U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, has staked out a position on the debt reduction plans now being thrashed out by the bipartisan “supercommittee.” Larsen says he agrees that the nation would benefit from a big deficit cut, but he fears that Republican proposals would harm Medicare and Social Security and the people who rely on them, while making it harder for the US to invest in the future.
Larsen sent out a press release outlining his position after he voted against a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. That amendment was defeated in the House. Here’s CNN’s report.
Here is Larsen’s press release:
WASHINGTON—Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, today voted against a Republican balanced budget amendment that could require steep cuts to Medicare and Social Security.
“I voted against the amendment because it would balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens,” Larsen said. “I am a strong supporter of restoring fiscal discipline through responsible means. I recently sent a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction calling on them to ‘go big’ by presenting a bold plan that would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion. (Stark note: Larsen is one of 100 members of Congress from both parties who signed this letter.)
“The latest proposal to amend the Constitution that Republicans put to a vote today would have disproportionately targeted Medicare and Social Security, while allowing corporations and the highest earners to benefit from massive tax cuts. It would have also barred the federal government from taking on debt to invest in the future of our economy—from infrastructure improvement, to clean energy to education. Without this sort of investment, our economy will not be able to grow and provide the jobs that Americans need.
“Former Washington Governor Daniel Evans recently called the balanced budget amendment ‘an impractical idea’ for which the consequences ‘could be disastrous.’ (Links to Evans’ op-ed piece in Seattle Times.)
“Independent analysts argue that the balanced budget requirement, if applied to the current fiscal year, would require cuts totaling $1.5 trillion, resulting in the loss of 15 million jobs. That would double the unemployment rate from 9 to 18 percent.
“The path to real deficit reduction and a balanced budget requires sacrifices from all Americans. From reducing spending, like cutting agriculture subsidies and accelerating the drawdown in Afghanistan, to increasing revenue by closing tax loopholes for massively profitable companies and restoring tax rates on the highest earners, we can achieve our aims through shared sacrifice and bipartisan compromise.
“While some in Washington, D.C. want to slash entitlement spending, we must protect the benefits that our seniors have earned. Medicare must remain a guaranteed benefit and not converted to a voucher system. Social Security’s long-term solvency can be ensured if we lift the cap on earnings subject to the Social Security tax.”
“We can achieve major deficit reduction without shredding the social safety net, but we will only do so if we set partisan gimmicks like this balanced budget amendment aside and work together on these sensible solutions.”
End Rick Larsen press release
A public relations consultant for Lummi Nation has provided us with a copy of a letter from the chairmen of four other Northwest tribes to U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, as well as U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, concerning the drawn-out negotiations over a new lease for the county’s ferry to Lummi Island.
“As a federally recognized Indian tribe, the Lummi Nation has jurisdiction and the right to govern its own lands,” the letter says. “In giving Whatcom County a deadline for resolving safety issues on reservation roads and waters that result from the operation of the county’s Lummi Island ferry, the Lummi Nation was acting within its sovereign right.”
The letter notes that islanders and their backers have mounted a letter writing campaign to the congressional delegation asking them to intervene in the matter, and asks the senators and congressman to be wary.
“In our view, any federal intervention that seeks to force the Lummi Nation to use its land or resources in a manner without their consent would be a breach of the federal trust responsibilities and existing federal law,” the letter says.
A few years ago, Whatcom County officials had expected to extend their lease of the ferry dock on the Lummi reservation by exercising a 25-year renewal option, enforceable by binding arbitration to determine renewal terms.
But although tribal officials signed a 1988 document that contained the renewal option, tribal officials contend that the lease is not binding because it was never approved by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, and county officials are not challenging that contention.
The signers of the letter include Nooksack Indian Tribe Chairman Bob Kelly, a former Whatcom County Council member; Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Chairman Brian Cladoosby; Tulalip Tribes Chairman Mel Sheldon; and Stillaguamish Tribe Chairman Shawn Yanity.
The county and the approximately 900 island residents face an April 10 deadline for resolution of the matter. More negotiations are scheduled for April 6.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen’s office has issued this press release, plus a transcript of his statement before a House subcommittee, concerning the need to do more to combat piracy on the high seas.
Here it is:
Today, U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (D-Everett), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, co-led a hearing to examine the United States response to piracy. Last month, four Americans, including a couple from Seattle, were killed by Somali captors while on vacation.
“Today’s pirate is no Jack Sparrow,” said Rep. Larsen. “The statistics are startling. The New York Times reported in late February that more than 50 vessels were currently captive ranging from Thai fishing trawlers to European supertankers, with more than 800 hostages. These 800 hostages represent mariners and seafarers that are only doing their jobs. It is time for the international community to stop this injustice.”
