Legislative updates for Oct. 29, 2015


Corker says sanctuary cities threaten families

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) spoke out last week after he voted to advance the Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act (S.2146). The bill would prohibit certain grants being given to sanctuary cities that harbor illegal immigrants, and it would establish prison terms for returning illegal aliens.

“I have been highly critical of the administration for its refusal to enforce our nation’s immigration laws, and it’s unacceptable that many cities are thwarting what little immigration enforcement is actually taking place,” Corker said. “Tennessee passed a law to prohibit these kinds of policies for a reason, and I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to rein in this affront to our immigration laws.”

See a summary of Senate Bill 2146 at congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/2146.

In 2013, Corker wrote an amendment to the Senate-passed immigration bill to dramatically increase border security and interior enforcement. In addition to policies in the underlying bill, which would have improved the identification of visa overstays through a fully implemented entry/exit system, the amendment mandated the initiation of removal proceedings for at least 90 percent of visa overstays.

He also offered an amendment that would have required the Depart-ment of Homeland Security (DHS) to initiate removal of any individual who was arrested for an offense involving public safety and identified as unlawfully present in this country.

Corker blasts Obama’s veto of 2016 defense bill

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a critical statement after President Barack Obama vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2016.

Corker said, “The challenges our nation faces are vast, and I can think of no higher priority than ensuring our men and women in uniform have the tools necessary to protect and defend U.S. interests at home and abroad.”

He continued, “Not only does this authorization bill allow us to continue important investments necessary for a strong national defense, including personnel benefits and equipment recapitalization, it puts in place an important process by which commanders on the ground in the U.S. are given the power to determine the best ways to protect those who serve here at home. I am extremely disappointed the president is blocking this important, bipartisan legislation.”

The NDAA (HR1735) passed the Senate by a vote of 70 to 27 and the House of Representatives by a vote of 270 to 156.

In addition to authorizing funding for the Department of Defense, the legislation included a provision in response to the July 16, 2015, deadly attack on military installations in Chattanooga, Tenn. The legislation would require the Secretary of Defense to establish a process by which the commanders of domestic military installations, reserve centers, recruiting centers, or other defense facilities may authorize a member of the Armed Forces who is assigned to the facility to carry an appropriate firearm on the installation if the commander determines it necessary as a personal- or force-protection measure.

However, Obama said the act, in its present form, is not fiscally responsible, uses a budget gimmick that both parties have criticized, locks in unacceptable funding cuts and undermines national security. He said that the act also would make it more difficult to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Obama also said the bill would “require the Department of Defense to retain unnecessary force structure and weapons systems that we cannot afford in today’s fiscal environment, contributing to a military that will be less capable of responding effectively to future challenges.”

See Obama’s full statement online.

Cohen: Rename FBI building

Last week, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced a bill to remove former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s name from the FBI building in Washington, DC.

At a House Judiciary Committee Hearing, he questioned current FBI Director James Comey about the need to remove Hoover’s name from the building.

Cohen issued the following statement: “The civil rights we enjoy today are in spite of J. Edgar Hoover, not because of him. Hoover’s infamous counter intelligence program (COINTELPRO) sought to silence Dr. King and other civil rights leaders as well as civil rights organizations, including Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). COINTELPRO was also used by Hoover to out homosexuals working for the government, ruining careers and lives.”

He continued, “The Hoover years are a stain on the FBI and our nation’s history. Yet, Hoover’s name adorns one of the most prominent buildings in our nation’s capital and one that houses one of the agencies of our government responsible for justice. I encourage everyone to view Michael Isikoff’s illuminating documentary on Yahoo News entitled: “Uniquely Nasty: The U.S Government’s War on Gays.” It is past time to remove Hoover’s name from this place of honor.”

The documentary referenced is available online at bit.ly/UniquelyNasty.

Bill targets opioid exposure in utero

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), urged House lawmakers on Oct. 22 to quickly topass legislation approved by the Senate to lower the rate of infants exposed to opioids before they are born.

Alexander, the chairman of the Senate health committee, said, “In the past decade, Tennessee has seen a nearly ten-fold increase in Tennessee infants born with health problems resulting from exposure to opioids during pregnancy,” he said. “I urge the House to act quickly to pass this legislation that will help ensure that federal programs are more effective in helping pregnant women struggling with drug abuse and increase their chances of having healthy children.”

The legislation requires the Department of Health and Human Services to address gaps and duplication in research and programs for pregnant women with opioid use disorders and their infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome is a health condition that arises when newborns exposed to addictive opioid drugs while in the mother’s womb withdraw from the drug after being born. See details online at nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007313.htm.

The Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015 was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and is supported by March of Dimes, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

It can be tracked online at govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/s799.