coverage, November 19, 2019

Watch on Youtube



57:35 Kurt Volker: President Zelensky's senior aide, Andriy Yermak approached me several days later to ask to be connected to Mayor Giuliani. I agreed to make that connection. I did so because I understood that the new Ukrainian leadership wanted to convince those like Mayor Giuliani, who believes such a negative narrative about Ukraine, that times have changed and that under President Zelensky, Ukraine is worthy of us support. Ukrainians believed that if they could get their own narrative across in a way that convinced mayor Giuliani that they were serious about fighting corruption and advancing reform, Mayor Giuliani would convey that assessment to president Trump, thus correcting the previous negative narrative. That made sense to me and I tried to be helpful. I made clear to the Ukrainians, the mayor Giuliani was a private citizen, the president's personal lawyer, and not representing the US government. Likewise, in my conversations with mayor Giuliani, I never considered him to be speaking on the president's behalf or giving instructions, rather, the information flow was the other way. From Ukraine to mayor Giuliani in the hopes that this would clear up the information reaching President Trump.

1:00:15 Kurt Volker: I connected Mary Giuliani and Andriy Yermak by text and later by phone they met in person on August 2nd, 2019. In conversations with me following that meeting, which I did not attend, Mr Giuliani said that he had stressed the importance of Ukraine conducting investigations into what happened in the past, and Mr. Yermak stressed that he told Mr. Giuliani it is the government's program to root out corruption and implement reforms, and they would be conducting investigations as part of this process anyway.

1:00:45 Kurt Volker: Mr. Giuliani said he believed that Ukrainian president needed to make a statement about fighting corruption and that he had discussed this with Mr. Yermak. I said, I did not think that this would be a problem since that is the government's position. Anyway, I followed up with Mr. Yermak and he said that they would indeed be prepared to make a statement.

1:02:10 Kurt Volker: On August 16th, Mr. Yermak shared a draft with me, which I thought looked perfectly reasonable. It did not mention Burisma or 2016 elections, but was generic. Ambassador Sondland I had a further conversation with Mr. Giuliani who said that in his view, in order to be convincing that this government represented real change in Ukraine, the statement should include specific reference to Burisma and 2016 and again, there was no mention of vice president Biden in these conversations.

Hearing: Diplomats Bill Taylor and George Kent Impeachment Inquiry Testimony, House Select Intelligence Committee, C-SPAN Coverage, November 13, 2019


  • William Taylor
  • George Kent

45:30 George Kent: In mid August, it became clear to me that Giuliani's efforts to gin up politically motivated investigations were now infecting U.S. Engagement with Ukraine, leveraging President Zelensky's desire for a white house meeting.

Video: Mitch McConnell praises Trump for 'changing the federal courts forever', The Week, November 4, 2019

Press Video: Pelosi praises 'cleaner government' provisions in H.R. 1 , The Washington Post, March 7, 2019

2019 State of the Union Address, White House, U.S. Senate, February 5, 2019



1:05:28 President Donald Trump - Two weeks ago, the United States officially recognized the legitimate government of Venezuela, and its new interim President, Juan Guaido. We stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom -- and we condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair. Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence --- not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.

News Clip: Rep. Jordan: We have to fund Trump’s border wall now, Fox Business Network, December 18, 2018

News Clip: Trump says he would be ‘proud’ to shut down the government over border wall funding, Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times, December 11, 2018

Remarks by Secretary of State: Remarks on the Way Forward for the United States Regarding Syria, U.S. Department of State, January 17, 2018.

Discussion: Foreign Affairs Issue Launch with Former Vice President Joe Biden; Council on Foreign Affairs; January 23, 2018.


  • Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations
  • Joe Biden, former Vice President of the United States

00:24:15 Haass: In the piece, the two of you say that there’s no truth that the United States—unlike what Putin seems to believe or say, that the U.S. is seeking regime change in Russia. So the question I have is, should we be? And if not, if we shouldn’t be seeking regime change, what should we be seeking in the way of political change inside Russia? What’s an appropriate agenda for the United States vis-à-vis Russia, internally? Biden: I’ll give you one concrete example. I was—not I, but it just happened to be that was the assignment I got. I got all the good ones. And so I got Ukraine. And I remember going over, convincing our team, our leaders to—convincing that we should be providing for loan guarantees. And I went over, I guess, the 12th, 13th time to Kiev. And I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. And they didn’t. So they said they had—they were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, I’m not going to—or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said—I said, call him. (Laughter.) I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter.) He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.

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Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Oct 31, 2020
Thank You Hidden Difference Makers

Congress has been doing a whole lot of nothing for us since the last episode so this bonus "thank you" episode is all about the producers. Thank you for keeping the show alive! 

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Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Oct 19, 2020
CD221: Kicking the Funding Can

Surprise, surprise! Congress failed to fund the government on time again. In this episode, discover the hidden secrets in the bill that temporarily funds the government and the politics behind the dingleberries that hitched a ride into law.

Executive Producer: Brooks Rogers

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Recommended Episodes

VP Debate preview. A genuine sex scandal! Trump COVID timeline! Deciphering congress with Jen Briney Politics Politics Politics

CD213: CARES Act - The Trillions for COVID-19 Law, Listen on Spotify

CD168: Nuclear Desperation, Listen on Spotify


H.R. 8337: Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act

Passed House: September 22, 359-17-1

Passed Senate: September 30, 84-10



Division A: Continuing Appropriations Act

Extends government funding from 2020 at the same levels until December 11, 2021

Section 125: Gives permission to the Secretary of the Navy to spend over $1.6 billion to enter into a contract for who Columbia class submarines

Section 140: Amends the CARES Act to extend the expiration date of Section 3610, which allows any government agency to to change their contracts to allow the government to pay for up to 40 Horus per week of paid leave that contractors pay for their employees. This only applies to contractors who can’t work because their facilities are closed and can’t do their work remotely. The expiration is shifted from September 30 to December 11.

Section 159: Extends the authority from the CARES Act, which expired on September 30, for the Library of Congress to reimburse the Little Scholars Child Development Center and Tiny Findings Development Center for salaries for employees who can’t work due to COVID-19 closures in the capitol. It also extends the authority for the government to pay the salaries of contractors that work on the capitol until the end of the public emergency. The authorities are extended until the end of the public emergency declared by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Section 170: Adds $728 billion to the $550 billion appropriated in the 2020 funding law for loan guarantees for mortgage backed securities

Section 173: Extends the borrowing limit for the Commodity Credit Corporation to reimburse it for net realized losses as of September 17, 2020.

Division B: Surface Transportation Program Extension

Section 1104: Allows Federal funds to be used to cover operating losses for food and beverage service on Amtrak

Division D : Other Matters

Section 4102: Authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish fees ranging between $1,500 and $2,500 for applications for employment based immigration.

Section 4303: Permanently reauthorizes antitrust provisions that encourages corporations to cooperate in antirust civil cases by limiting the fines that can be imposed upon cooperating companies.

Section 4601: Expands eligibility for food stamps for children who usually get meals provided at school to include children in hybrid model schools and day cares.

Section 4602: Extends the states’ authority to apply for waivers for school meal requirements in order to provide meals in a COVID-safe way until September 30, 2021

Section 4603: Gives the states the ability to extend certification periods for households receiving food assistance to December 31, 2021, and to adjust interview requirements through June 30, 2021, if they want to, without getting permission from the Secretary of Agriculture

Section 4604: Prohibits the Secretary of Agriculture from using funding, facilities, or authorities of the Commodity Credit Corporation to provide payments to refiners or importers of fossil fuels unless the payments are for biofuels and prohibits the Commodity Credit Corporation from exchanging fossil fuel products for agricultural products until the end of March 2021.


Additional Resources

Sound Clip Sources

Hearing: Continuing Resolution to Fund the Government, U.S. House of Representatives, House Appropriations Committee, September 22, 2020

9:00 Steny Hoyer: Briefly want to say to the Appropriations Committee, congratulations for doing your work. I know there was controversy, everybody didn't support it. But we passed 10 of the 12 appropriation bills almost two months ago. Clearly sufficient time to reach agreement and pass the appropriation bills, not a CR. CR is a recognition of failure. Failure of to get our work done in a timely fashion. And I regret that I take some credit for passing 10 bills last year, in June, and 10 bills this year in July. I pushed the Appropriations Committee pretty hard. Staff worked hard, members worked hard. And we got our bills done.The Senate has not introduced - has not marked up - a single bill in committee. There's no bill out of committee, there's no bills on the floor, which means that the Senate has essentially abandoned the appropriations process. Madam Speaker, that's not the way the Congress the United States ought to work.

11:00 Steny Hoyer: From now, until hopefully before December 11, that's a Friday - we're scheduled to break for Christmas and the holidays - I'm hopeful that everyone will put their heads together to get the appropriation process done. And we'll probably do it in an omnibus, not single appropriation bills, which is not a good way to do it either. When I joined the Appropriations Committee, and we passed one bill at a time, the Senate passed one bill at a time, and we came to conference and sat down together, the members of the Defense Committee, the members of the Treasury, postal committee and labor health committees, we came together individually, and we worked out agreements between the two bodies. That is the way it ought to work. It's not working that way. And a world of alternatives, this is the best we have. So we need to take it.

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Oct 12, 2020
Thank You Green Room

The Green Room is live! In this bonus thank you episode, learn how producers can access a private podcast feed only for Congressional Dish insiders before getting updates on government funding, non-existent COVID relief, and the Supreme Court nomination.

Note: This episode was recorded four hours before President Trump revealed his COVID-19 diagnosis. 

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Oct 05, 2020
CD220: Postal Service Sabotage

The mail has been slow this summer, no doubt about it, but did the Trump administration slow the mail down on purpose in order to interfere with mail-in voting? In this episode, listen to highlights of recent emergency Congressional hearings in order to learn what's really going on at USPS. The sabotage is real, but the situation is different from what you probably think. Special guest: Alexis Claypool Glaser 

Executive Producer: Jose Huerta

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Recommended Episodes

CD153: Save the Post Office! Listen on Spotify

CD186: National Endowment for Democracy, Listen on Spotify


H.R. 6307 - Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act

Read Bill Text

Signed into law on December 20, 2006

Votes: Passed the House by voice vote. Passed the Senate by Unanimous Consent.

