Congressional Dish

An independent podcast examining what the U.S. Congress is doing with our money and in our names. Follow @JenBriney on Twitter

Website :

IPFS Feed :  

Last Episode : November 20, 2023 12:50pm

Last Scanned : 4.1 hours ago


Episodes currently hosted on IPFS.

CD285: The Indicteds: Rep. George Santos and Sen. Robert Menendez
Two members of Congress, one from each side of the aisle and each branch of Congress, are currently under criminal indictment, yet are steadfastly clinging to their roles as lawmakers. In this episode, we’ve got the dirt straight from the criminal indictments of Rep. George Santos of New York and Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey. Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links Contribute monthly or a lump sum via Support Congressional Dish via (donations per episode) Send Zelle payments to: [email protected] Send Venmo payments to: @Jennifer-Briney Send Cash App payments to: $CongressionalDish or [email protected] Use your bank’s online bill pay function to mail contributions to: Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish Thank you for supporting truly independent media! Background Sources Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes Sen. Bob Menendez The Indictment Egypt Aysha Bagchi and Josh Meyer. November 13, 2023. USA Today. Mark Mazzetti and Vivian Yee. October 14, 2023. The New York Times. Larry Neumeister. October 12, 2023. AP. Nicole Hong et al. October 1, 2023. The New York Times. Jeremy M. Sharp. May 2, 2023. Congressional Research Service. Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam October 24, 2020. BBC News. September 2, 2020. The New York Times. Marriage Nina Burleigh. October 31, 2023. Intelligencer. Previous Indictment Nick Corasaniti and Nate Schweber. November 16, 2017. The New York Times. April 1, 2015. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. Initial Appointment to Senate Marek Fuchs. December 9, 2005. The New York Times. Rep. George Santos The Indictment House Ethics Committee Investigation November 16, 2023. House Ethics Committee. November 9, 2023. House Ethics Committee, Investigative Subcommittee. Brazil Fraud Case Andrew DePietro. October 21, 2022. Forbes. Expulsion Attempts Kevin Freking. November 17, 2023. PBS NewsHour. Kevin Freking and Stephen Groves. November 2, 2023. AP. Wealthiest Districts Andrew DePietro. October 21, 2022. Forbes. IRS Doesn’t Fight Dark Money Maya Miller. April 18, 2019. ProPublica. Bills Audio Sources October 28, 2023 Chat Box with David Cruz Clips 3:25 Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): You know, I have drawn from my personal credit union savings account, for the better part of 30 years, $400 every week in cash. And while that may seem old fashioned, some people may think of it as crazy, the reality is that the government has those records. They have the accounts that show that and they chose not to use it. So, you know, this is why I look forward to being in a position to actually speak to these issues, so that New Jerseyans will have a different set of facts than the ones they have right now. 5:20 Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): I was not barred from going into an intelligence briefing. I still have all of my intelligence credentials. 7:20 Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): I have not missed a beat. I've been here for votes and for hearings, and for pursuing the issues that are important to the people in New Jersey. 11:35 Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): I still serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which gives me a perch on all of these global issues, and I am pursuing them in the same way as I did before. The difference is that I am not leading the [Senate Foreign Relations] Committee, but I am very much active in the Committee pursuing the things that I care about for New Jersey. 15:25 David Cruz: So the considerations that Egypt received, including getting a green light from your committee, the quid pro quo as it were, was Egypt behaving better in exchange for arms sales and other considerations? Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): Each consideration depended upon the nature of the sale, whether it was for example, defensive equipment, whether it was equipment for the Sinai, where they are playing a vital role for security with Israel, which everybody -- Democrats and Republicans -- have called for. So these followed the traditional uses of both foreign aid and arms sales in a way to ensure that the US national security interests was pursued and that's simply the case. 16:15 David Cruz: And in the case of one of your co-defendants receiving a contract to certify halal — Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): I can't answer for my co-defendant, you'll have to ask him. David Cruz: Well, the question is, was it your relations with Egyptian officials that helped ease the way for him to get that contract? Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): David, there's a lot of suggestions. As a matter of fact, as I read the indictment, there's a lot of inferences, but not a lot of facts at the end of the day. Those inferences try to play and create a storyline. That is the most negative pejorative storyline you can create. But when those get challenged by the facts, as we will, in the legal proceedings that both motions and trials will allow us to do, then we will see a totally different story. May 27, 2021 Senate Foreign Relations Committee Witnesses: Robert F. Godec, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of African Affairs Sarah Charles, Assistant to the Administrator, Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, United States Agency for International Development Clips Sen. Bob Menenedez (D-NJ): Then, finally, I will make a comment. It is not a question. I have spoken to the Egyptians on more than one occasion on this issue at their behest. I have a real sense that if the GERD issue is not dealt with in a way that assures them of their concerns about the Nile flowing into what would be the heart of their water supply in Egypt that they will do what is necessary. I do not like red lines, but they have suggested that they have red lines and I take them at their word that they have red lines. Not that they are desirous of doing that. They also have a very strong expression that they hope to have a resolution peacefully, but that they have their own red lines. I hope that we are engaging in that very robustly because the last thing we need, in addition to everything that is going on in Ethiopia, in addition to the possibility of a famine, to the sexual violence that is taking place, is to then have a military conflict over the GERD. So I just seriously hope we are fully engaged and understand where the parties are and how serious some of them are of purpose. Executive Producer Recommended Sources Music by Editing Production Assistance
Published 11/20
CD284: Thieving Russia
While the world is distracted, members of Congress are writing bills designed to steal Russia’s money and give it to Ukraine. In this episode, listen to the pitch being made to Congress as we examine if this is a good idea. Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links Contribute monthly or a lump sum via Support Congressional Dish via (donations per episode) Send Zelle payments to: [email protected] Send Venmo payments to: @Jennifer-Briney Send Cash App payments to: $CongressionalDish or [email protected] Use your bank’s online bill pay function to mail contributions to: Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish Thank you for supporting truly independent media! Background Sources Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes Taking the Russian money: is it legal? Lee C. Buchheit and Paul Stephan. October 20, 2023. Lawfare. Chelsey Dulaney and Andrew Duehren. October 11, 2023. The Wall Street Journal. Lawrence H. Summers, Philip Zelikow, and Robert B. Zoellick. June 15, 2023. Foreign Affairs. Paul Stephan. April 26, 2022. Lawfare. Laurence H. Tribe and Jeremy Lewin. April 15, 2022. The New York Times. April 15, 2021. President Joe Biden. White House Briefing Room. What we’re being told about Ukraine Secretary of State Anthony Blinken [@SecBlinken]. November 3, 2023. Twitter. Visual Journalism Team. September 29, 2023. BBC News. June 2023. Reuters. Israel-Hamas War Jaclyn Diaz and Aya Batrawy. November 7, 2023. NPR. Sharon Zhang. November 2, 2023. Bills Audio Sources October 31, 2023 Senate Appropriations Committee Witnesses: Antony Blinken, Secretary, U.S. Department of State Lloyd Austin, Secretary, U.S. Department of Defense Clips 1:05:05 Secretary of State Antony Blinken: If you look at total assistance to Ukraine going back to February of 2022, the United States has provided about $75 billion our allies and partners $90 billion. If you look at budget support, the United States has provided about $22 billion during that period, allies and partners $49 billion during that period; military support, we provided about $43 billion allies and partners $33 billion; humanitarian assistance, the United States $2.3 billion allies and partners 4.5 billion, plus another $18 to $20 billion in caring for the many refugees who went to Europe and outside of Ukraine. October 19, 2023 Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (The Helsinki Commission) Witnesses: Eliav Benjamin, Deputy Head of Mission, The Embassy of Israel to the United States Jamil N. Jaffer, Founder and Executive Director, National Security Institute at George Mason University Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, Senior Vice President, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies Dr. Dan Twining, President, International Republican Institute Oksana Markarova, Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States of America Clips 19:25 Eliav Benjamin: Understanding in the most unequivocal manner and in the clearest way that these are evil people. If we can even call them people. This is Israel's 9/11, only if you take the proportion of the size of Israel, this is 9/11 times 10, at least. 20:45 Eliav Benjamin: Because these terrorist organizations are not only against Israelis or against Jews, and not only in Israel, they are against mankind and anything which calls for decency, any entity and anybody who calls for protecting human rights and protecting individuals and protecting civilians. 21:25 Eliav Benjamin: Hamas have no value for human life, while Israel is doing its utmost to protect human life, including Palestinians in Gaza by even calling for them to go down south so that they won't be affected by the war. Hamas is doing everything in its power to harm civilians, to harm its own civilians. And everything that Hamas is committing -- and committed -- is no less than war crimes. And if you want crimes against humanity, and this is while Israel is working within the international human rights law, and within the military law. 28:15 Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN): Ambassador we have attempted to get some monies to from Putin and from the Soviet Un -- the oligarchs, to help rebuild Ukraine. Do you have any new information about that, or concerns? Oksana Markarova: Thank you for this question. First of all, I think it's very just that all this horrible destruction, which only for the first year of the war the World Bank estimated at $411 billion -- just the physical destruction -- has to be compensated and paid for by the Russians. So with regard to the Russian oligarchs and everyone who finances this war, supports this war, thanks to Congress we already have the possibility to confiscate it through the courts and DOJ has already moved forward with one confiscation of malfeasance money -- $5.4 million, and others. It is going to take time. But I think the major question right now to discuss with all the G7 is the Russian sovereign assets. We know that there are at least in the vicinity of 300-400 billion, or maybe even more, frozen by G7 countries. Not only that, but we recently discovered there are about $200 billion that are frozen in the Euroclear system in Belgium. So I'm very glad that there are more renewed talks right now between the G7 Ministers of Finance on how to confiscate and how to better use this money even now. I think we have to join forces there because again, we're very grateful for the American support, we are very much counting on this additional supplementary budget, but at the end of the day, it's not the American, or Ukrainian, or European taxpayers who have to pay for this, it is the Russians who have to pay for their damages. We look forward to working with Congress and we're working very actively with the administration, the State Department and Treasury, on how to better do it. As the former Minister of Finance, I not only believe -- I know -- that it can be done and I know this is a very specific case, that will not jeopardize the untouchability of the Sovereign Money, which is normal in the normal circumstances. This is a very specific case of a country that has been condemned by 154 countries in the UN for the illegal aggression. We have in all three major cases, the cases against Russia on both aggression and genocide and everything else. And it's only natural and just to use the sovereign assets as well as the private assets of Putin's oligarchs to compensate and to pay this. 32:50 Eliav Benjamin: Look at the charter of Hamas, which calls for destruction, annihilation of Jews, of Israel and yes, wants to control everything from the Mediterranean Sea until the Jordan River. 33:00 Eliav Benjamin: That is their aspiration, that is what they want to do, with zero care about civilians, including their own whom they take us human shields. As we're speak now, they're firing rockets from underneath hospitals, from underneath schools, from underneath mosques, from within residential areas, putting their own people at risk and sending them to die as well. This is not what Israel is about, but this is what Hamas is about and has been about. And now once and for all, unfortunately, really unfortunately, it took such a horrific war that they launched on Israel for the whole world to realize what Hamas is really about and what we've been saying for so many years that Hamas stands for. But it's not only Hamas: it's Hamas, it's the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, it's Hezbollah, it's all of these terrorist organizations who have zero care about human beings. This is who we should go after, and make sure they don't do any more harm. 39:10 Jamil Jaffer: It was the single deadliest day in Israel's history, single deadliest day for the worldwide Jewish community since the Holocaust. The equivalent of over a dozen 9/11 attacks on a population adjusted basis. Let me say it again. On the day of the 9/11 attacks, we had about 280 million Americans and we lost approximately 3000 Americans that day. Israel has lost 1400 have their own in a population of approximately 9 million -- over a dozen 9/11 attacks. 41:15 Jamil Jaffer: There's a key connection between these two fights. We know that Iran today supplies all manner of drones to Russia in its fight in Ukraine. We know that Iran has troops on the ground in Ukraine, training Russians on the use of those drones. We know that Iran is considering providing short range ballistic missiles to Russia, in that conflict. Russia, for its part, has provided Iran with its primary source of Conventional Munitions and nuclear technology for the vast majority of the time. Now, the key connection between these organizations is important to note. It's not just Russia and Iran; it's China and North Korea as well. These are all globally repressive nation states. They repress their own people, they hold them back, they give them no opportunity, and then they seek to export that repression to other parts of the globe, first in their immediate neighborhood, and then more broadly across the world. These nations are increasingly working together. We see China and Russia's no-limits partnership. We see President Xi saying to President Putin, in an off hand conversation that the world heard, that there are changes that haven't been seen in 100 years, and Russia and China are leading those changes. We know that for decades, Iran and North Korea have cooperated on ballistic missile and nuclear technology. We know that today in the fight in Gaza, Hamas is using North Korean rocket propelled grenades. So the reality is these globally repressive nation states have long been working together. And it is incumbent upon the United States to stand with our friends in Ukraine and our allies in Israel in this fight against global repression. 41:35 Dr. Dan Twining: It's vital not to mistake Hamas's control of Gaza with legitimacy. There have been no elections in Gaza since 2006. Hamas will not hold them because it thinks it will lose. Polling from September, a month ago, shows that only a quarter of Palestinians support Hamas leading the Palestinian people. Before the conflict, 77% of Palestinians told pollsters they wanted elections as soon as possible. A super majority tells pollsters that Hamas is corrupt. It is a terrorist organization, not a governing authority that seeks better lives for Palestinians. Residents of Gaza suffer poverty, isolation, and violence at its hands. 43:25 Dr. Jonathan Schanzer: Israel has just suffered in Iran-sponsored massacre, Ukraine is struggling to repel Russian forces, and Taiwan watches with grave concern as China threatens to invade. America must view these three embattled democracies as important assets. And it must view these three adversaries as a threat to the US-led world order. As we speak, there is a very real possibility of a regional war erupting in the Middle East. The Islamic Republic of Iran has armed and funded Hamas and Hezbollah along with other factions in the region. Recent reports point to the existence of an Iranian-led nerve center in Beirut that is designed to help these terrorist groups target Israel more efficiently. Fortunately, the IDF has thwarted Iranian efforts to create a new terror proxy in the Golan Heights. Israel has repeatedly destroyed most, if not all, of what Iran is trying to stand up there. However, Iran-backed militias do remain in Syria, and Russia's presence in Syria is complicated all of this. Moscow's missile defense systems have forced Israel to take significant precautions in the ongoing effort to prevent the smuggling of advanced Iranian weapons from Syria to Lebanon. These are precision guided munitions. We've never seen a non-state actor or a terrorist group acquire these before and Russia is making this more difficult. The operations to destroy these weapons in Syria are ongoing. They often take place with Russian knowledge. It's an uneasy arrangement and because of that, the Syrian front is still manageable, but Russia's role in the region is far from positive. Moscow continues to work closely with both Iran and Hezbollah. In fact, Russian-Iranian relations have deepened considerably since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022. This goes beyond the sanctions busting that was the basis of their relationship before all this started. Russia has received UAVs from Iran, which we've heard today, Tehran has sent advisors to train Russian personnel, and since last summer, Russia has launched over 2000 Iranian UAVs into Ukraine. Moscow now wants to produce some of these UAVs domestically and so Russia and Iran are currently working together to increase the drones' range and speed. Iran has supplied other material to Russia like artillery shells and rockets. In return, Tehran wants Russia to provide fighter jets, attack helicopters, radar and combat trainer aircraft, and more. Moscow has sent to Tehran some captured Western weapons from Ukraine. These include javelin, NLAW anti-tank guided missiles, and Stinger MANPADS. Amidst all of this, on top of it all, concerns are mounting about a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Beijing has openly intimidated the island nation. Within a 24 hour time span in July, 16 PLA warships approached Taiwan, accompanied with over 100 different aircraft sorties. China's calculus about an invasion of Taiwan could be influenced heavily right now by what the United States does in Ukraine and in Israel. Ihe landscape is clear: China, Iran and Russia are working together. Our policy must be to deny them the ability to threaten our friends and our interests. 47:45 Dr. Jonathan Schanzer: It's great news. I was gonna recommend it, but it's already happened: the United States has sent two of its Iron Dome batteries based in Guam to Israel, en route already. 52:15 Dr. Dan Twining: If America's three greatest adversaries are going to actively collaborate in armed attacks on our allies, that's all the more reason for us to ensure that friendly democracies prevail in the fight. Giving Ukraine and Israel what they need to restore their sovereignty and security is essential. Appeasing aggression in one theater only invites belligerence in another. Make no mistake, China is watching our reaction to the wars on Ukraine and Israel with great interest. If we don't show the will and staying power to help our friends win, we only embolden Chinese designs in Asia. Defeating aggression in Europe and the Middle East is central to deterring aggression in Asia. 1:09:55 Dr. Jonathan Schanzer: I am going to use the current crisis right now to sort of explain how America can get a win. That attack by Hamas was sponsored by Iran. Hamas is an Iran-back terrorist organization that also enjoys the support of China and Russia. As Israel has now readied to go into the Gaza Strip and to destroy this terrorist organization with the support of the United States, we're now seeing Iran-backed proxies threaten a much wider war. We're watching Hezbollah and Lebanon, Shiite militias in Syria, potentially other groups in other parts of the region. What needs to happen here right now is America needs to determine the outcome of this conflict. And by that, I mean it needs to deter Iran, it needs to deter Hezbollah and any other actor that might intervene, and force them to watch helplessly as our ally destroys Hamas. Watch them look on helplessly as one of their important pieces is removed from the chessboard. If we can do that, then I think we're now in the process of reestablishing deterrence after having lost it for many years. 1:14:15 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI): Along with Ranking Member [Jim] Risch, I'm the lead on the what we call the REPO Act, which would authorize the President to work with other countries in Europe that are also home to frozen Russian sovereign assets, and create a procedure for seizing those assets and directing them to Ukraine to be used for rebuilding and other purposes. I think there are mixed feelings in the administration about this, but they seem to be moving our way. I'd love to have your thoughts on the value of grabbing those sovereign assets, not just as additional resources for Ukraine, but also as a powerful signal to Putin that his behavior is going to have real punishment and hitting him good and hard right in the wallet, I think, would be a good added signal. 1:15:20 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI): The second is simply to make sure that we do a better job of grabbing Russian oligarch assets. We have a predicament right now, which is that if you're a US citizen, and you're driving down the highway and you've got $400,000 in unexplained cash in your car, the police can pull you over and they can seize that. If you are a foreign, Russian, crooked oligarch, and you have a $400 million yacht someplace, you have more rights than that American citizen, in terms of defending your yacht. It's a very simple procedure, it's called "in rem." You move on the yacht rather than having to chase through all the ownership structures. And I would very much like to see us pass a bill that allows us to proceed against foreign oligarchs', criminals', and kleptocrats' assets in rem. 1:16:50 Dr. Jonathan Schanzer: The seizing of assets and redirecting them to Ukraine, I think, sounds like a solid thing for the United States to do. I think, though, it would make sense to do this with a coalition of countries. So that the US is not singled out -- Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI): That's what the legislation requires. In fact, the bulk of the funds are actually held in European countries, so acting on our own would not be sensible. Dr. Jonathan Schanzer: It wouldn't be effective, correct. So getting the Europeans on board, and by the way, getting the Europeans to chip in a bit more, just as we are, I think is also a very sound policy. As far as targeting the oligarch assets, I fully understand your frustration. When I worked at the Treasury Department trying to track those kinds of assets was never easy. We did work with a sort of shorthand version of, if we're 80% sure that we know what we're dealing with we're going to move first and then adjudicate after it's been done. And by and large, that worked out very well during the height of the war on terror. And there was an urgency that I think needs to be felt now, as we think about targeting Russian assets too. 1:18:00 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI): To follow me on my path of in rem Latinate legal terms. There's also qui tam out there, which allows individuals to bring fraud actions in the name of the United States, and if it turns out there really is fraud, they get a share of it. It would be nice to have people who work for, let's say, a Russian oligarch to be able to be paid a bit of a bounty if they come in and testify and say, "Yep, definitely his boat every time we go out, he's on it. Every time the guests come they're his guests and we call him boss." Things like that can make a big difference, so we're trying to push that as well. Dr. Jonathan Schanzer: That sounds like something for the Rewards for Justice program at the State Department. They might be able to expand it. We already have bounties for those that provide evidence leading to arrests of terrorists, why not oligarchs? Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI): Correct. 1:24:40 Dr. Jonathan Schanzer: Qatar has, for the last 10 or 12 years, had a an external headquarters. Some of [Hamas's] political leadership has been based there: Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal both call Qatar home. Of course, this is not new for the Qataris. They've also hosted all manner of other terrorist organizations in that country. It's the Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS. It's well known at this point that Qatar is a hospitable place. They just don't agree with our definition of terrorism. Fundraising takes place there, all sorts of organizational activities take place there, and people are free to come and go. It is a safe haven for them. It is extremely dangerous that we have bestowed upon that country the label of major non-NATO ally, and that this is allowed to continue. They're offering right now their "good offices" -- I'll put those in air quotes -- to try to negotiate the release of the 302 hostages. This is not in Qatar's is interest. They are advocating on behalf of Hamas, as they have been for a long time. This should not be allowed to stand. 1:28:10 Dr. Jonathan Schanzer: Hezbollah is based in Lebanon primarily, although they've got a significant base of operations in Latin America right now, and of course they've got a lot of operatives running around in Tehran. They are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the regime in Iran. Just to give you a sense of the threat, right now Hezbollah is threatening to open up a second front with Israel. While the fighting rages in Gaza, in the north of Israel there is a second front that could very well be open. There have been dozens of rockets that have been fired, dozens of anti-tank missiles infiltrations into northern Israel. This is very disconcerting. This is one of the things that I think the President is trying to deter at this moment, to deter a second front from opening. Hezbollah is considered to have an army that is equal in strength to the average European army. It has 150,000 rockets right now facing south at Israel. It's got precision guided munitions that could hit strategic targets, like Israel's nuclear facility, or like its chemical plant. These are things that could create catastrophic attacks, and we could be hours or days or weeks away from watching those threats materialize. And so this is why it is imperative right now that the US mount the deterrence that is necessary to stare down Iran and to stare down Hezbollah and to allow Israel to be able to do what it needs to in Gaza and hopefully end this crisis. 1:31:15 Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX): What does it look like if a Palestinian family of four is being interviewed for safe passage into a neighboring country or nearby country? What exactly does that look like? What does that processing and that vetting look like? Dr. Jonathan Schanzer: I'm going to make a suggestion here. I don't know how that kind of vetting can happen. You know, you're looking at a territory roughly the size of Washington DC, with 2.2 million people that had been subjected to Hamas rule for 16 years. How you start to figure out who's okay and who's not at this stage in the game, who's a threat and who isn't, is going to be really challenging. I wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal with a colleague of mine, Mark Dubowitz, our CEO, on Monday. I want to make this suggestion: I've already identified a number of the countries that have been Hamas supporters over the years, those that have financed and provided the weapons and the training to Hamas. I think there should be significant pressure on those countries to take in the refugees. Have a clear message from the United States that they created this problem, and it is now their problem to take care of these 2 million people. Quite frankly, I don't care who's radicalized when they go to these countries that have been supporting a radical cause for as long as they have. I think this would be justice. October 18, 2023 House Committee on Foreign Affairs Witnesses: Philip Zelikow, Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia Rebeccah Heinrichs, Senior Fellow and Director of the Keystone Defense Initiative at the Hudson Institute Clips 14:35 Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX): The Russian sovereign assets is a winner in my judgment. If we can tap into the right -- the very people who started this war and this conflict, in my judgment, should be paying for the cost, and not as much the US taxpayer. And that's why I introduced the REPO Act, the bipartisan, bicameral legislation that demands that the Biden administration transfer frozen Russian sovereign assets to the Ukraine effort. It's beyond time that Russia pay for the war that it created. My bill prohibits the Biden administration from unfreezing Russian sovereign assets until Russia ends its unprovoked war of aggression and agrees to compensate Ukraine for the damages it has inflicted. 16:05 Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX): To be clear, the war crimes and genocide committed by Russia cannot be reversed by money alone. 22:30 Rep. French Hill (R-AK): My approach was crafted to be consistent with US Policy and International Law by amending the International Emergency Economic Powers Act IEEPA, and using its established framework and existing definitions. As a former Treasury official, in my view, this is a better legislative approach. This is consistent with well established international precedent, whereby the United States work with international partners to establish a fund like we saw in Afghanistan in 2022. The Iran-US Claims Tribunal in 1981, the UN compensation fund for Kuwait in 1991, following the invasion by Iraq. 22:40 Rep. French Hill (R-AK): I too have introduced a bill on this topic, HR 5370. And I appreciate the Foreign Affairs staff working with me on that. My bill would give the President authority to seize and transfer title of Russian sovereign assets within the United States jurisdiction into an international fund for the sole purpose of Ukraine's eventual reconstruction and humanitarian relief. I'm grateful to Chairman McCaul and I co-sponsor his bill on this topic, as well for his leadership. 24:10 Rep. French Hill (R-AK): Considering most Russian sovereign assets are actually located outside the United States, it's important for our partners and allies around the world to introduce and pass similar companion legislation rather than having the US act unilaterally. 24:30 Rep. French Hill (R-AK): Let me be clear, I consider Russian Federation sovereign assets inclusive of all state owned enterprise assets and those of Russian publicly traded companies, like Gazprom, that are controlled by more than 50% by the Russian Federation. 26:30 Philip Zelikow: Economic warfare is the real center of gravity in this war. Economic warfare is the center of gravity in the war. I know we all watch the daily updates from the battle front lines. You know, this movement here, that movement there. This is a war of attrition. It's going to be decided by economic and industrial staying power as the war continues almost certainly into 2025 and perhaps beyond. 27:00 Philip Zelikow: In that struggle, the economic warfare against Russia has achieved some gains, and will have some more gains over the long haul. Russia's economic warfare against Ukraine has been devastating and is not sufficiently appreciated. Ukraine lost 30% of its GDP in the first year of the war. 1/3 of the population of Ukraine is displaced, half externally half internally. Russia is waging economic warfare on three main fronts. It's destroying Ukraine's infrastructure, and will do another energy infrastructure war this winter, for which it's gearing up, including with North Korean weapons and Iranian weapons. Point two: they've destroyed Ukraine's ability to export through the Black Sea except for a trickle, which was the fundamental business model of a commodity exporting country. Point three: they have destroyed Ukraine's civil aviation. Ukraine has no civil aviation. Any of you who've traveled, as I have, to Ukraine will notice that you can't fly in the country, which makes travel and business in the country now back to the era of the railroads before there were airplanes. So the the Russian economic warfare against Ukraine is devastating. And as time passes, this is going to have deep effects on the ability of Ukraine's economy and society to hold together, which will play out politically. So point one: economic warfare is the true center of gravity in the war. 28:35 Philip Zelikow: Two, the Russian assets are the key strategy to change the outcome. The Russian assets are at least $280 billion. Now, even in our debased day and age, that's a lot of money. It's a lot of money in the context of the Ukrainian economy. Even using very conservative multipliers of how much private investment the public investment can unlock, let's say one to one, the impact of this money on the whole future prospects of Ukraine and its staying power are decisive. Otherwise, they're relying on US and European taxpayers whose readiness you can gauge. So this is potentially the decisive fulcrum of the economic warfare and Ukraine's prospects in the war. 29:25 Philip Zelikow: So, third point, why has this been so hard? First reason was there was a knee jerk neuralgia on the part of bankers and financiers to the actual confiscation of Russian assets in the foreign exchange holdings, with much talk of losing confidence in the dollar in the euro. On analysis, these worries quickly fall away, which is one reason that I worked with my colleagues, Larry Summers, the former Treasury secretary, and Bob Zoellick, the former president of the World Bank, who do know something about international finance to debunk those concerns. And I'd be glad to go into more detail about why the concerns about the dollar or the euro turn out to be overblown when they're analyzed. 30:10 Philip Zelikow: The other concern was how do we do this legally? There's been a ton of legal confusion about this. This bill will help dispel that legal confusion. 30:30 Philip Zelikow: What about sovereign immunity? Sovereign immunity is a doctrine that only exists in the context of national courts trying to usurp sovereign authority in a situation where it's sovereign on sovereign, whereas in this bill, there would be an act of state that goes after Russian sovereign property. There is no such thing as immunity; there is no doctrine of sovereign immunity. Ordinarily, under international law, if one sovereign takes another sovereign's property, then the loser is entitled to compensation for that nationalization or expropriation. So why isn't Russia entitled for that compensation in this case? Because it's a lawful state countermeasure. Countermeasures are different from sanctions. And countermeasures -- and this is a well recognized body of law -- you are allowed to do things that would ordinarily violate your sovereign obligations to a fellow sovereign, because that sovereign has committed such extreme outlaw behavior, that the countermeasure is a lawful recourse. And that is exactly the extreme case we have here. There is a well codified body of law on this, and Russia has hit every one of the marks for a set of lawful state countermeasures that deprives them of any right to compensation when states take their money and then use it, putting it in escrow to compensate the victims of Russia's aggression. 37:35 Rebeccah Heinrichs: The United States directly benefits from Ukraine's battlefield successes as Russia remains a top tier adversary of the United States. These are the weapons that Americans made and designed specifically to go after the kinds of things that the Ukrainians are destroying in the Russian military. 39:55 Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX): The EU has a plan just to tax frozen assets and send those proceeds to Ukraine. Our Treasury Secretary, Miss Yellen recently claimed that transferring sovereign assets to Ukraine was not legal. Do you agree with that, and if not, what is your opinion from a legal standpoint? Philip Zelikow: I think Secretary Yellen has now revised her view of this matter, having had a chance to be informed by some of the legal work that's been done since she first made that impromptu remark. There is the legal authority both under domestic law and international law, and the bill this committee is considering would reaffirm, consolidate, and elaborate that authority. So legally, this can be done. 40:55 Philip Zelikow: What the EU came up with in May was the idea -- they were encountering a lot of resistance to actually taking the Russian money, so they said, Well, can we come up with something, since a lot of these as the securities have now matured and are in cash and Euroclear, mainly -- the clearing house in Brussels -- is now managing the cash on behalf of Russia, because Russia is no longer able to manage it. So can we do something with the interest? And by the way, the EU couldn't get that through in June. Ursula von der Leyen couldn't get that adopted over, principally, French and German opposition at the time. So they're talking about just taking this interest. As a legal matter, if you have the legal right to take the interest, you have the legal right to take the principle. This was a cosmetic idea trying to overcome the opposition they had there. It's kind of a situation where, as one of my colleagues in this effort, Larry Tribe, has put it as well, instead of crossing the Rubicon, they're kind of wading in. From a legal point of view, it's actually clearer to do the transfer for Ukraine than to try to expropriate the money using tax authorities, which makes it look like you're expropriating it for your country, rather than for the benefit of the victims, which is a much cleaner, legal way to do it. So they ended up, for political reasons, with a half measure that takes only a tiny fraction of what they should and does so in ways that are actually legally awkward. I understand why they are where they are, but as they process this, I think they're just going to have to step up to going ahead and crossing the Rubicon. 50:20 Philip Zelikow: The whole argument that I made in an article with Summers and Zoellick in Foreign Affairs is that actually, this is a strategy for victory. You put this enormous war chest and the multiplier of private investment into play. And what you can envision is a whole new European recovery program, anchored on the rebuilding of Ukraine that not only saves Ukraine, revitalizes it, but links it to the EU accession process, to the enlargement of the European Union. In other words, to the victory of the whole cause of freedom, in a way almost regardless of where the final battle line ends up being in Ukraine, Ukraine will be growing with bright prospects, part of a Europe with brighter prospects, because of its alignment with the free world. 51:25 Philip Zelikow: When people worry about the significance of this in foreign exchange, I ask them to just remember two numbers 93 and three. If you look at the percentage of foreign exchange holdings held in the world today, 60% United States, 23% Euro, 6% yen, 4% Sterling: that's 93. The percentage of foreign exchange holdings in Chinese renminbi: three. And the Chinese were really encouraged that it's gone up from 2.5 to 3 in recent years. So when you look at 93 to three, that's what you get when we work with our allies in a concerted economic strategy. We can move on the Russian assets, and there's really no choice except to stick with the currencies of the free world because they're still the only basis for being a participant in the world economy. 54:20 Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI): Who actually has the authority to take possession of it? Because as you point out, if you've got the legal right to the interest, you got the legal right to the principal. Who is granted that authority? And then who is granted the authority to distribute that? Philip Zelikow: So the theory is that the national governments can transfer any of the Russian state assets in their jurisdiction into escrow accounts for the benefit of the victims, as a state countermeasure to Russia's aggression. So the way that would work is under the President's IEEPA authority, he could transfer all this -- and there are precedents for this -- into an escrow account held in the States and then an international escrow account, with this limited purpose of compensating the victims of Russian aggression, then you need to create an international mechanism, which the US would participate in creating, to then manage that distribution, which needs to have a proactive urgent speed of relevance. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI): That was what I was afraid of. If it just simply takes one participant to bog the whole thing down, guess what? It's not going to work, in my humble opinion. Philip Zelikow: When they're debating this in the EU, some people say we should have a new EU directive to govern this, but under our Common Foreign and Security Policy, one member like Hungary, for example, could botch that. So if you create something perhaps managed by the G7 Donor Coordination Platform, that is a relatively simple instrument in which the United States could play a part. One thing that you've done in the bill you've drafted, Mr. Chairman and Congresswoman Kaptur, is you're creating mechanisms in which Congress has insight and some oversight into how the United States participates in that process, and what the mechanism does and how the money is spent, which I think is an appropriate role for the Congress. There are precedents for how to do this. The design of this international mechanism I'm discussing is both policy driven, but also has a reactive claim side, but can have some conditionality on reform and the EU accession process. That's a heavy lift. Building that mechanism will be the biggest job since we built the Economic Cooperation Administration to run Marshall Plan aid 70 years ago. That serious work has not really begun, because we're just working on the preliminary phase of mobilizing and using this money. 