Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Rogers Votes for Bill to Improve Firefighter Health

Source: House Representative Harold Rogers (R-KY, 5th)

Washington, D.C. - September 13, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05) applauds the House of Representatives for passing the bipartisan Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2017, (H.R. 931), by a unanimous voice vote.

The bill requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop a "Firefighter Registry" to track cancer rates among firefighters. The information will be collected on a voluntary basis to help the CDC learn more about smoke inhalation and other factors impacting the health of our volunteer and career firefighters.

"Most of the men and women who respond to fire emergencies in southern and eastern Kentucky voluntarily risk their lives to save others and protect local homes and businesses as volunteer firefighters," said Rogers, who cosponsored the bill. "This registry is a step in the right direction to help protect their health, while also providing medical experts with more information about cancer."

The bill now heads to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

Click here to read the bill.

Rogers on Passage of The Homeland Threat Assessment Act

Source: House Representative Mike (AL) Rogers (R-AL, 3rd)

Washington, D.C. - September 13, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Mike Rogers made the following statement today after the House passage of his legislation, H.R. 2470, The Homeland Threat Assessment Act yesterday.

“The 9/11 Commission revealed that a “failure of imagination” contributed to our country’s inability to identify the emerging threat posed by al Qaeda. As a result, we were blind to the approaching tragedy.

“Sixteen years later, our ability to accurately identify and evaluate threats to the Homeland remains stunted. Though talented professionals across federal agencies and at the State and local level are hard at work gathering and analyzing threat information, there is not a formalized process that evaluates homeland threats in a meaningful, comprehensive way.

“H.R. 2470 closes this gap by requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release an annual, comprehensive homeland security threat assessment. This will provide a common threat picture across DHS and for Federal, State and local partners. I believe the best way to honor the memory of those who lost their lives that day and since in the fight against terrorism is to hold our government to a high standard.”

Roby: We Must Crack Down on Violent Criminal Alien Gangs

Source: House Representative Martha Roby (R-AL, 2nd)

Washington, D.C. - September 13, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-Ala.) spoke in support of H.R. 3697, the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act, and said Congress’ first priority must be to keep Americans safe.

H.R. 3697 would combat criminal alien gang violence by amending existing law to make a person’s history of involvement in a criminal gang grounds for inadmissibility into the United States and allow law enforcement agents to automatically detain and deport anyone found to be a criminal alien gang member.

“Gangs of criminal aliens are terrorizing American communities, and it is our responsibility to do something about it,” Roby said. “Our first priority must be to keep Americans safe. Our laws and policies should reflect our commitment to this responsibility.”

Roby serves on the Judiciary Committee, which this year has prioritized working with the Trump Administration to crack down on illegal immigration. The House has previously passed measures to defund sanctuary cities, increase penalties for illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes, and begin construction of a border wall.

H.R. 3697 is scheduled to be voted on by the House later this week.

The full text of Rep. Roby’s remarks as prepared is below.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of this rule and the underlying legislation, H.R. 3697, the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act.

I want to thank Chairman Goodlatte and my fellow Judiciary Committee colleagues for prioritizing cracking down on illegal immigration on the Committee this year.

All the time I hear from constituents who are frustrated by this country’s unwillingness to address our illegal immigration problem. They are also fed up with hearing politicians promise to do something about it, only to offer excuses later.

Mr. Speaker I believe this Congress and this Administration have shown over the last nine months that we are willing to do something about illegal immigration, and this legislation is a great example of our commitment to addressing this problem.

When it comes to cracking down on illegal immigration, I believe most of us agree that we should start by targeting the dangerous criminals who put Americans at risk.

H.R. 3697 is a commonsense measure that does just that by amending existing law to combat gang violence by criminal aliens.

Many Americans may hear this and wonder, “what gang violence?”

The most notorious Latin American gang is known as MS-13, which began in the 1980s and has grown to an estimated 8,000 members in the United States. They have a violent history of organized crime in the areas of drug trafficking, kidnapping, human smuggling, sex trafficking, murder, assassinations, blackmail, and extortion.

To give you an idea of just how violent MS-13 is, the English translation of their motto is “Kill, Steal, Rape, Control.”

Mr. Speaker, gangs of criminal aliens are terrorizing American communities, and it is our responsibility to do something about it.

H.R. 3697 will amend the law to finally make a person’s history of involvement in a criminal gang grounds for inadmissibility into this country. That means involvement in drugs, sex trafficking, kidnapping, murder, or any of the other awful crimes spelled out in the law.

This bill would also allow law enforcement agents to automatically detain and deport anyone found to be a criminal alien gang member.

Our first priority must be to keep Americans safe. Our laws and policies should reflect our commitment to this responsibility.

H.R. 3697 makes it crystal clear that criminal alien gang members are not welcome in this country, and if they should find themselves here, we are dedicated to getting them off the street.

Thank you, and I yield back.


Source: House Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL, 5th)

Washington, D.C. - September 13, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05), who serves as Vice-Chair of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC), introduced the Reducing Waste in National Parks Act to combat the Trump Administration’s August 18 announcement instructing the National Park Service (NPS) to reverse an Obama-era guideline banning the sale of single-use plastic water bottles in national park facilities.

