Monday, December 11, 2017
Washington, D.C. - December 11, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02) released the following statement regarding the attempted terrorist attack in New York City:
“This morning a terrorist strapped a pipe bomb to his chest with the intent to cause chaos, death, and mayhem in a busy New York underground subway tunnel,” said Congressman Poe. Reports suggest that the attack was ISIS-inspired but ultimately failed when the pipe bomb malfunctioned and exploded prematurely, justly injuring only the terrorist. While we are on the path to defeat ISIS, we must be mindful that the terror group’s remnants are still at war with America. We must continue to go after ISIS terrorists wherever they operate and promote their murderous ideology.”
Congressman Poe is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Chairman of Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade Subcommittee.
Washington, D.C. - December 9, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) President Tom Schatz released a statement applauding the Department of Defense (DOD) for announcing the start of its long-delayed first audit:
“Taxpayers should be encouraged that DOD has finally begun the necessary process of auditing its gargantuan bureaucracy. The Pentagon has done an exemplary job of protecting our national security, but a very poor job of keeping track of how defense dollars are spent.
“The Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 (CFO Act) required audits to be performed and accurate financial statements disclosed for every federal department. CAGW was instrumental in the enactment of this legislation.
“That means DOD has failed to perform an essential accounting function for the past 27 years, while every other agency required to provide an audit under the CFO Act has done so. Since the Pentagon is the largest federal department, the lack of transparency and accountability has made this delay even worse.
“Determining how the taxpayers’ money is being used at the Pentagon should not be difficult. On December 5, 2016, The Washington Post reported that the department had buried an internal study that found $125 billion in administrative waste. The Government Accountability Office has regularly found DOD programs at ‘high risk’ of waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.
“While the Pentagon has previously announced its intent to produce an audit, we fully expect that this time it will carry out that commitment with the meticulous scrutiny that taxpayers expect, and we look forward to analyzing the findings when they are released.”
Citizens Against Government Waste is the nation's largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.
Washington, D.C. - December 9, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- A broad coalition made up of more than 50 of the nation’s most influential conservative and libertarian organizations and individuals, led by the Center for Individual Freedom ("CFIF"), sent a letter urging Congress to protect First Amendment freedoms of speech and association by eliminating the 990 Schedule B form requirement for 501(c) organizations.
Schedule B, which is a mandatory IRS form for nonprofit organizations, lists the names, addresses and other intimate information of certain donors. It is supposed to remain private and confidential. Indeed, the IRS is legally prohibited from actually using the sensitive information it collects on Schedule B forms for any meaningful purpose. The agency’s collection and retention of that information, however, has resulted in persecution and targeting by not only IRS and other government officials, but also hackers, cyberstalkers and political extremists unwilling to tolerate political and policy views with which they disagree.
"As acknowledged by the IRS itself, Schedule B information is inapplicable to the legally permissible handling of 501(c) organization tax filings," the coalition wrote in the letter, which is addressed to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. "Eliminating Schedule B will not only make tax compliance easier, but also help limit the ability of the IRS and others, including state officials with access to the information, to chill free speech and civic participation among the public."
Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives voted affirmatively to eliminate Schedule B in the form of H.R. 5053, the "Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act," sponsored by Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL). Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced S. 3057 under the same title in the U.S. Senate.
"There simply is no justification for the IRS to continue to collect this confidential information," said CFIF President Jeffrey Mazzella. "Congress should therefore act without delay to eliminate Schedule B, which will help limit the ongoing threat to private individuals of targeting and abuse for simply supporting causes in which they believe. Our broad coalition stands united in that goal."
View a PDF version of the letter here.
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Washington, D.C. - December 11, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Minutes before midnight last night, Hi-Way Tabernacle and two other Texas churches filed an emergency appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit asking for the right to apply for disaster relief like other devastated non-profits. The emergency appeal in Harvest Family Church v. FEMA came hours after a lower federal court refused to stop FEMA’s policy that discriminates against houses of worship. FEMA already conceded in court that its discriminatory policy is unlikely to survive the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer. Yet since the devastation by Hurricane Harvey in late August, FEMA has resolutely refused to give houses of worship equal access to federal disaster aid grants while distributing over $500 million to other kinds of non-profits and grant recipients, like stamp clubs and botanical gardens.
FEMA’s delay has left Texas churches in limbo, forcing them to miss expedited grant deadlines and permanently jeopardizing their ability to access FEMA’s grant program. Despite this discrimination, houses of worship across Texas—including Hi-Way Tabernacle, as shown in this new video—continue to help their communities recover. The churches are asking the Court of Appeals to grant them immediate emergency protection by Monday, December 11, and to provide more permanent relief by Christmas.
The following statement can be attributed to Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at Becket:
“FEMA is giving Scrooge a run for his money. FEMA already left these devastated churches in the cold for Thanksgiving, and now it’s trying to shut them out for Christmas. Enough is enough. A flooded building is a flooded building, whether it’s a theater, a church, or a synagogue, and they should all be treated equally, every one.”
Washington, D.C. - December 11, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning today issued the following statement in response to a sensational story from CNN creating misleading narrative that Donald Trump, Jr. retweeting a story about FBI FOIA document releases had something to do with “hacked” Wikileaks documents:
“It is inexcusable for CNN to continue to pretend to be a news agency, given they do not appear to understand the difference between a legally released Freedom of Information Act document made public by the FBI and hacking. It is clear that CNN continues to run an opposition hit campaign on the Trump administration. Any legitimate broadcaster would not accept a paid advertisement that made the contentions that CNN tries to foist on their audience. If CNN wants to be a 527 political operation, they should have to file like any other political campaign committee, and cease engaging in the sham of posing as a news organization.
