Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Other Newsmaker Headlines

Stop Hunger Now, NC State University Announce Clinton Hunger Leadership Award Winner

TLMA Files Letter of Support in BMT O&G v. Clayton Williams Energy - November 2016

Obama Attempts to Ban Offshore Drilling by Executive Fiat

Majority of States Score 6 or Lower Out of 10 Indicators in Report on Health Emergency Preparedness

Paris Climate Accord Points Way to Future Jobs, Markets, Secretary-General Says, Recalling Challenging Decade in Southern Illinois University Speech

Largest military solar energy project in Northeast breaks ground on JB MDL

USCIS Publishes Interim Rule on T Nonimmigrant Status

Headlines from the House and Senate

Department of Defense Fails to Protect Servicemembers from Exposure to Blasts

Congressman Smith Statement on President-Elect Trump’s Continued Alarming Conflicts of Interest

Smith Issues Regulation Rewind Report

'Christian refugees escaping ISIS get visit from N.J. Rep. Chris Smith'

Sherman Requests Classified Briefing on Russian-led Hacking

Lame Duck President Continues War on Coal

Manufacturing Bill Cosponsored by Collins, King Set To Become Law

Comment of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) On POTUS Announcement Banning Drilling in Parts of Atlantic and Arctic Oceans

Senators Markey and Booker Praise Obama Administration Move to Permanently Ban Offshore Drilling in Parts of Arctic and Atlantic Oceans


McCaskill-Warren GAO Report Shows Shocking Increase in Student Loan Debt Among Seniors

Thursday, December 8, 2016

News Tidbits and Info to Ponder on December 8, 2016

New York Representatives ask Congress to allocate funds to pay for Trumps Pre-Inauguration Security in New York. I thought Trump was going to pay for all that himself. Click HERE to read it.

The Transparent Insurance Standards Act of 2016, a measure to provide greater transparency and congressional oversight of international insurance standards setting processes, and for other purposes, passed the House of Representatives today.

Astronaut John Glenn died at the age of 95 today.

According the the Saipan Tribune, A bill that increases the numerical cap of the CNMI-Only Transition Worker Nonimmigrant Visa program has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and now goes to the Senate for another round of deliberation, with the hope to have President Barack Obama sign it into law before his term ends on Jan. 20 next year. Click HERE to read more about this

The Senate Passed the National Defense Authorization Act. It now heads to the President's Desk.

The Army Corps of Engineers has transferred lands around Lake Sakakawea to be held in trust by the Department of Interior for the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation.

Trickett Wendler Right to Try Act of 2016 is a bill that bars the federal government from prohibiting or restricting the production, manufacture, distribution, prescribing, or dispensing of an experimental drug, biological product, or device that is: (1) intended to treat a patient who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness; and (2) authorized by, and in accordance with, state law. The federal government may not restrict the possession or use of such a treatment by a patient certified by a physician as having exhausted all other treatment options. The bill was not allowed to pass the Senate because of ONE objection that was (of all things) unrelated to the bill.

Acting in his role as President Pro Tempore, Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, invited Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to join him in opening the Senate floor with a prayer. Elder Christofferson is the first LDS Apostle in United States history to offer an invocation on the Senate Floor. Hatch also invited Elder Christofferson to bear testimony of the Book of Mormon at the Library of Congress in an event honoring the book’s special place among influential works of American literature.

On Dec. 6, The Heritage Foundation honored U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) with its first “The Distinguished Intern Alumni Award.” The award was presented at Heritage’s annual President’s Club Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Trust for America's Health was deeply disappointed that Congress will utilize the Prevention and Public Health Fund as an offset for the legislative package known as 21st Century Cures, claiming that cutting the Prevention Fund will limit the nation’s ability to improve health and quality of life and prevent disease.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced final changes to increase access to healthy food choices for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The provisions in this rule require SNAP authorized retail establishments to offer a larger inventory and variety of healthy food options.

On Thursday, December 8, 2016, the President signed into law:

H.R. 4665, the "Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016," which requires the Department of Commerce to conduct an assessment of the outdoor recreation economy of the United States;

H.R. 4902, which amends the overtime compensation system for U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Air and Marine Operations officers to Law Enforcement Availability Pay;

H.R. 5785, which exempts retired air traffic controllers under contract with the Federal Aviation Administration as full-time air traffic control instructors from a reduction to their Federal Employees Retirement System annuity supplement;

H.R. 5873, which designates the Federal building and United States courthouse located at 511 East San Antonio Avenue in El Paso, Texas, as the R.E. Thomason Federal Building and United States Courthouse; and

S. 2754, which designates the Federal building and United States courthouse located at 300 Fannin Street in Shreveport, Louisiana, as the Tom Stagg Federal Building and United States Courthouse.

