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Updates from Sen. Hirono (July 20-27)

MEDIA RELEASE

HIRONO, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE APPROVE MEASURE TO HELP CURB UNLIMITED CORPORATE SPENDING IN POLITICS

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, voted to approve a constitutional amendment to help curb unlimited corporate spending in elections.

Hirono forcefully rebutted Republican arguments by presenting the historical precedence for amending the U.S. Constitution in order to improve our democracy, including voting rights for women, African Americans and the poor.

“Congress and the States have amended the Constitution since the Bill of Rights,” Hirono said. “In fact, we’ve done so 17 times. And it was not easy. Each of those times, it took a long time. In fact, just to get women the right to vote took decades. But each time we have amended the Constitution, it shaped the rights and liberties that we enjoy as Americans. And it has helped us achieve a more perfect union. The Supreme Court is made up of human beings. And human beings can get it wrong. And in some of the most important points of our democracy’s history, Congress and the States have amended the Constitution because the Supreme Court simply got the Constitution wrong. Dead wrong.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s full statement:

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a constitutional amendment in response to the Supreme Court’s decisions regarding campaign finance and money in politics.

The amendment would restore the ability for Congress and the States to set reasonable limits on financial contributions and expenditures intended to influence elections.

The Committee voted 10-8 to approve the amendment, which was originally authored by Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and amended by Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) during last month’s markup in the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.

The Judiciary Committee’s actions come on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, in which five justices reversed long-standing precedent and declared aggregate limits on campaign contributions in elections to be unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment. Coupled with the destructive Citizens United decision of 2010, Leahy said Congress must respond.

“Restoring the First Amendment to allow Congress and the States the authority to impose reasonable limits on campaign spending is a commonsense measure that we should all be able to support,” Leahy said. “All Americans should be able to participate in our democracy – not just billionaires and wealthy corporations.”

Leahy added: “I have heard from many Vermonters who are concerned about how the Supreme Court’s decisions threaten the constitutional rights of hardworking Americans. I am proud that Vermont has been a leader in this country in speaking out loudly and forcefully about the devastating impact of these decisions.”

Leahy chaired a Judiciary Committee hearing in June on the issue. At that hearing, Committee members heard real-life accounts of how a massive influx in money has dramatically affected election outcomes throughout the country. Advocates also delivered petitions from two million individuals who support a constitutional amendment to fight back against the corrosive effects of the Supreme Court’s damaging decisions regarding money in politics.

The constitutional amendment now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

HIRONO, WOMEN SENATORS CALL ON PRESIDENT TO HUMANELY ADDRESS SURGE OF UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN AT THE BORDER

U.S. Sens. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) called on President Barack Obama to humanely address the surge of unaccompanied children at the southern U.S. border.

The Senators’ letter notes that the Administration’s response to this crisis must consider the humanitarian and legal rights of the unaccompanied children.

The letter to the President reads in part, “The United States has always been a leader in providing aid and assistance to those in danger and in need, and this humanitarian situation is on our very own doorstep. Your [June 30, 2014] letter requests additional authority and discretion for removal of these unaccompanied children, which is a significant departure from current policy for unaccompanied children from Central America. We are concerned by any proposal that restricts legal and humanitarian protections for unaccompanied children from non-contiguous countries and urge caution in granting the Department of Homeland Security the authority to alter procedures designed to protect these children from trafficking and future violence.”

Hirono has joined Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and other colleagues to unveil a comprehensive plan to address this crisis, which Hirono recently highlighted on the Senate Floor.

The full text of the letter reads below:

July 9, 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write in response to your June 30, 2014 letter to Congressional leadership outlining your proposals to address the crisis regarding the drastic influx of unaccompanied children entering our country on the Southwest border.

We appreciate your Administration’s unified response to what you have consistently noted is an urgent humanitarian situation, and we agree that this emergency must be addressed in an appropriate and coordinated manner. We concur that we must do more to dispel the myth that these children can safely reach and then enter our country as they flee their homes. We also recognize the need for stronger efforts to address the root causes of this crisis with our partners in Central America and with the international community.

