Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Statements from Senators about Las Vegas Shooting

These are not all of the statements available, just all I had time to compile today.

Senator Robert P.Casey, Jr. - (D - PA)

"While we pray for the victims of this horrific attack and their families, it is not sufficient to just offer thoughts and prayers. The nation’s security continues to be at risk because Congress refuses to take real, meaningful action to curb gun violence. Congress must engage in a robust debate about commonsense ways to keep guns, particularly military-style weapons, out of the wrong hands. Congress should take up and vote on legislation to ban military-style weapons, limit the size and capacity of magazines, which contribute to deadly mass shootings, and put in place universal background checks. If Congress continues to fail its most basic obligation to keep America safe, then these mass shootings will continue to occur.”

Senator Michael F. Bennet - (D - CO)

"Sunday's mass shooting in Las Vegas was a devastating act of domestic terrorism. As investigations continue into the gunman's motives, we should restart a national conversation about gun violence that does not devolve into partisanship and demagoguery. Although we cannot prevent all evil acts, we can do our part to make them less likely-beginning with meaningful action from Congress to keep the wrong weapons out of the wrong hands. A reasonable first step should be a commonsense universal background check system that already has bipartisan support in the Senate. There is nothing more important than keeping our families and communities safe."

Senator Richard Burr - (R - NC)

“My heart is with the people of Las Vegas and their first responders today. This morning’s tragic violence has absolutely no place here in America. As we wait for a full accounting of events, Brooke and I will be praying for those lost and their families.”

Sendator Benjamin L.Cardin - (D - MD)

“I am heartbroken by the terror in Las Vegas. With the entire country, I am grieving for the senseless loss of life and praying for the victims, their families, and all those who were injured, whether by gunshot or the chaos that ensued. Much thanks also goes to the first responders who saved countless lives by helping those around them and running toward danger instead of away.

“Thoughts and prayers console victims and their families, but actions speak much louder. We must all be outraged at this latest shooting and we must act. Congress must act. States must act. Weapons of war should not be in the hands of civilians. We see the deadly results in Las Vegas just as we saw it in Orlando and Blacksburg, San Bernardino, Aurora, Sandy Hook, the streets of Baltimore, and elsewhere across this great country. We need to do everything in our power to stop the carnage of these shootings.

“How high does the death toll have to get before we enact real bipartisan reforms that will make the American public safer and reduce the risks that come from allowing such easy access to dangerous weapons primarily designed for the battlefield? Assault weapons are not needed to hunt deer or ducks; they are only meant to kill people – and they do far too often in this country. I urge my colleagues to be bold and fight to break the cycle of what can only be described as a callous disregard for the victims of gun violence. More talk and more prayers will not save lives. Only action and real changes in our federal and state laws can.”

Senator Thomas R. Carper - (D - DE)

“This morning, along with millions of people across the country, my heart sunk as I awoke to dreadful news. As innocent people came together in celebration of one of life’s simplest pleasures, the joy of music, their lives were ripped away in an abhorrent act of hate. I’m praying for the victims of this attack and for their loved ones, who are now living in a nightmare. My thoughts are with the people of Las Vegas. I am grateful for the law enforcement officers and first responders who jumped to action to save lives last night, and for the hospital staff who are working to heal the wounded this morning.

“It’s critical that federal, state and local law enforcement officials work together to get to the bottom of this attack. This is yet another brutal reminder that we must be vigilant here at home against threats of terrorism and face the grim reality that our gun safety laws need to be reexamined.

“I will continue to monitor this situation closely as we learn more information.”

Senator Cathrine Cortez Masto - (D - NV)

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and wounded in last night’s vicious and senseless attack outside the Mandalay Bay Resort. I thank the first responders for taking down the gunman and working tirelessly to treat the wounded. I am working with the City of Las Vegas and Clark County to ensure that local officials have the resources they need to support our community and investigate these tragic events.”

Senator Mike Crapo - (R - ID)

"As our nation mourns and remembers the lives lost in Las Vegas, we gather in solidarity to uplift those left to heal and those left to grieve. I commend the selfless actions of first responders and everyday citizens who rushed to save, protect and care for their fellow man. Instances like this heinous crime seek to destroy our sense of security and aim to divide. May we unite in the fight against evil with an ever-vigilant drive toward peace."

Senator Richard J. Durbin - (D - IL)

“Gun violence is a public health crisis. There is no single law or policy that would prevent every tragic shooting, but let’s start working together to do something,” said Durbin. “We can’t stop the shootings that have already happened in Las Vegas, Chicago, Roseburg, Oregon, and across the nation. We failed to respond in time for those victims and their families. But if we work together, we can stop shootings in the future. That is something we should all strive to do. We must do all that we can to spare families the unimaginable pain that so many in Las Vegas are feeling in the aftermath of this horrible tragedy.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein - (D - CA)

“My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, the deadliest ever. With more than 50 dead and more than 500 wounded—many seriously—it’s clear that families and friends of the victims will need our support and compassion.

“We must not allow ourselves to become numb to these massacres that can snuff out so many lives in such a short time. It should shock every American that one individual, with easy access to weapons and ammunition, can inflict such devastation.

“As we learn more in the days to come, we should all think deeply about the circumstances of this shooting and work together to prevent such tragedies from happening again.”