Scott, Levin, Pallone Statement on Court Order to Delay House v. Burwell

Washington, D.C. - December 8, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- Ranking Members Bobby Scott (D-VA), Sandy Levin (D-MI), and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) of the House Committees on Education and the Workforce, Ways and Means, and Energy and Commerce respectively, made the following joint statement after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued an order to delay the consideration of House v. Burwell:

“This decision to delay the consideration of House v. Burwell until after Inauguration Day puts millions of Americans at risk of losing their health insurance coverage next year. Republicans have relentlessly attempted to repeal and undermine the Affordable Care Act since the law was enacted. If the incoming Trump Administration decides not to defend the legality of the ACA’s cost-sharing subsidies in court, the lower court ruling stands; and we would see the undermining of the insurance market as a whole – both the coverage of those American families who rely on the financial assistance, as well as those who purchase coverage on their own. President-elect Trump promised to stand up for working Americans, but this action would make people worse off, not better, and he hasn’t even taken office yet. Instead of rallying behind partisan attacks without proposing a real replacement to strengthen the law, we urge the incoming Trump Administration and Republican-led Congress to stand on the side of America’s families, students, and working people.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Coming to a Hospital Near You...

In the new age of social media, Wabash General Hospital is taking steps to ensure patients' privacy.

At Monday's regularly scheduled WGH Board of Directors meeting, Tamara Gould, vice president of clinical services, share that the new policy is essentially a extension of HIPPA.

"We're trying to limit protected health information from being put out where it shouldn't be — to protect the privacy of our patients and employees," she said.

Gould continued to say that the hospital will be putting signs out in public areas, requesting that visitors who have any portable electronic devices with cameras to have them out. Additionally, if people want to take photos of a family member or friend, the hospital asks that the physician or staff member is present to make sure consent is given by all parties involved.

The policy will protect not only patients, but employees as well.

"Some of our employees may not want their picture taken and posted all over Facebook or Twitter," Gould said.

The board approved the new policy unanimously.

This came from the Mt. Carmel Register, a newspaper in Illinois. As an employee in a hospital, I can assure you that all hospitals take their patient's and employees privacy rights VERY seriously, and if this works for one hospital, expect to see it all over the country soon.


How Donald Trump Can Make Second Amendment Great Again

December 7, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- Pledging to protect the Second Amendment is what brought millions of beleaguered American firearms owners to the polls Nov. 8 to elect Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States, and one thing Trump can do to assure them that he deserves their trust would be to instruct his attorney general early in 2017 to name a special assistant whose job would be to protect Second Amendment rights.

Over the years, the Department of Justice has taken action against various other civil and constitutional rights abuses. It is time for the DOJ to prosecute violations of the Second Amendment and federal laws including the Firearms Owners Protection Act. The next attorney general should take action against states and local governments that adopt laws designed specifically to infringe on the rights of honest firearms owners or discourage people from exercising their right to keep and bear arms for legitimate reasons, including self-defense.

For too many years, cities including Washington, D.C. and Chicago, and states including New Jersey, New York and Maryland have prosecuted firearms owners, including those in transit from other states, for actions that would be legal anywhere else in the nation. This must cease, and those states must be held accountable for their abuses.

Egregious laws have been adopted also in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Illinois. Bans on certain commonly-owned firearms in all of these states began as simple licensing and/or registration requirements. Earlier this year, for example, anti-gun Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey unilaterally decided to expand the definition of “assault weapon” in the Bay State, essentially rendering tens of thousands of legally-owned firearms as contraband. Her claim that the state law on “assault weapons” has been misinterpreted for the past 18 years, and that she was merely correcting that problem is specious at best.

California is another example of a state where rights have been gradually eroded to the point where owning a firearm has become little more than a privilege. The state initially banned a limited number of firearms, and has gradually expanded that to cover a whole class of firearms, making previously legal firearms illegal. A deputy U.S. attorney general could bring the full force of the Justice Department against such demagoguery.

That all of this has been done under the guise of “gun safety” is an insult to the intelligence of gun owners. They see their rights have been infringed, and they deserve to have those rights protected and defended by the Justice Department rather than surrendered piecemeal to gun control extremism.

It should not simply be up to gun rights organizations like the Second Amendment Foundation to challenge such laws while the Justice Department acts like a spectator.