58:25 Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA): You believe the Administration, even without this bill, has authority right now to transfer the frozen Russian assets to Ukraine. Philip Zelikow: Yes, it does. It has it under the existing IEEPA authorities that the President has already invoked. The Renew Democracy Initiative has put out a really extensive legal brief that goes into great detail about this. I think actually the administration's lawyers are coming around to the view that yes, they do have the authority under existing law. What the REPO Act does is, one, it reaffirms that, but two, it makes Congress a partner in this with regulation and oversight that's an appropriate Congressional role. So by both reaffirming the authority and getting Congress to join the executive and doing this together I think it makes it a truly national effort with an appropriate Congressional part. 59:20 Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA): How would you respond to critics who say this would make it harder for other folks in the future to want to invest in the United States? Philip Zelikow: You can look at the numbers. After we froze Russian assets, everybody understood the political risks that might be involved with putting their money into dollar holdings. The Chinese called in all their bankers and asked them, "Do we have any other options?" That happened last year. You can just simply track what's happened in the international financial markets and see how folks have now priced in that political risk. But the result is still very strong demand and interest in the dollar. But here again, to come back to Congressman [Gregory] Meeks point, by working with the Euro and the yen and Sterling, we give them no place to go. If they want to participate in the world economy, then they're just going to have to invest in assets like that. 1:00:30 Rebeccah Heinrichs: The other thing that's very interesting and good in the REPO bill that is different is this provision, Section 103, that would prohibit the release of blocked Russian sovereign assets. I think that's an incredibly important element of this bill. That would remove the temptation for any kind of sweetener for the Russians to have access to these funds and leave Ukraine in a lurch whenever they have to rebuild their society. That's a very important part of the bill. 1:01:10 Rep. Nathaniel Moran (R-TX): Why would it be better to transfer these assets for Ukraine's direct benefit than to use them for leverage in negotiations and ending this conflict at some point? Rebeccah Heinrichs: It comes back down to the fundamental question at the end: who's going to foot the bill for rebuilding Ukrainian society? Somebody's going to have to do it. It should not be the American people primarily. They're footing a pretty significant bill. I think that benefits American industry and benefits our own military, but this particular piece should be carried out by the perpetrators of this act. So I think that it'd be a mistake to hold that out as a sweetener to get the Russians to come to the end or the conclusion. 1:01:55 Rep. Nathaniel Moran (R-TX): Mr. Zelikow, you mentioned earlier in response to one of my colleague's questions that it looks like that under current law under the IEEPA authorities, the president can do this activity now. Do you know why the President is not doing that? And if he chose to do that, could he do it immediately? Or is there any delay in that? Philip Zelikow: They could act immediately. They've delayed a long time, partly, to be very blunt -- because I've been talking to a lot of people about this -- they had very deep interagency disagreements inside the administration over how to proceed and they found that their bandwidth was totally overwhelmed by other Ukrainian-related concerns, and they didn't give this heavy attention until fairly recently. And now that they have given it sustained attention, I think the President has actually settled, at a fundamental level, those interagency disputes and they are now moving forward to try to find a way to make this work. 1:02:50 Philip Zelikow: I think the point you raised a minute ago about whether we want to hold this back as leverage was one factor in the back of the minds of some people. I think as the war has continued on through this year, hopes of a quick settlement of the war have dissipated. I think they realize that this is going to be a long war. That sobering realization has kind of sunk in. Also, from a legal point of view, if you want to, you could credit the Russians in any peace negotiation. You can basically say this is a credit against your liability for the for rebuilding Ukraine. 1:04:55 Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA): As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, we have been to many European nations. To a nation, they say the United States is the indispensable partner here, and they say that with all humility and not blowing smoke. We visited the Hague and sat with lead prosecutor Khan, and everyone is talking about waiting us out. Not just waiting out Congress's support, but waiting out the outcome of the next election. They asked us specifically about that. Mr. Putin is clearly waiting for the outcome of the next election in hopes that it will not be the reelection of Joe Biden, who I'm really proud is in Israel right now. Timing. How does this work? You already said it's going to be into 2025. How do we use this leverage, this economic warfare as the center of gravity in this conflict, to bring the timing tighter to a successful conclusion for Ukraine? Philip Zelikow: So that's a great question. And this is why action on this issue is so urgent now, because the operational timeline to stand this up on a massive multi 100 billion dollar scale is if we move on this in the next couple of months and mobilize the money. We could get an enormous operation up and running with a relatively secure source of funding by next year. If we get that up and running by the middle of next year, we then insulate ourselves, to some extent, against the kind of electoral risk to which you gently alluded. 1:07:55 Rep. Thomas Kean Jr. (R-NJ): If the United States did transfer Russian sovereign assets to Ukraine, how could Ukraine best use these in the near term? Philip Zelikow: In the near term, what they would do, I think, is begin undertaking a comprehensive program to shore up their infrastructure, withstand the coming Russian campaigns to further damage that and begin to rebuild the basic transportation infrastructure and other things that can then begin to unlock a really bright future for the rest of the Ukrainian economy. There are things that can be done then to move Ukrainian industry into new sectors. I think the Ukrainian goal is not just to restore what they had five years ago, but actually to use this as a way to build back better, to imagine a brighter future in partnership with Europe. And then if the money is managed well, this gives leverage to encourage the Ukrainian reform process as part of the EU accession. Putin's whole effort here is, "if I can't conquer Ukraine, I will wreck it and make it ungovernable," and we'll show decisively that that objective cannot be achieved. 1:10:35 Rebeccah Heinrichs: If I may, sir, another principle that has been misunderstood throughout this conflict is this notion of escalation. Escalation is not bad. It's only bad if it's the adversary who's escalating to prevail. We want Ukraine to escalate to win, to convince the Russians to end the war. If you do not permit the Ukrainians to escalate, then you only have a long protracted war of attrition that none of us can afford. 1:12:05 Philip Zelikow: Whenever you do a large thing in international affairs, there are going to be unintended consequences from that, and rather than be dismissive about that concern, I'll say if you embark on this, then people will be tempted to try to use these sorts of precedents against us. They'll be limited in their ability to do that because of the fundamental places where money is held in the world economy. A lot of people don't do business with the United States because they love us; they do business with us because they think it's necessary. If they could expropriate our property with no penalty, they would. Venezuela tried that. Most of the world doesn't want to follow Venezuela's example. So yes, there are some potential unintended consequences of people trying to use this precedent. But one reason we've tried to set this under international law is to use the standards of international law to govern this countermeasure. International law allows these countermeasures, but it says you can only do this if the target country's outlaw behavior is extreme, and there's a standard for that. It turns out Russia totally meets that standard. This is the most extreme case of international aggression since the Second World War, bigger than Korea, bigger than Kuwait. But by setting that kind of standard, it makes that slippery slope a little less slippery. 1:14:25 Rep. Greg Stanton (D-AZ): There are some concerns that if we were to transfer these assets, use it for the benefit Ukraine, would there be an impact on the US dollar? Just get your thoughts on that? Philip Zelikow: Yeah, that's why we got in some of the best people we could on international plans, just to do the analysis on that. 93% of the foreign exchange holdings are held in G7 countries and only 3% in renminbi. Running to the renminbi because they're worried about the dollar is something people would do if they wanted to do it already. They've already priced in the political risk of dollar holdings after they've seen what we've done. And you can see their asset allocations. Now, the dollar is involved in 88% of all foreign commercial transactions on one side of the transaction or another. So it's hard to run away from it, especially if the Euro, Yen, and Sterling are in there with you. There's really kind of no place to go if you want to participate in the international economy. Working with Larry Summers, the former Treasury Secretary, Robert Zoellick, with Brad Setser, who studies international finance, we ran some numbers about worst case scenarios and so on, and we think that concern, which sounds good as a soundbite, it turns out on analysis, it fades away. 1:16:10 Philip Zelikow: The US only holds a fraction of the relevant Russian money because the Russians tried to get their money out of our jurisdiction. But when you go to Europe and ask them what's holding them up, they all say "We're waiting for the American lead." So even though we may only hold a fraction of the money, we hold a lot more than a fraction of the relevant clout, and we need to go together, exactly as you imply. September 28, 2023 House Committee on Foreign Affairs Witnesses: Victoria Nuland, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, United States Department of State Christopher P. Maier, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, United States Department of Defense Caroline Krass, General Counsel, United States Department of Defense Richard C. Visek, Acting Legal Adviser, United States Department of State Clips 33:00 Victoria Nuland: First with regard to the Taliban, we've been very clear we're going to judge the Taliban by their actions. It is our assessment that the Taliban have partially adhered to their counterterrorism commitments. We've seen them disrupt ISIS-K, for example. But there's obviously plenty more to to do to ensure that Afghanistan doesn't become a safe haven, or return to safe haven, or persist as a safe haven. That said, I would note that the director of the National Counterterrorism Center Christy Abizaid recently said publicly that al Qaeda is at its historic nadir in Afghanistan, and its revival is unlikely. 34:20 Victoria Nuland: Iran is obviously a state sponsor of terrorism; it is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Music by Editing Production Assistance
Published 11/05
CD283: A Federal Reserve Digital Dollar (CBDC)
The House Financial Services Committee has been investigating the possibility of the Federal Reserve creating a Central Bank Digital Currency. In this episode, hear experts unpack the nuances and implications of this idea during three hearings, and discover how you can play a part in shaping the future of American currency. Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links Contribute monthly or a lump sum via Support Congressional Dish via (donations per episode) Send Zelle payments to: [email protected] Send Venmo payments to: @Jennifer-Briney Send Cash App payments to: $CongressionalDish or [email protected] Use your bank’s online bill pay function to mail contributions to: Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish Thank you for supporting truly independent media! Background Sources Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes Operation Choke Point Frank Keating. November 7, 2018. The Hill. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Staff. May 29, 2014. U.S. House of Representatives. Digital Asset Glass-Steagall James Rickards. August 27, 2012. U.S. News & World Report. Audio Sources September 14, 2023 Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Digital Assets, Financial Technology and Inclusion Witnesses: Yuval Rooz, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Digital Asset Paige Paridon, Senior Vice President and Senior Associate General Counsel, Bank Policy Institute Christina Parajon Skinner, Assistant Professor, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania Dr. Norbert Michel, Vice President and Director, Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives, Cato Institute Raúl Carrillo, Academic Fellow, Lecturer in Law, Columbia Law School Clips 27:35 Rep. French Hill (R-AK): Look, the Constitution is clear. Only Congress has the authority to coin money and regulate the value of such money. And we've heard the same from Fed officials, right before this committee, and most recently from Vice Chair for Supervision, Michael Barr, who last week told an audience in Philadelphia and I quote, "The Federal Reserve would only proceed with the issuance of a CBDC with clear support from the executive branch and authorizing legislation from Congress." The Biden Department of Justice agrees, saying, quote, "there would be substantial legal risks to issuing a CBDC without such legislation." 32:05 Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA): CBDC is just one type of publicly issued digital dollar and would be issued, backed, and regulated by the Federal Reserve and have the full faith and backing of the US government. This could serve as an alternative to existing forms of payments and have a benefit, including instant payment settlement, provide a medium for cross border transactions, and foster greater financial inclusion. More than 130 countries have begun to explore their own government backed digital currencies. China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and India have already commenced pilot programs, and a digital Euro pilot could be launched as early as 2028. Meanwhile, the US remains far behind amid increasing and blatant information about features of digital currency. While concerns about data privacy and government surveillance are real, especially in countries that do not respect human rights and privacy, a CBDC does not have to be designed that way. We could employ an architecture that would protect personal data while including anti-money laundering and terrorist financing features. 33:15 Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA): It is counterintuitive that my colleagues should be raising concerns about data privacy while thousands of private companies, domestic and foreign, are surveilling, aggregating, and selling consumer data each and every day. 33:45 Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA): I'm announcing and inviting my colleagues to join the Congressional Digital Dollar Caucus. This forum will educate members on critical issues relating to the development, design, and potential implementation of a government issued digital dollar. I plan to invite innovators, technologists, academics, and other experts to share their findings and development. I hope my colleagues will join me in this exploration. 34:15 Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA): The use of anonymous cash has plummeted and more of our transactions are occurring online and under surveillance, tracked and aggregated by financial services companies. Indeed China has turned that fact into a tool of full spectrum surveillance of its citizens. This is why I've introduced the Ecash Act. This bill directs the Treasury to design and pilot a digital version of cash and would complement the Fed-issued CBDC. It would allow individuals to make instant peer to peer payments with no consumer data or transaction tracking and without the use of a bank account. 36:10 Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN): The need to protect Americans' right to financial product privacy is at an all time high. That's why I introduced the CBDC Anti-Surveillance State Act with over 50 of my colleagues. This bill prevents unelected bureaucrats from creating a tool for financial surveillance if not open, permissionless, and private, like cash, a CBDC is nothing more than a CCP-style surveillance tool that will oppress the American way of life and we're not going to allow that to happen. 38:20 Dr. Norbert Michel: In my testimony, I argue that the United States should not launch a Central Bank Digital Currency, a CBDC. Advocates for a CBDC tout many potential benefits, but there's nothing unique about the technology that would provide those supposed benefits. 39:00 Dr. Norbert Michel: A CBDC in any form would be a direct liability of the central government, a digital tether to its citizens such that it would radically alter the existing public-private relationship that already exists in our monetary arrangement. 39:25 Dr. Norbert Michel: First, issuing a CBDC would not help preserve the status of the United States dollar, it would likely damage it. Proponents argue that because China has launched a CBDC, the United States must keep up by launching its own. Others make the narrower claim that the US must launch a CBDC to keep up with broader technological changes in the payment sector. But anyone who chooses to do so can transact digitally in U.S. dollars right now. The CBDC does not take us from a world with zero or a few digital transactions to one filled with digital transactions. Moreover, the dollar's renowned status is owed to the strength of the American economy and its legal protections for private citizens relative to many other countries. Unlike in many other places, Americans do not have to live in constant fear that the government will take their money. However, if the US creates a CBDC, anyone who wants to use the dollar would lose a layer of protection from that type of government abuse. 40:30 Dr. Norbert Michel: The second myth is that a CBDC would expand financial inclusion by providing a new source of financial services for America's unbanked and underbanked populations. Again, though, this is not a technological problem. In other words, the CBDC itself does not accomplish this goal. The private sector already enables us to transact digitally, and it has been steadily shrinking the number of Americans without financial services for years. We also know, because the FDIC asked them, that unbanked and underbanked Americans primarily are in that situation because either they don't have enough money to have an account, or they don't want to give their personal information to a bank or the government. And what should be obvious is that a lack of sufficient income is a much broader economic problem than a CBDC or financial service technology. While some proponents argue that a CBDC lowers the cost of providing financial services, that's true only if the government subsidizes those costs or chooses to waive the same level of regulatory scrutiny it requires of private firms. And that level of scrutiny, it turns out is more than just a costly mandate that the government has placed on private firms. It's also the one that causes those unbanked Americans to say they don't trust banks. It's also the same one that requires people to hand over their personal information to private companies, and as a result potentially to the government. If the government removes that mandate for all financial service providers, there would be no cost advantage to a CBDC. 42:05 Dr. Norbert Michel: That brings me to my last myth, the idea that a CBDC could somehow enhance financial privacy. Currently, Americans are forced to hand over personal information to financial institutions. Those institutions are required to track transactions, and the government can access that information without a warrant. The fourth amendment is supposed to protect Americans from the government gaining access to this kind of information, unless they show probable cause and obtain a warrant. But it no longer protects Americans when it comes to financial information. And the only buffer left is that the government must go through the financial institution to obtain that information. Introducing a CBDC would remove this last layer of protection. It would place all financial transactions either in a government database or leave them a keystroke away. 44:15 Paige Paridon: We believe that at this point there is little evidence that a CBDC would bring measurable benefits to the US economy or consumers. Furthermore, a CBDC could upend the commercial banking system and create financial instability. 44:30 Paige Paridon: CBDC can take one of two general forms: a wholesale CBDC, which would be used only by financial intermediaries, and a retail CBDC, which could be used by consumers and businesses. To date, most research and attention has been focused on a retail, intermediated, account-based model in which consumer's CBDCs would be held in an account at a bank or another financial intermediary, like an asset held in custody. The CBDC could not be used by the bank to make loans in the way that dollar deposits are used today. Any transfer of $1 deposit from a bank to a CBDC is $1 unavailable for lending to businesses or consumers. By attracting deposits away from banks, a CBDC likely would undermine the commercial banking system in the United States and severely constrict the availability and increase the cost of credit to the economy. 46:30 Paige Paridon: With respect to financial inclusion, a review of the reasons why certain individuals are unbanked makes it clear that a CBDC would be unlikely to meaningfully increase financial inclusion. For example, FDIC data reveals that many respondents are unbanked because of privacy concerns, and intermediated CBDC is unlikely to mitigate those concerns, given that it would presumably come with the same know-your-customer requirements that currently apply to banks. 54:35 Christina Parajon Skinner: So privacy rights are the clearest place to start. Today, individuals can enjoy comprehensive privacy in their payments transactions by using cash. Now, although most central banks have suggested that CBDC is not going to replace cash, that near-term promise can't be guaranteed over the longer term, and the insinuation that CBDC is necessary or inevitable seems motivated by a view that cash will eventually become obsolete. But because central banks don't have the technology presently to offer cash-like privacy, a digital currency -- unless it's radically redesigned -- will bring with it the ability for the state to monitor or surveil its citizens' payments activity. 55:20 Christina Parajon Skinner: I'd like to focus on the impact of a CBDC on the Federal Reserve. Certainly since 2010, the power and authority of the Fed has grown considerably, and Congress's responsibility to oversee the Fed requires it to understand how a CBDC could further empower the central bank but also how it might weaken it. On the one hand, CBDC could result in a larger central bank balance sheet. Issuing CBDC would increase the liability side of the Fed's balance sheet if the total of bank reserves, repos, and cash balances largely remained unchanged. So if the liabilities with CBDC increase, so too much the Fed's assets. The Fed could buy more Treasury securities to match CBDC, but that could possibly invite pressure on the Fed to issue more CBDCs to in turn absorb more government debt. And overall, that dynamic could further erode the limited fiscal discipline that we have remaining. A CBDC could also affect the Fed's independence in the way that it would establish a direct relationship between the central bank and the real economy for the first time in history. One result of that relationship would almost certainly be the further erosion of the line between monetary and fiscal policy. When central banks begin to issue liabilities directly to the people, it will become much more difficult for the central bank to justify their provision of liquidity to banks and the financial system, as opposed to households, especially during a crisis. And effectively this could open the door to political pressure on the Fed to provide liquidity assistance to households during turbulent economic times. But these sorts of household level interventions would radically transform the central bank and its purpose and role within society. 57:40 Christina Parajon Skinner: So it does not inherently improve financial inclusion unless it's paired with accounts for all citizens, which the central bank itself has already recognized as infeasible. 59:15 Raúl Carrillo: Today, I support the call for a digital dollar system, including CBDC, Fed accounts, and Ecash. 1:02:15 Raúl Carrillo: Indeed, the only way to evolve beyond the surveillance status quo is to establish a direct digital dollar interface with consumers where the Fourth Amendment and other protections may actually apply. If we truly care about privacy, we should treat the banking and blockchain industries’ appeals to partnership as suspect, based on legal and technological grounds alone. We can build a retail CBDC and Fed account system with superior protections compared to what exists now and superior protections to the systems that are being built around the world currently. 1:02:50 Raúl Carrillo: So today I also advocate for the inclusion of digital cash, as detailed in the Electronic Cash and Hardware Security and Secured Hardware Act, the Ecash Act, re-introduced by Representative Lynch. Today, Ecash devices available on a smart card or a phone card would serve as digital counterparts to cold hard American cash. These devices would not make payments over the internet. Instead, they would store Treasury issued digital dollars on card hardware to enable everyday small dollar transactions for everyday people. These transactions would be subject to the BSA/AML regime, and as a boon to law enforcement, we can set privacy-sensitive security controls and caps on transactions and usage. However, the cards would in no instance be capable of generating data that companies and agencies can abuse. We preserve a place for privacy within public infrastructure. The Ecash Act harkens back to the past to the days when President Lincoln established the banking and cash system that we still use today. And it also harkens to an exciting, inclusive, safe digital future. 1:08:05 Paige Paridon: CBDC, because it would be a direct liability of the central bank, it would be perceived as the ultimate safe asset. So from that perspective, particularly during times of economic stress, it could attract depositors to pull their money out of the banking system to flee or run to a CBDC if there was perceived concern about the banking system or the financial system overall. So every dollar that currently resides in a bank account can be deployed for useful purposes in the economy, primarily through lending. Every dollar that is pulled out from the banking system and put into a CBDC is one less dollar that could be put to good economic use. And that is why we have a fundamental concern with a retail CBDC, given the flight-to-quality risks. 1:09:35 Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA): 130 countries, representing 98% of the global economy, are now exploring digital versions of their currencies, including the United States. Almost half of these countries are in advanced development pilot or launch stages of their CBDCs. Can you discuss how CBDCs may shape the future global financial landscape? What would it mean for the United States if we instead chose to stay on the sidelines of this race? Raúl Carrillo: Thank you very much for the question, Representative Waters. My opinion is that it is incumbent upon the United States to provide leadership with respect to an inevitable process that is going to occur across the world. It is clear that we're all moving to digital fiat currency. The question is what sort of protections are going to attend digital fiat currency? 1:12:35 Raúl Carrillo: I hear a lot of concern across the political spectrum in this committee about the power of Silicon Valley. And if you do not create an alternative to the corporate systems that collect data, or promise to protect it and then collect it en mass, which is even worse and common in the blockchain industry, then what is going to happen is that Silicon Valley is going to win. And frankly, I don't think anybody here wants that. But in order to preserve the space that we have for public money and not make it a big tech enterprise, we, in fact, have to move forward with digital fiat currency. 1:13:50 Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH): One of the key characteristics of sound money is that it facilitates permissionless, peer-to-peer transactions like cash. Currently, of the 100+ countries developing a central bank digital currency, none of them are developing a permissionless system. Every one of them is developing a permission system, including the United States Federal Reserve. So when we talk about permissions, we can kind of get something from the Federal Reserve's own report of that. They said in their report that it should be privacy-protected, intermediated, widely transferable, and identity-verified. Mr. Michel, Professor Skinner, in your view, is it possible to be both privacy-protected and identity-verified? Dr. Norbert Michel: No, in my view, it's not. Once the information is in a system, it's in a system and somebody is going to get it and it's going to get out. And I just quickly really want to say I'm very happy to hear everybody here on the panel is pro-Fourth Amendment. The problem, of course, as you know, is that the Bank Secrecy Act, and the anti money laundering regime runs right over the Fourth Amendment. So that's what needs to be fixed. Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH): It's already a problem in third party hands, but this wouldn't even be in third party hands. But, you know, Professor Skinner, what's your view? Christina Parajon Skinner: My view is no, that that's not possible right now, and central banks have essentially admitted as much. And to the extent such technology is or could be under development, it's extremely immature. And I think the point to emphasize here is that inherently there will be a tradeoff to the extent central banks create CBDC, between identity verification and privacy. And more than likely central banks will always choose identity verification because they will never feel comfortable sacrificing the national security goals that they see as accompanying robust identity verification. 1:24:35 Rep. John Rose (R-TN): Decisions in United States v. Miller and Maryland v. Smith gave us the third party doctrine. Under that doctrine. if you voluntarily provide information to a third party, the Fourth Amendment does not preclude the government from accessing it without a warrant. Dr. Michelle, can you explain how the third party doctrine has impacted Americans' financial privacy? Dr. Norbert Michel: Yes, they practically have none at the moment partly because of this. But I also want to clarify, because of something that was just said on the panel. The Fourth Amendment is the one that amends the Constitution to the United States, which protects American citizens from the government. So this is exactly the issue and it was brought up in the cases in the 70s, when the Bank Secrecy Act was challenged. If the Bank Secrecy Act were not there, the banks and financial institutions that we have would not be required by the government to collect the data that they are, that is a requirement in the Bank Secrecy Act. And everybody can go back and look at those cases, that was always an issue as to whether this was constitutional and in violation of possibly the Fourth Amendment. So between the combination of the Bank Secrecy Act, the Fourth Amendment issues, and the third party doctrine, Americans, although many of them don't realize it, have very little financial privacy at the moment. 1:26:05 Rep. John Rose (R-TN): How would the adoption of a CBDC further erode Americans' reasonable expectation of financial privacy? Dr. Norbert Michel: I believe it would remove the last layer that we have, quite simply, instead of having to go through the financial institution, the government would have that information either in a central database or a keystroke away. 1:31:05 Raúl Carrillo: We envision hardware devices. So those can be cards, similar in size to an existing debit or credit card, or they can be secured SIM cards, or something like it, on a phone that would enable hardware based transactions and for people to make payments as they do today with paper cash for everyday things without fear of government or corporate surveillance, which occurs in tandem when we use digital payments today. 1:32:20 Raúl Carrillo: I would clarify that the point of Ecash is that it does not operate online. It is actually open, permissionless, and private, in the sense that you don't need a blockchain or a banking intermediary. 1:35:45 Rep. Bryan Steil (R-WI): In your testimony you wrote, "any transfer of $1 deposit from a commercial bank or credit union to a CBDC is $1 unavailable for lending to businesses or consumers." Can you expand a little bit on that statement about how an adoption of an intermediated CBDC would impact credit availability and the cost of banking services? Paige Paridon: Sure. Happy to, thank you. So I think there's a misconception generally, that $1 transferred from a deposit account to a CBDC would mean that CBDC would still be able to be used for lending and investment in the economy the way that dollar deposits currently are now. And that is not the case of CBDC, even if intermediated. In other words, even if the services including onboarding and other services that commercial banks currently provide, even if those services were provided by banks with respect to a consumer's CBDC, the fact is the bank would really only hold that CBDC in the same manner it holds an asset in custody. So it would have to essentially keep that CBDC under the proverbial mattress and it would not be able to be redeployed in the form of loans. 1:41:20 Paige Paridon: If it was an intermediated CBDC, banks would essentially hold CBDC as a custodian. That's right, they wouldn't be able to lend out some portion of the CBDC as they do deposits. 1:42:10 Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL): If you had 100%, CBDCs was all the money supply, you'd have no lending, right? So doesn't any proportional increase in the amount of a CBDC in an economy shrink the economy? Paige Paridon: Well, there could be shifts to other forms of ways to fund lending. Banks could borrow in the wholesale markets, they could potentially borrow from the Federal Reserve. So I'm not necessarily sure it's a one-to-one relationship. 1:46:25 Rep. Mike Flood (R-NE): Ms. Skinner, in your testimony, you mentioned how a CBDC could lead to the Federal Reserve's independence being threatened. Can you speak more on that? Christina Parajon Skinner: Yes, certainly. Thank you for the question. So in the first instance, to the extent the Federal Reserve doesn't change the composition of its balance sheet otherwise, issuing a CBDC will increase its liabilities, which means that it has to match that increase in liabilities by purchasing more assets. So the first thing that we would think about when the Fed would purchase more assets would be buying more Treasury securities. That being said, with the potential for the Fed to issue more CBDC, thereby giving it more headroom to buy more Treasury securities, would be likely to put some pressure on the Fed at some point down the line from the Treasury to issue that CBDC to absorb more government debt, which we call monetary finance or monetizing the deficit. Before World War Two, the Fed essentially operated under the thumb of the Treasury so that during wartime and otherwise, the Fed could effectively monetize the deficit. And really today, that's anathema to an independent central bank. There were other things that the Fed could also be pressured to buy to match an increase in CBDC, like corporate bonds. Now our recent experimentation in corporate bonds has put some question around whether this too could politicize a central bank because inevitably if central banks buy corporate bonds, they are picking winners and losers in the economy. Now, the Fed has been pretty neutral in its approach, but there has been a lot of pressure on the central bank to, for example, buy green bonds in order to facilitate a transition to a low carbon economy and certainly other central banks do actively green their corporate bond portfolios. 2:23:05 Dr. Norbert Michel: I believe this is a question of centralization versus decentralization. And if you have a CBDC, you ultimately have one major point of failure. One way of doing this would be to have the Fed have a database. Well, we know the Fed's been hacked. Even if the Fed has multiple databases, it's the Fed being hacked, as opposed to having multiple private companies all across the country. If Capital One, for example, has a hack or a cybersecurity problem, everybody in the country is not immediately at risk, only their customers, and that's a problem for them. 2:25:25 Rep. William Timmons (R-SC): Based on your research, can you explain what, if any, technological advantage a CBDC has over the private sector? Dr. Norbert Michel: None. And this should be this is properly viewed as a government reaction to a private innovation. We can call it Bitcoin or you could just call it distributed ledger technology in general. That's what this is about. This is about the government seeing an innovation that possibly threatens their control over the payment system and it is a movement to come up with something that takes that back and it just so happens that what they're coming up with here is something that goes even further than where we are without the CBDC. 2:26:45 Christina Parajon Skinner: The status of the dollar is undergirded by our commitment to the rule of law, democratic institutions, having a judiciary that enforces property rights, and perhaps most importantly, maintaining the dollar as a stable store of value. So for there, it's important that the Fed maintain its fight against inflation and with the issuance of the CBDC, there will absolutely be a propensity to over-issue, to for example, monetize the deficit and if that were to happen that would undermine the status of the dollar. 2:29:45 Paige Paridon: A so-called flight to quality is something that we fear would be almost inevitable. Were a retail CBDC to be issued by the Federal Reserve, in times particularly of financial stress or instability, a CBDC would be viewed likely as the ultimate safe asset and depositors would likely be incentivized to pull the deposits out of the banking system and put them into CBDCs as a safe asset, which would reduce the availability of deposits available to lend out, and moreover, increase the cost of credit. 2:31:10 Raúl Carrillo: President Lincoln created cash after the Civil War in order to help everybody have day to day transactions throughout our economy. Today we have cutting edge technology in various other sectors in the government, including in the US military where they use stored value cards known as Eagle Cash in order to make offline payments. 2:33:15 Yuval Rooz: If the US government were to decide to issue a retail CBDC, unlike wholesaled CBDC, I think that it is going to be critical for the government to show an evidence that there is no ability for the government to see transactions of citizens. I personally would be against such an act. 2:35:05 Yuval Rooz: If we wanted to have privacy included in the smart contract of the money, it would state that any movement of money would only be visible to the sender of money and the receiver of money for example, and the issuer of money would be blinded. So all that the issuer would see is the overall balance, but would not see any underlying movements of the money, for example. March 8, 2023 House Financial Services Committee Witnesses: Jerome Powell, Chair, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Clips 53:50 Rep. French Hill (R-AK): Turning to a topic that's been a subject here for nearly four years: Central Bank Digital Currencies. Article One of the Constitution, reserves coins and money issuance to the Congress and we've in turn delegated that to the US Treasury, which has since 1912 engaged the Federal Reserve as their fiscal agent. You've testified here many times before that to issue a Central Bank Digital Currency that would be have to be authorized by statute by Congress. Is that still your testimony? Jerome Powell: So that is absolutely the case as it relates to a retail CBDC. There are potential forms of a wholesale CBDC that you would need to look at, it's less clear. But we've always been talking about retail CBDC and that's something we would certainly need Congressional approval for. Rep. French Hill (R-AK): What would be a parameter on something that's not a retail CBDC where you think that could be issued in some form or fashion without Congress's direct statutory authorization? Jerome Powell: It would be, for example, something between banks, so it would look an awful lot like a bank reserve. And you might ask, Well, why would we need it? And that's a really good question, too. But just something that's literally within a wholesale market. Rep. French Hill (R-AK): But that speaks that you might have a blockchain between banks and the Fed using a Central Bank Digital Currency token to settle transactions institutionally inside the US. 1:15:40 Jerome Powell: We did go out for comment in general on a CBDC a year or so ago and I do expect that we'll go out, I can't give you a date, but we'll certainly go out and we engage with the public on an ongoing basis. We're also doing research on policy and also on technology. That's what we're up to. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA): The Boston Fed has a partnership over there with the folks from MIT Media Lab, they're doing a great job, but it says here that the discussions would include technical experimentation. I was just wondering, at what level are you talking about making decisions on architecture for a retail CBDC? Jerome Powell: We're not at the stage of making any real decisions. What we're doing is experimenting, in kind of early stage experimentation. How would this work? Does it work? What's the best technology? What's the most efficient? We're really at an early stage but we're making progress on sort of technological issues. The policy issues are equally important though. You know, we haven't decided that this is something that the financial systems in the country want or need. So that's going to be very important. 1:18:15 Jerome Powell: A CBDC is going to be years in evaluation. 1:18:30 Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA): You know, before the greenback, everybody had their own currency. You know, you had rail rail companies, you had coal companies, you had, you know, state banks that were authorized to issue their own currency. But when the greenback came out, all of those various currencies went to zero, because the greenback had the full faith and credit of the United States behind it. I'm worried about a lot of these Stablecoins and other cryptocurrencies. Do they go to zero when we come up with a CBDC that has the full faith and credit of the United States behind it? We've got 1000s of these out there, and you've got people investing millions and millions of dollars, well trillions right now. And I'm just thinking if we had those advantages built into a CBDC? Wouldn't those alternatives go to zero, if they did not have the transparency and the full faith and credit that we enjoy? Jerome Powell: So certainly, unbacked cryptocurrencies that don't have any intrinsic value, but nonetheless, trade for a positive number, I've never understood the valuation of those. Stablecoins, many of them are really drawing on the credibility of the dollar. They're dollar denominated mainly, dollar-based reserves, although we don't know what's in the reserves because there's no regulation. 2:16:05 Jerome Powell: What we say about permissionless blockchains is that they have been vehicles for fraud -- Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH): 0.24% if you follow your own report on fraud. It's a fraction of what it is with the US dollar. May 26, 2022 House Financial Services Committee Witness: Lael Brainard, Vice Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Clips 2:08:30 Rep. John Rose (R-TN): Vice Chair Brainard, we saw how dangerous it can be when the government weaponizes the financial system for political purposes under the Obama administration's Operation Choke Point. More recently, the Canadian government instructed banks to freeze accounts linked to the trucker protests over vaccine mandates. Vice Chair Brainard, without appropriate safeguards, would a CBDC make it easier for the federal government to block individuals it disagrees with from accessing the financial system? Lael Brainard: So I really don't see CBDC as raising questions that are different from deposits and bank accounts, for instance. And the paper that was released in January, in particular, talks about an intermediary model, akin to what we see with commercial bank deposits, where the central bank doesn't have any direct interaction with consumers, doesn't see transactions by consumers, but there are intermediaries and, very importantly, including banks that would be responsible for both identity verification and for keeping that transaction data private. So in that sense, I don't see it it's as really any different than the issues that are raised with commercial bank deposits. June 16, 2021 Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy Witnesses: Eric B. Lorber, Senior Director, Foundation for Defense of Democracies Clips 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. Music by Editing Production Assistance
