Thursday, August 3, 2017

Is it time to talk about repealing the 17th Amendment?

Allen B. West

You know, if you sit and read the entire Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers and the Constitution, you’ll come to realize how truly brilliant the Founding Fathers were. Today, we have an academic elite that sees them only through the lens of identity politics; often, they perceive them as old, slave-owning, white men.

But when you lucidly examine what they did, you’ll see, as Benjamin Franklin said, they gave us a Republic — if we could keep it. They gave us a governing structure not just focused on the near term, but could truly last forever. Sadly, we lack the intellectual regimen in our current system of indoctrination (not education!) to objectively study these fundamental ideas, principles and values. We used to call it civics, but now, via revisionist history, the progressive socialist left, as Barack Obama stated, is all about fundamentally transforming our nation.


Chairman Crowley Statement on Republicans’ Anti-Immigrant and Anti-Family Immigration Proposal

Washington, D.C. - August 3, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement after congressional Republicans and President Trump endorsed an immigration plan that would drastically limit opportunities for immigrants to come to the U.S. legally.

“There is no avoiding it – our country’s immigration system needs to be fixed through comprehensive reform. This so-called ‘merit-based’ proposal from congressional Republicans and President Trump falls far short of that goal. It will shut out immigrants who are seeking a better life in America, without considering their history, their familial ties to the U.S., or their potential to contribute to our nation. This is nothing short of an anti-immigrant and anti-family proposal from the GOP. I will work hard to ensure it is dead on arrival.”

Reps. Courtney, Larson & Higgins Announce New Legislation That Makes Medicare Buy-In An Option For Americans Ages 50-64

Washington, D.C. - August 3, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- As the national dialogue heats up around healthcare and Americans are seeking real solutions that address their long-term needs, Reps. Joe Courtney (CT-02), John Larson (CT-01) and Brian Higgins (NY-26) are announcing introduction of the “Medicare Buy-In and Healthcare Stabilization Act”, a bill that improves on the successes of the Medicare program and provides middle-age Americans a new option for affordable, quality healthcare. The Medicare Buy-In Act will lower the Medicare eligibility age to 50 years and offer the option to buy-in to Medicare thus avoiding the increase in premiums that older Americans often face. Additionally, working Americans who wish to buy into the program would have the option to do so, and their employers could continue to contribute to their premiums pre-tax, a win-win for those employers and employees. The buy-in option will hold down costs in both Medicare and the private market.

Congressman Courtney said, “With the demise of “repeal” which was structured from day 1 as a hyper partisan Republican exercise, it is time Congress listens to what the American people have been saying loud and clear for several years. We need to work together to fix the weaknesses in the ACA rather than butcher it. The Medicare Buy In and Health Care Stabilization Act provides relief for the higher cost, older population in the individual and small business market, and restores the market stabilizers that Republicans have undermined and caused insurance premiums to spike in 2017 and 2018. Lastly, the bill provides exciting new ways to reduce health care spending by cracking down on fraud and instructs the Department of Health and Human Services to employ tried and true tools to cut costs in the area of prescription drugs. This bill not only does not add to the deficit, but it will, in fact, save money for America’s taxpayers.”

“In public events and town halls across the country, the American people have spoken up and demanded solutions. They have rejected ACA repeal and they have rejected partisan bickering. That is why I have joined with Reps. Higgins and Courtney to develop a simple and commonsense solution that offers one path forward to strengthen our health care system. This proposal will give Americans (ages 50-64) the ability to buy-into Medicare should they find their current options on the private market unaffordable or unsatisfactory,” said Rep. Larson. “Additionally, through targeted reforms focused on improving the quality and delivery of care, we are looking to the future to strengthen the long-term solvency of Medicare, and the health care system overall.”

“For more than 50 years Medicare has been a reliable, efficient, and popular healthcare delivery system for older Americans and it is time to build on healthcare that works,” said Congressman Higgins. “Americans pay too much for health care and still the country ranks near the bottom, among similar sized nations, in quality for its investment. This legislation would allow us to leverage the purchasing power of the millions of people to deliver better care at lower costs.”

Congress approved legislation authorizing Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 through the Social Social Security Act. In the first 6 months of 1966, 19 million people enrolled in Medicare. In 2016 approximately 57 million people received health insurance through the Medicare program.