It would also be the task of this special assistant AG to make sure the DOJ does not take anti-Second Amendment positions on any legal action. This individual would also serve as a liaison with gun rights organizations, working with them rather than against them to assure that the nation’s laws are used to prosecute criminals rather than persecute law-abiding gun owners.

This assistant AG could work with members of Congress and gun rights organizations to restore funding for the long-neglected rights restoration investigations that once were conducted by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

President-elect Trump pledged to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia with someone who shared his view that the Second Amendment protects an individual civil right not contingent with service in some militia. At some point, the high court must address the right to bear arms, sending a message to state governments that a right so encumbered by Draconian restrictions that its exercise is impossible is not a right at all, but a prohibitively-regulated privilege.

Donald Trump has been given an opportunity to right so many of the wrongs that have been committed against millions of citizens whose only crime has been a wish to exercise their constitutionally-delineated civil rights. They helped to make him president and it is time for the government to treat them as the first class citizens they are and have always been.

It is time to make the Second Amendment great again.

Alan Gottlieb and Dave Workman are co-authors of “Right To Carry,” published by Merril Press. Gottlieb is founder of the Second Amendment Foundation. Workman is Senior Editor of The Gun

Graham on Iranian President Warning the United States to Adhere to Nuclear Agreement

Washington, D.C. - December 7, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement in response to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warning the United States not to push for changes in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal between Iran and world powers over the Iranian nuclear program.

Graham said:

“I would encourage President-elect Trump to follow through on his campaign promise to get a better deal with Iran regarding their nuclear ambitions. Unlike the weak-kneed Obama Administration, I don’t believe President-elect Trump will back away from his promise simply because it is upsetting to the President of Iran.”

“When it comes to the Iranians and their nuclear program – they lie and have proven to be untrustworthy.

“Iran should be required to completely dismantle their nuclear weapons program and infrastructure, and forbidden them from ever having the pathway to develop a nuclear weapon. Iranian sanctions relief should never have been granted until Iran came clean and fully revealed the past and present military dimensions of its nuclear program. And finally, steps should have been taken to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is to be used solely for peaceful purposes and never allowed to evolve into a program allowing Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability. On all these issues the Obama Administration agreement with Iran falls short.

“In the next Congress, I intend to introduce legislation that would impose sanctions on the Iranian regime for being the largest state sponsor of terrorism, upending the Middle East, test firing missiles in violation of United Nations resolutions and detaining American sailors. It’s past time the Iranian regime pay a price for their provocative behavior.

“Passage of this legislation through Congress will give President-elect Trump additional leverage to get a better deal and once and for all truly change Iranian behavior.”

Congress acts to protect the most personal data – genetic information

Washington, D.C. - December 7, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which includes important new protections for genetic privacy, which were top priorities of Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

The bill strengthens privacy protections around the collection of genetic information for medical research participants. As federal agencies and other groups continue advancements in scientific health research, their collection of individual’s personal genetic information continues to grow larger and larger.

“There have been amazing advancements in genetic research – personalized medicine and the truly remarkable work being done by researchers across the country brings us closer than ever to cures for life threatening diseases. But with those developments come new threats to the genetic privacy of research participants,” Enzi said, “I am proud to have the next generation of genetic privacy protections put into law to ensure that this vital information is handled correctly and securely. I have worked on this issue for close to a decade and I am excited to see these 21st century privacy protections head to the president’s desk to be signed into law.”

Senator Enzi has been a leader on this issue in the Senate, having been an original sponsor of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). Along with federal agencies and research institutions maintaining large databases of genetic information, it also is now possible to use genetic information to identify individuals and to learn information about their health and the health of their family members. The new legislation would provide stronger protections to ensure that personal genetic information held by federal agencies cannot be made public, and to guarantee confidentiality by federally-funded researchers.

The 21st Century Cures Act, which the Senate and House passed earlier this week with overwhelming support, would also bring lifesaving drugs and devices to market more quickly, as well as boost cancer and Alzheimer’s disease research, provide grants to states to fight opioid abuse.

Roskam, Deutch Target Campus Anti-Semitism

U.S. Representatives Peter J. Roskam (R-IL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) introduced bipartisan legislation to combat the rising tide of anti-Semitism at our nation’s college campuses. The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act broadens the Department of Education’s (DOE) criteria to include all forms of discrimination against Jews, including extreme anti-Zionism and anti-Israel harassment. This legislation will equip the DOE to accurately identify, investigate, and punish all forms of Jew-hatred.

