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Next on the Congressional Agenda

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Congress will be considering three very important items on their legislative agenda over the next two months:

  • Presidential fast track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. The vote is this week.
  • TPP actually has Senate Republicans are aligned President Obama, while most Democrats oppose fast track (though not necessarily the deal). This fact alone ought to make tou suspicious.  What has people really worried is that the negotiations have been conducted entirely in secret and if fast track authority were granted, the Congress would have to vote up-or-down on the deal with limited debate, no amendments and no public scrutiny.
  • Here at Common Sense, I am a supporter of free trade, but I am an even firmer supporter of open covenents, openly arrived at. Unless the text of the agreement is released to the public with sufficient time for us to scrutinize it and make our opinions known to our representatives, I strongly oppose granting fast track authority to this or any other President. Please write your representatives to express your opinion.
  • The mandate of the Highway Trust Fund will expire in May. Without it, our already parlous infrastructure will degrade even more. This will have a tremendous economic and human cost as US competitiveness falls and  road safety becomes more precarious.
  • Senate Democrats would like a long term plan to adequately finance the Fund; Senate Republicans, on the whole, prefer a short term patch that let’s them renew it year-to-year.
  • Year-to-year may be how you plan your vacations, but it is no way to develop and maintain the nation’s infrastructure. These are long-term projects; lack of funding will only introduce uncertainty to business investment decisions and discourage private initiative.
  • Common Sense strongly urges you to express your support for a long-term mandate extension to the Highway Trust fund. Our nation’s roads and bridges deserve it; God knows they also need it. Please write your representatives to express your opinion.
  • Last, but by no means least, the PATRIOT Act will expire in June. Congress must decide whether to extend, reform or expire the legislation. The last option isn’t really within the realm of possibility.
  • Senate Republicans are happy to McConnell extend authorization, “as is”, including the controversial Section 215, which authorizes the bulk collection of metadata (PRISM and some other programs). Senate Democrats want to end it.
  • This is a highly nuanced debate, unfortunately, something our country hasn’t been good at since the 1980’s. There is no doubt that the NSA and FBI have stopped many nascent terrorist plots and identified many potential jihadists before they became a threat through the auspices of these programs. It is also undeniable that these programs represent a threat to our civil liberties and that abuse has occurred and inevitably will occur in the future.
  • At Common Sense, I don’t believe that the program should be reaithorized “as is”; but I don’t believe it should be entirely ended either. What is needed is: more transparency in the procedures and safeguards in the data collection process; greater participation of the regular judicial system rather than the secretive Star Courts that currently issue the blanket surveillance warrants; a legal requirement to delete collected data after a reasonable period of time (180 days perhaps) unless there is an open investigation. 
  • Please write your representatives to express your opinion. I urge you to request an extensive review of the PATRIOT Act and its revision along the above mentioned parameters.

Thanks for your continued interest! Together we’ll undertake the mighty work of reforming and rebuilding our glorious Republic.

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