Published 10/23
CD282: Chaos Fires McCarthy
For the first time in U.S. history, the Speaker of the House of Representatives has been fired from the job mid-term. This episode is a play by play of the drama that lead up to this historic event, including the passing of a temporary government funding law which triggered agents of chaos to give Kevin McCarthy the boot. Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links Contribute monthly or a lump sum via Support Congressional Dish via (donations per episode) Send Zelle payments to: [email protected] Send Venmo payments to: @Jennifer-Briney Send Cash App payments to: $CongressionalDish or [email protected] Use your bank’s online bill pay function to mail contributions to: Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish Thank you for supporting truly independent media! Background Sources Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes Government Shutdowns Clinton T. Brass et al. Updated December 10, 2018. Congressional Research Service. Christopher Hickey. September 29, 2023. CNN. Credit Rating Downgrade Elliot Smith. September 27, 2023. CNBC. Elliot Smith. August 2, 2023. CNBC. Funding Process Congressional Research Service. September 11, 2023. Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget. The Continuing Resolution [Jen’s Highlighted Version.] Wikipedia contributors. Retrieved October 8, 2023. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. The Ousting of Kevin McCarthy S. Dev. October 4, 2023. CBS News. Mini Racker. October 3, 2023. TIME. Audio Sources October 3, 2023 September 30, 2023 C-SPAN Clips Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): We will put a clean funding stop gap on the floor to keep government open for 45 days for the House and Senate to get their work done. We will also, knowing what had transpired through the summer -- the disasters in Florida, the horrendous fire in Hawaii and also disasters in California and Vermont -- we will put the supplemental portion that the President asked for in disaster thereto keeping the government open while we continue to do our work. September 30, 2023 Clips Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX): Today, the most important priority is keeping government open. Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY): To shut the government down would be disastrous for the American people, our military, and our economy. The time has come for everyone to put the American people above all interests and continue to do our work as responsible, reasonable, and serious legislators. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA): I cannot justify shutting down our entire government over obscure policy decisions. September 30, 2023 Clips Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY): The alternative to our action today -- an entirely avoidable government shutdown -- would not just pause our progress on these important priorities, it would actually set them back. September 29, 2023 Clips Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA): This bill, that was just dropped on us a few hours ago, really is a piece of garbage, and that is putting it nicely. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): We need to make some serious cuts to our bloated government in areas where we don’t need it. We have way too many bureaucrats. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): As I have stated many times with these continuing resolutions, they tell us to pass a continuing resolution so we don’t have to pass another continuing resolution. Well, that line of thinking is like telling a crackhead that I am going to give you more crack to get you off of crack. The truth is we are just addicted to money, and now we are addicted to our great grandchildren’s money. September 28, 2023 Clips Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS): I oppose a shutdown of government, in part because a shutdown would make the crisis that we face at our border even worse. September 27, 2023 Clips Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO): We don’t want continuing resolutions or omnibus bills. We want to go through the funding of the Federal Government bill by bill, sit down, and work with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL): Enough is enough. I am putting my countrymen first. I don’t think we should send another nickel to Ukraine. September 27, 2023 Clips Sen. James Lankford (R-OK): We have got to deal with the issue of government shutdowns. They hurt us more than help us. September 26, 2023 Clips Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX): It will be up to Democrats to make a choice. Will they shut down this open border or will they shut down the government of the United States. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on CNN September 21, 2023 Clips Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down, but it doesn't work. September 21, 2023 Clips Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA): Madam Speaker, this majority is a failure. The clowns are running the circus. The day Speaker MCCARTHY handed his gavel over to the clown show, this was the inevitable outcome. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA): The Republican majority in this House is a joke. They wasted weeks talking about gas stoves, weeks arguing about book bans, weeks telling kids what soccer team they can play on, and now we are on the eve of a shutdown and they are doing nothing to stop it. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK): Shutting down the government is bad for the American people. It is an abdication of our responsibility. It is something we should not do September 20, 2023 Clips Rep. Tracey Mann (R-KS): Let’s secure the border. Let’s decrease our country’s dependence on Communist China. Let’s commit to reigning in government spending. September 19, 2023 News 12 Westchester Clips Rep. Michael Lawler (R-NY): This is stupidity, the idea we are going to shut the government down when we don’t control the Senate, we don’t control the White House. Rep. Michael Lawler (R-NY): If the clown show of colleagues that refuse to actually govern does not want to pass a CR, I will do everything we need to do to make sure a CR passes. The bottom line here is this: we’re not shutting the government down. September 19, 2023 Clips Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK): It is simply an inappropriate tool in the toolbox, in my opinion. I have seen both sides use it. My side, sadly, has used it more. I hope we don’t do it this time. September 19, 2023 PBS NewsHour Clips Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC): A shutdown is not the best thing in the world, but continued path toward bankruptcy is not an option either, for me. September 18, 2023 Clips Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL): Mr. Speaker, I’m not voting for a Continuing Resolution. I’m not voting to continue the failure, and the waste, and the corruption, and the election interference. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL): It is only a review of single-subject spending bills that will save this country and allow us to tweeze through these programs and force these agencies to stand up and defend their budget. September 13, 2023 Clips Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA): We should make border security a condition of any continuing resolution when the fiscal year ends on September 30. September 12, 2023 Clips Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL): No continuing resolutions; individual spending bills or bust. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL): Individual, single-subject spending bills that would allow us to have specific review, programmatic analysis, and that would allow us to zero out the salaries of the bureaucrats who have broken bad, targeted President Trump, or cut sweetheart deals for Hunter Biden. Rep. George Santos (R-NY): A shutdown would only hurt the very people who are putting their lives at risk for all of us. YouTube Executive Producer Recommended Episodes Music by Editing Production Assistance Cover Art Designed by Clare Kuntz Balcer with images from and
Published 10/08
CD281: Private Policing of the Organ Transplant Network
The system for coordinating organ donations and transplants in the United States is broken, according to experts who have testified over the course of many years to Congress. In this episode, hear their testimony about what is wrong with the current system and then we’ll examine the bill that aims to fix the problems. Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links Contribute monthly or a lump sum via Support Congressional Dish via (donations per episode) Send Zelle payments to: [email protected] Send Venmo payments to: @Jennifer-Briney Send Cash App payments to: $CongressionalDish or [email protected] Use your bank’s online bill pay function to mail contributions to: Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish Thank you for supporting truly independent media! Background Sources August 3, 2022. Senate Finance Committee. Lenny Bernstein and Todd C. Frankel. August 3, 2022. The Washington Post. February 10, 2020. Senate Finance Committee. The Bill Audio Sources July 20, 2023 Senate Committee on Finance, Subcommittee on Health Care Witnesses: LaQuayia Goldring, Patient Molly J. McCarthy, Vice Chair & Region 6 Patient Affairs Committee Representative, Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) Matthew Wadsworth, President and CEO, Life Connection of Ohio Raymond J. Lynch, MD, MS, FACS, Professor of Surgery and Director of Transplantation Quality and Outcomes, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center Donna R. Cryer, JD, Founder and CEO, Global Liver Institute Clips 30:40 Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR): HRSA, the Health Resources Agency, is on track to begin the contract process this fall and we're just going to be working here to complement their effort. 36:30 Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA): In 2005, I started the investigation of the deadly failures of UNOS, the monopoly tasked with managing the US organ donation system. Since then, more than 200,000 patients have needlessly died on the organ waiting list. There's a reason that I call UNOS the fox guarding the hen house. For nearly two decades, UNOS has concealed serious problems [at] the nation's organ procurement organizations, known as OPOs, instead of working to uncover and correct the corruption. This human tragedy is even more horrific because many of these deaths were preventable. They were the result of [a] corrupt, unaccountable monopoly that operates more like a cartel than a public servant. 44:45 LaQuayia Goldring: As a toddler, at the age of three, I was diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer that took the function of my left kidney. And when I was 17, I went back into complete renal failure and I received a first kidney transplant at that time. Unfortunately, in 2015, I went back into kidney failure. And at that time, I wasn't ready for another transplant, but I didn't have a choice but to go back on dialysis. I've been waiting nine agonizing years for a transplant, dependent upon a dialysis machine five days a week, just to be able to live. I was told that I would receive a kidney transplant within three to five years. But yet I am still waiting. I am undergoing monthly surgeries just to be able to get my dialysis access to work so that I can continue to live until I get a transplant. The UNOS waitlist is not like one to 100, where everybody thinks you get a number. I'm never notified on where I stand on the list or when I will get the call. I have to depend on an algorithm to make the decision of what my fate will be. 47:55 LaQuayia Goldring: Just a few weeks ago, a donor family reached out to me to be a directed kidney donor, meaning they chose me specifically for a kidney transplant. But unfortunately, due to the errors in the UNOS technology, I was listed as inactive and this was a clerical error. And all that they told me was this was a clerical error, and they could not figure out why I was inactive. But when it came down to it, I'm actually active on the transplant list. 51:45 Molly McCarthy: The Federal monopoly contractor managing the organ donation system, UNOS, is an unmitigated failure. And its leadership spends more time attacking critics than it does taking steps to fix the system. I've seen this firsthand in my five years as a patient volunteer with the OPTN and three years ago, I stepped into the role of Vice Chair of the Patient Affairs Committee, or PAC. 53:45 Molly McCarthy: Further, I have been called by a board member telling me to stop focusing on system outage and downtime of the UNOS tech system. He told me that having downtime wasn't a big deal at all, "the donors are dead anyway." That comment speaks volumes to me about the lack of empathy and respect UNOS has for donor families. 55:00 Molly McCarthy: Congress needs to break up the UNOS monopoly by passing 1668, ensuring that HHS uses its authority to replace UNOS as its contractor. 1:00:15 Matt Wadsworth: Break up the OPTN contract and allow for competition. 1:00:40 Matt Wadsworth: I commend this committee for introducing legislation to finally break up this monopoly and I stand ready to work with you in any way possible to ensure that this bill passes. It's the only way this industry will be able to save more patients' lives. 1:02:10 Dr. Raymond Lynch: I want to differentiate between organ donation, which is the altruistic decision of the donor patient and their family, and organ procurement, which is the clinical care provided by OPO staff. This is what turns the gift of donation into the usable organs for transplant. Organ procurement is a clinical specialty. It's the last medical care that many patients will ever receive. It's reimbursed by the federal government and it's administered by OPOs that are each the only provider in the territory to which they hold federal contracts. Right now patient care delivered by OPOs is some of the least visible in American healthcare. I can't tell you how many patients were evaluated by OPO workers in the US in 2022. I can't tell you how many patients were examined, or how many families were given information about donation, or how many times an OPO worker even showed up to a hospital to do this clinical duty. This lack of information about what OPO providers actually do for patients is a root cause of the variability in rates of organ procurement around the country. My research has shown that what we call OPO performance is a measurable restriction on the supply of organs that results in the unnecessary deaths of patients with organ failure. For example, if the lowest performing OPOs from around the country had just reached the national median over a recent seven year period, there would have been 4957 more organ donors, yielding an estimated 11,707 additional organs for transplant. Because many OPOs operate in a low quality data environment and without appropriate oversight, almost 5,000 patients did not get adequate organ procurement care, and nearly 12,000 other patients did not receive life saving transplants. 1:03:55 Dr. Raymond Lynch: OPO clinical work is currently not visible, it's not benchmarkable, and it's not able to be adequately evaluated, analyzed, or compared. However, much of the hidden data about how OPOs provide care to patients is known to one entity and that entity is UNOS. 1:05:20 Dr. Raymond Lynch: We need a new network of highly skilled specialist organizations, each attending to areas of expertise in the management of the OPTN contract. 1:21:15 Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN): When we look at OPTN, and look at the Securing Organ Procurement Act, the bill would strip the nonprofit requirement for the manager of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, which would open the door for profiting from organ procurement and donation. And to me, this is something that I think many people really fear, especially people that are on a waitlist. And so what I would like for you to do is to address that and address those concerns. And why or why not you think the Act has it right. Dr. Raymond Lynch: Thank you, Senator. I think it's unfortunate that people would be afraid of that and it needs to be changed. Many of the patients that you referenced are waitlisted at for-profit hospitals. For-profit is a part of American healthcare. And I can tell you that our not-for-profit entity doesn't work. And there are for-profit hospitals and for-profit transplant centers that do work. So patients don't need to be afraid of that. They do need to be afraid of the status quo. 1:28:30 Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD): Ms. Cryer, do you have any views as to why it's much lower percentage chances for a racial minority to be able to have a transplant? Donna Cryer: Yes. And it really does come down to UNOS not doing its job of overseeing the organ procurement organizations. We know from many studies that black and brown communities donate organs in the same percentage they are the population. So it is not a problem of willingness to donate. It is a problem, as Miss Goldring was starting to discuss, about UNOS not ensuring that OPOs go out into the communities, develop relationships far before that horrible decision is needed to [be] made to donate the organs of a family member. 1:56:45 Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): And among the many reforms the legislation would support HRSA's proposal to break up the OPTN monopoly contract into multiple smaller contracts, which would allow some competition and allow the best vendors in the business to manage different parts of the transplant network operation. That means hiring IT experts to do the IT. It means hiring logistics experts to do logistics, and so on. 1:57:15 Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): UNOS does not want to lose control, so they're pushing to have the government limit eligibility only to nonprofit vendors that have worked in the past on organ donation, meaning, for instance, that the IT company that is hired to run OPTNs computers systems would have had to have worked on an organ transplant network in the past and be a nonprofit. So Ms. McCarthy, the requirement UNOS wants would seem to make it so that only one organization could apply for the new contract: UNOS. 1:58:35 Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): Right now, Congress has an opportunity to root out corruption in this system, but if we don't act before the current contract expires we won't have another shot for years. August 3, 2022 Senate Committee on Finance Witnesses: Brian Shepard, CEO, United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Diane Brockmeier, RN, President and CEO, Mid-America Transplant Barry Friedman, RN, Executive Director, AdventHealth Transplant Institute Calvin Henry, Region 3 Patient Affairs Committee Representative, Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) Jayme Locke, M.D., MPH, Director, Division of Transplantation, Heersink School of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham Clips 36:15 Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR): A 1984 law created the first computerized system to match sick patients with the organs they need. It was named the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Someone needed to manage that system for the whole country, so the government sought to contract an organization to run it. UNOS was the only bidder for that first contract in 1986. The contract has come up for bid seven other times, UNOS has won all seven. Today, the network UNOS overseas is made up of nearly 400 members, including 252 transplant centers, and 57 regional organizations known as Organ Procurement Organizations, or OPOs. Each OPO is a defined geographic service network. Families sitting in a hospital room thinking about donating a loved one's organs does not have a choice of OPOs. 37:40 Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR): Between 2010 and 2020, more than 1,100 complaints were filed by patients and families, staff, transplant centers, and others. The nature of these complaints runs the gamut. For example, in a number of cases, OPOs had failed to complete critical mandatory tests for matters like blood types, diseases, and infection. Our investigation found one patient died after being transplanted with lungs that a South Carolina OPO marked with the wrong blood type. Similar blood type errors happened elsewhere and patients developed serious illness. Some had to have organs removed after transplant. Another patient was told he would likely die within three years after an OPO in Ohio supplied him with a heart from a donor who had died of a malignant brain tumor. UNOS did not pursue any disciplinary action. In a case from Florida, another patient contracted cancer from transplanted organs and the OPO sat on the evidence for months. In total, our investigation found that between 2008 and 2015, and 249 transplant recipients developed a disease from transplanted organs. More than a quarter of them died. 38:55 Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR): Delivering organs has been another source of life threatening errors. We found 53 such complaints between 2010 and 2020, as well as evidence that this was just the tip of the iceberg. In some cases, couriers missed a flight. In others, the organs were abandoned at airports. Some organs were never picked up. Many of these failures resulted in organs being discarded. 39:20 Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR): It's reasonable to assume that many more errors are going unreported. Why? Because filing official complaints with UNOS appears to accomplish zero productive oversight or reform. Organ transplant professionals repeatedly told the Finance Committee that the complaint process was, and I quote here, "a black hole." Complaints went in, UNOS went quiet. In interviews with the Committee UNOS leaders have dragged their feet, dodged tough questions, and shifted responsibility onto others. investigations and disciplinary measures rarely amount to much more than a slap on the wrist. Only one time -- just once -- has UNOS recommended that an OPO lose their certification. 55:05 Diane Brockmeier: We must update the archaic technology system at UNOS. As OPOs, we are required to work with UNOS technology DonorNet every day. DonorNet is outdated, difficult to us,e and often slow to function when every minute counts. Manual entry subjects it to error and OPO and Transplant Center staff are not empowered with the right information when time is critical. I did serve in leadership roles on the OPO Committee from 2017 to 2022. Committee members and industry leaders voiced repeated requests to improve DonorNet. The consistent response was UNOS IT did not have the bandwidth to address this work. The limitations of the UNOS technology are delaying and denying transplants to patients that are dying on the waitlist. Poor technology impacts the disturbingly high kidney discard rate in the United States, where one in four kidneys never make it to a patient for transplantation. Critical time is lost due to the inefficiency of DonorNet, wasting time on offers that will not be accepted. Of course an available organ should be offered to the patient in this sequence. However, far too much of the matching, particularly on older donors and organs that are difficult to place, are left to the individual OPOs and transplant centers to find each other despite, rather than facilitated by, UNOS technology. Mid-America Transplant intentionally identifies surgeons who accept kidneys that have been repeatedly turned down many times. These are life saving options for those patients. In May of 2022, one of these patients was number 18,193 on the list. Relying on DonorNet alone, that kidney would never had been placed and the chance to save a life would have been wasted. 55:20 Diane Brockmeier: UNOS lacks urgency and accountability around identifying and remediating this preventable loss of organs, and they are not required to publicly report adverse events when patients are harmed, organs are lost, or the quality of patient care is deemed unsafe. UNOS does not require clinical training, licensure, or certification standards for OPO staff delivering critical patient care. In this environment, who's looking out for the patient? Who's being held accountable for poor patient care? No OPO has ever actually been decertified, regardless of its performance or its safety record. 57:55 Diane Brockmeier: When an OPO goes out of sequence to place an organ that would otherwise be thrown away, UNOS requires an explanation; however, when organs are recovered and discarded, you must remain silent. 58:05 Diane Brockmeier: We must remove conflicts to ensure effective governance. From 2018 to 2020, I served as a board member for the OPTN. Serving on the board of the OPTN automatically assigns membership to the UNOS board. My board experience revealed that at times UNOS actions are not aligned with its fundamental vision of a life saving transplant for everyone in need. How can you fairly represent the country's interest and a contractor's interest at the same time? 58:35 Diane Brockmeier: Board members are often kept in the dark about critical matters and are marginalized, particularly if they express views that differ from UNOS leadership. Preparatory small group calls are conducted prior to board meetings to explore voting intentions, and if the board member was not aligned with the opinion of UNOS leadership, follow up calls are initiated. Fellow board members report feeling pressured to vote in accordance with UNOS leadership. 59:10 Diane Brockmeier: To protect patients, I urge Congress and the administration to separate the OPTN functions into different contracts so that patients can be served by best-in-class vendors, to immediately separate the boards of the OPTN and OPTN contractors, and to ensure that patients are safeguarded through open data from both the OPTN and OPOs. 1:00:45 Barry Friedman: Approximately 23% of kidneys procured from deceased donors are not used and discarded, resulting in preventable deaths 1:00:55 Barry Friedman: Organ transportation is a process left to federally designated Organ Procurement Organizations, OPOs. Currently, they develop their own relationships with couriers, rely on airlines, charter flights, ground transportation, and federal agencies to facilitate transportation. In many cases, organs must connect from one flight to another, leaving airline personnel responsible for transfers. While anyone can track their Amazon or FedEx package, there is currently no consistent way of tracking these life saving organs. 1:01:45 Barry Friedman: Currently there is no requirement for OPOs to use tracking systems. 1:02:20 Barry Friedman: I also believe there's a conflict of interest related to the management of IT functions by UNOS, as the IT tools they offer transplant centers come with additional costs, despite these being essential for the safety and management of organs. 1:02:35 Barry Friedman: UNOS is not effectively screening organ donors so that they can be quickly directed to transplant programs. UNOS asks centers to voluntarily opt out of certain organs via a filtering process. As a result, OPOs waste valuable time making organ offers to centers that will never accept them. Time wasted equates to prolonged cold ischemic time and organs not placed, resulting in lost organ transplant opportunities. 1:03:10 Barry Friedman: Due to the limited expertise that UNOS has in the placement of organs, it would be best if they were no longer responsible for the development of organ placement practices. The UNOS policy making [process] lacks transparency. Currently OPTN board members concurrently serve as the board members of UNOS, which creates a conflict of interest that contributes to this lack of transparency. UNOS committees are formed in a vacuum. There is no call for nominations and no data shared with the transplant community to explain the rationale behind decisions that create policy change. 1:11:35 Dr. Jayme Locke: The most powerful thing to know about this is that every organ represents a life. We can never forget that. Imagine having a medication you need to live being thrown away simply because someone took too long to get it to you. Your life quite literally in a trash can. Organs are no different. They too have shelf lives and they are measured in hours. Discarded organs and transportation errors may sound abstract, but let me make this negligence real for you. In 2014, I received a kidney that arrived frozen, it was an ice cube you could put in your drink. The intended recipient was sensitized, meaning difficult to match. The only thing we could do was tell the waiting patient that due to the lack of transportation safeguard, the kidney had to be thrown in the trash, the final generous act of a donor in Maryland. In 2017, I received a kidney that arrived in a box that appeared to have tire marks on it. The box was squished and the container inside had been ruptured. We were lucky and were able to salvage the kidney for transplant. But why should luck even play a role? 1:12:45 Dr. Jayme Locke: In one week, I received four kidneys from four different OPOs, each with basic errors that led to the need to throw away those life saving organs. One due to a botched kidney biopsy into the kidneys collecting system, another because of a lower pole artery that had been cut during procurement that could have been fixed if someone involved had assessed the kidney for damage and flushed it before packing, but that didn't happen. Two others arrived to me blue, meaning they hadn't been flushed either. 1:13:15 Dr. Jayme Locke: Opacity at UNOS means that we have no idea how often basic mistakes happen across the country, nor can we have any confidence that anything is being done to redress such errors so they don't keep happening. 1:13:40 Dr. Jayme Locke: Women who have been pregnant, especially multiple times, are harder to match, contributing to both gender and racial disparities in access to transplant. This is a very real example of how a constrained pool of organs and high discards disproportionately hurt women and women of color, who are more likely to have multiple pregnancies. 1:14:25 Dr. Jayme Locke: Number one, immediately separate the OPTN board from any of the boards of any contractors. Number two, bring in real experts to ensure our patients are served by the best of the best in each field, separating out key functions of the OPTN, including policy, technology, and logistics. And number three, ensure that patients are safer by holding all contractors accountable through public adverse event reporting and immediate redressing of problems. 1:22:00 Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA): The system doesn't seem to be fair to racial minorities or people living in rural communities. So what are your efforts underway to understand the root causes and help make the system fairer to patients on the waiting list to explain the factors that result in the disparity for minorities in rural populations in the process? And how can the federal government address a problem if we have to be involved in addressing it? Dr. Jayme Locke: One of the most important things that we don't currently do is we don't actually account for disease burden in terms of examining our waiting lists. So we have no way of knowing if we're actually serving the correct people, if the correct people are actually making it to the waiting list. Disease burden is super important because it not only identifies the individuals who are in need of transplantation, but it also speaks to supply. So areas with high rates of end stage kidney disease burden, like the southeastern United States are going to have much lower supply. And those waiting lists predominantly consist of African American or Black individuals. So if you want to make a truly equitable organ system, you have to essentially get more organs to those areas where there are higher disease burdens. I think the other thing is that we have to have more focus on how we approach donor families and make sure that we have cultural competence as a part of our OPOs, and how they approach families to ensure that we're not marginalizing minority families with regard to the organ donation process. 1:30:00 Brian Shepard: The OPTN IT system that UNOS operates has 99.99% uptime. It is a highly reliable system. We are audited annually by HRSA.... Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD): My information shows it's had 17 days down since I think 1999. That's not correct? Brian Shepard: In 23 years, yes, sir. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD): Okay, well, every day there's a loss of life, isn't it? Brian Shepard: That's the total amount of time over the couse of -- Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD): I hope our national event system isn't down 17 days a year. Brian Shepard: The system has never been down for a day. And to my knowledge, and I have not been at UNOS since 1999, there's been maybe one event that was longer than an hour, and that was three hours. But the total amount of time since 1999 -- Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD): So you're satisfied with your technology? You think you have the right technology? You're satisfied with your tracking systems now? You think everything is okay? Brian Shepard: We constantly improve our technology. We're subjected to 3 million attempts a day to hack into the patient database and we successfully repelled them all. So we are never satisfied with our technology, but we do maintain 99.99% uptime. We disagree with the USDS analysis of our systems. 1:37:25 Brian Shepard: If you're asking whether UNOS can prevent an OPO from operating or for being an OPO -- Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH: Well not prevent them, but require them to do something .You don't have the ability to require them...? Brian Shepard: The peer review process has significant persuasive authority, but all the payment authority and all the certification and decertification authority live at CMS. 1:39:00 Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH: Do you think there should be tracking of organs in transit? Brian Shepard: I think that's a very beneficial thing. UNOS provides an optional service that a quarter of OPOs use. Many OPOs also use other commercially available trackers to do that. There is not a single requirement to use a particular system. 1:41:55 Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): Mr. Shepherd, you are the CEO of UNOS. We have documented these problems and you've received more than 1000 complaints in the last decade alone. So tell me, in the 36 years that UNOS has had the contract to run our national organ system, how many times has UNOS declared its OPO Members, any OPO members, not in good standing. Brian Shepard: Two times, Senator. 1:43:20 Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): How many times has UNOS put an OPO on probation? Brian Shepard: I don't know that number off the top of my head, but it's not a large number. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): It's not large, in fact it's three. 1:45:20 Brian Shepard: Approximately 10% of the budget of this contract is taxpayer funded. The rest of that is paid by hospitals when they list patients. 1:49:30 Sen. Todd Young (R-IN): Once an OPO is designated not in good standing, Senator Warren referred to this as toothless. It does seem toothless to me. I'll give you an opportunity, Mr. Shepherd, to disabuse me of that notion and indicate for me what penalties or sanctions are actually placed on an OPO when they are designated not in good standing. Brian Shepard: The statute does not give UNOS any authority to offer sanctions like that. The certification, decertification, payment authorities belong entirely to CMS. UNOS's statute doesn't give us the ability -- Sen. Todd Young (R-IN): So it is toothless in that sense. Brian Shepard: It is designed to be, by regulation and contract, a quality improvement process, in contrast to the oversight process operated by a federal agency. 1:51:15 Sen. Todd Young (R-IN): To what extent is UNOS currently tracking the status of all the organs in transit at any given time? Brian Shepard: UNOS does not coordinate transportation or track organs in transit. We do provide a service that OPOs can use to use GPS trackers. Some of the OPOs use ours and some use other commercially available products. Sen. Todd Young (R-IN): So why is it, and how does UNOS plan to optimize organ delivery if you don't have 100% visibility into where they are at any given time? Brian Shepard: I think that the GPS products that we offer and that other people offer are valuable, they do help in the delivery of kidneys. Only kidneys travel unaccompanied, so this is a kidney issue. But I do think that GPS trackers are valuable and I think that's why you've seen more and more OPOs use them. 1:52:50 Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR): Mr. Shepherd has said twice, with respect to this whole question of the power to decertify an OPO, that CMS has the power to do it. UNOS also has the power to refer an OPO for decertification under the OPTN final rule. That has been done exactly once. So I just wanted it understood with respect to making sure the committee has got what's really going on with respect to decertifying OPOs. 2:00:15 Dr. Jayme Locke: Obviously people have described that we have about a 25% kidney discard, so one in four. So if you look at numbers last year, these are rough numbers, but that'd be about 8000 kidneys. And really, I think, in some ways, these are kind of a victim of an entrenched and cumbersome allocation algorithms that are very ordinal, you have to go sort of in order, when data clearly have shown that introduction of multiple simultaneous expiring offers would result in more efficient placement of kidneys and this would decrease our cold ischemia time. 2:00:50 Dr. Jayme Locke: So if you take UNOS's organ center, they have a very rigid system, for example, for finding flights and lack either an ability or interest in thinking outside the box. So, for example, if there are no direct flights from California to Birmingham, Alabama, instead of looking for a flight from San Francisco to Atlanta, understanding that a courier could then pick it up in Atlanta and drive it the two hours, they'll instead put on a flight from SFO to Atlanta and allow it to go to cargo hold overnight, where it literally is rotting, if you will, and we're putting extra time on it. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR): Just to make sure everybody gets this. You're saying you've seen instances of something being put in cargo hold when it is very likely to rot? Dr. Jayme Locke: That is correct. So if the kidney arrives after 10pm at the Atlanta airport, it goes to cargo hold. We discovered that and made calls to the airlines ourselves and after several calls to the airlines, of course they were mortified, not understanding that that was what was happening and actually had their manager meet our courier and we were able to get the kidney out of cargo hold, but this went on before we figured out what was happening because essentially they fly it in, it sits in cargo hold, it comes out the next morning to catch the next flight. Instead of thinking outside the box: if we just get it to Atlanta, it's drivable to Birmingham. And those hours make a difference. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR): That sounds way too logical for what UNOS has been up to. 2:03:05 Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR): Miss Brockmeier, UNOS has developed this organ tracking system. Do you all use it? I'm curious what you think of it. Diane Brockmeier: Thank you for the question, Senator. We did use and participate in the beta pilot through UNOS and made the decision to not move forward using their product, and have sought a commercial alternative. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR): And why was that? Diane Brockmeier: Part of the issues were some service related issues, the lack of the interconnectivity that we wanted to be able to facilitate a more expedited visual tracking of where the organ was. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR): Was the tracking technology low quality? Diane Brockmeier: Yes, sir. 2:11:25 Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR): All right, let's talk for a moment about the boards that are supposed to be overseeing these, because it looks to me like there's a serious conflict of interest here and I'll send this to Ms. Brockmeier, and perhaps you'd like to get to it as well, Mr. Friedman. The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, which is the formal title of the organ network that operates under federal contract administered by HHS, and UNOS, which is the contractor that operates the network and controls information about the network, have the same boards of directors, despite efforts by the government to separate them. That means the people who look out for the best interests of UNOS, the multimillion dollar nonprofit, are the same people who look out for the interests of the entire organ transplant network. Sure sounds like a conflict to me. 2:12:55 Diane Brockmeier: I think there should be an independent board. I think the division of the responsibilities of the board and by the inherent way that they're structured, do pose conflicts. It would be like if you had an organization that was a supporting organization, you'd want to hold it accountable for its performance. And the current structure really limits that opportunity. 2:19:50 Dr. Jayme Locke: And if you think about IT, something as simple as having a system where we can more easily put in unacceptable antigens, this was a debate for many years. So for context, we list unacceptable antigens in the system that allows us to better match kidneys so that when someone comes up on the match run, we have a high probability that there'll be a good tissue match. Well, that took forever and we couldn't really get our unacceptable antigens in, so routinely people get offered kidneys that aren't going to be a match, and you have to get through all of those before you can get to the person that they really should go to. Those are simple examples. But if we could really have transparency and accountability around those kinds of things, we could save more lives. 2:23:10 Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR): Mr. Shepherd told Senator Warren that only 10% of UNOS funds come from taxpayer money and the rest comes from fees paid by transplant centers who add patients to the list. But the fact is, Medicare is the largest payer of the fees, for example, for kidneys. So we're talking about inefficiency, inefficiency that puts patients at risk. And certainly, taxpayer dollars are used to cover some of these practices. May 4, 2021 House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Witnesses: Tonya Ingram, Patient Waiting for a Transplant Dr. Dara Kass, Living Donor and Mother of Transplant Recipient LaQuayia Goldring, Patient Waiting for a Transplant Steve Miller, CEO, Association for Organ Procurement Organizations Joe Ferreira, President, Association for Organ Procurement Organizations Matt Wadsworth, President and CEO, Life Connection of Ohio Dr. Seth Karp, Director, Vanderbilt Transplant Center Donna Cryer, President and CEO, Global Liver Institute Clips 5:15 Tonya Ingram: The Organ Procurement Organization that serves Los Angeles, where I live, is failing according to the federal government. In fact, it's one of the worst in the country. One analysis showed it only recovered 31% of potential organ donors. Audits in previous years found that LA's OPO has misspent taxpayer dollars on retreats to five star hotels and Rose Bowl tickets. The CEO makes more than $900,000. Even still, the LA OPO has not lost its government contract and it has five more years to go. 30:00 Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL): Unusual among Medicare programs, their costs are 100% reimbursed, even costs unrelated to care. So, extravagant executive compensation and luxury perks may be passed off onto the taxpayer. 46:55 Dr. Seth Karp: We have 10 hours to get a liver from the donor to the recipient, and about one hour to sew it in. For heart, we have about six hours. Time matters. 47:55 Dr. Seth Karp: Last year, I had the opportunity to co-write a viewpoint in one of the journals of the American Medical Association with TJ Patel, former Chief Data Scientist of the United States. In that article, we provided evidence that the metrics used to judge the performance of organ procurement organizations are basically useless. Until the recent OPO Final Rule, performance was self-reported, and OPO employees admitted to having gamed the system. When threatened with decertification, one of the OPOs themselves successfully argued that because the performance data were self reported and unaudited, they failed to meet a reasonable standard and the OPO should not be held accountable. In other words for decades, the metrics supposed to measure performance didn't measure performance, and the results have been disastrous, as you have heard. 49:45 Dr. Seth Karp: Whenever I, and quite frankly most everyone else in the field, gives a talk on transplantation, we usually make two points. The first is that organ transplantation is a miracle of modern medicine. The second is the tragedy that there are not enough organs for everyone who needs one. I no longer use the second point, because I don't believe it. Based on my work, I believe that there are enough organs for patients who require hearts, lungs, and probably livers, and we can make a huge improvement in the number of kidneys available. In addition to improving OPO performance, new technologies already exist to dramatically increase the organ supply. We need a structure to drive rapid improvement in our system. 54:00 Joe Ferreira: One common misconception is that OPOs are solely responsible for the entire donation and transplantation system, when, in fact, OPOs are the intermediary entity and their success is highly dependent on collaborations with hospitals and transplant programs. At the start of the donation process, hospitals are responsible for notifying any OPO in a timely manner when a patient is on a ventilator and meets medical criteria to be an organ donor. Additionally, transplant centers must make the decision whether to accept or decline the organs offered by OPOs. 57:55 Matt Wadsworth: As geographic monopolies, OPOs are not subject to any competitive pressure to provide high service. As the only major program in all of health care 100% reimbursed for all costs, we do not face financial pressures to allocate resources intelligently. 1:02:10 Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL): Mr. Ferreira, I'd like to turn to you. You run the OPO called the Nevada Donor Network. I have your OPO's 2019 financial statement filed with the CMS. It appears that your OPO spent roughly $6 million in 2019 on administrative and general expenses. Interestingly, in 2019, I see your OPO spent approximately $146,000 on travel meetings and seminars alone. And your itemization of Administrative and General has an interesting line item for $576,000 for "ANG". It took me a minute but that means you have an "Administrative and General" subcategory in your "Administrative and General" category. Very vague. Now Mr. Ferreira, I was informed by Mr. Wadsworth, a former executive of yours at the Nevada Donor Network, that your OPO has season tickets to the NHL's Las Vegas Golden Knights, isn't that correct? Joe Ferreira: That is correct, Mr. Chairman. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL): And you also have season tickets to the Las Vegas Raiders too, right? Joe Ferreira: That is correct. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL): And according to Mr. Wadsworth and others, your OPO took a board retreat to Napa Valley in 2018. Joe Ferreira: That is correct. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL): And Sonoma in 2019, right? Joe Ferreira: That is correct. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL): Mr. Ferreira, what you're spending on the Raiders, the Golden Knights, Napa Valley and Sonoma have one thing in common: they have nothing to do with recovering organs. 1:10:30 Dr. Seth Karp: In 2019, there were six heart transplants that were performed using donors after circulatory determination of death. And I don't want to get into the technical aspects of that. But in 2019, that number was six. In 2020, that number was 126. This is a new technology. This is a way that we can increase the number of heart transplants done in United States dramatically. And if we think that there were 500 patients in the United States waiting for a heart in 2020, 500 patients that either died or were delisted because they were too sick, and you think in one year, using a technology, we got another 100 transplants, if we could get another 500 transplants out of that technology, we could almost eliminate deaths on the on the heart transplant waiting list. That technology exists. It exists today. But we don't have a mechanism for getting it out to everybody that could use it and it's going to run itself through the system, it's going to take too much time. 1:24:05 Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA): You know, I'm a little disappointed that we're discussing race as a factor in organ transplant. We're all one race in my opinion; color makes no difference to me. We're the human race. And to me, the interjection of race into this discussion is very concerning. Discrimination based on race was outlawed almost 60 years ago through the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now, I'm not a medical doctor, and I have very little knowledge of medicine. But last year, there was an article that came out in LifeSource and it says, "Does my race and ethnicity matter in organ donation?" And so my question here is for Dr. Karp. In your experience, would you agree that a donor's organs are more likely to be a clinical match for a recipient of the same ethnicity? Could you comment on that? Is that actually a factor, or not? I mean, we're all human beings, we all, you know, have similar bodies. Dr. Seth Karp: Yes. So there definitely are certain HLA types that are more common. That is race-based. So the answer to that question is yes. Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA): Okay. All right. And so if you have more of one particular race, more donations of one particular race, then naturally you would have more actual matches of that particular race. Is that correct? Dr. Seth Karp: That would tend to be the case. Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA): Okay. All right. All right. Okay, that's just a question that I wanted to clear up here. 1:34:20 Donna Cryer: We'd like to see investments in languages that are spoken by the community. Educational resources should be, as required by law, for those with limited English proficiency. They should be in the languages spoken by the community. They should be hiring diverse staff to have those most crucial conversations with families. The data shows, and certainly experience and common sense shows as well, that having people of color approaching families of color results in more donations. Executive Producer Recommended Sources Music by Editing Production Assistance
Published 09/17
CD280: Corporate Junk Fees
Do you hate hidden hotel, housing, airline, ticketing, banking, and other corporate fees? Do you want Congress to do something about them? In this episode, learn about the wide range of unreasonable fees being reported to Congress during hearings and examine what proposals could have bipartisan support. Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links Contribute monthly or a lump sum via Support Congressional Dish via (donations per episode) Send Zelle payments to: [email protected] Send Venmo payments to: @Jennifer-Briney Send Cash App payments to: $CongressionalDish or [email protected] Use your bank’s online bill pay function to mail contributions to: Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish Thank you for supporting truly independent media! Background Sources Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes FTC Authority Ronald Mann. Apr 23, 2021. SCOTUSblog. Supreme Court of the United States. April 22, 2021. Junk Fee Overview Ashish A. Pradhan. May 19, 2023. The National Law Review. Will Kenton. January 24, 2023. Investopedia. Brian Deese et al. October 26, 2022. White House Briefing Room Blog. October 20, 2022. Federal Trade Commission. Brian Canfield et al. July 7, 2021. Institute for Policy Integrity, NYU School of Law. Internet *Federal Communications Commission Healthcare August 8, 2022. Federal Trade Commission. Banking/Payments Lindsey D. Johnson. July 26, 2023. Consumer Bankers Association. July 11, 2023. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Newsroom. Offices of Consumer Populations and Markets. May 23, 2023. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. October 26, 2022. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Newsroom. September 28, 2022. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Newsroom. August 16, 2022. Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General. August 16, 2022. U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Joe Valenti. March 30, 2022. * Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Blog. January 26, 2022. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Newsroom. December 7, 2020. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Newsroom. December 28, 2018. Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General. Housing July 19, 2023. White House Briefing Room. March 14, 2023. National Consumer Law Center. Jennifer Ludden. January 13, 2023. WBUR. Airlines Reid Bramblett. Frommer’s. Suzanne Rowan Kelleher. Mar 7, 2023. Forbes. U.S. Department of Transportation. U.S. Department of Transportation. December 13, 2022. U.S. Department of Transportation. November 2022. Statista. Rosie Spinks. June 1, 2018. Quartz. May 2011. Jones Day. Hotels November 17, 2021. Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General. Christina Jelski. Mar 12, 2021. Travel Weekly. November 28, 2012. The Federal Trade Commission. Ticketing June 20, 2018. U.S. House of Representatives. Anne Bucher. June 13, 2018. Top Class Actions. “Susan Wang and Rene' Lee v. StubHub, Inc. Case” [No. CGC-18-564120]. The Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Francisco. Cars June 23, 2022. Federal Trade Commission. Laws Bills Audio Sources July 26, 2023 Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection Witnesses: Attorney General, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Director of Housing Advocacy, Atlanta Legal Aid Society Manager Director, Patomak Global Partners Clips Michelle Henry: In the consumer finance space, we recently filed a multi-state lawsuit against Mariner Finance, a Wall Street private equity-owned installment lender. Our lawsuit alleges that Mariner charged consumers junk fees for hidden add-on products that consumers either did not know about or did not agree to buy. These hidden add-on products, such as credit insurance and auto clubs, are typically low- or no-value products. Consumers left Mariner believing that they had entered into an agreement to borrow and repay over time a certain amount of money. In reality, because of these hidden junk fees, Mariner added hundreds to thousands of dollars to the total amount a consumer owed. The cost of the junk fees is staggering. For a random sample of loans originated in Pennsylvania in December of 2020, Mariner charged each consumer an average of $1,085 in junk fees for an average of $3,394 in cash borrowed. Michelle Henry: We also had a significant junk fee settlement in 2018 with Wells Fargo. This settlement stemmed from Wells charging its auto finance customers millions in junk fees. Despite evidence that many customers already had the required car insurance, Wells improperly charged more than 2 million accounts for force-placed insurance. To resolve the multi-state action, Wells agreed to pay states $575 million. Michelle Henry: In 2021, we announced the landmark junk fee settlement with Marriott International. For many years, travelers had been misled by the published rates offered by hotels for a night stay, only later to be hit with the mandatory resort fees when they were checking in. Thanks to our settlement, Marriott now has a policy in place to be upfront and transparent in the disclosure of mandatory fees, including resort fees, as part of the total price of a hotel stay, allowing consumers to compare total costs for hotels and find the one that is the best fit for them. Marriott was the first hotel chain to formally commit to the upfront disclosure of resort fees as part of the initial advertised price. We hope others will follow. Michelle Henry: In the end, what we are fighting here for is basic fairness and transparency. When consumers are shopping online or in person, they deserve to understand what a loan, a house, or a vacation will cost and exactly what key terms they're agreeing to. At the same time, all businesses deserve to compete on an even playing field, where the price is the price with no hidden surprise fees. Lindsey Siegel: My name is Lindsay Siegel and I'm the Director of Housing Advocacy at Atlanta Legal Aid, which provides free civil legal services to families with low incomes in the metro Atlanta area. Today, I will focus on the rental housing market and how predatory and hidden rental fees gouge families living in poverty and make their rent even more unaffordable than it already is. Miss Dixon is a single mother who found an online listing for an apartment in the fall of 2020. The advertisement said it rented for $1,400 per month. It did not list any other monthly fees she would be required to pay. She applied and paid $525 through the landlord's online portal, which covered her $50 application fee, a $175 moving fee, and a $300 screening fee, all of which were non-refundable. She was not able to see the lease or the apartment she'd be renting, but she knew if she did not pay sight unseen she would lose the apartment. And when her application was approved a few weeks later, the landlord charged her another $200 approval fee. She finally received and signed a copy of her lease just two days before she was slated to move in. It was 50 pages long and contained to eight different addenda. She had expected to pay her rent and for water. She didn't expect to be responsible for a package locker fee, a trash removal fee, a separate valet trash fee, a pest control fee, a technology package fee, an insurance fee, and a credit reporting fee. When the fees added up, $83 had been tacked on to her monthly rent. And to make matters worse, Miss Dixon's landlord did not accept the rent by cash, check, or money order. When she paid through the landlord's online portal she was charged another $72-per-payment convenience fee. The low income renters Atlanta Legal Aid represents have an extreme power imbalance with their landlords. The high demand for rental housing, especially at the more affordable end of the market, makes some landlords believe they can easily get away with unfair and deceptive lease terms and rental practices. The bait and switch Miss Dixon experienced where the landlord advertise the rent as one price only to raise it much higher with junk fees after she had spent hundreds of dollars up front is a far too common practice of many investor landlords in the Atlanta area. Low income renters like Miss Dixon become trapped. She couldn't afford to walk away from a predatory lease two days before she was supposed to move in, even if she realized it would be unaffordable. Of particular concern are the use of high application fees. They often far exceed the cost of running a report, and most renters have to pay them several times before finding a home to rent. We've heard reports that some institutional landlords even collect application fees after they've found a renter for an available home. Brian Johnson: The focus of the President's initiative has been on applying political pressure to companies to induce them to change their fee disclosure practices. In the process, the White House and supporting agencies have dismissed broad categories of fees as junk without ever providing any consistent definition of the term, which has created uncertainty as to which fees can be assessed by institutions without undue reputational or regulatory risk. Brian Johnson: The CFPB has been the most enthusiastic among regulators in heeding the President's call, indiscriminately attacking a growing list of common financial service fees, no matter that they are lawful and fully disclosed. Brian Johnson: The agency has publicly hectored companies about deposit account fees and used the implied threat of investigation to induce such companies to abandon these legal fees. Further, in addressing other fees, the CFPB appears appears to have violated its own regulations and laws governing how agencies proffer rules by disguising interpretive rules as policy statements in bulletins and issuing circulars that function as legislative rules. In another instance, under the guise of interpretation, the CFPB read a word into a statute to achieve its desired policy outcome. In still another, the agency treats the rulemaking process as a foregone conclusion, acting as though a still proposed rule has already taken effect, signaling that the agency has no interest in considering public comments, establishing an adequate evidentiary basis to support its conclusions, or considering potential changes to improve the rule. These examples demonstrate an abuse of power and the agency's disregard for process and the limits placed on it. Moreover, the CFPB's behavior subverts the authority of Congress to oversee the agency and legislate the legality of fees in our financial marketplace. Simply put, it's not playing by the rules. Lindsey Siegel: So I think the federal government does have a role to play. The CFPB could create best practices, investigate junk fees further -- especially those being charged for tenant screening reports -- could bring enforcement actions against debt collectors that engage in collection practices that violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in their collection of rental debt especially includes collection of junk fees. And certainly, you know, HUD could further study and address the disproportionate impact of these practices on renters and rental applicants of color. Lindsey Siegel: Tenants living in Atlanta have a very hard time finding a rental, finding a home, that's not owned by a corporate landlord at this point. They have bought up many properties in the Atlanta area and they always seem to be working in lockstep so that once one institutional landlord is charging a certain kind of fee then another one tends to charge it as well. Just one example of this is the proliferation of landlords charging for insurance fees, and often tenants will think that these are renters insurance because they're often called renter's insurance. But it's not like traditional renter's insurance that protects the renter and their property if it's destroyed. What it does is protect the landlord and doesn't really provide a benefit to tenants at all. And we've seen that proliferate with investor landlords in particular. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC): I can't imagine any reasonable member of Congress not saying, "I want the person to know what their financial obligation is when they sign an instrument, not after they read page 10 in the fine print." Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC): I'm less caught up in whether or not a trash collection fee is appropriate or not, and more caught up in, does that renter know at the point in time they're signing a lease what they're expected to pay every month? Michelle Henry: We often see things bleed over state lines and boundaries, as you are well aware, and so it's important that we work together to enforce these matters. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA): How often do these kinds of cases cross state lines? And would having federal standards against these types of hidden fees make these cases easier to bring? Michelle Henry: Almost always. And I think that's critical. Where we have been most successful is joining with our fellow states, other attorneys general, partnering with them, and including the CFPB. In December of 2020, the CFPB, with all 50 states and the District of Columbia, filed enforcement action against Nationstar mortgage, again for deceptive practices, for not being transparent when they were servicing borrowers mortgages, and as a result of that joint effort we were able to obtain a settlement of $73 million and brought aid to 40,000 borrowers. Michelle Henry: You know, the reality is a lot of times consumers get misled. So they start, they're looking on the internet, they're trying to do due diligence and look for the best price, whether it's for a hotel, a vacation, and they're in there examining it, and they get led to a certain area of a certain website thinking that's the best price. And they go down this rabbit hole where they have no idea at the end of it that the price they thought they were going to pay for a hotel stay with their family is actually far larger because of fees that they weren't prepared, were not properly advised of, and at that point, they're so far in or they never discover it. So no, I don't think they understand exactly what to be aware of. We're trying to do our best to educate but far more work needs to be done, and I applaud this committee for working on it. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA): If more federal agencies had the authority to address these hidden fees, how would that affect your office's capacity? Michelle Henry: It would help tremendously. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA): Thank you so very much. Michelle Henry: If history is any lesson, we know that they can't be trusted to act in the best interest of consumers on their own. Look, they're in the business of making money for their shareholders and we need robust consumer protection rules and enforcement to ensure that. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC): So what we're talking about here is not the "what," it's the "how." And I for one do not think that the regulator's who have demonstrated pushing the boundaries of their authority, giving them more authority is a good idea if we're coming up with a real bipartisan sustainable solution. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC): The problem we have here too, when we transfer power out of Congress to another branch, yes, that changes every four years or so. So you may be thrilled with a regulatory regimen that comes out from the CFBP today, but because of the way they behaved, it'd be one of the first things I would work to repeal if the administration changed and withdraw it. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC): I'd like to submit for the record a letter from the Consumer Bankers Association on the subject. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC): Mr. Johnson, can you talk about the effect of the method that the CFPB is using to go after this and the impact that it can have, the negative implications that has? Is the CFPB's tendency to name and shame business institutions to avoid certain practices or adopt new ones effective regulation? They're not really thinking through the full impact and all the potential unintended consequences. Can you think of any example under this current leadership of the CFPB where they have taken that into consideration? Can you speak a little bit about the efforts and the length the CFPB goes in an effort to avoid judicial review and skirt the APA process? June 8, 2023 Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation: Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security Witnesses: Chief Executive Officer, National Consumers League Bruce Greenwald Professor of Business, Marketing Division, Columbia Business School George Mason University Foundation Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia School of Law, George Mason University Clips 21:35 Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO): Simply put, these are fees that are disclosed to a consumer midway through or at the end of a transaction, or they're fees that serve no tangible purpose for a consumer, like a processing fee, and that they are mandatory or unavoidable. 28:00 Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN): The way I look at this issue, and the way many Tennesseans look at it, is this is another way for the FTC, the CFPB, DoT, and all these regulators to clamp down on businesses and try to micro manage businesses. 30:42 Dr. Vicki Morwitz: as a strategy where firms decide to divide a product's price into two or more mandatory parts, a base price for the main product and one or more mandatory surcharges, rather than charging a single all-inclusive price. For example, many hotels have a mandatory fee on top of the daily room rate. These are sometimes called resort fees, or facility fees, or destination fees and can range from $20 to over $50 a night. And many rental car agencies assess several mandatory fees on top of the daily rental rate, such as concession recovery fees, customer facility fees, energy recovery fees, and vehicle licensing fees. 31:20 Dr. Vicki Morwitz: In general, what research on partition pricing has shown is that when firms separate out mandatory surcharges consumers tend to underestimate the total price they'll have to pay and they're often more likely to complete the purchase. 31:50 Dr. Vicki Morwitz: With drip pricing, firms advertise only part of our products' price upfront and reveal other charges later, as shoppers go through the buying process. Drip fees can be mandatory or can be for optional items, but for today's testimony I'll focus on the dripping of mandatory surcharges. Drip pricing is commonly used in industries like the cable TV and the ticketing industries. When a consumer shops for a TV-Internet bundle from a cable television provider, they may first see an attractive base price offer for the bundle, but later learn there are also broadcast TV fees, set top box fees, regional sports fees, and TV connection fees that raise the price considerably. And a consumer shopping for a ticket for a live event, like a concert, a play, or a baseball game, typically first sees the price for different seats in the venue. After selecting a seat, as the consumer clicks through more webpages, they may come to learn there's also a mandatory booking fee, ticketing fee, venue fee, and delivery fee, even when the tickets are delivered electronically. Eventually, they see a total price that may be much higher than the first price they saw and they may be under time pressure to complete the purchase, as there might be a countdown clock that indicates they have to complete their purchase in just a few minutes. Or they may be told there's only two seats left at that price. 33:00 Dr. Vicki Morwitz: What research has shown is that when surcharges are dripped, consumers end up being more likely to buy a product that appears cheaper upfront based only on the base price, but that's more expensive and total given the drip fees. Consumers also tend to buy more expensive products than they otherwise would, such as a seat closer to the stage for a live event. 35:00 Dr. Vicki Morwitz: These policies will benefit consumers if they require that upfront stated prices must be all-inclusive. In other words, all mandatory fees must be included in the total price and that the total price should be seen upfront. This is what academic research suggests will be most beneficial to consumers. 39:20 Dr. Todd Zywicki: Everybody knows bags fly free on Southwest, everybody knows bags don't fly free on the legacy airlines, everybody knows there's going to be a fee for for bags on the other airlines and the like. Maybe there's ways you can disclose it, but nobody's fooled at this point. 42:45 Sally Greenberg: If consumers hate junk fees so much, why do companies large and small increasingly impose them? The answer is, unsurprisingly, because they are a substantial profit center. 43:20 Sally Greenberg: Late payment fees charged by banks and credit cards cost American families an estimated $12 billion annually. These fees, which can be as much as $41 for each Late Fee Payment, far exceed the cost to the issuer for processing and do little to deter future delinquent payments. 43:40 Sally Greenberg: Airlines are also poster children for junk fees. Globally, revenue from junk fees, ancillary fees in airline speak, brought in $102.8 billion in 2022. To put this in perspective, junk fees last year made up 15% of global airline revenues, compared to 6% only 10 years ago. 44:00 Sally Greenberg: Anyone who buys tickets to a concert or sporting event is well acquainted with the myriad fees. They're added at the end of the ticket buying process. We have the example that you showed, Senator Hickenlooper. Primary and secondary market ticketing companies charge service fees, order processing fees, delivery fees and other charges that increased ticket prices on average 27% for the primary market and 31% for the secondary market. 45:05 Sally Greenberg: Junk fees themselves are anti-competitive. They make comparing prices more difficult, distorting well functioning marketplaces. Honest entrepreneurs who invest in their businesses, innovate, and strive to create better value for their customers lose business. Action to address the consumer and competitive harm created by junk fees is urgently needed. 45:30 Sally Greenberg: First, we would urge you to support S. 916. It's the Junk Fee Prevention Act, which would require some of the worst abusers of junk fees to display the full price of services upfront, and they would bar excessive fees and ensure transparency. Second, we ask that Congress restore the FTC's ability to obtain strong financial penalties from wrongdoers. The Supreme Court, in 2021, overturned AMG Capital Management v. FTC, wiping out a critical enforcement tool for the commission. S. 4145, which is the Consumer Protection Remedies Act, would restore that ability to impose monetary relief to the commission. And finally, Congress must not allow businesses that trap consumers with unfair and deceptive fees to escape accountability through fine print in their contracts. To that end, we're proud to support S. 1376, the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act, which would prohibit pre-dispute arbitration agreements from being enforceable if they require arbitration in employment, consumer, antitrust, or civil rights disputes 44:35 Sally Greenberg: Renters, for example, tend to have lower incomes than those who own their homes. These consumers are also some of the most preyed upon by abusive junk fees. A 2022 survey conducted by Consumer and Housing Advocates found that 89% of landlords imposed some rental application fees[[ clare, 8/7/2023 2:09 PM couldn’t find this specific survey]], nearly as many renters paid excessive late fees and they also get hit with utility, administrative, convenience, insurance, and notice fees. 51:30 Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN): I'm not hearing from Tennesseans about junk fees. They're just not talking about. They are talking about real economic harm. And I think for some it's been kind of perplexing that we would focus on this issue. I even had one Tennessean say, "Well, what exactly is a junk fee? And what are the economic harms that come to people for fees for discretionary services?" 53:20 Dr. Todd Zywicki: I can't see any reason why people who pay their credit cards on time should have to subsidize people who pay their credit cards late. The evidence is clear on this from the that if you reduce late fees, more people pay late. The makes clear that if you reduce late fees, everybody ends up paying higher interest rates and, and lower income and higher risk borrowers get less access to credit. So most of what we see in the market is efficient. It prevents cross consumer subsidies and a lot of these things that are labeled as junk fees are actually just efficient multi-part pricing. 1:00:30 Dr. Vicki Morwitz: When a larger firm, or really any firm, uses hidden fees or surcharges, it doesn't only hurt consumers, but it hurts well intentioned, honest competitors like many of our country's small businesses that you're talking about. So when a larger firm makes salient a lower base price and only puts in small print or only reveals at the end of the shopping process that there are additional mandatory fees, their product offerings may appear, at least at first, to be cheaper than those of say a small business, an honest competitor who uses all inclusive prices, whose prices at least at first then, will appear more expensive, even if they're actually cheaper in total when the hidden fees of the large firm are added in. Now, research shows this is going to lead consumers to be more likely to even first consider the products and services of the larger firm who uses hidden surcharges because their products seem cheaper. In other words, their supposed low prices draw consumers in. But then having first consider their products consumers will also be more likely to stick with that firm and ultimately purchase their products, even when they're more expensive in total with the fees. So these hidden fees, they don't only hurt consumers by leading them to make purchases that are against their own self interest, but it also hurts honest competitors who are using transparent pricing practices. 1:04:10 Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): One area of this high excessive fees is ticketing. We had the hearing earlier this year with the president of Live Nation/ Ticketmaster, and other witnesses and as you are aware, the facts are quite startling. It's being reviewed by the Justice Department, including 90% monopoly on ticketing for major NFL, NHL events, 80% for major arena events, and 70% monopoly when it comes to all ticketing. In addition to that, Ticketmaster now owns a number of venues and also locks in a number of other venues that they don't own with their services for in excess of seven years, which is a subject of a bill that Senator Blumenthal and I have introduced, because this locking in makes for even less competition. And then finally, Live Nation promotes the act. So it's like a three cornered monopoly. 1:12:30 Sally Greenberg: Yes, you may know that you have a baggage fee, but there are many people who are older, who have disabilities, who may have children with them; they cannot be carrying their bags onto the airplane. So they are forced to eat the cost of a $35 fee, something that used to be free before, and has jammed our airplanes full of luggage up top, creating hazards for flight attendants as well. 1:13:55 Sally Greenberg: We certainly support the Good Jobs for Airports Act. I think many consumers had no idea that a lot of these workers were not making minimum wage[[ clare, 8/7/2023 2:08 PM couldn’t find a source for this.]], were relying on tips. And many people who use the wheelchairs and the curbside baggage services did not know that people were living on tip wages and many people don't tip, as some of us who've been tipped workers know. Tipping is very up and down and certainly not a reliable source of income. So yes, we very much appreciate that legislation and it's long overdue. 1:21:20 Dr. Todd Zywicki: Junk fees is a meaningless term, but it's worse than meaningless. It's actually pernicious, which is that by sort of using this blanket conclusory label, it obscures the complexity of this, the difference between trip pricing, risk based pricing, multipart pricing, partition pricing, and that sort of thing, and it kind of sweeps into one bucket things that are legitimate, things that are aren't, things that might be partially legitimate. And now it's even got more confusing because if you look at the FTC rule, for example, on auto dealers, they take things like nitrogen filled tires, they charge more money for a claim that's a junk fee. The problem with that is not that it's a separate price for nitrogen filled tires. The problem, if there's a problem, is that nitrogen filled tires are garbage, right? There's nothing there. It doesn't matter whether it's disclosed separately or bundled in the price if it's a worthless product. And so when we talk about junk fees, we can end up confusing ourselves, lumping in things because we want to just apply this label to it, whereas I think it'd be much better to understand risk based pricing. What are things where they're pricing for something that you get no value from? What are the things where they're pricing things simply to extract wealth from consumers and the like? Executive Producer Recommended Sources Music by Editing Production Assistance
Published 09/04
CD279: The Censure of Adam Schiff
