Building bridges in Iran

March 16, 2014

In the latest Third Way Cafe, Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach looks at some initial steps toward building bridges between Iran and others in the international community.

Read her article here and urge your Members of Congress to support a diplomatic resolution with Iran.

A bridge in Isfahan, Iran.  (MCC Photo/Cheryl Zehr Walker)

A bridge in Isfahan, Iran. (MCC Photo/Cheryl Zehr Walker)


Houses Passes Assessing Progress in Haiti Act of 2013

December 18, 2013

This year, the MCC Washington Office has asked for your support in urging Congress to pass the “Assessing Progress in Haiti Act.” This legislation would help increase transparency and accountability of U.S. aid efforts in Haiti by requiring Congress to receive comprehensive updates from the State Department on how the funds are being spent. These updates and reports will give Congress more thorough oversight to the disaster reconstruction process.

On December 12, the “Assessing Progress in Haiti Act” (H.R. 3509) passed the House. This bipartisan legislation was sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and is similar to previous legislation on aid transparency in Haiti.

“The Haitian people have continued to demonstrate resiliency, strength, and bravery despite the tragic events that have occurred. It is beyond time that in turn, Congress supports Haiti by ensuring that relief and reconstruction funds are effectively spent to maximize their long term impact. We need to make certain that the people of Haiti are on the road to recovery and not forgotten,” said Congresswoman Lee prior to the passing of the bill.

Thank you to everyone who contacted their Representative and urged them to support the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act. The bill now moves to the Senate.


House Foreign Affairs Committee Discusses Haiti Aid Funding

October 18, 2013

On Wednesday, October 9th, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on the “Administration of Haiti Reconstruction Funding.” The discussion was based on a report issued June 2013 by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that investigated and reported on the USAID funded Caracol industrial park in northern Haiti. The hearing took place in two parts: the first with a panel from the GAO, represented by Dr. David Gootnick, the primary author of the report and the second with a panel comprised of Haiti Special Coordinator Tom Adams from the State Department and Beth Hogan, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator of USAID.

Dr. Gootnick answered numerous questions from members of Congress about how USAID was utilizing the $651 million appropriated for post-earthquake relief efforts. The primary focus of the hearing was on the Caracol Industrial Park in northern Haiti, which is one of the largest projects that USAID has helped fund with the aid money. U.S. funded portions of the part includes:

  • A sea port for exporting goods from the industrial park,
  • a power plant for electricity generation for the park,
  • And housing for park employees

The GAO report found that USAID had underestimated the costs and timeline of construction. The committee members were most shocked by the “scandalous” lack of oversight regarding housing construction. The initial estimate was for USAID to construct 15,000 homes, however 3 years after the earthquake only 2,649 homes were actually built. Several factors that influenced the increased cost were discussed during the hearing, such as:

  • A complicated land tenure system
  • Lack of adequate infrastructure like indoor plumbing
  • Difficulties with importing materials
  • Problems with post-earthquake rubble removal

The hearing made clear that there was a serious, overarching problem with U.S. aid to Haiti: a lack of oversight and accountability. The GAO report made several recommendations to help address the issues of USAID’s reconstruction in Haiti. The most important, and the one that congressional members present at the hearing seemed to agree on, was requiring additional and more accurate reports from USAID, so that their projects could continue with more congressional oversight

Read the GOA Report here and watch the recording of the Hearing here.


House approves cut to Pentagon funding

July 25, 2013
Photo: U.S. Air Force

Photo: U.S. Air Force

Sending a significant signal on the defense appropriations bill yesterday, the House voted to cut $3.5 billion from the Pentagon’s “overseas contingency operations” account. These funds, while ostensibly for the war in Afghanistan, had been transferred from the Pentagon’s base budget due to constraints as a result of the Budget Control Act.

The vote was 215-206 and the sponsors of the amendment were Reps. Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Van Hollen (D-Md.), Coffman (R-Colo.) and Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.). To see how your representative voted, click here. If you are not sure who your representative is, click here.

Please consider taking the time to call your representative to thank them if they voted yes on the Mulvaney amendment. The Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.

Read more from the MCC Washington Office about Pentagon spending.


Support U.S. Aid Accountability and Transparency in Haiti

July 2, 2013

Image

Pictured is Grace Village (on the property of Grace International Church), a tent camp where 500 families live who were displaced after the earthquake. (MCC Photo/Ruth Keidel Clemens)

On January 12, 2010, a deadly earthquake hit Haiti causing severe physical, social and economic damage. It resulted in over 230,000 deaths and 2 million people were displaced from their homes. Three years later, little progress can be seen in regards to development efforts. Over 320,000 Haitian still reside in camps and forced evictions are occurring on a regular basis. In addition, the cholera epidemic continues to plague the country. As of February 2013, there have been reports of over 8,000 deaths and more than 647,000 people infected with the disease. In total, the U.S. government  pledged approximately $3.6 billion in aid and as of March 2013, $2.6 billion has been disbursed. Many are wondering, where has the money gone?

Recently, legislation was introduced in the House and the Senate that would help bring transparency and accountability to U.S. aid efforts in Haiti. The bills would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to produce a report on the status of post-earthquake reconstruction and development programs in Haiti. The finding would ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being spent efficiently towards projects that will improve the lives of Haitians.

Contact your senators and representatives today. Urge them to support the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act (H.R. 1749 & S.1104)


Senate passes immigration reform bill

June 27, 2013

The full Senate just passed the immigration reform bill, S.744, by a vote of 68-32.

To learn more about the Senate bill and the next steps for the House, visit our Current Legislation page and stayed tuned for an action alert tomorrow with details about a July 1 call/webinar hosted by the Interfaith Immigration coalition.


Action alert: Oppose the “border surge”

June 24, 2013

ACTION: Call Your Senators TODAY, Monday, June 24th, to oppose the Corker/Hoeven “border surge” amendment

Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or find your Senators’ direct lines at http://www.senate.gov.

At 5:30 pm today, the Senate is expected to vote on a new version of the bipartisan immigration reform bill, S.744, which will include all amendments made thus far, as well as the Corker/Hoeven amendment – known as the “border surge” — which would increase border security funding in the bill from $8 billion to over $46 billion, double the number of border patrol officers, and dramatically increase militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Read the full action alert.


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