“The facts appear to be that somebody sent Donald Trump, Jr. an email with documents that had already been posted on Wikileaks. Then, Trump, Jr. retweeted a news story about unrelated documents from the FBI legally obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. This led to the misleading headline, ‘Email shows effort to give Trump campaign WikiLeaks documents,’ implying the documents story Trump, Jr. posted were hacked. This is either a deliberate lie or CNN reporters are blithering idiots who should not be trusted with a computer. These were not even Wikileaks documents that Trump, Jr. posted per the story, they were FBI documents that were subject to the Freedom of Information Act. They were not hacked. This is CNN: More fake news, more bananas.”
Five leading health care organizations applaud the introduction of H.R. 4580, the “ACO Improvement Act of 2017” sponsored by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Rep. Diane Black (R-TN).
The American Medical Association (AMA), AMGA, Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), National Association of ACOs (NAACOS) and Premier agree this legislation provides sensible modifications to the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) to support the ability of accountable care organizations (ACOs) to achieve success by reducing unnecessary costs, improving quality and enhancing patient outcomes. The bill makes operational changes that will promote coordinated health care and encourage Medicare ACOs to succeed and remain a strong value-based healthcare initiative for the nation’s senior citizens.
H.R. 4580 includes:
1. Waivers for all ACO tracks on cost-sharing for certain primary care services, and waivers for existing rules on telemedicine and remote monitoring
Three-day prior hospitalization waiver for skilled nursing facility services and waiver of the homebound requirement for 2-sided tracks
2. ACO choice of method for assigning beneficiaries
3. Bonus payments for quality achievement and for quality improvement
Improved methodology to better account for changes in patient health status over time
Clif Gaus, NAACOS President and CEO, commented, “Signing this bill into law would strengthen ACOs in the Medicare Shared Savings Program and give physicians and clinicians more tools to provide better-coordinated care, resulting in improved quality standards and generating savings for the Medicare Trust Fund.”
“We applaud Reps. Black and Welch for their continued leadership to improve the Accountable Care Organization program,” said Jerry Penso, M.D., M.B.A., President and CEO of AMGA. “The ACO Improvement Act will significantly improve the viability of the federal ACO program, which is a critical delivery model in the transition to value. This bill includes prospective assignment of Medicare beneficiaries, which allows AMGA members in the ACO program to provide better care and enhance patient engagement. AMGA looks forward to working with Congress and the Administration to ensure the success of the ACO program.”
In addition, Blair Childs, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at Premier noted, “ACOs face a number of uphill battles today from antiquated policies and other complex variables. It’s critical that the Medicare Shared Savings Program urgently evolves to ensure the long-term success of its participants and the program overall, particularly as more providers pursue downside risk models. This is important legislation that helps to address some of the significant impediments for providers participating in ACOs, and we look forward to working with our health system members and Congress to get this bill passed and signed into law.”
Anders Gilberg, Senior Vice President, MGMA Government Affairs stated, “ACOs remain the single biggest opportunity for medical group practices to transition into Medicare alternative payment models. These common-sense reforms would go a long way towards ensuring success of medical groups in the Medicare ACO program.”
Washington, D.C. - December 11, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congress’s passage of a short-term budget extension yesterday keeps the federal government open until Dec. 22, preventing a government shutdown that would have furloughed more than 850,000 working people who serve the American public.
The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 700,000 workers in the federal government and the District of Columbia, hailed the move to keep the government open, but expressed concern about a potential shutdown happening in just a few weeks’ time.
“Thank you to everyone who worked tirelessly to keep the government open,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “Failing to fund the government’s operations is beyond unacceptable; it is completely avoidable and a shameful waste of taxpayer dollars. Federal employees want to go to work. They believe in their mission and want to provide quality services to the American people. And now thanks to this budget agreement, they can.”
Had the government been forced to shut down, a large portion of the civilian workforce – around 850,000 employees – would have been furloughed, while the remainder would have been forced to come to work without pay. The impact on federal workers, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck, would have been severe; but the entire economy would have suffered as well. The 2013 shutdown took $24 billion out of the U.S. economy and reduced projected fourth-quarter GDP growth from 3 percent to 2.4 percent.
“Failing to fund the government’s operations has real-world implications for everyone in this country,” Cox said. “Federal employees ensure the safety and security of the public at home and abroad, research cures for deadly diseases, keep our air, water, and food safe for consumption, and process benefits for countless seniors, veterans, and disabled Americans every day. Wondering when or if they will get paid, and how they will pay their bills during a prolonged shutdown, is a distraction they don’t need. And quite frankly, it’s one we as a nation cannot afford.
“While we are pleased that the government will be open Monday, and that our members can continue to earn a paycheck, we are still concerned about a shutdown happening in the near future. We hope that Congress and the administration can come to a real deal soon, and stop kicking the can down the road.”
Washington, D.C. - December 11, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The manufacturing sector grew by 31,000 jobs in November, according to the latest employment data from the Labor Department. With 171,000 total factory jobs created so far this year, the economy is now on pace to add the most manufacturing jobs in a year since 2014, when 208,000 jobs were created.
The job gains come after a disappointing month for the U.S. trade deficit, which hit $48.7 billion, its highest rate since January. Meanwhile, steel imports are up during the same time period.
Said Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) President Scott Paul:
A healthy boost in manufacturing jobs is something to cheer about.
Now imagine the possibilities if we had better public policies to support manufacturing: Reciprocal trade, investments in infrastructure, workforce development, and strong R&D.
I've made the case that automation and robots won't destroy all that many factory jobs, but bad policies will. I hope the million-plus manufacturing jobs added since 2010 make that case even more persuasive.