“As Congress considers improvements to the Affordable Care Act, it is a no-brainer to provide Americans approaching retirement with quality affordable health care by expanding the popular and successful Medicare program,” said Rep. Welch. “I am particularly pleased that this bill includes my legislation to empower the federal government to negotiate lower Medicare drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. It simply makes no sense for the federal government to continue to buy drugs at wholesale while paying retail prices.”

"Instead of the dangerous and partisan approach Republicans in Congress are pursuing that will rip health insurance away from millions of Americans and make health care more expensive for seniors and families, we should be working together to help more Americans afford high quality health care,” said Rep. Huffman. “That’s why today we’re introducing the ‘Medicare Buy-In and Healthcare Stabilization Act’ to take one of our nation’s most successful programs -- Medicare -- and open it up to millions of Americans. The more people who can buy into Medicare, the better for everyone. Congress ought to work together to provide more affordable health care options for our constituents, instead of working to take it away."

Rep. Deutch added, “As Republicans play games around the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, we’re offering an alternative: a thoughtful bill that works to repair some problems in our healthcare system. Between Trumpcare’s age tax, repeal of protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and unrestrained costs to consumers, older Americans are at particular risk. Our bill takes the successes of Medicare and expands it to millions more Americans. It’s time for Republicans to pull the health care debate out of the shadows, stop buying votes with backroom deals, and start meaningful discussions across the aisle to find real solutions to our problems.”

Medicare Buy-In and Healthcare Stabilization Act

What the bill does:

Gives Americans ages 50-64 the option to purchase Medicare. Buy-in would be available through the exchanges during open enrollment, giving people the ability to comparison shop and allowing individuals eligible for premium tax credits or cost sharing reductions to apply them toward the buy-in premium. The Medicare buy-in would also be available to individuals who obtain healthcare through their employer, allowing for employer contributions.

Who is eligible?

According to the 2010 census, approximately 58 million people in the United States are between ages 50 and 64. This group is traditionally viewed by insurance companies as higher-risk and therefore face higher costs for health coverage. The AARP recently reported that four out of 10 adults age 50-64 – about 25 million people – have preexisting conditions. Both the Senate and House versions of repeal and replace would allow insurers to charge older people five times more than younger beneficiaries beginning in 2018.

Why Medicare?

Currently 1 in 5 Americans are covered under Medicare and the majority of Medicare recipients are happy with their coverage. Medicare is a cost-effective program. CMS reports, “Administrative costs in 2015 were about 2.0 percent, 1.1 percent, and 0.4 percent of expenditures for Part A (hospital coverage), Part B (physician coverage), and Part D (drug coverage), respectively.”

How does it save consumers?

The buy-in option holds down costs by leveraging the buying power of Medicare. Participants could buy-into Medicare, including Part A, B and D, for an annual premium potentially as low as $8,212. By comparison, a 60 year-old purchasing a Gold health care plan on the exchange would pay approximately $13,308 (before subsidies). Participants continue to pay into the Medicare Trust Fund, protecting its future and allowing those who select the Medicare buy-in to receive the full Medicare benefits available to them upon reaching the age of 65.

Includes Mechanisms to Bend the Cost Curve and Stabilize the Marketplace:

The legislation builds on Medicare program integrity efforts to fight fraud and abuse in the system that hurts the long-term solvency of the programs and harms our beneficiaries.

It also ensures the enhancement of catastrophic reinsurance, reinstating the risk corridors that expired in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and makes the Cost Sharing Subsidies a permanent part of the baseline.

Rep. Joe Courtney is a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee where he serves on the Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions subcommittee. Congressman Brian Higgins serves as Vice-Ranking Member on the House Committee on Ways and Means including its Subcommittee on Health. Congressman John Larson is a longtime member of the House Ways & Means Committee and serves as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Social Security.

Additional cosponsors of the “Medicare Buy-In and Healthcare Stabilization Act” include: Rep. Peter Welch (VT-At Large), Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-2), Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17), Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-9), Rep. David Cicilline (RI-1), Rep. Paul Tonko (NY-20), Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-2), Rep. Tim Ryan (OH-13), Rep. Betty McCollum (MN-4) and Rep. Ted Deutch (FL-22).

