All blog posts created by Legislative Team
  • Amendments offered to the Cybersecurity Act of 2012


    UPDATE: Wyden Statement on Vote Against Cloture of the Cybersecurity Act


    GPS Act

    Press Release Text of Amendment | U.S News and World Report Op-Ed

    U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) teamed up to write the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act, which is now being offered as an amendment to the Cybersecurity Act of 2012.

    Currently, laws pertaining to geolocation tracking have not kept pace with technology.  Judges in different jurisdictions have issued conflicting rulings about what procedures law enforcement must follow – and how much evidence is necessary – to obtain individuals’ geolocation data from private companies.  This lack of clarity creates problems for law enforcement agencies and private companies, as well as uncertainty for customers. 

    The bipartisan legislation creates a legal framework designed to give government agencies, commercial entities and private citizens clear guidelines for when and how geolocation information can be accessed and used. 

    The GPS Act requires government agencies to get a probable cause warrant to obtain geolocation information in the same way that they currently get warrants for wiretaps or other types of electronic surveillance. It also requires private companies to get customer consent before sharing their customers’ information outside the normal course of business, and outlaws “cyber-stalking” by making it a crime to secretly track someone’s movements electronically

    Click here for more information on the GPS Act

    “Stay Off My Cloud” Amendment

    Press Release | Text of Amendment

    Stay Off My Cloud puts in place several privacy protections to ensure that the government stays off your personal cloud.

    Many private companies contract with government agencies to provide information services to “continuously monitor” their networks and report to the federal government agencies in “real time or near real time” cyber incidents that jeopardize the “integrity, confidentiality, or availability of information or an information system.”

    The amendment makes it clear that service providers need only provide information about cybersecurity incidents if they pose a threat to the government’s information. Importantly, with respect to continuous monitoring and reporting requirements, operators of government information are allowed to use processes that will protect the privacy of individual or non-government, customer specific data.  

    Stay Off My Cloud prohibits individuals’ private data from being accessed by the government solely because it’s stored by a company who provides information services to a government agency.


    No Binding International Cyber Treaties without Senate Approval Amendment

    Press Release | Text of Amendment

    Title VI of the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 calls upon the Secretary of State to “develop and lead Federal Government efforts to engage with other countries to advance the cyberspace objectives of the United States, including efforts to bolster an international framework of cyber norms, governance and deterrence.”

    The administration had used similar language found in the Pro IP Act of 2008 to justify entering into binding international agreements on intellectual property as part of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement without the advice and consent of the Senate. This amendment makes it clear that nothing in the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 shall be construed to enable the president to enter the U.S. into a binding international agreement on cybersecurity without the advice and consent of the Senate. 

  • Standing Up for Seniors, Wyden Outlines Medicare Reform Principles

    As the Senate debated various budget proposals this week, Senator Wyden cut through the rhetoric fueled by ideology and stood up – once again – for America’s most vulnerable.

    Citing his own experience working for Oregon’s elderly, Senator Wyden rallied to defend Meals on Wheels, the home-delivery food program that is a lifeline for so many of our seniors. In the state of Oregon, nearly 52,000 seniors rely on these hot, nutritious meals. The fact that these meals are delivered by thousands of generous volunteers provides these older folks regular contact with someone who cares.  Some of these budgets would have cut Meals on Wheels funding anywhere from 17-59%, a staggering amount considering the great impact the program has on the lives of tens of thousands – an even greater impact given the financial hardship of the Americans it serves. 

    As Congress tackles the various challenges of increasing federal commitments, however, the future of Medicare is front and center.  Wyden spoke plainly stating, “We are going to have…for the next 20 years, 10,000 seniors turning 65 every single day….If nothing is done, the Medicare guarantee is in peril.”  Senator Wyden believes doing nothing is not an option and instead laid out principles that he feels must be included to achieve meaningful Medicare Reform, including:

    1. Preserving Traditional Medicare
    2. Protection for the sickest & most vulnerable (meaning, among other things, Medicaid may not be block-granted)
    3. Strong, comprehensive consumer protections
    4. Maintain Medicare’s purchasing power so that competition between government and private sector innovation can make each other better

    Finally, as in every major reform Senator Wyden has spearheaded, any effort at Medicare Reform must be bipartisan. Protecting the Medicare Guarantee is too important to let partisan politics get in the way.

