Tuesday, August 1, 2017

California Allows Secession Ballot Initiative To Proceed

Many celebrities in California said that if Trump was elected for president, they would leave the states. Could it be they found a way --at last?

Western Journalism

Californians may soon get the opportunity to vote to secede from the United States.

The state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, issued an official ballot measure title on Tuesday allowing CalExit supporters to start gathering the 585,000 signatures needed to place the matter before California voters in 2018, the Associated Press reported.

“The initiative [titled ‘California Autonomy From Federal Government’] would form a commission to recommend avenues for California to pursue its independence and delete part of the state constitution that says it is an inseparable part of the U.S. The measure would also instruct the governor and California congressional delegation to negotiate more autonomy for the state,” according to the AP.


New York Congressman Demands Investigation Into Iranian Funding of US Universities Through Alavi Foundation

The Algemeiner

A New York congressman is urging US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to investigate the funneling of millions of dollars by an Iranian regime-controlled foundation to Ivy League universities, including Harvard, Columbia and Princeton.

“Did this foundation attempt to subvert American academic institutions?” Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY), who represents the Staten Island borough, asked concerning the donations from the New York City-based Alavi Foundation, which critics say have funded anti-Israel and pro-Iran academics.


261 “Sanctuary Cities” to Lose Millions in Funding; Here’s The List

The Federalist Papers

The Trump Administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration continues with further pressure on sanctuary cities.

The Daily Signal reports that the Justice Department has confirmed that it will block Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, which account for the lion’s share of federal aid to states and localities for criminal justice, from sanctuary cities, specifically jurisdictions that keep Immigration and Customs Enforcement from talking to local officials and interviewing inmates, or not notifying ICE when they release aliens ICE wants to deport.


Bible Studies at the White House: Who's Inside This Spiritual Awakening?

A spiritual awakening is underway at the White House.

Some of the most powerful people in America have been gathering weekly to learn more about God's Word, and this Trump Cabinet Bible study is making history.

They've been called the most evangelical Cabinet in history – men and women who don't mince words when it comes to where they stand on God and the Bible.

Ralph Drollinger of Capitol Ministries told CBN News, "These are godly individuals that God has risen to a position of prominence in our culture."

They're all handpicked by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.


Trump’s tax plan has aggressive timeline, no details

Bullhead City: Mohave Daily News

The Trump administration started its public push Monday to overhaul taxes but, just as with health care, the White House lacks a detailed plan to promote to voters.

What it has, instead, is an aggressive deadline.

The White House hopes to have the House pass a tax overhaul in October that the Senate could then approve in November, said Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs. Under this plan, President Donald Trump would travel the country to rally support for the intended tax cuts, while conservative activists and business groups act as valuable allies to encourage and pressure Congress into clearing the first major tax code rewrite since 1986.


HBO's Blunder: Confederate

Anyone who really knows history understands that the civil war was not about slavery, it was about state's rights. Slavery just happened to be an issue that had already been rectified in the Northern States, and it was on its way out in the South, taking longer because of the nature of the economy at that time.

HBO has decided that if the South had won, slavery would still exist today. What would the world be like then?

Their newest project "The Confederacy" explores this idea, to the chagrin of many Southerners who don't like the idea of the series.
Some newspapers claim that it hits "too close to home" being the reason for the outcries against the series.

You decide:


Brown Joins Portman to Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Ensure Justice for Human Trafficking Survivors

Washington, D.C. - August 1, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-OH) bipartisan bill to ensure justice for victims of sex trafficking and ensure that websites like Backpage.com, which knowingly facilitate sex trafficking, can be held liable and brought to justice.

“We need to bring all traffickers to justice – no matter how they carry out this heinous crime,” said Brown. “With evolving technology, we must ensure the law keeps pace with this modern-day slavery. I am pleased to join Senator Portman in making sure law enforcement can protect Ohioans from online predators.”

“Stopping trafficking is one of the great humanitarian and human rights causes of the 21st century,” said Portman. “Our bipartisan investigation showed that Backpage knowingly facilitated sex trafficking on its website to increase its own profits, all at the expense of vulnerable women and young girls. For too long, courts around the country have ruled that Backpage can continue to facilitate illegal sex trafficking online with no repercussions. The Communications Decency Act is a well-intentioned law, but it was never intended to help protect sex traffickers who prey on the most innocent and vulnerable among us. This bipartisan, narrowly-crafted bill will help protect vulnerable women and young girls from these horrific crimes.”