Four people have their names on the law: 2 Republicans, 2 Democrats


Additional Resources


alt text

Source: United States Postal Service: A Sustainable Path Forward Report from the Task Force on the United States Postal System

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Source: @realDonaldTrump, Twitter

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Source: @realDonaldTrump, Twitter

Sound Clip Sources

News: Bill Maher’s New Rules segment, Twitter, August 28, 2020

Hearing: Protecting the Timely Delivery of Mail, Medicine, and Mail-In Ballots, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, August 24, 2020

Watch on YouTube


  • Louis DeJoy: Postmaster General
  • Robert Duncan: Chairman of the United States Postal Service Board of Governors

1:34:35 Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) Mr. DeJoy, as a megadonor for the Trump campaign, you were picked along with Michael Cohen and Elliot Broiding, two man who have already pled guilty to felonies, to be the three deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. Did you pay back several of your top executives for contributing to Trump's campaign by bonusing, or rewarding them? Louis DeJoy: That's an outrageous claim, sir, and I resent it. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) I'm just asking a question. Louis DeJoy:* The answer is no. **Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) So you did not bonus or reward any of your executives. Louis DeJoy: No. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) Anyone that you solicited for contribution to the Trump campaign? Louis DeJoy: No, sir. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) Not in whole or in part? Louis DeJoy: Actually, during the Trump campaign. I wasn't even working at my company anymore. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) Well, we want to make sure that... campaign contributions are illegal. So all your campaign are legal. Louis DeJoy: I'm fully aware of legal campaign contributions. And I resent the assertion? So what are you accusing me of? Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) Well, I'm asking a question. Do your mail delays fit Trump's campaign goal of hurting the post office, as stated in his tweets? Are your mail delays implicit campaign contributions? Louis DeJoy: I'm not going to answer these types of questions. I'm here to represent the Postal Service, it has nothing to do with... All my actions have to do with improvements in postal service. Am I the only one in this room that understands that we have a $10 billion a year loss. Right. Am I the only one in this room that has looked at the OIG reports that have stacked up? Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) Will you give this committee your communications with Mark Meadows, with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, with the President. Louis DeJoy: Go ahead and do that. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) Mr. DeJoy, is your backup plan to be pardoned like Roger Stone? You have two seconds to answer the question. Louis DeJoy: I have no comment on that.

1:36:50 Rep. Greg Stube (FL): I as a veteran who served in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom to compare postal workers to our military service members in Iraq or Afghanistan, quite frankly, to me is offensive. Last time I checked Postal Service drivers weren't getting their vehicles blown up by IEDs are being shot out as they drove around and delivered mail. So to try to compare our military service members who sacrifice on the battlefields across this world to our postal service members, that is frankly offensive as a person that had served.

1:54:45 Louis DeJoy: It was the summertime, mail volume was down significantly, so it was not...we're getting ready for the peak season and an election is three months away. It was a good time to start to try and roll this out that we are getting the request was just run your trucks on time, put a plan to run your trucks on time.

1:56:05 Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA): Do you not tell the Board of Governors this month, in August, that in fact you have had contact with a Trump campaign to ask them to stop their attacks on the Postal Service and voting by mail? Louis DeJoy: I have put words around to different people that this is not helpful to... Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA): You did have contact with the Trump campaign, for a good purpose? Louis DeJoy: I'm trying to think...when you say the Trump campaign, I've not spoken to Trump campaign leadership in that regard. I've spoken to people that have filled that out that are friends of mine that are associated with the campaign. Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA): One of them was Steve Mnuchin. Louis DeJoy: Steve Mnuchin is Secretary of Treasury. Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA): I know. Louis DeJoy: Yeah, I never spoke to Steve about telling the President to not do something.

2:19:20 Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD): What do you make of the former Chairman of the Board of Governors, Mr. Fineman calling Treasury Secretary Mnuchin involvement's in the selection process 'absolutely unprecedented.' Louis DeJoy: Stephen Mnuchin had nothing to do with my selection. Okay. I was called by Russell... Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD): Did you talk to Secretary Mnuchin about taking the job? There was report that you had lunch together to discuss it? Louis DeJoy: Totally inaccurate and outrageous. Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD): You've never talked to him about it, before taking job you never talked to him about taking the job? Louis DeJoy: I talked to him about the job after I received the offer. I did not accept the offer immediately. Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD): Okay, but you never spoke to him before about his soliciting your interest in the job or... Louis DeJoy: He did not solicit any interest. I kept my interest, which as you identified, he did not know that I had an interest. I had a perfectly good life prior to this, but I was interested in helping and I was called by Russell Reynolds out of the blue.

2:53:00 Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): Thank you, Mr. DeJoy for being here. I want to see if we can find some common ground to resolve some of the differences. Can you begin by sharing with the American people in this committee, the unofficial motto of the postal service? Louis DeJoy: No rain or snow, sleet nor hail will make our delivery? Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): Yes. It's about service. Correct, not about profit. Do you know how many veterans served in the postal service? About? Louis DeJoy: 100,000? Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): Correct. Do you know what percentage of veterans about rely on the postal service for their prescription medicine? Louis DeJoy: I don't know. Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): It's a high number. It's about 80% of veterans. So I guess my beginning I want to ask you this, you know, our defense department. We don't tell them you have to go sell weapons to make revenue to serve the American people. We don't say that about our health service, or the National Institute of Health. Why should we have a different standard for the postal service? Why do you have to go and make a profit instead of just serving the American people, sir, it's interesting and good question. And it's not that we need to make a profit. It's to be self sustaining, which means at least cover your costs. But why it's such a small. I'm not a legislator, I'm the Postmaster General Do you know? I mean, do you know the history? Do you remember the time in the Postal Service history where that wasn't a requirement? Louis DeJoy: I do in the 70s. Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): Actually, it was from 1840 to 1970. We funded the Postal Service, we didn't require them to make a profit because we thought people should in rural America and other places and our veterans should serve and one of the reasons people serve in the Postal Service who've served in our military is they view it as public service.

2:54:50 Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): Your perspective is that these mail sorting machines aren't required, because packages need to be delivered and open up floor space. It's your testimony that you didn't direct it, correct? Who directed it? Louis DeJoy: I didn't, have not done and investigation. It came probably through our operations. It's been a long term and you don't know who directed it. You don't know who implemented it. Louis DeJoy: Well, there's hundreds of them around the country in different places. It was an initiative within the organization that preceded me.

2:56:15 Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): So if it costs less than a billion dollars, regardless of whether it's efficient or not, what is the harm in just putting those machines back until Election Day, just for the peace of mind for the confidence of the American people? Louis DeJoy: Well, first of all, sir, we've heard all statistics about the mail and the votes and so forth. Right. And we don't need the machines to process it. But you make a statement about for a billion dollars, if we just gave you a billion dollars, you're not going to give us a billion dollars. We're going to make a request. You have no way of getting us a billion dollars. We haven't been funded in 10 years. You can't pass any legislation that helps the Postal Service. Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): If I can just finish this point. We give you the money. Do you see my point? Louis DeJoy: It's a hypothetical, I'm not willing haven't given us any money, you haven't given us any legislation and you're sitting here accusing me with regard to the machines as the committee. Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): But what is the harm? I think most Americans are trying to understand what is the harm in putting these machines even if the machines in your perspective don't do anything, what is the harm to do until Election Day. Louis DeJoy: In Washington, it makes plenty of sense, to me it makes none. Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): You haven't explained why and then final question. Louis DeJoy: Because they're not needed that's why. Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): But if it will restore people's faith in a democracy and avoid a polarized electorate, I would think it... Louis DeJoy: Okay, get me the billion and I'll put the machines in. Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): Okay, well, that's a commitment. We'll find a way to get you the money.

3:17:20 Rep. Glen Grothman (WI): You right now have I'm told about $14 billion in the bank. Do you anticipate the election causing that to be rundown at all? Or do you anticipate it going up, would have any dent on it? Louis DeJoy: I don't think it will have too much of an impact in either way. Rep. Glen Grothman (WI): Okay, so if you had 14 billion in the bank, now, you're still going to have 14 billion on as you know, on December first. Louis DeJoy: That it this point we lose, we will probably lose 10 or $11 billion this year. So depending on how package volume stays, we could have less cash. And if I may, having $14 billion, we also have, I have $12 billion worth of liabilities that need to be paid at some time over the next six months. We have $135 billion of liabilities, we wanting a 633,000 person organization that does not get funding even though the federal government ends in September, they have an expectation of getting funding. We don't have an expectation of getting funding so we have to drive cost out and increase revenue. And that's the big difference that we have than any other agency. So for $14 billion, while it sounds like a lot of money, it's not a lot of money for what we do.

3:22:10 Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL): I want to take this opportunity to enter into the record Madam Chair, on August 18 2020 emailed from USPS Director of Maintenance Operations Kevin Couch. Madam Chair. The email reads "please message out to your respective maintenance managers tonight they are not to reconnect, reinstall machines that have been previously just been disconnected without approval from headquarters maintenance no matter what direction they are getting from their plant manager." Mr. DeJoy, yes or no. And you've indicated in this committee hearing that it's not your job to decide about whether sorting machines are on or offline. But at the same time you told Mr. Khanna that you won't bring them online because they're not needed. So yes or no, have any plant managers requested mail sorting machines be reconnected? Louis DeJoy: First of all, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL): Yes or no. Louis DeJoy: I disagree with the premise. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL): I'm not asking you anything other than, reclaiming my time Madam Chair. Yes or no? Madam Chair Reclaiming her time, yes or no answer. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL): Yes or No. Have any plant managers across the country in the USPS requested mail sorting machines be reconnected. Louis DeJoy: How would I know that? Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL): You're in charge? You don't know whether there are there are plant managers that have requested. Louis DeJoy: No I don't know that. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL): But let me let me just assure you that there are plant managers that was reported in the in the press in both Washington. There are plant managers in Texas and Washington. And I have articles that I can show you that have asked to have sorting machines reconnected and brought back online. And they've been too scared to come forward to say so. So you've you've indicated that it's local leadership in this hearing, I heard you say it's not your job to decide whether the sorting machines are brought online or not. Someone needs to mute Madam Chair. Madam Chair, please, please mute. Madam Chair People that are listening, please mute. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL): I probably I need probably about additional 30 seconds from the interruptions added back onto my time, please. You have said in this hearing, it's both not your job to make decisions about sorting machines, and at the same time, you've said that you're not going to bring them back online because they're not needed. It can't be both.

3:40:50 Louis DeJoy: Across the country, our employee availability is down three, 3 to 4% on average across the country, but the issue is in some of the hot spots in the country areas like Philadelphia, Detroit is probably 20, the averages cover that and that could be down 20% and that's given us this, contributing to the delivery problem that we're having.

3:49:50 Louis DeJoy: I had nothing to do with the with the collection boxes, the sorting machines, the postal post office hours or limiting overtime, the change I made was asked the team to run the trucks transportation on time and mitigate extra trips based on a review of an OIG audit that was absolutely astonishing in the amount of money we were spending and the number of late trips and extra trips we were running. It was a plan that was rolled out with operations in is very, very important aspect of the network. It's a very people ask why do trucks matter? Why did on time trucks matter? They do matter. It's a fundamental premise of how the whole mail network is put together. If the if the trucks don't run on time, the mail carriers can't leave on time they're out there at night. They have to come back and get more mail collection processes or late, plant processes distorted. I see several billion dollars in potential savings in getting the system to connect properly. And that's why we ran out and put a plan together to really get this fundamental basic principle. Run your trucks on time. I find it really... I would not I would not know how to reverse that. Now, what am I to say? Don't run the trucks on time. Is that the answer that we're looking to get me to say here today?

3:58:50 Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): Mr. Duncan, you've also been active in President Trump's campaign. And as a director of American Crossroads superpac. Is that correct? Robert Duncan: I'm the director of American Crossroads Super PAC. Yes. Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): And you've contributed over $1.9 million to President Trump's campaign. Robert Duncan: That's not correct. Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): Not you personally but the PAC. Robert Duncan: I don't know the answer to that. Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): Well, the records show that.

