The Transportation Department has decided to investigate alleged price gouging by 5 airlines after an Amtrak derailment in May, the second time recently that the Transportation Department has looked into the industry’s competitive practices.
The investigation is looking at the five biggest U.S. airlines: American Airlines Group Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co. and JetBlueAirways Corp. The time period involved is immediately following the derailment in a Philadelphia suburb on May 12, which killed 8 persons and disrupted train service for several days along the bustling Northeast corridor. The Transportation Department will be looking into the prices on airfares in the Northeast corridor.
Secretary Anthony Foxx of the Transportation Department is quoted as saying they have authority to look into unfair trade practices by airlines, and to put a stop to any illegal price gouging.
Senators reintroduce Penny Plan to reflect new fiscal challenges
Washington, D.C. – America is on a collision course with the consequences of its addiction to spending money it doesn’t have. Without decisive action and a plan to rein in endless government spending, our country will face a true fiscal crisis in the coming years. When the federal government can no longer pay its bills, the country will experience a situation similar to cash-strapped countries, where emergency cuts to government spending were necessary to avert an economic collapse. America can have a different future but it means making the tough decisions now.
That’s why a group of fiscally-disciplined U.S. Senators reintroduced legislation today that would put the federal government on a small diet that would yield big results for the country’s fiscal health. The updated legislation takes into account the additional fiscal challenges caused by new spending and revenue estimates and the Murray-Ryan budget deal.
U.S. Senators Mike Enzi, John Barrasso, both R-Wyo., Rand Paul, R-Ky., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, David Vitter, R-La., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in just three years they could end the nation’s reliance on deficit spending by using their “Penny Plan” or the One Percent Spending Reduction Act of 2014.
The Penny Plan is simple. It would cut 1 percent from total federal spending for three years. That would balance the budget. The plan doesn’t mandate any specific cuts. Congress could make targeted reductions and focus on the worst first, but would be required to meet the 1 percent overall cut.
Everyone should be able to live with 1 percent less in order to help bring this country back from the brink of catastrophic fiscal failure, the senators said.
Once a balanced budget is achieved, the bill would place a cap on total spending each year. The new level of spending would be roughly 18 percent of America’s total economic output. Over a 10-year budget window, the bill would cut spending by about $7.6 trillion from currently projected levels.
RI Senator Recently Spent Two Days in Florida to See Effects of Climate Change and Gave a Joint Speech with Sen. Nelson
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Washington, DC – On the heels of a joint speech with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) about the effects of climate change in Florida, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is directly responding to Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) recent comments denying the reality of climate change. In an interview and during a speaking event this week, Rubio said he did not believe human activity was causing climate change. He also went on to say that we should not do anything to address climate change because no new laws “will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy,” and because “half of the new emissions on the planet are coming from developing countries, and half of that is coming from one country, China, that isn’t going to follow whatever laws we pass.”
In a letter sent to Rubio today, Whitehouse highlights the effects of climate change in Florida that he saw and heard about during his recent climate road trip, and invites Rubio to discuss the issue further on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
“The reality of our changing climate is beyond debate in Florida, just as it is in Rhode Island,” Whitehouse responded. “Simple measurements and basic human observations tell us that seas are rising and warming, and that coastal communities are paying a price…”
“With all I heard in Florida, I was surprised to hear your recent comments… To deny the cause of climate change and assert that we shouldn’t try to do anything about it is to condemn our children and grandchildren to a much different world than the one you and I have come to love. Furthermore, our economy is already being harmed by climate change… And to say that we should wait for China to take action before we address this problem stands at odds with your own articulately stated position on foreign policy.”
Whitehouse concludes, “I hope you will reconsider your views about climate change, and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter with you further. I speak about climate change on the Senate floor every week, whenever the Senate is in session, and would love for you to join me to present your own perspective. I hope you’ll consider doing so. Climate change is an issue of critical importance for both Rhode Island and Florida, and I hope we can find a way to work together to address it.”
(Editor’s note: What’s your opinion on the cause(s) of climate change? Your comments will posted here, in full, within a day of receiving them.)
Rubio Calls on Administration to clarify its position that U.S. is not walking away from commitments to Taiwan
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the Ranking Member of the Senate’s Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, called on the Obama Administration to recommit itself to the “Six Assurances” as the centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy with respect to Taiwan.
During a subcommittee hearing on Taiwan this week, Daniel Russel, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, refused to confirm that the “Six Assurances” remain the guiding principles of U.S. policy toward Taiwan, as they have been since the early 1980s.