The bipartisan Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act would clarify Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to ensure that websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking can be held liable so that victims can get justice. This narrowly-crafted legislation offers three reforms to help sex trafficking victims. The bipartisan bill would:

  • Allow victims of sex trafficking to seek justice against websites that knowingly facilitated the crimes against them;
  • Eliminate federal liability protections for websites that knowingly assist, support, or facilitate a violation of federal sex trafficking laws; and
  • Enable state law enforcement officials, not just the federal Department of Justice, to take action against individuals or businesses that violate federal sex trafficking laws.

  • A full summary of the bill can be found here, a section by section here, and the text here.

    Brown has also been working on the Abolish Human Trafficking Act to support survivors of human trafficking and help local, state, and national law enforcement on the front lines of the fight against human trafficking. The bill was voted favorably out of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in June. The next step to passage is a vote in the full Senate. The Abolish Human Trafficking Act includes a provision based on a bill Brown introduced earlier this year which would create a Human Trafficking Coordinator in each of the country’s federal judicial districts and a National Human Trafficking Coordinator at the Department of Justice to help the Department better coordinate its efforts to prevent and prosecute human trafficking cases. This would help improve public outreach to raise awareness of human trafficking; ensure that data on human trafficking is properly collected; and collect restitution for survivors

    New Bipartisan Bill Will Benefit Student Borrowers, Taxpayers by Promoting Competition Amongst Student Loan Servicers

    Washington, D.C. - August 1, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), James Lankford (Okla.), and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) introduced the bipartisan Student Loan Servicer Performance Accountability Act. The legislation would benefit student loan borrowers and taxpayers by protecting and strengthening performance-based accountability of federal student loan servicers through greater competition and stronger oversight.

    “Maintaining choice and competition amongst student loan servicers is the best way to ensure they will continue improving services for student borrowers,” Blunt said. “This bill will strengthen the performance-based incentives we have now, and prevent any one student loan servicer from becoming so large it poses a risk to taxpayers. I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan, commonsense measure.”

    “The federal government has a responsibility to make sure student loan servicing is working for student borrowers and for taxpayers. The Education Department’s plan to switch to a single servicer for its trillion-dollar loan portfolio heads in the wrong direction and could create a ‘too big to fail’ federal contractor,” Warren said. “Our bipartisan bill will ensure that there is real competition in student loan servicing and that servicers are held accountable for serving student borrowers effectively.”

    “The Department of Education’s plan to reduce the number of contracted student loan servicers to just one would reduce the quality of assistance, make it harder for borrowers to manage their debt, and ultimately hurt our students, their families and our economy,” Shaheen said. “The Student Loan Servicer Performance Accountability Act will ensure strong competition and oversight so that students have high quality service so they can make informed decisions about their loan and repayment options.”

    “The Student Loan Servicer Accountability Act is a commonsense bill that temporarily suspends the US Department of Education from awarding a servicing contract to a sole provider for all student loans owned by the US Department of Education,” Lankford said. “As the nation’s student loan debt continues to grow, we need to enact measures that will ensure students have all the resources available to them so they can repay their loans and get good customer service. Moving to a single federal student loan servicer would not accomplish this goal because it eliminates performance-based competition that incentivizes improved service for students. I look forward to working with my colleagues on this bipartisan legislation to prevent any disruption in service for borrowers to pay back their student loan debt.”

    The current federal student loan servicing contracts expire in 2019. In May 2017, the Department of Education released a revised plan for the servicing competition that would reduce the number of federal student loan servicers from nine to one servicer for the entire trillion-dollar federal direct loan portfolio. This plan would limit the Department’s ability to ensure high-quality service to student borrowers.

    The Student Loan Servicer Performance Accountability Act would:

  • Cancel the Department of Education’s current competition for a single federal student loan servicer;
  • Ensure performance-based competition in federal student loan servicing by requiring the participation of multiple servicers that contract directly with the Department of Education;
  • Promote competition by requiring the Department of Education to allocate loans to servicers based on measures of their performance, including scores on borrower satisfaction; and
  • Prohibit the Department of Education from awarding all federal student loans to a single federal student loan servicer and creating a federal student loan monopoly.