Gardner, Markey Introduce Expanded North Korea Policy and Sanctions Legislation

Washington, D.C. - October 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity, introduced comprehensive bipartisan legislation to economically and diplomatically pressure North Korea and its enablers, and authorize efforts to combat Pyongyang’s widespread human rights and labor trafficking abuses, to support and enhance efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the threat of North Korea’s accelerating development of nuclear weapons and the missiles that deliver them. The legislation titled, the Leverage to Enhance Effective Diplomacy Act of 2017, expands on sanctions legislation introduced earlier this year by Gardner and Markey.

“The Administration has taken positive steps in recent weeks to impose additional sanctions and working with governments to diplomatically isolate this heinous regime.” said Gardner. “Senator Markey and I are going to continue working in a bipartisan manner to give nations and companies a clear choice – do business with the United States or do business with North Korea. This legislation will give the Administration the needed additional tools to peacefully denuclearize the North Korean regime.”

“There is no military solution to the threat of a nuclear North Korea,” said Markey. “While the effort to economically and politically isolate North Korea will be essential for a diplomatic strategy to succeed, we must also recognize that pressure, without diplomatic engagement, will quickly become counterproductive. Our diplomatic strategy must combine economic pressure with talks to convince Kim Jong-un that the United States is not the threat he believes us to be and that he does not require nuclear weapons to survive.”

Ernst Effort to Cut Former Presidents’ Perks Passes Senate Committee

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst’s (R-IA) Presidential Allowance Modernization Act of 2017 passed unanimously out of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and now awaits full Senate consideration. This legislation reforms the outdated system that provides former U.S. Presidents with post-presidency benefits by establishing first-ever limits on the taxpayer support they receive.

“Our national debt now exceeds $20 trillion; this bipartisan effort is another important step toward reigning in Washington’s out-of-control spending,” said Senator Ernst. “It is ridiculous to continue asking taxpayers to help foot the bill for former presidents’ perks at a time when they already rake in millions of dollars from book deals, speaking engagements, and more. I look forward to seeing this commonsense legislation considered by the full Senate, and eventually signed into law.”

Currently, under the Former Presidents Act, former presidents receive a generous pension as well as a monetary allowance to cover expenses such as travel, staff, communications, and office space – all funded by taxpayers. Nowadays, with former presidents earning millions of dollars through a myriad of lucrative opportunities, the Former President’s Act should be updated to take into account the modern financial standing of former presidents.

U.S. Congressman Jody Hice (R-GA) introduced the companion legislation to the Presidential Modernization Act of 2017 in the U.S. House of Representatives, which passed unanimously out of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on September 13, 2017.

Senator Ernst first introduced the bipartisan and bicameral Presidential Allowance Modernization Act on May 21, 2015. After passing both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives with unanimous support, it was ultimately vetoed by President Obama.

New Duckworth-Schneider STRANDED Act Would Help Communities with Stranded Nuclear Waste

Washington, D.C. - October 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Brad Schneider (IL-10) introduced the Sensible, Timely Relief for America’s Nuclear Districts’ Economic Development (STRANDED) Act to help communities struggling with the impacts of stranded nuclear waste. Their bicameral legislation would create grants to incentivize economic development and provide federal assistance to offset the economic impacts of stranded nuclear waste for the dozens of communities that are affected across the country – and the dozens more that will be stranded over the coming years. Specifically, the legislation would provide 15 dollars for each kilogram of nuclear waste, revive an expired tax credit for first-time homebuyers purchasing a home in a community with stranded waste and include stranded nuclear waste communities to the existing New Markets credit eligibility.

Duckworth and Schneider announced their new legislation this weekend in Zion, Illinois, where a decommissioned nuclear power station has housed more than 1,020 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel on valuable lakefront property since the plant’s closure in 1998. A photo taken at the announcement is available here.

“For years communities have been forced to house this waste without consent or compensation, despite the immeasurable negative impact to their local economies,” Duckworth said. “Since the federal government has failed to open a permanent repository and it could take years to move the waste after one is agreed upon, the STRANDED Act will help affected areas around the country that are facing hardship now. Communities like Zion can’t wait any longer.”

“Zion and communities like it have been unfairly saddled with storing our nation’s stranded nuclear waste – forced to shoulder the burdens of storage with no compensation in return,” Schneider said. “The federal government needs to make right by these communities. This bill I’m introducing with Sen. Duckworth would bolster Zion’s economic development by finally compensating the city for its storage of the waste, offering tax incentives to encourage private investment and homeownership, and better ensuring access to all available federal resources. Addressing this issue is a matter of basic fairness for the communities paying the price for our government’s failure to find a permanent solution for spent nuclear fuel.”

In addition to encouraging economic development and providing financial support, the STRANDED Act would establish a task force to identify the programs that currently exist for communities with stranded nuclear waste, simplifying the process and making it easier for communities applying for government assistance. The bill would also help identify a long-term solution for nuclear waste by directing the Department of Energy to examine other options for hosting decommissioned nuclear waste and to determine if secure sites that house decommissioned nuclear waste can be used for other purposes like hosting secure servers as well.

Duckworth’s post on the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources gives her jurisdiction over nuclear energy, and she is committed to using that post to improve areas with stranded nuclear waste.

Cotton Statement on the Expulsion of Cuban Diplomats from U.S. Soil

Washington, D.C. - October 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) has released the following statement on the expulsion of Cuban diplomats from U.S. soil:

"I encouraged the president to expel Cuban diplomats from U.S. soil, and I'm glad that he did. The Castro regime has shown no respect or concern for the safety of our diplomats, and until the regime brings those responsible for these attacks to justice, every one of those Cuban diplomats should be declared persona non grata. It's time we held the Castro regime responsible for its crimes against both the Cuban and the American people."

