Udall Statement on Vote against Fast-Track Trade Authority, for Trade Adjustment Assistance

Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall once again voted against Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, which would give the administration fast-track authority for six years to move trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, through Congress with limited debate and no amendments. The Senate passed the TPA measure by a vote of 60-38.

Separately, Udall voted in favor of legislation to expand Trade Adjustment Assistance, which provides aid and training to workers who lose their jobs because of increased imports or because their jobs have been shipped overseas. The Senate passed the TAA measure on a strong bipartisan vote.

Udall, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement:

“I opposed Trade Promotion Authority legislation when we first voted last month, and I opposed it again today. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the largest free trade agreement ever negotiated, and taking away Congress’ authority to fully debate and amend the proposal affects my ability to stand up for New Mexicans’ interests. Trade deals like this have a direct impact on New Mexican families – affecting wages, worker safety, environmental standards, the open Internet and a host of other important matters. I’m disappointed that a majority of senators voted to limit our oversight power.

“As we move closer to another major trade agreement, it’s critical that we expand Trade Adjustment Assistance. TAA provides aid to workers who suffer the consequences of outsourcing, and this lifeline will be crucial for New Mexico workers if the Trans-Pacific Partnership moves forward.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a proposed free trade agreement that aims to increase trade and investment between the United States and 11 other Pacific nations. Negotiations have been done mostly behind closed doors, and have encompassed agreements on intellectual property rights, government procurement, investment, privacy, labor rights, and international environmental issues.

Senators Udall, Carper, Whitehouse, Merkley, Booker Statement on House Passage of Chemical Safety Bill

Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Democratic cosponsors of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, issued the following joint statement in response to passage of chemical safety reform in the U.S. House of Representatives:

“The nation needs a workable chemical safety law, and while we don’t agree with the details of the House bill, tonight’s vote is yet another bipartisan demonstration that Congress must act. We expect the Senate’s comprehensive TSCA reform bill, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, to receive a strong bipartisan vote in the Senate in the coming weeks.

“Families in our states — and across the country — want a strong, comprehensive law that will finally keep their communities safe from dangerous chemicals. We are committed to ensuring EPA has the necessary tools, resources and mandates to create a comprehensive chemical safety system. That includes a clear focus on chemicals that pose a risk to the environment and public health, a mandate to review the safety of all new and existing chemicals, authority directing the EPA to test chemicals, assurance that companies can no longer hide information from the public, and clear regulatory authorities. We look forward to working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers to ensure that the bill that goes to the president’s desk is as strong and comprehensive as possible.”

Tribes Recognize Sen. Michael Sanchez for Preservation of Native Culture, Indian Day

Sanchez Called “Tireless Champion of All New Mexicans” in Proclamation

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez (D-29-Bernalillo and Valencia) was honored by New Mexico’s tribal leaders on June 18th, who called him a champion of all New Mexicans and an unwavering supporter of tribal sovereignty. Nearly 100 tribal leaders and others from across the state gathered at a reception to honor Sanchez at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. Leaders praised Sanchez for his years of work in the Legislature advocating successfully for the preservation of Native traditions.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez

“It is important that we honor the cultures and traditions that make New Mexico so special. Growing up, my parents taught me to treat everyone with respect. It’s an important lesson that we all should follow,” said Senator Sanchez, who drew upon his Belen upbringing in his remarks. That lesson, years later, played an important role in the preservation of Indian Day at the 2015 Session of the New Mexico Legislature. When Republicans chose to break from tradition and deny tribal leaders the opportunity to speak to a joint session of the House and Senate, Sanchez took action to provide a forum that allowed tribal leaders to address state legislators.

The event honoring Senator Sanchez was led by Pueblo of Isleta Governor Eddie Paul Torres Sr., and Laguna tribal member and Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, Debra Haaland. They presented Sen. Sanchez with a proclamation praising his commitment to native concerns and well-being.

“Senator Sanchez has been a tireless advocate on the issues confronting tribal communities throughout New Mexico,” Haaland said. “This event represents only a token of our appreciation for what Senator Sanchez has accomplished during his time in the Senate for Native Americans and all the people of New Mexico.”