“President Trump and Interior Secretary Zinke’s decision to overturn the common-sense plastic water bottle ban in National Parks is a clear reminder that this Administration will continually bow to the agendas of profit-driven corporations at the expense of our National Parks, wildlife, and environment,” said Rep. Quigley. “We know that seventy percent of plastic water bottles find their way to landfills and waterways; and in National Parks, those bottles build up along trails and streams, harming our pristine sites and endangering the plants and animals that call them home. Our National Parks serve as shining examples for how to treat our planet, while allowing Americans and visitors alike the opportunity to enjoy our nation’s awe-inspiring natural heritage. Reinstating the sensible, flexible ban on the sale of single-use plastic water bottles helps ensure that these public spaces—from Yellowstone and the Everglades to Yosemite and Zion—are protected for future generations.”

“Rep. Quigley’s bill would ensure the National Park Service can continue building on a successful waste-reduction program,” said Alex Taurel, deputy legislative director at the League of Conservation Voters. “The Park Service has a strong record of conservation, preserving some of our most important cultural and natural resources for more than 100 years. We commend Rep. Quigley’s environmental leadership and his support for innovative programs that help protect our public lands and waters for future generations.”

It is no question that bottled water has a substantial environmental footprint and puts wildlife in danger. The Reducing Waste in National Parks Act would reinstate and make permanent the Obama-era guidelines that allowed the National Park Service to ban the sale of single-use plastic water bottles in parks where possible. Our National Parks spread from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and that means many parks are in hot climates or don’t have easy access to running water. This bill addresses the complexity of banning plastic water bottles by allowing NPS regional directors great discretion in how to implement the policy and encourages them to develop a visitor education strategy to explain the rationale for the program.

Following the implementation of the original ban on plastic water bottles, parks that were able to join the effort saw real results. Zion National Park in Utah eliminated the sale of 60,000 water bottles, or 5,000 pounds of plastic waste, by installing bottle-filling stations and selling affordable reusable bottles in their concession stands. This is a prime example of how encouraging the use of reusable bottles and making them readily available can reduce waste and act as a model for best practices in sustainability.

Original co-sponsors of the Reducing Waste in National Parks Act include Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), David Cicilline (RI-01), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Keith Ellison (MN-05), Dwight Evans (PA-02), Jared Huffman (CA-2), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Barbara Lee (CA-13), David Price (NC-04), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), and Niki Tsongas (MA-03).

As Vice Chair of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, Rep. Quigley has long been an outspoken defender of the environment, sustainability efforts, and protecting America’s public lands and wildlife. Earlier this year, he visited Rocky Mountain National Park during his #RepInTheRockies tour to see the impacts of climate change firsthand and learn more about combating global warming through sound science, mitigation, adaptation, and education. Rep. Quigley has continually called on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to engage in a discussion on the merits of man-made climate change and the need to address its causes and consequences. As a life-long member of the Sierra Club with a score of 98% from the League of Conservation Voters’ National Environmental Scorecard, Rep. Quigley consistently leads efforts in Congress to protect the health of our natural environment for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.

Home-Rule Provision Included in Committee-Passed Presidential Pension Bill

Source: House Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)

Washington, D.C. - September 13, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s (D-DC) home-rule provision to change a 1958 law that treated the District of Columbia government as a part of the federal government, as it was then, was included in a bill passed today by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (OGR). Norton’s home-rule change was included in the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act of 2017 to update a law that keeps former presidents and widows of former presidents from collecting pensions during any period in which they worked for either the federal or D.C. government. The law had not been updated to recognize D.C. as an independent jurisdiction with a locally elected government, which was established by the Home Rule Act of 1973. Last Congress, the same bill passed the House and Senate with Norton’s home-rule change, which she offered as an amendment when OGR marked it up, but it was vetoed by President Obama for reasons unrelated to the D.C. provision.

“I am grateful to Representative Jody Hice (R-GA) and Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) for their hard work on this legislation,” Norton said. “The 1958 law that would be updated is not only out of date, but one of its premises is almost unimaginable. It was designed to keep a president or his or her widow who had worked for the D.C. government from double dipping by collecting both a federal pension and salary from the D.C. government. However, D.C. is an independent jurisdiction that places its locally-raised funds in its own accounts, making the double dipping reason for that provision in the bill an anachronism. This small but significant change ensures that no legislation mischaracterizes the District of Columbia as a part of the federal government.”


Source: House Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA, 18th)

Washington, D.C. - September 13, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The House approved all but one of Congressman Tim Murphy's (PA-18) amendments to secure the resources needed to stand up programs previously authorized in the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which was signed into law last year. This afternoon, the remaining amendment to fund Assisted Outpatient Treatment will be up for a roll call vote.

As Chairman of Oversight & Investigations, Murphy spearheaded a multi-year effort aimed at improving our nation’s broken mental health system by improving our antiquated patchwork of ineffective policies and redirecting $130 billion authorized on mental health and addiction treatment into evidence-based programs and treatment. Finally, last year, Congress succeeded in passing Congressman Murphy's mental health reform bill, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which was then signed into law as a part of the 21st Century Cures Act. The next step is to translate the promises Congress made into commitments of action by approving Murphy's amendments to provide the resources needed for the authorized programs.

Murphy’s amendments directed dollars to stand up children's mental health services, pediatric mental health care telehealth access programs, better treatment for individuals in the criminal justice system, development of the mental health workforce, and for a database of inpatient psychiatric facilities to strengthen community crisis response systems.