“I am troubled that Assistant Secretary Russel was not willing to clearly reaffirm President Reagan’s ‘Six Assurances’ regarding U.S. commitments to Taiwan,” said Rubio. “For decades, every administration, Democrat and Republican, including this one, has reaffirmed these commitments. I am concerned that today’s failure to once again make our commitment to Taiwan’s security clear sends a dangerous message to China.
“I intend to seek clarification about this issue directly from Secretary Kerry,” Rubio added.
The week, Senator Marco Rubio delivered a Senate floor speech regarding the ongoing human rights crisis plaguing Venezuela as a result of President Nicolás Maduro’s repressive regime, calling on Congress to move on bipartisan legislation that would impose targeted sanctions and provide support to Venezuela’s besieged democratic movement.
Rubio: “I hope we can get passage of [the legislation] here on the floor so we can send a clear signal to the people of Venezuela: The people of the United States of America are on your side, we support your cause, we will not forget what you are going through, we will not abandon your aspirations. We stand for the liberty and the freedom of all people, including those who do not live here with us.”
On Wednesday, Marco introduced the Alternative Qualifications for Federal Employment Act, a bill that will encourage federal agencies to hire individuals who have obtained education and training from alternative providers rather than a traditional college or university. This pilot program would apply to certain pre-determined agency positions and would take place over a five-year period. The results of the study would be tracked and reported back to Congress to form the basis for future policy.
Marco first outlined this idea during a February 10 speech at Miami-Dade College, as part of his agenda to restore the American Dream.
In introducing this legislation, he issued the following statement:
“Today there are an infinite number of ways for people to learn and master trades, including many low-cost online opportunities. Unfortunately, our current higher education model is based on a broken accreditation system that favors established institutions while blocking out the new providers that are more affordable and accessible to many Americans.
“Combined with stringent hiring requirements in many professions, this has created a barrier to entry into the workforce for those who received their education from an unaccredited, alternative provider. By creating a federal pilot program to test the employment of these individuals, I believe we will find that the source of an employee’s education is far less important than some previously thought.
“Those who have the skills and aptitude to be successful in a job deserve the opportunity to be considered for employment, even if they learned the trade from a non-traditional source. This pilot program will likely make that possible by creating private sector confidence in the hiring of these individuals.”
Rubio: “I get thousands of retweets from students and young people, until they shut them out, in Venezuela who are encouraged by the fact that we are on their side. What they want is what we have, the freedom and the liberty. That’s what all people want. And if America and its policy-makers are not going to be firmly on the side of freedom and liberty, who in the world is?”
A few moments ago, the body was treated to a report from the senator from Iowa about his recent trip to Cuba. Sounded like he had a wonderful trip visiting, what he described as, a real paradise. He bragged about a number of things that he learned on his trip to Cuba that I’d like to address briefly. He bragged about their health care system, medical school is free, doctors are free, clinics are free, their infant mortality rate may be even lower than ours. I wonder if the senator, however, was informed, number one, that the infant mortality rate of Cuba is completely calculated on figures provided by the Cuban government. And, by the way, totalitarian communist regimes don’t have the best history of accurately reporting things. I wonder if he was informed that before Castro, Cuba, by the way, was 13th in the whole world in infant mortality. I wonder if the government officials who hosted him, informed him that in Cuba there are instances reported, including by defectors, that if a child only lives a few hours after birth, they’re not counted as a person who ever lived and therefore don’t count against the mortality rate.
I wonder if our visitors to Cuba were informed that in Cuba, any time there is any sort of problem with the child in utero they are strongly encouraged to undergo abortions, and that’s why they have an abortion rate that skyrockets, and some say, is perhaps the highest the world. I heard him also talk about these great doctors that they have in Cuba. I have no doubt they’re very talented. I’ve met a bunch of them. You know where I met them? In the United States because they defected. Because in Cuba, doctors would rather drive a taxi cab or work in a hotel than be a doctor. I wonder if they spoke to him about the outbreak of cholera that they’ve been unable to control, or about the three-tiered system of health care that exists where foreigners and government officials get health care much better than that that’s available to the general population.
I also heard him speak about baseball and I know that Cubans love baseball, since my parents were from there and I grew up in a community surrounded by it. He talked about these great baseball players that are coming from Cuba — and they are. But I wonder if they informed him — in fact, I bet you they didn’t talk about those players to him because every single one of those guys playing in the Major Leagues defected. They left Cuba to play here.