Budget Committee Begins Work to Advance Tax Reform

Washington, D.C. - October 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- On the Senate floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) discussed the Senate Budget Committee’s mark-up of the Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2018 which will lay the foundation for tax reform. Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s remarks are below, and video of his remarks can be found here.

“Beginning today, the Senate Budget Committee will take the next step in our effort to enact pro-growth tax reform, this time by marking up a budget resolution. The Committee's work follows the release last week of our unified framework, the tax blueprint on how to create jobs and how to put more money back in the pockets of the hardworking Americans that earn it.”

“The best way to accomplish meaningful tax reform is to lower rates and simplify provisions across the board to give Americans more take-home pay and have to spend less time hiring somebody just to complete their tax return. We can't simply throw up our hands and do nothing and accept the status quo because American workers and job creators can't afford the status quo. I'm optimistic… about the framework and look forward to working with my colleagues in the Finance Committee in the days and weeks ahead.”

Cornyn: Democrats Attacking Tax Reform Ideas They Once Supported

Washington, D.C. - October 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- On the Senate floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) noted Democrats’ hypocrisy when discussing tax reform efforts, highlighting their previous support for elements in the Big Six framework which they are now criticizing. Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s remarks are below, and video of his remarks can be found here.

“You'd think, given their effusive support for tax reform in the past, our Democratic friends would at least wait to review the legislation before they pounce on it.”

“They are already piling on, and spreading misinformation, and assuming the worst because that's the easy and politically expedient thing to do.”

“What's most striking is that the new framework, unveiled by the so-called ‘Big Six,’ shares many of the core features of previous plans that were widely embraced by Democrats.”

“These changes to our tax code used to be noncontroversial, certainly not partisan. So the Big Six plan isn't just similar to the Wyden one, though. It also shares key features with the so-called ‘Simpson-Bowles’ plan from 2010 that not long ago was embraced by a number of Democrats.”

“Our Democratic colleagues used to think these reforms were long overdue, and they were right then, and they are wrong now.”

“Our colleagues from Ohio, Minnesota, and Missouri have all said in recent years that we should lower the corporate tax rate, not because we love corporations, but because we recognize that that provides incentives for them to stay here and invest in jobs and businesses in America, rather than overseas.”

“There is nothing partisan about wanting an updated and more competitive tax code.”

Bill to Protect Children from Online Predators Passes House

Washington, D.C. - October 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The PROTECT Our Children Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), passed the U.S. House of Representatives. This legislation, which passed the Senate in June, reauthorizes the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program, a national network of 61 coordinated task forces representing 3,500 federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies that combat child exploitation across the country. U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) were original cosponsors of the legislation.

“As Attorney General of Texas, I saw firsthand how children can be exploited over the internet and what resources are needed to stop these despicable predators. Preventing cyber-crimes like online child exploitation is an increasingly tough task, which is why the ICAC Task Force Program and the support it gives to our law enforcement agencies to combat this heinous crime is invaluable,” Sen. Cornyn said. “I’m proud to see my colleagues in both Chambers recognize the importance of reauthorizing this program, and I will work to see that the Senate clears this legislation for the President’s signature.”

The PROTECT Our Children Act, originally passed in 2008, authorized the ICAC Task Force Program, a coordinated group of task forces representing 3,500 federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies engaged in reactive and proactive investigations across the country. This legislation built upon work Senator Cornyn began as Texas Attorney General, when he created the Texas Internet Bureau to fight internet crimes like child pornography.

The ICAC Task Force Program helps local and state law enforcement respond to technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation and internet crimes against children, and offers guidance on victim support, forensic investigative components, training and technical assistance, and prevention and community education.

Earlier this year, Senator Cornyn met with local leaders and law enforcement officers working with two of the three ICACs in Texas, the Dallas ICAC Task Force and the Houston Metro ICAC Task Force, to discuss their successes and challenges to preventing online exploitation of children in the state.

Organizations who support the PROTECT Our Children Act include the National Association to Protect Children (PROTECT), the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the National Children’s Alliance, Rights4Girls, Shared Hope, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of Police Organizations, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, the Major County Sheriffs of America, the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies, the National Sheriffs Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National District Attorneys Association, the National Criminal Justice Association, and the Major City Chiefs Police Association.

Court-Appointed Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act Passes Senate, Heads to President's Desk

Washington, D.C. - October 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) released the following statement after his bipartisan legislation to protect seniors from neglect and financial exploitation passed Congress. The Court-Appointed Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act, which he introduced with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), will help crack down on elder abuse by strengthening oversight and accountability for guardians and conservators.

“Our nation’s senior citizens regretfully are targets for exploitation and fraud, sadly sometimes at the hands of those they trust the most,” said Cornyn. “I’m glad the House passed this bipartisan legislation to strengthen accountability measures for guardians so our senior citizens are protected and this type of abuse can be prevented.”

Sen. Cornyn’s bipartisan legislation passed as part of the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act. The Court-Appointed Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act makes courts eligible for an already existing program designed to protect seniors. Under the program, state courts would be able to apply for funding to assess the handling of proceedings relating to guardians and conservators, and then make the necessary improvements to their practices. For example, the courts could conduct background checks on potential guardians and conservators, or implement an electronic filing system to better monitor and audit conservatorships and guardianships.


