Wednesday, October 25, 2017


Source: California Governor's Office

Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. has announced a friendly wager with Texas Governor Greg Abbott on the matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros in the 2017 World Series, which begins tonight.

In the spirit of bi-partisanship and in recognition of the resilience of the communities impacted by the recent wildfires in California and Hurricane Harvey in Texas, the governors are wagering wine, beer and food from businesses in regions impacted by these disasters and encouraging the public to see, taste and experience what their respective states have to offer.

“While we don’t expect to have to send any vino to Texas, we hope travelers from all over the world – yes, even the Lone Star State – will continue to visit California,” said Governor Brown.

Northern California’s wine region has more than 1,200 wineries, and only a handful were heavily damaged or destroyed. Vintners report that 90 percent of this year’s grapes were harvested before the fires and most tasting rooms have reopened.

“Texas and California are recovering from some of the worst natural disasters our states have ever encountered,” said Governor Abbott. “As we work to overcome these challenges, our two states are united by America’s pastime as we cheer on our home teams in the World Series. Go Astros!”

If the Astros win, Governor Brown will send Governor Abbott a selection of wine from wineries in the Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino regions impacted by recent wildfires. If the Dodgers win, Governor Abbott will send Governor Brown a six-pack of Houston-brewed beer and Texas BBQ.

The first game of the best-of-seven World Series will be played tonight at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

School Milk Nutrition Act Of 2017 Introduced in the House

Source: Joe Courtney (D-CT, 2nd)

Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representatives Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-05) and Joe Courtney (CT-02) today introduced H.R. 4101, the School Milk Nutrition Act of 2017, which will ease unnecessary regulations preventing milk consumption in school lunch programs.

The bipartisan bill recognizes the importance of milk to the health and well-being of school children. It also works to improve the variety and availability of milk offered in schools, which was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue earlier this year.

In May, Secretary Purdue directed USDA to begin the process of allowing schools to serve 1 percent flavored milk through the school meals program.

“Milk is the No. 1 source of nine essential nutrients in many young American’s diets and provides many significant health benefits,” Rep. Thompson said. “The School Milk Nutrition Act of 2017 seeks to reverse the decline of milk consumption in schools throughout Pennsylvania and across the country. By allowing children more milk options – including flavored milk – it is my hope that we will witness consumption return to their historic levels and kids will again be able to enjoy milk. I am certainly encouraged by the Agriculture Secretary Perdue’s support, and I look forward to continuing to work with Rep. Courtney to pass this important piece of legislation.”

“Milk is a cornerstone of a healthy meal for our nation’s children,” Rep. Courtney said. “It packs valuable nutrients including protein, potassium, and calcium—a solid foundation for building a healthy menu in America’s schools. With declining milk consumption in recent years, our bill provides school systems the flexibility to offer students a wider range of healthy milk options. I am proud to join with Rep. Thompson to offer this proposal to expand milk varieties in schools while also supporting local dairy production.”

The School Milk Nutrition Act is strongly supported by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).

“Congressmen Thompson and Courtney recognize the nutritional role that milk plays in helping school-aged children to grow and develop to their full potential,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., IDFA president and CEO. “We appreciate their steadfast commitment to reverse declining milk consumption by allowing schools to give kids access to a variety of milk options, including the flavored milks they love.”

“When kids don’t drink milk, it’s extremely difficult for them to get sufficient amounts of three of the four major nutrients most lacking in childrens’ diets: calcium, potassium, and vitamin D,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “This legislation helps address that shortcoming both in schools and in the WIC program.”

Key Provisions of the School Milk Nutrition Act of 2017:

  • Preserve milk’s integral role in school meals by reaffirming the requirement that milk is offered with each meal, that varieties of milk is consistent with the DGA, and that substitute beverages be nutritionally equivalent to milk.
  • Provide schools the option of offering low-fat (1%) flavored milk, rather than only fat- free – but only if the milk contains no more than 150 calories per 8-ounce serving.
  • Eliminate unnecessary and cumbersome paperwork for schools who wish to offer students more variety.
  • Allow milk to be sold in the same age-appropriate container sizes as competing beverages.
  • Establish a pilot program designed to increase milk consumption through expanded breakfast programs, a la carte sales, new outlets, etc., with a focus on improvements to packaging, refrigeration, flavors and merchandising.
  • Allow mothers in the WIC program to select reduced-fat milk (2%) for themselves or their children with a written request.
  • Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2017 Passes House

    Source: Doug Collins (R-GA, 9th)

    Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) voted with the House to pass H.R. 732, the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2017. Collins co-sponsored the legislation and managed its rule on the House floor. He issued the following response to its passage in the House:

    “Under the last administration, the Justice Department funneled settlements away from actual victims and toward special interest groups, many of them political in nature. It muffled the voice of the people by circumventing their representatives and ignoring Article 1 of the Constitution, which assigns Congress the power of the purse. By passing the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act, the House acted to reprioritize actual victims and reestablish Congressional oversight in federal spending,” said Collins.