Costa Joins Problem Solvers in Proposing Health Care Solutions

Washington, D.C. - August 3, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of representatives working to find a path forward for responsible governance, put forward a proposal today to improve the health care system in the United States. Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) is a member of the caucus. One key component of the proposal focuses on stabilizing the individual health care market to help individuals, families, and small businesses afford high-quality care. The proposal also states the importance of improving patient choice and responsibility, creating incentives for health care providers to lower costs, and giving states more flexibility in their implementation of health care policy.

“We know that the Affordable Care Act has its problems, and in order to start fixing them, it is essential that we have predictability in our health care system,” said Congressman Costa. “We also know that the only way to provide real solutions and stable policy is through bipartisan efforts. In the Problems Solvers Caucus, we have come together – Democrats and Republicans – to provide a starting point for serious bipartisan discussions so we can provide the health care system the predictability it needs for all Americans to have stable access to high-quality, affordable health care.”

The Problem Solvers Caucus wants its proposal to serve as the beginning of a bipartisan effort to address the weaknesses in the Affordable Care Act, focusing on areas where members of the caucus believe they can find a broader consensus to improve America’s health care system.


Washington, D.C. - August 3, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressmen James Comer (R-KY), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced federal legislation to end unnecessary and outdated regulations on industrial hemp. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act exempts industrial hemp from the Controlled Substance Act’s definition of marijuana, creates a new category for hemp research at universities and state departments of agriculture, and allows for further commercialization of industrial hemp crops.

“I am honored to sponsor the Industrial Hemp Farming Act because I know firsthand the economic viability of industrial hemp. Hemp has created new opportunities for family farmers and good paying jobs for American workers, especially in Kentucky,” said Rep. Comer who led the successful industrial hemp efforts in Kentucky as the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture.

“Industrial hemp isn’t a new crop to the United States, but most Americans aren’t aware of the wide range of legitimate uses for it. I’ve met many Virginia farmers who are ready to commercially produce and create a market for industrial hemp in the U.S., but outdated, though well-intentioned, federal restrictions on the cultivation and commercialization of this crop stand in the way. By removing industrial hemp from the definition of a controlled substance, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act will finally allow for responsible, commercial production of industrial hemp without fear of violating federal law. This bipartisan legislation is the product of many months of robust discussion with both lawmakers and stakeholders. I am pleased to see it introduced today, and I look forward to moving this legislation through the House,” said Congressman Bob Goodlatte.

"Industrial hemp is a sustainable crop and could be a great economic opportunity for Kentucky farmers,” said Rep. Massie. "I'm optimistic that we can get the Industrial Hemp Farming Act to the President's desk this Congress. In 2014, for the first time in over half a century, hemp was grown and harvested in Kentucky under the pilot programs allowed by the Polis-Massie-Blumenauer amendment to the 2014 Farm Bill. I look forward to working with Congressman Comer to build on that momentum to give our nation's farmers and manufacturers more opportunities to compete and succeed in the global economy. I am proud to be an original co-sponsor of this bill introduced by Congressman Comer, who was instrumental in bringing the hemp industry to Kentucky as Agricultural Commissioner,” Massie added.

“Hemp has boundless potential as a sustainable alternative to plastics and other environmentally harmful products,” Polis said. “It can be used in everything from construction materials to paper to lotions and even ice cream. It’s past time that we eliminate absurd barriers and allow hemp farmers to get to work, create jobs, and grow this promising and historically important crop!”

Kentucky is widely viewed as one of the leading industrial hemp producing states. Both Kentucky’s U.S. Senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, are strong supporters of industrial hemp and worked together with Rep. Thomas Massie to add language in the 2014 Farm Bill to allow further growth of industrial hemp crops in states that passed regulatory framework. Comer’s bill will take industrial hemp to the next level and begin to treat hemp like corn, soybeans, wheat, and other traditional farm crops.

Border Security for America Act

Washington, D.C. - August 3, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) cosponsored legislation that enhances law enforcement at our borders and provides resources to improve security at ports of entry. The Border Security for America Act authorizes $5 billion over four years to carry out staffing increases and infrastructure improvements. Additionally, the bill directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement biometric exit-entry systems at all points of entry, exempting U.S. and Canadian citizens from screening.