The last of Murphy’s amendments to be voted on provide full funding for assisted-outpatient treatment (AOT) programs, will be considered later this evening. The timing of the vote on Murphy's amendment has not yet been scheduled, but is expected sometime later this evening. Get live updates here.

“It was a moment of hope for millions of families across the country when Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” stated Murphy on the House floor last night. “I am grateful for my colleagues who came together to approve funding for life-saving programs, and ask that as we continue this process, we remember the families in mental health crisis who are counting on us to translate the promises we made into commitments of action.”

When the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act was signed into law as a part of the 21st Century Cures Act, the programs included in the mental health reform bill were approved but not yet funded. The next step is the appropriations process, or the actual funding to translate the law from text on paper to programs in communities. Murphy's amendments are attached to the larger appropriations package, the Make America Secure and Prosperous Act, which will continue to move through the House this week.

The House approved the following amendments last night:

111 Amdt. #77 – Increasing Funds for the Mentally Ill Offender Act (MIOTCRA)
Increases funding by $2 million for the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA) to facilitate collaboration among the criminal justice, juvenile justice, and mental health and substance abuse treatment system to improve access to effective treatment for people with mental illnesses involved with the justice system. Directs that grants be used to create or expand mental health courts, programs for specialized training to criminal or juvenile justice agency officers and mental health personnel in identifying symptoms to respond to individuals with mental illnesses, and to support cooperation between State and local governments with respect to the mentally ill offenders.

175 Amdt. #91 – Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Promotion, Intervention and Treatment
Provides $5 million for grants to develop, maintain, or enhance infant and early childhood mental health promotion, intervention, and treatment programs, including programs for infants and children at significant risk of developing, showing early signs of, or having been diagnosed with mental illness, including a serious emotional disturbance. These programs are to be evidence-based models and practices that can be replicated in other appropriate settings.

176 Amdt. #89 – Increasing Access to Pediatric Mental Health Care
Provides $9 million in grants that will improve access to behavioral health integration in pediatric primary care by supporting the development and improvement of statewide or regional pediatric mental health care telehealth access programs, and further develop regional pediatric mental health teams to provide consultative support for pediatric primary care.

177 Amdt. #88 – Strengthening the Mental and Substance Use Disorders Workforce
Provides $10 million in funding for a training demonstration program awarding grants to train medical residents and fellows to practice psychiatry and addiction medicine, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, health service psychologists, and social workers to provide mental and substance use disorders services. Recipients will integrate primary care with mental and substance use disorder care services in under-served and community-based settings.

179 Amdt. #86 – Strengthening Community Crisis Response Systems
Provides funding for grants to strengthen community crisis response systems to develop, maintain, or enhance a database of inpatient psychiatric facilities, crisis stabilization units, and residential community mental health and residential substance use disorder treatment facilities; addressing a lack of inpatient psychiatric beds. Grant applicants will develop crisis response plans to promote integration and coordination between local public and private entities, including first responders, emergency health care providers, primary care providers, law enforcement, and behavioral health providers.

The House will consider the following amendment today:

155 Amdt. #90 – Assisted Outpatient Treatment
Increases court-ordered Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) by $5 million to the fully authorized amount of $20 million total to support the severely mentally ill, allowing them to get treatment in the community without incarceration or hospitalization. AOT reduces incarceration, homelessness, and emergency room visits by upwards of 70 percent.

Bill Introduced to Support Minority Owned Banks and Increase Access to Affordable Financial Services

Source: House Representative Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY, 5th)

Washington, D.C. - September 13, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Representatives Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), and Dwight Evans (D-PA), co-chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus’s Economic Development and Wealth Creation Task Force, introduced HR 3741, which would codify and enhance the Minority Bank Deposit Program (MBDP), which encourages federal agencies to utilize minority-owned banks and low-income credit unions as financial agents and depositories. MBDP was created in 1969 to help minority-owned banks obtain access to reliable and stable sources of funding to better provide loans within their local communities, many of which are underserved and lacking affordable financial services.

Although over 80 minority banks and low-income credit unions are certified to work with the federal government under the MBDP program, most of the certified institutions do not have an existing relationship with the federal government. The Congressional Black Caucus’s Task Force took on the challenge to reform MBDP after recent reports in the Wall Street Journal found that “the 2008 recession hit the black banking sector especially hard…black-owned banks could disappear entirely within the next eight to 12 years.”[1]

Congressman Gregory W. Meeks stated, “Limited access to affordable financial services is a persistent problem in my community, and many other underbanked communities around the US. Since the financial crisis, over 5,000 bank branches have closed their doors, leaving communities like mine with less safe and costlier financial services options. Our bill strengthens minority-owned banks, improves the financial health of the communities in which they serve, and provides more Americans with reliable and affordable banking options. I urge all of my colleagues to join us in this effort.”

“Since the 2008 Financial Crisis, the number of minority-owned and women-owned banks and credit unions have plummeted, leaving countless businesses and families in the surrounding communities with few, if any, financial options to start or grow their business—much less help to get a home or a car loan,” Congresswoman Beatty noted. “That is why it is critical that Congress pass legislation supporting the Minority Bank Deposit Program to ensure all American entrepreneurs and families have equal opportunity at achieving their American Dream.”