He also talked about how people would come up to him in the streets and not a single person said anything negative about America. Nobody came up to him wagging their fingers saying, ‘You Americans and your embargo is hurting us.’ I’m glad to hear that. Because everyone who wants to lift the embargo is constantly telling us that the Castros use that to turn the people against us. So obviously, that’s not true. So I’m glad to hear confirmation of what I already knew to be true. I heard about their wonderful literacy rate, how everyone in Cuba knows how to read. That’s fantastic. Here’s the problem: they can only read censored stuff. They’re not allowed access to the Internet. The only newspapers they’re allowed to read are Granma or the ones produced by the government.
I wish that someone on that trip would have asked the average Cuban, ‘With your wonderful literacy skills, are you allowed to read The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or any blog, for that matter?’ Because the answer’s, ‘No.’ So it’s great to have literacy, but if you don’t have access to the information, what’s the point of it? So I wish somebody would have asked about that on that trip. We heard about Mr. Gross, who is not in jail. He’s not a prisoner. He is a hostage. He is a hostage. And in the speech I heard a moment ago, I heard allusions to the idea that maybe we should — he didn’t say it, but I know the language, I know the code in this — that maybe there should be a spy swap. Here’s the problem: Mr. Gross was not a spy. You know what his crime was, if that’s what you can call it? He went to Cuba to hand out satellite radios to the Jewish community. But, we’re glad to hear that the Cubans are so nice to him that they let him walk 10,000 steps a day and do pull-ups and they let him build a necklace out of bottle cap tops. Very nice of them to allow him to do those things. How generous.
I wonder if anybody asked about terrorism, because Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism. I wonder if anybody asked about the fact that, just a few months ago, a North Korean ship going from Cuba to North Korea was stopped in the Panama Canal and it contained items in violation of international sanctions against a government in North Korea that, a report just came out confirming what we already knew, has death camps and prison camps. And the Cubans are allowing them to evade these sanctions. Did that come up in any of the wonderful conversations in this socialist paradise in the Caribbean? I bet you it didn’t.
Let me tell you what the Cubans are really good at, because they don’t know how to run their economy, they don’t know how to build, they don’t know how to govern a people. What they are really good at is repression. What they are really good at is shutting off information to the Internet and to radio and television and social media. That’s what they’re really good at. And they’re not just good at it domestically, they’re good exporters of these things. And you want to see exhibit A, B, C and D? I’m going to show them to you right now. They have exported repression in real-time, in our hemisphere, right now.
Let me show you the first slide here. This gentleman here is the former mayor of a municipality in Caracas. His name is Leopoldo Lopez. And this is the National Guard of Venezuela pulling him into an armored truck last week. You know why? Because he’s protesting against the government. He’s protesting against the government of Venezuela, which are puppets of Havana, completely infiltrated by Cubans and agents from Havana. Not agents, openly, foreign military affairs officials involved in Venezuela. You know why? Because the Venezuela government is giving them cheap oil and free oil, in exchange for help during these sorts of repressions. So here he is, he’s sitting in jail right now because he’s protesting against the government. He’s sitting in jail right now.
So here’s the next slide. This is Genesis Carmona. She’s a beauty queen and a student in a city called Valencia. She’s on that motorcycle because the government in Venezuela and the thug, these so-called civilian groups that they’ve armed — another export from Cuba, a model the Cubans follow — they shot her in the head. She died last week. This is the government that the Cubans support. Not just verbally, not just emotionally, but with training and tactics. This is who they export — this is what they do. And she’s dead. And this is her being taken on a motorcycle to the hospital where they were unable to save her life because she was shot in the head by Venezuelan security forces.
Here’s another slide. Remember I showed you Mr. Lopez? These are his supporters being hit with water cannons — by water cannons in the street because they’re protesting against the government. This has been going on now for two weeks. This is the allies of Cuba, Venezuela, the puppets of Cuba. And this is what they do to their own people. Water cannons knocking people to the ground. Why? Because they’re protesting the government.
Let me show you the next slide. Here’s a demonstrator detained by police. Look how they drag him through the streets. This is in Caracas, Venezuela.
Let me show you another demonstrator. This is a student — by the way, these are all students in the street. You see this young man here? He was also shot in the head by security forces and pro-government groups in Caracas. This happened on February 11. This is what they do in Venezuela. This is what the allies of the Castro regime does, this is what they export. This is what they teach. This is what they support. And it doesn’t stop here.
