Thursday, October 26, 2017

National Opportunity for Lead Exposure Accountability and Deterrence (NO LEAD) Act of 2017 Introduced in the House

Source: Daniel Kildee (D-MA, 5th)

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Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (­­D-IL), the top Democrat on the Fisheries, Wildlife and Water Subcommittee, today introduced the National Opportunity for Lead Exposure Accountability and Deterrence (NO LEAD) Act of 2017 to help ensure drinking water across our nation is clean and safe from lead and copper exposure. The legislation would create a lead-service-line inventory to help monitor contaminated service lines, ensure the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) develops a universal testing protocol and make sure the entire lead service line is replaced if water contamination is detected because partial replacement does not eliminate the risk of contamination. The bill would also help guide the EPA review of the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) to make lead testing reports more comprehensive and ensure reports are easily available to the public, serving to make clean drinking water more accessible and strengthen education on lead contamination. Lastly, the bill would lower the lead action level from 15 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb by 2020 and 5 ppb by 2026 to match world health standards. Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“When families send their children to school or turn on their faucet at home, they should not have to worry about their drinking water being contaminated with a dangerous neurotoxin like lead.” Duckworth said. “The threat of contaminated water is a national public health crisis in cities across the nation, including Chicago, Carbondale, Galesburg and East St. Louis, Illinois—and we have to do more to stop it. I will keep working to ensure every family in America – no matter where they live – has access to clean and safe drinking water, and I’m proud to introduce this bill to better protect our children from lead-contaminated water.”

“The lead in water crisis that happened in my hometown of Flint cannot be allowed to happen elsewhere,” Kildee said. “We must learn from the failures of state government that lead to the Flint water crisis and prevent a similar man-made tragedy. Updating the outdated Lead and Copper Rule will not only protect public health, it will restore public confidence in their water systems. I am proud to work with Senator Duckworth to introduce this legislation and work toward the goal of ensuring that all Americans do not have to worry about high levels of lead in their drinking water.”

Today, Senator Duckworth and Congressman Kildee also sent a joint letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt detailing their concerns about the revised LCR containing fewer protections than the current rule. The letter comes as part of Duckworth and Kildee’s efforts to ensure the EPA is being responsive to data gathered by their own scientists instead of capitulating to industry demands. The EPA is set to finalize the LCR at the end of next year.

Duckworth and Kildee have both been outspoken about the need to address failures in our public water systems. In June, they called upon the EPA to strengthen protections against lead poisoning in our nation’s pipes, fittings and fixtures that supply drinking water. Duckworth has also introduced several pieces of legislation on lead in America’s drinking water. Duckworth recently reintroduced the Get the Lead Out of Schools Act of 2017 with U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to help ensure drinking water in schools across our nation is clean and safe from lead. She also introduced her new Recognizing the Environmental Gains in Overcoming Negligence (REGION) Act to prevent the closure of regional EPA offices, which would protect thousands of jobs while supporting efforts to ensure clean drinking water for children. Duckworth has also been critical of the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back drinking water protections and vocal about the need to strengthen initiatives to prevent lead contamination.

The following stakeholders have endorsed the NO LEAD Act: American Association of Pediatrics, EarthJustice, Food and Water Watch, Green Latinos, Dr. Marc Edwards, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council Parents for Nontoxic Alternatives and the Sierra Club.

State Public Option Act Introduced in the House

Source: Ruben Kihuen (D-NV, 4th)

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Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Ruben J. Kihuen signed on as an original co-sponsor of the State Public Option Act introduced in Congress by Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI). Rep. Kihuen is joined by Nevada colleagues Rep. Jacky Rosen (NV-03) and Assemblyman Michael Sprinkle in offering support for the State Public Option Act which would give states the option to allow all residents to buy into the state Medicaid program through their state’s exchange.

“Nevada’s health care system ranks among the worst in the country in terms of cost and access, leaving countless Nevadans hanging out to dry when it comes to getting reliable and affordable health care coverage. That is why today, I am pleased to join my colleagues in Congress, Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) in introducing the State Public Option Act, which would establish a Medicaid public option to provide an affordable, high-quality health insurance option to hardworking families across the country. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue working to find ways to improve Nevada’s health care system and ensure that all Nevadans have access to quality and affordable health care coverage,” Rep. Kihuen said.

“Giving individuals a public health insurance buy-in option is one of the best ways we can improve our health care system for all Nevadans, no matter your zip code,” said Rosen. “The ability to access quality health care should be a fundamental right, not a privilege for the wealthiest among us. Increasing choice and competition through a Medicaid buy-in program would ensure that all families have access to health care they know they can rely on. I have been vocal about the need for a public option to improve the progress we’ve made under the Affordable Care Act, and I will work with anyone in Congress to keep putting forward smart ideas that move us towards that goal and make health care more accessible and more affordable for every Nevadan,” Rep. Rosen said.