  • Blumenthal, Durbin, & Duckworth Introduce Legislation to Strengthen Enforcement of Foreign Lobbying Transparency Law

    Washington, D.C. - August 1, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced legislation to strengthen registration requirements for foreign government lobbyists and to crack down on foreign agents who fail to comply with the law. The Foreign Agent Lobbying Transparency Enforcement Act would give the Department of Justice (DOJ) the ability to impose civil financial penalties on lobbyists who fail to comply with the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA). This transparency law requires individuals to promptly register with DOJ when they take on clients who are foreign governments or political parties and to periodically disclose information on their foreign lobbying activities. Currently, DOJ attempts to enforce FARA through voluntary compliance and this lax enforcement has resulted in a status quo where individuals representing foreign governments regularly violate this law. For example, FARA requires lobbyists register as foreign agents within 10 days of agreeing to represent a foreign principal but—because the law is difficult to effectively enforce—62% of foreign agents registered late and 47% did not provide the required disclosure materials between 2013 and 2015.

    “Congress must takes steps now to protect against the kind of dangerous conflicts of interest that have run rampant in the Trump Administration,” said Blumenthal. “The American people deserve to know about deep-rooted, deep-pocketed dealings between American citizens and foreign governments – and they deserve to make their own judgements about foreign lobbyists like Paul Manafort or Michael Flynn before they have the chance to influence U.S. government policy. This bill will ensure potentially criminal connections between government officials and foreign agents are revealed long before they endanger our national security.”

    “While the Foreign Agents Registration Act requires agents of foreign governments to disclose their relationships, a 2016 report found that violations of FARA were frequent and enforcement was lacking. With the high profile violations of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s campaign manager, and Michael Flynn, President Trump’s National Security Advisor, it is clear that reforms to FARA are needed now more than ever,” said Durbin. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Senators Duckworth and Blumenthal to improve compliance with FARA and increase transparency of foreign lobbying activities for the American people.”

    “When lobbyists hide their relationships with foreign governments, it is not just a conflict of interest – it is dangerous to our national security,” said Duckworth. “The American people had no idea when Michael Flynn became President Trump’s National Security Advisor that he had been paid a significant amount of money to further the interests of the Turkish and Russian governments – and they did not know Paul Manafort had been paid tens of millions of dollars by a Kremlin-connected Ukrainian political party when he became Donald Trump’s campaign chairman. These former Trump staffers, like countless other lobbyists, failed to disclose their status as foreign agents and they should face the consequences instead of being allowed to continue to operate with impunity.”

    In recent months, there have been a number of high profile examples of foreign government lobbyists failing to follow the law. Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff all retroactively registered as lobbyists for foreign governments after media reports exposed their activities.

    The DOJ rarely pursues criminal prosecutions because the amount of resources that would be required to conduct a criminal investigation and secure a conviction is prohibitively high. As a result, DOJ has only pursued criminal charges against FARA violators 7 times. It has not sought a civil injunction for a FARA violation since 1991. As the DOJ Inspector General told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Congress needs to put “some teeth into the statue.” The Senators’ legislation would do just that by giving DOJ a greater ability to levy civil fines to punish those who file late or fail to register as foreign agents – as well as the discretion to adjust the penalty based on the severity and frequency of the infraction.

    In addition to strengthening FARA enforcement, the Senators’ legislation would increase transparency by improving the quality of foreign lobbying disclosures filed with DOJ. Currently, foreign agents only have to disclose lobbying materials they sent to multiple recipients, allowing them to hide individual meetings and communications even if they are with an influential policymaker or a Member of Congress. The Foreign Agent Lobbying Transparency Enforcement Act would close this loophole. It would also make sure that foreign agents disclose the specific recipients of their foreign lobbying materials, and the original date of distribution of the materials. This information will empower DOJ to better enforce FARA’s timeliness requirements for disclosing foreign lobbying activities, while providing the American public with transparency into how foreign governments are attempting to influence U.S. policymakers. The legislation has been endorsed by the Project on Government Oversight.