“U.S. and international efforts to combat piracy have resulted in a mixed bag of success. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), prosecution of alleged pirates remains logistically difficult, the pirates have greatly expanded their area of attacks, there has been a steady increase in the number of attacks, and there are more ransoms being paid at increasing rates. This rise of piracy in the region puts mariners in danger and is a disruptive threat to world shipping,” Rep. Larsen concluded.
The full text of Rep. Larsen’s Opening Statement Follows:
Rep. Rick Larsen
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
“Assuring the Freedom of Americans on the High Seas:
The United States Response to Piracy”
March 15, 2011
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for calling today’s hearing. Piracy, particularly off the Somalia coast, is a disruptive threat to world shipping.
Tragically, just last month, piracy also became deadly for Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, California, and their friends, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle, Washington. I extend my sympathies to their families.
These four individuals posed a threat to no one. They were not mariners involved in international trade. The Adams were living their life-long dream. Ms. Macay and Mr. Riggle were friends joining in the adventure.
While the circumstances of their deaths are still being investigated, we do know that they were killed by their Somali captors while their release was being negotiated. But for these pirates, these four U.S. citizens would be alive and well today. Today’s pirate is no Jack Sparrow.
Although piracy has been a threat to seafaring nations for thousands of years, the emergence of aggressive and persistent attacks off the Horn of Africa is especially concerning.
The killing of the four hostages aboard the Quest certainly increased the attention of the international community on piracy – and the international community has increased its focus on piracy.
The statistics are startling. The New York Times reported in late February that more than 50 vessels were currently captive ranging from Thai fishing trawlers to European supertankers, with more than 800 hostages. These 800 hostages represent mariners and seafarers that are only doing their jobs.
Once captured, these hostages can be held in deplorable conditions for months before release. It is time for the international community to stop this injustice.
The Gulf of Aden and the adjoining Indian Ocean constitute a critical shipping corridor. GAO’s September report on piracy states that over 33,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden annually. This includes tanker ships moving 10 to 15 percent of world petroleum shipments. For vessels headed west, the alternative route is around the tip of Africa and adds 4,900 nautical miles to the transit.
The rise of piracy in the region puts mariners in danger and poses an economic burden on ocean carriers and shipping companies. In fact, according to a Chatham House report, insurance premiums in the London insurance market for ships traveling through the Gulf rose tenfold in 2008. Fortunately, U.S. insurance rates have remained stable due to U.S. insurers not yet having to pay claims.
Several factors have contributed to the frequency of pirate attacks. A larger number of high-value targets passing through the Gulf, global proliferation of the small arms trade, and most significantly, persistent civil violence, lawlessness, and economic dislocation in Somalia.
Any comprehensive international approach to combating piracy must address the current political situation in Somalia, it must be truly international, and it must be a solution that will be address piracy around the world.
Somalia does not have a functioning government. With pirates having a virtually unlimited ability to operate from Somalia, piracy cannot be eliminated solely from the sea. I am particularly interested to hear what the State Department witness will say on this subject.
Last week, Bloomberg reported that China and Russia are leading a new effort at the United Nations to curb the threat of piracy off the coast of Somalia and defeat al-Qaeda-linked terrorists fighting to seize control of that nation.
According to the report, Russia has circulated a draft resolution that would commit the UN Security Council to “urgently” begin talks on creation of three courts for piracy cases. The measure also would urge construction of two prisons for convicted pirates, and demand that all nations enact laws to criminalize piracy.
The international community has stepped up efforts to combat piracy. Combined Task Force 151, the multi-national effort joined by the U.S, the European Union Operation ATALANTA, NATO, which the U.S. also supports, and independent states are patrolling the area and providing greater protection to ships traveling through the Gulf.
The International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center and MARAD have helped inform the maritime community about piracy and how to implement best practices for ships to evade and defend themselves from pirate attacks.
I look forward to discussing these international efforts with our witnesses.
GAO’s report from last September discusses several challenges and describes a mixed bag of success.
Prosecution of alleged pirates remains logistically difficult, although I note that on February 16, the pirate associated with the attack on the Maersk Alabama was sentenced to 33 years by a New York district judge.
The pirates have greatly expanded their area of attacks to an area as large as the lower 48 States.
There has been a steady increase in the number of attacks, even as the rate of success declines.
The number of hostages being held is increasing.
There are more ransoms being paid at increasing amounts.
These issues raise important questions for our panel.
Are the efforts of the U.S. and the international community succeeding or failing?
Are the rules of engagement changing?
In light of the recent killings, is transit in the area more or less dangerous?
