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112th Congress Accomplishments

 In the 112th Congress, despite being in the minority, Committee Democrats under Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings conducted vigorous oversight to address the housing and foreclosure crisis, protect the health, safety, and pocketbooks of Americans, and increase diversity while working to root out hazing in the military.

Ranking Member Cummings launched a number of investigations that looked into important issues such as "drug speculation" by "gray market" drug companies, compensation packages of top executives at for-profit colleges, and alleged efforts to supress the vote.

Ranking Member Cummings has had legislative successes including the passage of a new law to strengthen protections for whistleblowers and overwhelming passage by the House of Representatives of a law to help servicemembers avoid forelcosure.

At the close of this session, Ranking Member Cummings published a selection of the Oversight Democrats Oversight Accomplishments.

Fighting Foreclosure

Ranking Member Cummings is one of the foremost national leaders fighting for the rights of homeowners and taxpayers alike.

In February 2011, he launched a wide-ranging investigation into allegations of mortgage servicer abuses and illegal foreclosures against homeowners, including U.S. servicemembers, and continues to press the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to allow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to implement principal reduction mortgage modification programs for homeowners facing foreclosure.

In part as a result of Cummings’s work:

  • Treasury announced changes to its Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program to help servicemembers forced to relocate for work;

  • Holly Petraeus, the Director of the Office of Servicemember Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), praised Cummings for spearheading congressional efforts to help military families avoid foreclosure;

  • FHFA announced changes to the Home Affordable Refinance Program to help “underwater” homeowners take advantage of record-low interest rates;

  • FHFA instructed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to begin transitioning away from their use of designated foreclosure attorney networks, which were found to be plagued with problems including improper foreclosure and billing practices;

  • FHFA extended from six months to twelve months the forbearance period for unemployed homeowners with mortgages owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac; and

  • FHFA adjusted its guidance and mandated that military relocation be considered a hardship under Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s borrower assistance programs so that more servicemembers forced to move do not lose their homes.

Ranking Member Cummings also succeeded in passing through the partisan House of Representatives a landmark amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to expand foreclosure protections for U.S. servicemembers, their families, survivors, and veterans – which passed with a resounding bipartisan vote of 394 to 27.

Ranking Member Cummings recently held his 7th foreclosure prevention seminar in his district matching homeowners on the brink of foreclosure with their lenders to help hundreds stay in their homes. Last year, Ranking Member Cummings was honored as "Federal Champion of the Year" by the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition for his efforts to address the foreclosure crisis and promote the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

On April 13, 2011, Ranking Cummings and Senator Jack Reed introduced The Preserving Homes and Communities Act to increase transparency in the foreclosure process and to encourage loss mitigation efforts.

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Health, Safety and Pocketbooks of Americans

Last October, Ranking Member Cummings launched an investigation into “drug speculation” by “gray market” drug companies that charge exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs that are in critically short supply.

The investigation uncovered “gray market” companies that are marking up the cost of drugs by as much as 80 times their normal value, as well as “fake pharmacies” set up to buy quantities of drugs on the FDA’s shortage list.

In May, Ranking Member Cummings introduced the Gray Market Drug Reform and Transparency Act of 2012, to address weaknesses in the drug supply chain, deter price gouging, and improve drug safety and efficacy.

President Obama referenced Ranking Member Cummings' investigation when he issued an Executive Order calling on the FDA to address drug shortages and examine potential price gouging.

In July, Ranking Member Cummings, along with Senator Jay Rockefeller, issued a groundbreaking report, “Shining Light on the Gray Market,” which exposed a network of private “gray market” companies that take advantage of the national drug shortage crisis. Ranking Member Cummings presented about the report’s findings at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing.

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Defending Middle Class Workers

On October 13, 2011, Ranking Member Cummings issued a report on behalf of Democratic Members of the Oversight Ccommittee with recommendations to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to avoid further cuts to pay or benefits of the federal workforce and to reform compensation reimbursement for federal contractors.

On January 25, 2012, Ranking Member Cummings led 17 Members of Congress in urging the Conference Committee considering H.R. 3630, the Middle Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which extends the payroll tax through 2012, to oppose any additional cuts to the pay or benefits of federal employees.

Cummings supported H.R. 4363, the Federal Employee Phased Retirement Act, a bi-partisan bill sponsored by Reps. Darrell Issa, Dennis Ross, and Stephen Lynch, that allows retirement-eligible employees to opt for phased retirement. This provision was signed into law by President Obama on July 6, 2012, as part of a transportation and student loan funding bill.

On August 1, 2012, the House passed H.R. 4365, a bill that clarifies that Thrift Savings Plan accounts are subject to IRS tax levies in order to maintain parity with private sector 401(k)s. An amendment offered by Ranking Member Cummings and agreed to during Committee consideration directed that revenue gains attributable to the bill’s enactment be used only for purposes of deficit reduction rather than funding other government programs.

