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Naomi Seligman (CREW):
202.408.5565 // email@example.com
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American League of Lobbyists (ALL) urged the White House today to rewrite a restrictive new rule on registered lobbyists seeking Recovery Act bailout funds, saying it would not achieve the transparency and accountability the administration seeks.
In a letter to White House Counsel Gregory Craig, the groups asked President Barack Obama to rescind and reissue a section of a memorandum, released on March 20, which bans all phone calls and face-to-face conversations between registered lobbyists and executive branch officials involved in funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
In their letter, the groups said the directive was both too narrow - because it did not apply to non-registered lobbyists such as bank vice presidents or corporate directors - and also too broad, because it incorrectly assumed that all registered lobbyists may exert improper pressure for clients seeking funding for Recovery Act projects.
Additionally, the right to petition the government is one of the main tenets of our country's founding principles. To state that one class of individuals may not participate in the same manner as all others is clearly a violation of this principle.
"We believe that all Americans have the right to equally petition their government and that includes registered lobbyists," Dave Wenhold, President of the American League of Lobbyists, stated. "No citizen should be forced to give up that civil right, regardless of their profession. These diverse organizations joining together demonstrate that this ill-advised Executive Memo crosses all boundaries. This is not a change we can believe in."
This action will not end lobbying, it will merely replace registered lobbyists -- who must abide by strict registration and disclosure requirements -- with corporate officials -- not subject to these strictures -- who will take on the task of lobbying.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, said today, "We applaud President Obama for his efforts to improve government transparency and accountability, but this restriction won't do that. Banning lobbyists from speaking with government officials, but not bank officers, corporate directors and other executives - many of whom may have made substantial campaign contributions, will do little to limit the influence of special interests."
The groups have offered to meet with Craig to present alternatives. One better option would be to require disclosure of all communications -- by non-lobbyists as well as lobbyists. This would more effectively provide the transparency and accountability target the backroom deals that Americans are legitimately concerned about.
"If the aim of this provision is government transparency, the focus should not be on those who already disclose their activities publicly," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "This directive wholly excludes the Goliaths of Wall Street from its applicability and instead restricts the speech rights of those who are dutifully filing quarterly reports of their contacts with the administration and Congress. All the while, powerful corporate titans can go on about their business with no new disclosure requirements."
Read the letter to WH Counsel Gregory Craig and Obama's memorandum in the Related Documents section on the right.
The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.(212) 549-2666
"An incredible embarrassment for the House Republican leadership," said one observer. "The morning McCarthy tries to turn the page, conservatives slap him and his leadership team in the face."
Progressive pundits on Tuesday derided what one commentator called a "complete shitshow" as a group of hard-right House Republicans voted with their Democratic colleagues in tanking GOP-backed bills to block regulation of gas stoves.
Members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus joined Democrats in voting against a rule to advance four bills, two of them related to shielding gas stoves from federal regulation. Industry groups including the American Gas Association—which has known and tried to hide for decades that gas stoves can harm human health—support the legislation.
"Today, we took down the rule because we're frustrated at the way this place is operating," Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told reporters, according to The Hill. "We took a stand in January to end the era of the imperial speakership. We're concerned that the fundamental commitments that allowed Kevin McCarthy to assume the speakership have been violated as a consequence of the debt limit deal."
\u201cWow. Kevin McCarthy\u2019s vote to protect gas stoves just FAILED on the House floor after some MAGA Republicans revolted to \u201cpunish\u201d McCarthy for not letting the US economy crash from the debt ceiling.\n\nComplete shitshow.\u201d— No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen (@No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen) 1686077994
While many progressives were infuriated by the deal struck between President Joe Biden and McCarthy (R-Calif.) to raise the nation's debt limit and avoid a first-ever default because the agreement helps protect wealth tax dodgers while slashing social safety net and climate spending, far-right Republicans also loathe the deal because they believe its belt-tightening measures are largely cosmetic.
"We warned them not to cut that deal without coming down and sit down and talk to us. So this is all about restoring a process that will fundamentally change things back to what was working," said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who also voted against advancing the gas stove bills.