    “This legislation is an important step forward in strengthening this vital transparency law. It is our hope that the Justice Department will be able to improve FARA compliance and enforcement rates and that the public and Congress will gain a better understanding of how foreign powers attempt to influence US public opinion and policy,” said Project on Government Oversight Executive Director Danielle Brian.

    Bennet Introduces Bill & Authors Op-Ed to Promote Community Solar

    Washington, D.C. - August 1, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet expressed his commitment to advancing community solar, which allows community members to save on their electricity bills by sharing solar energy production. While solar power has grown by an average of 70 percent each year in the last decade, and the costs of installation have fallen nearly as much, less than half of U.S. households and businesses can host a solar power system. Community solar makes it easier for these families and businesses to access this system.

    Yesterday, Senators Bennet and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the Community Solar Consumer Choice Act of 2017, which would make permanent a Department of Energy program to promote community solar, especially in low-income communities. The bill also encourages the federal government,รข??the largest employer and consumer in America, to participate in community solar projects where possible.

    Today, in coordination with first Annual Community Solar Summit taking place in Denver, Bennet wrote an op-ed to emphasize his support for this clean energy development.

    "Community solar is one of the most promising developments in renewable energy," Bennet wrote. "It expands access to clean energy resources and helps households and businesses save on their electricity bills. Colorado is leading the way in this new model, but we have only begun to realize its promise."

    "[Colorado was] the first state to pass legislation on community solar, and in just a few years, we have installed enough community solar to power thousands of homes across our state," Bennet continued. "Today, over 7,000 Coloradans work in solar, many in community solar projects. For us, this is not some Bolshevik fantasy; it is a proven and profitable enterprise."

    In the op-ed, Bennet also highlighted the Pueblo County School District, which became the first District in Colorado to source 100 percent of its electricity from solar energy. In the first year alone, the District saved $35,000. Over the life of the program, those savings will exceed $2 million dollars.

    The Community Solar Consumer Choice Act of 2017 is supported by organizations and businesses across the country.

    "Community solar offers every American the opportunity to choose affordable, local clean energy," said Jeff Cramer, Executive Director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA). "CCSA - and its 36 industry members - welcome United States Senators Bennet and Heinrich's leadership to encourage the expansion of consumer choice and access to solar for all through this legislation."

    "Community solar offers an opportunity for virtually any household or business to receive clean energy and utility bill savings from solar power," said Stan Greschner, Vice President of GRID Alternatives, the nation's largest non-profit solar provider. "This bill specifically recognizes underserved communities that can most benefit from access to solar, and the need to develop targeted solutions to ensure that households at lower income levels can participate."

    "We strongly support this effort to ensure that more Americans have access to clean, affordable, reliable solar energy," said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. "We urge members of Congress from both parties to get behind this measure to expand these important community solar projects to the benefit of all energy consumers."

    Save Local Business Act Introduced

    Washington, D.C. - August 1, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- At a press conference with small business owners and workers, Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) and colleagues introduced the Save Local Business Act. The legislation rolls back the extreme joint employer scheme to protect American jobs and entrepreneurship.

    Congressman Byrne’s bill has bipartisan support from 29 co-sponsors, including House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC).

    Byrne said: “Federal labor policies should be focused on benefiting workers and helping small businesses grow instead of creating barriers that limit opportunity. Also important, Congress – not unelected federal bureaucrats – should set our nation’s labor policies through statute instead of executive fiat.

    “Under this bipartisan legislation, workers, and the businesses they work for, will be given much needed clarity and certainty. I am especially pleased our legislation has earned support from both sides of the aisle, and I am committed to continuing to build momentum as the bill moves through the legislative process.”

    Chairwoman Foxx said: “Right now, local employers across the country face an enormous amount of uncertainty because of a vague and confusing joint employer standard. Congress cannot sit on the sidelines while this harmful scheme threatens to destroy jobs and make it harder for entrepreneurs to achieve the American Dream of owning a business. I commend Congressman Byrne for his leadership in this bipartisan effort to protect jobs and the spirit of entrepreneurship in local communities.”

    The Save Local Business Act amends the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act to restore the commonsense definition of what it means to be an employer. The legislation clarifies that two or more employers must have “actual, direct, and immediate” control over employees to be considered joint employers.

    Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities (ARRC) Act Introduced

    Washington, D.C. - August 1, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) introduced the Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities (ARRC) Act, a bipartisan bill that will help rural communities bolster their efforts to fight the opioid and addiction epidemic. Joining Congresswoman Bustos to lead the legislation in the House are Representatives Rick Crawford (AR-01), Roger Marshall (KS-01) and Dwight Evans (PA-02) – all fellow members of the House Agriculture Committee. Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Luther Strange (R-AL) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) also introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.

    In 2015, more than 50,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, which are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. This addiction crisis – particularly for heroin, opioids and prescription drugs – has been even more pronounced in rural America. In fact, drug-related deaths are nearly 50 percent higher in rural areas. But too often, rural communities lack the much-needed health care infrastructure to address this crisis.

    That’s why the Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities Act would help rural Americans better leverage United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development programs to combat opioid and heroin use. Specifically, the legislation would set aside 20 percent of the USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program grant funding for substance abuse treatment. It would also prioritize USDA Community and Facilities Direct Loan and Grant applications focused on substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services – which will help incentivize the establishment of new treatment centers. Finally, it will prioritize USDA Rural Health and Safety Education grant funding for applicants seeking to improve education and outreach on opioids and other substance abuse issues.

    “Rural communities in the Heartland are facing an addiction epidemic, and Congress must give them the resources they need to fight back,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure that folks in small towns have access to the health care, education and tools they need to combat the drug abuse and overdoses that are devastating too many of our families and communities. The heroin and opioid epidemic knows no boundaries, and I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for joining me to address this pressing issue.”

    “The cost of opioid addiction goes beyond the heartbreaking individual loss of life: there’s also law enforcement and health care costs that weigh on all of us,” Congressman Crawford said. “But in rural America, treatment can be hard to administer, and the same tactics that work in urban areas aren’t as effective in places like the 1st District. We want to do our part at the federal level to help the folks at home who are dealing with this problem day in and day out.”

    “We in Congress have a responsibility to provide our rural communities with the resources necessary to fight opioid abuse,” Congressman Marshall said. “Across Kansas, organizations are doing the important work of helping people escape addition and find hope – it is my goal to aid those groups in this ongoing fight.”

    “I am proud to stand with my colleagues in a bipartisan effort to combat the scourge of opioid and other harmful drug use in rural communities across the country,” Congressman Evans said. “We must approach this effort with a dedicated urgency as neighborhoods across rural Pennsylvania and nationwide have been ravaged by the use of opioids. As we look to put in action comprehensive solutions to tackle this devastating epidemic, it is critical for Congress to provide funding from other programs to immediately provide the lifesaving treatment to those most in need.”

    “Our rural communities have been hardest hit by the opioid crisis,” said Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association. “NRHA supports the Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities Act because it will allow rural communities that have been devastated by opioid addiction to receive prevention and treatment programs locally.”

    “Targeted investments in telemedicine and extension services fill a void for rural communities that lack access to health care facilities and treatment programs,” said Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union. “As the opioid crisis grips rural communities across the country, the Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities Act will provide increased access to vital health care services in many of these areas. NFU applauds Reps. Bustos, Crawford, Evans and Marshall for their work in ensuring rural communities can become more proactive in their response to this crisis.”

    Reset Act of 2017 Introduced

    Washington, D.C. - August 1, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representative Ted Budd (R-NC) introduced the Reset Act of 2017. The Reset Act calls for a review of all major federal regulations and allows Congress the option of overturning any regulation through a majority vote of both the House and Senate. This legislation follows on the success of the Congressional Review Act, which has been used 14 times in 2017 to overturn major federal regulations.

    “We all have to answer to someone. Members of Congress do so every two or six years during elections. What I’ve heard at home is that unelected bureaucrats and rulemakers in Washington seem to answer to no one. What my bill does is allow Congress to review every major rule on the books and overturn them if they are not needed. If this bill goes into law, we will have taken a significant step towards a more accountable and responsive system.”

    Ken Buck Joins Letter Asking Speaker Ryan to Cancel August Recess

    Washington, D.C. - August 1, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Ken Buck signed a letter, with several of his colleagues, asking Speaker Ryan to cancel August recess unless the House can complete several vital legislative goals. Buck wants the House to complete the annual budget, the annual appropriations process, and to reform the tax code.