“Our northern border is an economic asset to Western New York and we need to make sure we move people and products across safely and effectively,” said Collins. “I am fully supportive of increased national security measures, like those included in this bill, but worked with my colleagues to make sure we avoid disruptions to both American and Canadian citizens that might result from new protocols.”

In February, Collins corresponded with former DHS Secretary John Kelly and CBP Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan expressing a deep concern regarding the department’s proposed expedited implementation of the biometric exit-entry system. Collins cited impacts to Western New York related to trade and tourism and pointed out the differences between the northern and southern borders when it comes to security. As a result, DHS exempted American and Canadian citizens from their initiative.

Now, this new House legislation proposed by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (TX-10) carries the same exemption while providing expanded resources for border security.

“Our northern and southern borders face different needs when it comes to security,” Collins said. “Chairman McCaul took the needs of Western New York into careful consideration when drafting this language and I thank him for his efforts.”

The Border Security for America Act:

  • Authorizes a Border Wall — Requires the deployment and construction of tactical infrastructure and technology to achieve full operational control and situational awareness. This deployment includes wall, fencing, technology, and other barriers.
  • Secure and Fast Ports of Entry — Authorizes necessary resource investments to improve and enhance our ports of entry. Targets illegal immigration and drug trafficking at our ports of entry, while increasing lawful trade and travel.
  • More Boots on the Ground — Adds 5,000 Border Patrol Agents and 5,000 CBP Officers and streamlines the way that veterans and existing local law enforcement officers can be hired.
  • More Air and Marine Flight Hours – Increases the number of annual flight hours of CBP’s Air and Marine Operations and prioritizes requests for support from the Chief of the Border Patrol to secure the border.
  • Forward Operating Bases – Directs DHS to upgrade existing forward operating bases to a minimum standard.
  • Use of the National Guard – Authorizes use of the National Guard along the Southern Border to help with aviation and intelligence support and allows the reimbursement for states that call out the National Guard to help secure the border.
  • Targets Visa Overstays — Identify visa overstays through full deployment of the Biometric Entry-Exit System at all ports of entry while exempting American and Canadian citizens
  • Border Patrol Access to Federal Lands — Prohibits Federal agencies from impeding, prohibiting, or restricting CBP activities on federal land located within 100 miles of the Southern Border to execute search and rescue operations, and to prevent all unlawful entries into the United States.
  • Support Local Law Enforcement — Authorizes the Stonegarden grant program at $110 million for state and local law enforcement to aggressively fight drug trafficking, smuggling, and other crimes on the Southern Border.

  • Cohen and Ross Reintroduce the Bipartisan Housing Accountability Act

    Washington, D.C. - August 3, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Congressman Dennis Ross (R-FL) reintroduced the Housing Accountability Act, a bipartisan bill to hold property owners of low-income housing accountable for poor living conditions. This legislation would require the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to survey tenants living in subsidized housing twice a year about property conditions and management performance and create new penalties for property owners who repeatedly fail the tenant surveys. In 2015, local and federal investigations found deplorable living conditions at several federally subsidized-housing properties owned by the Global Ministries Foundation (GMF) in Memphis, Tennessee and Jacksonville, Florida. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced a similar bill in the United States Senate in January.

    “I was very disturbed by the deplorable living conditions many Memphians experienced at Warren and Tulane Apartments,” said Congressman Cohen. “Congress must step in to prevent this from happening again in Memphis or anywhere else. Our legislation would hold slumlords of low-income housing accountable for neglecting their properties and their tenants. By surveying tenants directly on property conditions, residents can report any issues directly to HUD without fear of reprisal from owners and managers who have been known to threaten to evict those who try to complain.”

    “No matter someone’s income or socioeconomic status, no one deserves to live in squalor,” said Congressman Ross. “Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and to live in a safe, clean home. People from all backgrounds and of all ages are living in deplorable living conditions in subsidized housing, with fear of eviction, retaliation or inaction if they make any reasonable requests or complaints to their landlords or property managers. I am proud to join Rep. Cohen and Sens. Rubio and Nelson in putting forth bipartisan legislation that will help families improve their living conditions, and give them the ability and strength to ensure their homes are up-to-code and well kept.”