    H.R. 732 will go the Senate for consideration.

    Byrne Applauds Largest Oil & Gas Lease Sale in U.S. History

    Source: Bradley Byrne (R-AL, 1st)

    Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today announced that the Department is proposing the largest oil and gas lease sale ever held in the United States --76,967,935 acres in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, offshore Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. The proposed region-wide lease sale, offering an area about the size of New Mexico, is scheduled for March 2018 and includes all available unleased areas on the Gulf’s Outer Continental Shelf, surpassing last year’s region-wide lease sale by about one million acres.

    Congressman Bradley Byrne said: “I applaud Secretary Zinke and the Department of Interior for their efforts to spur energy production and support communities along the Gulf Coast. Revenue from these leases will be a huge boost for Gulf states, like Alabama, and will help us continue conservation and preservation of our treasured coastal areas. Through developments like this, we can ensure American energy dominance and make life better for Gulf Coast families.”

    Secretary Zinke said: “In today’s low-price energy environment, providing the offshore industry access to the maximum amount of opportunities possible is part of our strategy to spur local and regional economic dynamism and job creation and a pillar of President Trump’s plan to make the United States energy dominant. And the economic terms proposed for this sale include a range of incentives to encourage diligent development and ensure a fair return to taxpayers.”

    Proposed Lease Sale 250, which will be livestreamed from New Orleans, will be the second offshore sale under the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022. Lease Sale 249, held in New Orleans last August, received $121 million in high bids. In addition to the high bids and rental payments, the Department will receive royalty payments on any future production from these leases. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) lease revenues are directed to the U.S. Treasury, Gulf Coast states, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Historic Preservation Fund.

    The estimated amount of resources projected to be developed as a result of the proposed region-wide lease sale ranges from 0.21 to 1.12 billion barrels of oil and from 0.55 to 4.42 trillion cubic feet of gas. Most of the activity (up to 83% of future production) from the proposed lease sale is expected to occur in the Central Planning Area.

    Proposed Lease Sale 250 includes 14,375 unleased blocks, located from 3 to 230 miles offshore, in the Gulf’s Western, Central and Eastern planning areas in water depths ranging from 9 to more than 11,115 feet (three to 3,400 meters). Excluded from the lease sale are blocks subject to the Congressional moratorium established by the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006; blocks that are adjacent to or beyond the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone in the area known as the northern portion of the Eastern Gap; and whole blocks and partial blocks within the current boundary of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

    The lease sale terms include stipulations to protect biologically sensitive resources, mitigate potential adverse effects on protected species, and avoid potential conflicts associated with oil and gas development in the region. The terms and conditions for Lease Sale 250 in the Proposed Notice of Sale are not final. Different terms and conditions may be employed in the Final Notice of Sale, which will be published at least 30 days before the sale.

    The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) estimates that the OCS contains about 90 billion barrels of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered technically recoverable gas. The Gulf of Mexico OCS, covering about 160 million acres, has technically recoverable resources of over 48 billion barrels of oil and 141 trillion cubic feet of gas.

    Strong Sanctions On North Korea Encouraged in the House

    Source: Ted Budd (R-NC, 13th)

    Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representative Ted Budd (R-NC) voted in favor of the Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions Act. If signed into law, this legislation would subject the North Korean regime to the toughest sanctions package ever

    “The United States has a long history of using its economic influence to advance an agenda that liberates the oppressed and promotes freedom for those in the darkest corners of the world, like North Korea,” said Rep. Budd.

    “This legislation will help to put the brakes on the advancement of the North Korea’s nuclear weapon’s program. For too long, the regime has been able to use allies throughout the global financial system to bypass UN and US sanctions. This bill gives the international community a clear choice that they can conduct business with the United States, or with North Korea.”

    Congressman John K. Delaney (MD-6) is one of nine Democrats to cosponsor the legislation and also supported the legislation earlier this month in the Financial Services Committee.