Washington, D.C. - October 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and U.S. Representatives David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) have introduced the American Miners Pension Act (AMP Act) at a press conference with United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts and retired miners explaining the importance of this legislation and urging quick adoption.

“Earlier this year, we secured a major victory of permanent health care for our miners and their families. But that victory was only half the battle. Today, we took the next step by introducing the AMP Act, which will ensure these hardworking men and women receive the pensions they rightfully earned. I am always proud to stand with our miners through thick and thin—especially our West Virginia miners—and I will continue to stand with them today as we work to deliver the peace of mind they deserve,” Senator Capito said.

“We have come together today to deliver on an unfinished promise. Earlier this year, we passed legislation to ensure the health benefits of 22,600 miners,” Senator Manchin said. “These benefits are lifesaving to our nation’s miners and their families and I was proud to fight successfully, shoulder to shoulder with them, to secure their health care. But our job isn’t finished. The bill we will introduce today, the American Miners Pension Act, protects the pensions of nearly 87,000 current beneficiaries and another 20,000 eligible coal miners with vested pensions. These miners earned their pensions through a lifetime of the hardest work imaginable. They did so resting in the knowledge that they would find it waiting for them down the road for support in their retired years. Let’s finish what we started and pass this fix to ensure our coal miners keep their hard-earned pensions.”

“Congress needs to keep the promise made to our miners and protect the pension benefits these men and women earned with their sweat. More than 117,000 miners and their families are counting on us. Now that we’ve addressed the immediate threat to retirees’ health care, we need to finish what we started and fix their troubled pension. Our retirees deserve peace of mind that the benefits they earned during their years in the mines will be there when they need them,” Congressman McKinley said.

“For generations, coal miners have risked their lives to keep homes warm, lights on, and factories powered,” Congressman Welch said. “We have a moral obligation to ensure that their hard earned pensions are there when they retire.”

Currently, the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan is on the road to insolvency. The American Miners Pension Act will shore up the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan to make sure that nearly 87,000 retired miners receiving pensions, as well as another 20,000 who are vested, won’t lose the pensions they have paid into for decades. In West Virginia alone, there are 26,967 pensioners who are at risk. The AMP Act would:

  • Use the provision from the Miners Protection Act to allow transfers of excess funds in the Abandoned Mine Land program to the 1974 UMWA pension plan.
  • Direct the Treasury Department to loan the Pension Plan funds annually.
  • Cap the annual loan amount at $600 million and set the interest rate at 1 percent.
  • Require the fund to pay interest for the first 10 years and then pay back the principal plus interest over a 30-year term.
  • Require the fund to certify each year that the pension plan is solvent and able to pay back the principal and interest.

    Washington, D.C. - October 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) have announced the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on neonatal abstinence syndrome. The study, “Federal Action Needed to Address Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome,” is the first federal study of its kind to examine best practices and approaches to treating newborns exposed to opioids during pregnancy.

    The report recommends several practices to address neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) and improve treatment for these newborns, including educating expectant mothers on prenatal care and available resources. It also suggests educating healthcare providers on screening and treating NAS, as well as addressing the stigma faced by pregnant women who use opioids that keeps them from getting treatment.

    Representative Jenkins introduced legislation, the NAS Healthy Babies Act, to require this study, which the House passed last year. Thanks to the work of Senator Capito and Representative Jenkins, the legislation was included in the final version of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which was signed into law by the president.

    “We hear heartbreaking stories every day about the tragic deaths and painful struggles of individuals dealing with addiction, but some of the most heartbreaking are those of infants who are exposed to opioids before they’re even born. It’s important that we do more to draw attention to this issue and take action to address it. That’s why I pushed to make sure CARA included a provision requiring this study and have continued working to advance legislation that will help these infants,” Senator Capito said. “West Virginia is so fortunate to be home to Lily’s Place, a wonderful facility that provides the kind of specialized care infants going through withdrawal need. However, many families across the country don’t have access to that kind of care or don’t even know it’s a possibility. By raising awareness of treatment options like those available at Lily’s Place and exploring strategies to help infants in need, we can really begin to address this tragic aspect of the opioid crisis. This study is another step in a much larger fight, but it’s a welcome and useful tool that I know will inform our efforts moving forward.”

    “Suffering through withdrawal from exposure to drugs such as heroin and other opioids is a horrific way to start one’s life, but tragically that’s the reality for many newborns in West Virginia and across the country. I was proud to sponsor and champion the law that required this study so we could expand our knowledge of NAS and how to care for these precious newborns. Every child deserve the best chance for a healthy start in life,” Representative Jenkins said. “This report showed that there are other options for care outside of a hospital that may be more suitable for some babies, like the care being given at Lily’s Place in Huntington. It also found that we can and must do more to implement best practices and work with caregivers in our communities. Based on this report’s findings, I am ready to draft new legislation to find and promote solutions to help these babies and stop the opioid epidemic.”

    Senator Capito and Representative Jenkins have worked together on other legislation to address the opioid crisis and help NAS newborns. In May, Senator Capito reintroduced the Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies (CRIB) Act, which Representative Jenkins introduced in the House. The bipartisan legislation would help newborns suffering from addiction recover in the best setting and provide support to their families. The bill would recognize residential pediatric recovery facilities as providers under Medicaid, allowing Medicaid to cover these services in residential pediatric recovery facilities in addition to hospitals.

    For a copy of the full GAO report, click here.