Who are Cuba’s allies in the world? North Korea. Before he fell, the dictator in Libya, the dictator in Syria, the tyrant in Moscow. This is who they line up with. This is this wonderful paradise? By the way, this in and of itself deserves attention, what’s happening in Venezuela, in our own hemisphere. It is shameful that only three heads of state in this hemisphere have spoken out forcefully against what’s happening. It is shameful that many members of Congress who traveled to Venezuela and were friendly with Chavez, some even went to his funeral, sit by saying nothing while this is happening in our own hemisphere. And this wonderful Cuban paradise government that we heard about? This is what they support. Just this morning, the dictator that calls himself a president — never been elected to anything, Raul Castro — announced he is there for whatever they need to help them do this.
I listen to this stuff about Cuba and I listen to what’s happening in Venezuela, they’re very similar. Not just in the repression part, but the economics part. You know Venezuela’s an oil-rich country with hardworking people? They have a shortage — we don’t have an embargo against Venezuela. They have a shortage of toilet paper and tooth paste. Why? Because they are incompetent. Because communism doesn’t work. They look more and more like Cuba economically and politically every single day.
What’s the first thing the Venezuelan government did when these broke out? They cut off access to Twitter and Facebook and the Internet. They ran CNN out of there. They closed down the only Colombian station. Years before, they had closed down all the independent media outlets that criticized the government. Where did they learn that from? From Cuba. And yet we have to listen to what a paradise Cuba is. Well, I wonder how come I never read about boatloads of American refugees going to Cuba? Why have close to one and a half million people left Cuba to come here? But the only people that leave here to move there, are fugitives from the law and people that steal money from Medicare that go there to hide? Why? How come no American baseball players defect to Cuba? Why don’t any American doctors defect to Cuba if it’s such a paradise?
He cited a poll, ‘More Americans want normal relations with Cuba.’ So do I — a democratic and free Cuba. But you want us to reach out and develop friendly relationships with a serial violator of human rights, who supports what’s going on in Venezuela and every other atrocity on the planet? On issue after issue, they are always on the side of the tyrants. Look it up. And this is who we should be opening up to? Why don’t they change? Why doesn’t the Cuban government change? Why doesn’t the Venezuelan government change?
Throughout this week, I will be outlining proposals and ideas about what we need to do, the sanctions we should be pursuing against the individuals responsible for these atrocities. So with North Korea, we have sanctions. Why? Because they’re a terrorist government and an illegitimate one. Against Iran we have sanctions. Why? Because they support terrorism and they’re an illegitimate government. And against the Cubans we have sanctions. Why? Well, you just saw why. Sanctions are a tool in our foreign policy toolbox, and we, as the freest nation on Earth, are looked to by people in this country, and all around the world, to stand by them in their moment of need when they clamor for freedom and liberty and human rights. They look for America to be on their side, not for America to be cutting geopolitical deals or making it easier to sell tractors to the government there. We should be clear about these things.
But here’s the great news. I don’t know if they get C-SPAN in Cuba. I bet you the government people do. I hope you see that in America, we’re a free society. You’re allowed to come on the floor and you’re allowed to say and spread whatever you want. You think Cuba’s a paradise? You think it’s an example and a model that we should be following? You’re free to say that, here, in the press and anywhere you want. But we’re also free to come here and tell the truth. We’re also free to come here and denounce the violations of human rights and brutality. And I would suggest to my colleagues, the next time they go to Cuba, ask to meet with the Ladies in White. Ask to meet with the Yoani Sanchez. Ask to meet with the dissidents and the human rights activists that are jailed and repressed and exiled. Ask to meet with them. I bet you’re going to hear something very different than what you got from your hosts on your last trip to the wonderful Cuba, this extraordinary socialist paradise. Because it’s a joke. It’s a farce.
And I don’t think we should stand by here with our arms crossed, watching these things happen in our hemisphere and say nothing about them. I can close by saying this: Over the last week, I have tweeted about these issues. I get thousands of retweets from students and young people, until they shut them out, in Venezuela who are encouraged by the fact that we are on their side. What they want is what we have, the freedom and the liberty. That’s what all people want. And if America and its policy-makers are not going to be firmly on the side of freedom and liberty, who in the world is? Who on this planet will? If this nation is not firmly on the side of human rights and freedom and the dignity of all people, what nation on the Earth will? And if we’re prepared to walk away from that, then I submit to you that this century is going to be a dangerous and dark one. But I don’t believe that’s what the American people want from us. Nor the majority of my colleagues.