    “These are some of the toughest sanctions ever brought forward by this body and I commend my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for supporting this bill,” said Congressman Delaney. “North Korea is a significant threat to our national security and to the security of our allies and to avoid a catastrophe, we must utilize every tool we have. As the world’s leading economy, we have tremendous leverage and we should make sure that North Korea lacks the resources to threaten the safety of the world. Unfortunately, that leverage in Asia has been significantly weakened by President Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have led to domestic economic growth and strengthened our hand with China. I look forward to this legislation passing the Senate and being signed into law so that we can start cracking down on those that do business with North Korea.”

    H.R. 3898 passed the Financial Services Committee on October 12, 2017 with unanimous bipartisan support (56-0). The legislation strengthens President Trump’s executive orders on North Korea by codifying into law presidential waiver authorities that provide for sanctions relief if North Korea takes meaningful steps to limit its development and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

    Reps. Coffman & Brownley Introduce Homeless Veteran Families Act

    Source: Julia Brownly (D-CA, 26th)

    Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representatives Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Julia Brownley (D-CA) introduced H.R. 4099, the “Homeless Veteran Families Act.” The bill aims to assist community agencies that help homeless veterans with dependents, with housing costs – thus helping keep families together.

    The Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program is offered annually by the VA’s Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program to fund community agencies providing services to homeless veterans. H.R. 4099 would provide the VA Secretary with the authority to reimburse GPD providers at a 50% rate for the costs of housing minor dependent(s) of homeless veterans while the veteran receives services from the grant recipient.

    “As a nation, we have a sacred responsibility to help those who served in uniform,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “It is simply unacceptable that we have veterans and their families living out on the street. I am proud to lead this bipartisan legislation, alongside Congressman Coffman, to provide more resources for community-based efforts that serve homeless veterans and their children.”

    Currently, the VA does not have the statutory authority to provide the reimbursements for the costs of services for minor dependents of homeless veterans. This in turn makes the GPD provider pay out of pocket for those services. As a result, some homeless shelters actually give preference to non-veteran homeless families because under the HHS program they do get a per diem for the minor dependent(s). A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that this led to a financial disincentive for providers and in turn, limited housing for veterans and their children. This disproportionately affects the female veteran population.

    “As a Marine combat veteran, I take pride in being able to help those who have served our nation,” said Congressman Coffman. “The bipartisan ‘Homeless Veteran Families Act’ ensures we can offer homeless veterans and their children a safe shelter during their times of hardship and keep families together.”

    The bill received support from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. “Veterans who are homeless with their children have access to permanent housing supports through VA, but the affordable housing crisis our country is facing has lengthened the time it takes them to find appropriate housing with that support. They should not have to stay outside or in unsustainable situations during that period if we can offer them short term bridge housing to get themselves and their families off the street quickly,” said Kathryn Monet, the CEO of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. “The bill proposed by Representatives Coffman and Brownley would provide transitional housing programs funding and flexibility from the VA to provide this critical housing resource to homeless veterans and their families.”

    The following Veterans Service Organizations also support this bill: The American Legion, The Wounded Warrior Project, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Got Your 6, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Military Order of the Purple Heart, and American Veterans (AMVETS).

    James Gillespie, who represents the Comitis Crisis Center, a local non-profit in Aurora, Colorado that assists homeless veterans, added, “The brave men and women who fight for our homeland deserve the best our nation has to offer, especially a safe place to call home. We thank Congressman Coffman and Congresswoman Brownley for recognizing that homeless Veterans & their family members should be honored and taken care of through this critical amendment to the VA Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program. The best way we can thank our Veterans is by supporting them and helping them to support their greatest treasure, their immediate family members.”

    H.R. 4099 will now be referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, on which Coffman and Brownley currently are members.

    International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology (INTERDICT) Act Passes House

    Source: Mike Bost (R-IL, 12th)

    Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representative Mike Bost (IL-12) voted in favor of H.R. 2142, the International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology (INTERDICT) Act, a bipartisan bill to combat the opioid epidemic. The legislation provides the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) enhanced chemical screening devices and scientific support to detect and intercept fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. The bill passed the House 412 to 3 and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

    “Opioids kill more people in Illinois than homicides and car crashes and drugs like fentanyl are responsible,” said Bost. “Fighting the opioid epidemic is not simply about fighting addiction. It’s also about saving lives by keeping poison like fentanyl from getting into the United States and reaching our community. We have a lot of work still to do, but the bipartisan bill passed today is a step in the right direction.”

    Specifically, the INTERDICT Act:

  • Ensures that CBP will have additional portable chemical screening devices available at ports of entry and mail and express consignment facilities, and additional fixed chemical screening devices available in CBP laboratories.
  • Provides CBP with sufficient resources, personnel, and facilities — including scientists available during all operational hours — to interpret screening test results from the field.
  • Authorizes — based on CBP guidance — the appropriation of $15 million for hundreds of new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities, and personnel for support during all operational hours.