    Brown Says Wells Fargo Has Not Done Enough to Earn Back Customer Trust

    U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – demanded answers from Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan today about the company’s failure to detect millions of fraudulent accounts opened in customers’ names, as well as the company’s practice of forcing unwanted insurance on auto loan borrowers.

    Brown cited multiple examples that demonstrate Wells Fargo has failed to institute significant changes in order to earn back customer trust. Wells Fargo only recently disclosed that the number of fraudulent accounts was 70 percent higher than it originally reported. And, while Wells Fargo told Congress the problems were limited to its community bank, the auto loan division stuck 800,000 customers with auto insurance policies without the customers’ consent.

    Brown pressed Sloan on Wells Fargo’s use of so-called forced arbitration clauses to block customers from seeking justice in the court system. While Wells Fargo has insisted it is no longer using forced arbitration clauses to cover fake accounts, Brown pointed to a case in Utah within the last three weeks.

    Brown pointed out that forced arbitration favors banks, putting customers at a disadvantage when seeking justice. In fact, despite the fact that Wells Fargo opened 3.5 million fraudulent accounts between 2009 and 2017, the bank was awarded more money through arbitration than it was required to pay to customers during that time, according to publicly available data. The average customer involved in an arbitration case with Wells Fargo ended up being ordered to pay the bank $11,000.

    Brown also said that because the arbitration proceedings are private, they allow fraud that may have otherwise been brought to light through the court system to continue in secret.

    “Forced arbitration always gives the advantage to the bank, and you are continuing to use forced arbitration to take advantage of your customers. Why should we believe you are committed to changing your practices and being fair to customers when you continue to use closed-door arbitration practices that deny customers their day in court?” Brown questioned Sloan.

    As the CEO side-stepped Brown’s question, the Senator interrupted, “Give customers their day in court.”

    Click here for production-quality video of Brown’s questions.

    Brown is leading legislation in the Senate that would give defrauded Wells Fargo customers their day in court. Brown has also championed a rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that would bar banks, payday lenders and other financial institutions from using forced arbitration to block customers from accessing the court system. In July, the House of Representatives voted to overturn the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule. Brown vowed a ‘hell of a fight’ against Congressional efforts to roll back the rule.

    Brown: Equifax Should Spend More on Security, Less on CEO Pay

    Washington, D.C. - October 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – questioned former Equifax CEO Richard F. Smith today in the wake of a massive data breach that exposed the data of 145 million Americans. According to Equifax, more than 5.2 million Ohioans were impacted by the breach.

    Brown called for Equifax to invest more in security and less in huge salaries for CEOs. He pointed out that Equifax spent nearly as much on Smith’s multi-million dollar salary as the company spent on cybersecurity. Since last year, Smith earned about $69 million, while Equifax spends just $85 million a year on cybersecurity.

    “In hindsight, do you think Equifax should have spent more money protecting peoples’ data rather than compensating you so well?” Brown asked. “You’re an IT company. That’s just not acceptable.”

    Brown also pointed out how unfair Equifax’s business model is for American consumers. Equifax makes money collecting and selling consumers’ data to other big companies. Those consumers are not compensated for the use of their data, in fact, most of the time, they don’t even know it’s being sold. Then Equifax makes even more money by forcing those same consumers to pay Equifax to protect their data after a breach occurs.

    “Do you think it’s fair that Equifax gets to take consumers’ data at almost no cost, make millions by selling it to data mining companies and marketers, then charge fees to those consumers for credit monitoring products after they’ve become identity theft victims?” Brown pressed the CEO.

    Brown called for consumers to have more control of their own data, similar to how Americans have ownership of their medical records. It is illegal for companies to buy and sell medical records, and patients must consent before their information is transferred. However, companies like Equifax are free to buy and sell sensitive data without people’s consent or knowledge. Brown suggested Americans should have the right to request their data be deleted from Equifax’s system or at the other consumer reporting agencies.

    “If you don’t think consumers should be allowed to control their own data, why should a company that has had so many security failures be allowed to control their data? That’s the fundamental question this company hasn’t answered to the public,” Brown said.

    Booker, Senators Introduce Bipartisan Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform Package

    Washington, D.C. - October 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) today joined a bipartisan group of senators in reintroducing the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017, which will recalibrate prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, target violent and career criminals, and save taxpayer dollars. The legislation permits more judicial discretion at sentencing for offenders with minimal criminal histories and helps inmates successfully reenter society, while tightening penalties for violent criminals and preserving key prosecutorial tools for law enforcement.

    Booker was joined by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

    “America’s criminal justice system is broken. The mass incarceration explosion of the last 40 years has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, held back our economy, undermined public safety, disproportionately affected communities of color and the poor, and devalued the very idea of justice in America. The bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act is a critically important and urgently needed step forward to help right these wrongs,” Booker said.

    “Our justice system demands consequences for those who choose to run afoul of the law, and law enforcement works hard to keep our communities safe. This bipartisan compromise ensures that these consequences fit their crimes by targeting violent and career criminals who prey on the innocent while giving nonviolent offenders with minimal criminal histories a better chance to become productive members of society. This bill strikes the right balance of improving public safety and ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system. It is the product of much thoughtful deliberation, and we will continue to welcome input from stakeholders as we move forward,” Grassley said.

    “This compromise represents more than five years of work on criminal justice reform. The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country on earth. Mandatory minimum sentences were once seen as a strong deterrent. In reality they have too often been unfair, fiscally irresponsible and a threat to public safety. Given tight budgets and overcrowded prison cells, our country must reform these outdated and ineffective laws that have cost American taxpayers billions of dollars. This bipartisan group is committed to getting this done,” Durbin said.

