Friday, October 20, 2017

Blumenthal Calls for Transparency, Accountability Regarding US Soldier Deaths in Niger

Source: Senator Richard Blumenthal - (D - CT)

Washington, D.C. - October 20, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called for a full hearing of the Committee on the deaths of four American soldiers killed in Niger, and swift completion of a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances that led to this tragedy.

“In the days since four Americans were killed in Niger, we have no clear answers about what happened and why their lives were lost. Nearly two weeks of delay and non-disclosure is cause for very grave concern. The Senate Armed Services Committee needs to hear directly from those in charge – including U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Special Operations Command – about what decisions led to this tragic outcome. I fully support all efforts Chairman McCain and Ranking Member Reed will take to ensure that our Committee is fully engaged in its oversight responsibilities including, if necessary, subpoenas. Meanwhile, the Administration must prioritize a comprehensive investigation,” said Blumenthal.

Read more about Fallen Soldiers at the Ponder news by clicking here


Source: Senator Tammy Baldwin - (D - WI)

Washington, D.C. - October 20, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin released the following statement on the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Resolution voted on in the Senate tonight:

“I believe Wisconsin families need a tax break and that's what I'm working for. But this budget resolution paves the way for a partisan tax proposal that favors big corporations and gives a majority of the tax breaks to the wealthiest 1 percent. I just don’t think it’s right to make Wisconsin’s hardworking middle class families pay for it by blowing a hole in the deficit and cutting Medicare and Medicaid.”

Senator Baldwin offered an amendment to prohibit the Republican tax plan to cut taxes for the top 1% and big corporations from increasing the deficit. She also cosponsored additional amendments to the budget resolution: Senator Heitkamp’s amendment to prohibit taxes from being raised on Americans making less than $250,000 a year, Senator Donnelly’s amendment to prevent companies that have outsourced jobs from benefiting from tax breaks and Senator Nelson’s amendment to reverse the $473 billion in cuts to Medicare in the Republican budget.

Read more about the budget at the Ponder news by clicking here

Alexander Votes To Take First Step Toward Tax Reform

Source: Senator Lamar Alexander  - (R - TN)

Washington, D.C. - October 20, 2017 - (The Ponder News) --  U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) tonight voted for the fiscal year 2018 budget resolution, which is the first step toward reforming our nation’s tax laws.

“You don’t need to be an accountant to know that our tax code is too complicated, takes too many dollars away from Tennesseans and makes it harder to create good-paying jobs for Tennessee families. The Senate’s passage of a budget resolution provides the tools necessary for tax reform, and I will continue working with President Trump and my colleagues in Congress to create a simpler system that will keep more money in Tennesseans’ pockets and help create and grow jobs for Tennessee families.”

The Senate version of the fiscal year 2018 budget resolution passed by a vote of 51 to 49.

Read more at the Ponder news about tax reform by clicking here

Bipartisan Temporary Legislation to Keep Premiums from Rising 20 Percent, Keep Federal Debt from Spiking $194 Billion in 10 Years

Source: Senator Lamar Alexander  - (R - TN)

Washington, D.C. - October 20, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander spoke on the Senate floor, announcing he and eleven other Republican senators are among 24 senators cosponsoring temporary legislation to keep premiums from rising 20 percent and to keep the federal debt from spiking $194 billion in 10 years.

“Our agreement permanently amends the Affordable Care Act to give new flexibility for states to create insurance policies that have a larger variety and lower costs and it continues the cost-sharing reduction payments during 2018 and 2019,” Alexander said. “Cost-sharing reduction payments are subsidies that pay for copays and deductibles for low income Americans. Every Republican in the House of Representatives who voted to repeal and replace Obamacare this year, voted for a provision that continued the cost-sharing payments for two years.”

Alexander continued: “The president says there should be no bailout of insurance companies. I agree 100 percent. So does Senator Murray. We have a page and a half to make it clear that insurance companies cannot ‘double dip,’ so the benefits go to consumers not insurance companies.

“Some conservatives object to the idea of paying them at all, but I would ask what's conservative about unaffordable premiums? What's conservative about $194 billion of new federal debt? What's conservative about creating chaos so millions can't buy insurance? What's conservative about a four-lane highway that would be the chaos that leads to a single-payer solution for insurance in this country?”