4:02:20 Louis DeJoy: Before I went into... In the Postal Service, you file your forms the day you arrive at work, I filed my forms. I was going to a meeting on Amazon, I owned stock someplace in a call at Morgan Stanley, and I was...that they told me I had to either recuse myself from reviewing a number of contracts or sell the stock. I called our broker to sell the stock. We actually had calls. Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): Mr. DeJoy, I'm gonna have to Louis DeJoy: but I did not buy options. I actually bought call calls that Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): It's on your statement. Louis DeJoy: I bought covered calls back and at a loss. That's what I did to get completely out of stock. I had to unwind covered calls. Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): You still have those calls, do you not? Louis DeJoy: No, I had to pay more money for the calls than I sold them for. I think you should get an understanding of what a covered call is before you accuse me of any improprieties.

4:49:00 Louis DeJoy: We got to this specific change. The production schedules within the plants were not aligned with the transportation schedules going between the plants. About 10% of the mail was not aligned. The production plants were getting done late and the trucks were leaving. And this was not a mandate that every truck leaves on time, we still have a significant amount of trucks that run delayed and a significant amount of extra trips. Judgments were made at each individual plant that provided for transitional issues and doing it. We will get this back. We're working very hard and it will be a successful endeavor for the United States Postal Service.

4:52:20 Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY): Mr. DeJoy when, when your announcement in your new position as Postmaster General was announced, you know, there was some folks that were flagging concerns that you would be the first Postmaster General in two decades without previous experience or service directly in the USPS. But to be fair, and as you mentioned, you do have extensive career experience in supply chain logistics, correct? Louis DeJoy: I do. And in fact, you serve the CEO of your own supply chain company new breed logistics for 30 years, correct? Louis DeJoy: I did. And that was up until about 2014 when you merged new breed logistics with another company XPO logistics were you also served as CEO for a year and then served on its board of directors until about 2018 when you submitted your resignation. Correct? Louis DeJoy: Yeah.

5:10:40 Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI): On June 24th 2020, you bought between 50,000 and 100,000, in what you refer to as, quote covered calls in the Amazon Corporation. But let's be very clear, Mr. DeJoy, no matter what financial maneuvering you performed to try to hide it. The fact is that you have financial interest in Amazon. So Mr. DeJoy, yes or no? Are you aware that Amazon uses the US Postal Service for 40% of its shipping? Louis DeJoy: I disagree with the premise that I bought stock and... Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI): Do you know that 40% of its shipping? Louis DeJoy: I know there's a lot of shipping with us. Yes. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI): Okay. And I understand it. Your Amazon covered calls expires in about October of this year. So you'll have to make a decision regarding this financial interest and may potentially have sensitive information about Amazon's business with the US Postal Service which may influence that decision. This appears to be a classic example of conflict of interest, insider trading. Yes or no, will you commit right now. divest any and all financial interest in Amazon to avoid illegal insider trading. Louis DeJoy: Ma'am that was a lot of time on an issue that doesn't matter. I don't own any Amazon stock. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI): You have financial interest. You can call it whatever you want. Louis DeJoy: I don't own anything with Amazon. You can continue to... Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI): Until you do that. Your financial interest in Amazon will continue to be problematic and illegal and a conflict of interest.

5:16:25 Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Did you actually read and independently analyze the major overhaul plans before you ordered them to take effect? Louis DeJoy: Again, I will repeat that I did not order a major overhaul plans, the items you identify were not directed by me. I did. And we don't need much analysis to get to run your trucks to a schedule. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Reclaiming my time. Mr. DeJoy, could you please tell me who did order these changes if he U.S. Postmaster General did not because these changes have resulted in and you have set yourself in this hearing. Louis DeJoy: The Postal Service has been around for 250 years. There were plans there were many, many executives, almost 30,000 executives within the organization, and there are plans that existed prior to my arrival that were implemented. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Mr. DeJoy If you did not order these actions to be taken. Please tell the committee the name of who did. Louis DeJoy: I do not know. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Mr. Joy Did you analyze these plans before they went into effect? US Postmaster General supervise whoever did apparently... Louis DeJoy: As I've stated numerous times the plans were in effect and being implemented before I arrived. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Mr. DeJoy, do you take responsibility for these changes? Louis DeJoy: I take responsibility from the day I sat in a seat for any service deterioration that has occurred. You're asking about operational changes that go on throughout the whole organization around the around the country. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): I'm reclaiming my time sir. Mr. DeJoy, will you commit to reversing these changes. Louis DeJoy: No.

5:19:25 Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Do you own any financial interest, whether options or stocks covered calls, bought or sold? Do you own today any financial interest in Amazon? Louis DeJoy: I do not.

5:20:55 Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): You've accepted the responsibility for the delays. But we're still not clear what exactly what changes took place and what were yours. Under Miss Lawrence's questioning. You said you stopped the pilot program. When you stopped everything else. Let me ask you, what in your mind, were you stopping besides the pilot program? Louis DeJoy: I stopped the removal of collection boxes around the country. I stopped the process of reducing hours at postal retail centers and I stopped the removal of the flat and mail sortation boxes, machines. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): So, your argument for doing that is that you saw... that it wasn't working or? Louis DeJoy: No they... I met with with with the speaker and Senator Schumer and we just collectively thought about the heightened discussion that was going on around the nation. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): And respectfully, Sir, why that and not the overtime issues and not the sorting machines? Why did you pick those and not the others which seem to have pretty dramatic impacts? Given the fact that things didn't go well, wouldn't you want to look back coming from the private sector and say, gee, maybe that is impacting us negatively. Was there some other reason you're thinking, well, no, I'm not going to change those. Louis DeJoy: Not changed their truck schedule and the... Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): The overtime, the sorting machine over time. Louis DeJoy: I've spent $700 million and, we have spent 700. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): You recognize that there are many including in my district, post office locations which are cutting back on overtime. They're following somebody's order in and you won't mention who that is. So back to accountability, you got to admit your own it right. Louis DeJoy: How do you know that they're cutting back on overtime? Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Imagine or let me put it another way. Are you certain that they're not cutting back on overtime? Louis DeJoy: The direction was given to stop cutting back on overtime in postal retail centers. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): When was that done? Louis DeJoy: I haven't done an audit yet. But I would believe they're pretty compliant. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Wait, when was that order given? Was that part of the order you just talked about? Louis DeJoy: I don't know what you're asking. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Are you saying when you stopped everything else, it included the overtime issue as well. Louis DeJoy: There was no directive to reduce overtime anywhere within the organization. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): And are you certain that no one was cutting back on overtime. Louis DeJoy: No, I'm not certain that's part of the problem at the Postal Service, sir. That's what I'm trying to get my hands around there was a lot of... And that's why I did the reorganization. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Respectfully, you can imagine, though, that... Louis DeJoy: There's a lot of judgment made in local areas that is not a normal... Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): You're being selective on what you're taking credit for and not and a cynical person could say, you're just trying to avoid going before the regulatory body, because these aren't changes. But when your own, as you say, you're Republican, when your own party says, did you stop these changes? You said yes. And in your documents, you talk about the fact that there were changes. You can't have it both ways. There were changes. You seem to have a line there that you don't want to have, because it means you have to go before the regulatory board and you don't want to do that. Louis DeJoy: It sounds like... Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): It sounds like what happened. Louis DeJoy: It sounds like a weak theory to me.

5:24:50 Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Have you communicated with anyone in the administration? Since you were considered for this spot about how to operate? USPS? Louis DeJoy: No. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): No one has communicated with you who works in any way with the Trump administration. And you haven't communicated in any way with anyone who works in the Trump administration or the Trump campaign about how to operate post office. Louis DeJoy: The only time I communicated with someone in the Trump administration was Secretary Mnuchin, when we were negotiating, negotiating the terms of the $10 billion note and my discussion in general, it was early on in my arrival in generalities were that I think that we have some opportunities here, looking to try and grow revenue, improve service and get some cost out. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): And what was the direction the other way? Louis DeJoy: There was no direction. My Postal Service's mind to run there was no direction. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): My time has expired.

Hearing: Examining the Finances and Operations of the United States Postal Service During COVID-19 and Upcoming Elections, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, August 21, 2020

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  • Louis DeJoy: Postmaster General

12:30 Louis DeJoy: Our business model established by the Congress requires us to pay our bills through our own efforts. I view it as my personal obligation to put the organization in a position to fulfill that mandate. With action from the Congress and our regulator, and significant effort by the Postal Service, we can achieve this goal. This year, the Postal Service will likely be ported loss of more than $9 billion. Without change, our losses will only increase in the years to come. It is vital that Congress enact reform legislation that addresses our unaffordable retirement payments. Most importantly, Congress must allow the postal service to integrate our retiree health benefits program with Medicare.

18:45 Louis DeJoy: We deliver to 433 million pieces of mail a day. So 150 million ballots 160 million ballots over a course of a week is a very, very small amount adequate capacity plus mail volume is down as you said 13-14% this year.

20:45 Louis DeJoy: Today there is about 140,000 collection boxes out in the United States. Over the last 10 years, about 30... averages about 3500. So 35,000 of them have been removed and it's a data driven method I have I haven't reviewed it but every year they look at utilization of post boxes, they look at where they place new post boxes, they look at where communities grow. So 35,000 over 10 years. Since my arrival, we moved 700 post collection boxes, of which I had no idea that that was a process. When we found out, when I found out about it, we socialized it here by some of the leadership team and looked at the excitement it was creating, so I decided to stop it, and we'll pick it up after the election.

33:58* Rep. Scott Peters (CA): Are you limiting overtime or is that being suspended right now and people will work overtime if necessary to move the mail out efficiently every single day. Louis DeJoy: Senator, we've never eliminated overtime. Rep. Scott Peters (CA): It's been curtailed significantly is what I understand. Louis DeJoy: It's not been curtailed by me or the leadership team here. Rep. Scott Peters (CA): It's been curtailed significantly. It's gone down. It's been limited. Will you commit to... Louis DeJoy: Since I've been here we've spent $700 million on overtime. Overtime runs 13% rate before I got here and it runs at a 13% rate now.

35:00 Rep. Scott Peters (CA): Will you be bringing back any mail sorting machines that have been removed since you become Postmaster General, will any of those come back? Louis DeJoy: There is no intention to do that. They're not needed, sir. Rep. Scott Peters (CA): So you will not bring back any processors. Louis DeJoy: They're not needed, sir.

35:30 Rep. Scott Peters (CA): Did you discuss those changes or their potential impact on the November election with the president or anyone at the White House and remind you you're under oath? Louis DeJoy: I have never spoken to the President about the Postal Service other than to congratulate me when I accepted the position. Rep. Scott Peters (CA): Did you speak or discuss any of these changes with Secretary Mnuchin? Louis DeJoy: During the during the discussion in negotiating the note, I told him I'm working on a plan. But I never discussed the changes that I may, to set up, working on a plan for to the to improve service and gain cost efficiencies. But no grave detail other than that, that was about it.

38:08 Rep. Scott Peters (CA): You have your word that you're not going to mandate that states send out any ballots using either the more expensive first class mail, and will you continue the processes and procedures to allow election mail to move as expeditiously as possible and treated like first class? Louis DeJoy: Yes, sir. We we will deploy processes and procedures that advance any election mail in some cases ahead of first class mail.