    “Since arriving in Congress, I’ve made it a priority to reform our criminal justice system so that it both keeps the public safe and imposes fair sentences. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act would be an important step in the right direction. It has strong bipartisan support from across the political spectrum, and I call on Congress to pass this historic legislation and on the president to sign it,” Lee said.

    “This bill tackles major problems facing our criminal justice system. It recognizes that longer sentences don’t always lead to safer communities or less crime, and that the toughest penalties should be aimed at the worst offenders. And it uses what’s worked for states to prepare inmates for life after prison. In Rhode Island, that kind of smart anti-recidivism programming has led to big gains for former inmates, our prison system, and the communities where prisoners return, and to lower crime and recidivism rates. I’m proud to support this bipartisan, comprehensive legislation,” Whitehouse said.

    “We maintain the tools law enforcement needs to continue making sure that the worst drug traffickers and violent criminals stay off of our streets. We also provide flexibility in sentencing for those offenders who deserve it. I'm proud to support this important legislation,” Graham said.

    "For too long Congress reflexively turned to ineffective and Draconian mandatory minimum sentences to solve every public safety concern. I have been heartened by the growing, bipartisan agreement in Congress that it is time to fix our mistakes. Although I wish it did more, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act will begin to bring fairness to our sentencing laws and will save us millions of dollars that can be reinvested in our communities. We must keep pushing to see that this bill is enacted," Leahy said.

    “We can both keep violent offenders off the streets and ensure that non-violent offenders are serving time that better matches their offense. I look forward to working with this bipartisan group of Senators to help reduce recidivism, keep violent offenders off the street, and ensure our criminal justice system is both fair and tough,” Scott said.

    “I oversaw more than 5,000 felony cases during my service on the California Women’s Board of Terms and Parole. I know the negative effects of rigid, determinate sentences on families and defendants. Judges need discretion to evaluate the facts of each case before them. I’m glad that Chairman Grassley and Senator Durbin will reintroduce their bipartisan compromise bill, which has strong support. I look forward to working with the chairman to move the bill forward,” Feinstein said.

    “This bill will enable law enforcement to focus on bringing the most dangerous criminals to justice, while reducing recidivism rates. This measure represents a thoughtful, bipartisan approach to criminal justice reform. I look forward to continuing to work with law enforcement, faith leaders, and local organizations to strengthen our justice system and make our communities safer,” Blunt said.

    The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 narrows the scope of mandatory minimum prison sentences to focus on the most serious drug offenders and violent criminals, while broadening and establishing new outlets for individuals with minimal non-violent criminal histories that may trigger mandatory minimum sentences under current law. The bill also reduces certain mandatory minimums and provides judges with greater discretion when determining appropriate sentences. Under the bill, courts must first review eligible inmates’ individual cases, including criminal histories and conduct while incarcerated, before determining whether a sentence reduction is appropriate.

    Importantly, the bill preserves cooperation incentives to aid law enforcement in tracking down kingpins and stiffens penalties for individuals convicted of serious violent felonies.

    In addition, the bill establishes recidivism reduction programs to help prepare low-risk inmates to successfully re-enter society. Qualifying inmates may receive reductions to their sentences through time credits upon successful completion of recidivism reduction programming. The bill also makes retroactive the Fair Sentencing Act and certain statutory reforms that address inequities in drug sentences. Courts must first review each eligible inmate’s case on an individualized basis, including criminal history and conduct while incarcerated, before determining whether a sentence reduction is appropriate.

    Booker, Sullivan Press FCC on Space Debris

    Washington, D.C. - October 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ and Dan Sullivan (R-AK), members of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to tackle the challenge of space debris – hundreds of thousands of pieces of orbital debris no longer in use that pose a serious threat to satellites and spacecraft.

    In a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the Senators asked the Commission to form a working group with NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to develop a comprehensive policy on mitigating space debris. Collisions with debris as small as 10cm can catastrophically damage satellites, and debris as small as 1cm can disable spacecraft.

    The Senators wrote: “As the Commission considers multiple requests for new LEO [low-Earth orbit] satellite constellations, we ask that you formally coordinate with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to establish an interagency working group on space debris and to develop a comprehensive domestic policy on space debris mitigation.”

    Full text of the letter is below.

    September 29, 2017

    Mr. Ajit Pai


    Federal Communications Commission

    445 12th Street SW

    Washington, DC 20554

    Dear Chairman Pai,

    We are writing to express our concern for the growing challenge presented by low-Earth orbit (LEO) space debris. As the Commission considers multiple requests for new LEO satellite constellations, we ask that you formally coordinate with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to establish an interagency working group on space debris and to develop a comprehensive domestic policy on space debris mitigation.

    We note that NASA, as stated in its own filings with the Commission, is conducting an internal parametric study on large constellations, which will be completed later this year. As part of your coordination with NASA on this issue, we ask that the Commission use any recommendations or best practices from this study to inform regulatory decisions on LEO constellation permitting.

    As you may know, the U.S. Department of Defense Space Surveillance Network currently tracks nearly 22,000 pieces of orbital debris, defined as man-made objects in Earth’s orbit that no longer serve a useful purpose. This figure does not include hundreds of thousands of pieces of debris smaller than 10cm that are also orbiting the Earth. Collisions with debris as small as 10cm can catastrophically damage satellites, and debris as small as 1cm can disable spacecraft. Each collision exponentially increases the likelihood of another collision, creating a potential cascade that could severely inhibit future telecommunications, national security, and other space-based activity in the LEO environment.