Anti-Semitic attacks on college campuses have nearly doubled in recent years according to recent reports. Although the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights has actively combatted these incidents, the Department lacks firm statutory guidance on how to define anti-Semitism. By codifying the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, this legislation will enable the DOE to protect students from the most insidious and modern forms of anti-Semitism, which are often masked as anti-Zionism.

Per the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, shared by the European Parliament Working Group, "[a]nti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities."

Examples of anti-Semitism under this definition include the following:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective.
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interest of their own nations.

  • The State Department’s definition also defines the three “Ds,” which indicate when anti-Israel rhetoric is indeed anti-Semitic:


  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis


  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation
  • Multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations


  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist
    See the full State Department definition here.

    Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Kay Granger (R-TX), and Steve Israel (D-NY), who serve alongside Reps. Roskam and Deutch as Co-Chairs of the House of Representatives Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism, are original co-sponsors of the legislation.

    Read the full text of the bill here.
  • Saturday, December 3, 2016

    Durbin Pushes To Protect DREAMers From Deportation

    Washington, D.C. - December 3, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) continued his push to ensure that the young immigrants known as DREAMers remain shielded from deportation under a Trump Administration. Every day this week, Durbin has gone to the floor of the United States Senate and shared the stories of DREAMers at risk of deportation if the President-elect does not continue President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

    Durbin also announced that he is working with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to craft a potential legislative solution that would provide a temporary stay of deportation for young immigrants while Congress works on legislation to fix our broken immigration system.

    “My concern and the concern shared by millions across America is what is going to happen to these young kids – 744,000 of them who are currently in college, in high school, currently in professional schools, medical schools, and law schools. They're doing amazing things with their lives and yet things can happen immediately that change their status,” said Durbin. “I’ve talked to a number of my colleagues on the floor, on both sides of the aisle about this, and there are strong emotions in favor of helping these young people. One of the leaders on this has been my friend and ally on some immigration issues – and that’s Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. He and I talked about introducing legislation that would give a temporary stay so that these young people could be protected until Congress does its work and comes up with an immigration bill that addresses this issue and many more. Senator Graham and I discussed it again this morning, and we hope to even have this bill ready before we leave next week, a bipartisan effort to say to the new president, ‘give these young people a fighting chance. At least protect them until we've had a chance to act on the larger immigration issues before us.’ I hope that colleagues on both sides will join us.”

    Sen. Cruz: For Texans, Border Security Is Not an Abstract Issue

    McAllen, TX - December 3, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) participated in a border security roundtable with local law enforcement officers and elected officials in McAllen, Texas. In the meeting, Sen. Cruz was briefed on immigration enforcement efforts and top border security issues. Cruz also heard from local officials about priorities for their communities.

    Following the roundtable, Sen. Cruz met with Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector Chief Manuel Padilla and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials for an update on the immigration crisis on our border with Mexico and ports of entry.

    “In Texas, border security is not an abstract or a theoretical issue, it is a simple reality that Texans face every day,” Sen. Cruz said. “I have long been critical of the lack of enforcement of our immigration laws by our current administration. I am incredibly grateful for all of the border patrol officers here in McAllen who risk their lives every day to keep us safe, and I intend to do everything in my power to help address the issues that are unique to the men and women of South Texas.”

    About President-elect Trump’s phone call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen

    Washington, D.C. - December 3, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) released the following statement on President-elect Trump's phone call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen:

    "America's policy toward Taiwan is governed by the Taiwan Relations Act, under which we maintain close ties with Taiwan and support its democratic system. I commend President-elect Trump for his conversation with President Tsai Ing-wen, which reaffirms our commitment to the only democracy on Chinese soil. I have met with President Tsai twice and I'm confident she expressed to the president-elect the same desire for closer relations with the United States."

    Senator Coons’ statement on President-elect Trump’s nomination of General James Mattis

    Wilmington, DE - December 3, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Christopher A Coons - (D - DE), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement on President-elect Trump’s nomination of General James Mattis to serve as Secretary of Defense:

    “General James Mattis is a serious strategic thinker with an inspiring record of service who has rightfully earned the respect of the American people. He understands that the decision to send our brave men and women into harm’s way is the gravest decision a president will face. General Mattis’ tenure as CENTCOM commander provides him deep experience running U.S. military operations and extensive familiarity with the challenges confronting the United States and our allies. I would hope that General Mattis’ service at NATO signals that the President-elect understands and remains committed to this critical alliance.