On June 21st, the House of Representatives censured Rep. Adam Schiff of California. The House has censured members just 24 times in our nation’s history, making Schiff the 25th. In this episode, we'll detail the actions outlined in the censure and let you decide for yourself: Is it a serious abuse of power? Is it a waste of time? Is it a deserved punishment? Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links Contribute monthly or a lump sum via Support Congressional Dish via (donations per episode) Send Zelle payments to: [email protected] Send Venmo payments to: @Jennifer-Briney Send Cash App payments to: $CongressionalDish or [email protected] Use your bank’s online bill pay function to mail contributions to: Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish Thank you for supporting truly independent media! Background Sources Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes The History of Censure U.S. House of Representatives Office of History, Art and Archives. July 22, 2023. Wikipedia. The Durham Report John Durham. May 12, 2023. U.S. Department of Justice. FISA Warrants Rebecca Beitsch. July 21, 2023. The Hill. Andrew Prokop. February 24, 2018. Vox. February 5, 2018. U.S. House of Representatives The Whistleblower Julian E. Barnes et al. October 2, 2019. The New York Times. Julian E. Barnes and Nicholas Fandos. September 17, 2019. The New York Times. Kyle Cheney. September 13, 2019. Politico. Republicans Who Blocked the First Censure Jared Gans. June 16, 2023. The Hill. Senate Campaign Fundraising Jamie Dupree. July 17, 2023. Regular Order. Impeachment Mania Don Wolfensberger. July 10, 2023. The Hill. Alex Gangitano and Brett Samuels. July 1, 2023. The Hill. Rebecca Beitsch and Emily Brooks. June 29, 2023. The Hill. The Resolution Audio Sources June 21, 2023 House Floor June 21, 2023 House Floor Clips 1:15 Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL): With access to sensitive information unavailable to most Members of Congress, and certainly not accessible to the American people, Representative SCHIFF abused his privileges, claiming to know the truth, while leaving Americans in the dark about this web of lies. These were lies so severe that they altered the course of the country forever: the lie that President Donald Trump colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 Presidential election revealed to be completely false by numerous investigations, including the Durham report; the lie that the Steele dossier—a folder of falsified and since completely debunked collusion accusations funded by the Democratic Party—had any shred of credibility, yet Representative SCHIFF read it into the CONGRESSIONAL RECORD as fact; the lies concocted and compiled in a false memo that was used to lie to the FISA court, to precipitate domestic spying on U.S. citizen, Carter Page, violating American civil liberties. 12:20 Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): Mr. Speaker, to my Republican colleagues who introduced this resolution, I thank you. You honor me with your enmity. You flatter me with this falsehood. You, who are the authors of a big lie about the last election, must condemn the truthtellers, and I stand proudly before you. Your words tell me that I have been effective in the defense of our democracy, and I am grateful. 13:15 Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): Donald Trump is under indictment for actions that jeopardize our national security, and MCCARTHY would spend the Nation’s time on petty political payback, thinking he can censure or fine Trump’s opposition into submission. But I will not yield, not one inch. The cost of the Speaker’s delinquency is high, but the cost to Congress of this frivolous and yet dangerous resolution may be even higher, as it represents another serious abuse of power. 14:50 Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): This resolution attacks me for initiating an investigation into the Trump campaign’s solicitation and acceptance of Russian help in the 2016 election, even though the investigation was first led not by me but by a Republican chairman. 15:10 Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): It would hold that when you give internal campaign polling data to a Russian intelligence operative while Russian intelligence is helping your campaign, as Trump’s campaign chairman did, that you must not call that collusion, though that is its proper name, as the country well knows. 15:30 Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): It would fine me for the costs of the critically important Mueller investigation into Trump’s misconduct, even though the special counsel was appointed by Trump’s own Attorney General. 16:00 Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): It would reprimand me over a flawed FISA application, as if I were its author or I were the Director of the FBI, and over flaws only discovered years later and by the inspector general, not Mr. Durham. In short, it would accuse me of omnipotence, the leader of some vast deep state conspiracy. Of course, it is nonsense. 16:50 Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): My colleagues, if there is cause for censure in this House, and there is, it should be directed at those in this body who sought to overturn a free and fair Election. 19:05 Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL): Representative SCHIFF used his position as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to mislead the American people by falsely claiming that there was classified evidence of Russia colluding with President Trump, which was not true. 22:15 Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-NY): SCHIFF repeatedly used the authority he was afforded in his position as chairman to lie to the American people to support his political agenda. Even after the Durham report discredited the Russia hoax, he continued to knowingly lie and peddle this false narrative. 24:45 Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY): ADAM SCHIFF has done nothing wrong. ADAM SCHIFF is a good man. ADAM SCHIFF has served this country with distinction. ADAM SCHIFF served this country well as a Federal prosecutor, fighting to keep communities safe. ADAM SCHIFF served this country well as the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, investigating people without fear or favor, including those at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue because he believes in the Constitution and his oath of office. ADAM SCHIFF served his country well as the lead impeachment manager during the first impeachment trial of the former President of the United States, prosecuting his corrupt abuse of power. Yes, ADAM SCHIFF served this country well in the aftermath of the violent insurrection. He pushed back against the big lie told by the puppet master in chief and participated as a prominent member of the January 6th Committee to defend our democracy. ADAM SCHIFF has done nothing wrong. He has worked hard to do right by the American people. The extreme MAGA Republicans have no vision, no agenda, and no plan to make life better for the American people, so we have this phony, fake, and fraudulent censure resolution. A DAM SCHIFF will not be silenced. We will not be silenced. House Democrats will not be silenced today. We will not be silenced tomorrow. We will not be silenced next week. We will not be silenced next month. We will not be silenced next year. We will not be silenced this decade. We will not be silenced this century. You will never ever silence us. We will always do what is right. We will always fight for the Constitution, fight to defend democracy, fight for freedom, expose extremism, and continue America’s long, necessary, and majestic march toward a more perfect Union. 29:10 Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC): Not only did he spread falsehoods that abused his power, he went after a man, Carter Page, who was completely innocent. Inspector General Horowitz found 17 major mistakes. 31:20 Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL): What really gnaws on the majority and what really bothers them is that Mr. SCHIFF was way better than anybody on their team at debate, at leadership, at messaging, and at legal knowledge. He kicked their ass. He was better, he was more effective, and that still bothers them. 35:40 Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA): Mr. Speaker, I opposed the original version of this resolution, not to defend Mr. SCHIFF’s lies, but to defend the process that exposed those lies. We must never punish speech in this House, only acts. The only way to separate truth from falsehoods or wisdom from folly is free and open debate. We must never impose excessive fines that would effectively replace the constitutional two-thirds vote for expulsion with a simple majority. This new version removes the fine and focuses instead on specific acts, most particularly the abuse of his position as Intelligence Committee chairman by implying he had access to classified information that did not exist and his placement into the CONGRESSIONAL RECORD of the Steele dossier that he knew or should have known was false. 42:35 Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT): The most important thing I can say is that I sat next to ADAM SCHIFF for years. He is a man of integrity and dignity. 49:45 Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX): ADAM SCHIFF is tough. ADAM SCHIFF is smart. ADAM SCHIFF gets the job done. ADAM SCHIFF holds the powerful accountable. 56:35 Rep. André Carson (D-IN): Mr. Speaker, what I do know is that ADAM SCHIFF defended the U.S. Constitution. He led an impartial investigation which followed the facts and led to the first of two impeachments of a former President. 1:00:20 Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL): Today, we are voting on a joke of a measure to censure ADAM SCHIFF, a true public servant and patriot. I urge a strong ‘‘no’’ against this resolution targeting a true American hero. 1:08:30 Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): The only advantage to all of this is that instead of reversing what we did on the IRA to save the planet or reversing what we did to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, we are wasting time. September 26, 2019 CNN Clips 9:05 Wolf Blitzer: As you know, Mr. Chairman, you're being severely criticized by a lot of Republicans for mocking the president during your opening remarks today at the committee. Was it a mistake to make light of the situation? Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): Well, I don't think it's making light of a situation. And I certainly wouldn't want to suggest that there's anything comical about this. But I do think it's all too accurate, that this President, in his conversations with the President of Ukraine, was speaking like an organized crime boss. And the fact that these words are so suggestive that the President used of what we have seen of organized crime harkens back to me of what, for example, James Comey said when he was asked by the President if he could let this matter involving Flynn go, when Michael Cohen testified about how the President speaks in a certain code where you understand exactly what's required here. The point is that the President was using exactly that kind of language. And the President of Ukraine fully understood what he was talking about. Wolf Blitzer: Do you regret the, what you call the parody, the use of those phrases during the course of your opening statement? Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): No, I think everyone understood -- and my GOP colleagues may feign otherwise -- that when I said, suggested that it was as if the President said, "listen carefully, because I'm only going to tell you seven more times" that I was mocking the President's conduct. But make no mistake about this, what the President did is of the utmost gravity and the utmost seriousness, because it involves such a fundamental betrayal of his oath. September 26, 2019 House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Witnesses: Joseph Maguire, Acting Director of National Intelligence, Office of the Director of National Intelligence Clips 6:54 Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): President Zelensky, eager to establish himself at home as the friend of the president of the most powerful nation on earth, had at least two objectives: get a meeting with the president and get more military help. And so what happened on that call? Zelensky begins by ingratiating himself, and he tries to enlist the support of the president. He expresses his interest in meeting with the president, and says his country wants to acquire more weapons from us to defend itself. 7:30 Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): And what is the President’s response? Well, it reads like a classic organized crime shakedown. Shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words, this is the essence of what the President communicates. We’ve been very good to your country. Very good. No other country has done as much as we have. But you know what? I don’t see much reciprocity here. I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you, though. And I’m going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent. Understand? Lots of it, on this and on that. I'm gonna put you in touch with people, not just any people, I'm going to put you in touch with Attorney General of the United States, my attorney general, Bill Barr. He's got the whole weight of the American law enforcement behind him. And I'm gonna put you in touch with Rudy, you're going to love Him, trust me. You know what I'm asking. And so I'm only going to say this a few more times, in a few more ways. And by the way, don't call me again, I'll call you when you've done what I asked. This is, in some in character, what the President was trying to communicate with the President of Ukraine. It would be funny if it wasn't such a graphic betrayal of the President's oath of office. But as it does represent a real betrayal, there's nothing the President says here that is in America's interest, after all. 1:14:40 Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH): While the chairman was speaking I actually had someone text me, "Is he just making this up?" And yes, yes he was. Because sometimes fiction is better than the actual words or the texts. But luckily the American public are smart and they have the transcript, they've read the conversation, they know when someone's just making it up. 1:19:45 Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): In my summary, the President's call was meant to be at least part in parody. The fact that that's not clear is a separate problem in and of itself. Of course, the president never said, "If you don't understand me, I'm gonna say seven more times." My point is, that's the message that the Ukraine president was receiving, in not so many words. September 17, 2019 Morning Joe on MSNBC Clips Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): We have not spoken directly with the whistleblower. We would like to. But I'm sure the whistleblower has concerns that he has not been advised as the law requires by the Inspector General or the Director of National Intelligence, just as to how he is to communicate with Congress. And so the risk of the whistleblower is retaliation. Will the whistleblower be protected under the statute if the offices that are supposed to come to his assistance and provide the mechanism are unwilling to do so? But yes, we would love to talk directly with the whistleblower. March 28, 2019 CNN with Chris Cuomo Clips Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): One, there's ample evidence of collusion in plain sight and that is true. And second, that is not the same thing as whether Bob Muller would be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the crime of conspiracy. There's a difference between there being evidence of collusion and proof beyond reasonable doubt of a crime. March 24, 2019 This Week with George Stephanopoulos Clips George Stephenopolous: You have said though in the past there is significant evidence of collusion. How do you square that with Robert Muller's decision not to indict anyone. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): There is significant evidence of collusion, and we've set that out time and time again, from the secret meetings in Trump Tower to the conversations between Flynn and the Russian ambassador, to the providing of polling data to someone linked to Russian intelligence, and Stone's conversation with WikiLeaks and the GRU through -- George Stephenopolous: None of it prosecuted. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): Well that's true. And as I pointed out on your show many times, there's a difference between compelling evidence of collusion and whether the Special Counsel concludes that he can prove beyond a reasonable doubt the criminal charge of conspiracy. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): We need to be able to see any evidence that this President, or people around him, may be compromised by a foreign power. We've of course seen all kinds of disturbing indications that this President has a relationship with Putin that is very difficult to justify or explain. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): It's our responsibility to tell the American people, "These are the facts. This is what your president has done. This is what his key campaign and appointees have done. These are the issues that we need to take action on." This is potential compromise. There is evidence, for example, quite in the public realm that the President sought to make money from the Russians, sought the Kremlin's help to make money during the presidential campaign, while denying business ties with the Russians. February 17, 2019 CNN with Dana Bash Clips Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): Look, you can see evidence in plain sight on the issue of collusion, pretty compelling evidence. Now, there's a difference between seeing evidence of collusion and being able to prove a criminal conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt. August 5, 2018 Face the Nation Clips Margaret Brennan: Can you agree that there has been no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy that has been presented thus far between the Trump campaign and Russia? Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): No, I don't agree with that at all. I think there's plenty of evidence of collusion or conspiracy in plain sight. December 10, 2017 CNN Clips Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): But we do know this: the Russians offered help, the campaign accepted help. The Russians gave help and the President made full use of that help, and that is pretty damning whether it is proof beyond a reasonable doubt of conspiracy or not. November 1, 2017 MSNBC Clips Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): What is clear as this: the Kremlin repeatedly told the campaign it had dirt on Clinton and offered to help it and at least one top Trump official, the President's own son, accepted. Rachel Maddow: The Kremlin offered dirt to the Trump campaign. The President's campaign said yes to that offer. That's no longer an open question. All that stuff has now been proven and admitted to. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee today, using his time today, using his opening statement today to walk through -- ding ding ding, point by point -- what we've already learned in black and white, in written correspondence and public statements and in freaking court filings, about all the times the Trump campaign was offered helped by Russia to influence our election and all the times the Trump campaign said "Yes, please." March 23, 2017 The View Clips Jedediah Bila: Congressman, you made yesterday what some are deeming a provocative statement by saying that there is more than circumstantial evidence now that the Trump camp colluded with Russia. Senator John McCain was critical of that, others have been critical of that. Can you defend that statement? Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): Yes. And I, you know, I don't view it as the same bombshell that apparently they did. Look, I've said that I thought there was circumstantial evidence of collusion or coordination, and that there was direct evidence of deception. And no one had an issue with that. And I don't think anyone really contested that, on the basis of the information we keep getting, I can say, in my opinion, it's now not purely circumstantial. We had the FBI Director testify in open session about this, acknowledge an FBI investigation. Obviously, this is now public. And I think it's fair to say that that FBI investigation is justified, that that wouldn't be done on the basis of not credible allegations. And so I think it's appropriate to talk in general terms about the evidence, but I don't think it's appropriate for us to go into specifics and say, "This is what we know from this piece of classified information," or "this what we know from this witness." But I do think, in this investigation where the public is hungry for information, it is important that we try to keep the public in the loop. That's why we're having public hearings. March 22, 2017 MSNBC Clips Chuck Todd: You have seen direct evidence of collusion? Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): I don't want to go into specifics, but I will say that there is evidence that is not circumstantial. March 19, 2017 Meet the Press Clips Chuck Todd: Collusion is sort of what hasn't been proven here between whatever the Russians did and the Trump campaign. In fact, the former Acting Director of the CIA, who was Mike Morell, who was a supporter of Hillary Clinton, he essentially reminded people and took Director Clapper at his word on this show who said, there has been no evidence that has been found of collusion. Are we at the point of -- at what point do you start to wonder if there is a fire to all this smoke? Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): Well, first of all, I was surprised to see Director Clapper say that because I don't think you can make that claim categorically as he did. I would characterize it this way at the outset of the investigation: there is circumstantial evidence of collusion. There is direct evidence, I think, of deception. Executive Producer Recommended Sources Music by Editing Production Assistance
Published 08/13
CD278: All Three UAP Hearings
Since May 2022, Congress has held three hearings looking into Unidentified Aerial Phenomena and the possibility of non-human intelligent life flying aircraft on Earth. In this episode, hear testimony from three Defense Department officials and three credible whistleblowers, whose testimony is often as contradictory as it is shocking. Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links Contribute monthly or a lump sum via Support Congressional Dish via (donations per episode) Send Zelle payments to: [email protected] Send Venmo payments to: @Jennifer-Briney Send Cash App payments to: $CongressionalDish or [email protected] Use your bank’s online bill pay function to mail contributions to: Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish Thank you for supporting truly independent media! Background Sources Whistleblower Protections Clayton E. Wire. 2020. Ogborn Mihm LLP. Security Classifications Security Classification of Information, Volume 2. Principles for Classification of Information. Arvin S. Quist. Oak Ridge National Laboratory: 1993. UAP Background Brian Entin. June 6, 2023. NewsNation. Leslie Kean and Ralph Blumenthal. June 5, 2023. The Debrief. May 16, 2021. 60 Minutes. Ralph Blumenthal. December 18, 2017. The New York Times. Helene Cooper et al. December 16, 2017. The New York Times. Independent Research and Development National Defense Industrial Association. SCIFs Derek Hawkins et al. April 26, 2023. The Washington Post. Kirkpatrick Response Letter D. Dean Johnson (@ddeanjohnson). Twitter. Audio Sources July 26, 2023 House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs Witnesses: , Former Commanding Officer, United States Navy Ryan Graves, Executive Director, Americans for Safe Aerospace David Grusch, Former National Reconnaissance Office Representative, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, Department of Defense Clips timestamps reflect C-SPAN video 4:30 Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI): The National Defense Authorization Act of 2022 established the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office or AARO to conduct or to coordinate efforts across the Department of Defense and other federal agencies to detect, identify and investigate UAPs. However, AARO's budget remains classified, prohibiting meaningful oversight from Congress. 19:50 Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA): We know the Senate is taking up an amendment to their defense authorization bill which will create a commission with broad declassification authority and we should all agree that that is an important step. 27:40 Ryan Graves: Excessive classification practices keep crucial information hidden. Since 2021, all UAP videos are classified as secret or above. This level of secrecy not only impedes our understanding, but fuels speculation and mistrust. 27:55 Ryan Graves: In 2014, I was an F-18 Foxtrot pilot in the Navy fighter attack Squadron 11, the Red Rippers, and I was stationed at NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach. After upgrades were made to our jet's radar systems, we began detecting unknown objects operating in our airspace. At first, we assumed they were radar errors. But soon we began to correlate the radar tracks with multiple onboard sensors, including infrared systems, and eventually through visual ID. During a training mission in Warning Area W-72, 10 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Two F/A-18F Super Hornets were split by a UAP. The object, described as a dark gray or a black cube inside of a clear sphere, came within 50 feet of the lead aircraft and was estimated to be five to 15 feet in diameter. The mission commander terminated the flight immediately and returned to base. Our squadron submitted a safety report, but there was no official acknowledgement of the incident and no further mechanism to report the sightings. Soon these encounters became so frequent that aircrew would discuss the risk of UAP as part of their regular pre-flight briefs. 29:00 Ryan Graves: Recognising the need for action and answers, I founded Americans for Safe Aerospace. The organization has since become a haven for UAP witnesses who were previously unspoken due to the absence of a safe intake process. More than 30 witnesses have come forward and almost 5000 Americans have joined us in the fight for transparency at 29:20 Ryan Graves: The majority of witnesses are commercial pilots at major airlines. Often, they are veterans with decades of flying experience. Pilots are reporting UAP at altitudes that appear above them at 40,000 feet potentially in low Earth orbit or in the gray zone below the Karman Line, making unexplainable maneuvers like right hand turns and retrograde orbits or J hooks. Sometimes these reports are reoccurring with numerous recent sightings north of y and in the North Atlantic. Other veterans are also coming forward to us regarding UAP encounters in our airspace and oceans. The most compelling involve observations of UAP by multiple witnesses and sensor systems. I believe these accounts are only scratching the surface and more will share their experiences once it is safe to do so. 31:30 David Grusch: I became a whistleblower through a PPD 19 urgent concern filing in May 2022 with the intelligence community Inspector General following concerning reports from multiple esteemed and credentialed current and former military and intelligence community individuals that the US government is operating with secrecy above congressional oversight with regards to UAPs. My testimony is based on information I've been given by individuals with a long standing track record of legitimacy and service to this country, many of whom also have shared compelling evidence in the form of photography, official documentation, and classified oral testimony to myself and my various colleagues. I have taken every step I can to corroborate this evidence over a period of four years while I was with the UAP Task Force and do my due diligence on the individual sharing it. Because of these steps. I believe strongly in the importance of bringing this information before you. 33:30 David Grusch: In 2019, the UAP Task Force director asked me to identify all Special Access Programs and Controlled Access Programs, also known as SAPS and CAPS. We needed to satisfy our congressionally mandated mission and we were direct report at the time to the [Deputy Secretary of Defense]. At the time, due to my extensive executive level intelligence support duties, I was cleared to literally all relevant compartments and in a position of extreme trust both in my military and civilian capacities. I was informed in the course of my official duties of a multi-decade UAP crash retrieval and reverse engineering program to which I was denied access to those additional read-ons when I requested it. I made the decision based on the data I collected to report this information to my superiors and multiple Inspectors General and, in effect, becoming a whistleblower. 35:20 Cmdr. David Fravor: We were attached to carrier 11, stationed onboard USS Nimitz and began a two month workup cycle off the coast of California. On this day, we were scheduled for a two v two air-to-air training with the USS Princeton as our control. When we launched off Nimitz, my wingman was joining out, we were told that the training was going to be suspended and we're going to proceed with real world tasking. As we proceeded to the West, the air controller was counting down the range to an object that we were going to and we were unaware of what we're going to see when we arrived. There, the controller told us that these objects had been observed for over two weeks coming down from over 80,000 feet, rapidly descending to 20,000 feet, hanging out for hours and then going straight back up. For those who don't realize, above 80,000 feet is space. We arrived at the location at approximately 20,000 feet and the controller called the merge plot, which means that our radar blip was now in the same resolution cell as a contact. As we looked around, we noticed that we saw some whitewater off our right side. It's important to note the weather on this day was as close to perfect as you could ask for off the coast of San Diego: clear skies, light winds, calm seas, no white caps from waves. So the whitewater stood out in a large blue ocean. All four of us, because we were in an F/A-18F F, so we had pilots and WSO in the backseat, looked down and saw a white tic tac object with a longitudinal axis pointing north-south and moving very abruptly over the water, like a ping pong ball. There were no rotors, no rotor wash, or any sign of visible control surfaces like wings. As we started clockwise towards the object, my WSO I decided to go down and take a closer look with the other aircraft staying in high cover to observe both us and the tic tac. We proceeded around the circle about 90 degrees from the start of our descent, and the object suddenly shifted its longitudinal axis, aligned it with my aircraft and began to climb. We continued down another 270 degrees, and we went nose low to where the tic tac would have been. Our altitude at this point is about 15,000 feet and the tic tac was about 12,000. As we pulled nose-on to the object within about a half mile of it, it rapidly accelerated in front of us and disappeared. Our wingmen, roughly 8000 feet above us, lost contact also. We immediately turned back to see where the whitewater was at and it was gone also. So as you started to turn back towards the east the controller came up and said "Sir you're not going to believe this but that thing is that your cat point roughly 60 miles away in less than a minute." You can calculate the speed. We returned to Nimitz. We were taking off our gear, we were talking to one of my crews that was getting ready to launch, we mentioned it to them and they went out and luckily got the video that you see, that 90 second video. What you don't see is the radar tape that was never released, and we don't know where it's at. 37:55 Cmdr. David Fravor: What is shocking to us is that the incident was never investigated. None of my crew ever questioned and tapes were never taken and after a couple days it turned into a great story with friends. It wasn't until 2009 until J. Stratton had contacted me to investigate. Unbeknownst to all, he was part of the AATIP program at the Pentagon led by Lue Elizondo. There was an unofficial official report that came out it's now in the internet. Years later, I was contacted by the other pilot Alex Dietrich and asked if I'd been contacted and I said "No, but I'm willing to talk." I was contacted by Mr. Elizondo, and we talked for a short period of time, he said we'd be in contact. A few weeks after that I was made aware that Lue had left the Pentagon in protest and joined forces with Tom DeLonge and Chris Mellon, Steve Justice, and others to form To the Stars Academy, an organization that pressed the issue with leading industry experts and US government officials. They worked with Leslie Kean, who is present today, Ralph Blumenthal, and Helene Cooper to publish the articles in the New York Times in 2017. It removed the stigma on the topic of UFOs, which is why we're here today. Those articles opened the door for the government and public that cannot be closed. It has led to an interest from our elected officials, who are not focused on Little Green Men, but figuring out where these craft are, where they are from, the technology they possess, how do they operate. It also led to the Whistleblower Protection Act in the NDAA. 39:45 Cmdr. David Fravor: In closing, I would like to say that the tic tac object we engaged in 2004 was far superior to anything that we had on time, have today, or are looking to develop in the next 10 years. If we, in fact, have programs that possess this technology and needs to have oversight from those people, that the citizens of this great country elected in office to represent what is best for the United States and best for the citizens. I thank you for your time. 40:20 Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI): Are your pilots, or pilots that you interact with as part of your organization, do you feel adequately trained and briefed on how to handle encounters with UAPs? Ryan Graves: No. Right now, military witnesses to UAP have limited options for reporting UAP. But more more concerning is that the commercial aviation sector has not adapted to the lessons that the military has implemented. The military and Department of Defense have stated that UAP represent a critical aviation safety risk. We have not seen that same language being used in the commercial markets, they are not acknowledging this. 41:05 Ryan Graves: Right now we need a system where pilots can report without fear of losing their jobs. There's a fear that the stigma associated with this topic is going to lead to professional repercussions either through management or perhaps through their yearly physical check. So having a secure system, reducing the stigma, and making this information available through the public is going to reduce the concerns that aircrew have. 41:30 Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI): Can you just give me a little idea the degree to which reports in the past are not made public right now? Ryan Graves: Well, I don't think there has been a proper reporting system to gather those reports and thus not report them. So to answer your question, I think there is a dearth of data due to the fact that the reporting has been limited up to this time. 41:45 Ryan Graves: There's certainly some national security concerns when we use our advanced sensors and our tactical jets to be able to identify these objects. However, there's no reason that the objects themselves would be classified. I would be curious to see how the security classification guideline actually spells out the different nuances of how this topic is classified from the perspective of UAP, not national security. 43:00 Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI): Mr. Fravor, the tic tac incident that you were engaged [in] occurred in 2004. What kind of reporting took place after that incident? Ryan Graves: None. We had a standard debrief where the back-seaters went down to our carrier intel center and briefed what had happened, and that was it. No one else talked to us. And I was in the top 20 in the battle group, no one came that the Captain was aware, the of Admiral was aware, nothing was done. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI): Did your commanding officers provide any sort of justification? Ryan Graves: No, because I was the commanding officer of the quadron. So no. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI): Was this incident the only UAP event that you encountered while you were a pilot? Ryan Graves: Yes, it was. 43:50 Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI): Do you believe UAPs pose a potential threat to our national security? Ryan Graves: Yes, and here's why: the technology that we faced was far superior than anything that we had, and you could put that anywhere. If you had one, you captured one, you reverse engineered it, you got it to work, you're talking something that can go into space, go someplace, dropped down in a matter of seconds, do whatever it wants and leave. And there's nothing we can do about it. Nothing. 44:20 Ryan Graves: I would also like to add from a commercial aviation and military aviation perspective, we deal with uncertainty in our operating space as a matter of our professional actions. Identifying friend from foe is very important to us. And so when we have identified targets and we continue to ignore those due to a stigma or fear of what it could be, that's an opening that our adversaries can take advantage of. 44:55 Ryan Graves: There needs to be a location where this information is centralized for processing and there needs to be a two-way communication loop so the operators on the front end have feedback and can get best practices on how to process information, what to do, and to ensure that their reporting is being listened to. Right now there is not a lot of back and forth. 46:25 Ryan Graves: When we were first experiencing these objects off the eastern seaboard in the 2014 to 2015 time period, anyone that had upgraded their radar systems were seeing these objects. So there was a large number of my colleagues that were detecting these objects off the eastern seaboard. They were further correlating that information with the other onboard sensors. And many of them also had their own eyesightings, as well, of these objects. Now, that was our personal, firsthand experience at the time. Since then, as I've engaged this topic, others have reached out to me to share their experiences both on the military side as well as the commercial aviation side. On the military aviation side, veterans that have recently got out have shared their stories and have expressed how the objects we are seeing in 2014 and 2015 continued all the way to 2019, 2020, and beyond. And so it became a generational issue for naval aviators on the Eastern Seaboard. This was something we were briefing to new students. This is something that was included in the notice to airmen to ensure that there was no accidents. And now with commercial aviators, they are reaching out because they're having somewhat similar experiences as our military brothers and sisters, but they do not have any reporting system that they can send this to. 47:55 Cmdr. David Fravor: It's actually, it's a travesty that we don't have a system to correlate this and actually investigate. You know, so if you took the east coast, there's coastal radars out there that monitor our air defense identification zone. Out to 200 miles, they can track these. So when you see them, they could actually go and pull that data and get maneuvering. And instead of just having the airplanes, there's other data sources out there. And I've talked to other government officials on this. You need a centrally located repository that these reports go to. So if you just stuck it in DOD, you wouldn't get anything out of the Intelligence Committee because they have a tendency not to talk. But if you had a central location where these reports are coming in, not just military, but also commercial aviation, because there's a lot of that going on, especially if you talk to anyone that flies from here to Hawaii, over the Pacific they see odd lights. So I think you need to develop something that allows you a central point to collect the data in order to investigate. 51:20 Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA): Mr. Grusch, finally, do you believe that our government is in possession of UAPs? David Grusch: Absolutely, based on interviewing over 40 witnesses over four years. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA): And where? David Grusch: I know the exact locations and those locations were provided to the Inspector General, and some of which to the intelligence committees, I actually had the people with the firsthand knowledge provide a protected disclosure to the Inspector General 52:15 Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): Mr. Graves. Again, I'd like to know, how do you know that these were not our aircraft? Ryan Graves: Some of the behaviors that we saw in a working area. We would see these objects being at 0.0 Mach, that's zero airspeed over certain pieces of the ground. So what that means, just like a river, if you throw a bobber in, it's gonna float downstream. These objects were staying completely stationary in category four hurricane winds. The same objects would then accelerate to supersonic speeds 1.1-1.2 Mach, and they would do so in very erratic and quick behaviors that we don't -- I don't -- have an explanation for. 55:50 Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): Mr. Fravor, do you believe that you witnessed an additional object under the water in relation to your encounter? Cmdr. David Fravor: I will say we did not see an object. There was something there to cause the whitewater and when we turned around, it was gone. So there was something there that obviously moved. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): Okay, it was not the same object, though, that you were looking at, correct? Cmdr. David Fravor: No, we actually joked that the tic tac was communicating with something when we came back, because the whitewater disappeared. 56:15 Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): We were, in another instance, told about the capabilities of jamming when there were some people chasing some of these objects. Did you experience any of that jamming, or interrupting your radar or weapon system? Cmdr. David Fravor: My crew that launched, after we landed, experienced significant jamming to the APG 73 radar, which was what we had on board, which is a mechanically scan, very high end system, prior to APG 79. And yes, it did pretty much everything you could do range, velocity, aspect, and then it hit the lock and the targeting pod is passive. That's when we're able to get the video on. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): I'm about to run out of time, but are you aware of any of our enemies that have that capability? Cmdr. David Fravor: No, no. 57:40 Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD): You've identified these as taking place on the East Coast. Is it just on the East Coast where these encounters have been reported? Ryan Graves: No. Since the events initially occurred, I've learned that the objects have been detected, essentially where all Navy operations are being conducted across the world. And that's from the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office reporting. 58:50 Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD): Are there common characteristics to the UAPs that have been sighted by different pilots? And can you describe what the convergence of descriptions is? Ryan Graves: Certainly. We were primarily seeing dark gray or black cubes inside of a clear sphere. Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD): I'm sorry, dark gray or black cubes? Ryan Graves: Yes, inside of a clear sphere where the apex or tips of the cube were touching the inside of that sphere. And that was primarily what was being reported when we were able to gain a visual tally of these objects. That occurred over almost eight years, and as far as I know, is still occurring. 59:45 Ryan Graves: I think we need both transparency and the reporting. We have the reporting, but we need to make sure that information can be propagated to commercial aviation as well as the rest of the populace. 1:05:00 Ryan Graves: In the 2003 timeframe, a large group of Boeing contractors were operating near one of the launch facilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base when they observed a very large, 100-yard-sided red square approach the base from the ocean and hover at low altitude over one of the launch facilities. This object remained for about 45 seconds or so before darting off over the mountains. There was a similar event within 24 hours later in the evening. This was a morning event, I believe, 8:45 in the morning. Later in the evening, post sunset, there were reports of other sightings on base including some aggressive behaviors. These objects were approaching some of the security guards at rapid speeds before darting off, and this is information that was received through one of the witnesses that have approached me at Americans for Safe Aerospace. 1:06:15 Ryan Graves: I have not seen what they've described. This object was estimated to be almost the size of a football field, and I have not seen anything personally that large. 1:07:05 Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL): With the FAA, to your understanding, pilots that are seeing this, commercial airline pilots, are they receiving cease and desist letters from corporations for coming forward with information in regards to safety for potential air airline passengers? Ryan Graves: I have been made privy to conversations with commercial aviators who have received cease and desist orders. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL): So the American public should know that corporations are putting their own reputations ahead of the safety of the American people. Would you agree with that statement? Ryan Graves: It appears so. 1:08:15 Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL): So what about G forces? Let's talk about G forces in those vehicles. Could a human survive those G forces with known technology today? Cmdr. David Fravor: No, not for the acceleration rates that we observed. 