    In the last decade, two major satellite collisions dramatically increased the amount of fragmented debris currently in orbit. Model predictions suggest that even with nearly full compliance with existing mitigation measures, LEO space debris is expected to grow by an average of 30% in the next 200 years. A number of national and international studies have concluded that orbital debris may have already reached a tipping point.

    Collectively, if approved, the applications pending at the Commission for new satellite constellations could drastically increase the number of satellites in LEO. In light of these pending requests, we remind you of the United States’ obligation to ensure that any licensed system will not operate near other systems in a way that could potentially create space new debris, endanger national and international assets, and threaten our future access to space.

    We are extremely excited by the unique potential for these proposed satellite constellations to connect rural and underserved American populations to the internet. However, swift action to mitigate the collision risk associated with a growing number of constellations is critical to ensuring the long-term sustainability of our space environment.

    We stand ready and willing to support the Commission, NASA and FAA in establishing comprehensive regulatory policy to mitigate the space debris challenge. We appreciate your prompt attention to this issue and we look forward to discussing further.


    Blumenthal and Murphy Introduce Bill to Close Automatic Weapon Loophole

    And, so it starts.

    Washington, D.C. - October 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) joined U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introducing the Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act, a bill to close a loophole that allows semi-automatic weapons to be easily modified to fire at the rate of automatic weapons, which have been illegal for more than 30 years.

    “Bump stock devices are carnage force-multipliers. The searing noise of that staccato firing in Las Vegas that we have all now heard countless times should be a wakeup call to this Congress. We should come together to stop the sale of a device that is patently designed just to kill people. The bump stock device essentially circumvents the law – widely accepted – and enables law breaking. What excuse can there be for the continued sale of bump stocks? None,” said Blumenthal.

    Murphy said, “Bump fire stocks skirt the law to effectively make a semi-automatic weapon mimic an illegal fully automatic weapon – that’s literally the only reason it exists. People in Connecticut know this shouldn’t even be a debate. Automatic weapons are outlawed for a reason, and the horror in Las Vegas made clear why. Congress needs to pass this bill ASAP or we will see them seized by even more mass murderers and terrorists.”

    The sale, manufacture and transfer of new fully automatic weapons have been illegal since 1986. However, bump stocks, slide fire devices and other similar accessories are able to be attached to semi-automatic weapons, allowing them to reach fully-automatic rates of fire.

    Semi-automatic rifles typically have a rate of fire between 45 and 60 rounds per minute. A bump stock or other similar device increases the semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire to between 400 and 800 rounds per minute.

    The Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act would ban the sale, transfer, importation, manufacture or possession of bump stocks, trigger cranks and similar accessories that accelerate a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire.

    The bill also makes clear that its intent is to target only those accessories that increase a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire. Legitimate accessories used by hunters would be exempt. The bill also contains exceptions for lawful possession of these devices by law enforcement and the government.

    “We must close this loophole that allows the sale of devices to convert guns into unlawful automatic weapons meant for war zones,” said Senator Maria Cantwell - (D - WA).

    “It’s past time this Congress pursued common sense policies to address the rampant gun violence in this country, and this legislation is a good place to start,” said Senator Patty Murray - (D - WA). “Like so many people I’ve heard from over the past few days, I refuse to believe the politics are just too tough to do whatever is possible to prevent another senseless, horrific mass shooting like we just saw in Las Vegas.”

    Under the National Firearms Act, the sale, manufacture and transfer of automatic weapons are illegal. However, bump stocks, slide fire devices, and other similar accessories can be attached to semi-automatic weapons, allowing them to reach fully-automatic rates of fire.

    Semi-automatic rifles typically have a rate of fire between 45 and 60 rounds per minute. However, bump stocks or other similar devices increase the semi-automatic rifle's rate of fire between 400 and 800 rounds per minute.

    The bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ed Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Carper (D-DE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

    Bennet, Gardner Cosponsor Bill to Extend and Improve CHIP

    Washington, D.C. - October 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, and Cory Gardner (R) cosponsored the Keeping Kids' Insurance Dependable and Secure (KIDS) Act, bipartisan legislation to ensure stability for vulnerable children by extending funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for five years. The bill would also, over time, transition CHIP to a traditional federal-state partnership and provide additional protections for low-income children and flexibility for states.

    Funding for CHIP expired on September 30, 2017. Without its reauthorization, 90,000 children and 600 pregnant women risk losing coverage in Colorado. According to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC), Colorado has sufficient funds for the program through the end of January, 2018.

    "CHIP is too essential to too many families for us to delay any further," Bennet said. "This bill would extend CHIP funding for the next five years, ensuring Colorado's children and expecting mothers who depend on the program retain access to care. We urge our colleagues to support this legislation and see that it passes for the sake of families across the country."

    "I've cosponsored legislation to reauthorize CHIP funding through 2022, and I'm urging my Senate colleagues to move quickly on this bipartisan issue," Gardner said. "Senator Bennet and I have been very vocal about the need to address this, and it appears there's a path forward to creating long-term certainty for a program that roughly 90,000 Colorado children and pregnant mothers utilize."

    The Keeping Kids' Insurance Dependable and Secure (KIDS) Act would:

  • Extend CHIP funding through Fiscal Year (FY) 2022;
  • Maintain federal matching rate at current statutory levels through FY 2019, change to 11.5 percent for FY 2020, and return to a traditional CHIP matching rate for fiscal years 2021 and 2022; and
  • Create protections and flexibility under the maintenance-of-effort provision.