    “Some of my colleagues have expressed concerns that the nomination of a recently retired former general undermines our country’s deeply held tradition of civilian control of the military. I will consider this argument carefully, but our next president must be surrounded by experienced, qualified leaders who have the courage to provide unvarnished advice. Based on what I know of General Mattis, his record and experience offer a strong balance to the President-elect’s lack of familiarity with foreign affairs. General Mattis is a voracious reader who learns from history and understands the importance of alliances, diplomacy, and other tools of American power and influence. I look forward to digging deeper into the implications that granting General Mattis a waiver would have on our country’s history of civilian control of the military, as well as his record and experience.”


    Washington, D.C. - December 3, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) voted Friday for the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 2943), which boosts support for America’s military, enhances national defense capabilities and provides the biggest pay raise for U.S. service members in six years. The bill authorizes the $619 billion in funding necessary to restore adequate readiness for our armed forces, protect our homeland from rapidly evolving threats and provide our troops with the resources they need to be successful.

    “The Constitution demands that the federal government prioritize our national security, and the legislation we’ve passed today does just that. In America, we’re blessed with so many freedoms thanks our brave men and women in uniform. We must always ensure they’re equipped with the best training and defense capabilities in the world, and that they receive the pay they rightfully deserve for their selfless service to our country,” Ratcliffe said.

    The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act includes the following notable provisions:

    • Increases pay for service members by 2.1 percent and bars the president from blocking this raise
    • Prevents Guantanamo Bay detainee transfers to the United States.
    • Combats terrorism and radical Islamist extremists
    • Reverses the drawdown on troop numbers
    • Strengthens support for Israel with funds for Israeli cooperative missile defense including the Iron Dome
    • Prioritizes cyber defense capabilities

    Ratcliffe also praised the bill’s exclusion of any authorization for another round of base realignment and closure (BRAC) at the Red River Army Depot in Texarkana. This is consistent with his own amendment passed in the House earlier this year to prevent funds from going to BRAC, and it protects more than 5,000 jobs in the region that provide critical readiness capabilities to the Army.

    Rangel Applauds Passage of House Bill Encouraging Reunions for Divided Families

    Washington, D.C. - December 3, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) praised the passage of H.Con.Res.40, a resolution that encourages North Korea to allow Korean Americans to meet with their family members from North Korea and calls on North Korea to take concrete steps to build goodwill that is conducive to peace on the Korean Peninsula. Introduced by Rep. Rangel with House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), the bill passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday, November 29, 2016, by a voice vote.

    “More than anything else, Congress is saying today that let the people God created of the same blood, same background, same culture – let them meet. Rangel said. “This resolution lays the foundation for divided family members to meet their loved ones whom they have not been able to see for over six decades,” I could never imagine being unable to see my brother or daughter for that length of time. These Americans have every right to see their loved ones and it is our duty to help them by encouraging reunions.”

    Rangel first introduced this resolution as H.Con.Res.91 in February 2014. To further raise awareness on the issue, he hosted a screening of the documentary “The Divided Families Film” at the Capitol Visitors Center about Korean Americans' search for lost relatives in North Korea.

    The Korean War, which broke out on June 25, 1950, separated more than 10 million families, including some 100,000 Korean Americans. Since the first historic Korean summit in 2000, around 20 rounds of brief reunions between South and North Korean family members have taken place along the border. Unfortunately, Korean Americans impacted by the war have never been provided the same opportunity and their numbers are declining significantly.

    “Despite North Korea’s provocations, the United States must remain firmly committed to the humanitarian aspects of family reunions. I am pleased to see this resolution pass before I leave office. I would also like to thank my dear friend and colleague, Chairman Ed Royce, who championed this resolution with me, as well as Divided Families USA, Council of Korean Americans, Korean American Coalition, and KAAGNY among many Korean American organizations and leaders who advocated for its passage,” Rangel added.

    The resolution will now go to the Senate for approval, where it has bipartisan support from Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Mark Warner (D-VA. Once passed, separated Korean American families will be one step closer to meeting their long-lost relatives in North Korea. H.Con.Res.40 is one of the final pieces of legislation sponsored by Rangel to pass the House during his 46-year career.


    Washington, D.C. - December 3, 2016 (The Ponder News) --In a milestone victory for hundreds of Maine manufacturing jobs—after a hard-fought, months-long battle—the U.S. House of Representatives passed the final version of the NDAA that includes critical language pushed forward by Congressman Bruce Poliquin (ME-02) to ensure the Department of Defense (DOD) follows the law and issues American-made athletic shoes to its new recruits.