    “If we can’t get our work done, we shouldn’t be going on recess,” Congressman Ken Buck stated. “Leaving for August recess before we’ve completed our appropriations bills and tax reform will fail to boost our economy and imperil the people’s trust in Republican governance.”

    Republicans promised the American people that a unified government would allow for the achievement of several policy priorities, the letter notes. The Congressional Budget Act also requires the House to remain in session in July until all appropriations bills have been passed, meaning the House has a duty to follow the spirit of the rule by disallowing any recess.

    The text of the letter is below:

    June 30, 2017

    The Honorable Paul Ryan
    Speaker of the House
    H-232 The Capitol
    Washington, D.C. 20515

    Dear Speaker Ryan,

    We request that you cancel Congress’s current plans to recess for the month of August to ensure there is enough time to address the long list of pressing issues on our docket.

    During the 2016 elections, President Trump and Republican candidates running for the House and Senate promised the American people that with unified Republican government we could achieve many of the policy priorities that have been mere wishes for the last several years. We vowed to repeal Obamacare, pass pro-growth tax reform, reign in federal spending, and work towards balancing the budget. The American people put their faith in us and are counting on us to carry out these goals.

    Prior to September 30, we must also find a path forward on passing a federal budget and appropriating funding for fiscal year 2018, reviewing the federal debt limit, and consider reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the National Flood Insurance Program, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and more.

    Our constituents expect us to work hard and will be disappointed if we shut down for four to five weeks when we could move our agenda forward. We have achieved some notable accomplishments you have rightly called singles and doubles, but working during August could facilitate hitting some home runs.

    We are not under the illusion that any of these things will be easy to accomplish, but we fully intend to work in good faith to remain true to our constituents in our respective districts. We cannot afford to lose any of the momentum we have and therefore request that you cancel August recess.

    House Passes Brownley Bill Expanding Child Care Program to Improve Veterans’ Access to Healthcare

    Washington, D.C. - August 1, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act (H.R. 95), legislation introduced by Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) to make it easier for veterans to receive healthcare. This bill makes permanent the VA’s Child Care Pilot Program and expands it so that qualified veterans who are primary caretakers have a convenient, cost-free option for child care when they have VA medical appointments.

    “We owe our nation’s veterans a great debt for their service to our country, and that includes ensuring they receive the care they need and deserve,” said Congresswoman Brownley.

    “The lack of affordable and convenient child care is a major barrier for veterans trying to make their appointments at VA facilities. This is especially problematic for women veterans, who are more often the primary caretakers of young children. The VA’s Child Care Pilot Program has been a major success story, so making it permanent and expanding it nationwide is simply commonsense.”

    “I want to thank Congressman Brian Higgins for his steadfast support of this bill, and my bipartisan colleagues on the VA Committee who have backed this proposal every step of the way. Today the House sent a clear message: better access to child care means to better access to health care. I am pleased to see this bill advance to the Senate, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this to the President’s desk.”

    Currently, the Child Care Pilot Program offers free child care for qualified veterans using VA healthcare services at a limited number of participating sites around the country and has cared for over 10,000 children. Congress has reauthorized this popular pilot program three times, but it is set to expire on October 1, 2017. The Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act would make the pilot program permanent and expand it to include every VA facility in the nation.

    According to a VA Satisfaction Survey of veterans who have used the pilot program, a majority responded that without the available child care they would have brought their children to their appointment or cancelled their appointment altogether.

    This legislation is supported by Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, AMVETS, Easterseals, and the Fleet Reserve Association.

    Legislation to Prevent President from Reopening Russian Spy Compounds Introduced

    Washington, D.C. - August 1, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Anthony G. Brown (MD-04) and members of the Maryland Delegation, including Representatives Dutch Ruppersberger and John P. Sarbanes (all D-MD), introduced legislation to prohibit the use of funds to return certain property and interests in property to the Government of the Russian Federation. In December of 2016, the Obama Administration – after concluding that the Russian government meddled in U.S. elections and in response to repeated harassment of U.S. diplomats by Russian security services – closed two Russian diplomatic compounds located within the states of Maryland and New York, and ejected 35 Russian intelligence operatives from the United States. However, the Trump Administration has expressed interest in return the compounds to the Russian government. Congressman Brown’s bill (H.R. 3527) would ensure the President Trump cannot use federal dollars to reopen the facilities, and would build on the new Russia sanctions legislation passed overwhelmingly by Congress earlier this week.

