Murphy Challenges New TSA Rules
The American traveling public has rightly rebuked the Transportation Security Administration's new screening policies that mandate airline travelers and employees enter a full-body scanner. For travelers who refuse to enter the scanner, an invasive physical pat-down is executed by a TSA employee.
Having heard from travelers, airline workers, and even TSA employees that do not support conducting these aggressive pat-down procedures, Rep. Murphy is taking the issue to task given the fact that Pittsburgh International Airport is located within the 18th Congressional District.
"Transportation security guidelines must be rigorous. But when these guidelines cross the line and result in the public degradation and humiliation of airline passengers, those policies must be examined," said Rep. Murphy.
Murphy's office has made direct inquiries to the TSA seeking answers about the procedures. Having received no written response, Murphy personally sent a letter to TSA Director John Pistole, asking for a detailed explanation of the procedures, an explanation of the passengers' and employees' right of refusal, and the legislative language or statutes granting authorization for these procedures.
In the request, Murphy addressed the questionable constitutional basis for the methods, stating that "many who have contacted me feel that the new screening procedures infringes upon civil liberties. I am asking that you bring to light the plan and purpose that are causing feelings of unrest and claims of constitutional violations."
Incredibly, TSA has executed this enhanced security program without express legislative consent or direction from Congress. Congressman Murphy is leading the only bi-partisan congressional effort to ensure that TSA procedures are closely examined, monitored, and vetted by Congress. In a letter to the House Homeland Security Committee Chairman and Ranking Member, dozens of Murphy's colleagues in the House of Representatives have joined efforts requesting that the Committee immediately hold hearings to investigate TSA procedures.
In the letter, the delegation asked the committee "To reassure Americans that TSA's operations are not invasive, excessive, or superfluous, Congress should execute its oversight responsibilities, investigate claims of Constitutional violations, and produce recommendations for restoring trust between the public and the TSA. By examining this issue closely, your committee can determine whether these enhanced procedures are in fact making airline travel safer."
"All of us recognize the need for enhanced security guidelines that keep the skies safe for travel," stated Rep. Murphy. "I stand ready to take this issue to task. I am committed to ensuring that Americans can travel safely, without giving up our constitutionally-guaranteed civil liberties. The measures by which the federal government takes to protect its citizens cannot eradicate the liberties that it aims to protect."
The Flax Trust Organization Honors Murphy with Annual Award
Becoming the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland in 2009 was really just a formality for Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney. Mr. Rooney had been selling America and Steelers football to the Republic and Northern Ireland for years. During one of his trips, Mr. Rooney met a very popular Belfast priest. Father Myles Kavanagh and Mr. Rooney became fast friends, and Father Kavanagh subsequently made frequent trips to the United States to attend Pittsburgh Steelers football games. As founder of the Belfast charity, the Flax Trust, Father Kavanagh has played an invaluable part in the Northern Ireland peace process. The Trust's efforts include creating business centers in Belfast, business schools, affordable housing developments, a community television station, and a cultural center that includes the Pittsburgh Bar & Steelers Restaurant, an endeavor inspired by Father Kavanagh's friendship with Mr. Rooney.
As the Vice-Chair of the Congressional Friends of Ireland Caucus Congressman Tim Murphy has worked assiduously to support the peace process, and was honored to be chosen as recipient of the Flax Trust award at a ceremony on Wednesday.
"As a world-renowned Irish charity with Pittsburgh ties, the Flax Trust has been a bridge-builder, and a beacon of hope for the peace process in Northern Ireland," said Congressman Murphy. "Through rebuilding communities, encouraging enterprise, and harnessing religious and political understanding, the Trust has been an invaluable part of engaging a dialogue of peace, and diluting tensions. The spirit of community development and the growth of business and education are the foundations of a peaceful society, the building blocks for identity. For thirty-three years, the Flax Trust has made rhetoric into reality funding construction and development projects in the North and along Border Counties, and I am honored to receive this award."
The Wednesday evening ceremony was attended by Ireland Ambassador to the United States Michael Collins, former Speaker of the House Tom Foley, and PBS Newshour pundit Mark Shields. Rep. Murphy was presented the award by former New York Congressman and former Co-Chair of the Friends of Ireland Caucus James Walsh.
Congressman Murphy has been a leading voice for peace in Northern Ireland, meeting with leaders of all the major parties of Northern Ireland. Murphy has participated in four official Congressional Delegation visits to Great Britain, Ireland, and Northern Ireland to work on achieving peace in the region. Murphy is also a member of Division 32 of Ancient Order of Hibernians, and has hosted public meetings in Pittsburgh on Irish issues including a visit from the Irish Ambassador.
Lame Duck Session Set to Continue After Thanksgiving
Despite promises to address a slew of public priorities like looming tax hikes and sharp cuts to Medicare, Congress departed Washington on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday without making much of a dent in its legislative responsibilities.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi had called Congress into a "lame duck" session for potential votes on critical legislative initiatives like the expiration of the 2001/2003 tax cuts. If Congress does not act before January 1, 2011, a $3.9 trillion tax hike will take effect, raising taxes for the average Pennsylvania family by $1,528. Instead of a vote to extend current tax rates, Congress did manage to pass six resolutions, rename one post office, and extend opportunities for federal workers to telecommute, or work from home.
Speaker Pelosi has also promised votes on more controversial items like the DREAM Act, a bill that would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. before the age of 16, have lived in the country for at least five years, and attend college or serve in the U.S. military. Earlier this week, Congressman Murphy emailed constituents seeking feedback on legislative items likely to be considered in the lame duck session.