1:08:45 Cmdr. David Fravor: So we got within a half mile of the tic tac, which people say that's pretty far, but in airplanes that's actually relatively close. Now it was perfectly white, smooth, no windows, although when we did take the original FLIR video that is out there, when you put it on a big screen it actually had two little objects that came out of the bottom of it. But other than that, no windows, no seams, no nothing. 1:09:05 Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL): Mr. Grusch, as a result of your previous government work have you met with people with direct knowledge or have direct knowledge yourself of non-human origin craft? David Grusch: Yes, I personally interviewed those individuals. 1:09:40 Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL): Do you have knowledge or do you have reason to believe that there are programs in the advanced tech space that are unsanctioned? David Grusch: Yes, I do. Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL): Okay. And when you say that they're above congressional oversight, what do you mean? David Grusch: Complicated question. So there's some, I would call it abuse here. So congressional oversight of conventional Special Special Access Programs, and I'll use Title X, so DOD, as an example. So 10 US Code section 119 discusses congressional oversight of SAPS, discusses the Deputy Secretary of Defense's ability to waive congressional reporting. However, the Gang of Eight is at least supposed to be notified if a waived or waived bigoted unacknowledged SAP is created. That's Public Law. Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL): I don't want to cut you off, but how does a program like that get funded? David Grusch: I will give you generalities. I can get very specific in a closed session, but misappropriation of funds. Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL): Does that mean that there is money in the budget that is set to go to a program but it doesn't and it goes to something else? David Grusch: Yes, have specific knowledge of that. Yep. Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL): Do you think US corporations are overcharging for certain tech they're selling to the US government and that additional money is going to programs? David Grusch: Correct, through something called IRAD. 1:12:45 Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-VA): Mr. Grusch, in your sworn testimony you state that the United States government has retrieved supposedly extraterrestrial spacecraft and other UAP related artifacts. You go so far as to state that the US is in possession of "non human spacecraft" and that some of these artifacts have circulated with defense contractors. Several other former military and intelligence officials have come forward with similar allegations albeit in non-public setting. However, Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, the Director of AARO, previously testified before Congress that there has been and I quote, "no credible evidence" thus far of extraterrestrial act activity or "off world technology" brought to the attention of the office. To your knowledge, is that statement correct? David Grusch: It's not accurate. I believe Dr. Kirkpatrick mentioned he had about 30 individuals that have come to AARO thus far. A few of those individuals have also come to AARO that I also interviewed and I know what they provided Dr. Kirkpatrick and their team. I was able to evaluate -- Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-VA): Okay, I need to go on. David Grusch: Sure. 1:21:25 Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): Has the US government become aware of actual evidence of extraterrestrial or otherwise unexplained forms of intelligence? And if so, when do you think this first occurred? David Grusch: I like to use the term non-human, I don't like to denote origin, it keeps the aperture open scientifically. Certainly, like I've just discussed publicly, previously, the 1930s. 1:21:45 Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): Okay, can you give me the names and titles of the people with direct, first-hand knowledge and access to some of these crash retrieval programs and maybe which facilities, military bases that the recovered material would be in? And I know a lot of Congress talked about, we're gonna go to area 51. And, you know, there's nothing there anymore anyway, it's just you know, we move like a glacier. And as soon as we announce it, I'm sure the moving vans would pull up, but please. David Grusch: I can't discuss that publicly. But I did provide that information both to the Intel committees and the Inspector General. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): And we could get that in the SCIF, if we were allowed to get in a SCIF with you? Would that be probably what you would think? David Grusch: Sure, if you had the appropriate accesses, yeah. 1:22:30 Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): What Special Access Programs cover this information? And how is it possible that they have evaded oversight for so long? David Grusch: I do know the names, once again, I can't discuss that publicly. And how they've evaded oversight in a closed setting I could tell you this specific tradecraft used. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): Alright. 1:22:50 Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): When did you think those programs began and who authorized them? David Grusch: I do know a lot of that information, but that's something I can't discuss publicly because of sensitivities Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): Alright. 1:24:05 Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): Title 10 and title 50 authorization, they seem to say they're inefficient. So who gets to decide this, in your opinion, in the past? David Grusch: It's a group of career senior executive officials. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): Okay. Are they government officials? David Grusch: Both in and out of government and that's about as far I'll go there. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): Well, that leads to my next question, which private corporations are directly involved in this program? How much taxpayer money has been invested in these programs? David Grusch: Yeah, I don't know the specific metrics towards the end of your question. The specific corporations I did provide to the committees in specific divisions, and I spent 11 and a half hours with both Intel committees. 1:25:30 Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): Has there been an active US government disinformation campaign to deny the existence of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena? And if so, why? David Grusch: I can't go beyond what I've already exposed publicly about that. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): Okay, I've been told to ask you what that is and how to get it in the record. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL): What have you stated publicly in your interviews, for the Congressional Record? David Grusch: If you reference my NewsNation interview, I talk about a multi-decade campaign to disenfranchise public interest basically. 1:28:00 Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY): When it comes to notification that you had mentioned about IRAD programs, we have seen defense contractors abuse their contracts before through this committee. I have seen it personally, and I have also seen the notification requirements to Congress abused. I am wondering, one of the loopholes that we see in the law is that there is, at least from my vantage point, depending on what we're seeing, is that there are no actual definitions or requirements for notification, are there? What methods of notification did you observe? When they say they notified Congress, how did they do that? Do you have insight into that? David Grusch: For certain IRAD activities....I can only think of ones conventional in nature. Sometimes they flow through certain out of say SAP programs that have cognisant authority over the Air Force or something. And those are congressionally reported compartments, but IRAD is literally internal to the contractor. So as long as it's money, either profits, private investment, etc, they can do whatever they want. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY): To put a finer point on it, when there is a requirement for any agency or company to notify Congress, do they contact the chairman of a committee, do they get them on the phone specifically, is this through an email to hypothetically a dead email box? David Grusch: A lot of it comes through what they call the PPR, Periodic Program Review process. If it's a SAP or Controlled Access Program equity, and then those go to the specific committees. 1:30:40 Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY): For the record, if you were me, where would you look? Titles, programs, departments, regions? If you could just name anything. And I put that as an open question to the three of you. David Grusch: I'd be happy to give you that in a closed environment. I can tell you specifically. 1:35:40 Cmdr. David Fravor: Things are over-classified. I know for a fact the video or the pictures that came out in the 2020 report that had the stuff off the east coast, they were taken with an iPhone, off the east coast. A buddy of mine was one of the senior people there and he said they originally classified a TSS CI, and my question to him was what's TSS CI about these? They're an iPhone, right, literally off the vacates, that's not TSS CI. So they're over classified, and as soon as they do that, they go into the vault, and then you all have to look for them. 1:37:20 Rep. Eric Burlison (R-MO): Has any of the activity been aggressive, been hostile in your reports? David Grusch: I know of multiple colleagues of mine that got physically injured. Rep. Eric Burlison (R-MO): By UAPs, or by people within the federal government? So there has been activity by alien or non-human technology and or beings that has caused harm to humans? David Grusch: I can't get into the specifics in an open environment, but at least the activity that I personally witnessed, and I have to be very careful here, because they tell you never to acknowledge tradecraft, right. So what I personally witnessed, myself and my wife, was very disturbing. 1:38:20 Rep. Eric Burlison (R-MO): You've said that the US has intact spacecraft. You said that the government has alien bodies or alien species. Have you seen the spacecraft? David Grusch: I have to be careful to describe what I've seen firsthand and not in this environment. But I could answer that question behind closed doors. Rep. Eric Burlison (R-MO): Have you seen any of the bodies? David Grusch: That's something I've not witnessed myself. 1:40:45 Rep. Eric Burlison (R-MO): These aircraft, have they been identified that they are being produced by domestic military contractors? Is there any evidence that that's what's being recovered? David Grusch: Not to my knowledge. Plus the recoveries predate a lot of our advanced programs. 1:48:05 David Grusch: I’ve actually never seen anything personal, believe it or not. 1:51:00 Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC): If you believe we have crashed craft, stated earlier, do we have the bodies of the pilots who piloted this craft? David Grusch: As I've stated publicly already in my NewsNation interview, biologics came with some of these recoveries. 1:51:15 Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC): Were they human or non human biologics? David Grusch: Non human and that was the assessment of people with direct knowledge on the program I talked to that are currently still on the program. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC): And was this documentary evidence video, photos, eyewitness like how would that be determined? David Grusch: The specific documentation, I would have to talk to you in a SCIF about that. 1:53:10 Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-NY): Commander Fravor, we've all seen the floating tic tac video that you engage with on November 14, 2004. Can you briefly talk about why you were off the coast of San Diego that day? Cmdr. David Fravor: Yeah, we were at a work up with all the battle groups. So we integrate the ships with the carrier, the airway with the carrier and we start working. So we were doing an air-to-air defense to hone not only our skills, but those of the USS Princeton, and when they had been tracking him for two weeks. The problem was, there were never manned aircraft airborne when they were tracking them. And this was the first day and unfortunately, we were the ones airborne and went and saw it. Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-NY): Do you remember the weather that day? It was a cloudy or windy or anything out of the ordinary on the Pacific coast. Cmdr. David Fravor: If you're familiar with San Diego, it was a perfect day. Light winds, no whitecaps, clear skies, not a cloud. For flying, it was the best. Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-NY): Now, is it true that you saw, in your words, a 40 foot flying tic tac shaped object? Cmdr. David Fravor: That's correct. Or for some people that can't know what a Tic Tac is, it's a giant flying propane tank. Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-NY): Did this object come up on radar or interfere with your radar or the USS Princeton? Cmdr. David Fravor: The Princeton tracked it, the Nimitz tracked it, the E2 tracked it. We never saw it on our radars, our fire control radars never picked it up. The other airplane that took the video did get it on a radar as soon as it tried to lock in to jam the radar, spit the lock and he's rapidly switched over to the targeting pod which you can do in the F/A 18 Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-NY): From what you saw that day and what you've seen on video. Did you see any source of propulsion from the flying object including on any potential thermal scans from your aircraft? Cmdr. David Fravor: No, there is none. There is no IR plume coming out. And Chad who took the video went through all the EO, which is black and white TV and the IR modes, and there's no visible signs of reflection. It's just sitting in space at 20,000 feet. Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-NY): In your career. Have you ever seen a propulsion system that creates no thermal exhaust? Cmdr. David Fravor: No. Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-NY): Can you describe how the aircraft maneuvered? Cmdr. David Fravor: Abruptly, very determinant. It knew exactly what it was doing. It was aware of our presence. And it had acceleration rates, I mean, it went from zero to matching our speed and no time at all. Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-NY): Now if the fastest plane on Earth was trained to do these maneuvers that you saw, would it be capable of doing that? Cmdr. David Fravor: No, not even close Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-NY): Just to confirm, this object had no wings, correct? Cmdr. David Fravor: No wings. Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-NY): Now the aircraft that you were flying, was it armed? Cmdr. David Fravor: No, never felt threatened at all. Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-NY): If the aircraft was armed, do you believe that your aircraft or any aircraft in possession of the United States could have shot the tic tac down? Cmdr. David Fravor: I'd say no. Just on the performance, it would have just left in a split second. 1:58:10 Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN): Is there any indication that these UAPs could be essentially collecting reconnaissance information? Mr. Graves? Ryan Graves: Yes. Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN): Mr. Grusch? David Grusch: Fair assessment. Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN): Mr. Fravor? Cmdr. David Fravor: Very possible. 1:59:05 Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN): Mr. Graves and Fravor, in the event that your encounters had become hostile, would you have had the capability to defend yourself, your crew, your aircraft? Ryan Graves: Absolutely not. Cmdr. David Fravor: No. 2:00:55 Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): I might have asked this before, but I want to make sure. Do you have any personal knowledge of someone who's possibly been injured working on legacy UAP reverse engineering? David Grusch: Yes. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): Okay. How were they injured? Was it something like a radioactive type situation or something we didn't understand? I've heard people talk about Havana syndrome type incidences. What what was your recollection of that? David Grusch: I can't get into specifics, but you could imagine assessing an unknown unknown, there's a lot of potentialities you can't fully prepare for. 2:02:10 Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): Are you aware of any individuals that are participating in reverse engineering programs for non terrestrial craft? David Grusch: Personally, yes. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN): Do you know any that would be willing to testify if there were protections for them? David Grusch: Certainly closed door, and assurances that breaking their NDA, they're not going to get administratively punished. 2:03:45 Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL): Referring to your news nation interview, you had referenced specific treaties between governments. Article III of the nuclear arms treaty with Russia identifies UAPs. It specifically mentions them. To your knowledge. Are there safety measures in place with foreign governments or other superpowers to avoid an escalatory situation in the event that a UAP malevolent event occurs? David Grusch: Yeah, you're referring to an actual public treaty in the UN register. It's funny you mentioned that, the agreement on measures to reduce the risk of outbreak of a nuclear war signed in 1971, unclassified treaty publicly available. And if you cite the George Washington University national security archives, you will find the declassified, in 2013, specific provisions in this specific Red Line Flass message traffic with the specific codes pursuant to Article Three and also situation two, which is in the the previously classified NSA archive. What I would recommend and I tried to get access, but I got a wall of silence at the White House, was the specific incidents when those message traffic was used, I think some scholarship on that would open the door to a further investigation using those publicly available information. 2:05:20 David Grusch: I have concerns, based on the interviews I conducted under my official duties, of potential violations of the Federal Acquisition Regulations, the FAR. 2:06:10 Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD): What was your general attitude or perspective on the UFO discussion before that happened? Cmdr. David Fravor: I never felt that we were alone with all the planets out there. But I wasn't a UFO person. I wasn't, I wasn't watching History Channel and MUFON and all that. Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD): And have you had any experiences or encounters since that happened? Cmdr. David Fravor: No. Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD): And so, have you formed any general conclusions about what you think you experienced then? Cmdr. David Fravor: Yes, I think what we experienced was, like I said, well beyond the material science and the capabilities that we had at the time, that we have currently, or that we're going to have in the next 10 to 20 years. 2:06:55 Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD): You've been able to answer in great detail on certain questions, and then other things you say you're not able to respond to. Can you just explain where you're drawing the line? What's the basis for that? David Grusch: Yeah, based on my DOPSR security review and what they've determined that is unclassified. Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD): I see, so you're answering any questions that just call upon your knowledge of unclassified questions, but anything that relates to classified matters you're not commenting on in this context? David Grusch: In an open session, but happy to participate in a closed session at the right level. 2:08:15 Ryan Graves: Certainly I think the most vivid sighting of that would have been near mid air that we had at the entrance to our working area. One of these objects was completely stationary at the exact entrance to our working areas, not only geographically but also at altitude. So it was right where all the jets are going, essentially, on the Eastern Seaboard. The two aircraft flew within about 50 feet of the object and that was a very close visual sighting. Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD): And you were in one of the aircraft. Ryan Graves: I was not. I was there when the pilot landed. He canceled the mission after. I was there. He was in the ready room with all his gear on with his mouth open. And I asked him what the problem was and he said he almost hit one of those darn things. Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD): He said he was 50 feet away from it? Ryan Graves: Yes, sir. Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD): And his description of the object was consistent with the description you gave us before? Ryan Graves: A dark gray or black cube inside of a clear sphere. Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD): Inside of a clear sphere. With no self evident propulsion system. Ryan Graves:: No wings, no IR energy coming off of the vehicle, nothing tethering it to the ground. And that was primarily what we're experiencing out there. April 19, 2023 Senate Committee on Armed Services Witnesses: , Director, All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office Clips 2:00:50 Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick: The AARO team of more than three dozen experts is organized around four functional areas: operations, scientific research, integrated analysis, and strategic communications. 2:01:25 Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick: Consistent with legislative direction, AARO is also carefully reviewing and researching the US government's UAP-related historical record. 2:02:05 Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick: AARO is the culmination of decades of DOD, intelligence community, and congressionally directed efforts to successfully resolve UAP encountered first and foremost by US military personnel, specifically navy and air force pilots. 2:03:15 Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick: However, it would be naive to believe that the resolution of all UAP can be solely accomplished by the DOD and IC alone. We will need to prioritize collection and leverage authorities for monitoring all domains within the continental United States. AARO's ultimate success will require partnerships with the inner agency, industry partners, academia and the scientific community, as well as the public. 2:04:15 Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick: I want to underscore today that only a very small percentage of UAP reports display signatures that could reasonably be described as anomalous. The majority of unidentified objects reported to AARO demonstrate mundane characteristics of balloons, unmanned aerial systems, clutter, natural phenomena, or other readily explainable sources. While a large number of cases in our holdings remain technically unresolved, this is primarily due to a lack of data associated with those cases. Without sufficient data, we are unable to reach defendable conclusions that meet the high scientific standards we set for resolution, and I will not close a case that I cannot defend the conclusions of. 2:06:00 Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick: AARO is a member of the department's support to the administration's Tiger Team effort to deal with stratospheric objects such as the PRC high altitude balloon. When previously unknown objects are successfully identified, it is AARO's role to quickly and efficiently hand off such readily explainable objects to the intelligence, law enforcement, or operational safety communities for further analysis and appropriate action. In other words, AARO’s mission is to turn UAP into SEP, Somebody Else's Problem. 2:07:30 Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick: I should also state clearly for the record that in our research, AARO has found no credible evidence thus far of extraterrestrial activity, offworld technology, or objects that defy the known laws of physics. In the event sufficient scientific data were ever obtained that a UAP encountered can only be explained by extraterrestrial origin, we are committed to working with our interagency partners at NASA to appropriately inform [the] U.S. government's leadership of its findings. For those few cases that have leaked to the public previously and subsequently commented on by the US government, I encourage those who hold alternative theories or views to submit your research to credible peer reviewed scientific journals. AARO is working very hard to do the same. That is how science works, not by blog or social media. 2:13:20 Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick: How are we going to get more data? We are working with the joint staff to issue guidance to all the services and commands that will then establish what are the reporting requirements, the timeliness, and all of the data that is required to be delivered to us and retained from all of the associated sensors. That historically hasn't been the case and it's been happenstance that data has been collected. 2:17:20 Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick: As of this week we are tracking over a total of 650 cases. 2:17:45 Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick: Let me walk everyone through what our analytic process looks like. We have essentially a five step process. We get our cases in with all the data, we create a case for that event. My team does a preliminary scrub of all of those cases as they come in, just to sort out, do we have any information that says this is in one of those likely categories? It's likely a balloon, it's likely a bird, it's likely some other object, or we don't know. Then we prioritize those based off of where they are. Are they attached to a national security area? Does it show some anomalous phenomenology that is of interest? If it's just a spherical thing that's floating around with the wind and it has no payload on it, that's going to be less important than something that has a payload on it, which will be less important than something that's maneuvering. So there's sort of a hierarchy of just binning the priorities, because we can't do all of them at once. Once we do that and we prioritize them, we take that package of data in that case and I have set up two teams, think of this as a Red Team Blue Team, or competitive analysis. I have an intelligence community team made up of intelligence analysts and I have an S&T team made up of scientists and engineers, and the people that actually build a lot of these sensors are physicists, because you know, if you're a physicist, you can do anything. But they're not associated with the intel community, they're not intel officers. So they they look at this through the lens of the sensor, of what the data says. We give that package to both teams. The intelligence community is going to look at it through the lens of the intelligence record, and what they assess, and their intel tradecraft, which they have very specific rules and regulations on how they do that. The scientific community, the technical community is going to look at it through the lens of "What is the data telling me? What is the sensor doing? What would I expect a sensor response to be?" and back that out. Those two groups give us their answers. We then adjudicate. If they agree, then I am more likely to close that case, if they agree on what it is. If they disagree, we will have an adjudication. We'll bring them together, we'll take a look at the differences, we'll adjudicate. Why do you say one thing and you say another? We will then come to a case recommendation that will get written up by my team. That then goes to a Senior Technical Advisory Group, which is outside of all of those people, made up of senior technical folks and intel analysts and operators retired out of the community. And they essentially peer review what that case recommendation is. They write their recommendations, that comes back to me, I review it, we make a determination, and I'll sign off one way or the other, and then that will go out as the case determination. Once we have an approved web portal to hang the unclassified stuff, we will downgrade and declassify things and put it out there. In the meantime, we're putting a lot of these on our classified web portal where we can then collaborate with the rest of the community so they can see what's going on. In a nutshell, that is the process. 2:27:10 Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick: There are emerging capabilities out there that in many instances, Russia and China, China in particular, are on par or ahead of us in some areas. So previously, I used to be the Defense Department's intelligence officer for science and technical intelligence. That was our job to look for, what does all that look like? And then my last several years of course, in Space Command, doing space. The adversary is not waiting. They are advancing and they're advancing quickly. If I were to put on some of my old hats, I would tell you, they are less risk averse at technical advancement than we are. They are just willing to try things and see if it works. Are there capabilities that could be employed against us in both an ISR and a weapons fashion? Absolutely. Do I have evidence that they're doing it in these cases? No, but I have concerning indicators. 2:43:45 Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick: So the vision is, at one point, at some point in the future, you should not need an AARO. If I'm successful in what I'm doing, we should be able to normalize everything that we're doing into existing processes, functions, agencies and organizations, and make that part of their mission and their role. Right now the niche that we form is really going after the unknowns. I think you articulated it early on, this is a hunt mission for what might somebody be doing in our backyard that we don't know about? That is what we are doing, but at some point, we should be able to normalize that. That's why it's so important the work we're doing with joint staff to normalize that into DoD policy and guidance. We are bringing in all of our interagency partners. So NASA is providing a liaison for us, I have FBI liaison, I have OSI liaison, I have service liaisons, half of my staff come from the [Intelligence Community], half of my staff come from other scientific and technical backgrounds, I have DOE. So what we're trying to do is ensure, again, as I make UAP into SEP they get handed off to the people that that is their mission to go do, so that we aren't duplicating that. I'm not going to go chase the Chinese high altitude balloon, for example. That's not my job. It's not an unknown, and it's not anomalous anymore. Now it goes over to them. May 17, 2022 House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation Witnesses: , Deputy Director, Office of Naval Intelligence , Under Secretary of Defense Intelligence and Security, Department of Defense Clips 10:00 Ronald Moultrie: The NDAA for fiscal year 2022 has helped us to establish a dedicated office to oversee processes and procedures for the timely collection, processing, analysis, and reporting of UAP related data. 10:15 Ronald Moultrie: What are UAP? Put simply, UAP are airborne objects that, when encountered, cannot be immediately identified. 10:25 Ronald Moultrie: It is the department's contention that by combining appropriately structured, collected data with rigorous scientific analysis, any object that we encounter can likely be isolated, characterized, identified and if necessary, mitigated. 10:40 Ronald Moultrie: We know that our service members have encountered unidentified aerial phenomenon. And because UAPs pose potential flight safety and general security risks, we are committed to a focused effort to determine their origins. Our effort will include the thorough examination of adversarial platforms and potential breakthrough technologies, US government or commercial platforms, Allied or partner systems, and other natural phenomena. 11:15 Ronald Moultrie: We also understand that there has been a cultural stigma surrounding UAP. Our goal is to eliminate the stigma by fully incorporating our operators and mission personnel into a standardized data gathering process. We believe that making UAP reporting a mission imperative will be instrumental to the effort's success. 11:45 Ronald Moultrie: To optimize the department's UAP work, we are establishing an office within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. That office's function is clear: to facilitate the identification of previously unknown or unidentified airborne objects in a methodical, logical, and standardized manner. 13:50 Scott Bray: Since the early 2000s, we have seen an increasing number of unauthorized and or unidentified aircraft or objects in military controlled training areas and training ranges and other designated airspace. Reports of sightings are frequent and continuing. We attribute this increase in reporting to a number of factors, including our work to destigmatize reporting, an increase in the number of new systems such as quad copters and unmanned aerial systems that are in our airspace, identification of what we can classify as clutter (mylar balloons and other types of of air trash), and improvements in the capabilities of our various sensors to detect things in our airspace. 14:50 Scott Bray: The basic issues, then and now, are twofold. First, incursions in our training ranges by unidentified objects represent serious hazards to safety of flight. In every aspect of naval aviation, safety of our air crews is paramount. Second, intrusions by unknown aircraft or objects pose potential threats to the security of our operations. Our aviators train as they would fight, so any intrusions that may compromise the security of our operations by revealing our capabilities, our tactics, techniques or procedures are of great concern to the Navy and Department of Defense. 16:40 Scott Bray: The direct result of those efforts has been increased reporting with increased opportunities to focus a number of sensors on any objects. The message is now clear: if you see something, you need to report it. And the message has been received. 18:55 Scott Bray: As detailed in the ODNI report, if and when individual UAP incidents are resolved, they likely fall into one of five potential explanatory categories: airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, US government or US industry developmental programs, foreign adversary systems, or another bin that allows for a holding bin of difficult cases, and for the possibility of surprise and potential scientific discovery. 22:20 Scott Bray: If UAP do indeed represent a potential threat to our security then the capabilities, systems, processes and sources we use to observe, record, study, or analyze these phenomena need to be classified at appropriate levels. We do not want, we do not want potential adversaries to know exactly what we're able to see or understand or how we come to the conclusions we make. Therefore, public disclosures must be carefully considered on a case by case basis. 23:35 Rep André Carson (D-IN): This is the third version of this task force and, to be frank, one of Congress's concerns is that the executive branch, in administrations of both parties, has been sweeping concerns about UAPs under the rug by focusing on events that can be explained and avoiding events that cannot be explained. What can you say to give the American people confidence that you aren't just focusing our attention on low hanging fruit with easy explanations? Ronald Moultrie: Congressman, I'll start and then Mr. Bray, please feel free to weigh in. So the way that we're approaching it is with a more thorough, standardized methodology than what we have in the past. First and foremost, the Secretary Defense is chartering this effort, this is not someone lower in the Department of Defense, and he is assigned that task to the Office of Secretary of Defense's Under Secretary for Intelligence Security, that's me, because I'm responsible for looking at intelligence matters, I'm responsible for security matters, and this is potentially both. So we're concerning ourselves with the safety of our personnel, the safety of our installations and bases. There's no other higher power than what we have in actually getting after this. And as you have stated, we have been assigned that task to actually stand up an office, the AOIMSG, which I believe the name server will likely change, but we have moved forward in terms of moving to establish that office. We have, as of this week, picked the director for that effort, a very established and accomplished individual. 42:00 S
Published 07/30
The Chief Operating Officer and a board member of the PGA golf tour recently testified to the Senate as part of its investigation into the possible merger between the PGA and LIV golf tours. In this episode, hear a summary of their testimony which was about monopoly powers, labor rights, Saudi Arabian oil money, loyalty to country…. So much more than golf. Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links Contribute monthly or a lump sum via Support Congressional Dish via (donations per episode) Send Zelle payments to: [email protected] Send Venmo payments to: @Jennifer-Briney Send Cash App payments to: $CongressionalDish or [email protected] Use your bank’s online bill pay function to mail contributions to: Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish Thank you for supporting truly independent media! Background Sources Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes PGA Tour 2022. Official 2022-23 PGA Tour Media Guide. Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund. February 24, 2021. BBC. LIV Golf Fergus Bisset. February 1, 2023. Golf Monthly. Doric Sam. August 1, 2022. Bleacher Report. LIV vs. PGA Tim Schmitt. February 17, 2023. Golfweek. PA Media. August 3, 2022. The Guardian. Mark Schlabach. July 11, 2022. ESPN. Yemen Ryan Grim. May 18, 2023. The Intercept. Bruce Riedel. January 27, 2023. Brookings. Shuaib Almosawa. March 16, 2022. The Intercept. Audio Sources July 11, 2023 Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Witnesses: Ron Price, Chief Operating Officer, PGA TOUR Jimmy Dunne, Board Member, PGA TOUR 2002 HBO Music by (found on by mevio) Editing Production Assistance
Published 07/15
CD276: The Demise of Dollar Dominance