When it comes to piracy in the 21st century, there is no X that marks the spot to point us in the right direction. But, there are several ways that U.S. policymakers can help combat piracy:
Encourage the international commercial maritime industry to adopt best practices;
Continue advances in the use of defensive technologies;
Help coastal states in pirate-prone areas boost their coastal monitoring and interdiction capabilities; and,
Provide resources to the Coast Guard and MARAD so they can continue to advise the industry on how to strengthen its own security.
Mr. Chairman, I thank you again for holding this hearing. I look forward to discussing these issues with the panel, and assessing how government and non-government entities can increase security and decrease opportunities for piracy, and help the maritime community navigate this serious issue.
Whatcom County Executive Pete Kremen’s effort to get federal help in resolving the Lummi Island ferry stalemate appears to be bearing fruit.
Both Kremen and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, have shared a March 2 letter sent to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, over the signatures of Larsen and U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, concerning the ferry situation.
The letter, addressed to BIA regional director Stanley Speaks in Portland, Ore., seems mild enough. The three say they are “concerned about this matter,” and they ask the BIA to respond to the county and provide “guidance and clarification on the BIA’s role as it relates to the lease of the tidelands held in trust.”
In an accompanying press release, Larsen uses somewhat stronger language:
“The bottom line is, we can not cut off access to the island for residents who depend on the ferry to go to school, shop for groceries or commute to work. Shutting down the ferry is not a solution to this problem. Negotiations on this issue must resume so a productive solution to this issue can be reached without hurting the local community.”
By coincidence, both Kremen and Lummi Indian Business Council Chairman Clifford Cultee are in Washington D.C., and Kremen said he expects to meet with Cultee on Friday, March 4 to discuss the ferry situation.
Up to now, the BIA has shown no inclination to get involved in the ferry issue. Agency officials have said their only role would be to review any new lease agreement between Lummi Nation and the county before it is approved. Here’s an earlier story on the BIA’s role.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen provided a brief statement Wednesday, Feb. 16 on the negotiation stalemate between Whatcom County and Lummi Nation over a new lease to insure continued operation of the Lummi Island Ferry.
I emailed Larsen for a comment after county officials said they had appealed to him and Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell for their assistance in helping to resolve the matter.
“Whoever told the Lummi Nation that cutting off the lifeline of the 900 residents of Lummi Island is a good idea, is giving them terrible advice,” Larsen replied. ” I hope that the County and the Tribe will return to the table to negotiate a productive solution to this issue that addresses the needs of the local community.”
In a followup email, I have asked Larsen whether he is in a position to discuss this situation with federal agencies such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Department of Interior, which oversees the bureau. I’ll relay his response as it becomes available.
Larsen spokeswoman Emily Halnon has relayed this response:
“Rick has reached out to the Bureau of Indian Affairs a number of times to clarify how the federal government can be involved in this process. There is not a regulatory or oversight role at the federal level other than the BIA approving the final lease on the tidelands-which does not include the lease for the actual land.”
I have also asked the tribe for a response to Larsen’s comment.
Tip Johnson, a former Bellingham City Council member and prominent civic activist, has examined documents from county archives going back more than 100 years that appear to document the existence of a county right-of-way for ferry access to the island, granted by the Department of the Interior.
Up to this point, county attorneys have said they didn’t think that the right-of-way argument was a trump card they could play in ferry negotiations.
But if the ferry issue moves from the negotiating table to the courtroom in a couple of months, it would not be surprising to see attorneys for the county and/or the islanders introducing these documents into evidence.
from John Stark
Just got off the phone with Rep. Rick Larsen, the Democrat representing the 2nd District that includes Whatcom County.
Larsen says it’s likely that his district will shed a few precincts on its southern end, in Snohomish County, but he doesn’t think that means any big change in the political makeup of the district.
“Bellingham and Everett will continue to be the bookends of the 2nd District,” Larsen said.
He also said the conventional wisdom expects the new district to be centered in Thurston and/or south Pierce counties.
from John Stark
According to this analysis, the impact on the 2nd District (that’s us) would be minimal.
But there’s also a chance that a bit of Snohomish County could be shaved off the southern edge of the 2nd to accommodate the new boundaries.
Whatcom County GOP Chairwoman Luanne Van Werven noted that Snohomish County went to GOP candidate John Koster in the last election, so this kind of shift would not be too likely to weaken incumbent Dem Rick Larsen.
From the office of Rick Larsen, D-Everett, late last week:
Washington, D.C. — Today, Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, praised the Senate for voting to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The U.S. House of Representatives passed repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell last week. It will now go to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“Today is a victory for our national security, our military readiness, and all men and women who want to serve our country.
“The House and Senate have both finally agreed: all qualified men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line to fight for our country should be allowed to volunteer for our military.
“I look forward to President Obama signing this into law, so the Pentagon can move forward with implementing repeal in a responsible way that will not threaten our military readiness.”
–posted by John Stark