“The people still objecting are listening to the groups around Washington, D.C. I would suggest they listen to some other people. Listen to the waitress, listen to the songwriter, listen to the brick layer, listen to the small businesswoman. The people of America, there are 350,000 in Tennessee, who may be terrified by the prospect of increasing premiums or even the prospect of not being able to buy insurance at all.”

“We haven't moved an inch toward our objectives in the last seven years of giving states more flexibility in creating insurance policies in the individual market. This agreement does.”

“We have a solution here. Senator Murray and I – a total of 24 United States Senators – are offering it today.”

Alexander and Murray released the names of 22 additional cosponsors -- Republican Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and Democratic Senators Angus King (I-Maine), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).

Read more about the Affordable Care Act  at The Ponder News by clicking here

Blumenthal Statement on Federal Court Blocking - Again - Trump Muslim Travel Ban

Source: Senator Richard Blumenthal - (D - CT)

Washington, D.C. - October 20, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) released the following statement today after a federal judge blocked President Trump’s third attempt at a travel ban that would prevent visitors to the United States from several majority-Muslim countries.

“A federal judge has again saved our nation from a discriminatory, demagogic travel ban. The Trump ban is both unconstitutional and unconscionable. An independent judiciary has upheld American values as well as American law. Out of the welter of judicial rulings should emerge a simple truth: the Trump attempts to discriminate based on religion violate the spirit and letter of the American Constitution. Rather than again demeaning or denouncing American judges, the President should accept this ruling and rescind the order immediately.”

Read more about the travel ban at The Ponder News by clicking HERE

Church World Service Statement on Hawaii’s Blocking of the Travel Ban

Source: Church World Service

Washington, D.C. - October 20, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- After a federal judge in Hawaii blocked the latest version of President Trump’s travel ban, CWS President and CEO Reverend John L. McCullough issued the following statement:

“No legal or linguistic maneuvers by the Trump administration can disguise the travel ban’s discriminatory intent. Each rendition of this ban fuels President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda and further obstructs our brothers and sisters from reaching safety and a better life –plain and simple. We’re heartened a federal judge in Hawaii again affirmed this truth in court. Today is yet another reminder that it’s high time for this White House to cease targeting immigrants and Muslims. As today’s ruling manifests again, there is no actual grounding to the travel ban but ignorance and baseless hostility.

Since 1946, Church World Service has supported refugees, immigrants and other displaced individuals, in addition to providing sustainable relief and development solutions to communities that wrestle with hunger and poverty.

CAP’s Topher Spiro on Alexander-Murray Deal

Source: Center for American Progress

Washington, D.C. - October 20, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Topher Spiro, vice president for Health Policy and senior fellow for Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress, released the following statement after news that Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have reached a deal to stabilize the Affordable Care Act:

This bipartisan deal counters the Trump administration’s sabotage of the Affordable Care Act on two major fronts. First, by guaranteeing payments for cost-sharing subsidies, the deal will lower premiums by about 20 percent in 2019 and provide some much-needed certainty to insurance markets. Second, the deal restores critical funding for outreach and enrollment efforts and extends this funding to 2019.

For middle-income consumers who are not eligible for tax credits, the deal extends the option of catastrophic plans. Importantly, these plans will not splinter the risk pool, undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions, or gut essential health benefits. The deal provides for state flexibility to obtain waivers, while maintaining essential health benefits and ensuring affordability for lower-income populations.

This bipartisan deal sends an important signal that the Senate wants to see insurance markets work—not fail.

Unfortunately, much damage has already been done. And other acts of sabotage—such as President Trump’s executive order to promote junk plans—are still a threat. It’s time to end these reckless threats so that millions of patients no longer have to live in fear that their health care is at risk.

This is the way the Senate is supposed to work: bipartisan public hearings and bipartisan negotiations. It’s what the American people overwhelmingly want.  Republican leaders in Congress should now halt their endless pursuit of a partisan repeal and stop taking the health care system hostage just to please their donors. Congress should immediately pass, and the president should immediately sign, this bill to provide relief to the American people.