Roll Call Copy Desk

True Cybersecurity Requires Accountability

By Rep. Frank D. Lucas 

Earlier this year we learned about the most extensive failure in cybersecurity by a federal agency to date. The Office of Personnel Management announced in June the personal information of roughly 4.2 million Americans was compromised by hackers who gained access to their network. A month later, a second intrusion was detected. The number of reported victims ballooned to 21.5 million.

An “All of the Above” Approach to Rural Broadband

By Rep. John Shimkus

In August 2008, minutes after then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi shut the chamber’s lights out during a debate over what to do in response to high gas prices, I helped lead my Republican colleagues in a revolt on the House floor that turned “all of the above” into a household name for the kind of energy policy America needed.

Connected Vehicle Technology Must Lead to Safer, Less Congested Roads

By Rep. Daniel Lipinski

Connected and autonomous vehicle technologies are arriving on the market at a rapid rate. However, there is much more work to be done, both on the automotive side and in the infrastructure that will support connected and autonomous vehicles on roads and in cities, before these technologies can be fully implemented. The U.S. is arriving at a crossroads on connected vehicle technologies, and our decisions now will have huge ramifications on the future of transportation and American economic competitiveness.

Safe Harbor 2.0

By Rep. Anna G. Eshoo

For nearly two decades a little-known trade agreement between the United States and the European Union has resulted in trillions of dollars in transatlantic commerce, one of the most significant economic relationships in the world. Known as the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework, this agreement has allowed for unfettered commercial data transfers between the U.S. and the EU with the caveat that participating countries maintain ample personal privacy protections. A recent decision by the European Union Court of Justice, however, has invalidated the agreement, citing inadequate privacy protections within the U.S.

U.S. Citizenship Should Not Be for Sale | Commentary

By Sen. Dianne Feinstein The EB-5 regional center program allows foreign nationals to purchase visas and eventually become U.S. citizens. The program will expire in December, and I believe Congress should allow it to end.  

At its most basic, the EB-5 program allows a foreigner to invest $500,000 in a U.S. business, in return receive a visa that puts them and their direct family on a special path toward citizenship.  

Asbestos Scare in Cannon Is a Reminder of Congress’ Failure to Act | Commentary

By Linda Reinstein On Oct.30, the Cannon House Office Building was evacuated for a potential asbestos leak and closed until further notice. The Architect of the Capitol confirmed that the potential release of asbestos occurred during construction as part of the Cannon Renewal Project. I can imagine the shock and fear of members of Congress, their staff, and AOC employees upon learning that this invisible killer had surrounded them in their workplace. Ironically, many of these same members of Congress have repeatedly opposed efforts to ban asbestos and ushered through legislation that would let the asbestos industry off the hook for the deaths and disease caused by this substance.  

Don’t be fooled; Oct. 30 was not the first time asbestos has plagued Congress. In July 2014, an asbestos incident occurred during asbestos abatement work temporarily closed the House side of the Capitol.  

How Tax Reform Affects Small Business | Commentary

By Dean Zerbe When it comes to tax reform, the skies are safe from pies. Forget about flat tax, fair tax, tax return-on-a-postcard, value-added tax, etc. With that said, what is possible is tax reform that could encourage jobs, growth and our nation’s economy. Unfortunately, while the air has been filled with conversation about tax reform for big business, too often lost in the discussion is tax reform for small businesses.  

The need for tax reform for small businesses is just as great as for the Fortune 500 and just as important. Small businesses — and especially new businesses — are the lead horse when it comes to pulling the economy forward, creating new jobs and fostering innovation. Yet far too often tax incentives leave small businesses on the outside looking in for three main reasons: 1) statutory; 2) complication; and 3) caps.  

It’s Time to Erase the Legacy of Jesse Helms in Women’s Health Care | Commentary

By Brian Dixon In recent comments  on “Meet the Press,” Ben Carson, who is one of the front-runners for the GOP presidential nomination, compared abortion to slavery and said he supported a ban on abortion in all circumstances, including rape, incest or the life of the woman. Sen. Jesse Helms would be proud.  