1:01:15 Louis DeJoy: Like take the Alaska bypass plan discussion that's an item on a table, that's an unfunded mandate. It costs us like $500 million a year. And what I asked for was all the unfunded mandates, right? That's a way for us to get healthy. Pay something for the unfunded mandates. If we just throw 25 billion at us this year, and we don't do anything, we'll be back in two years. If then maybe we should change the legislation and not make us be self sustaining.

1:55:50 Louis DeJoy: They're inside the plants. There's a production schedule for mail that would meet, that's set up to meet a dispatch schedule for trucks that gets tied to a destination center for, let's just say keep it simple go right to the delivery units where carriers go out in the morning and carriers then could come back at night. This whole thing is in a lined schedule in theory on paper, and there's lots of imbalances that we were finding as we went through this process, but the big thing to try and get everything aligned around is that transportation schedule. And now we have taken that up and all that mail that was going left well that was on that truck was also late mail. Right now we have advanced the mail we just some of the mail that coming off the processing lines. We found these imbalances and we did not as great a job as we shouldn't recovering for it, but we will. I'm seeing improvements right now. Once that comes together now we'll be moving around the country at 97% on time and I'm very, very excited and committed to trying to do that. And that, again, enables us to balance the front end and the back end, the delivery end of the system and saves us all that money that you saw in the in the audit report and it's it's in billions, not millions.

1:58:45 Louis DeJoy: This this is very doable, FedEx and UPS do it.

Hearing: Congressional Progressive Caucus to Hold Ad-Hoc Hearing on Attacks on the U.S. Postal Service, Congressional Progressive Caucus, August 20, 2020

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  • David Williams: Former Inspector General of the USPS and former Vice Chairman of the USPS Board of Governors
  • Mark Dimondstein: President of the American Postal Workers Union
  • Tammy Patrick: Senior Advisor at the Democracy Fund Voice

17:00 David Williams: I recently resigned as the vice chairman of the postal Board of Governors when it became clear to me that the administration was politicizing the postal service with the Treasury Secretary as the lead figure for the White House in that effort. by statute, the Treasury was made responsible for providing the postal service with the line of credit. The Treasury was using our responsibility to make demands that I believe would turn the Postal Service into a political tool in its long history, as an apolitical public infrastructure.

17:45 David Williams: Clearly the President was determined that the postal service should inflict harm on Amazon delivery by sharply raising parcel shipping prices on everyone by 400% or more.

18:30 David Williams: The President eventually admitted that he was withholding COVID-19 relief funds from the Postal Service so that it could not reliably enable voting in his upcoming elections.

18:40 David Williams: The Treasury Secretary also insisted that all republican appointees on the board of governors and the Postal Regulatory Commission come to his office and kiss the ring and receive his blessing before confirmation. This continued context with him away from the full board continued issuing orders and expressing his approval and disappointment in their performance.

19:00 David Williams: The Secretary was keenly interested in labor agreements, postal pricing increases, and especially volume discounts being given to Postal Service's largest customers Amazon and UPS and FedEx. The Postal Service replied to the early demands from the Secretary, explaining the two provisions he was asking for were illegal, but the concerns were ignored.

19:30 David Williams: Ironically, the actual fiscal concern was not whether the Postal Service could zero out its $15 billion line of credit. The Postal Service keeps a huge cash on hand account. They could always pay off all our most of that loan. The real concern was that the Treasury had borrowed and spent our $300 billion pension and retiree health Fund. The interest rate set by Treasury for itself was so low that the funds were dying. As the funds been invested in a retirement fund, the liability would be fully covered by now.

20:30 David Williams: Additionally, post offices should be allowed into related business lines and become a single neighborhood point of access for government services that cannot be put online. Postal carriers going to every door can provide personalized services to challenged and elderly Americans that would enable citizens to live in their own homes independently. Post offices and carriers can also support and resupply the new army of workers that are officeless, are working at home, while providing work opportunities to those living in rural areas.

21:45 David Williams: I recently resigned as the Vice Chairman of the Postal Board of Governors when it became clear to me that the administration was politicizing the postal service with the Treasury Secretary as the lead figure for the White House in that effort. By statute, the Treasury was made responsible for providing the postal service with the line of credit. The Treasury was using our responsibility to make demands that I believe would turn the Postal Service into a political tool in its long history, as an apolitical public infrastructure.

23:30 Mark Dimondstein: But our ability to reliably continue to serve the people and serve the country is under threat in several ways. First and most urgently is the effect of the pandemic on a Postal Service's finances. The sharp economic contraction that began in March also affected the mail. Letter mail is contracted over 30%. And even with a surge in package volumes, the postal service projects because that won't list the postal service projects it will suffer $50 billion of lost revenue over the next 10 years directly due to COVID and will likely face a cash shortfall as soon as March of next year. Simply put, because the United States Postal Service normally runs its operations with zero tax dollars, that pandemic related lost revenue places the continuity of a central Postal Service is at serious risk and that's why we've worked so hard along with so many others to secure a minimum of 25 billion in emergency COVID relief and it's backing the bipartisan unanimous request to the postal Board of Governors.

24:30 Mark Dimondstein: June 2018. The White House Office of Management budget report openly called for the privatization of the Postal Service. White House task force that followed later that year did suggest slowing down the mail cutting delivery services restricting union rights for workers and drastically raising packages.

39:30 David Williams: After my arrival I had asked and others expressed interest in gaining assurance that the postal service would be able to respond to normal levels and enhanced levels of voting by mail. And actually, if an entire state wanted to vote primarily by mail, we received a formal ???, that the confidence level could not be higher that the Postal Service could perform this task and deliver this volume of of mail transactions. They were in the process and nearly completed, briefing each of the states and the voting, the Secretary of State, explaining to them how the flow would work. If they needed a postmark, helping them understand how to get a postmark on their letters. We were told the capacity was always good, but it was especially good now because during the COVID crisis, the degree of advertising mail and other mail had fallen. And so this would give us plenty of capacity. And they said their experience was great. They'd been handling overseas military mail, a more complicated process for years, and that had gone well. Several states were already voting by mail that had gone well. And they felt they were had forever provided absentee voting process. And so we felt we felt very good about it at that time, and that was quite recent.

41:15 David Williams: The board interviewed several firms that managed and handled talent. We selected Russell Reynolds, and they began developing a number of candidates. We heard their names and rather late in the process I heard for the first time. Mr. DeJoy's name. It came through one of the governors and he had somehow, Mr. DeJoy come to his attention. They had lunch together and he wanted to move his name forward. It wasn't clear how the governor had met Mr. DeJoy to me and I don't think anyone was clear on it from the presentations. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI): And who was the member of the board of governors who proposed Mr. DeJoy's name? David Williams: Governor John Barger, he was leading the search, his committee was leading the search.

43:30 David Williams: Actually, it predates the latest $10 billion expansion, goes back to our routine original $15 billion line of credit. Secretary Mnuchin indicated that he wanted to have some say in how the Postal Service ran as sort of being in charge of providing that that account. I don't think that had been done before. It was normally if Congress assigned you that responsibility, you perform the responsibility. He indicated he would like to impose this through the use of terms and conditions on the $15 billion line of credit. We then received shortly after he announced this verbally, we then received the draft terms of agreement. They were very interesting and I hadn't seen anything like it before. He wanted to approve price changes. labor agreements. And perhaps most disturbingly, the very sensitive negotiated service agreements with our largest customers, Amazon, UPS, FedEx and some others. He also was urging that we adopt a pricing methodology called fully allocated cost methodology. That was something that the United Parcel Service had been advocating for a very long time. I think all of us felt that perhaps UPS that influenced him in advocating for that, and it would be really in a ruinous to the postal service to adopt. No one would adopt it, certainly not not UPS themselves, FedEx or Amazon. It would prevent competition in the market where the Postal Service has been gaining market share.

45:45 David Williams: Also General Counsel sent a letter saying that the transfer of our duties and decision making authority to him was illegal. The Treasury went forward not withstanding that. My position was that when they arrived, we should simply refuse that another department cannot impose its will on another department and the federal government. In addition to that, we're an independent entity, and so it was especially egregious.

46:15 Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA): Let me ask you about Postmaster General DeJoy's independence to run an agency when he has significant financial conflicts of interest. He holds at least $30 million in stock and a postal service contractor FBO, and he owns stock and Postal Service competitors, Amazon and ups. So he stands to make enormous profit. If use of the Postal Service goes down and privatization increases, and he is now responsible for slowing mail delivery right now. Can you provide insight into how that happened and whether a normal background check was was instituted in this situation. David Williams: When it became clear that he was a serious candidate and then obvious that he was the person about to be selected, we did discuss conducting a background investigation of him. None was conducted as of the time I left and I believe that was the night before his selection or two nights before selection.

50:45 Raskin: Do you know why he was selected? David Williams: I don't.

51:30 David Williams: It looked like there were concerns about whether his company was building correctly and performing fully. Those are often wrong, but I think they they sometimes are correct. That contract file needs to be examined, we need to go through whether the Postal Service demanded that he returned any money or any concerns they had with a performance, that's a very normal kind of examination. And I don't mean to say there were there were valid problems, but this would suggest that an examination should be done.

57:00 Rep. David Cicilline (RI): With respect to your resignation, you resigned because it was your determination that what the Postal Service was being asked to do, as a condition of a line of credit, which we included in the CARES Act, those conditions were included, those were developed by Mr. Mnuchin in an effort to control the Postal Service, is that right? David Williams: Yes, I was concerned that the Board of Governors was running an independent organization and instead it had become politicized and the decision making was largely transferred to the Secretary of Treasury.

57:45 Rep. David Cicilline (RI): You were the Inspector General and you were the Vice Chair of the Board of Governors. Have you ever seen or heard in the history of the post office this effort by the President or the executive branch to intrude and take over the operation of the US Postal Service? David Williams: No, sir. I've never seen anything like that.

59:30 Mark Dimondstein: Overtime was running between 15 and 20%. Some of that just the ebbs and flows of mail. Some of its that were generally short staffed and they need to hire. And some of it's the pandemic. We've had almost 3,000 people who have tested positive for COVID. We've had 40,000 people quarantined since March, when that happens. And of course, we've had all the childcare challenges with schools closing. So leave usages up and the overtime is partly used to make up for that and to just arbitrarily come in and say 15 to 20% of the hours of work. However, they're going to work at higher overtime, some combination of the two, but eliminate 15 to 20% of the hours of work, but the work is still there simply means that the work won't get done, backing up, and we've had evidence, we have pictures of parcels sitting there for over a week, they were just never sorted. And that's the mail that belongs to people this country.

1:07:15 David Williams: I was a appointee for both Republican and Democratic administrations. Rep. Mark Takano (CA): Which administrations, if you don't mind. David Williams: Bush, Clinton, as you said, the current president, and then then I also continued service during several other administrations.

1:08:30 Rep. Mark Takano (CA): So President Trump did appoint you to the Board of Governors, is that correct? David Williams: He did.

1:09:30 David Williams: The removal of the 25 billion happened at the 11th hour after everyone was on board. Secretary Mnuchin removed it personally at the very 11th hour. Rep. Mark Takano (CA): So let's be clear. The Board of Governors appointed by the president requested $25 billion to get through a pandemic, a decline in revenues. That was what was the Board of Governors best estimate of what you would need. Is that correct? David Williams: Yes, sir.