    Congressman Poliquin, who wore his own red, white and blue, 100% American-made New Balance athletic shoes down to the House floor to cast his vote, released the following statement:

    “This is a milestone victory for our Great State of Maine, for our families, and for 900 of the hardest working folks in the world,” said Congressman Poliquin. “This is a win that Mainers have long been waiting for. After a months-long and hard fought battle, I am absolutely thrilled that today we have finally pushed this monumental language through the House. I’m not going to let up an inch until we get this to the President’s desk, signed into law and fully implemented.”

    “New Balance is proud to be the only major company that still makes athletic footwear in the United States. We are grateful that the U.S. House and Senate has again agreed that our military’s domestic purchasing requirements as stated by law need to be followed. On behalf of the hundreds of men and women in our five New England shoe factories, we want to thank Representative Poliquin for his tireless advocacy in serving the state of Maine,” said Rob DeMartini, President and CEO, New Balance.

    For the past several months, Congressman Poliquin has resiliently advocated and taken strong legislative action to push the DOD to comply with the Berry Amendment, the provision which requires the Pentagon to use American-made products for recruits whenever possible.

    Now, the NDAA will go to the Senate for a final vote. If passed, it will go to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

    This final provision, which was maintained in the NDAA during the conference committee between the House and Senate due to strong support from Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Congressman Poliquin, mandates that the DOD consider athletic footwear issued to military recruits as subject to the Berry Amendment, requiring the Department to treat athletic footwear like other uniform items.

    The Berry Amendment is a provision in law that requires the DOD to use American-made products for new recruits whenever possible. However, since 2002 the DOD has circumvented this policy by issuing cash allowances to new recruits for training shoes, which are not required to be American-made or Berry Amendment-compliant. In 2014, the DOD agreed to change its policy and close this footwear loophole. Despite that announcement, more than two years later, the DOD has yet to actually implement it and rectify this fundamental inequity in the application of the Berry Amendment.

    Timeline of Progress:

    March 2016: Rep. Poliquin testifies in front of the House Armed Services Committee supporting the use of quality American products for our Military Men and Women

    April 2016: Rep. Poliquin successfully pushes language to be added to the Defense bill to enforce the Berry Amendment

    May 2016: Rep. Poliquin’s Language in NDAA Passes House in Landmark Victory for Hundreds of Maine Jobs

    June 2016: The Senate passes their version of the NDAA with the crucial language included

    June 2016: Rep. Poliquin successfully urges hundreds of his colleagues on the House Floor to vote down an amendment that would have stripped Made-in-America language

    September-November 2016: The House and the Senate go to conference to hash out the differences in the two chambers’ versions of the NDAA

    November 2016: The final version of NDAA—including the crucial Made-in-America language—is released and set to be voted on

    December 2, 2016: The House passes the final version of the NDAA with the language included

    Thursday, December 1, 2016

    Sessions Nominated to AG

    Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL) offered the following statement:

    “Today President-elect Trump made an excellent choice for United States Attorney General by nominating Senator Jeff Sessions to serve our nation in his Administration,” said Palmer. “As a former U.S. Attorney in Mobile and Alabama’s Attorney General, as well as a United States Senator, Senator Sessions defended the Constitution and held firm to our founding principles. Over the past 20 years, Senator Sessions has proven himself to be an intelligent, trustworthy conservative in the Senate becoming a voice for millions of Americans who felt ignored by Washington. His track record of success and sound decisions make him the best possible candidate for the job. I truly believe that Senator Sessions is the right man to restore the public's confidence in our justice system.”

    Pallone Introduces Legislation to Hold Big Oil Accountable for Dangerous Spills

    Washington, D.C. - December 1, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ-06) introduced two pieces of legislation to eliminate liability caps for the oil and gas industry and increase accountability for big oil companies responsible for disastrous spills. Federal law currently protects oil companies by capping their oil spill liability for economic damages at $134 million—an amount that pales in comparison to the more than $90 billion in profits the five largest oil companies enjoyed in 2014, and is easily surpassed by an oil spill as shown by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

    The legislation includes:

    • Big Oil Bailout Prevention Unlimited Liability Act of 2016, which eliminates the $134 million liability cap for economic damages caused by an offshore oil spill
    • Big Oil Bailout Prevention Trust Fund Act of 2016 – eliminates the $1 billion per-incident cap on claims against the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF), along with the $500 million cap on OSLTF monies used for natural resource damages

    “Spills by oil companies do irreparable harm to our environment, the health of wildlife and the livelihood of thousands,” said Pallone. “American taxpayers and local communities should not have to pay for the mistakes of large oil companies and left to rebuild on their own. Big Oil must take responsibility for their actions and my legislation will help ensure that they are held accountable.”