    Legislative text for H.R. 2142 is available HERE.

    Fentanyl is a deadly synthetic opioid that can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Although pharmaceutical fentanyl can be misused, most fentanyl deaths are linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl and illicit versions of chemically similar compounds known as fentanyl analogs. According to the Illinois Department of Health, overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, which include fentanyl, increased by 80% from 2013 to 2014.

    The primary source of fentanyl is outside of the United States, in Mexico or China. The drug is smuggled across the U.S. border or delivered via mail or express consignment couriers. Fentanyl can also be ordered online. Due to its potency, fentanyl typically comes in small amounts, making it more difficult for authorities to detect.

    House Representative Ann Kuster (D-NH, 2nd) stated:

    “The opioid epidemic that is devastating communities around New Hampshire and across the country requires a comprehensive response that addresses all aspects of this crisis,” said Congresswoman Kuster, Founder and Democratic Chair of the Task Force. “The INTERDICT Act will help US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reduce the flow of fentanyl and synthetic opioids from outside the country by giving CBP the necessary tools to detect and intercept these dangerous substances. I am pleased that the agenda of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force is advancing and urge the Senate to take up this commonsense legislation that will help keep our country safe.”

    “Across the United States, synthetic opioids are flowing into our neighborhoods and destroying the lives of so many loved ones,” said Republican Chair of the Task Force, Congressman Tom MacArthur. “Customs and Border Protection is our first line of defense in detecting and intercepting these illicit substances from getting into our county. This bipartisan bill ensures they have the resources needed to protect our streets from powerful drugs like fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. I’m grateful members of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force and other Representatives from both parties were able to work together and pass this critical legislation.”

    “As communities across my district and across our nation continue to deal with the crisis of opioid abuse and addiction it’s hard to imagine a synthetic drug up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine,” said Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, Republican Vice- Chair of the Task Force. “The INTERDICT Act is bipartisan legislation that provides U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) access to the latest in chemical screening devices and scientific support to detect and intercept synthetic opioids before they can cause more harm. I am grateful for the leadership of Rep. Tsongas and the support of the House to pass this critical measure in a bipartisan fashion. I urge the Senate to act quickly and save lives.”

    “The disease of addiction is a national emergency and we must act fast, remove barriers and help those suffering,” said Congressman Donald Norcross, Democrat Vice-Chair of the Task Force. “Those at the forefront of this fight need resources to protect our communities from powerful synthetic opioids and I am glad this bill passed the House to help keep our neighborhoods safe. This one piece of legislation is a step in the right direction, but we need to do more. We need Congress and the Administration to advance the whole suite of bills supported by our bipartisan task force.”
  • Rep. Bass, CBC Chairman, Co-Chairs of the CBC Task Force on Foreign Affairs and National Security Issue Joint Statement on Niger

    Source: Karen Bass (D-CA, 37th)

    Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Congressman Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA-02), and the Co-Chairs of the CBC Task Force on Foreign Affairs and National Security, Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA-37) and Congressman Marc Veasey (D-TX-33), issued the following joint statement in response to the recent attacks in Niger.
    “The early October attack that left four American service members dead in Niger has raised a number of important questions about exactly what happened, highlighted growing counterterrorism efforts across the continent, and emphasized the need for the Administration to reveal its policy toward Africa.

    “During Monday’s press conference, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, confirmed that the U.S. has had up to 800 military officials in Niger, the largest American force anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa, and divulged that there are some 6,000 U.S. troops across the continent. This revelation causes deep concern for the Congressional Black Caucus.

    “The U.S. has made great gains in Africa across several administrations. These gains have included developing the next generation of leaders; investing in infrastructure projects through the Millennial Challenge Corporation (MCC); improving trade relations through the African Growth and Opportunity Act and entrepreneurship programs; addressing a variety of health concerns through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI); strengthening democratic institutions; and supporting a variety of peace and security initiatives.

    “Our policy toward Africa should be multidimensional and robust, and should utilize all of our foreign policy tools, including diplomacy and development, to their maximum capacity. When defense and diplomacy work in tandem, we will be successful in aiding the second largest continent in the world.

    “We call for a full investigation into the events that led to the tragic loss of four soldiers in Niger and a briefing on this Administration’s policy toward Africa."