1:18:00 Tammy Patrick: Do we know that the majority of voters who vote by mail return their ballots by dropping them in an official Dropbox for the elections office?

1:22:45 Tammy Patrick: Let's go out at two different rates, first class and marketing mail and marketing mail used to be called standard and the delivery timeframes didn't used to be that far apart. It used to be first class mail was one to three days, standard mail or marketing mail was more like three to five days. So that was really a question of one or two days difference. But because ballots were going out with the logo, they were getting the first class service for a discounted rate, which I will say many election officials felt was their right under the National Voter Registration Act, which talks about discounted rates for election materials that are used for voter registration. And any ballot that gets returned undeliverable, as addressed gets used to update the voter rolls. So we do know that that the states that traditionally use that marketing mail rate are the western states that have high volumes of vote by mail. And they have just as recently as this last week for the primaries that have happened in Washington, Arizona. Millions of ballots went out at marketing mail rates, they did not see a decrease in delivery. They did not see delays. The local Postal Services are telling election officials whether it's the secretaries of state or county recorders or registrar's or auditors, that they will get that mail through on time. So I'm not as worried about that part of it. The part I'm concerned about is the message that it gets to the voter. And whether or not the voter is going to still believe local officials all across the country have told me in the last week, the number one thing they're doing is answering the phone with concerns from voters who have put in an application to get a ballot by mail, and now are worried that they shouldn't have done that.

1:27:15 David Williams: There are a couple of very odd aspects to this pullback. One is you don't save money by breaking down machines and putting them away and storing them you spend money. So that was a very odd action normally the reason to keep those machines and plants in place or in the event of a Katrina or a 9-11, or the election or the COVID crisis, removing those is thinning out the Postal Service's ability to redirect mail in the event of an act of an incident like that. The blue boxes were maybe the most interesting of all, though, those were not part of ongoing claims. To my knowledge. As a matter of fact, Secretary Mnuchin wanted that done. His study of the Postal Service asked that it be done. I asked the Postal Service about it and they said it wouldn't save anything and there would be no reason to remove those.

1:29:15 David Williams: The service scores are probably the best objective measure and those are significantly off. Where even though there's less mail, it's moving more slowly. Much more slowly. That's strange and disturbing.

1:33:30 Rep. Ted Lieu (CA) I also want to follow up on your comment today about Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. Is the Postal Service under the Treasury Department. David Williams: I know that, I certainly know that the terms and conditions that originally came over moved all the important decision making from the board to him. I don't know the present case. I don't know presently if that was successful or unsuccessful.

1:35:00 Rep. Andy Levin (MI): Did you participate in any interviews of other candidates for Postmaster General at this time round? David Williams: I did. Rep. Andy Levin (MI): How many candidates were interviewed, do you know? David Williams: I'm gonna have to estimate but I believe it was in the low teens. Rep. Andy Levin (MI): Were any of the other candidates qualified for the job as far as you could tell, did they all need to be assisted in their answers? The way you describe it where a member of the Board of Governors like helped them complete their answers as with Mr. DeJoy. David Williams: There was nothing like that. There were good candidates. Rep. Andy Levin (MI): And so Mr. DeJoy was really the only candidate who stood out to you as someone who was not qualified or capable, or in any event, he stood out. David Williams: I would say that, I would say that's correct.

News Conference: US Postal Service and Mail-in Voting, U.S. Capitol, August 18, 2020

News Conference: Trump opposes election aid for states and Postal Service bailout, threatening Nov. 3 vote, White House, The Washington Post, August 12, 2020

Virtual Summit: Secretary Mnuchin on Coronavirus Pandemic and Reopening Economy, The Hill, May 21, 2020

Hearing: Postal Service Reform, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Feb 7, 2017

Watch on C-SPAN


  • Megan J. Brennan: Postmaster General
  • Robert Taub: Chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission
  • Lori Rectanus: Direction or Physical Infrastructure issues at the US Gov’t Accountability Office
  • Arthur Sackler: Manager at the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service
  • Fredric Rolando: President of the National Association of Letter Carriers

1:50:35 Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD): Taking all these requirements and trends together, the Postal Service reported a net loss of $5.3 billion for fiscal year 2016, which represents a 10th consecutive year of net losses. We have repeatedly discussed the deteriorating financial condition at the Postal Service in this committee, but the situation is now worsened by unprecedented lack of any Senate-confirmed members on the Postal Service’s Board of Governors. Because many key management decisions are reserved by statute to the Senate-confirmed board members, there are many actions, such as establishing rates, class, and fees for products, that the Postal Service simply cannot take now.

45:30 Fredric Rolando: Over the past decade, postal employees have worked diligently to restructure operations, cut costs, and sharply increase productivity, in response to technological change and the Great Recession. Despite the loss of more than 200,000 jobs, we’ve managed to preserve our networks and to maintain our capacity to serve the nation. But only Congress can address our biggest financial challenge: the unique and unsustainable burden to pre-fund future retiree health benefits decades in advance. No other enterprise in the country faces such a burden, which was imposed by legislation in 2006. The expense of this mandate has accounted for nearly 90% of the Postal Service’s reported losses since 2007. Without a change in the law, the mandate will cost $6 billion this year alone.

Hearing: Postal Service Reform, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, September 26, 2013


  • John Hegarty: National President of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union
  • Dean Baker: Co-Director Center for Economic & Policy Research

33:40 Sen. Tom Carper: Much as the auto industry is right sized itself over the last half dozen or so years, what the Postal Service is attempting to do is to right size the enterprise, and we're trying to not be an impediment. But actually to help you do that. If you go back a dozen or so years ago, your workforce i think is Postmaster General said is about 800,000 people today, it's just under 500,000. If you go back about a half dozen years ago, my recollection is the number of postal processing plants in our country was about 600. We're now down to roughly three, three and a quarter.

46:40 Sen. Tom Coburn: If you look at the private sector. The benefits per employee, average $10,589. At the state and local government level, it's $16,857. At the federal level, it's $41,791. And that's a significant fact we need to bear in mind as we ask the postal service to be competitive.

1:59:30 John Hegarty: 300 processing plants have been eliminated in the past five years, and the employee compliment has been reduced by more than 300,000. Postal employees have already contributed to and sacrificed for the financial turnaround of the Postal Service. My members have had their wages frozen for the past two years, and employee contributions have increased for both health insurance and retirement. About 20% of postal employees including more than 5000 members of my union are working in non career part time jobs at reduced pay rates. And thousands of employees have been involuntarily excessed or transferred to other work locations often hundreds of miles away and have had to uproot their homes and their families because of the closings and consolidations of the postal network. Last week, the Postmaster General testified that the Postal Service has reduced cost by $16 billion during the past few years. As a labor intensive service industry, it should be clear that most of those savings have come from postal employees.

2:20:50 Dean Baker: Just think it is striking I had occasion to be in on one of the mediation hearings back in 2011. I looked at the Postal Service's projection at that time, they're projecting revenue falling to just 63 billion as of 2013. And continuing to decline over the rest of the decade. So it'd be about 59 billion by the end of the decade, we're now looking at revenue of 66 billion. So in fact, there's been really a quite remarkable turnaround. We're looking at a system that does look as though it's quite viable, apart from these retiree obligations. So it's not as though we have an ailing system on its last legs. It looks very much as though we have a system that in principle is viable. That's suffering very much from I would say at least, an excessive burden in requiring it to pre fund at a very rapid rate.

Hearing: Financial State of U.S. Postal Service, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, August 6, 2009


  • John Potter - Postmaster General
  • David Williams - Inspector General the US Postal Service

46:10 David Williams: The Postal accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 requires the postal service to make 10 annual payments of $5 billion each in addition to the $20 billion already set aside for pre funding its retiree health benefits, the size of the $5 billion payments has little foundation and the current payment method is damaging to the financial viability of the Postal Service even in profitable times. The payment amounts were not actuarially based instead, the required payments were built to ensure that the Postal Act did not affect the federal budget deficit. This seems inexplicable since the Postal Service is not part of the federal budget, does not receive an appropriation for operations and makes its money from the sale of postal services. The payment amounts are fixed through 2016 and do not reflect the funds earnings. Estimates of the Postal Service liability as a result of changing economic circumstances, declining staff size or developments in health Care and pharmaceutical industries. The payments do not take into account the Postal Service's ability to pay and are too challenging even in normal times.

1:04:45 John Potter: We hit our maximum number of career employees in late 1999. We had 803,000 career employees. We have been addressing the diversion of mail to electronics and have been managing our workforce very aggressively. Today we have 630,000 career employees. So we've managed to reduce that working with unions and within the contracts reduced by over 170,000 people, the number of employees we have.

1:10:10 John Potter: And when I look around the world and see what other posts are, if you're in Australia and you want to update your driver's license, renew it, you go to the post office. If you're in Italy and you go into a bank, more than likely going to the post office, if you're in Japan and you want to buy insurance, more than likely you're going to the post office. And if you're in France and you have a cell phone issue, more than likely, again, you're going to the post office.

Hearing: Postal Service Reform, Senate Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation and Federal Services, May 13, 2002


  • John Potter - Postmaster General

11:00 John Potter: Today, we're experiencing extraordinary declines in mail volume, and resulting losses and revenues. Our projected volume declined for this year, we'll be more than 6 billion pieces of mail below last year. That's the largest volume decline ever experienced in a single year. Despite this decline, we are working to reduce our net loss below our earlier projections. To achieve this, we will reduce the number of career employees through attrition by 20,000 people this year. In addition, we will cut over 60 million work hours compared to last year and we are postponing program expenditures and delaying capital investments. The net effect of these actions will reduce current planned expenses by $2 billion. Those savings combined with a $1 billion dollar infusion of revenue from the early implementation of the rate case means our projected net loss for the year will be in the range of $1.5 billion, instead of what easily could have been a loss of $4.5 billion.

16:05 John Potter: Essentially, the Postal Service could become profit driven, generate returns to finance capital projects, instead of increasing our debt load, introduced flexible pricing based on market demand, and develop better relationships with our employees. These and other long term changes to transform the postal service can only come with legislative reforms.

1:30:00 John Potter: Today we have the same number of people in the postal service as we had in 1991. But since 1991, the number of possible deliveries we have, the number of households and businesses that we've served, has gone up 15.4 million. So every day, six days a week, we're at 15.4 million additional doors than we were in 1991. And we have some 33 billion more pieces of mail.

1:50:35 John Potter: There is a process today to pay down our debt, but there's some $12 billion that we may have by the end of this fiscal year. It's built into the rate process. It's prior year loss recovery. Today, there is no vehicle to consider the health benefit liabilities, or the retirement obligations as part of the rate setting process. So, the vehicles that are available to us today are basically to cut our costs.

Hearing: Main Street Lending Program, CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT COMMISSION, April 5, 2002


  • John Potter - Postmaster General

13:30 John Potter: For some people, the preferred model is privatization. But this group, the notion of equitable service is not relevant. The simple straightforward answer goes back to what our stakeholders, the people, we reached out to told us. Overwhelmingly, they told us, there was no support for privatizing the nation's mail service. A privatized model would focus on profit. The results might be delivery standards and prices dictated by where a person lives, or where a business is located. Metropolitan areas where volume is greater, would receive better or cheaper service than a rural community. The privilege might stand to benefit from privatization, but not everyday people. It might be fine for a lawyer in Los Angeles, but not for the sales clerk in Omaha. Let me be very clear on this point. Do not, do not intend to recommend that the Postal Service be privatized. I do not believe that the American people want a privatized mail delivery system in this country today. People speak of digital divide, we don't need a delivery divide.