    Watch highlights of Senator Wyden’s speech:

    Learn more about Wyden’s bipartisan Medicare reform proposal with Representative Paul Ryan: www.wyden.senate.gov/bipartisan-health-options

    Tags:
    Medicare
    Seniors
    Wyden-Ryan
  • Have you been targeted by a Pension Poacher? Tell us your Aid and Attendance story.

    As a life-long advocate for seniors, and a passionate supporter of veterans, veteran’s rights, and veteran’s programs, there are few things that upset Senator Wyden more than individuals and groups who use the promise of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits to mislead and even steal from America’s elderly veterans.

    Recently, he has been looking into the VA’s enhanced pension with Aid and Attendance, commonly referred to as “Aid and Attendance.”  While this program meets real needs of financially burdened vets who need help in their daily lives, Senator Wyden is deeply troubled by the emergence of predatory organizations that are providing false, misleading, or incomplete information to veterans.  Many of these companies have names and logos that seem to affiliate them with the VA and claim to want to help veterans, but in many cases are only interested in lining their own pockets.

    Our office is gathering information on these deplorable practices, but we need your help.  Have you, a friend, or family member had an experience regarding Aid and Attendance?  In the comments section below, please tell us your story.  Senator Wyden may share some of these experiences in the Senate.


    Have you been targeted by a Pension Poacher? Tell us your Aid and Attendance story.

    Your Name
  • #DontDoubleMyRate Must Get Done, Then On To #WhatsMyEducationWorth

    This week the Senate took up the Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act—popularly known on social media channels as #DontDoubleMyRate—legislation aimed at curbing the Stafford loan interest rates which are set to increase from 3.4% to 6.8% this summer.  In a speech on the floor of the Senate, Senator Wyden spoke out in support of the bill saying, “The Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike [Act] is so important that it allows us to achieve two important objectives.  First, it puts us in a position to hold the line on student debt…The second part of the legislation in my view is by holding the line on debt, you increase the opportunity for young people to get more value out of their education.

    Keeping college costs down through student aid is absolutely critical. Senator Harkin has provided incredible leadership in this area by ushering into law legislation that gives low and middle-income Americans the chance to afford an education and pursue the American dream. We should take pride in the great progress we have made in ensuring access to college in recent history. More than 70% of our young people now start some kind of advanced training or education within two years of receiving their high school diplomas. And it is important that we prevent financial burdens that heap further debt on students and graduates when higher education is the second largest expense most individuals will face in their lifetime.

    Ensuring continued access to higher education by passing the Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act enables Congress to move on to the next critical step in higher education policy which is empowering students and families to get the maximum value out of their education dollars. This is especially important at time when unemployment is in the double digits for young people in Oregon and student debt is at an all time high. We need market solutions to bring down higher education costs and ensure value for the higher education dollar by connecting the dots between higher education, completion, and employment outcomes.  Access to higher education is critical, but too many students fall through the cracks before graduation and too many graduates are unable to secure employment. For many students, access means very little without a degree and job to show for it. But prospective students and their families often make the decision to enroll in a program with incomplete information because these accountability measures simply aren’t available. To tackle that problem, Senators Wyden and Marco Rubio (R-Florida), have co-sponsored the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, to insert more transparency in higher education by showing how specific programs and institutions compare in regards to: cost and financial aid available, completion rates, debt, and employment and earnings outcomes. The Wyden/Rubio bill has even garnered the attention of notable education experts and media voices including Frank Bruni of the New York Times, Amy Laitinen of Education Sector, and, most recently, Mark Kantrowitz of Fastweb.com and FinAid.org and Mark Schneider of the American Institutes for Research.