Tribal leaders pointed to Sanchez’s demonstrated support for tribal peoples and governments in numerous ways over the past years, including his support for the Tribal Infrastructure Fund and setting aside 5% of the state’s severance tax bond capacity for it – as well as his protection of the fund from attempts to reduce its capacity and/or eliminate it. Leaders thanked Sanchez for fighting for the State Tribal Collaboration Act; for elevating the Indian Affairs Department to a cabinet-level position in state government; for pushing through the Indian Education Act; for passing the 2015 Gaming Compact; and for many millions of dollars worth of capital outlay infrastructure projects requested by tribal governments and entities. At the Isleta Pueblo, this included the newly opened senior center and for water line and treatment projects on the Pueblo.

Senator Udall Advances NM Priorities in Major National Defense Bill, Calls on GOP to End Sequestration Cuts, Provide Realistic Funding for Troops, National Security

U.S. Senator Tom Udall joined the Senate in voting 71-25 for the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets policy for defense and national security programs, including several priorities Udall has championed for New Mexico. In addition to fighting for New Mexico’s military bases and national laboratories, Udall successfully included a measure in the bill that strengthens the open-air burn pits registry he created to help veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals and fumes while deployed overseas.

The NDAA authorizes several new military construction projects at Cannon, Holloman and Kirtland Air Force bases. Additionally, it encourages investment in infrastructure at White Sands Missile Range and increased Laboratory Directed Research and Development at the national labs. It also authorizes funding for New Mexico’s national labs and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, including a $20 million increase for cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to help resume safe processing of transuranic waste drums. Further, the bill authorizes funding to continue the B61 Life Extension Program, which supports jobs at LANL and Sandia, and the Chemistry and Metallurgy Replacement Project at LANL.

“New Mexico’s military bases and national labs are doing vital work to keep our nation safe and find innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems,” Udall said. “This bill advances several policies that will strengthen our labs and bases and sustain thousands of jobs. I am also proud to have fought to include provisions to support research at our national labs, the open-air burn pits registry and military construction projects at New Mexico’s military bases.”

NDAA is an authorization bill, meaning it sets policy and planned spending levels for federal agencies. These measures are actually funded through separate legislation in the appropriations process. Udall, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said that while he voted for the NDAA, he is disappointed that Republicans are continuing to apply damaging across-the-board cuts (known as sequestration) to appropriations bills and funding additional defense needs through a one-time loophole. These gimmicks will weaken our national defense and New Mexico communities, while creating uncertainty about future funding for our troops and their families. Udall supported an amendment to the NDAA that would have removed the budget loophole from the bill and encouraged Congress to end sequestration cuts to all programs, but the amendment was not incorporated.

“I’m disappointed the bill uses budget gimmicks and loopholes to get around sequestration cuts without lifting draconian caps on nondefense spending. This is a poorly planned short-term fix that will have long-term negative implications,” said Udall, who has worked to end sequestration. “Across-the-board spending cuts have hurt our state’s economy and cost New Mexicans’ jobs. Medicare, education, law enforcement and other programs need adequate funding, and play an equally important role in keeping our nation strong. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will keep fighting to support our national security along with all the initiatives New Mexico families depend on.”

In addition to measures important to New Mexico’s military bases and labs, Udall supported numerous new provisions in the NDAA that impact New Mexico, including:

– An amendment Udall authored to require the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to share information relating to the exposure of members of the Armed Forces to airborne hazards and open burn pits.
– A provision based on a bill Udall introduced to increase the maximum percentage each laboratory director may set aside for Laboratory Directed Research and Development from 6 to 10 percent of the lab’s budget.
– Authorization for funding for New Mexico’s national labs and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, including a $20 million increase for cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory to help resume safe processing of transuranic waste drums.
– Authorization for construction projects at Cannon Air Force Base, including a pumphouse, fuel storage, a squadron operations facility, training facilities and a new entry control gatehouse.
– Authorization for constructing a Space Vehicles Component Development Lab at Kirtland Air Force Base.
– Authorization to build a new Fixed Ground Control Station at Holloman Air Force Base, which will be used to accommodate the growing number of Remotely Piloted Aircraft missions.
– Authorization for constructing a Marshalling area at Holloman Air Force base to support the F-16 training mission.