Rep. Murphy has come out against a lame duck session where controversial proposals are voted on.
"Convening during the lame duck session would allow some legislators to bypass the will of the sizeable American majorities that oppose major controversial legislation," said Rep. Murphy.
"Congress should debate and consider bills in an open and honest manner with those duly elected by their constituency. Representatives who are retiring or have been defeated should not act on behalf of constituents who voted them out of office and to whom they are no longer accountable."
Hundreds of Southwestern Pennsylvanians replied in opposition to possible passage of the DREAM Act. Citizens were also overwhelmingly opposed to a looming 23% cut to Medicare's reimbursement rates for doctors. The reductions are triggered by a statute meant to slow the growth in spending on physician services. Doctors and patients worry that the cuts would mean fewer physicians accepting elderly patients. The House must approve by December 1st a Senate bill passed late Thursday night to prevent the cuts from occurring.
Meanwhile, few details were released about other potential bills like a reauthorization of the federal school lunch program, and a bill to keep federal agencies funded and operational through the end of 2010. Legislators might also vote on a bill that would send seniors a one-time $250 check to compensate for the absence of an automatic raise in Social Security payments over the last two years. The bill's tab, which would not be paid for, would be added to the nation's $13.5 trillion debt. Rep. Murphy is a supporter of legislation that fixes the formula by which the cost of living for seniors is calculated. The formula, said Murphy, should reflect the actual costs that seniors incur, which differs greatly from the cost of living of the general public.
Continuing Efforts on Moving China Trade Bill
Rep. Tim Murphy, co-author of the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act (H.R. 2378), called on Senate Leadership to immediately bring H.R. 2378 to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote in a letter on Tuesday.
"With an estimated 2.4 million American jobs lost to China in the past decade because of Beijing's currency manipulation and unfair trade practices, the time for discussions without repercussions has long since passed. The Senate must give courage to its convictions, and approve legislation empowering the Administration to stand up in defense of American workers and manufacturers unjustly injured by trading partners who refuse to follow the rules of fair play," wrote Reps. Murphy and Tim Ryan (D-OH), who also co-authored the legislation.
In what Rep. Murphy applauded as a "truly historic moment," the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2378 by an overwhelming bi-partisan margin of 348 to 79 on September 29, 2010. Rep. Murphy remarked on the House floor that day: "For years American manufacturers and workers have been pleading for Washington to stand up for U.S. jobs and enforce global fair trade. Passage of the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act sends a clear message that Congress heard those pleas and is taking a giant step forward to help revitalize the American manufacturing sector. We are no longer waiting for empty promises to come true, we took action." (Click here to watch Congressman Murphy's Floor Speech)
In his letter to Senate leadership this week , Rep. Murphy urged the Senate to immediately follow the House's example and pass H.R. 2378 before the 111th Congress officially adjourns. "China's contravention of established trade laws has imposed significant hardship on American manufacturers and workers, and continues to imperil our economic recovery. With nearly 15 million Americans out of work, it is vitally important that Congress act now to give the Administration the necessary tools that will put a stop to China's currency manipulation. Passage of H.R. 2378 could create an estimated one million new American jobs and restore the ability of American businesses, manufacturers, and workers to compete in the global economy. For these reasons, we urge you to bring the House-passed Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act to the Senate floor for a vote before you adjourn this year, and welcome the opportunity to engage in a bicameral dialogue on this issue."
By deliberately devaluing its currency, China gives its exporters upwards of a 40% price discount. Chinese government officials have repeatedly flip-flopped on pledges to allow the Renminbi to appreciate in value and end the country's notorious illegal trade practices. In the letter, the legislators stated that given China's track record, China could not be trusted to do the right thing. The Senate must give the Administration the ability to take decisive action when diplomatic negotiations fail, argued Reps. Murphy and Ryan.
The Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act would empower American manufacturers and workers to seek remedies under current trade laws when injured by a foreign country's currency manipulation. "H.R. 2378 gives the U.S. Department of Commerce the discretion to treat currency undervaluation as a prohibited subsidy, allowing for the imposition of offsetting or countervailing duties on imports from any country that deliberately undervalues its currency," the letter states. "The bill has been written to be consistent with U.S. rights and obligations under the agreements of the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund."
Rep. Murphy, who has toured dozens of factories and talked to manufacturers and workers in Southwestern Pennsylvania, said the bill's passage in the House was the culmination of a grassroots effort by businesses across the country that have been asking Congress to intervene while China, which has few labor or environmental standards, has repeatedly violated international trade law. He hopes the grassroots effort will be similarly effective in persuading the Senate to pass the legislation, and the President to sign it into law, by the end of the year.
The nonpartisan Peterson Institute for International Economics estimates the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act would help cut the trade deficit by as much as $150 billion and create as many as 1.2 million new jobs over the next few years.
Since introducing the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act in 2009, Rep. Murphy has worked tirelessly for its passage in the House. In addition to sending the letter urging Senate Leadership to bring H.R. 2378 to the Senate floor for a vote, Rep. Murphy's efforts have included delivering a statement on the House floor; leading a letter signed by 100 colleagues to House leadership requesting the bill be brought to the House floor for a vote; attending a Ways and Means Committee hearing on the legislation and submitting testimony for the record; speaking in a panel discussion at the Committee to Support U.S. Trade Laws' Conference on the Renaissance of American Manufacturing held at the National Press Club; leading a rally at Universal Electric in Washington County with local manufacturers and workers; and participating in interviews conducted by media outlets from around the world, including an interview with Peter Cook on Bloomberg Television's "In Business."