    The House Passes Barr’s North Korea Sanctions Bill

    Source: Andy Barr (R-KY, 6th)

    Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The House of Representatives today approved legislation introduced by Congressman Andy Barr (KY-06) to impose the most far-reaching sanctions ever directed at North Korea. H.R. 3898, the Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions Act was passed in the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, and was recently passed by the Financial Services Committee with a unanimous vote of 56-0.

    “North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, illicit missile tests, and other aggressive actions represent a threat to the national security of the United States and the world,” said Congressman Barr. “The legislation passed by the House today would hold North Korea accountable by imposing the most far-reaching sanctions ever directed at Pyongyang, putting tremendous economic pressure on the Kim Jong-Un regime and its foreign enablers. In doing so, we can deny North Korea the financing it needs to fund its nuclear and missile programs.”

    “Clearly, the status quo is not working to change North Korea’s hostile behavior. I appreciate the bipartisan support for my bill to change course and to give tougher sanctions on North Korea a chance to confront the Kim regime’s belligerence.”

    The legislation is named in honor of Otto Warmbier, an American student who died after being returned to the United States in a coma after more than a year of being held by the North Korean regime.


    Source: Jim Banks (R-IN, 3rd)

    Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, spoke on the House floor about the ambush in Niger that killed four U.S. service members and the need for Congress to pass a new Authorization of Military Force (AUMF).

    Text of the speech follows:

    “Mr. Speaker, earlier this month four U.S. service members were killed in Niger by Islamic militants.

    “We thank these Americans heroes who paid the ultimate price for our country. Their service will never be forgotten.

    “As we learn more about this situation, many of my constituents have asked why American personnel are in Niger.

    “Today we have U.S. service members around the globe fighting or advising operations against ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups on several continents.

    “However, they are doing so under war authorization Congress passed in 2001 and 2002 in the wake of the September 11th attacks.

    “Rather than continuing to fight ISIS under an authorization passed by Congress sixteen years ago, it is time to pass a new authorization for the use of military force that is focused on present-day and future threats.

    “The authorizations passed by Congress in 2001 and 2002 are out of date, and I have introduced new AUMF legislation that addresses the modern threats we face.

    “The Constitution grants Congress the power of declaring war, and we need to take that obligation seriously and debate these important issues. My bill is a good starting point.

    “With that, I yield back.”

    Adams, CBC Women Demand Apology from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Answers in Niger

    Source: Alma Adams (D-NC, 12th)

    Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Alma S. Adams (NC-12) issued the following statement echoing the call for an apology from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly after he falsely accused Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) of bragging about securing funding for a new Miramar, Florida FBI Building during the dedication of the building in 2015 and referred to her as an “empty barrel”. Following the release of the South Florida Sun Sentinel's video proving General Kelly’s claim was incorrect, Congresswoman Adams was one of seventeen Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) women who demanded an apology from him in a statement over the weekend.

    “It is embarrassing that this administration is more concerned about belittling a sitting Congresswoman than getting answers for the families of these fallen heroes,” said Congresswoman Adams. “Chief of Staff Kelly’s demeaning comments and blatant lies should not be allowed to call into question Congresswoman Wilson’s integrity. He should apologize immediately.

    “Rep. Wilson has been a principled leader and servant to her South Florida constituents, many of whom she’s come to love like family, for decades. She continued this record of service last week when she visited with the family of fallen hero Sergeant La David Johnson, who graduated from her mentorship program 5000 Role Models of Excellence. While President Trump spent the weekend at his golf course tweeting about football, Rep. Wilson attended Sergeant Johnson’s funeral and continues to call for answers to what happened in Niger.”

    Abraham calls for hearings to bring Mueller 'out of the shadows'

    Source: Ralph Abraham (R-LA, 5th)

    Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Ralph Abraham, M.D., R-Alto, joined 18 other members of Congress in calling on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees hold hearings to examine Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team’s potential conflicts of interest and political bias.

    “This team has sweeping authority and an open-ended mission, yet they are allowed to operate largely in secret, selected by and ultimately accountable to only one person: Mr. Mueller himself,” the members wrote in a letter dated Oct. 13. “With numerous reports emerging almost every day on possible conflicts of interest and allegations of political bias, it would be in the interest of both the public and the Special Counsel team to speak to the American people through their elected representatives in Congress.”

    Dr. Abraham said, “Almost daily another red flag is raised over this team’s ability to remain impartial during this investigation. If they have nothing to hide, let them come forward to a hearing and be accountable to the American people.”