    In July 2016, U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker introduced companion versions of the bills in the Senate.

    “Under this legislation: If you drill and you spill, then you must pay the bill. If you hurt small businesses or communities, you fix them. If you hurt someone, you make it right,” said Sen. Robert Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Banking and Finance Committees, and who introduced the Senate version of the legislation. “It is fundamentally wrong for American taxpayers and local communities to pay for the mistakes of large oil companies, who take advantage of government bailouts to avoid accountability, and bear the burden of cleaning up the environmental disasters they’ve caused. By removing the arbitrary cap on big oil companies’ liabilities, we can ensure those companies do the right thing by the American people when accidents happen.”

    That current cap means an oil company responsible for a spill does not have to pay more than $134 million for economic damages, such as lost business revenues from fishing or tourism or lost tax revenues of state and local governments, unless, as in the case of BP and the Deepwater Horizon spill, the oil company was found to be grossly negligent or to violate federal law. Current law requires an oil company responsible for a spill to pay for all costs—without limit—related to mitigating or cleaning up the spill including the use of booms, cleaning up spills, rehabilitating wildlife, and skimming for oil, but arbitrarily imposes the $134 million cap on economic damages.

    House Action To Find 21st Century Cures

    Washington, D.C. - December 1, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Pete Olson (TX-22) voted to help deliver more cures, treatments, and therapies to patients, and to bring our health care system into the 21st century. Olson voted for H.R. 34, the 21st Century Cures Act, an important bipartisan initiative that will make needed reforms, and spur medical innovation that will make real differences in people’s lives. There are currently 10,000 known diseases (7,000 of which are rare) with treatments for only 500 of them. This Conference Report passed the House by a vote of 392-26, which now heads to the Senate for action.

    “It has been a hard fought battle to get this 21st Century Cures Act across the finish line,” Rep. Pete Olson said. “Passing this important, groundbreaking legislation lays the groundwork for making needed medical breakthroughs that will provide hope for patients that are in dire need of new and effective treatments. Each of us knows someone impacted by a debilitating or deadly illness. I’m proud of the work the Energy and Commerce Committee has invested in this bill, which gives us a critical opportunity to invest in the research that will result in the innovation and technological advances that improve quality of life and deliver cures to patients and peace of mind for their families.”

    The 21st Century Cures Act:

  • Fosters innovation by providing $4.77 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and $500 million to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) over 10 years.
  • Ensures Congressional oversight by subjecting the funding to review and reprogramming through the annual appropriations process.
  • Advances regulatory reform to allow private sector development of new treatments and cures.

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    Washington, D.C. - December 1, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Erik Paulsen (MN-03) voted for, and the U.S. House of Representatives passed, the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act to accelerate the discovery, development, and delivery of new cures and treatments. The bill brings our health care infrastructure and processes into the 21st century and further ensures our health care system meets the needs of patients and their loved ones, including investing in the Cancer Moonshot initiative led by Vice President Biden, as well as the BRAIN initiative to better our understanding of and improve treatment for diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

    “This groundbreaking bipartisan initiative gives patients with deadly and critical diseases new hope,” said Congressman Paulsen. “The 21st Century Cures Act presents a generational opportunity to transform and modernize the way we treat diseases by further advancing the U.S. as a leader in medical innovation and research.”


    Washington, D.C. - December 1, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) released the following statement on House passage of H.R. 34, the 21st Century Cures Act:

    “The 21st Century Cures Act will address urgent public health challenges and bring treatments and cures to patients in New Jersey and across the country. While I have concerns about provisions in this bill, they are outweighed by its considerable benefits, including new funding for the Cancer Moonshot initiative, mental health reforms, and resources to combat the prescription opioid epidemic. I thank my colleagues, especially Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr., for their tireless work on this legislation.”


    Washington, D.C. - December 1, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement on House passage of the 21st Century Cures Act:

    “The 21st Century Cures Act represents a vital step forward that will modernize and strengthen our nation’s pursuit of lifesaving treatments and cures. We are providing reforms and resources that will accelerate innovative biomedical research, especially in precision medicine, brain research, and Vice President Biden’s cancer moonshot. Also, at long last, Congress is providing the $1 billion in opioid treatment funds our communities have desperately needed to fight the epidemic of addiction that is claiming the lives of so many Americans. In addition, the legislation includes some useful improvements in mental health and substance use disorder services.