Senator Heinrich Includes Key Provisions In National Defense Bill, Calls for a Bipartisan Solution to Replace Harmful Sequester Cuts

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, voted last week for the fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed by a vote of 71 to 25. The bill includes key provisions Senator Heinrich worked to include that benefit New Mexico’s men and women in uniform, military installations, private industry, national laboratories, and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

The bill, which sets the Department of Defense spending levels and policies for the upcoming fiscal year, also authorizes funding for the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons programs at Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, as well as the Department of Energy’s environmental cleanup programs including WIPP.

“New Mexico makes enormous contributions to our security and defense, and is at the forefront of national research and development,” said Senator Heinrich. “This bipartisan bill supports our servicemembers and military families, and I’m proud to successfully include provisions for important programs across our state and the nation.”

Senator Heinrich successfully included several provisions important to New Mexico, such as addressing personnel shortfalls in the Remotely Piloted Aircraft missions and directing the Department of Defense to propose investments over the next five years at Melrose Range. Also included in the NDAA are key elements of a bill Senator Heinrich introduced to accelerate technology transfer by establishing off-campus microlabs that would serve as the “front-door” to national laboratories; provisions from a bill he introduced to improve the way the military identifies and assesses mental health issues; and an amendment he cosponsored to help ensure torture is not part of U.S. national security policy. A list of the programs and provisions Senator Heinrich advocated for during the markup process that were included in the NDAA is available here.

NDAA is an authorization bill, but the measures will need to be funded through separate legislation in the appropriations process. Following passage of NDAA, Senator Heinrich voted against a motion to begin debate on the Fiscal Year 2016 Defense Appropriations Bill in hopes of reaching a larger budget deal that provides sequestration relief for both defense and non-defense priorities.

“Two years ago, Congress reached a deal that provided sequester relief across the entire federal budget so that defense and non-defense programs were treated equally.  Unfortunately, the clock on that deal is running out and we are now facing large sequester cuts that are especially harmful to New Mexico’s economy,” said Senator Heinrich. “It’s deeply disappointing that instead of addressing this crisis, Republicans are using budget gimmicks to provide $38 billion in deficit financed sequester relief to defense programs but not to veterans benefits, education, health care, and other domestic programs. Our economy desperately needs long-term stability and a level playing field for hard-working families. We must reach a fair and balanced budget deal that replaces the draconian sequestration cuts that threaten our economic recovery.”

Weekly Address: Creating New Pathways of Opportunity for Americans Like You

In this week’s address, the President spoke to his priority of growing the economy and opening new avenues of opportunity for hardworking Americans. While the United States has already made economic progress, with more than 12 million new private-sector jobs created over the past five years, there’s still more to be done.

That’s why the President has continued to press for strong, high-standard trade agreements that are good for American workers and good for American businesses. And it’s why his Administration has partnered with mayors and governors across the country on issues such as minimum wage and paid leave that impact hardworking Americans. The President discussed impactful initiatives like these in his address before the Conference of Mayors on Friday.

Watch and share President Obama’s weekly address.

Attorney General Balderas Calls for More Transparency in Campaign Finance Reporting

Campaign Finance Reporting Task Force meetings result in recommendations for clarity and uniformity in the electoral process

Attorney General Hector Balderas sent a letter to Secretary of State Dianna J. Duran making recommendations for increasing transparency and accountability in the campaign finance reporting process.

“When dealing with millions of dollars of campaign donations, candidates should strictly comply with the law and not violate transparency standards,” Balderas said in describing shortcomings in the current system of campaign finance reporting. “We need to put teeth back into the law, which is why I’ll be supporting the reinstatement of mandatory fines for violation of the Campaign Reporting Act during the upcoming legislative session.”

In addition to legislative reform, the Attorney General recommended that the Secretary of State establish a robust notification system to better track enforcement of campaign reporting legal requirements and that she employ a dedicated training officer to conduct statewide trainings to increase understanding of the Campaign Reporting Act

Liz Rodriguez-Johnson: Make the System Work

In a recent letter to the editor, it was suggested that the Democratic Party and, by association, all Democrats, are guilty of corruption, fraud, identity theft, and solicitation. This is absurd. There is no way that all people in a political party are guilty of the same crime.  In a world that is not black and white, it is important to revisit underlying principles.