16:15 John Potter: Commercial government enterprise. This is our recommended model, the one we believe would put the postal service on a more businesslike footing, while keeping it dedicated to its mission of universal service. But it's also a model that is markedly different from what we have today. For example, instead of breaking even, our financial goal would be to generate reasonable returns. Earnings would finance capital projects, instead of having to resort to increasing our debt load. Retained earnings would carry us through tough economic times, instead of always resorting to rate increases. In addition, this model will allow us to leverage our vast retail and delivery assets to develop new revenue streams. Our 38,000 retail offices, and our national door to door delivery networks could be made available to private enterprise as a joint profit making venture. As a commercialized government enterprise, we could introduce flexible pricing. Prices for postal products would still be subject to regulatory review. But we would have the flexibility to adjust prices based on market demand. Next, as a labor intensive organization, with 75% of our operating expenses going to labor, this business model will allow us to explore a more progressive way to make collective bargaining work for all parties. Finally, this model will give us the needed flexibility to increase access and convenience to our customers. We will be able to add more locations with long arounds management without the flexibility to close a number of non performing retail outlets and we will be able to invest in new facilities and services. And enter into alliances and ventures with related private sector companies after due diligence was completed. Essentially, this commercialized Postal Service will give us the management tools that are available to private corporations to improve service to our customers manage costs more efficiently, and leverage our assets to generate new revenue opportunities.

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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Sep 07, 2020
Thank You Indentured Firefighters

In the middle of a historically intense week, Jen records this bonus “thank you” episode to thank Congressional Dish producers and rant about the state of the country. Topics include fires, murders, riots, strikes, COVID, and a surprisingly intense hurricane. It’s a very 2020 episode.

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Recommended Episodes

CD189: "First Step" Prison Reform, Listen on Spotify



Producer Recommendations

Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations

Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Aug 28, 2020
CD219: Oversights of CARES

COVID still rages, CARES Act provisions have expired, and Congress is on another vacation. In this episode, by piecing together information discovered in six CARES Act oversight hearings, find out what problems weren’t solved by the CARES Act, what happened to the CARES Act money, and get an idea of what is possible in the next COVID relief bill... If there is one.

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CD213: CARES Act - The Trillions for COVID-19 Law, Listen on Spotify

CD201: WTF is the Federal Reserve?, Listen on Spotify


H.R. 266: Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act

Signed April 24, 2020.

Doubled the Paycheck Protection Program

H.R. 7010: Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020



Additional Resources

Sound Clip Sources

Hearing: Main Street Lending Program, CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT COMMISSION, August 7, 2020

Watch on YouTube


  • Eric Rosengren - President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
  • Gwen Mills - Secretary Treasurer of Unite Here
  • Lauren Anderson - Senior Vice President & Associate General Counsel of the Bank Policy Institute

03:20 Bharat Ramamurti: Four months ago, Congress gave the Treasury Department half a trillion dollars to stabilize the economy. The Treasury quickly pledged 75 billion of those dollars to the Federal Reserve's Main Street lending program for small and mid sized companies. After taking three months to set up the program, the Fed has now been operating it for about a month. In that time, it has supported only 18 loans for a total of $104 million. That is 0.017% of the $600 billion lending capacity that the Fed touted for the program in April.

10:20 Eric Rosengren: Main Street program is designed to facilitate lending to small and medium sized businesses and nonprofits that have suffered disruptions and provides credit support for entities that have temporary cash flow problems due to the pandemic, and that given the uncertain outlook may have difficulty obtaining credit. It can provide a bridge as loans have no interest or principal payments in the first year and no principal payments until year three.

11:15 Eric Rosengren: Mainstreet relies on lenders to underwrite loans and keep skin in the game by banks retaining 5% of the loan.

16:07 Eric Rosengren: This facility is very different than some of the other traditional kinds of facilities that central banks operate during a time of crisis. So most of our facilities operate through markets, market securities, you can purchase them very easily through the market. They clear usually in a couple days depending on the security. So it's relatively easy to quickly purchase a large number of securities and hold those securities over time. This facility is a facility we didn't have during the financial crisis, and really tries to get to a different segment of the population, which is those businesses that are bigger than the PPP program was designed for and smaller than what the corporate facilities are designed for.

22:05 Bharat Ramamurti: This program has been a failure, and the basic reason for that is that the Fed can only offer loans. The data show that companies, even distressed companies aren't looking for loans.

24:17 Bharat Ramamurti: By law, the Fed can only support loans and more loans are not the answer here for most companies. And this is a giant hole in our economic response to the crisis. Congress helps small businesses through the PPP, Congress help large companies that are big enough to issue bonds by empowering the Fed to purchase corporate bonds and reduce the cost of borrowing. But the only thing that the government has offered all these companies in between is the Main Street program and it's just not working. And these mid sized companies employ 45 million people and represent a third of private sector GDP. So look, I don't think continuing to tweak this program is going to work. I think Congress needs to act to provide direct support to mid sized firms and for that money to come with real strings attached to the money that benefits working people. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

45:45 Bharat Ramamurti: The first version of the Mainstreet program required companies to say in writing that they needed the loan quote, due to the exigent circumstances presented by the covid 19 pandemic. Advocates for the oil and gas industry pushed to eliminate that requirement, presumably because many oil and gas firms were struggling before COVID and couldn't satisfy the requirement. And again in the final version, the Fed eliminated that requirement. President Rosengren again, out of the more than 2000 public comments that the Fed received, are you aware of a single one outside the oil and gas industry that requested that the Fed remove this important requirement? Eric Rosengren: In the discussions I've been involved in, we do not discuss specific industries, we discuss how we can provide a broad based financing scheme. Bharat Ramamurti: Okay. Again, I appreciate that. But again, I reviewed the public comments and there wasn't a single one that requested this change, only the oil and gas lobby had requested.

47:25 Bharat Ramamurti: It's not supposed to be changing the rules of these programs so that the President's favorite companies can get access to billions of dollars in public money. In fact, it is illegal for the Fed to structure these lending programs to help specific companies avoid bankruptcy. I urge this commission to further investigate this issue, including by requesting all communications on this topic between the Fed and the Energy Secretary, the Treasury Secretary and any representatives of the oil and gas industry.

1:13:40 Gwen Mills: My name is Gwen Mills. I'm Secretary Treasurer of the hospitality union, Unite Here. Well, I will focus on our members experiences. The recommendations I make are supported by the AFLCIO representing 55 National unions and 12 million workers. Our 300,000 members work primarily in hotel, casino, food service and airline catering industries, all sectors that are heavily dependent upon travel and tourism, before the cares act became law 90% of our members were laid off. Today, 85% remain unemployed.

1:14:40 Gwen Mills: At the heart is the question of requiring employers to maintain employment as a condition of federal assistance. The Main Street lending program requires only commercially reasonable efforts to maintain employees in spite of clear congressional intent. Treasury and the Federal Reserve said they will not enforce even that.

1:15:03 Gwen Mills: We've seen how powerful lobbyists transform the paycheck protection and payroll support programs into subsidies for real estate investors. We've identified 200 outlets where we have members that received PPP loans, and they haven't protected paychecks or healthcare. One company, Omni hotels, received 34 PPP loans worth at least $53 million. Meanwhile, Omni hotels in Boston, Providence and New Haven were shut down in March and is unclear when they will reopen. In Providence, the company then cut off medical benefits in violation of their union agreement. There are many similar stories, what they reveal is how a powerful industry turned to program designed to keep workers on payroll into one that could keep hotel owners current on their mortgages.

1:16:45 Gwen Mills: Lobbyists claim if the Fed doesn't rescue CMBS borrowers hotels will default and workers won't have jobs to come back to. But that is not our experience. And this isn't the first time hotel owners got themselves in trouble using these inflexible loans. After the financial crisis, there were scores of defaults across the country. But defaults and foreclosures didn't lead to closed hotels. Hotel workers who were used to seeing absentee owners come and go understand that jobs are driven by occupancy and only ending the pandemic can fix that.

1:18:05 Gwen Mills: Program designers at the Fed take the CARES Act mandate to heart. What if credit terms were loosened, so long as, and here's the important part, so long as there were airtight requirements, not incentives, not recommendations, but requirements that recipients keep workers on payroll, and is what the PPP could have done if it hadn't been hijacked by the real estate industry.

1:26:10 Bharat Ramamurti: In your experience and the experience of your members, does providing financial support to businesses help workers without express and enforceable requirements, that businesses actually use that aid to support workers. Gwen Mills: No. Time and again, in many different programs, without enforceable requirements, support to businesses doesn't help workers. Bharat Ramamurti: So of the $500 billion that Congress gave to the Treasury, in the CARES Act in March, there's currently more than $200 billion sitting unused and uncommitted. If you were to use that money to develop a program that would be most helpful to your members, what would you do with it? Gwen Mills: The two things that matter are healthcare and wages. So we would fund Cobra payments so that we could continue health care and then give direct support to workers. Bharat Ramamurti: And thank you. And one final question about this. Did the Treasury Department ever reach out to your union as it was designing this lending program that was ostensibly about helping workers? Gwen Mills: No.

1:28:45 Gwen Mills: Our great concern about the Main Street lending program is that the hotel industry is seeking changes so that they can use the program to pay their CMBS mortgages.

1:30:30 Rep. Donna Shalala (FL): The main street lending program, banks employ their own underwriting standards to loan applications. Does that mean that banks are making loans under the program that they would have made any way absent the Fed program? And if so, is the mainstream lending program providing any benefit to borrowers at all? Lauren Anderson: Thank you for your question. In terms of the loans that are being made, I think they're quite specific in terms of the circumstances because you're absolutely right, a borrower who can meet a bank's basic underwriting standards is typically finding out that there is a product that is more suited to them, given their credit needs, so for example, maybe a term loan really is not what they need, and they really need something more like a flexible working capital facility. So our banks are actually, many times finding better solutions for these borrowers when they inquire about the program.

1:44:15 Rep. French Hill (AR): Owners of CMBS securities are mostly pension funds and people's retirement accounts. And so they're all benefited by trying to get capital into the industry and get people hired back and reopened.

1:48:40 Bharat Ramamurti: I think just to sum up quickly, I think we've actually seen a remarkable consensus emerge at this hearing, which is that the main street program as is currently designed is failing. And the representative of the banking industry told us that we aren't seeing meaningful demand for loans right now from their clients. The representative of small and mid sized businesses told us that the program wouldn't help his members as is currently designed, and Miss Mills representing hundreds of thousands of workers told us that the main street program hasn't helped a single worker and isn't likely to. I don't question the hard work of President Rosengren and the Fed staff, but more loans are not going to solve this crisis. Struggling small and mid sized companies can't take on more debt right now. So the only tool in the Feds belt is the wrong one. This program was given $75 billion and months to succeed. It didn't and it can't. It's time to stop tinkering around the edges with adjustments to loan eligibility and loan terms when the fundamental problem is with the nature of the loans themselves. It's time for Congress to step back in so that we can actually save small and mid sized businesses and when it does needs to tie the assistance to meaningful enforceable protections for workers and not just hand money to executives and trust them to take care of workers interests. Thank you Mr. Chair.