    “However, the long-term success of the 21st Century Cures Act hinges on whether the Republican Congress meets its responsibility to robustly fund these commitments in the years ahead. Accelerating the development of cures and protecting the health and safety of the American people depends on fully funding the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.

    “Democrats will continue to champion the robust investments in American innovation and R&D that power new miracles in medicine.”


    Washington, D.C. - December 1, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) today voted in favor of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 34), a once-in-a-generation, transformational bill to change the way the United States treats both physical and mental diseases. The medical innovation package will bring hope for patients and accelerate cutting-edge treatments for rare diseases. It will also include the most significant reforms to our mental health system in more than a decade. Among other things, these reforms will modernize our mental health programs, improve mental health services for children, and strengthen our Nation’s mental health reform workforce.

    The 21st Century Cures Act takes an innovative approach by establishing a temporary Innovation Fund that maintains Congress’s “power of the purse,” rather than handing over spending authority to the executive branch or by using “auto-pilot” mandatory spending that is driving our $20 trillion debt. Importantly, this legislation is fully offset, meaning no net increases in federal spending and no additional burdens on the American taxpayer.

    The 21st Century Cures Act passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 392 - 26. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration before continuing to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

    “This bill will save and improve lives at no additional cost to the American taxpayer. It also saves money by developing cures rather than continuing to pass on the heavy cost of chronic illness to consumers through health insurance premiums,” said Representative Perry.

    “The 21st Century Cures Act is a groundbreaking approach to health reform that seeks better, faster, safer and more innovative approaches to treating diseases and medical conditions like Alzheimer’s, mental health disorders, diabetes and opioid addiction that currently lack effective therapies,” said Representative Perry. “By encouraging American innovation to find faster cures, we give hope to patients and improve the quality of life for millions.”


    Washington, D.C. - December 1, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52), co-chair of the bipartisan congressional Life Science Caucus, helped pass the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act, a game-changing $6.3 billion investment in scientific research that meets Rep. Peters’ long-held goal of increasing funding for the National Institutes of Health. The bill includes funding for the Precision Medicine Initiative, the Cancer Moonshot, and other programs that will spur discovery, improve quality of life, and boost San Diego’s innovation economy. President Obama strongly supports the 21st Century Cures Act, which is expected to be taken up by the Senate next week and signed into law before the end of the year.

    After voting in favor of the 21st Century Cures Act, which passed on a broadly bipartisan 392-26 vote, Rep. Scott Peters released the following statement:

    “The 21st Century Cures Act achieves a goal I have prioritized since coming to Congress – boosting funding for the National Institutes of Health – that will make America more competitive and create the jobs of the future right here in San Diego.

    “There isn’t a city in America better positioned to meet the bold aspirations of the 21st Century Cures Act, or benefit from the resources it provides, than San Diego. We are the center of genomics, the center of life sciences, and the center of collaborative scientific research that makes groundbreaking discoveries and improves peoples’ lives.

    “Programs like the Cancer Moonshot and the Precision Medicine Initiative – which have the potential to unlock cures that will change millions of lives – are already counting on and investing in San Diego’s world-class research institutions. And the streamlining of FDA approval processes will incentivize innovation and give patients – particularly those with life threatening or debilitating diseases – more options to manage their diseases and improve their quality of life.

    “This legislation also includes desperately needed funding to confront the opioid epidemic – a scourge that has taken a heartbreaking toll on families in every community in America, including San Diego.

    “I would have preferred the higher level of mandatory funding included in the version considered earlier this year, but appreciate the work that was done to come to this bipartisan compromise. The 21st Century Cures Act is still a significant investment in our scientific community that offers the potential for discovery to improve lives and expand economic opportunity. I am proud to support it, and look forward to seeing it signed into law.”

    Key provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act include:

    *$4.8 billion in new funding for research through the National Institutes of Health over the next decade including $1.8 billion for the Cancer Moonshot, $1.5 billion for the BRAIN Initiative, and $1.45 billion for the Precision Medicine Initiative. San Diego is the top metro area in the country for NIH research funding, receiving more than $768 million in funding in 2015.
    *$1 billion in new funding over the next two years for grants to states to prevent and treat opioid abuse.
    *Streamlines the FDA approval process for certain devices and drugs and establishes programs for expedited approval of medical devices that represent breakthrough technologies.
    *Supports the next generation of scientists by increasing to $50,000 from $35,000 the maximum annual payments on student loans under the Public Health Service Act for young NIH researchers.