As you work with Congress to refine the proposed strategy outlined in your letter, we are particularly concerned about how we are addressing the humanitarian and legal rights of these unaccompanied children. Advocates estimate that approximately 40% of unaccompanied children arriving on our border are girls, many of whom are under the age of 12. Reports about these children—sometimes victims of trafficking and often at risk in the hands of criminal smugglers— conjure images of children and families displaced by war and other disasters around the world. The devastating gang violence and “join or die” gang recruitment practices of minors in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are tantamount to forced conscription making such comparisons far from exaggerated. This comparison is reinforced in a recent report from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. The report found that a majority of unaccompanied minors apprehended at the southwest border, with many from the three aforementioned Central American countries, were fleeing instances of extreme violence that suggested they may have a viable claim to refugee protections under international law.

The United States has always been a leader in providing aid and assistance to those in danger and in need, and this humanitarian situation is on our very own doorstep. Your letter requests additional authority and discretion for removal of these unaccompanied children, which is a significant departure from current policy for unaccompanied children from Central America. We are concerned by any proposal that restricts legal and humanitarian protections for unaccompanied children from non-contiguous countries and urge caution in granting the Department of Homeland Security the authority to alter procedures designed to protect these children from trafficking and future violence. Congress unanimously passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) on a bipartisan basis, which continued a long history of establishing procedures that fairly and safely repatriate unaccompanied children to their home countries. Enacting a policy of rapidly deporting children who may be fleeing circumstances rendering them eligible for certain protection under our laws —without any meaningful hearing—is contrary to the values overwhelmingly endorsed by Congress and our country.

More resources are clearly necessary to address the situation on the border. While we work together to address the root causes of this crisis, tens of thousands of vulnerable children who need to be treated humanely and fairly are already here in federal custody.

We look forward to working with you to find solutions to this crisis. As you continue working to address these challenges, we ask you to focus resources on protecting these unaccompanied children from harm, upholding their right to due process, and by continuing to work with Congress and our international partners to address the root problems that put these children in danger in their home countries in the first place.

Sincerely,

Mazie K. Hirono
United States Senator

Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senator

Heidi Heitkamp
United States Senator

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

HIRONO THANKS HAWAII CHAMBER FOR MAKING FIRST-EVER HAWAII ON THE HILL A HUGE SUCCESS

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono thanked the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii and the Hawaii businesses and vendors who came to the United States Capitol yesterday for the first-ever Hawaii on the Hill, which consisted of the Hawaii on the Hill Policy Summit and Taste of Hawaii On Capitol Hill reception.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for all of the businesses in Hawaii to put our best foot forward and showcase our diverse businesses and industries,” said Hirono. “Mahalo to the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii and everyone who attended the events for bringing the spirit of aloha to DC. We started Hawaii on the Hill with a welcome reception at the Google headquarters, kicked off tours of the White House, the Capitol and the National Parks, and conducted a policy summit to deepen the ties between federal officials and local businesses. We then finished off the festivities with a Taste of Hawaii on Capitol Hill reception where over 700 lei were given to guests who were also treated to some of Hawaii’s finest foods. It’s been a busy week and I know that I am already looking forward to next year’s Hawaii on the Hill.”

Hawaii business leaders participated in the Hawaii on the Hill Policy Summit, which featured policy discussions with Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Director Patricia Loui with the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel, U.S. Trade and Development Agency Director for Export Promotion Leila Aridi Afas, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs Margaret Cummisky, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy Michael Carr, Jane Campbell of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Participating Hawaii businesses included:

Ansaldo Honolulu
Big Island Bee Company
Boeing Hawaii
County of Maui
Cyanotech
Green Point Nurseries
Haute Confectionery Boutique
Hawaii Crop Improvement Association (HCIA)
Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA)
Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company
Innovate Hawaii/High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC)
Iolani Palace
Kamakura Corporation
Kauai Chamber
Kauai Coffee Company
Kauai Kookie Company
Kona Kohala Chamber
Kona Mountain Coffee
Maui Chamber of Commerce
Maui Office of Economic Development
Mauna Loa
Navatek
Orchid Lei Company
Pacific Allied Products
Pacifica Hawaii Salt
Queens Development Corp.
Really Ono
Salty Wahine/ Aunty Lilikoi
The Hawaiian Chip Co.
Tiki Shark Art
Hawaiian Sun
Koloa Rum
Healthcare Financial Management Association
NOH Foods
Highway Inn
Big Island Candies
Hawaii Farm Bureau
Hawaiian Host
Maui Fruit Jewels
Maui Preserved

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