    Global Ministries Foundation (GMF) is a faith-based non-profit organization located in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2015, numerous media outlets reported on deplorable living conditions at GMF owned properties in Memphis. Apartment units in Memphis had holes in the walls made by rats, exposed electrical wiring, broken windows, no working light, a moldy bathroom and leaky roof. In Jacksonville, Florida, the residents at Eureka Garden, another property owned by GMF, were forced to live in uninhabitable units plagued by mold, gas leaks, water damage, and crumbling staircases.

    In addition, GMF-owned properties in Memphis had a combined evaluation of 38, a failing score, but GMF continued to collect $2.3 million in rent subsidies from HUD for those buildings in 2014 and $6.3 million from its six Jacksonville properties.

    Clyburn Statement on Passage of H.R. 1135, to Reauthorize the HBCU Historic Preservation Program

    Washington, D.C. - August 3, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn delivered the following statement during House debate of H.R. 1135 which would reauthorize the HBCU Historic Preservation program for seven years. The bill passed the House unanimously. (as prepared for delivery):

    “Mr. Speaker, as a student and former teacher of history, I have worked during my tenure in Congress to preserve and protect our nation’s historic treasures. Historically Black Colleges and Universities, commonly called HBCUs, are some of the most important historic educational institutions in our country.

    “There are over 100 HBCUs in the country and eight of them are in South Carolina. I proudly represent seven of them and am a graduate of one. Many of them have buildings and sites on their campuses that have existed for over a century, and are of great historical significance. Unfortunately, many of the historic buildings and sites on these campuses have deteriorated over the years and are at risk of being lost completely if not preserved and protected.

    “In 1998, at the request of the Congressional Black Caucus, the U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO) surveyed 103 HBCU campuses to identify the historically significant sites on these campuses and project the cost of restoring and preserving these properties. The GAO identified 712 historic buildings and sites, and projected a cost of $755 million to restore and preserve them. Each of these sites has national significance to American history, and I believe we have an obligation to be stewards of these cultural treasures.

    “In 2003, working with our former colleague Jim Hansen of Utah and our current colleague, and my friend, Jimmy Duncan of Tennessee, Congress expanded the program and authorized expenditures of 10 million dollars annually for five years. I have seen the results firsthand. Last year, Allen University rededicated the historic Chappelle Auditorium on its campus in Columbia, South Carolina, which was painstakingly restored thanks to funding from this program. Originally built in 1925, this building was central to the cultural life of African Americans in South Carolina for generations.
    “In 1947, Rev. Joseph A. DeLaine attended an NAACP event at Chappelle Auditorium that inspired him to organize Black families in Clarendon County to petition their school district to provide buses for black students who, at the time, were forced to make a daily walk of 9.4 miles to school.

    “The legal case that grew from this petition, Briggs v. Elliot, precipitated the frontal attack on segregation in the country and was later combined with four other later cases that became Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas at the U.S. Supreme Court. Overturning the “separate but equal” fallacy, Brown ended legal segregation throughout America.

    “This is just a singular example of the history living on HBCU campuses. Because of our past efforts, historic buildings and sites at 59 HBCUs in 20 states have received funding from this program. However many historic structures are still endangered.

    “Consequently, in the omnibus appropriations bill for 2017 passed earlier this year, Congress included $4 million for HBCU Historic Preservation. H.R. 1135 continues the progress Congress has made in preserving these unique treasures.

    “Last year, the House passed this bill unanimously, but it was not taken up by the Senate. I thank Chairman Bishop and Ranking Member Grijalva for supporting it again today. This bill is supported by the United Negro College Fund, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The HBCU Historic Preservation Program serves an essential purpose to HBCUs, which have a special place in the fabric of American history, culture and education. Countless individuals have worked tirelessly to cultivate HBCUs, and their legacy is seen in graduates whose achievements adorn the pages of American history. From Booker T. Washington to Mary McLeod Bethune; W.E.B. DuBois to Martin Luther King, Jr., HBCU visionaries and graduates have set powerful examples of leadership.

    “The legacy of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) is one of significant courage and steadfast determination. The structures on these campuses across the country are living testaments to African American history and deserve to be stabilized and restored. HBCUs are among America’s national treasures that must be preserved and protected for future generations.