For more than 40 years, the North Carolina senator’s policy, known as the Helms Amendment, has withheld vital funds for health care at the expense of women’s lives. Recently, 28 Democratic senators took an important step to fix this dangerous policy by calling for funding for abortion care for women who have been raped, who are victims of incest, or whose lives would be threatened by carrying a pregnancy to term. (“Democrats Urge Obama to Address Needs of Rape Survivors in War Zones ” Roll Call, Oct. 26.)  

Wildfire Isn’t Just a Public Lands Issue | Commentary

By Tom Martin It was a challenging year for the West. Temperatures were higher than normal. The region experienced the fourth year of a drought. Record low snowpacks resulted in low reservoir storages levels from Oregon to Arizona. States such as California set water restrictions and asked residents to consume 25 percent less water.  

On top of this, the West experienced one of the worse wildfire seasons in history. More than 9.1 million acres burned due to wildfire, a level reached only four times on record. These forest fires only highlighted the importance of water for westerners.  

Access to Data Must Be Governed by Modern Law — Why Congress Must Act

By Karen S. Evans Antiquated and outdated are words I hear too often when someone describes the federal government’s approach to information technology — or the corresponding laws and policies governing its implementation. During my nearly 27 years of public service, it was clear that the government’s response to new technology was often delayed by the challenges of reconciling new technology with existing law. Many laws today, including the Electronic Communications and Privacy Act, are decades out of date and do not address the use of cloud computing and mobile devices. Without new legislation, such as the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act, the U.S. is at risk of falling behind in its approach to privacy, jeopardizing its position as a leader in the digital age.  

The opportunities and benefits afforded by these innovations are endless, but they will be minimized, even detrimental, without policy action in Congress to safeguard individual privacy. Moreover, the recent Safe Harbor announcement underscores the need for greater clarity to protect citizen privacy and the economy at large.  

Copyright Process Locks Up Cars, Cellphones and Medical Devices

By Sherwin Siy Just last week, if you had to get around a digital lock to fix the computer in your car, get your child’s glucose monitor to talk to your phone, or move your tablet to another wireless company, you could be accused of breaking the law. That was true even if you had every legal right to access that work in the first place. This is all due to a law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The law keeps people from bypassing locks to access the copyrighted software that runs their cars and tractors, their medical devices, and their phones, even if only to fix them, get better data from them, or use them with a new cell phone company, respectively.  

The law wasn’t meant to do this; it’s intended to make it harder for people to make illicit copies of movies, music, and apps, not keep people from using generic toner cartridges or diagnosing their buggy electronics. But increasingly, we can see it doing exactly that.  

Theodore Roosevelt’s Spirit Lives as U.S. Commemorates His 157th Birthday

By Mike Matz

In 1887, a New Yorker-turned-cowboy rode his horse through North Dakota’s Badlands on an autumn hunting trip. Instead of the vast herds of antelope, deer and elk he had encountered on previous journeys, 29-year-old Theodore Roosevelt this time confronted a landscape nearly devoid of wildlife and devastated by overuse. “What had been a teeming paradise, loud with snorts and splashing and drumming hooves, was now a waste of naked hills and silent ravines,” Edmund Morris wrote in his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.”

Songwriters’ Losing Out in the Music Streaming Gap | Commentary

By Clara Kim According to recent stats from Nielsen Music, digital download music sales are plummeting while streaming continues to boom. During the last week in August, digital downloads in the U.S. plummeted to 15.66 million – its lowest weekly volume since 2007 – whereas on-demand audio and video streams rose to 6.6 billion – its highest weekly volume ever.  

Streaming now represents a third of U.S. music revenue; up from just five percent five years ago. Compared to total CD sales, which were down 31.5 percent in the first half of 2015, streaming revenues were up by 23 percent, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). For the first time, U.S. sales from streaming surpassed $1 billion in the first six months of the year. The trend is abundantly clear – as streaming gains favor among consumers, revenues from album sales and digital downloads are drying up. This is an alarming problem for songwriters and composers – the people who are the creative engine powering the entire music industry – because streaming revenue does not come close to closing the gap in physical sales, and certainly does not reflect the scale of music use on these new platforms.  

Dwyane Wade’s Fight With His Medical Care Can Help Everybody Win | Commentary

By David Kendall and Jackie Stewart Usually the start of basketball season is full of optimism. But one superstar has regrets — not about a tough loss in the finals two seasons ago but, rather, about his medical care. And he is not alone.  