The U.S. dollar’s status as the global reserve currency is diminishing, which reduces the power that U.S. leaders have over the global economic system. In this episode, hear highlights from recent Congressional testimony during which financial elites examine the current status of the global financial system and what Congress is being told to do to address perceived threats to it (and to their own power). Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links Contribute monthly or a lump sum via Support Congressional Dish via (donations per episode) Send Zelle payments to: [email protected] Send Venmo payments to: @Jennifer-Briney Send Cash App payments to: $CongressionalDish or [email protected] Use your bank’s online bill pay function to mail contributions to: Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish Thank you for supporting truly independent media! Background Sources Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes International Monetary Fund Updated June 21, 2023. International Monetary Fund. June 9, 2023. International Monetary Fund. Updated December 2022. International Monetary Fund. Argentina October 17, 2018. International Monetary Fund. January 11, 1999. International Monetary Fund. Ecuador March 13, 2003. International Monetary Fund. Smaller Banks within the World Trade System China World Trade Organization. World Trade Organization. Stephen Kirchner. January 24, 2022. United States Studies Centre. Kurt M. Campbell and Ely Ratner. February 13, 2018. Foreign Affairs. The World Bank December 10, 2020. Bretton Woods Observer. Eric Toussaint. April 2, 2020. Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt. Yukon Huang. January 15, 2020. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Congressional Stock Trade Tracking US Abuse of Sanctions Lawrence Summers et. al. June 15, 2023. Foreign Affairs. Allies Pivoting Jamil Anderlini and Clea Caulcutt. April 9, 2023. Politico. February 2, 2022. Al Jazeera. Witnesses Accessed June 24, 2023. Council on Foreign Relations. Carla Norrlof - Atlantic Council. Audio Sources June 7, 2023 House Financial Services Committee Witnesses: Dr. Tyler Goodspeed, Kleinheinz Fellow, Hoover Institution at Stanford University Dr. Michael Faulkender, Dean’s Professor of Finance, Robert H. Smith School of Business at University of Maryland Dr. Daniel McDowell, Associate Professor, Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs at Syracuse University Marshall Billingslea, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute Dr. Carla Norrlöf, Senior Fellow, The Atlantic Council and Professor, University of Toronto Clips 34:05 Dr. Tyler Goodspeed: In 2022, as the Ranking Member highlighted, 88% of all foreign exchange transactions by value involved the United States Dollar, a figure that has been roughly constant since 1989, which is testament to the substantial path dependence in international currency usage due to large positive network externalities. As the Ranking Member also highlighted, 59% of all official foreign exchange reserves were held in US dollars, which is down from a figure of 71.5% in 2001. By comparison 31% of all foreign exchange transactions by value involve the Euro, which is the second most commonly transacted currency, which accounted for 20% of official foreign exchange reserves. 34:50 Dr. Tyler Goodspeed: The fact that 90% of all foreign exchange transactions continue to involve the United States dollar, and that global central banks continue to hold almost 60% of their foreign exchange reserves in US dollars confers net economic benefits on the United States economy. First, foreign demand for reserves of US dollars raises demand for dollar denominated securities, in particular United States Treasury's. This effectively lowers the cost of borrowing for US households, US companies, and federal, state and local governments. It also means that on average, the United States earns more on its investments in foreign assets than we have to pay on foreign investments in the United States, which allows the United States to import more goods and services than we export. Second, foreign demand for large reserves of US dollars and dollar denominated assets raises the value of the dollar and a stronger dollar benefits us consumers and businesses that are net importers of goods and services from abroad. Third, large reserve holdings of US currency abroad in effect constitutes an interest free loan to the United States worth about $10 to $20 billion per year. Fourth, the denomination of the majority of international transactions in US dollars likely modestly lowers the exchange rate risks faced by US companies. Fifth, the given the volume of foreign US dollar holdings and dollar denominated debt, monetary policy actions by foreign central banks generally have a smaller impact on financial conditions in the United States than actions by the United States Central Bank have on financial conditions in other countries. 36:40 Dr. Tyler Goodspeed: However, the benefits of the US dollar's global reserve status are not without costs. The lower interest rates in the United States benefit US borrowers, especially the federal government. They also lower returns to US savers. In addition, though a stronger dollar benefits US consumers and businesses that net import goods and services from abroad, it does also disadvantage US firms that export goods and services abroad as well as firms that compete against imported goods and services. Furthermore, the perception of the US dollar as a safe haven asset means that demand for the dollar tends to increase in response to adverse macroeconomic events that are global in nature. As a result, the competitiveness of US exporters and US firms that compete against imported goods and services are likely to face an increased competitive disadvantage at times of elevated global macroeconomic stress. 37:35 Dr. Tyler Goodspeed: However, despite these costs, studies generally find that the economic benefits of the dollar's prominent global status outweigh the costs, providing a modest net benefit to the United States economy. This does not include the substantial benefit to which the chairman referred of the United States dollar's centrality in global transactions, allowing the United States to utilize financial sanction tools when appropriate in support of national security objectives. 44:50 Dr. Daniel McDowell: With little more than the stroke of the President's pen or through an Act of Congress, the US government can use financial sanctions to impose enormous economic costs on targeted foreign actors, be they individuals, firms, or state institutions, by freezing their dollar assets or cutting them off from access to the banks through which those dollars flow. The consequences for individual targets, known as specially designated nationals or SDNs, are severe, significantly impairing targets capacity to participate in international trade, investment, debt repayment, and depriving them of access to their wealth. Over the last two decades, the United States has used the tool of financial sanctions with increasing frequency. For example, in the year 2000, just four foreign governments were directly targeted under a US Treasury Country Program overseen by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Today that number is greater than 20, and if we include penalties from secondary sanctions the list gets even longer. The more that the United States has reached for financial sanctions, the more it has made adversaries and foreign capitals aware of the strategic vulnerability that stems from dependence on the dollar. Some governments have responded by implementing anti-dollar policies measures that are designed to reduce an economy's reliance on the US currency for investment in cross-border transactions. But these measures sometimes fail to achieve their goals. Others have produced modest levels of de-dollarization. Notable examples here include Russian steps to cut its dollar reserves and reduce the use of the dollar and trade settlement in the years leading up to its full scale invasion of Ukraine, or China's ongoing efforts to build its own international payments network based on the Yuan, efforts that have taken on a new sense of urgency as Beijing has become more aware of its own strategic vulnerabilities from Dollar dependence. 47:05 Dr. Daniel McDowell: The United States should reconsider the use of so-called symbolic financial sanctions. That is, if the main objective of a tranche of sanctions is to signal to the world or to a domestic audience that Washington disapproves of a foreign government's policy choices, other measures that can send a similar signal but do not politicize the dollar system ought to be considered first. Second, the use of financial sanctions against issuers of potential rival currencies in particular, China and its Yuan should face a higher bar of scrutiny. Even a small targeted sanctions program provides information to our adversaries about their vulnerabilities, and gives them time to prepare for a future event when a broad US sanctions program may be called upon as part of a major security crisis, when such measures will be most needed. Finally, whenever possible, US financial sanctions should be coordinated with our allies in Europe and Asia, who should feel as if they are key stakeholders in the dollar system and not vassals to it. Such coordinated efforts will prevent our friends from seeking to conduct business with U.S. adversaries outside of the dollar system and send a message to the whole world that moving activities into secondary currencies, like the Euro or the Yen, is not a safe haven. 48:35 Marshall Billingslea: I'll say at the outset that I agree with you and others that to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the dollar's demise have been greatly exaggerated. That said, we need to remind ourselves that in the 16th century the Spanish silver dollar was the dominant currency, in the 17th century it was Dutch florins, in the 18th century it was the pound sterling. The link between a nation's currency and its role as the relatively dominant political actor on the world stage is pretty clear. And that is why people like Lula from Brazil, Putin and Xi all aspire to undercut the role of the dollar as the global reserve currency. 50:00 Marshall Billingslea: If we look at what Russia did in the run-up to its further invasion of Ukraine, they began dumping ownership of treasury bonds in 2018. In that year, they plummeted from $96 billion and holdings down to $15 billion and they also started buying large amounts of gold. China is now, as the Ranking Member has observed, embarking on its own its own gold buying spree. I haven't seen the data for May, but April marked the sixth straight month of Chinese expansion in its gold holdings, and I'm not sure I believe the official figures. We have to recall that China is the dominant gold mining player around the world and half of those gold mining companies are state-owned. So the actual size of China's war chest when it comes to gold reserves may be far higher. In fact, I suspect inevitably far higher than official numbers suggest. Last year China also started dumping its treasuries. 2022 marked the largest or second largest decrease on record, with a drop of about $174 billion, and China stood at the lowest level since 2010. In terms of its holdings, though, this past March they did reverse course. This bears close watching because a sell-off may be a strong indicator of planned aggression. 51:20 Marshall Billingslea: The sheer size of the Chinese economy dwarfs what we've been contending with in the form of Iran, Russia, and so on. And one of the first things that the Biden administration did in the wake of Russia's attack was start sanctioning Russian banks and de-SWIFTing them. That's one thing when you're going after an economy smaller than the size of Texas; it's quite another when you consider that out of the 100 largest banks in the world, China has 20, and all four of the top four are Chinese banks. And that is why many within the Treasury contended when I was there, and they will contend to this day, that these Chinese banks are simply too big to sanction. I don't agree that we can allow that to stand but I do believe we have to start taking very swift action to put us in a situation where we could take punitive measures on these banks if necessary. 54:10 Dr. Carla Norrlöf: I will note that the Dollar's dominance is not quite as strong amongst private actors and private markets as it is with governments. In private transactions, it averages about 45% of the world's total. That includes FX transactions, but also things like issuance of international debt, securities, and cross-border banking. 54:55 Dr. Carla Norrlöf: The Chinese Yuan poses no immediate threat to dollar dominance. It accounts for roughly 3% of overall reserves. So far China has been successful in promoting the Yuan with its trade partners, but the Yuan is scarcely used by countries outside trade with China. China is a potential long term challenger due to its active pursuit of trade and investment relationships. If the Yuan is increasingly used by third countries, it will pose a greater threat to the dollar. 55:30 Dr. Carla Norrlöf: And in addition to these external threats, there is also a domestic threat. Flirting with the possibility of a voluntary default puts dollar dominance at risk. What should the US do to maintain dominance, to curb the domestic threat? Congress should consider creating an alternative mechanism for resolving political differences on government spending and its consequences. 56:00 Dr. Carla Norrlöf: To rein in external threats the United States should, whenever possible, implement multilateral sanctions in support of broadly endorsed goals to shore up the liberal international order. This is likely to limit dollar backlash. 59:40 Marshall Billingslea: The thing I do worry -- I come back to this fact that they've been buying a lot of gold -- that one of the things that they could do, which would be very concerning, if they wind up having larger reserves of gold than we believe, is they could start issuing Yuan or gold denominated, gold-backed Yuan contracts and that would further their ambition for introducing the Yuan onto the world stage. 1:05:00 Marshall Billingslea: China considers the actual composition of its foreign exchange reserves to be a state secret. So they don't publish and they they view it as a criminal offense to try to obtain that information in terms of the balance of how much is gold, how much Dollar or Euro denominated. But the numbers I've seen suggest that still at this moment, about 50% to 60% of their Foreign Exchange reserves are still in Dollars or Euros, which means that they are at high risk of sanctions; we can affect them. The problem is that that war chest that they've built up is enormous. It's more than $3 trillion that they have in Foreign Exchange reserves. Compare that with what Russia had at the onset of its assault, which was around $680 billion, of which we managed to freeze overseas half of it, but Russia is still keeping its economy going despite the Biden administration sanctions. So imagine how they're going to be able to continue with that sizable war kitty in Beijing if they do decide to go after the Taiwanese. 1:09:00 Dr. Tyler Goodspeed: Short term I think the risk is that we continue to see diversification away from the dollar, PRC continuing to push other countries to use trade inverse invoicing and Renminbi, that they continue to promote the offshore Renminbi market, that they continue to promote or force bilateral clearing. Longer term, I think the bigger risk is that foreign investors no longer perceive the United States federal government debt to be as safe and risk free as it is today perceived. 1:41:20 Dr. Daniel McDowell: The demonstration of US control over the actual flow of dollars, of communication, absolutely provides information to adversaries to prepare for events where they may face similar circumstances. And so I think what we're seeing is China, we're seeing Russia, we're seeing other countries try to create alternative payments networks. Russia has its own SPFS payment messaging system. It's quite small. It was launched in 2014, not coincidentally, after the initial round of sanctions targeting Russia. In terms of CIPS, China's cross border payments network, Belarus announced it was having banks join immediately following the 2022 sanctions. So what I'm saying is there's a pattern between when the United States mobilizes control over the pipes and the messaging of cross-border payments and adversaries looking for alternatives. It doesn't mean they're using them, but they're getting plugged into the system as at least sort of a rainy day option in the event of a future targeting. 1:45:35 Dr. Daniel McDowell: I look at China not just as a typical country, because I think they're an alternative service provider. Most countries fall into alternative service users; they're looking for an alternative to the dollar. China, you could perhaps put Europe in this as well, are the only two sort of economic BLOCs capable, I think, of constructing an attractive enough cross-border payments network that could attract those alternative service users that are looking for that network. And so that's why I think again, with China, there should be a higher bar of scrutiny. 2:02:20 Dr. Tyler Goodspeed: As deficits mount and as the debt burden rises above 100%, I think the Congressional Budget Office has it ending the budget window at about 119% of our economy, then we will probably observe an acceleration of diversification away from the dollar as a hedge. Again, I don't see another single currency displacing the dollar as the major international currency or as the major reserve currency, but continued diversification. May 25, 2023 House Financial Services Committee Witnesses: Jesse M. Schreger, Associate Professor of Business, Columbia Business School Mark Rosen, Partner, Advection Growth Capital and former Acting Executive Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Daniel F. Runde, Senior Vice President, Center for Strategic & International Studies(CSIS) Rich Powell, Chief Executive Officer, ClearPath & ClearPath Action Daouda Sembene, Distinguished Nonresident Fellow, CGD and CEO, AfriCatalyst Clips 39:55 Mark Rosen: The IMF is the global lender of last resort to countries that are in economic distress. IMF borrowers usually have a balance of payments problem, are running out of foreign exchange reserves, and so cannot meet their obligations. The IMF negotiates a set of economic policies with the borrower in government to alleviate the crisis, and, conditional on the government implementing the agreed policies, provides a loan in tranches, normally over a three year period. 41:00 Mark Rosen: The biggest challenge the IMF faces today is China which, as we've heard, has lent vast sums to emerging market and low income countries in a non-transparent and irresponsible manner. Many IMF members are now struggling to repay China. 42:05 Mark Rosen: The United States is the largest shareholder in the IMF and has veto power over certain key decisions and it's critical that the US continues to maintain its ownership of more than 15% which enables it to have this veto power. 42:20 Mark Rosen: China for some time, has been pressing for an increased quota share at the IMF. However, given its irresponsible lending, and then willingness to provide debt relief to developing countries, this is not the time to reward China with increased ownership at the Fund. Two other issues I'd like to focus on are anti-corruption and the catalytic role of the private sector in the work of the IMF. Corruption is a severe problem for many emerging market countries, which do not have strong institutions that can confront and root out corruption. The IMF is certainly doing a much better job than it did historically on anti-corruption, but I believe it's critical that it continues to make anti corruption laws and policies front and center in the conditions of its lending programs, as well as a focus of its technical assistance. Only by reducing corruption will many of these countries be able to attract the vast amount of private sector investment which is potentially available and remains the ultimate key to reducing poverty. Establishing a rule of law, including laws to protect private property is key to unlocking this investment. And it should be a focus of the IMF and World Bank to encourage these countries to improve the rule of law and to fight corruption. If they do that, emerging market countries can attract private capital and grow rapidly as many countries that have followed that path have already done so successfully. 44:45 Daniel Runde: Multilateral development banks, MDBs, under US and Western leadership are one way that we can respond with something. The United States built and strengthened the MDB system. MDBs provide money, advice, data and convening power to help developing countries solve problems. If the US exerts its influence over these institutions, they are forced multipliers of a US-led global system. If we disregard our leadership role, then other actors, including China, can exert influence over them. The World Bank Group is a series of institutions: it lends money to national governments, it has a private sector arm, and has an insurance arm. There are a series of other regional development bank's including the InterAmerican Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank -- Taiwan is a member of the Asian Development Bank -- the African Development Bank and the EBRD, the European Bank for Reconstruction Development Bank, focused mainly on countries that used to be behind the Iron Curtain. The United States has been instrumental in creating the majority of these institutions and remains the largest, or one of the largest, shareholders of every afformentioned MDB. Since the founding of these institutions, the US has used its shareholding power to shape the policies and activities of MDBs in indirect support of American foreign policy. 47:10 Daniel Runde: What role does China play in the MDBs? They're a shareholder. China continues to borrow from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. That is crazy. That needs to stop. China is a shareholder. Also, Chinese firms can bid on MDB projects. China wins a lot of in terms of dollar value, a lot of the dollar value of World Bank contracts. Something to take a look at. 47:35 Daniel Runde: How does the Belt and Road figure into the MDBs? You all have heard of the Belt and Road. Infrastructure is now a strategic issue. China's Belt and Road Initiative is a combination of construction and financing projects for roads, airports, and energy around the world. Unfortunately for us, BRI is an ambitious project that speaks to the hopes of China's friends and potential friends. To counter the BRI, the US needs a positive alternative that says more than, "Don't work with China." Right? That's not a strategy. We've got to have an alternative. 1:12:50 Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY): How do we end China's eligibility to borrow from the World Bank? Daniel Runde: The Asian Development Bank has said they're going to end their eligibility by 2025. We should absolutely hold them to that. There is a temptation for the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to continue to loan for a couple of reasons. One is they say, "Well, this is a window into how we can understand China better." There's lots of other ways to understand China better. And or this is a way for us to -- for a bunch of lending reasons that they do it. You all have the power of the purse, you have an ability, I think you should have blunted conversations with the administration about this. I suspect it's an open door, but it's going to require, I think, some pushing from Congress. I would encourage this committee to push the administration on ending lending to China. 1:14:30 Jesse Schreger: So fundamentally right now, the Renminbi is not yet positioned to compete with the US dollar for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the reason that the dollar plays the role it does in the international financial system is it provides the global safe asset. You're confident, except for the upcoming debt ceiling, that you will always be paid back if you own US dollars. That's fundamentally what you know. When you contemplate investing in China and holding Chinese Renminbi as reserves, you're not necessarily sure that you're gonna be able to turn that piece of paper into the goods and services that you need or intervening in FX markets. 1:21:15 Jesse Schreger: First and foremost, what China is trying to do is essentially convince countries around the world that the Renminbi is an alternative asset to invoice your trade and to invest in. And so on the investment side, they've been working very hard to actually allow in foreign capital, encouraging foreign central banks to hold Renminbi denominated bonds as their reserves. And on the trade side, they're encouraging firms to invoice, basically price their goods, in Renminbi. There's a few areas in which they've had challenges there. So first, we actually don't know who are holding most of these Renminbi denominated assets. What you can see is after the US sanctioned Russia back in 2014, it was the Russian Central Bank that effectively announced they were moving out of US dollar denominated assets and into Renminbi, so they did that publicly. And so China has effectively been trying to attract foreign capital of that form and a lot of the reasons for that is that China finds itself vulnerable in the dollar-based financial system. And so what I would say the fundamental area in which the United States can assure the dominance of the dollar is making everyone understand that US Treasuries are the world's safe asset that there is no state of the world in which the United States can or will default. 2:03:25 Jesse Schreger: I think the real way in which people start being able to issue and borrow in Renminbi is when people start thinking in terms of the goods that they need to buy and consume are in Renminbi. Fundamentally, most countries around the world, if they issue a bond in Renminbi, the calculation they have to do is then "okay, I'm going to take my renminbi and convert it into US dollars to buy the thing in which I need." And so while actions in the US financial system are certainly going to affect other countries decisions to borrow in Renminbi, the kind of underlying challenges in Chinese financial markets and fundamentally the lack of goods priced and sold in Renminbi are going to continue to hold back kind of a growth of this market for a while. And in particular, the fact that many countries are reluctant to try to raise money inside of China's liquid onshore capital markets for, effectively, fear of capital controls. If you've raised renminbi in China, you can't get that out and to your projects the way you can if you raise money in the US in dollars. 2:14:55 Daniel Runde: The business model of the World Bank is they lend money to richer countries with a pretty good credit rating and then they cross subsidize that by lending to poor countries with a poor credit rating. My view is, China can finance its own development, we should stop this practice. I think the Asian Development Bank has sort of gotten the memo, but the World Bank has not fully gotten the memo and they'll give you kind of World Bank-y answers to this sort of thing. We got to stop it. Rep. Zach Nunn (R-IA): Mr. Runde, I could not agree with you more. And you highlighted earlier, you know, by 2025, China should graduate from this program. I'd offer that 25 is two years too late. We can start funneling them off that now. Daniel Runde: I agree, sir. Rep. Zach Nunn (R-IA): I think you're in the right spot. Thank you. Music by Editing Production Assistance Cover photo
Published 06/25
CD275: Debt Ceiling 2023: Crisis Normalized
Another unnecessary crisis averted. In this episode, Jen examines the debt ceiling crisis events of the past to show that the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 - which raised the debt ceiling - is not likely to reduce our government’s debt but will likely ensure that our environment will be trashed for profit. She also examines the best path forward to ensure that the debt ceiling is never used for political leverage again. Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links Contribute monthly or a lump sum via Support Congressional Dish via (donations per episode) Send Zelle payments to: [email protected] Send Venmo payments to: @Jennifer-Briney Send Cash App payments to: $CongressionalDish or [email protected] Use your bank’s online bill pay function to mail contributions to: Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish Thank you for supporting truly independent media! Background Sources Congressional Dish Episodes Debt Ceiling Overview Natalie Sherman. Jun 2, 2023. BBC. Noah Berman. Last Updated May 25, 2023. Council on Foreign Relations. Raymond Scheppach. May 12, 2023. The Conversation. Scott Simon and Lennon Sherburne. April 29, 2023. NPR. New Development Bank Ben Norton. Jun 8, 2023. Monthly Review Online. Jun 5, 2023. New Development Bank. Debt Limit History Bipartisan Policy Center. Paul Lewis and Dan Roberts. Oct 15, 2013. The Guardian. Binyamin Appelbaum and Eric Dash. Aug 5, 2011. The New York Times. Clay Chandler. Sept 22, 1995. The Washington Post. 2023 Crisis Carl Hulse. May 2, 2023. The New York Times. Carl Hulse and Jeanna Smialek. Apr 7, 2023. The New York Times. The Debt Cristina Enache. Jan 31, 2023. Tax Foundation. Updated May 25, 2023. Investopedia. Updated May 2021. Tax Policy Center. The Law Law Outline Sets spending caps for fiscal years 2024 and 2025 2024: Over $886 billion for defense Over $703 billion for non-defense If there is a continuing resolution in effect on or after January 1, 2024 for fiscal year 2024, or a continuing resolution for 2025 on or affect January 1, 2025, defense and non-defense spending will be sequestered, meaning a 1% across the board cut Explains how the House of Representatives must implement this law Explains how the Senate must implement this law Takes money back from accounts where it wasn't all spent including from: The Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Specifically their COVID vaccine activities and vaccine supply chains All the money except $7 billion for COVID testing and mitigation All of the SARS-CO-V2 genomic sequencing money except for $714 million All of the money for COVID global health programs International Disaster Assistance funds for the State Department National Institutes of Health - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Community health centers National Health Service Corps Nurse Corps Graduate level teaching health centers Mental health and substance use disorder training for health care professionals and public safety officers Grants for mental health for medical providers Funding for pediatric mental health care access Grants for survivors of sexual assault Child abuse prevention and treatment Medical visits at home for families State and local fiscal recovery funds Rural health care grants Restaurant revitalization fund Elementary and secondary school emergency relief funds Housing for people with disabilities Housing for the elderly Grants to Amtrak and airports Air carrier worker support and air transportation payroll support Defunds the IRS by approximately $1.4 billion Requires agencies to submit plan to reduce spending in an equal or greater amount to every action they take that increases spending. This is easily waived and expires at the end of 2024.. At the end of September, people with Federal student loans will have to begin repayment of their loans, and the Secretary of Education is not allowed to implement an extension of the payment pause. Orders reports about work requirements for welfare payments In order to receive food benefits for more than 3 months in a 3 year period, "able bodied" people have to work at least 20 hours per week or participate in a work program for 20 hours per week unless that person is under 18 or over 50 years old, medically unable to work, is a parent with dependent children, or is pregnant. This provision increases the work requirement age over the next few years so it becomes 55 years old. This provision adds homeless individuals, veterans or foster kids until they are 24 to the list of people exempt from the work requirements This provision expires and the qualifications revert back to what they used to be on October 1, 2030 Changes the requirements for NEPA environmental studies to include "any negative environmental impacts of not implementing the proposed agency action in the case of a no action alternative..." and requires only "irreversible and irretrievable commitments of FEDERAL resources which would be involved in the proposed agency action should it be implemented" Adds circumstances when agencies will not have to produce environmental impact documents Requires environmental impact statements when the action has a "reasonably foreseeable significant effect on the quality of the HUMAN environment." Allows agencies to use "any reliable data source" and says the agency is "not required to undertake new scientific or technical research unless the new scientific or technical research is essential to a reasoned choice among alternatives and the overall costs and time frame of obtaining it are not unreasonable." Assigns roles for "lead agencies" and "cooperating agencies" and says that the agencies will produce a single environmental document Sets a 150 page limit on environmental impact statements and 300 pages for a proposed agency action with "extraordinary complexity" Sets a 75 page limit on environmental assessments Requires lead agencies to allow a "project sponsor" to prepare environmental assessments and environmental impact statements under the supervision of the agency. The lead agency will "evaluate" the documents and "shall take responsibility for the contents." Environmental impact statements must be complete in under 2 years after the EIS is ordered by the agency Environmental assessments must be completed in 1 year The agency may extend the deadlines Project sponsors are given the right to take government agencies to court for failure to meet a deadline "Congress hereby ratifies and approves all authorizations, permits, verifications, extensions, biological opinions, incidental take statements, and any other approvals or orders issued pursuant to Federal law necessary for the construction and initial operation at full capacity of the Mountain Valley Pipeline." Gives the Secretary of the Army 21 days after enactment of this law to issue "all permits or verifications necessary to complete the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline across the waters of the United States" "No court shall have jurisdiction..." to review "...any approval necessary for the construction and initial operation at full capacity of the Mountain Valley Pipeline... including any lawsuit pending in a court as of the date of enactment of this section." Suspends the debt limit until January 1, 2025 On January 2, 2025, the debt limit will automatically increase to whatever amount the debt level is at the end of the suspension Audio Sources June 1, 2023 Senate Session Parts & May 31, 2023 May 30, 2023 House Committee on Rules Clips 22:50 Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO): I should note for my colleagues that Democrats could have raised the debt limit last year when they controlled the House of Representatives. 35:30 Rep. Ron Estes (R-KS): The Fiscal Responsibility Act finally ends the federal student loan moratorium and the so-called interest pause, effective August 31, 2023. For every month borrowers were allowed to skip payments, $4.3 billion were added to the American taxpayers debt. 41 months later, the moratorium has cost American taxpayers approximately $176 billion. 1:01:15 Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO): The President put forward a budget months ago. Chairman Smith, do you know when the President submitted his budget to the United States Congress? Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO): I don't remember but it was -- Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO): It was March 9th. Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO): It was late. It was due February 1st. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO): Oh, I'm glad you noted that. Chairman Smith, when did the Republicans submit their budget? Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO): You would need to ask the budget committee. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO): I would need to ask the budget committee. Mr. Estes. When did the Republicans submit their budget? [Pause] Only in the Rules Committee, by the way, could a witness lay blame at the president for being a few weeks late in submitting his budget when his party hasn't submitted a budget, period. 1:06:45 Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA): We also run the risk that we will one day not be the reserve currency of the world. The reason why our interest rates are so low comparatively, is because we are a safe haven for investment for the rest of the world. These sort of antics increasingly bring that into doubt whether or not folks will get their money, the folks who are lending to us. 1:24:15 Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM): Now, Standard and Poor's, they downgraded our credit rating. Have they increased that credit rating? Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA): No. There are three credit agencies Standard and Poor's, which was the one that downgraded us in 2011, never reversed their downgrade. And frankly my concern and the worry right now is that the other two credit agencies will now follow suit, given the events of the last couple of months, which obviously look very much like 2011 all over again. 1:50:55 Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA): I continue to be stunned by the fact that when I look at this deal, which focuses on discretionary funding, that the people who seem to be asked to do the most or to absorb the hits the most are the people that least can afford it. The military budget is part of this discretionary budget, it's over 50% of the discretionary budget. The United States spends more on national defense than China, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Germany, France, South Korea, Japan and Ukraine combined. And yet, if this moves forward, we see an increase in defense spending. I mentioned in my opening remarks, I don't know how many of you saw the 60 minutes piece the other day, I mean, we all know, of the cost overruns in the Department of Defense. I mean, the idea that we're spending $10,000 for a $300 oil switch. I mean, it's been there for a long time, and yet, we seem unable to want to grapple with that waste and those cost overruns. I don't know if it's the defense lobbyists or the campaign contributions or whatever it is, but somehow, when it comes to the military budget, you know, not only are we not holding them accountable, but you know, we say we're going to increase it even more, even more, we'll give you more. 2:57:40 Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX): Look, I'm for NEPA reforms 100%. We need them for road projects, transportation, particularly for our energy industry. But my concern here that we've got language that none of us have fully reviewed, going through the committees of jurisdiction that has been adopted, that I've got colleagues texting me and saying they're not 100% sure if that language is good or bad for the purpose intended. I've got colleagues on both sides of the aisle that have raised those questions. And so the purpose intended, of course, is to streamline projects, whatever those projects may be. But I've got a text right here from GOP colleagues saying, Well, I'm not so sure that these will actually do what we think they will do, to streamline said projects. And in fact, a former high up in the administration, in the Energy Department under the Trump administration, just validated that concern by one of my colleagues. Yet we are putting forward this measures saying some grand improvement with respect to NEPA, that that's somehow something we should be applauding when it's not the full package of H.R. 1, which had gone through committee. And importantly, the one thing that I think is 100% clear, is that this bill fails to include even the most basic reform to President Biden's unreliable energy subsidies that were put forward in the so called inflation Reduction Act for the wealthy, elites, corporations, and the Chinese Communist Party just to be blunt. And frankly, it ensures that permitting reform will likely benefit renewables the most. Basically, if you're a government that is subsidizing the crap out of something, in this case, unreliable energy, giving massive subsidies to billion dollar corporations, giving significant subsidies to families that make over 100,000, 300,000 for EVs, because you're chasing your your dreams of, you know, a fossil fuel-less world. You're going to absolutely decimate our grid because you're not going to have the projects being developed for the gas and the coal nuclear that are actually required to keep your grid functioning. But yeah, that's what we're doing and I just for the life of me can't understand why we're applauding that. 3:15:50 Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO): So we've been asking for the IRS to give us a plan of how they wanted to spend the additional $80 billion that they had. They finally gave that to Congress about six weeks, eight weeks ago. They broke down how they're spending the $80 billion: $1.4 billion of it was for hiring more agents and what the bill before you does, it eliminates that $1.4 billion for this year. May 25, 2023 House Session, Parts & May 24, 2023 May 21, 2023 60 Minutes May 17, 2023  Senate Budget Committee Witnesses: Bobby Kogan, Senior Director, Federal Budget Policy, Center for American Progress Bruce Bartlett, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy, United States Department of Treasury Samantha Jacoby, Senior Tax Legal Analyst, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Dr. Adam Michel, Director of Tax Policy Studies, Cato Institute Scott Hodge, President Emeritus & Senior Policy Advisor, Tax Foundation Clips 32:25 Bobby Kogan: Today I intend to make two points. First, without the Bush tax cuts, their bipartisan extensions, and the Trump tax cuts, the ratio of debt to GDP would be declining indefinitely. And second, our rising debt ratio is due entirely to these tax cuts and not to spending increases. Throughout this testimony, When I say spending, I mean primary spending, that is spending excluding interest on the federal debt, and every mention of revenues, spending deficits, and debt means those amounts as a percent of GDP. Okay, according to CBO primary deficits are on track to stabilize at roughly 4% over 30 years, high enough to cause the debt to rise indefinitely. The common refrain that you will hear, that I heard when I staffed this committee, and that unfortunately, I expect to hear today, is that rising debt is due to rising spending. Revenues have been roughly flat since the 1960s and while spending was also roughly flat until recently, demographic changes and rising healthcare costs are now pushing the costs up. These facts are true. Our intuitions might reasonably tell us that if revenues are flat, and spending is rising, then the one changing must be to blame. But our intuitions are wrong. In CBO's periodic long term projections earlier this century, spending was projected to continue rising, but despite this CBO routinely projected long term debt stability, It projected revenues to keep up with this rising spending, not due to tax increases, but due to our tax code bringing in more as our country and the people in it prospered. That prosperity results in both higher revenue collection and higher real after tax income for the people whose incomes are growing, it is a win win. In other words, we used to have a tax system that would fully keep pace with rising spending. And then the Bush tax cuts were enacted and expanded, and then on a bipartisan basis eventually made largely permanent in 2013. Under the law dictating CBO and OMB's baseline construction, temporary changes in tax law are assumed to end as scheduled. In practice this meant that CBO is projection showed the Bush tax cuts ending on schedule with the tax code then reverting to prior law. 2012 was therefore the last year in which CBO is projections reflected the Bush tax cuts expiring. Yes, CBO's 2012 long term projections showed rising spending, but it also showed revenues exceeding spending for all 65 years of its extended baseline with indefinite surpluses, CBO showed debt declining indefinitely. But ever since the Bush tax cuts were made permanent CBO has showed revenues lower than spending and has projected debt to rise indefinitely. And since then, the Trump tax cuts further reduced revenues. Without the Bush tax cuts, their bipartisan extensions, and the Trump tax cuts, debt would be declining indefinitely, regardless of your assumptions about the alternative minimum tax. Two points explain this. The first employs a concept called the fiscal gap, which measures how much primary deficit reduction is required to stabilize the debt. The 30 year fiscal gap is currently 2.4% of GDP, which means that on average primary deficits over 30 years would need to be 2.4% of GDP lower for the debt in 2053 to be equal to what it is now. The size of the Bush tax cuts their extensions and the Trump tax cuts under current law over the next 30 years is 3.8% of GDP. Therefore, mathematically and unequivocally without these tax cuts, debt would be declining as a percent of GDP, not rising. 41:45 Bruce Bartlett: The reason I changed my mind about taxes and decided that we needed tax increases happened on a specific day that I'm sure Senator Grassley remembers, if nobody else. And that was the day in November of 2003, when the Medicare Part D legislation passed, and I was just, you know, at the time, I thought the reason Republicans, and I was a Republican in those days, were put on this earth was to control entitlement programs. And I was appalled that an entirely new entitlement program was created that was completely unfunded. It raised the deficit forever by about 1% of GDP. And I thought a dedicated tax should have been enacted, along with that program, which I didn't oppose and don't oppose. In fact, I benefit from it at my age. But I just think that we need proper funding. And that was when I first started saying we needed to raise taxes, because we just can't cut discretionary spending enough to fix the problem. And I think this is the error of the House budget, which cuts almost entirely domestic discretionary spending, doesn't even touch defense, and I just think that's extraordinarily unrealistic and an unserious approach to our deficit problem. We simply have to do something about entitlements. If you're going to control spending, control the budget on the spending side, I don't think we're going to do that. I think we need a new tax. I have advocated a value added tax for many years, as a supplement to our existing tax system. It creates, you can raise a lot of revenue from it every virtually every industrialized country has one. The money could be used to fix things in the tax code, as a tax reform measure. Once upon a time in the 70s, and even the 80s, it was considered the sine qua non of Republican tax policy, because it's a consumption based tax system, a flat tax, and now many Republicans are in favor of something called the Fair Tax which is very similar except that it won't work. Administratively it's poorly designed. The Value Added Tax will work and that's why it should be a better approach to these problems. 49:15 Samantha Jacoby: Wealthy people who get their income from investments accumulate large gains as those assets go up in value over time, but they won't owe income tax unless they sell their assets. And if they never sell, no one will ever pay income tax on those gains. That's arguably the biggest flaw in the tax code. Policymakers should consider a tax like President Biden's budget proposal to enact a minimum tax on very wealthy households. This would treat unrealized capital gains, which is the primary source of income for many wealthy households, as taxable income instead of letting income accrue tax free across generations. 54:15 Dr. Adam Michel: Keeping government small is the best way to ensure that the American people can continue to prosper. 58:45 Scott Hodge: There are many elements of the tax code that benefit the wealthy and big corporations, I absolutely agree, and the inflation Reduction Act is the most recent example of corporate welfare in the tax code. 1:01:00 Samantha Jacoby: So the the 2017 law, it dramatically changed the way that foreign profits are taxed of multinationals. And so what happens now is large corporations who have big, big foreign profit centers, lots of foreign profits overseas, they pay a lower tax rate on those foreign profits than they do on their domestic profits or purely domestic businesses pay. 1:02:55 Bruce Bartlett: And one of the things I tried to do in my prepared testimony is look at what has actually happened in the seven years since then. And very few studies, I know, some of the tests, the footnotes and my colleagues testimony or to our projections based on studies were done in 2017, 2018. I tried to find things that were written more recently, perhaps, or preferably, I should say, in the academic literature, which I think is more substantive and more dependable. And I looked at peer reviewed journals, and the data that I could find showed no macroeconomic impact whatsoever. It didn't raise growth, it didn't lower growth. And I think I concluded in that -- Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI): It did shift wealth, correct? Bruce Bartlett: Excuse me? Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI): It did shift wealth. Bruce Bartlett: Oh, absolutely. No question about that. But I'm more interested in the macroeconomic effect on investment and growth and employment. And I would just close by saying that if a tax cut had no positive impact, then it can't have any negative impact if you get rid of it. Now, you may not want to for other reasons.... 1:05:25 Bobby Kogan: Right. So our demographic changes and rising healthcare costs are the reason that spending is increasing. If you break spending into two categories, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, everything else, including the everything else entitlements, the everything else is shrinking as a percent of GDP and it's the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that are growing. And they are growing not because they are getting more, they're doing more, it's not because we're giving more and more to seniors, and to extremely poor people, but because it costs more to do the same. And that is the rising that is the demographics is changing the ratio of non workers to workers and there's also the rising health care costs. And so what this means is that if you want to spend less, you are necessarily saying that future seniors should be getting less of a benefit than they're currently getting. That's the only way to do it. Since that's the portion of the budget that's growing, if you want to cut that, you have to say that the current amount that we're doing for Social Security recipients, the current amount that we're doing for seniors, the current amount that we're doing for people on Medicaid is too much, and future people should be having less. That's the only way to do it. And, you know, the very nice thing that I had though, ii my testimony, we used to have a tax system that despite that rising, we keep up with that, and now we don't. 1:15:50 Bruce Bartlett: Well, first of all, I think in terms of tax shelters and tax evasion and extreme levels of tax avoidance, the problem isn't so much with the law as with the enforcement. And as you know, it's been the policy of Republicans to slash the budget of the IRS in real terms, for many years, which is a way of giving, privatizing tax avoidance to rich people and the rich individuals have the greatest power and ability to evade taxation. And I think it was really wonderful that the Congress increased the IRS budget, and I think it's just the height of absurdity that one of the major elements of the House Republican proposal is to slash the IRS budget again, even though the CBO has said this is a revenue losing proposition. 2:06:40 Bruce Bartlett: I think there's absolutely no question that the debt limit is unconstitutional, and not just under the 14th Amendment, section four, but under the general powers of the President. I mean, one of the things that I will point out is that the debt limit is a very serious national security issue. A huge percentage of the national debt that is owned by foreigners is owned by foreign central banks. They are not going to be happy if their assets are suddenly worth a great deal less than they thought they were. I think the President has full power within his inherent authority to simply declare the debt limit null and void. And I would point out that it's not a simple question of whether you just break the debt limit. I think a lot of people, even on this committee, forget the impoundment part of the Budget Act of 1974, which says the President must spend the money that is appropriated by law, he doesn't have the choice not to, which is what some Republicans seem to think that he can do. And he lacks that power. So I would agree that the President has that power. I wish he would use it. I wish it as sincerely as anything I believe in life. Thank you. May 16, 2023 May 16, 2023 May 15, 2023 May 10, 2023 Senate Session, Parts & May 19, 2023 May 9, 2023 May 4, 2023 Senate Session, Parts & May 2, 2023 Music by Editing Production Assistance