Making access to capital and credit a reality for all small business owners and entrepreneurs should be a reality for each and every individual in our neighborhoods. This is an issue too many individuals in our neighborhoods struggle with, specifically in our minority communities,” Congressman Dwight Evans said. “In our Commonwealth, the Pennsylvania MBDA Business Center has generated over $290 million contracts and financing, and created hundreds of jobs since 2004. The numbers don’t lie—they clearly demonstrate the viability of a model that creates jobs, spurs economic growth and facilitates community investment. I am pleased to join with my colleagues to introduce the Minority Banking Deposit Program, which reinforces, strengthens, and modernizes these critical financial institutions.

Reps Meadows, Langevin Release Election Reform PAPER Act

Source: House Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC, 11th)

Washington, D.C. - September 13, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) introduced the Protecting the American Process for Election Results (PAPER) Act—a bill that will provide assistance to states to strengthen the cybersecurity of their elections. The bill is a House companion to the Klobuchar-Graham amendment to the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which is currently being debated.

The PAPER ACT is designed to protect the integrity of American elections by solidifying defenses against cyber intrusions and by recommending additional record keeping to strengthen audits of elections. Broadly, the bill directs the Election Assistance Commission, after consulting with state and federal stakeholders, to formulate Security Risk and Vulnerability Assessment recommendations for states to harden their cybersecurity and develop post-election auditing standards to ensure elections have not been manipulated. States that adhere to such guidelines will be eligible to receive federal Election Technology Improvement Grants—funding that allows for needed system and security updates.

Furthermore, the bill will require voting machines purchased with federal funds to pair votes cast electronically with a paper record, visible to the voter—and recommends that each federal election be followed by a manual audit of a random sample of such paper records, prior to certification of the election result. Paper ballots provide for additional transparency and allow for quick discovery of voting machines that have been compromised in some way.

“The American people rely on our election results to be trustworthy, accountable, and safe from cyber interference—both foreign and domestic,” Rep. Meadows said. “The integrity of our elections is fundamental to who we are as a nation, and the PAPER Act would be a major step forward in securing our election process, updating the security of our voter logs, and allowing for efficient and effective audits of election results. I thank my colleagues Rep. Langevin and Sen. Klobuchar for their efforts and I look forward to continuing to work with them on this important initiative.”

“As a former Rhode Island Secretary of State, I have a thorough understanding of the challenges – including a lack of sufficient resources – faced by state and local election officials. The PAPER Act provides federal assistance to the people on the front lines to ensure that the most fundamental right in our democracy, the right to vote, is not impinged by foreign powers or other malicious cyber actors,” said Congressman Langevin, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus. “While I strongly support the designation of elections as critical infrastructure, we need to back this clear statement of the threat with action. The open processes to develop cybersecurity standards set forth in the PAPER Act and the commitment to paper ballots backed with risk-limiting audits will ensure U.S. elections remain free and fair and the American people are confident in their integrity. I commend Representative Meadows and Senators Klobuchar and Graham for their focus on securing our elections, and I hope that the Senate votes today to advance this important legislation.”

“According to the Department of Homeland Security, Russian hackers attempted to break into at least 21 states’ election systems in 2016 and U.S. national security officials have been sounding the alarm that our voting systems will continue to be a target in the future,” Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said. “In order to safeguard future elections, state and local officials must have the tools and resources they need to prevent hacks, and safeguard election infrastructure from foreign interference. I am proud of the bipartisan legislation we have introduced and look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to protect our democracy from future attacks."

Bipartisan Group of 116 Lawmakers Call to Extend Temporary Protections for Salvadorans and Hondurans

Source: House Representative James McGovern (D-MA, 2nd)

Washington, D.C. - September 13, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Randy Hultgren (R-IL), co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, along with Representatives Norma Torres (D-CA) and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), led a bipartisan group of 116 lawmakers calling on the Trump Administration to extend temporary protections for Salvadorans and Hondurans living in the United States.

The letter asks Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke to renew the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations for these individuals due to dire conditions in Honduras and El Salvador. According to the letter, there is a temporary but substantial disruption to living standards in both countries due to Hurricane Mitch in Honduras and a series of major earthquakes in El Salvador. Violence in both countries has made recovery more difficult.

“Failing to renew these protections would tear apart families across the country and undermine U.S. efforts to advance prosperity and security in Central America,” said Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA). “I sincerely hope that Acting Secretary Duke and the Trump Administration extend TPS just as previous Democratic and Republican administrations have done before. TPS holders are valued friends, neighbors, and business owners in our communities and they deserve to stay until conditions back home stabilize.”

“Renewing the Temporary Protected Status designation for El Salvador and Honduras after natural disasters and the continued violence and political unrest is the right thing to do for current TPS holders and United States’ foreign policy,” said Congressman Randy Hultgren (R-IL). “To send people home now, when their countries have no viable way to safely handle their reentry, would further destabilize the region and may require further humanitarian action by the United States. The United States should maintain our leadership position on the international stage by following through with our shared commitment to basic human rights and protections for those fleeing disasters and violence.”

“The livelihoods and safety of around 300,000 Central Americans are in the hands of Acting Secretary Duke and the Trump administration. I am proud to join a bipartisan group of members in calling on Acting Secretary Duke to extend TPS, for the sake of stability in Honduras and El Salvador and out of consideration for the fact that TPS holders have made their lives here,” said Congresswoman Norma Torres (D-CA).