    Watch highlights of Senator Wyden’s speech:

  • The Fallacy of Blaming the Market as the Sole Cause of High Gas Prices

    In his May 3, 2012 column, Robert Samuelson claims “We should exorcise the politically convenient notion that high oil prices result from the market maneuvers of greedy “speculators.” But it’s hard to do that without ignoring the facts.

    In an effort to disprove the role that speculation is playing in driving gas prices, Mr. Samuelson points to the following recent testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by Howard Gruenspecht, acting administrator of the nonpartisan U.S. Energy Information Administration:

    “The increases in crude oil prices since the beginning of 2011 appear to be related to a tightening world supply-demand balance and concerns over geopolitical issues that have impacted, or have the potential to impact, supply flows from the Middle East and North Africa.”

    But just two weeks after that hearing, the Wall Street Journal reported in an article entitled “Pressure on Oil Supply Eases” that “two years of oil market tightening reversed in the first quarter as supply exceeded demand and inventories grew.”  In fact, the tightening supply/demand balance had already reversed by the beginning of 2012.  As the article reported “Global oil inventories grew by as much as 1.2 million barrels a day in the first quarter.”  The most recent EIA National Defense Authorization Act report also confirms that a number of countries were actually producing at above average rates in the first quarter, including the U.S. Canada, Brazil, China, and Columbia substantially offsetting unplanned global production outages and reductions in exports from Iran.

    When demand is declining and supply is increasing, it is textbook economics that prices are supposed to come down.

    But that’s not what happened. As the graph accompanying the Wall Street Journal article makes clear, in the 1st quarter of 2012, the price of oil skyrocketed by more than 20 percent.  And this occurred despite the fact that the supply/demand balance was actually loosening, not tightening.  Clearly, more was at work in oil markets at the beginning of the year than supply and demand alone.

    Mr. Samuelson also attributes higher gas prices to “shrinking spare capacity” and cites the testimony of another witness at the hearing, Dr. Daniel Yergin, chairman of the consulting firm IHS CERA.  Here again, the facts are at odds with the testimony.   

    Just days before the hearing, Saudi Arabia announced plans to increase spare capacity by 2.5 million barrels per day – at least doubling the estimate of 1.8 to 2.5 million barrels per day of spare capacity Dr. Yergin had provided in his testimony.

    Mr. Samuelson does acknowledge that “outside investors (a.k.a. “speculators”) have dramatically shifted money into commodities — raw materials” and that “Commodity index funds,” which invest in a basket of commodities (oil, wheat, corn), have attracted hundreds of billions of dollars.

    But he doesn’t seem to appreciate how fundamentally this has changed the commodities markets.  Four years ago, speculative traders held less than half of the futures contracts for crude oil.  Today, according to the Chairman of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, these traders now account for 85% of the crude oil futures market.

    Because of this fundamental change in the commodities market, industry experts from the CEO of Exxon Mobil to Goldman-Sachs, the firm that practically invented the commodity index fund, have estimated the impact on oil markets from speculation at upwards of $20 a barrel, which translates to more than 50 cents a gallon at the pump.

    Delta’s recent announcement that it is buying an oil refinery in Pennsylvania to protect itself against the risks of price spikes and potential fuel shortages is further evidence that the crude oil commodity market is no longer filling its traditional role of hedging risks for commodity users.

    Certainly, speculation is not the only cause of high oil and gasoline prices.  As Mr. Samuelson correctly points out, our dependence on a global market for oil is clearly a major factor.  But it is far from the only factor driving up current prices at the pump.   If speculation were not an issue, Mr. Samuelson’s prescription of “Use less, and produce more” should already have lowered prices significantly.  Because that’s what occurred during the first quarter of 2012 and prices still soared to the highest level ever for that time of the year. 

    Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal:

    20120412-wsj-oil-turning-tide

    Tags:
    Gas Prices
    Wall Street