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Stopping the Flow of Guns on the U.S. / Mexico Border

Ranking Member Cummings issued a report, “OUTGUNNED: Law Enforcement Agents Warn Congress They Lack Adequate Tools to Counter Illegal Firearms Trafficking” that included three recommendations to give law enforcement more tools to stop the flow of guns, and he convened a forum on the flow of illegal funds on both sides of the U.S./ Mexico border. Two of the recommendations were adopted by the Administration:

  • The Department of Justice announced a new reporting measure for multiple sales of semi-automatic rifles in select states along the border; and

  • The Department of Justice and the U.S. Sentencing Commission increased criminal penalties for “straw purchasers” of firearms.

Ranking Member Cummings and Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Carolyn McCarthy introduced the Stop Gun Trafficking and Strengthen Law Enforcement Act to prohibit firearms trafficking in the criminal code.

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Increasing Diversity and Rooting Out Hazing in the Military

In May 2012, Ranking Member Cummings, Rep. Judy Chu, and other Members introduced The Harry Lew Military Hazing Accountability and Prevention Act of 2012 to help prevent and provide transparency to hazing incidents in the Armed Forces. The legislation was included as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.

Ranking Member Cummings also worked with Reps. Silvestre Reyes, Loretta Sanchez, and Hank Johnson to amend the National Defense Authorization Act to mandate that the Department of Defense enhance diversity in recruitment, promotion and retention of senior-level military leaders, including women and minorities. Ranking Member Cummings introduced similar legislation, the Military Leaders Enhancement Act (H.R. 2186).

Ranking Member Cummings held two Congressional forums on military diversity. The most recent forum was held in March with Sen. Ben Cardin and the Chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus, and Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

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Investigations

On February 21, 2011, Ranking Member Cummings launched his first investigation as Ranking Member into increasingly large-scale allegations of foreclosure fraud and abuses by mortgage servicers. Ranking Member Cummings and Senator Jay Rockefeller broadened the investigation to examine illegal foreclosures and other abuses against U.S. servicemembers and their families.

On October 5, 2011, Ranking Member Cummings launched an investigation into “drug speculation” by “gray market” drug companies that trade in life-saving drugs in critically short supply. On December 15, 2011, Senate Chairmen Rockefeller and Harkin joined Ranking Member Cummings’ investigation.

On December 12, 2011, Ranking Member Cummings announced an investigation into compensation packages of top executives at for-profit colleges, and issued the preliminary findings on July 27. Over the past three Congresses, Ranking Member Cummings has been a nationally recognized leader investigating excessive corporate salaries, bonuses, stock options, and other compensation, including unwarranted bonuses for AIG executives, conflicts of interest with compensation consultants, the disconnect between corporate pay and company performance, and the widening gap between the ultra-rich and middle-class American workers. On December 12, 2011, Ranking Member Cummings delivered the keynote address on executive compensation at the Americans for Financial Reform Conference hosted by Public Citizen.

On April 25, 2012, Ranking Member Cummings and Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman launched an investigation into allegations that Wal-Mart executives covered-up the actions of company officials in Mexico accused of bribery. They expanded their investigation to examine Wal-Mart’s alleged efforts to weaken the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

In October of 2012 as part of a broad effort to promote the integrity of our nation's elections, Ranking Member Cummings launched an investigation into alleged efforts to suppress the vote through voter registration fraud and voter challenges.

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Reports

On May 23, 2011, Ranking Member Cummings issued a staff report, “Real Help for American Consumers: Who’s Profiting at the Pump?” which found that “Addressing excessive speculation offers the single most significant opportunity to reduce the price of gas for American consumers.”

On June 30, 2011, Ranking Member Cummings issued a staff report, “OUTGUNNED: Law Enforcement Agents Warn Congress They Lack Adequate Tools to Counter Illegal Firearms Trafficking” that included three recommendations to give law enforcement more tools to stop the flow of guns.

On July 12, 2011, Ranking Member Cummings and Senator Jay Rockefeller released a staff report, “Fighting on the Home Front" that chronicled the growing problem of illegal foreclosures against U.S. servicemembers.

On July 13, 2011, Ranking Member Cummings issued a forty-page investigative report, “An Examination of Attacks Against the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission” that found Chairman Issa’s allegations of improprieties by the Democratic Commissioners and staff, including “conflicts of interest,” and “extensive ties” to “partisan Democratic politics,” were largely unsubstantiated.

On January 31, 2012, Ranking Member Cummings issued a 95-page report entitled “Fatally Flawed: Five Years of Gunwalking in Arizona,” which found that gunwalking operations originated and were executed in the Phoenix Field Division of ATF as early as 2006, and no evidence that senior officials at the Department of Justice approved gunwalking.