“For almost two decades, Presidents from both parties have recognized that granting Temporary Protected Status to people whose lives would be in danger if sent back to their home countries is the compassionate and quintessentially American thing to do,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ). “America has long been a refuge for families fleeing extreme poverty, violence and natural disasters. Extending TPS for Central Americans is consistent with this proud tradition and with our values as a nation. Moreover, failing to do so would jeopardize bipartisan efforts to bring stability and prosperity to the region. I am hopeful that the Administration will heed our letter and ensure that TPS holders can remain in the United States and continue to contribute to our businesses, schools and communities.”

The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for TPS due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country's nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. TPS is a temporary benefit that does not lead to lawful permanent resident status or give any other immigration status.

There are currently approximately 200,000 Salvadorans who hold TPS and the approximately 61,000 Hondurans. TPS designations have been made and extended under administrations of both political parties since its creation by statute in 1990.

Click here to view the signed letter.

House Passes 9 Counterterrorism Bills to Protect our Communities

Source: House Representative Michael T. McCaul (R-TX, 10th)

One of the main lessons learned post-9/11 is the need for a more robust information sharing capacity among federal, state, and local authorities. While we have taken steps to improve information sharing, we must do more. Today the House passed 9 Homeland Security Committee bills to support local law enforcement, identify and mitigate threats, and strengthen information sharing.

Chairman McCaul: “Providing law enforcement officials with critical information will help keep our city streets from becoming the next battlefield. These bills, among other things, help the Department of Homeland Security identify emerging threats, support state and local authorities, and strengthen and better coordinate the Department’s Intelligence Enterprise. Sixteen years after 9/11, we must continue to build upon the coordination between all levels of law enforcement to keep Americans safer.”

The bills that passed the House today include:

H.R. 2427 - Pathways to Improving Homeland Security at the Local Level Act, sponsored by Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), directs the Assistant Secretary for State and Local Law Enforcement to produce and disseminate an annual catalog on Department of Homeland Security training, publications, programs, and services for State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies.

H.R. 2433 - Homeland Security Assessment of Terrorists Use of Virtual Currencies Act, sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), directs the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence and Analysis to develop and disseminate a threat assessment regarding terrorist use of virtual currency.

H.R. 2442 - FIRST State and Local Law Enforcement Act, sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), requires an annual report on the Office for State and Local Law Enforcement.

H.R. 2443 - Department of Homeland Security Classified Facility Inventory Act, sponsored by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), requires the Secretary to maintain an inventory of all classified facilities across the United States and to ensure that appropriate federal, state and local personnel are aware of such locations to enhance their ability to review and discuss classified information.

H.R. 2453 - DHS Intelligence Rotational Assignment Program Act of 2017, sponsored by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), requires the Secretary to establish the “Intelligence Rotational Assignment Program'' to provide greater opportunities for intelligence analysts across the Department to cross-train and develop homeland security intelligence expertise.

H.R. 2454 - Department of Homeland Security Data Framework Act of 2017 sponsored by Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), authorizes the DHS Data Framework, an ongoing initiative to connect the data sets collected by DHS component agencies to improve vetting capability and intelligence analysis.

H.R. 2468 - Unifying DHS Intelligence Enterprise Act, sponsored by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), requires the Secretary to develop and disseminate a written Department-wide intelligence doctrine regarding the processing, analysis, production, and dissemination of homeland security information and terrorism information.

H.R. 2470 - Homeland Threat Assessment Act, sponsored by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), requires the Department to produce an annual threat assessment utilizing Departmental information to identify emerging and persistent threats to the United States, including border, cyber, and transportation security.

H.R. 2471 - TRACER Act, Sponsored by Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL), directs the Secretary to engage in a consistent, proactive information sharing process by coordinating with appropriate federal officials and reaching out to fusion centers and other law enforcement entities with release information related to certain federal inmates incarcerated for terror-related offenses.


Source: House Representative Doris O. Matsui (D-CA, 6th)

Washington, D.C. - September 13, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Congresswoman Doris Matsui, Co-Chairs of the Seniors Task Force, introduced H.R. 3713, the Geriatrics Workforce and Caregiver Enhancement Act. This bipartisan bill invests in geriatric training and caregiver programs to create a well-trained workforce to provide coordinated quality care for older adults. After introducing the legislation, Reps. Schakowsky and Matsui released the following statement:

“A serious shortage in the health care workforce is failing to meet the needs of older Americans. It is estimated that by 2030, 3.5 million trained health care workers will be needed just to maintain the current access level for older Americans. This means that unless we act now, seniors, especially those with multiple chronic conditions and cognitive impairments, may not receive the quality of care they need.

“The bipartisan legislation we introduced seeks to confront that challenge by investing in the creation of a robust workforce and focusing on engaging family caregivers. This bill also re-establishes the Geriatric Academic Careers Awards, which allows training programs to reach more underserved and rural communities. We must invest in the wellbeing of our nation’s seniors – and this bill will do just that.”

Bill Introduced to Expand Access to Addiction Treatment

Source: House Representative Ben R. Lujan (D-NM, 3rd)

Washington, D.C. - September 13, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) andPaul D. Tonko (D-NY) have introduced H.R. 3692, the Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act, a bill that would significantly expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder, particularly among vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and postpartum mothers struggling with addiction.