    Congresswoman Clarke Urges State Department to Resist Citizenship Nullification for Dominicans of Haitian Descent

    Washington, D.C. - August 3, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke released the following statement on a letter she and fifteen colleagues sent to the Department of State calling on the agency to resist attempts to nullify the citizenship of Dominicans who are of Haitian descent.

    In 2013, the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court held that the children of parents who are “in transit” (a category that includes undocumented immigrants) are not citizens. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people who were born in the Dominican Republic – many of whom speak Spanish rather than Haitian Creole – have been defined as non-citizens. Hundreds of people have already been deported, and individuals who have remained often experience discrimination.

    “These continued attacks on Dominicans of Haitian descent are unacceptable and are in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit rendering persons “stateless.” There are now people born in the Dominican Republic whose first language is Spanish and only know the nation as their homeland. While a number of these people have been defined as non-citizens, effectively stateless non-persons, in their own home and many Haitians came to the Dominican Republic to work or to escape the turmoil that followed the earthquake in 2010, many are descendants of migrant workers born in the Dominican Republic decades ago. Forcing them to return to Haiti would result in needless suffering, quite frankly devoid of any purpose. I am also deeply concerned that the nullification of citizenship for people of Haitian descent was racially or ethnically motivated against individuals of African descent – a rationale that should never form the basis of policy and has no place in this day and age. I urge the Department of State to work with the government of the Dominican Republic to reverse this terrible decision.”

    Rep. Chu Denounces Proposed Cuts to Legal Immigration System

    Washington, D.C. - August 3, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- President Donald Trump announced support for the RAISE Act, a bill introduced in the United States Senate by Senators Cotton and Perdue that would dramatically cut America’s legal immigration system by moving from a family-based immigration system to a merit-based system. Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) released the following statement:

    “The RAISE Act is a direct assault on our longstanding values as a nation of immigrants, and I vehemently oppose this xenophobic bill. This proposal to slash our current legal immigration system by 50% and to create a bureaucratic ‘points’ system will disproportionately impact the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Although AAPIs comprise 6 percent of the total U.S. population, they account for over 40 percent of the 4.3 million individuals languishing in our current family immigration visa backlogs, often waiting decades to reunite with their loved ones.

    “It is clear that moving to a merit-based system that favors English-speaking, high-skilled individuals is only meant to further President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda by creating a false classification of ‘good’ immigrants versus ‘bad’ immigrants. In reality, these drastic cuts to our legal immigration system would devastate America’s economic growth and threaten our competitive advantage to attract the best talent to our shores.

    “America wins when people are welcomed and integrated into our society and given the chance to contribute to the U.S. economy. Immigrant families fill critical gaps in our workforce, open new businesses, and help to create jobs to improve local economies across the country. Instead of advancing proposals driven by fear and hate, Republicans should work with Democrats to focus on comprehensive immigration reform legislation that will reunite families, strengthen our economy, provide a pathway to citizenship, and ensure that America continues to remain the land of opportunity for all.”

    Congressman Cheney Introduces Legislation to Fight Future Coal Lease Bans

    Washington, D.C. - August 3, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Liz Cheney (WY-AL) released the following statement after an Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee hearing that examined H.R. 1778, legislation Cheney sponsored that would require congressional approval of any future moratorium on coal leases on federal lands:

    "Obama-era energy policies targeted our fossil fuel industry, killing jobs and devastating communities across the West. In Wyoming, this was not just a war on coal, this was a direct attack on the livelihoods of our people," Rep. Cheney said. "Coal is a national treasure that provides jobs and economic growth in Wyoming and affordable power to homes and businesses all across the country. The people of Wyoming deserve better and American energy consumers and businesses require more certainty. H.R. 1778 will make sure that no future moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands can be imposed without Congressional approval," Cheney concluded.

    Travis Deti of the Wyoming Mining Association testified at yesterday's hearing on the impact Congressman Cheney's legislation would have on preventing future coal moratoriums from taking effect in Wyoming without the approval of Congress.

    "We believe that Congress should certainly have a say in the matter. For Wyoming, the state most directly and disproportionally affected, this is critical," Executive Director of the Wyoming Mining Association Travis Deti stated. "This legislation is about shielding America's most abundant, reliable and affordable energy resource from politically motivated administrations."