1:50:45 Gwen Mills: The extension of the the wages that the congressman mentioned has been appreciated, although it is now ending. That is problematic. But there has not been an extension of healthcare, so and even in a case where we have some healthcare negotiated companies like the fountain blue gun, are not abiding by that.

Interview: Trump: Coronavirus is "under control", Axios, HBO, August 4, 2020

Hearing: Oversight of the Small Business Administration and Department of Treasury Pandemic Programs, House Committee on Small Business, July 17, 2020

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  • Steven Mnuchin - Treasury Secretary

41:25 Steven Mnuchin: I think this time we need to have a revenue test and make sure that money is going to businesses that have significant revenue declines.

1:07:35 Steven Mnuchin: If there were financial conditions that states had coming into this, it's not the federal government's role to bail them out of that. Now we have through Main Street, excuse me through the Fed facilities, we have provided lending facilities to the states and municipalities. But the issue of taxing authority... The federal government has taxing authority and the states have taxing authority. So where there are lost revenues, I think there is a fairness issue of how those get allocated across the country.

Hearing: Protecting Homeowners During the Pandemic: Oversight of Mortgage Servicers’ Implementation of the CARES Act, House Committee on Financial Services: Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, July 16, 2020

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  • Marcia Griffin - Founder and President of Homefree-USA
  • Donnell Williams - President, National Association of Real Estate Brokers
  • Alys Cohen - Staff Attorney, National Consumer Law Center

25:55 Marcia Griffin: Tons of counselors assist homeowners who are improperly denied a forbearance. We have. We have seen a troubling concentration of this issue with veteran loans. We're also seeing homeowners who may have recently completed a loan application they've also been denied a borrowers who have just missed a payment in March or February, they've also been denied.

26:35 Marcia Griffin: There is a frustratingly large number of homeowners who are unemployed but are still being told that lump sum payments are due at the end of the forbearance.

43:45 Donnell Williams: You also need to have data collection. Services need to supply this information, this data to the CFPB and to Congress. I just had a borrower in Irvington, New Jersey, another one in Orange Township, New Jersey, tell me that their servicemen, like Congressman Green, say that they only gave them three months and that the whole balance will be due in 90 days. Marcia Griffin: Well, let me stop you, do you think we should have penalties for some servicers who violate the law that we have in the Heroes Act and would require a lump sum payments like that? Donnell Williams: I do believe so. Because they're roadblocking, they're stopping, clogging it up so that we can have progress.

51:30 Alys Cohen: Well, in terms of the complaints that you're hearing, we do have some good protections in the cares Act and the federal regulators really need to step up their game and do much greater oversight of the servicers. In terms of the CFPB, they appear to spend most of their time relaxing regulations for servicers and providing advice for homeowners. So homeowners need our protection.

1:04:35 Alys Cohen: What we've saw in the last crisis and what we continue to see is that as you said, Mr. Lynch, servicers on private mortgages are beholden to the guidelines from the investors. And so what we'd like to see is a safe harbor for mortgage servicers from investor liability, so that they can provide loan modifications along the lines that the GSCs and FHA and the other government agencies can provide.

Hearing: Promoting Economic Recovery: Examining Capital Markets and Worker Protections in the COVID-19 Era, House Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship and Capital Markets, July 14, 2020

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  • Dr. William Spriggs - Chief Economist at the AFL-CIO and Professor of Economics at Howard University
  • Neil Bradley - Executive Vice President and Chief of Policy Officer at the US Chamber of Commerce

38:45 Dr. William Spriggs: Workers do not have the sense that they have sick leave or the assurance that their employers will support them if they are sick. We see a very frightening share of women who show up to work and report that they have symptoms because they fear losing their job.

40:10 Dr. William Spriggs: It is vital for Congress to monitor money given to corporations under COVID, to make sure that workers are safe, that they will not face retaliation if they complain about safety, that they have sick leave so that they can report illness and stay home and not infect other workers. This is vital for the economy. It's vital to be prudent about the money that we are sending to these companies. We're not going to win this economic war until we win the war against the disease.

46:40 Rep. Brad Sherman (CA): I do want to comment about the importance of sick leave. We should be providing sick leave so people can stay home if they're sick, kids are sick. That's critical to getting this disease under control. We cannot limit that requirement only to those employers who feel generous. We can't limit it to only to those employers who are between 50 employees and 500 employees, as presently as now. And while we should require it of those who get money pursuant to these facilities, it auto glide all employers even those that are not borrowing from the federal government.

54:55 Neil Bradley: With respect to individuals, the $600 was implemented because of the need for speed. We know as a general principle, you should not pay more for someone to not work and you pay them to work that creates distortions in the labor market. President Obama's head of the Council of Economic Advisers is former NSC director has joined on a bipartisan basis with officials from the Bush administration suggesting a much better approach, one we endorse it the US Chamber to target unemployment benefits much more closely to what an individual earned when they were working. It shouldn't be true that you earn more but you also shouldn't earn substantially less.

2:11:25 Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: As an investor when you invest in a riskier venture, would it be fair to say that an investor investing in that risky venture would be compensated with a higher return of risk? Because of the risk associated with that financial instrument correctly? Dr. Camille Bussett: Generally, that is that is correct. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: And now, is that same kind of compensation true for workers, in that are workers that are risking their lives, in meatpacking grocery stores, are there are they being paid? What is their compensation look like? Or do you see hazard pay, which is supposed to be a form of compensation for risk, a norm in your view. Dr. Camille Bussett: So low wage workers particularly they said work in the US industries that you mentioned and thank you for the question. Congress, woman Ocasio-Cortez are consistently paid very low wages for these kinds of essential jobs that put meat, poultry and vegetables on our table. That has not changed during the pandemic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: And so in your assessment, hazard pay is not the norm. Dr. Camille Bussett: Hazard pay is not the norm. There have been some corporations which have added some hazard pay and then have since the economy has started to reopen, and various states have rescinded that. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: So, really compensation for risk. It's not that all people in our economy are compensated for risk just that a certain narrow class is compensated for risk of capital but not necessarily risk of life.

Hearing: Oversight of the Treasury Department's and Federal Reserve's Pandemic Response, House Committee on Financial Services, June 30, 2020

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  • Steven Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary
  • Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

21:20 Steven Mnuchin: The cares act also granted Treasury the authority to provide 454 billion to support Federal Reserve lending facilities under Section 13-3. Since March 17, using funds available, I have approved a number of Federal Reserve programs. The commercial paper program, primary dealer program, the money market mutual program, the primary market corporate credit facility, the secondary facility, the main street facility, municipal facility and the PPP lending facility. We've committed approximately 200 billion and to support these the announcements of these programs have helped unlock markets and promote much needed access to liquidity. We have over 250 billion remaining to create or expand programs as needed.

25:40 Jerome Powell: After lowering the federal funds rate to essentially zero. Our actions so far fall into four categories, stabilizing Treasury and agency MBS markets, money market and liquidity, liquidity and funding measures, direct efforts to support the flow of credit in the economy and targeted regulatory measures to support those efforts.

26:10 Jerome Powell: Without access to credit, families could be forced to cut back on necessities or even lose their homes. Businesses could be forced to downsize or close resulting in further losses of jobs and incomes and worsening the downturn.

37:35 Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (NY): Secretary Mnuchin, I'd like to ask you about a very troubling oversight issue. As you know, I'm the Chair now of the Oversight Committee and I take these matters very seriously, and I hope that you do too. In the CARES Act, we created the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, or PRAC, which is a committee of independent inspectors general that is charged with overseeing all of the money spent in the CARES Act, and identifying waste, fraud and abuse. Last month, the General Counsel's Office in Treasury issued a legal opinion that questioned PRAC's authority to oversee trillions of dollars of CARES Act spending. To put it bluntly, this legal analysis is so bad that it borders on bad faith. The opinion claimed that no evidence that Congress did not intend for the PRAC to have oversight authority over anything and the first half of the CARES Act, including the PPP program, and any of the fed's lending facilities are the 150 billion in funding for state and local governments. So I would say Secretary Mnuchin, that this interpretation is wrong, that it is just plain wrong. Senator Gary Peters and I proposed and authored this section of the law, the PRAC Act, and I was heavily involved in negotiating those provisions in the CARES Act. And I'm telling you that Congress's intent was for the PRAC to oversee all of the spending in the CARES Act, not just one half of the CARES Act, but all of it. That was our intent. And that was what the bill said explicitly. The interpretation from your general counsel's office is already causing problems, because it's hindering the practability to monitor how the states are spending their cares act money. So now Secretary Mnuchin, I would say that we have worked very productively together and in good faith negotiations on the Beneficial Ownership bill and, and other bills before Congress. So I hope that you'll take my concerns about this erroneous legal opinion seriously. And so this is what I would like to ask today. I'd like you to commit to interpreting this section of the CARES Act as Congress intended, with the PRAC's oversight authorities applying to all of the cares act spending. I think this is a small step, but a very important one that you can take to show that you're serious about the oversight of the trillions of dollars in the CARES Act. Steven Mnuchin: Well, thank you. And I appreciate your comments. And I assure you, we are very much committed to working with the Oversight Committees on transparency. Now, as it relates to this, I can assure you it was not in bad faith. I'm happy to have our office follow up with you. It has to do with a technical issue of recipients reporting as it relates to the issue of monitoring state spending, I'm more than happy to put the PRAC in touch with our Inspector General, who has primary oversight and make sure that whatever information specifically the PRAC wants on the states that we accommodate. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (NY): Well, I would say that that's not what I'm asking. What I'm asking is will you commit to interpreting the PRAC's oversight authorities as applying to all of the Cares Act spending? That was our intent, I wrote that section of the law, that was what Congress wanted. There's no problem with the interpretation it's very clear and explicit, will you commit to allowing the oversight that was in the bill. Steven Mnuchin: I appreciate you wrote that portion. I would also say I appreciate I had very direct discussions with people in the Senate about various different oversight. That's why we agreed to a new Oversight Committee. With full transparency, we agreed to provide information that was not required under 13-3. So we have full transparency. And again, I'm happy to follow up with you on the specific concerns as to which different entities should receive what information. I think it's important that there is not bureaucratic overlap. But again, let me emphasize if the PRAC needs certain information, we will try to do what we can to accommodate it. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (NY): Well, I'm very disappointed with that answer, and I guess we'll have to pursue a legislative solution. It was very clear the intent of Congress is that PRAC would have oversight of all of the cares spending. I yield back.

56:55 Rep. Brad Sherman (CA): Chairman Powell, back on March 12, I sent you a letter urging that you prohibit stock buybacks by the banks you have done so. Thank you very much.

58:00 Rep. Brad Sherman (CA): One issue, Chairman Powell, for the main street lending program that is particularly relevant to commercial real estate, is that if they get a loan from you, they violate the loan covenants that they have in their existing mortgage. I look forward to working with you on that. One possible solution is the bill that I submitted. And we've had hearings on in this committee, the Business Borrowers Protection Act. Certainly getting a loan on a program that we've offered authorized because of the COVID crisis should not trigger the and make it a pre-existing mortgage immediately due and payable.