More than 64,000 people in the U.S. died of drug overdoses in 2016, the deadliest year on record. That number represents an increase of more than 20 percent over the previous year. Just one fifth of the patients who need treatment are currently receiving it.

Rep. Luján: “As addiction continues to devastate families across our nation, we must expand access to medication-assisted treatment and allow nurses to practice to the full extent of their licensures. Advanced Practice Nurses are an integral part of health care teams all across the country, but especially in rural states like New Mexico where thousands of families depend on advanced practice nurses for so much of their routine health care. We especially need to make it easier for pregnant and postpartum women struggling with addiction to get help. Allowing Certified Nurse Midwives to prescribe and refer for MAT treatment will expand access for addicted moms – something we need to do immediately.”

Rep. Tonko: “Opioid addiction is a deadly and painful epidemic that continues to spread across our nation. Thousands more of our family members, friends and neighbors fall victim to this disease every year, while just a fraction are finding their way to treatment. We must do more. This legislation addresses the epidemic head-on by empowering the healthcare professionals at the front lines of this crisis, locking in previous treatment expansions and granting more specialist nurses the ability to prescribe the medication-assisted treatment that we know gives patients their best chance to recover.”

The bill has received support from the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the American Nurses Association, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, American Academy of Physician Assistants, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

American Society of Addiction Medicine President Kelly Clark, MD, MBA, DFASAM: “ASAM is grateful to Representatives Tonko and Lujan for their leadership in crafting smart addiction treatment policy, and we are pleased to endorse this bill. Solidifying into law the recent gains we’ve made in treatment access, and ending arbitrary time for healthcare providers to treat patients, will ensure that we can continue to improve access for evidence based care. Although physicians are providing more addiction treatment than ever before, expanding the addiction treatment workforce to include all advance practice registered nurses is urgently needed to address access challenges and provider shortages due to the magnitude of this epidemic. We look forward to seeing this bill become law.”

American College of Nurse-Midwives President Lisa Kane Low, PhD, CNM, FACNM, FAAN: “Midwives stand for access to quality care for all women, including those who are pregnant and facing the challenge of an opioid addiction. Expanding access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a critical step in helping combat this nationwide epidemic. Providing authorization for midwives to treat, prescribe and refer for MAT services are all within the midwifery scope of practice. This legislation will remove a barrier to MAT for those in need who midwives serve.”

Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act

The Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act builds on steps taken under the previous Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act to enable clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and certified registered nurse anesthetists to prescribebuprenorphine. These advanced practice nursing professionals have similar educational and training requirements as other currently eligible providers and often serve as primary care providers for vulnerable populations.

In addition, the bill would codify a 2016 regulation that expanded the number of patients qualified physicians could treat to 275 while preserving the ability of the HHS Secretary to adjust the patient limit, and make permanent the authorization that allows non-physician providers to treat patients with buprenorphine.

State Department to Reorganize

Source: House Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY, 17th)

Washington, D.C. - September 13, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY17), Harold “Hal” Rogers (R-KY5), Eliot Engel (D-NY16), and Ed Royce (R-CA39), sent a letter to Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), on the Office’s role in the reorganization of the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The letter was prompted by recent reports that State and USAID are scheduled to turn over their recommendations for reorganization this week.

“We firmly believe that reforming the diplomatic and development architecture of the United States should enhance – not impede – the ability of the State Department and USAID to advance our most pressing foreign policy priorities,” the Members wrote. “Smart investments in diplomacy and development can help accelerate economic growth, create opportunity, prevent the spread of infectious diseases, stabilize communities, and mitigate the need for costly military interventions that put our Armed Forces in harm’s way. Poor planning and execution can have the exact opposite effect.”

“Congress has a critical role to play in the ongoing reform process. Without Congressional assent, reform will not be sustainable over the long-term. Though we have held periodic meetings with teams from the State Department and USAID, we have yet to engage with OMB on the role that it will play in this process. Toward this end, and consistent with the requirements of Section 7076(a)(2) of the Fiscal Year 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act, we request that you and your colleagues brief us as soon as possible on the role you intend to play and your work to date; share with the appropriate Congressional committees the submissions by the State Department and USAID required pursuant to Executive Order 13781 of March 13, 2017; and engage directly and often with Congress before taking any actions to implement reform proposals that affect the instruments of U.S. foreign diplomacy and development,” the Members concluded.

Lowey is the Ranking Member and Rogers is the Chairman of the House State and Foreign Operations (SFOPS) Appropriations Subcommittee. Engel is the Ranking Member and Royce is the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The House Appropriations and Foreign Affairs Committees are responsible for funding and overseeing the work of State and USAID.

The full text of the letter can be read here.