In addition to Gaetz and Roy, the following Republicans voted to block the bills' advancement: House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (La.) and Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Dan Bishop (N.C.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Ken Buck (Colo.), Tim Burchett (Tenn.), Eli Crane (Ariz.), Bob Good (Va.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), and Matt Rosendale (Mont.).
\u201cAn incredible embarrassment for the House Republican leadership. The morning McCarthy tries to turn the page, conservatives slap him and his leadership team in the face.\u201d— Jake Sherman (@Jake Sherman) 1686078829
"Haha. Republicans don't even have the votes to advance their own bill creating fake hysteria around banning gas stoves—which no one is trying to do," tweeted Democratic strategist Sawyer Hackett. "The House GOP majority hard at work on the issues that matter most!"
"Today's ruling is a powerful affirmation of the humanity of transgender people, the efficacy of well-established, science-based medical care, and of the rights of parents to make informed healthcare decisions for their children."
In a rebuke to Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature and its far-right governor and 2024 presidential candidate, Ron DeSantis, a federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked the enforcement of certain anti-trans rules recently adopted by state medical boards as well as specific provisions in Senate Bill 254, a new state law that criminalizes gender-affirming healthcare.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle's 44-page ruling prevents Florida from applying its ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth to three children whose parents are plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit against the state.
Hinkle argued that Florida's moves to prohibit doctors from providing and minors from receiving so-called "puberty blockers" and other hormonal treatments constitute "purposeful discrimination" against transgender people and are likely to be found unconstitutional.
"Nothing could have motivated this remarkable intrusion into parental prerogatives other than opposition to transgender status itself," wrote Hinkle, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton. "The statute and the rules were an exercise in politics, not good medicine. This is a politically fraught area. There has long been, and still is, substantial bigotry directed at transgender individuals."
"Common experience confirms this, as does a Florida legislator's remarkable reference to transgender witnesses at a committee hearing as 'mutants' and 'demons,'" Hinkle continued, referring to disparaging comments made in April by state Rep. Webster Barnaby (R-29).
Hinkle added that the families who joined the emergency motion for a restraining order and preliminary injunction would suffer "irreparable harm" if their adolescents were denied access to "medically necessary" care consistent with the guidance of every major medical organization in the United States.
"My husband and I have been heartbroken and worried sick about not being able to care for our daughter in the way we know she needs," one of the plaintiffs, who is identified as Jane Doe and has a daughter named Susan, said in response to the ruling. "Today my entire family is breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we can now access the treatment that we know will keep Susan healthy and allow her to continue being the happy, confident child she has been."
The civil rights groups representing the plaintiffs said that "today's ruling is a powerful affirmation of the humanity of transgender people, the efficacy of well-established, science-based medical care, and of the rights of parents to make informed healthcare decisions for their children."
"The court recognized the profound harm the state of Florida is causing by forcing parents to watch their kids suffer rather than provide them with safe and effective care that will allow them to thrive," the groups continued. "We are incredibly relieved that these Florida parents can continue to get healthcare for their children while we proceed to challenge these bans and eventually see them fully overturned."
As Politicoreported, "The preliminary injunction does not apply to other minors who may wish to obtain treatment, but the ruling suggests that a key part of the law itself could get knocked down as the legal challenge proceeds."
Florida's boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine adopted rules prohibiting doctors from offering gender-affirming care to trans youth in March. That ban was codified into state law when DeSantis signed S.B. 254 on May 17, one week before announcing his bid for the GOP's presidential nomination.
But S.B. 254 goes much further than formalizing the state medical boards' discriminatory rules. Among other things, it empowers Florida officials to take trans children away from their parents if they receive gender-affirming care. In addition to authorizing kidnapping, the law limits the ability of trans adults to start or continue receiving gender-affirming care and threatens to put doctors who violate the new restrictions behind bars.
S.B. 254 is one of several anti-trans laws that Florida Republicans and DeSantis have approved this year. Progressive advocacy groups issued a travel advisory for the state in April.
It is also one of 70 anti-trans laws enacted nationwide during the current legislative session. More than 525 bills attacking LGBTQ+ individuals, including over 220 that target trans people, have been introduced across the U.S. in recent months.