1:03:30 Jerome Powell: We are not looking for additional authority under 13-3. Our authority is of course to lend to solvent institutions and in programs of broad applicability and any company in any sector that meets those tests can can borrow one of our facilities.

1:04:10 Rep. Bill Posey (FL): Some of our businesses, including again the hotels, are warning that their inability to make payments is threatening the servicing of commercial backed securities. And I just wonder if you can bring us up to date on the status of the CMBS market? Steven Mnuchin: Well, as I just mentioned, one of the problems of the CMBS market is that there are very strict contractual obligations. And that's why one of the things I do think we need to look at in the next CARES Act is additional funding for these industries that are the hardest hit.

1:07:00 Steven Mnuchin: We have had inquiries about the issue of garnishment. And we agree from a policy standpoint that there should have been no garnishment. Unfortunately, that's something we need to address in the next CARES Act if we do additional direct payments, because there are certain state laws that were not overridden in the existing CARES Act. My understanding that's a state issue and not a federal issue. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (MO): But think about, think about the cruelty of the policy. Wouldn't you want to? Steven Mnuchin: As I said, I agree with you on the level. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (MO): Couldn't you all issue a blanket... Steven Mnuchin: We've asked our legal department to unfortunately we can't and that's one of the things we would want to fix in the next CARES Act. So we agree with you from the policy standpoint.

1:09:00 Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (MO): Now under the main street lending program, you reduced the minimum loan threshold from 1 million to 250,000. And then by expanding the program to nonprofits with more than 50 employees, however many small businesses may not need 250,000. Mr. Chairman, has the Fed considered eliminating the minimum loan threshold all together? Jerome Powell: We have not considered eliminating it yet. Of course, we're just now getting rolling with loans, as you know, so we can once we get up and running, look at lowering it again, but you get into a very different kind of lending when you're down, lower. These are really personal loans rather than business loans. They're generally guaranteed by the business operator, and we could look at that but that would be something we'd look at once we get up and running.

1:11:40 Jerome Powell: The objective of everything we're doing everything. Every single thing we're doing is to take the 25 million people whose working lives have been disrupted and create a situation in which they have the best chance to go back to their old job or to get a new job. That includes all the facilities that we're doing. That's the overriding goal of what we're doing.

25:55 Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO): As you know, it's hard for me to let a hearing go without talking about CECL, so we're gonna try it one more time. In March of this year, the Federal Reserve and the FDIC and LCC issued an interim rule to delay for two years the estimated impact on regulatory capital CECL, followed by a three year phase in. In addition, the CARES Act included an option delay in CECL implementation until end 2020, or the end of the pandemic, which 25% of typical entities actually opted for. Part of the Treasury is also conducting study - What's the impact of CECL I hope? We were directed to do that. And most recently, my colleagues and I sent a bipartisan letter F stock urging for delay in CECL implementation for all entities until 2022. So that every entity, both banks and non banks, which were not included through the cares act on the same footing and Treasury can conduct this study with the input of a real life scenario that we have ongoing today. Given the actions by Congress and the potential regulators should we delay CECL as I and my colleagues have called for and should the Treasury examine the real life scenario we've gone through when conducting their study? Mr. Mnuchin? Steven Mnuchin: I think that should be seriously considered. And yes, we are working on the study. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO): The President issued an executive order with regards to each agency going through and looking at all the rules, regulations, that were either waive declined, change, whatever, if they don't work now, should we continue them down the road when we get out of this mess. And so I assume everybody is doing that. And this would, this particular accounting principle would seem to fall in that area of we need to be looking at this as something down the road we need to get rid of in it's entirety, Mr. Chairman Powell, would you like to comment on this as well? Jerome Powell: I would agree. Okay. Thank you. Appreciate that. Because I think there's a time and place for rules, regulations or time in place that if nonfunctioning, we need to get rid of them and start over.

1:22:30 Rep. Bill Huizenga (MI): But what we do know is from looking at history, is we need to get the economy moving again. Now the question is, is how, whether it's getting kids back to school, as some have suggested, because if you can't get kids into school, that's not going to then free up those parents to be available to work. Anecdotally in my area, I know that manufacturers and service companies are having a very difficult time getting enough workers to come in to complete a full contingent, a line workers for example, or to get a full shift filled. There's various reasons some have debated about the $600 additional per week kicker as being a bit of a disincentive. But nonetheless, we know that we have to address those folks who really truly are not able to get a job and how do we distinguish from those that are just deciding not to take that job? One of the things that I have proposed is something called the Patriot bonus patriot bonus would be a 50% tax credit to any company that would give a per hour bump to their employees or a weekly bonus to their employees or even a one time bonus to their employees to incentivize them to come off of that unemployment insurance system and get back engaged in the workforce. And I think it's critical that we that we do that.

1:25:50 Rep. Bill Huizenga (MI): What do you want to tell them and the rest of Joe and Jane 401k that have their small investments in the markets that are there, frankly, to help them as they approach retirement? What assurances can we give them about the economy? Steven Mnuchin: Well, I want to tell them and all the other people that we are going to work with Congress to make sure we can do whatever we can do to get everybody back to work, who lost their job to COVID. And I'm also extremely optimistic about the research that is being done on vaccines and virals. And us combating this terrible disease. Thank you.

1:45:25 Steven Mnuchin: In many of these cases, these companies don't need more debt. They need support. So one of the things we will want to look at in the next CARES Act, as I said, is additional support for these hardest hit industries. As the Chair has said, there's a difference between lending and spending.

1:58:40 Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO): And we also know that at the end of July, the pandemic unemployment insurance payments cease, as it's currently written. We know that a number of the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures begin to cease. And the eight weeks provided under the PPP, certainly for those initial takers of the loans start to run out. So I see a brick wall at the end of July.

Hearing: Accountability in Crisis: GAO's Recommendations to Improve the Federal Coronavirus Response, House Committee on Oversight and Reform: Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, June 26, 2020

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  • Gene Dodaro - Comptroller General at the Government Accountability Office

56:40 Rep. Maxine Waters (CA): Tell me, how did it happen, that these hotels and these restaurants, were able to identify each of their installations under 500 people that they could get paid, get a loan for all of them. How did that happen? Gene Dodaro: My understanding of that is that that was a change that was made in the legislation at the last minute to allow them to be able to do that. That was part of the original legislation. My understanding...If I'm wrong, I'll provide a correction of the answer for the record, but that allowed that industry that applied if they had 500 people or less employees per location. Rep. Maxine Waters (CA): Did the SBA sign off on that? Gene Dodaro: Pardon me? Rep. Maxine Waters (CA): Did SBA sign off on that? Gene Dodaro: I don't know their involvement in the legislation. I'm sure the administration did if the President signed the bill. Rep. Maxine Waters (CA): Do you think that basically undermined what the PPP was supposed to be about?Gene Dodaro: Well, I wouldn't second guess the Congress and what it did and what, in the legislation that it passed. So, I mean, I was assuming it was part of congressional intent if it's in the legislation.

1:00:30 Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO): With the issue with regards to the stimulus checks going to people who shouldn't get them. You made a comment while ago about the social security's death master file. And it's something that you recommended, apparently for a number of years that we Congress have never done. In fact, the Trump administration has proposed in every single budget to give Treasury access to this, and we Congress have not done that. Is that roughly correct? Gene Dodaro: That's correct. And I know Treasury I've talked to Secretary Mnuchin about this and they... Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO): So this problem could have been eliminated, and alleviated if we Congress had done our job and allowed this to happen in previous years. Gene Dodaro: That's a reasonable hypothesis. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO): Okay. Thank you very much for that.

1:27:45 Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): Gene Dodaro: Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): GAO also reported the Treasury and IRS sent nearly $1.4 billion in payments to 1.1 million dissidents, that is Americans who'd already died. And I'd also heard from some honest constituents who called up and said, we got this check for my wife or my husband who's no longer with us. IRS apparently was aware this was happening back in March, but didn't begin to correct it until months later. What's up with that? That's just shocking. How'd that happen? Gene Dodaro: Well, IRS is original determination was that the law required them to send a check to everybody who filed the return in 2018 or 19. And so they figured it would include those people. So they did it with foresight, that that's what they were supposed to do. Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): Wow. Okay. Just let me pause you there, because that seems to contradict common sense. In other words, because we said that it should go to everyone who filed taxes, they thought you'd go to people who had died right who had filed taxes. All right. What is the law? Because some people were saying, should we cash this check? Why would the government sending it to us? Gene Dodaro: Right. Yeah, no, no, I agree. Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): Well, what is the correct legal interpretation? Gene Dodaro: We believe Treasury's interpretation after that was that the intent was to help people who are affected by the situation which wouldn't include people who were deceased. So they stopped it at that point in time after IRS had made the first three payments. So we believe the correct interpretation now is they should not have been sent and our recommendation is to try to get as much of the money back as possible. Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): Ok. And they've changed that policy of sending checks to people who have died? Gene Dodaro: That's correct.

Video: Ticked Off Vic: A Message to the Government |, Vic Dibitetto, April 16, 2020

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Aug 16, 2020
Thank You John Lewis

In this bonus "thank you" episode, Jen shares a goodbye letter from Rep. John Lewis, updates the list of the COVID infected in Congress, and reads lots of excellent, information rich comments from the Congressional Dish producers.

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Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Aug 14, 2020
CD218: Minerals are the New Oil

Rare earth minerals are essential ingredients for many of the technologies that are important today and will be key in the future. In this episode, we learn about a new global economy being created around rare minerals and how the United States can catch up to the commanding lead that China has established in dominating the mineral dependent industries.

Executive Producer: Coffee Infused Nerd 

Executive Producer: David Dear

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Bill Outline

S. 1317: American Mineral Security Act

Text as of July 27, 2020

TITLE I - American Mineral Security

Sec. 102: Policy We will analyze supply and demand of minerals to avoid supply shortages, mitigate price volatility, and prepare for demand growth We will map and develop domestic resources of minerals
Speed up the permitting process for mineral mining and new mineral manufacturing facilities Invest in workforce training for mineral exploration and development Transfer technology and information in international cooperation agreements Recycle critical minerals Develop alternatives to critical minerals

Sec. 104: Resource Assessment Within 4 years of the date the bill is signed into law, a “comprehensive national assessment of each critical mineral” must be completed which identifies known quantities of each mineral using public and private information and an assessment of undiscovered mineral resources in the U.S. The information will be given to the public electronically

Sec. 105: Permitting Orders reports to be done on expediting permitting

Sec. 107: Recycling, Efficiency, and Alternatives The Secretary of Energy would be required to conduct a research and development program to promote production, use, and recycling of critical minerals and to develop alternatives to critical minerals that are not found in abundance in the United States.

Sec. 109: Education and Workforce The Secretary of Labor will be given almost two years to complete an assessment of the Untied States workforce capable of operating a critical minerals management industry Creates a grant program where the Secretary of Labor will give “institutions of higher eduction” money for up to 10 years to create critical minerals management programs, and to help pay for student enrolled in those programs.

Sec. 110: National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program Authorizes, but does not appropriate, $5 million per year from 2020-2019 for the program created in 2005 that catalogs geol