Published 06/11
CD274: Norfolk Southern Train Derailment in East Palestine
On February 3rd, a train carrying 20 cars with poisonous, flammable chemicals derailed in East Palestine, OH. In this episode, we’re going to get some answers. Using testimony from four Congressional hearings, community meeting footage, National Transportation Safety Board preliminary reports, and lots of articles from local and mainstream press, you will learn what Congress is being told as they write the Rail Safety Act, which both parts of Congress are working on in response to the East Palestine train derailment. Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links Contribute monthly or a lump sum via Support Congressional Dish via (donations per episode) Send Zelle payments to: [email protected] Send Venmo payments to: @Jennifer-Briney Send Cash App payments to: $CongressionalDish or [email protected] Use your bank’s online bill pay function to mail contributions to: Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish Thank you for supporting truly independent media! Background Sources Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes East Palestine Derailment Overview Alisha Ebrahimji and Holly Yan. Mar 23, 2023. CNN. Associated Press. Feb 8, 2023. NPR. Feb 8, 2023. Cleveland 19 News. Vinyl Chloride and Dioxins Associated Press. Feb 8, 2023. CBS News Pittsburgh. Oct 4, 2016. World Health Organization. Last reviewed Oct 21, 2014. Centers for Disease Control Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. National Transportation Safety Board Findings Last updated Mar 21, 2023. National Transportation Safety Board. Ian Cross. Feb 14, 2023. ABC News 5 Cleveland. “Vent and Burn” Decision Jordan Chariton. May 25, 2023. Status Coup News. Tara Morgan. May 15, 2023. ABC News 5 Cleveland. Daniel Bates. May 15, 2023. The Daily Mail. EPA failures Louis DeAngelis. Mar 29, 2023. Status Coup News. East Palestine Resident Health Problems Zsuzsa Gyenes. May 16, 2023. The Guardian. Nicki Brown, Artemis Moshtaghian and Travis Caldwell. Mar 4, 2023. CNN. Tara Morgan. Apr 28, 2023. ABC News 5 Cleveland. Norfolk Southern Norfolk Southern. Andrea Cambron, Jason Carroll and Chris Isidore. May 11, 2023. CNN Business. Aaron Gordon. Feb 15, 2023. Vice. Rachel Premack. Feb 14, 2023. Freight Waves. Josh Funk. May 16, 2021. AP News. Lobbying Against Regulations David Sirota et al. Feb 8, 2023. The Lever. ECP Brake Deregulation William C. Vantuono. Dec 5, 2017. Railway Age. Railway Safety Act Abigail Bottar. May 10, 2023. Ideastream Public Media. Staffing Cuts Heather Long. Jan 3, 2020. The Washington Post. Long Trains Dan Schwartz and Topher Sanders. Apr 3, 2023. Propublica. Bills Audio Sources May 10, 2023 Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Clips 36:30 Sen. JD Vance (R-OH): This bill has changed a lot from what I introduced just a few short months ago. We’ve made a number of concessions to industry; a number of concessions to the rail industry, a number of concessions to various interest groups, which is why we have so much bipartisan support in this body but also why we have a lot of support from industry. March 28, 2023 March 28, 2023 House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing, & Critical Materials Witnesses: Debra Shore, Regional Administrator, U.S Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5 Wesley Vins, Health Commissioner, Columbiana County General Health District Anne M. Vogel, Director, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Clips 30:40 Debra Shore: Since the derailment, EPA has been leading robust, multi-layered air quality testing, using state of the art technology in and around East Palestine, and that extensive monitoring has continued daily at 23 stations throughout the community. Since the fire was extinguished on February 8, EPA monitors have not detected any volatile organic compounds above established levels of health concerns. EPA has also been assisting with indoor air screenings in homes through a voluntary program to keep residents informed. As of March 21, more than 600 homes have been screened, and no sustained or elevated detections of chemicals have been identified. 33:00 Debra Shore: Here's how EPA is holding Norfolk Southern accountable. On February 21, EPA issued a Unilateral Administrative Order to Norfolk Southern, including a number of directives to identify and clean up contaminated soil and water resources, to attend and participate in public meetings at EPA's request, and to post information online, and ordering the company to pay EPA's costs for work performed under the order. All Norfolk Southern work plans must be reviewed and approved by EPA. It must outline all steps necessary to address the environmental damage caused by the derailment. If the company fails to complete any of the EPAs ordered actions, the agency will immediately step in, conduct the necessary work, and then seek punitive damages at up to three times the cost. 46:30 Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH): In one case, trucks were actually turned around at the gate of a proper, certified disposal facility and sent back to East Palestine to sit practically in my constituents backyard. Why did the EPA believe that it needed to send those letters? Debra Shore: Chairman Johnson, the instance you cite occurred before EPA assumed responsibility under the Unilateral Administrative Order for the cleanup. We don't know who told those trucks to turn around, whether it was the disposal facility itself or someone else. 48:50 Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH): Why were they turned around? Debra Shore: This occurred during the transition period between Ohio EPA and US EPA assuming the lead for the emergency response. As such, under the Unilateral Administrative Order, all disposal facilities are required to be on the CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act) approved off-site disposal list. So, we needed a few days to review what had occurred and ensure that those facilities that Norfolk Southern had contracts with were on that approved list. Once we determined which ones were on the approved list, it's up to Norfolk Southern to ship waste off the site. 1:03:30 Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO): Is the EPA intending to use the Unilateral Administrative Order to ensure that Norfolk Southern establishes a health and environmental screening program beyond this initial cleanup period? Debra Shore: Right now, the focus of the Unilateral Order and our work with Norfolk Southern is to make sure the site is cleaned up. I think the responsibility for that longer term health effort, I support what Dr. Vins recommended, and that may have to be negotiat[ed] with Norfolk Southern going forward. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO): Obviously, that hasn't started yet. Debra Shore: Not to my knowledge. 1:09:05 Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA): What will take place in the remediation phase, what happens then? Debra Shore: Then there'll be restoration of stream banks and the places where the soil was removed from along the railroad sites and I think a larger vision for the community that they're already beginning to work on, such as parks and streetscapes. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA): Right. Any idea of what kind of timeframe we're talking about here? I mean, are we talking like in my district, decades? Debra Shore: No. We believe the core of the removal of the contaminated site and the restoration of the tracks will be several months. 1:11:35 Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ): When did clean up responsibility shift from EPA to Norfolk Southern, and what protections were put in place to ensure the health and safety of the community during that shift? Debra Shore: Thank you, Congressman Pallone. The transition from the State agency, which has the delegated authority in every state, has an emergency response capability, and so Ohio was on the ground working with the local firemen and other agencies as EPA arrived shortly after the derailment. It is typical in these kinds of emergency responses for the state agency to take the lead in the early days and Norfolk Southern was complying with the directives from the state. They continued to comply, but we've found over time that it's important to have all the authority to hold the principal responsible party in this case Norfolk Southern accountable, which is why on February 21, several weeks after the derailment, EPA issued its Unilateral Administrative Order. 1:19:55 Debra Shore: In the subsequent soil sampling that's been conducted, we looked at the information about the direction of the plume from the vent and burn event and focused that primarily where there might have been aerial deposition of soot or particulate matter, and that those soil samples have been collected in Pennsylvania. Rep. John Joyce (R-PA): And today, what soil, air, and water tests are continuing to occur in Pennsylvania? Debra Shore: Additional soil samples will be collected in collaboration, principally, with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the local Farm Bureau, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. 1:28:36 Anne M. Vogel: The reason that we have been able to say that the municipal drinking water is safe is based on an Ohio EPA map that pre-exists the derailment. This is the source water protection map. So the municipal wellfield is right here, if folks can see that, that big well in the blue. So the derailment happened way over here, a mile and a half away from the wellfield. And we know how the water flows, down this way, down this way, down the creeks. So the derailment would not have affected the municipal water source and we knew that very quickly after the derailment. 1:49:05 Debra Shore: Norfolk Southern has encountered some difficulties in finding and establishing contracts with sites to accept both liquid and solid waste. And I think we could accelerate the cleanup if they were able to fulfill that obligation more expeditiously. 1:51:20 Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA): What are some of the long term health concerns that residents and your providers have? Wesley Vins: We've heard a whole wide range of concerns long term. Certainly, cancer is first and foremost, because of much of the information that the residents see online and here, as well as reproductive concerns, growth concerns, hormonal concerns Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA): Do you think there's a potential with the carcinogens or any of the toxins that it could lead to ailments for five years from now? Wesley Vins: Yeah, I understand your question. So the some of the constituents that we have related to this response, obviously are carcinogenic, however, we're seeing low levels, is really the initial response. So I think the long question is, we don't know. Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA): We don't know. 2:04:50 Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA): Administrator Shore, one concern my office has heard is that relocation costs are not being covered by Norfolk Southern for everyone in East Palestine. How is it determined whether a resident is eligible to have their relocation costs paid for? Debra Shore: I'm sorry to hear that. My understanding was that Norfolk Southern was covering temporary relocation costs for any resident who sought that, and I would direct you to Norfolk Southern to ask why they are being turned down. Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA): Can the EPA require that Norfolk Southern cover relocation costs for anyone in East Palestine? Debra Shore: I'll find out. 2:11:45 Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA): I guess my concern is, if the EPA is website says that the sampling data hasn't been quality assured, how did the EPA make the determination that the air is safe to breathe when it appears that the sampling data has not been quality assured? Debra Shore: Congresswoman, I'm going to ask our staff to get back to you with an answer for that. March 22, 2023 Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation Introduction Panel: U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown U.S. Senator J.D. Vance Mike DeWine, Governor of Ohio Misti Allison, Resident of East Palestine Witnesses: Jennifer Homendy, Chair, National Transportation Safety Board David Comstock, Chief, Ohio Western Reserve Joint Fire District Clyde Whitaker, Legislative Director, Ohio State SMART-TD Alan Shaw, CEO, Norfolk Southern Ian Jefferies, CEO, Association of American Railroads Clips 1:35:00 Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): Is there any relief being offered now to say, if you make the decision to move your home and move your family somewhere else, there is an avenue for you to sell your home and get a fair market price for it? Misti Allison: The short answer is, as of today, no. There is not a clear cut explanation or parameters of how you would do that. We've heard time and time again from Norfolk Southern that they're going to make it right and that they're looking into some long term health care monitoring and assistance and home value protection, but details of that plan have not been disclosed to residents as of today. 1:42:05 Jennifer Homendy: This derailment, as all accidents we investigate, was 100% preventable. 1:43:20 Jennifer Homendy: First, the definition of high hazard flammable train should be expanded to a broader array of hazmats and the definition's threshold of 20 loaded tank cars in a continuous block or 35 tank cars dispersed throughout a train should be eliminated. Second, DOT 111 should be phased out of all hazmat service. They're not as protected as DOT 117 tank cars. Third, people deserve to know what chemicals are moving through their communities and how to stay safe in an emergency. That includes responders who risk their lives for each of us every single day. They deserve to be prepared. That means access to real time information, obtaining the right training and gear, and having the right communications and planning tools. Fourth, light cockpit voice recorders in the aviation, audio and video recorders in the locomotive cab are essential for helping investigators determine the cause of an accident and make more precise safety recommendations. Recorders also help operators proactively improve their safety policies and practices. In the East Palestine derailment, the locomotive was equipped with an inward facing camera. However, since the locomotive was put immediately back into service following the accident, the data was overwritten. That means the recorder only provided about 15 minutes of data before the derailment, and five minutes after. The FAST Act, following terrible tragedies in Chatsworth and in Philadelphia, required Amtrak and commuter railroads to maintain crash and fire hardened inward and outward facing image recorders in all controlling locomotives that have a minimum of a 12 hour continuous recording capability. This was extremely helpful in our DuPont Washington investigation. Now is the time to expand that requirement to audio, and include the Class One freight railroads in that mandate. In fact, now is the time to address all of the NTSB's open rail safety recommendations, many of which are on our most wanted list. Fifth and finally, as the committee works on enhancing rail safety, I trust that you'll consider the resources that we desperately need to carry out our critical safety mission. Investments in the NTSB are investments in safety across all modes of transportation. 1:52:05 Clyde Whitaker: This derailment did not have to happen. And it makes it so much more frustrating for us to know that it was very predictable. And yet our warnings and cries for help over the last seven years have fallen on deaf ears and the outcome was exactly as we feared. Now the result is a town that doesn't feel safe in their own homes, businesses failing to survive and a railroad that prioritized its own movement of trains, before the people in the community, as well as its workers. It truly is a shame that operational changes in place prior to that incident are still in place today and the possibility for a similar disaster is just as possible. My entire railroad career I've listened to the railroads portray a message and image of safety first, but I have never witnessed or experienced that truth, one single day on the property. For years I've handled complaint after complaint regarding unsafe practices and unsafe environments, and for almost every single one I've been fought every step of the way. The truth is, ask any railroad worker and they will tell you, that their carriers are masters of checking the boxes and saying the right things, without ever doing anything meaningful toward improving safety. They're only focus is on the operating ratios and bottom lines, which is evidenced by the fact that their bonus structures are set up to reward timely movements of freight rather than reaching destinations safely, as they once were. Actions do speak louder than words. And I assure you that what you have heard, and will hear, from the railroads today are nothing more than words. Their actions are what's experienced by men and women I represent as well as what the people of East Palestine have been through. This is the reality of what happens when railroads are primarily left to govern and regulate themselves. 1:54:05 Clyde Whitaker: On July 11, 2022, I filed a complaint with the FRA (Freight Railroad Administration) regarding an unsafe practice that was occurring on Norfolk Southern (NS), despite existing operating rules to the contrary. NS was giving instructions to crews to disregard wayside detector failures and to keep the trains moving. This meant the trains were not being inspected as intended, and that the crews were not able to ascertain the integrity of such trains. This practice remained in place even after East Palestine. 1:54:40 Clyde Whitaker: It is a virus that has plagued the industry for some time, with the exception of precision scheduled railroading. Across America, inspections and maintenance is being deferred to expedite the movement of trains. No longer is identifying defects and unsafe conditions the goal of inspections, but rather minimiz[ing] the time it takes to perform them, or the elimination of them all together. 2:17:40 Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): Why did Norfolk Southern not stop the train then and examine the bearing to make sure that it didn't melt the axle and that you didn't have a derailment? If you'd stop then it would have prevented the derailment. So my question is, why did the second hotbox reading not trigger action? Alan Shaw: Senator, my understanding is that that second reading was still below our alarm threshold, which is amongst the lowest in the industry. In response to this, the industry has agreed to work together to share best practices with respect to hotbox detectors, trending technology, and thresholds. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): So when you and I visited my office yesterday, you said your threshold is now 170 degrees above ambient temperature. As I understand it, at the time of the derailment, your threshold was 200 degrees above ambient temperature. 2:20:15 Clyde Whitaker: Make note that trending defect detector technology from being in the cab of a locomotive, when we pass a defect detector, it trends to an office like Norfolk Southern in Atlanta, Georgia. It doesn't convey to the railroad crews, which is a problem in this incident as well as many others that still continue to this day. What we need as a train crew -- which they say they listen, they haven't been listening for quite a while -- we need to be notified whenever these trending detectors are seeing this car trend hotter. That way we can keep a better eye on it. 2:22:35 Clyde Whitaker: It is feasible. The technology is there. Several days after East Palestine, we almost had a similar incident in the Cleveland area on Norfolk Southern. The defect detector said no defects to the crew. The train dispatcher came on and said, "Hey, we have a report of a trending defect detector on the train. We need you to stop and inspect it." Immediately after that the chief dispatcher, which is the person that controls the whole railroad, told them to keep going. If it were not for an eastbound train passing them and instructing them, "Hey, your train is on fire, stop your train." And we set that car out. They had to walking speed this car five miles. So the technology is there. They're just raising and lowering their thresholds to move freight. 2:25:15 Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA): His testimony is loud and clear: it would have been worse if there was only one person as a crew on that train. Do you disagree with him? Alan Shaw: Senator, I believe that we have operations infrastructure on the ground to respond to derailments. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA): I think you're not answering the question, okay? It's almost like the last hearing all over again. Because I think the evidence is very clear that these trains can be absolutely safer, but that technology is no replacement for human beings. For example, it can't provide the cognitive functions of a conductor and can't collect visual cues during an emergency. Two-person crews make our trains safer and I wish that you would commit to that today, because I think it's pretty obvious that is the correct answer. I just get sick of industry executives talking about supporting the principles of regulation, while they lobby against common sense regulations like this one behind the scenes. 2:38:50 Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT): I understand that the business plan of Norfolk Southern includes a $7.5 billion stock buyback that is ongoing. Do you believe it would be appropriate to suspend that buyback program until all of the assurances that you are making to this committee and also to the people of East Palestine, about "making this right," that that stock back buyback program should be suspended until you have accomplished what you've assured us and what you've assured that people of East Palestine that you would do? Alan Shaw: Senator, we think about safety every day. We spend a billion dollars a year in capital on safety. And we have ongoing expenses of about a billion dollars a year in safety and as a result over time, derailments are down, hazardous material releases are down and injuries are down. We can always get better. Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT): Right, so you won't answer my question about suspending the buyback program. Alan Shaw: Senator, stock buybacks never come at the expense of safety Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT): I take that is that you will continue with your plan on the buyback. 2:51:30 Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV): I know that high hazardous flammable trains have more safety regulations. Why would this not have been characterized as a high hazard flammable train if it had th ese hazardous materials on it as part of the 149 car train? Alan Shaw: Senator, thank you for your question. I'm not familiar with the entire makeup of the train. I know that a highly hazardous train is defined by a certain number of highly hazardous cars in it or a certain number of cars in a block. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV): Miss Homendy, maybe you can help me with that question. Jennifer Homendy: Yes, the definition of a high hazard flammable train involves class three flammable liquids only, 20 car loads in a continuous block, which would be a unit train, or 35 car loads of class three flammable liquids in a mixed freight train. That was not what was on this train. There were some that were class three defined flammable liquids, but this train was not a high hazard flammable train. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV): Right. It wasn't a high hazard train, but it had high hazardous materials that are very flammable that just lit up the sky. So is that something that you would consider that should be looked at as a safety improvement? Jennifer Homendy: Yes, Senator. We think that the thresholds of the 20 and 35 should be eliminated and we think a broader array of hazmat should be in the definition of high hazard flammable train. March 9, 2023 Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works Witnesses: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Sen. JD Vance (R-OH) Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) Alan Shaw, President and CEO, Norfolk Southern Corporation Debra Shore, Regional Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region V Anne Vogel, Director, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Richard Harrison, Executive Director and Chief Engineer, Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission Eric Brewer, Director and Chief of Hazardous Materials Response, Beaver County Department of Emergency Services Clips 26:50 Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH): The company followed the Wall Street business model: boost profits by cutting costs at all costs, the consequences for places like East Palestine be damned. In 10 years, Norfolk Southern eliminated 38% of its workforce. Think of that. In a decade they cut more than a third of their jobs. We see what the company did with their massive profits. Norfolk Southern spent $3.4 billion on stock buybacks last year and were planning to do even more this year. That's money that could have gone to hiring inspectors, to putting more hotbox detectors along its rail lines, to having more workers available to repair cars and repair tracks. Norfolk Southern's profits have gone up and up and up and look what happened. 33:35 Sen. JD Vance (R-OH): It is ridiculous that firefighters and local officials don't know that hazardous chemicals are in their community, coming through their community. In East Palestine you had a community of largely volunteer firefighters responding to a terrible crisis, toxic burning chemicals, without knowing what was on them. 34:50 Sen. JD Vance (R-OH): I've talked to a number of my Republican colleagues and nearly everybody has dealt in complete good faith, whether they like the bill or have some concerns about it, and these comments are not directed at them. Who they are directed at is a particular slice of people who seem to think that any public safety enhancements for the rail industry is somehow a violation of the free market. Well, if you look at this industry and what's happened in the last 30 years, that argument is a farce. This is an industry that enjoys special subsidies that almost no industry enjoys. This is an industry that is enjoys special legal carve outs that almost no industry enjoys. This is an industry that just three months ago had the federal government come in and save them from a labor dispute. It was effectively a bailout. And now they're claiming before the Senate and the House that our reasonable legislation is somehow a violation of the free market. Well, pot, meet the kettle, because that doesn't make an ounce of sense. You cannot claim special government privileges, you cannot ask the government to bail you out, and then resist basic public safety. 40:10 Alan Shaw: Air and water monitoring have been in place continuously since the accident and to date it consistently indicated that the air is safe to breathe and the water is safe to drink. 47:20 Debra Shore: Since the fire was extinguished on February 8, EPA monitors have not detected any volatile organic compounds above levels of health concerns. 47:45 Debra Shore: EPA has been assisting with indoor air screenings for homes through a voluntary program offered to residents to provide them with information and help restore their peace of mind. As of March 4, approximately 600 homes had been screened through this program and no detections of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride have been identified. 48:40 Debra Shore: On February 21, we issued a unilateral administrative order to Norfolk Southern which includes a number of directives to identify and clean up contaminated soil and water resources, to attend and participate in public meetings at EPA's request, and to post information online, to pay for EPA's costs for work performed under this order. EPA is overseeing Norfolk Southern's cleanup work to ensure it's done to EPA specifications. The work plans will outline all steps necessary to clean up the environmental damage caused by the derailment. And most importantly, if the company fails to complete any of the EPA ordered actions, the agency will immediately step in, conduct the necessary work, and then force Norfolk Southern to pay triple the cost. 1:04:30 Eric Brewer: Norfolk Southern hazmat personnel and contractors arrived on scene shortly after 11pm. At around midnight, after research of the contents, it was decided to shut down fire operations and move firefighters out of the immediate area and to let the tank cars burn. This is not an unusual decision. This decision was made primarily by Norfolk Southern's hazmat coordinator, as well as their contractor. 1:05:15 Eric Brewer: There was a possibility of explosion and we should consider a one mile evacuation. Ohio officials notified us that the one mile radius would now be from the leaked oil address. This would add additional residents from Beaver County in the one mile evacuation zone. Donington township officials went door to door, as well as using a mass notification system to advise the residents of the one mile recommended evacuation. It was stressed that this was a recommendation as we cannot force residents from their homes. Social media posts began to circulate stating that arrest would be made if people refused to leave during the evacuation. Let me be clear that was not the case in Pennsylvania, as this was not a mandatory evacuation. Monday morning, we assembled at the Emergency Operations Center in East Palestine. We learned Norfolk Southern wanted to do a controlled detonation of the tank car in question. We were assured this was the safest way to mitigate the problem. During one of those planning meetings, we learned from Norfolk Southern that they now wanted to do the controlled detonation on five of the tank cars rather than just the one. This changed the entire plan, as it would now impact a much larger area. 1:21:25 Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV): Why did you wait a month before you started to order the dioxin testing when the community was asking for this? Was that a decision that you made early on that it wasn't critical? Or how was this decision made? Debra Shore: Senator Capito, our air monitoring was searching for primary indicators, such as phosgene and hydrogen chloride, immediately during and after the burn. We detected very low levels which very quickly went even down to non detectable. Without those primary indicators, it was a very low probability that dioxins would have been created. They are secondary byproducts of the burning of vinyl chloride. 1:25:40 Alan Shaw: As you saw just this week, a six point safety plan that included a number of issues which we're implementing immediately to improve safety, including installing more wayside detectors. The first one was installed yesterday outside of East Palestine. 1:30:20 Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK): Mr. Shaw, when the vent and burn process was being made, who who made those decisions? And what was other considerations other than just burning it and letting the material burn off? Alan Shaw: Thank you for that question. The only consideration, Senator, was the safety and health of the community. And that decision was made by Unified Command under the direction of the Incident Commander? Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK): Who's that? Alan Shaw: The Incident Commander was Fire Chief Drabick. Norfolk Southern was a part of Unified Command. 2:07:25 Alan Shaw: Senator, the NTSB report indicated that all of the hotbox detectors were working as designed. And earlier this week, we announced that we are adding approximately 200 hotbox detectors to our network. We already have amongst the lowest spacing between hotbox detectors in the industry. And we already have amongst the lowest thresholds. 2:15:35 Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA): Will you commit to compensating affected homeowners for their diminished property values? Alan Shaw: Senator, I'm committing to do what's right. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA): Well, what's right is a family that had a home worth $100,000 that is now worth $50,000 will probably never be able to sell that home for 100,000 again. Will you compensate that family for that loss? Alan Shaw: Senator, I'm committed to do what's right. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA): That is the right thing to do. These are the people who are innocent victims, Mr. Shaw. These people were just there at home and all of a sudden their small businesses, their homes are forever going to have been diminished in value. Norfolk Southern owes these people. It's an accident that is basically under the responsibility of Norfolk Southern, not these families. When you say do the right thing, will you again, compensate these families for their diminished lost property value for homes and small businesses? Alan Shaw: Senator, we've already committed $21 million and that's a downpayment Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA): That is a down payment. Will you commit to ensuring that these families, these innocent families, do not lose their life savings in their homes and small businesses? The right thing to do is to say, "Yes, we will." Alan Shaw: Senator, I'm committed to doing what's right for the community and we're going to be there as long -- Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA): What's right for the community will then be balanced -- which is what we can see from your stock buybacks -- by what's right for Norfolk Southern. March 6, 2023 Speakers: Heather Long, Columnist and Editorial Writer, Washington Post Jennifer Homendy, Chair, National Transportation Safety Board Clips 5:14 Jennifer Homendy: Hazardous materials are transported on all modes of transportation. Our aviation system is the safest, but they're limited in what they can transport for dangerous materials. Pipelines can also be safe as well. They have a generally good safety record until one big rupture occurs. But then our railroads also have a good safety record. Train accidents in general, per million trains miles, are going up. So it's trending upwards, accidents. With that said, going on our nation's roads with these materials is not something we want to see. You know, we have 43,000 people that are dying on our nation's roads annually. We have a public health crisis on our roads. Millions of crashes are occurring, so transporting hazmat on our roads would be more dangerous than on our railways. 6:50 Jennifer Homendy: The numbers are trending upward on accidents overall and also for Norfolk Southern 8:20 Jennifer Homendy: That is a role that's very important for the NTSB and why we are independent of the Department of Transportation. We are not part of the Department of Transportation because we do conduct federal oversight to see if DoT's oversight of the freight railroads is adequate or inadequate and we may make recommendations on that. 10:20 Jennifer Homendy: Once it hit well over 250 degrees, it was time for the train crew to stop to inspect the axle, to inspect the wheel bearing and to possibly, in this case, set out the car. But it was too late because as they were slowing and stopping, the train derailed, the wheel bearing failed. And so there might need to be more conservative temperature thresholdss o that started earlier. Also, something the Transportation Safety Board of Canada has looked at is real time monitoring of temperatures and data trending from the control center so that they can see the temperatures increase over a period of time. In this derailment, or what we saw of this train and its operations, is the temperature of that wheel bearing was going up pretty significantly over the course of the three different wayside detectors, but you know, the crew doesn't see that. So that real time monitoring and data trending so that there's some communication with the crew to stop the train and take immediate action is definitely needed. We'll look at that as part of our investigation as well. 12:30 Jennifer Homendy: One thing I will mention is that these decisions about the placement of these hot bearing detectors and the thresholds really vary railroad by railroad and so there needs to be good decision making, some policies and practices put in place. 18:00 Jennifer Homendy: Electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes don't prevent a derailment. It could lessen damage. So let me explain that. So in this one, car 23 still would have derailed because a wheel bearing failed. So car 23 still would have derailed. Still would have been a derailment, still would have been a fire, and the responders, and Norfolk Southern, and the state and locals would have had to still make a decision on whether to vent and burn the five vinyl chloride tank cars. There could have been a possibility of less damage, meaning a few cars could have remained on the track later in the train. But as for most of the damage, that still would have occurred whether we had ECP brakes on this train or not. 19:50 Heather Long: There's a lot fewer people working on rail, especially freight rail. Does the number of people make any difference here? Jennifer Homendy: Well for this one, as you said, we had two crew members and a trainee. They all stay, as with every train, in the cab of the head locomotive. So I do not see where that would have made a difference in this particular train and this derailment. One thing we are going to look at is whether any changes in staffing lead to any differences in how these cars are maintained or how they're inspected. That is something we will look at. 21:05 Jennifer Homendy: Yeah, so the fire chief, upon arrival at the command center following the derailment, had electronic access to the train consist, which is the list of cars and the materials or liquids that the train is carrying, but none of the responders had the Ask Rail app. You could look up a UN number for a particular car and get the whole consist of the train. It's in an app that the railroads developed for helping emergency responders to get information following an accident. 25:05 Jennifer Homendy: And we have over 250 recommendations that we've issued on rail safety generally that have not been acted upon yet. Music by Editing Production Assistance
Published 5/28/2023