More News about this:

US State Department’s First Steps at Reorganization Downgrade Human Rights

US State Dept. to Submit Reorganization Review by September 15

Radio Free Asia Offices In Cambodia Closed After Intimidation from Cambodian Government

Source: House Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA, 47th)

Washington, D.C. - September 13, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) issued the following statement on the announced closure of Radio Free Asia (RFA) operations inside Cambodia due to ongoing pressure and intimidation from the regime of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen:

“The Hun Sen regime is making it perfectly clear that it has no intention of allowing a free press to exist in Cambodia, and the government appears ready to use any contrivance it can—intimidation, threats, coercion, and even outright violence—to prevent the people of Cambodia from having independent, reliable, and trustworthy news that is not filtered through the Hun Sen lens.
“RFA in Cambodia has faced a growing escalation of rhetoric from the Hun Sen regime, and now, for the safety of its staff, RFA has been forced to cease operations within Cambodia. It joins the Cambodia Daily newspaper, numerous non-governmental agencies, as well as FM broadcast stations that have been forced to close by the government.

“The democratic principles that the Cambodia people are guaranteed under their constitution are being destroyed—one at a time—by the Hun Sen government and I am appalled.

“The right of political expression, the right of a free media, and the right to dissent, are all being quashed by Hun Sen in an effort to subvert free and fair national elections in Cambodia scheduled for next year.

“This is a crisis situation and I will call on the United States ambassador to Cambodia as well as the Secretary of State to express my concern and urge them to take any and all action to stop this out of control situation and assist the Cambodian people.”

Rep. Loudermilk and Wife Recovering After Car Accident

Source: House Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-GA, 11th)

Washington, D.C. - September 13, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Loudermilk (R-GA) and his wife are recovering after a car accident in Knoxville, TN.

Early Tuesday morning, Congressman Loudermilk and his wife were involved in a two car accident near Knoxville, TN. After coming home to Georgia to assist with Irma response, and the storm having cleared the area, Congressman Loudermilk and his wife were en route back to Washington D.C. They were traveling East on I-40 when their vehicle was struck from behind by a second vehicle, causing their vehicle to leave the road and flip multiple times, coming to rest on the passenger side. Both the Congressman and Mrs. Loudermilk were transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries where they were treated and released. They have been instructed to return to Georgia for follow-up treatment.

The Loudermilk's immediately acknowledged God’s hand in protecting them from serious injury, and they would appreciate your thoughts and prayers as they recover.

Bill Introduced to Jumpstart American Apprenticeship

Source: House Representative Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ, 2nd)

U.S. Representative Linda Sánchez (CA-38), Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, along with Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02), and Mike Thompson (CA-05) today introduced the bipartisan Apprenticeship and Jobs Training Act of 2017 to enhance training and education opportunities for American workers through registered apprenticeships. Apprenticeship programs have been an integral part of America’s workforce development, allowing workers to increase their skills while also earning a paycheck. This legislation is the House companion to the bill introduced earlier this year by Senators Maria Cantwell and Susan Collins.

Full text of the legislation is available here.

Substantive apprenticeship programs are an integral part of the quality education that leads to good paying American jobs. A skilled workforce is a critical component to a continued productive economy, but in recent decades employers have been experiencing a shortage of properly trained, available workers.

Apprenticeship programs are a proven tool for workers to learn advanced skills while also earning a paycheck. The bill would create a $5,000 tax credit based upon wages paid by companies who hire individuals enrolled in a federal or state registered apprenticeship program. For employers participating in a multi-employer apprenticeship program, the credit rate would be $3 per hour each individual works. A worker must be employed for 7 months before the credit can be claimed and can be claimed as the apprentice works through the program for a maximum of three years. The bill also allows veterans to apply their previous skills and experience towards education hours so they can be put to use more quickly.

“In today’s global economy there are more ways to succeed than ever before,” said Representative Linda T Sánchez. “The Apprenticeship and Jobs Training Act would ensure that more hard-working Americans are able to learn the skills necessary to compete for good paying jobs in today’s most in-demand industries. Expanding apprenticeship programs will help our middle class thrive by closing our skills gap and raising household wages.”

“Apprenticeship programs grow our economy by fostering training programs that will prepare workers for in-demand careers,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick. By closing the skills gap, this bipartisan program will encourage more good-paying jobs for working families, while addressing our nation’s current shortage of trained workers. I am proud to work with Congresswoman Sanchez on this bipartisan legislation to enhance America’s workforce and bring robust job growth to Bucks and Montgomery Counties.”

“Apprenticeships empower workers to get on-the-job training without breaking the bank,” Rep. Derek Kilmer said. “In a rapidly changing economy this is a key path to learning a new skill and earning a decent wage. I’m proud to be part of this effort to create new opportunities for local employers to invest in our workforce and create quality jobs through apprenticeships.”

“As we seek to bolster American job creation and lower unemployment, encouraging apprenticeships will help build the skilled workforce our country needs to compete in the global economy,” said Rep. Frank LoBiondo. “Given the needs for well-trained workers in many fields, this bipartisan legislation would provide opportunities for individuals seeking additional education and experience to further their careers.”

“Apprenticeship programs have consistently proven to be successful models of both career and workforce development, creating opportunities for workers and companies,” said Rep. Mike Thompson. “By allowing workers to earn a living while learning a trade, companies are able to create more jobs and build out their business. This bill would create greater incentives for companies to expand apprenticeship programs and would ensure veterans can apply their relevant military training to their apprenticeships.”

Senate Votes to Sunset UAMF

Source: House Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA 13th)
Source: Senator Rand Paul (R - KY)

The U.S. Senate will hold a vote on U.S. Senator Rand Paul’s amendment to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to sunset the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force.

This will mark the first Senate vote addressing an AUMF since 2002.

