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.