    H.R. 1778 (Rep. Liz Cheney, R-WY) requires congressional approval of any order by the Interior Secretary imposing a moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands. Congress must act within 30 legislative days after the proposed order is received by Congress. The subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, of which Representative Cheney is a member, held a hearing on H.R 1778 today.

    Travis Deti is currently the Executive Director of the Wyoming Mining Association and was present to testify on the impact of this legislation on Wyoming. Mr. Deti grew up in Laramie and holds degrees from the University of Wyoming. Mr. Deti and his wife live in Cheyenne with their two children.

    Intelligence Authorization Act Passes House

    Washington, D.C. - August 3, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3180, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018:

    “New and evolving threats around the world present grave challenges to the international community and require sophisticated abilities to combat. This legislation helps ensure America’s intelligence agencies have the resources and authorization needed to carry out their sensitive, strategically critical work that advances our nation’s goals and keeps our country safe.

    “I’m glad that the bill includes language I submitted that requires the Intelligence Community to brief Congress on our intelligence capabilities in the South China Sea. Ongoing territorial disputes in the sea threaten the principles of a rules-based order and the security of the United States and our allies. The more Congress knows about conditions in the region, the better policymakers will be able to support intelligence priorities there.”

    U.S. Rep. Castor Introduces Legislation to Tackle America's Rising Student Debt

    Washington, D.C. - August 3, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL14) filed the Student Loan Relief Act (H.R. 3390) to tackle America’s rising student debt, give working families a more affordable path for college and spur economic activity. U.S. Rep. Castor is offering the bill as the U.S. House version of the legislation filed by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

    The Student Loan Relief Act will lower the cap on federal student loan interest to 4 percent for undergraduate students, 5 percent for graduate students and 6 percent for parents. It would change the way student loan interest rates are calculated, allow borrowers with loans disbursed before the effective date to refinance their loans at the new rates and eliminate loan origination fees. U.S. Sen. Nelson unveiled the Senate version earlier this month.

    “A college or graduate degree is an important pathway to higher wages, better jobs and a better future, but can be very expensive for working families,” U.S. Rep. Castor said. “Today’s students are facing more debt than ever before and even though unemployment is down, higher wages lag. Student loan debt is growing at faster rates than all other household debt, including 42.3 million borrowers topping $1.3 trillion in federal student loan debt. College graduates in Florida face an average of $25,000 in debt when they graduate.

    “Student loans have a chokehold on families legitimately trying to move forward and help their children have a better life than their parents and attain the American Dream. The crushing burden of student loan debt also hurts our economy because such debt forces young Americans to delay major life investments. Instead of buying a home, starting a business or saving for retirement, these educated and talented graduates are being forced to start their lives in the red. A recent survey found that 71 percent of student loan borrowers stated that their crushing debt has delayed their home ownership, prohibiting them from saving for down payments or making them feel too financially insecure to buy a home. Constraining young adults from investing in their future deprives our community and economy of the benefits of their hard work and ingenuity.”

    The Democratic-led Congress from 2007-2010 took meaningful steps to help college students, including passing the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which boosted the maximum amount for Pell Grants and created an income-based repayment program. But with states, like Florida, contributing less money for public education and tuition prices increasing much faster than the rate of inflation, students are borrowing more to pay for college. While the Republican-controlled Congress has done little to make this a priority and has not brought any major legislation to the floor for a vote to help students and graduates – such as reducing interest rates or restructuring loan repayment plans – U.S. Rep. Castor has filed or cosponsored numerous bills over the past several years to address student loan debt and has been joined by Tampa Bay’s student leaders to bring attention to this important issue.

    “U.S. Sen. Nelson and I are fighting to give students and their families a better deal. Student loan debt is holding back today’s students and young people and their hopes for career success and good-paying jobs. For our country and all of us to prosper we must ensure that higher education is not just a luxury for the few, but an opportunity for all,” said U.S. Rep. Castor. “As students begin preparing for school this fall, we should work to ensure pathways to an affordable education for them. This will spur job growth, strengthen our economy and guarantee a bright and boundless future for our country.”