Friday, November 22, 2019

Dems Pass Giveaway to Tech Firms, Violate House Rules

 Sign at Trump Women's March, Dems Aiding and Abetting

UPDATE: Portions of this post appeared later in an article revealing Rep. Lauren Underwood's true colors published on January 4, 2020 in The Intercept: "Democratic Representative Pushed to Create a Massive Migrant Health Database that No One Wants.

Proclaiming solidarity with health care providers assisting arriving noncitizens at the border Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) in late September urged her colleagues in the House to vote for  a measure that will create a mammoth health and biometric database, generate wealth for the private contractors who will run these systems, and obligate no actual medical care for anyone.

H.R. 3525 U.S. BORDER PATROL MEDICAL SCREENING STANDARDS ACT passed largely under the radar of established immigrant and civil rights groups and lawyers.  It was sold to fellow Dems as a bill that would combat the inhumane conditions at the border and help save lives, especially those of children. And yet while other bills the House passed actually do this (and will go on to die in the Senate), Underwood's bill does nothing other than mandate screening - not treatment - protocols and the creation of a massive database with no rules for privacy, data correction, consent, and NO BUDGET.

Congressional rules require bills provide a clear statement of their costs.  The report for HR 3525 includes a section to conform with this:
Congressional Budget Office Estimate New Budget Authority, Entitlement Authority, and Tax Expenditures With respect to the requirements of clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 and with respect to requirements of clause (3)(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee adopts as its own the estimate of the estimate of new budget authority, entitlement authority, or tax expenditures or revenues contained in the cost estimate prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget Office.
However, instead of a bona fide analysis of the proposed bill by the Congressional Budget Office, the Report for HR 3525 uses an analysis of an entirely different bill, one passed in 2002:
H.R. 3525--Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002
CBO estimates that H.R. 3525 (enacted as Public Law 107- 173) will result in no significant net cost to the federal government. The act will affect direct spending, but we estimate that any net effects will not be significant. H.R. 3525 sets the amount of the machine-readable visa (MRV) fee at $65 and establishes a surcharge of $10 for issuing an MRV in a nonmachine-readable passport...
When I first read this I figured that the current HR 3525 was amending the Act from 2002 and would be relying on visa fees.  Why else would this analysis be here?  That said, I was curious as to the amount the CBO estimated it would cost to operationalize the program Rep. Underwood proposed and contacted Underwood's office, the Homeland Security Committee staff, and the CBO a couple weeks ago and requested they provide this information.

I'm still waiting.

To be clear, the rules require the inclusion of this information from the CBO in the House Report.

In the meantime, the floor debate underscores that the Majority Report is just plain wrong.  Mike Rogers (R-AL), Chair, Homeland Security Minority Committee in his floor speech on September 26, 2019 stated: "We have no idea how much this bill will cost because the majority failed to file a cost estimate from CBO."

Later, Rep. Jim Jones (R-IN) highlights the omission and the error:
There is no score or cost estimate whatsoever. The score that was filed is from the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002, which is completely unrelated.  
We are being asked to vote on this legislation blindly. Based on the experience of institutions similar in size to CBP that have implemented EHRs, the price tag could easily run into the billions. Five to 10 years is a realistic timeline, not 30 days.

Altogether, I think this is a mistake, even if well-intentioned.
Also, Rep. Underwood asserts that the bill has the endorsement of Homeland Security itself.

And yet Rep. Rogers stated DHS opposed the bill as did the administration:
Mr. Speaker, I am curious about the announcement that the administration is in support of this and is working toward this, because they have already issued an announcement that they oppose this piece of legislation. So, if it did pass, it would be vetoed by the President.
Underwood is extolling to her colleagues the importance of an "evidence-based approach" to immigration law enforcement.  And yet she has failed to respond to the evidence of an error in a report for a bill she championed.  She seems also to have mispresented the official position of the agency she claims will be enacting it.

This is a pretty simple object-lesson in the gap between collecting information and using it for the greater good.   If Rep. Underwood cannot insure the accuracy of a Democrat-drafted Committee report on her own public bill after it has been scrutinized on the House floor and its errors clearly highlighted to the entire world via C-SPAN, that seems to be pretty good evidence on the failures of her logic about the importance of evidence for its own sake and the merits of HR 3525.  If a member of Congress cannot or will not act on clear evidence of an error after being aware of this for several months, why expect that information secretly collected and used by border agents and others in law enforcement will be accurate or used properly? 

The really sad part is that Democrats overwhelmingly supported Underwood's flawed bill, even though not a single member can tell you how much taxpayer money could be going to the coffers of Homeland Security contractors such as General Dynamics, 360 IT Integrated Solutions, or CASI Federal, Inc., or how exactly the data will be used or could be misused.

I am hoping to learn more about this bill and will publish more later, but wanted to make this information available to others following the role of interoperable databases and artificial (as in pseudo) intelligence in today's idiocracy.

Thanks to Daisy Conant and Pranav Baskar for assistance in reporting. 
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