    “Our top intelligence agencies have all agreed that Moscow interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections. Since taking office, President Trump and his Administration have failed to send a strong and coordinated response to the meddling in our democracy,” said Congressman Brown. “The state of Maryland should not be a base for foreign adversaries looking to spy on the United States and undermine our national security. As questions continue to linger on whether members of the Trump team colluded with the Kremlin, Congress must ensure the Administration does not advance President Putin’s agenda. It goes against the interests of every American to reverse punishment on Russia and reopen these compounds.”

    “Giving these compounds back to Russia so that they can potentially spy on us from within our own country makes absolutely no sense,” Congressman Ruppersberger said. “The Russians are not our friends and we should not do anything that makes Putin’s job easier, especially with our own tax dollars.”

    “In Maryland and across the country, many Americans are asking, ‘Whose side is President Trump on?’” said Congressman Sarbanes, Chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force. “Until President Trump releases his tax returns, until he truly separates himself from his businesses and until special counsel Robert Mueller completes his investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives during the 2016 election, many people will continue to question the president’s priorities. This bill is an important step toward holding President Trump accountable and ensuring that he puts the American people and our country first.”

    H.R. 3364 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act - which passed the House and Senate and is awaiting the President’s signature or veto - included a provision that could make the return of the Maryland and New York compound subject to Congressional Review.

    Brooks and Murphy Introduce Bill that Prioritizes Better Access to Care for Female Veterans

    Washington, D.C. - August 1, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Representatives Susan W. Brooks (R-IN) and Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) introduced H.R. 3558, the Improve Access to Care for Our Female Veterans Act. This bill, a product of efforts by the Bipartisan Working Group, ensures that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is better equipped and prepared to provide female veterans with the care and services they have earned and deserve.

    “Since first elected to serve the Fifth District in Congress, I have heard from men and women in different branches of the military and from different veterans service organizations (VSOs) that when it comes to access to care, our female heroes face far greater challenges than their male counterparts,” said Brooks. “More women are joining the military, and therefore, we need to ensure the services and standards at the VA are capable of properly supporting the increasing number of female veterans. Access to mammograms, maternity care and routine gynecology visits are crucial for ensuring the overall health and wellbeing of our female vets.”

    According to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, women are the fastest growing population among the entire veteran community. The VA currently has policies in place to help ensure the privacy, safety, and dignity of women veterans when they receive care at its medical facilities, yet there have been many instances where the VA has not respected such policies. This bill provides accountability standards, instructing the VA to improve their services to better reflect the needs of not only men, but women. Members of the Bipartisan Working Group met with officials from GAO to discuss hundreds of reports on how the VA can improve.

    “As a member of the Bipartisan Working group, I have met with the GAO and discussed the findings in their reports. One report that caught my attention specifically focuses on what we can do to provide our female veterans with appropriate care and better access to services that could save their lives,” continued Brooks. “We need to act on these recommendations from the GAO to ensure the VA works more efficiently. I am encouraged by Secretary Shulkin’s efforts to improve the VA, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House on a bill that prioritizes the best care for our female veterans.”

    Rep. Brat Introduces WIC Improvement Legislation

    Washington, D.C. - August 1, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Brat issued the following statement after introducing the WIC Improvement Act, H.R. 3529. This legislation would allow for multivitamin dietary supplements to be included in WIC food packages.

    The Special Supplemental Nutrition for Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC provides nutritional food, education, and services to eligible low-income women. The program gives beneficiaries monthly benefits to be used to supplement their families diets.

    “The goal of WIC is to improve the health of pregnant women, new mothers, and their infants. Including multivitamin dietary supplements in the list of acceptable products that can be purchased is simply a common sense reform to improve the effectiveness of the program. While there is never a good substitute for the nutrients found in whole foods, I believe multivitamin dietary supplements can help fill nutrient gaps. My legislation will empower mothers with the choice to purchase multivitamin dietary supplements to compensate for potential nutrient deficiencies so we have healthier moms and healthier babies.”

    ??? Ya. Right. Go ahead and encourage people who already can't afford to feed themselves to have more babies.