The face of the Miami Heat franchise, Dwyane Wade, says surgery to remove the meniscus from his knee 11 years ago led to the ongoing knee problems he’s had. He thinks that if a longer-term approach was used, he may not have as many issues today. Sure it got him back on the court faster, but at the cost of multiple painful and expensive follow-up procedures and treatments.  

Corporate Welfare Rises from the Ashes | Commentary

By Christine Harbin There’s a reason only 14 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing.  

On the Friday before October recess, Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., bucked his own party and joined 176 House Democrats to further expand corporate welfare in Washington, D.C. Using an esoteric parliamentary tactic called a discharge petition — which was last successfully used 13 years ago — this new majority forced legislation reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank to come directly to the House floor for a vote.  

It’s Time for Better House Rules | Commentary

By Andrew Douglas and Rob Richie The Freedom Caucus has made rule changes a central issue as House Republicans effort to select a new speaker. Their proposals would give greater power to rank-and-file Republicans, but they run counter to the intent of our nation’s founders and would likely aggravate the chamber’s dysfunction. However, rules that empower all legislators would have the opposite effect, and act as a catalyst for cooperation across party lines.  

The caucus is calling for more power for Republican members in selecting committee chairmen and prioritizing legislation, and for codifying the “Hastert Rule” to block bills that aren’t backed by a majority within the party. While empowering individual legislators is a noble goal, as each represents a constituency that deserves access to power, the unequal partisan impact of the proposed rules conflicts with the advice of Madison and Washington, who warned against the dangers of excessive partisanship and majority factions.  

Proposed Regulations Could Hurt Students and Put Strain on Colleges | Commentary

By Linda S. Williams The U.S. Department of Education recently released a proposed rule that turns back the clock on the disbursement of federal financial aid refunds to students to a time when the process was slow, costly, vulnerable to fraud and burdensome. Schools, students and financial aid administrators across the country have urged the department to fix the rule. Congress should do the same.  

In 2007, the department encouraged schools to reduce fraud and increase efficiency in the disbursement process. Since then, hundreds of schools, including mine, have partnered with third-party servicers to administer the disbursement of financial aid refunds. Schools have reduced administrative costs and provided students with options on how they receive their refunds, such as direct deposit into an existing bank account or opening new low-cost banking options regardless of a student’s past financial history.  

Rigorous Science Must Decide Dietary Guidelines to Combat Health Epidemic | Commentary

By Cheryl Achterberg It’s been 35 years since the government launched its Dietary Guidelines for Americans, yet the nation continues to suffer from ever-rising rates of obesity and diabetes.  

“We are on the wrong trajectory,” testified Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell this month before a House panel examining the dietary guidelines.  

Health Disparities and Psoriasis: What it Means for Patients, Cost and Care | Commentary

By Randy Beranek Overwhelming evidence shows that racial and ethnic minorities are prone to poorer quality health care than white Americans. As the nation’s population continues to grow and diversify, the health care system will have to change and adjust to meet the needs of an increasingly multicultural patient base. In cases of chronic disease such as psoriasis, the difficulties of treating a condition that needs ongoing and sometimes intensive therapy are compounded by hurdles such as a lack of access to care and limited resources to cover high drug costs.  

Psoriasis is less likely among people with skin of color, but that doesn’t mean a life-threatening autoimmune disease isn’t less effective among African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and Asians/Pacific Islanders. Congress can help improve care for this patient population. On Thursday, the National Psoriasis Foundation is holding a special Congressional briefing on psoriasis and skin of color. The briefing will highlight the unique challenges facing people of color with psoriasis, as well as the unmet needs of the entire psoriatic disease community.  

Wrong Turn on Path to a Sound Energy, Tax Policy | Commentary

By Pete Sepp It’s rare in Washington for Democrats and Republicans to come together on any issue, much less energy or tax policy. Leaders in both parties say they want an “all of the above” energy strategy and a tax code that’s fairer and simpler. So does the American public. This type of broad agreement on the basics could present an opportunity for progress on legislation that gets down to specifics.  

Unfortunately, this opportunity is fragile. At a moment when more public officials are embracing the idea we need to generate more domestic energy at lower prices — as well as retool our tax system to be more competitive worldwide — some on Capitol Hill just cannot give up on outdated thinking that would move us in the opposite direction.