On July 25, 2012, Ranking Member Cummings and Senator Jay Rockefeller released a report, “Shining Light on the Gray Market: An Examination of Why Hospitals Are Forced to Pay Exorbitant Prices for Prescription Drugs Facing Critical Shortages” which exposed a network of private “gray market” companies that take advantage of the national drug shortage crisis to charge exorbitant prices for drugs used to treat cancer and other life-threatening conditions.

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Legislation

Legislative Accomplishments for 112th Congress

Passed into Law

On January 2, 2013, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2013, which included provisions from The Military Leaders Enhancement Act, a bill that Cummings, Rep. Judy Chu, and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced on May 10, 2012. This legislation requires the Department of Defense to develop a plan to achieve a dynamic, sustainable diverse level of officers and senior enlisted personnel.

The 2013 NDAA also included The Harry Lew Military Hazing Accountability and Prevention Act of 2012, authored by Cummings, Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Mike Honda, and other Members. This bill helps prevent hazing incidents in the armed forces.

On December 28, 2012, President Obama signed into law The Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012. Cummings introduced this legislation on March 7, 2012, with bipartisan support from Reps. Jason Chaffetz, Gerry Connolly, Danny Davis, Michael Fitzpatrick, Stephen Lynch, James Moran, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Laura Richardson. This bill allows state and local government employees covered by the Hatch Act to run for political office, provides the Merit Systems Protection Board the flexibility to issue a range of penalties for Hatch Act violations, and ensures that D.C. employees are treated similarly to local and state government employees.

On December 20, 2012, the President signed into law the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011, which included many provisions authored by Cummings and Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA) to increase transparency around the issuance of Jones Act waivers to allow foreign vessels to carry cargo between U.S. ports. This language was introduced by Cummings and Rep. Landry on October 14, 2011, as The American Mariners Job Protection Act.

On November 27, 2012, President Obama signed into law The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012. Similar legislation, the Platts-Van Hollen Whistleblower Protection Act of 2011—which was introduced by Rep. Darrell E. Issa and co-sponsored by Cummings along with Reps. Todd Platts, Chris Van Hollen, Paul Gosar, and Stevan Pearce—was passed unanimously by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee on November 3, 2011. This bill protects lawful disclosures of waste, fraud, and abuse, correcting court decisions that narrowed the scope of protected disclosures, and impeded efforts to protect all whistleblowers.

Passed House / Senate

On May 15, 2012, the House passed by a vote of 394 to 27 an amendment to the NDAA of 2013 introduced by Cummings and several other Ranking Members that would expand foreclosure protections for U.S. servicemembers, their families, surviving spouses, and veterans. This language was introduced on May 7, 2012, by Cummings and other Members as The Military Family Home Protection Act. Despite passing the House and Senate Committees of jurisdiction, the provisions were dropped during conference of the NDAA.

On April 26, 2012, the House passed The Federal Information Security Amendments Act of 2012, legislation Cummings introduced with Rep. Issa to protect federal information systems from cyber-attacks. The Senate did not take action on the bill.

On April 25, 2012, the House passed The Government Accountability Office Improvement Act, which was introduced by Cummings and all Committee Democrats in March 2011to strengthen GAO’s authority to access agency records. This legislation passed the House as part of The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Issa. Similar legislation was considered by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, but no further action occurred.

Passed by Committee

On November 17, 2011, the Committee ordered The Presidential Records Act Amendments reported on a voice vote. Introduced by Rep. Towns as one title of the Transparency and Openness in Government Act, the bill would increase public access to presidential records by establishing statutory procedures prior to FOIA releases. This legislation was not considered on the House floor.

On October 13, 2011, the Committee ordered The Federal Advisory Committee Act Amendments reported by unanimous consent. Introduced by Rep. Clay as one title of the Transparency and Openness in Government Act, the bill would require agencies to disclose more information about advisory committees and close existing loopholes in the law. This legislation was not considered on the House floor.

Significant Legislation with No Movement

On July 15, 2011, Cummings, along with Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Carolyn McCarthy, introduced The Stop Gun Trafficking and Strengthen Law Enforcement Act, which would establish a dedicated firearms trafficking statute to empower law enforcement to keep high-powered firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals and drug cartels. Despite obtaining more than 100 bipartisan cosponsors, the bill was never marked up in Committee or considered on the House floor.

On April 13, 2011, Cummings and Senator Jack Reed introduced The Preserving Homes and Communities Act to increase transparency in the foreclosure process and hold mortgage servicers accountable for engaging in loss mitigation efforts with qualified homeowners. Despite obtaining 51 cosponsors and the support of about a dozen consumer groups, the bill was never marked up in Committee or considered on the House floor. Senator Reed’s companion bill had 18 cosponsors, but was never marked up by Committee or considered on the Senate floor.

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Cummings Profiled in the News

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Op-eds published by Cummings

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