Before Hinkle issued his ruling on Tuesday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), one of the groups representing Florida parents, took the unprecedented step of declaring a "state of emergency" for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S.
Regarding the narrowly focused ruling, HRC and the other groups said it indicates that "the plaintiff parents are likely to succeed in their claims that S.B. 254 and the boards of medicine rules unconstitutionally strip them of the right to make informed decisions about their children's medical treatment and violate the equal protection rights of transgender youth by denying them medically necessary, doctor-recommended healthcare."
The groups added that "the challenge to the boards of medicine and S.B. 254 healthcare bans is likely to proceed quickly to trial."
"As scientists, we've been warning about the loss of Arctic summer sea ice for decades," said one researcher.
Scientists on Tuesday warned that the planet is rapidly headed toward the consequences of the climate crisis that they have been warning about for decades as researchers published a new study showing that a complete loss of Arctic sea ice in the summer months is now unavoidable.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in 2021 alarmed many with its warnings that if high or even intermediate planet-heating fossil fuel emissions continued, the Arctic would be ice-free by the 2040s—but its authors implored policymakers to focus on their finding that the region would retain its summer ice if decisive action was taken to limit an increase in global temperature rises to 2°C or less.
The new study published by researchers in South Korea, Germany, and Canada in Nature Communications found that even far-reaching action will no longer save the sea ice.
The scientists found that even in a low-emissions scenario, summer ice in the Arctic will be gone by the 2050s.
In an intermediate- or high-emissions scenario—which is far more likely, considering the United States, the largest historic source of fossil fuel emissions, has recently moved to approve massive projects such as the Willow oil drilling project and the Mountain Valley Pipeline—the Arctic will be ice-free in the summer months starting in the 2030s.
\u201cWhen I started reporting on climate change, the prediction was the Arctic could be sea-ice-free in summer by the 2070s. Now? By the 2030s. https://t.co/iSA52WS4YD\u201d— Elizabeth Kolbert (@Elizabeth Kolbert) 1686076003
"Unfortunately it has become too late to save Arctic summer sea ice," Dirk Notz, a climatologist at the University of Hamburg and co-author of the study, told The Guardian. "As scientists, we've been warning about the loss of Arctic summer sea ice for decades. This is now the first major component of the Earth system that we are going to lose because of global warming. People didn't listen to our warnings."
The researchers examined satellite data and climate models to analyze changes in the Arctic sea ice between 1979 and 2019 and found that previous models underestimated ice melting trends and that 90% of the loss of sea ice was the result of human-caused planetary heating.
Summer ice in the Arctic has receded by 13% each decade since 1979, they found.
The planet is already experiencing the effects of increased open water in the Arctic during the summer months, lead author Seung-Ki Min of Pohang University in South Korea noted, and policymakers must now prepare communities to adapt to those impacts, including extreme weather events.
"The most important impact for human society will be the increase in weather extremes that we are experiencing now, such as heatwaves, wildfires, and floods," Min toldThe Guardian. "We need to reduce CO2 emissions more ambitiously and also prepare to adapt to this faster Arctic warming and its impacts on human society and ecosystems."
The loss of summer sea ice would trigger a feedback loop known as "Arctic amplification," with the dark ocean absorbing more solar heat and causing additional planetary warming,
Arctic warming has also changed weather patterns in the northern hemisphere, such as storm formation and wind speeds—leading to extreme heat and rainfall.
"We need to prepare ourselves for a world with warmer Arctic very soon," Min toldCNN. "The earlier onset of an ice-free Arctic also implies that we will be experiencing extreme events faster than predicted."
Scientists last year said the extreme heat wave that struck Pakistan and India was made 30 times more likely due to planetary heating, and officials called the flooding that killed more than 1,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands in Pakistan "climate dystopia at our doorstep."
Min said the impending loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic is a "tipping point" and a sign that the region is "seriously ill."
"We can regard the Arctic sea ice as the immune system of our body which protects our body from harmful things," Min toldCNN. "Without the protector, the Arctic's condition will go from bad to worse quickly."