Senator Paul’s amendment would take effect six months after the 2018 NDAA becomes law, giving Congress time to hear from the American people and thoroughly debate granting any new, specific authority. You can read his amendment HERE.

Earlier today, Senator Paul spoke on the Senate floor to demand Congress take its constitutional responsibilities seriously and vote on his amendment.

“I rise today to oppose unauthorized, undeclared, and unconstitutional war,” said Senator Paul.

You can find Senator Paul’s remarks as prepared for delivery HERE, and you can find video of his full remarks on the floor HERE.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee released this statement on the Senate vote to table Senator Paul amendment to sunset the 2001 and 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF):

“For sixteen years, Congress has abdicated its fundamental constitutional responsibility to debate and vote on matters of war and peace. While young men and women risk their lives for this country, Congress has been unable to muster the courage to vote on our endless wars.

“Earlier this year, my amendment to repeal the 2001 AUMF was adopted in a bipartisan vote in the House Appropriations Committee. This amendment, which sunset the 2001 AUMF eight months after enactment, would have given Congress ample time to debate and vote on a new war authorization. But before it could reach the House Floor, Speaker Ryan and Republican House leadership stripped the amendment in the darkof night.

“And now, with the vote today to table Senator Paul’s amendment, Congress once again chose political convenience over our duty to the American people and service members.

“While this outcome is disappointing, we must and will keep fighting to get this blank check for war off the books. The constitution – and the American people – deserve no less.”

This would effectively stop Trump from using military force in the MiddleEast as he has said he would do, or release "fire and fury" on North Korea. If this gets passed, blame Congress, not Trump.

Congresswoman Lawrence Sends Letter to White House Calling for Clarity on DACA Position

Source: House Representative Brenda Lawrence (D-MI, 14th)

Washington, D.C. - September 13, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI-14) sent a letter to the White House in response to the conflicting messages on the Administration’s positon and plans for DACA recipients and timeline of rescinding the program:

“On Wednesday, September 6, the President via Twitter and through Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the DACA program would be rescinded within 6 months. The very next day, President Trump posts a vague tweet declaring that [f]or all those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about-No action!

“DACA recipients have a lot to worry about with this administration’s mixed messages. On Sunday September 10, I hosted a press conference in my district where the stories of hope and fear of our DACA recipients and members of our immigrant community were voiced. It is cruel to play games with the lives of people who have contributed so much to our communities and our country. The stress, anxiety and uncertainty caused by the words and actions of Trump’s administration is no less than mental abuse of this immigrant community. These members of our community deserve better, and we must demand better of our nation’s leaders.

“This is why I have sent a letter to the White House calling for clarification of this Administration’s position and plan of action with DACA and the DREAMers. If the President directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to announce the end of DACA and the very next day tweets that these recipients “have nothing to worry about,” then these recipients and America need a clear official statement. Tweets are an insufficient response to an issue that could affect over 800,000 people in America. The President’s tweet does not simply “speak for itself”—the President needs to speak for himself and that’s why I call on this administration to make their position and plan on DACA crystal clear.”

From what I have seen, no matter how clear the President makes himself, it isn't clear enough. I am reminded of those kids in class who wanted to "make a problem harder than it was" by questioning it to death. I wonder if those kids became Democrats?

Larsen Opposes Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017

Source: House Representative Rick Larsen (D-WA, 2nd)

Washington, D.C. - September 13, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02) released the following statement on H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017:

“I oppose H.R. 38,” said Larsen. “Voters and advocates across Washington state tell me that making our communities safer from gun violence is a high priority. However, this bill would do the opposite. It would force Washington to turn a blind eye to individuals from states with laxer permitting standards who carry a concealed weapon in our state. I am also concerned this bill would make it harder for law enforcement officials to do their already difficult jobs.”

“H.R. 38 tosses out the window laws that Washington state residents have fought hard for and overwhelmingly approved,” said Margy Lavelle, Chair of Safe and Sane Skagit. “Thank you to Rep. Larsen for standing up for your constituents and opposing H.R. 38. Lives are at stake on this one.”

More information about this bill can be found at the links below:

The Good and Bad Of The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act

Gun Owners of America: We Need Roy Moore in the Senate to Secure Concealed Carry Reciprocity

Cornyn Introduces the “Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017” in the Senate

LaMalfa Comments on Misuse of Taxpayer Dollars to Fund Delta Tunnels

Source: House Representative Doug LaMalfa (R-CA, 1st)

Washington, D.C. - September 13, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) issued the following statement after a federal audit found that the Obama Administration improperly used $84 million in taxpayer dollars on the delta tunnels project.

LaMalfa said: “The use of taxpayer dollars by the Obama Administration to improperly fund Governor Brown’s pet delta tunnel project is unacceptable. The state of California and the federal government lied to Congress and stole millions of hard-earned dollars from taxpayers – who ended up paying for a large portion of the project’s planning costs without their knowledge. California needs to repay every penny to the federal government immediately. The Bureau of Reclamation needs to explain to Congress how and why this happened and the employees and appointees who carried it out must be held responsible. Lying to Congress and the American people cannot be tolerated.”

Congressman Doug LaMalfa is a lifelong farmer representing California’s First Congressional District, including Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou and Tehama Counties.

It's not like they weren't warned last year.