    Washington, D.C. - October 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin joined U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) as a cosponsor of the Community Health Investment, Modernization, and Excellence (CHIME) Act, which would reauthorize the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF) and the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) for five years. In addition, the bipartisan bill provides four percent increases for the CHCF and NHSC every year beginning in FY2019.

    “Families across the state of Wisconsin rely on the 17 community health centers across our state for critical, quality and affordable health care services, including preventative care, vision services and low-cost dental care,” said Senator Baldwin. “Without immediate action to continue funding for these critical providers, more than 30 thousand Wisconsinites could lose access to care. We must act now on this bipartisan legislation to help keep these vital community health centers open and serving their communities.”

    Community health centers are a critical component of the nation’s primary care network, serving approximately 26 million patients at over 10,000 sites throughout the United States. Community health centers operate in both rural and urban areas, in every state in the nation. Last year, health centers were the medical home for one in twelve Americans, one in ten children, one in six Americans living in rural areas, and more than 330,000 of our nation’s veterans.

    Without extension of the CHCF, community health centers will lose seventy percent of their funding. This will result in an estimated 2,800 site closures, the loss of 50,000 jobs, and result in 9 million Americans losing their access to care.

    Earlier this month, Senator Baldwin joined a bipartisan group of Senators in calling for immediate action to extend critical funding for community health centers before funding runs out.

    The CHIME Act is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).


    Chattanooga, TN - October 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- In an interview with Chuck Todd that aired on NBC’s “Meet the Press” today, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a member of the Senate Budget Committee, discussed foreign policy, tax reform, and his decision not to seek reelection. Excerpts follow.

    On his decision not to seek reelection:

    “I told people that I couldn’t imagine serving more than two terms,” said Corker. “And Chuck, I’ve felt a total freedom since I’ve been here to be myself. To speak frankly, to work with the other side of the aisle. That’s obviously needed. I can count. I can do math… And so, I’ve never, ever, ever thought about electoral politics in what I’m doing… I’ve enjoyed the freedom of conducting myself as a businessperson who’s come to Washington to solve problems.”

    “And now I’ve got 15 months of even more freedom, in many ways,” added Corker. “And I’m going to do everything I can to have the biggest impact possible.”

    On whether he will support tax reform legislation that adds to the deficit:

    “I'm willing to accept the realities of where we are, and that is that we have a policy base. In other words, taxes,” said Corker. “It's kind of like the doc fix. You know, we kept making up the fact that this was going to change. So, I'm willing to accept current policy, number one. I think that's rational. And I'm willing to accept a reasonable score on dynamic growth. A reasonable score on dynamic growth. [Joint Committee on Taxation] does those. There're some other groups that do it. But if it, if it looks like to me, Chuck, we’re adding one penny to the deficit, I am not going to be for it, OK? I’m sorry. It is the greatest threat to our nation. The greatest threat to our nation. And so, look, I voted against the NDAA the other day. That was a painful vote. I mean, you know, I support the military. They know that. But when you blow through even the president's budget and you use huge amounts of OCO, overseas contingency operations, to pay for it, I'm sorry, I'm opposed to that.”

    “It's like, Chuck, we've entered a party atmosphere here,” added Corker. “You know, everybody was a fiscal hawk, kind of. Not really, but kind of up until the election. Now, it’s like there's a party going on up here, OK? Heck with revenue. Heck with the, you know, constraining spending. So yes, I will remain a deficit hawk until I leave here. And I'm looking so forward to this tax reform debate because the one thing that hasn't been discussed is the $4 trillion in base broadeners that have to occur for this to be successful. And every lobbyist in the world is going to be up here fighting those.”

    On North Korea:

    “I think that there’s more going on than meets the eye,” said Corker. “I think [Secretary] Tillerson understands that every intelligence agency we have says there's no amount of economic pressure you can put on North Korea to get them to stop this program because they view this as their survival… Should we step it up a little bit? The answer is absolutely yes. I mean, we should step it up. I mean, you know, we're moving to a place where we're going to end up with a binary choice soon.”

    “I don't think we're cornering ourselves,” added Corker. “But if we don't ramp up the diplomatic side, it's possible that we end up cornered.”

    On the performance of the administration:

    “I’m not trying to be critical here, but some of the words have been left out,” said Corker. “What I said is he has not yet demonstrated some of the competence and some of the stability… And that we need for him to be successful. I mean, the country needs for him to be successful.”

    “I think that General Kelly has brought in an air of discipline that has been transformative as far as how the White House operates,” added Corker. “I do think they did a great job with Texas and Florida during the hurricane(s). Very professional. I thought it took a lot of courage by the president to change his long held position about Afghanistan. So, I’m seeing changes.”

    Sen. Coons urges Supreme Court to end partisan gerrymandering

    Washington, D.C. - October 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued the following statement on Gill v. Whitford.

    “Partisan gerrymandering is dividing our communities, eroding the responsiveness of our democracy, and violating our most treasured civic values,” said Senator Coons. “Time and time again, the Supreme Court has declined to curtail partisan gerrymandering. Today, as the Supreme Court considers whether or not partisan gerrymandering violates the Constitution in Gill v. Whitford, the Court has been given another opportunity to protect each citizen’s right to freely choose their representatives. It is my hope that the Supreme Court will finally take this opportunity to address partisan gerrymandering.”