One of the founding principles of our great country remains that everyone is innocent until found guilty in a court of law. There is no dispute that the activities of a few employees within the County Clerk’s office are of deep concern to all of us who rely on the integrity of the County Clerk to handle matters of high sensitivity. But at this point in time, these individuals have not been found guilty, they have only been charged.

Another basic principle is that of privacy, and that defamation, slander and libel are illegal. In this country, all people have a right to a basic level of privacy from public scrutiny. It is commendable that our elected County Commissioners are protecting those rights and not speaking publically about details related to private personnel matters or ongoing investigations by law enforcement.

Robert Hernandez’ act of cooperation with law enforcement, which we have been calling “whistleblower”, was an appropriate act of civic duty. Our newly elected Sheriff, who happens to be a Democrat, acted professionally and promptly to investigate, arrest, and charge the people involved. Our County Clerk, who also happens to be a Democrat, has cooperated, and continues to cooperate, in all aspects of these investigations and actions, a number of which are not in the public domain at this point in time.

Several people have stated, in public, that the termination of Robert Hernandez had nothing to do with his fulfilling his civic duty in alerting law enforcement. They also stated that they could not speak about the specific causes leading to his termination, indicating that it would be improper to put such personnel matters into the public realm.

Our County Clerk has addressed head on the circumstances that led to the abuse and compromised the public trust in his office. It is far preferable that he addresses this immediately rather than hide it from the public eye. When bad behavior takes place, it should be rooted out immediately.

As to where the Democratic Party stands – it’s no secret that we embrace these core values:

We stand for transparency;
We stand for accountability;
We stand for voter enfranchisement;
We respect differences of perspective and belief;
We stand for strengthening our community;

The Democratic Party platform states, “We must always seek to uphold true values, not just when it’s easy but more importantly when it’s hard.”

There is hard work in front of us. Too many people have turned away from their rights and responsibilities as voters in a Democracy. We are fiercely proud of our system of government and what it represents. Now it is time to make that system work for the benefit of us all.

So we, as citizens of Doña Ana County, must take responsibility for electing individuals of integrity and holding them accountable when elected.  We must resist being exploited by others with political agendas.  We must withhold our conclusions when we don’t have enough information to judge.  When we rush to judgment without all the facts, or attempt to exploit a controversy out of ambition or for political gain, our whole society suffers.

Our elected officials work for us. We need to pay attention to the work they do, hold them accountable for results, and expect them to behave with integrity and good character. We also need to ensure that we do so fairly, based on evidence, and not on innuendo nor in haste. And we need to vote. That’s the way a Democracy works best.

Senator Udall Votes to Strengthen Justice System for Survivors of Military Sexual Assault

U.S. Senator Tom Udall issued the following statement yesterday after voting in favor of an amendment which would have placed authority for pursuing military sexual assault cases with military prosecutors, rather than unit commanders. Udall is a cosponsor of the amendment and the underlying bill, introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act. The measure failed to gain the 60 votes required to move forward today, despite being supported by a bipartisan coalition of 50 senators.

“As a former prosecutor, I believe the way the military handles sexual assault crimes is in dire need of reform. Congress took important steps toward promoting justice for survivors last year, but this amendment I introduced with Senator Gillibrand would go further by ensuring these cases are handled by military prosecutors, not unit commanders. That’s the best way to ensure justice for survivors and a fair trial for the accused. I’m disappointed that the Senate did not advance this measure today, and will continue working to ensure perpetrators of these traumatic crimes are held accountable.”

Senator Udall Statement on Senate’s Vote to Prohibit Torture

Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall issued the following statement on the U.S. Senate’s bipartisan 78-21 vote to reaffirm the ban on waterboarding and other inhumane interrogation techniques. The amendment now moves forward as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

“Torture is a stain on our nation’s all too recent history. As the comprehensive investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence confirmed, the CIA’s post-9/11 ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques were not just brutal and inhumane — but also ineffective. This amendment reaffirms the torture ban and ensures that we never again compromise our core values and resort to such methods. Americans should never torture in the name of security, no matter who is in the White House.”

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