    Other members of Congress signing the letter include Brian Babin, Jody Hice, Bob Gibbs, Doug LaMalfa, Ralph Norman, Bill Flores, Bill Posey, Randy Weber, Kay Granger, Trent Franks, Andy Harris, Alex Mooney, Steve King, Duncan Hunter, Scott DesJarlais, Joe Wilson, Neal Dunn, and Dave Brat.

    Related News:

    Louisiana congressman joins call to pull Russian political inquiry 'out of the shadows'

    Democrat Candidate Caught Conspiring to Commit Election Fraud in Pennsylvania

    Source: Department of Justice

    Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- A federal grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania returned an indictment today charging two Philadelphia-area political consultants with a scheme to use a political candidate’s campaign funds to make illegal contributions to his opponent’s campaign to secure the opponent’s agreement to drop out of a 2012 congressional primary race.

    Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Louis D. Lappen for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania made the announcement.

    According to the indictment, Donald “D.A.” Jones, 62, of Willingboro, New Jersey, and Kenneth Smukler, 57, of Villanova, Pennsylvania, were charged with conspiracy, causing unlawful campaign contributions and causing the filing of false reports to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and Jones was charged with making false statements to the FBI, in connection with a falsification scheme involving unlawful contributions to the campaign of former Municipal Court Judge Jimmie Moore, a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for Member of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2012 Democratic race for Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District. According to the indictment, those payments came from the campaign committee of Moore’s opponent for the purpose of removing Moore from the race. Moore pleaded guilty to the charge of causing false statements to the FEC in connection with this matter on Oct. 2.

    As alleged in the indictment, in or about February 2012, Moore withdrew from the primary election pursuant to an agreement with his opponent, who promised $90,000 in campaign funds to be used to repay Moore’s campaign debts. Under the applicable law, a contribution from one authorized campaign to another could not exceed $2,000 for the primary election. Therefore, the $90,000 payment from Moore’s opponent’s campaign to pay Moore’s campaign debts constituted an unlawful campaign contribution.

    According to the indictment, the FEC requires campaigns to file periodic reports itemizing the campaign’s contributions and expenditures during the reporting period. However, in order to conceal the unlawful contribution and its source, Moore instructed his campaign manager, Carolyn Cavaness, to create a company whose sole purpose would be to receive the funds from his opponent’s political campaign and repay Moore’s campaign debts. As described in the indictment, those payments were routed through Voter Link Data Systems (Voter Link) and D. Jones & Associates, political consulting companies run by Smukler and Jones.

    According to the indictment, the defendants used false invoices to generate a paper trail intended to justify the payments from Moore’s opponent’s campaign committee, and Cavaness, acting at Moore’s direction, used a portion of the money from the opponent’s campaign committee to repay Moore’s campaign debts, including debts to Moore and Cavaness themselves. Cavaness pleaded guilty to the charge of causing false statements to the FEC in connection with this matter on July 25.

    According to the indictment, to further conceal the scheme, the defendants willfully caused Moore’s campaign committee to file false reports with the FEC that did not disclose or reference the funds received from his opponent’s campaign committee; did not mention Voter Link or D. Jones & Associates, the companies through which the payments were routed; and falsely listed the same debts owed by Moore’s campaign that had been disclosed on earlier reports, despite the fact that those debts had been repaid using funds from Moore’s opponent’s campaign committee. Likewise, the defendants willfully caused the opponent’s campaign committee to file false reports with the FEC that did not mention the use of campaign funds to repay Moore’s campaign debts. Finally, the indictment alleges that Jones made material false statements to FBI agents investigating this matter, telling them that Cavaness had performed work in exchange for the opponent’s campaign funds that were routed through D. Jones & Associates, when in fact Cavaness never performed any such work.

    An indictment is not a finding of guilt. It merely alleges that crimes have been committed. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

    The FBI conducted the investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Gibson Eric Gibson of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Trial Attorney Jonathan Kravis of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section are prosecuting the case.

    RNC Statement On New Reports Of Russian Ties To Democrats

    Source: Republican National Committee (RNC)

    Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel released the following statement after new reports reveal Democrat connections with Russia:

    “Four major new developments in the Russia investigation have emerged over the past week, and now it’s the Democrats who have some explaining to do,” said RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. “I hope they will cooperate with the investigation, be forthcoming with the American people and I expect the media to cover these new developments with the same breathless intensity that they have given to this investigation since day one.”

    Background: Four major developments outlined below:

    1) Last week, there was this bombshell report from The Hill about how the Obama Administration knew of a major Russian bribery plot aimed at gaining a stake in the U.S. atomic energy business and gaining favor with the Clinton’s, yet did little about it.

    2) Now, NBC News is reporting that Tony Podesta, the brother of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, is being investigated by Robert Mueller for violations of foreign government lobbying rules as a result of work done for a pro-Russian group.

    3) The Hill also has a new story out stating, “As Hillary Clinton was beginning her job as President Obama’s chief diplomat, federal agents observed as multiple arms of Vladimir Putin’s machine unleashed an influence campaign designed to win access to the new secretary of State, her husband Bill Clinton and members of their inner circle.”

    4) Finally, top officials with the Democrat aligned & potentially Russian backed firm Fusion GPS are pleading the fifth and refusing to disclose who paid for the phony “dossier,” which was taken seriously by the intelligence community and helped spark the investigations.


    Source: Outdoor Industry Association

    Dear President Trump,

    Our nation’s land and water are part of our shared heritage and are hallmarks of who we are as Americans. As you contemplate your administration’s policies related to these places, the hundreds of executives and business leaders below call upon you to protect and defend the vast landscapes that comprise our public lands network. America’s outdoors bring us together, strengthen bonds with family and friends, and are the foundation of a massive economic engine across the nation. Shielding our national monuments and other public lands and waters from diminished protection will result in stronger rural and urban communities, thriving local economies, and a healthier nation.

    For more than a century, Republican and Democratic presidents alike have used the 1906 Antiquities Act to set aside iconic landscapes, waterways, wildlife sanctuaries, and places of monumental beauty to ensure they remain uncorrupted and accessible for the enjoyment of hunters and hikers, bikers and boaters, anglers, campers and ranchers, for wildlife, and for all Americans. Undoing protections for these places is not only contrary to the conservation ethic established by President Theodore Roosevelt and honored by his successors, but will devastate local communities and their economies that rely on these lands.

    Protected public lands and waters are the very infrastructure that support a booming American economy. More than 90 percent of Americans believe that public lands provide net benefits for the economy and are positive economic drivers, and they are right. The outdoor sector, for example, supports 7.6 million good paying, American jobs, contributes $887 billion annually to the economy and generates $125 billion in state, local and federal taxes. Public lands are also an important economic asset that extends beyond tourism and recreation. Counties with more protected federal lands have stronger employment, personal income, and per capita income growth. Businesses rely on access to public lands for employee recruitment and retention, adding millions more in additional jobs and economic activity. These local economies represent the American dream and give the United States a unique competitive advantage.

    For the millions of Americans and the millions more who visit our country from around the world every year, exploring our public lands and waters provide an opportunity for a uniquely American experience. It has been said that the establishment and protection of America’s land and water is among our nation’s best ideas. We agree. These places were entrusted to us and it is our shared responsibility to remain responsible stewards of them.

    As leaders of more than 350 American companies, we ask you to embrace the conservation ethic of your predecessors and keep current protections in place for our public lands and waters, ensuring these places live on for the benefit of every American today and for generations to come.

    Cc: Secretary Ryan Zinke, U.S. Department of the Interior
    Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. Department of Commerce
    Director Gary Cohn, National Economic Council


    House Should Pass Senate Budget to Keep Tax Reform on Track

    Source: National Taxpayers Union

    Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- NTU strongly urges all Representatives to vote “YES” on H. Con. Res. 71, the fiscal year 2018 budget resolution as amended and passed by the Senate. Passage of this resolution is critical for addressing the nation’s highest fiscal priority - fixing our broken tax code.

    For the first time in decades, Congress and the President are working together toward enactment of pro-growth tax reform that simplifies the code, reduces administrative burdens, and provides financial relief to families of all economic backgrounds. Getting tax reform done will require usage of the reconciliation process, which can only be initiated if the House and Senate pass a unified budget. The importance of doing so cannot be overstated. By quickly advancing the Senate-passed budget resolution, thereby avoiding a potentially lengthy conference process, Representatives can maintain momentum and expedite consideration of tax reform legislation.

    In addition to providing a path forward on tax reform, the Senate budget resolution contains other measures that make it commendable to both taxpayers and Senators. For instance, it wisely adheres to the modest caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA). We are concerned that the budget resolution contains a mechanism that could increase spending, should a new budget agreement be reached on discretionary spending levels. Nevertheless, we are pleased that it budgets within the limits prescribed in the BCA, avoids an unnecessary budget sequester, and reserves what has been the most effective tool for trimming discretionary spending in years.

    Congress has a rare opportunity to enact historic tax reform that could reinvigorate the economy and improve the standard of living for Americans from all walks of life. If fundamental tax reform is going to become a reality, passage of this budget is imperative.

    Roll call votes on the Senate’s fiscal year 2018 budget resolution will be included in our annual Rating of Congress and a “YES” vote will be considered the pro-taxpayer position.

    Special Notice to Public Employees: How to Protect Your Rights in Advance of Ruling in Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court Case

    Source: National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation

    Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- On September 28, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear Janus v. AFSCME, which challenges mandatory union fees for public employees as a violation of the First Amendment. If the High Court agrees with Janus and his Foundation staff attorneys, the ruling would create a precedent protecting every public employee from being forced to subsidize union activities, including teachers, police officers and firefighters who currently pay mandatory dues or fees.

    Mark Janus, an Illinois civil servant childcare worker, filed the case with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Illinois-based Liberty Justice Center. Oral arguments in the case are expected to occur in January 2018 with a ruling most likely in June 2018. National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney William Messenger will argue for Janus at the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Fearing a ruling against forced union dues, union officials nationwide are already responding with schemes designed to limit the ability of workers to utilize a ruling that they can no longer be required to pay union dues or fees. In some instances union organizers are pushing workers to sign cards that authorize dues payments in perpetuity “irrespective of union membership” unless the worker revokes the authorization in a union-determined two week period.

    Although Foundation staff attorneys question the legality of such cards, the special legal notice reminds workers that signing such a card could limit their legal options later. Workers should be very cautious about signing anything from a union, no matter the reason union officials give. In many documented instances, especially during coercive union card check campaigns, union organizers have solicited signatures under misleading or false pretenses.

    The full notice can be found online by clicking HERE

    Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation released the following statement regarding the notice and offer of free legal aid.

    “Unfortunately, there is a long history of union officials refusing to accept limits on their forced dues powers. Rather than respect the decisions of workers who do not want to subsidize union activities, invariably after Foundation-won legal precedents or enactment of state Right to Work laws, union officials attempt to block the very workers they claim to represent from exercising their rights.

    “Given that a Foundation win in the Janus case could free 5.2 million teachers and other public employees from forced union payments, it is not surprising to see that Big Labor is already working overtime to prevent workers from escaping forced dues. In response, Foundation staff attorneys have issued a special legal notice, warning workers against signing any new dues authorizations that could later limit their options. Every worker should know they can turn to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for free legal assistance and advice in their battle against Big Labor.”

    The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.

    NGA Works to Prevent Violent Extremism in States

    Source: National Governors Association

    Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- As recent incidents have shown, violent extremism remains a multifaceted and complex threat at the state, local and federal levels.

    The National Governors Association (NGA), through a two-year grant provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will consult with leading experts in government, academia, nonprofit and the private sector to develop a tool state officials can use to help prevent future attacks. The project will not focus on any specific violent extremist ideology but instead include the full spectrum.

    “NGA is proud to be a national organization awarded this grant by the Department of Homeland Security,” said Jeff McLeod, director of NGA’s Homeland Security and Public Safety Division. “We’ve already spoken with more than 30 organizations and will continue to seek out relevant experts to help guide this work.”

    There are five categories of grants offered by DHS; NGA’s falls under “training and engagement.” Beginning this fall, NGA will bring together experts to discuss the most topical issues affecting communities in states related to violent extremism. Eventually, five states will be competitively selected to pilot the tool.

    NFIB Urges Congress to Accelerate Tax Reform Now That Senate Budget Passed

    Source: National Federation of Independent Business

    Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) issued the following statement on behalf of President and CEO Juanita Duggan in response to the Senate’s approval of a budget resolution:

    “Senate action today puts Congress one step closer to adopting a budget resolution, which will clear the way for tax reform. Tax reform must be an urgent priority for both chambers this year. Small business represents half the jobs, half the GDP, and 99.9 percent of all U.S. businesses. If the goal of tax reform is to boost the economy, then it must provide substantial tax relief to all small businesses and simplify the tax code.

    “It is crucial that Congress pass tax reform before the end of the year. This is the best chance we’ve had in more than a generation to reform the tax code in a way that will lift all businesses and grow the economy.


    Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

    Denver, CO - October 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Fifteen states and the District of Columbia offer same day registration (SDR), which allows any qualified resident of the state to register to vote and cast a ballot all in the same day, according to new information released by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

    NCSL defines how same day registration works, lists security processes employed, potential costs and its effects on voter turnout. Data on current SDR and Election Day Registration (EDR) is featured in an interactive map, including states that have passed but not yet implemented either procedure.

    Additionally, details for SDR and EDR are broken down for each eligible state by statute citations, verification procedures, location and timeframe.

    View this new page on same day voter registration.

    NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.