Assemblyman Michael C. Sprinkle said, “Health care is a right, not just a product or a privilege for the wealthy. Earlier this year, I set out to secure quality and affordable health care access for every Nevadan by introducing a plan to create a first of its kind state-level Medicaid buy-in program. While I am disappointed that ‘Sprinklecare’ did not become law this past session, our effort in Nevada was a reminder that states are incubators for innovative and forward-thinking policy ideas that can improve people's lives. I am incredibly proud to see Nevada's Democrats in Congress help lift this plan to create a Medicaid buy-in program to the national level, and I hope to see this effort succeed.”

The State Public Option Act would give states the option to allow (but would not require) all state residents that are not concurrently enrolled in another insurance plan to buy into the state Medicaid program through their state’s Exchange. States could charge premiums, copays, and deductibles for the plans based on current Affordable Care Act (ACA) standards. Individuals would be able to use their ACA tax credits to help cover the costs. If they do not have tax credits, the cost could not exceed 9.5% of the family income. The plans offered must be robust and cover the ACA’s 10 Essential Health Benefits.

Uranium One investigation raises a lot of questions

Source: Pete King (R-NY, 2nd)

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Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee announced on Tuesday they would be opening an investigation into the Obama-era Uranium One deal, which gave Russia a 20% stake in U.S. uranium mining capacity.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said that in 2010, he alerted then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner that the uranium deal was being made with a company controlled by the Russian government.

“[Geithner] said that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) was thoroughly investigating this. Well if they were, were they told about the investigation? If so, why did they go ahead and approve it? I know Congress was never told about this investigation. Why did the FBI close the investigation? Bob Mueller was head of the FBI then, so it raises a lot of questions,” King told FOX Business’ Stuart Varney on “Varney & Co.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee will also investigate whether federal agencies knew the FBI was probing possible corruption before the deal was approved. At the time, the Justice Department had a criminal investigation into the Russian company's Uranium One purchase.

“Our question is No. 1, if [the FBI investigation showed bribery, corruption and influence peddling by the Russians], did the FBI notify the Obama administration? Did they notify the Justice Department? Did they notify the Treasury Department and the State Department? And if so, why did the deal go forward?,” King asked.

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton helped orchestrate the Uranium One deal and her foundations reportedly received millions from someone involved with the deal.

King also raised questions as to whether the Russian dossier, which the Clinton campaign and the DNC allegedly funded, has any bearing on the FBI investigation into possible Trump-Russia collusion.

“You could have had a document prepared at the request of Hillary Clinton’s campaign filled with lies as an excuse and as a rationale to go ahead with a federal investigation into the Trump campaign. If that’s true that is really police state tactics,” King said.

Related News:

BREAKING: Gowdy Opens Investigation Into DOJ's Exoneration of Hillary Clinton, 2016 Decisions

Congresswoman Kelly Releases Statement on Twitter’s Political Advertising Announcement

Source: Robin Kelly (D-IL, 7th)

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Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Kelly, ranking member of the IT oversight subcommittee, released this statement following Twitter’s announcement regarding political advertising transparency:

“I’m pleased to see Twitter taking the initiative to bring greater transparency to political advertising on its platform – nearly a year after the 2016 election and just weeks before gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia.

These are common sense standards that should have already existed. For decades, TV, radio and print advertising have required clear details about who paid for and authorized their advertising. Why should political advertising online be any different?”

Related News:

Twitter bows to Congress, announces political ad ‘transparency’ ahead of Russia testimony

Bill Johnson Calls On Congresswoman Wilson to Apologize

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Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Bill Johnson (R-Marietta) released the following statement after Congresswoman Wilson’s comments on President Trump’s phone call to the family of fallen Army Sgt. La David Johnson.

“Now that we know that the sentiments expressed in the President’s phone call to the grieving family of Army Sgt. La David Johnson were suggested to him by Gold Star father and former four-star General John Kelly, it’s clear that Congresswoman Frederica Wilson has inappropriately politicized this tragic situation. Her recent appearances on cable TV, bashing the commander-in-chief and talking about how she wanted to ‘curse him out’ while he was trying to console a grieving family are beneath the dignity of her office. General Kelly said he was ‘stunned’ and “disheartened” by her craven political stunt and we must all wonder if her actions didn’t reopen deep emotional wounds in General Kelly and his family.

After 26 years in the U.S. Air Force, serving with heroes and commanding brave men and women who were often in harm’s way, I was particularly appalled at Rep. Wilson’s interference in what should have been a time of grief and reverence for a fallen hero.

That’s why I’m publicly calling on Rep. Wilson to apologize to President Trump and General Kelly. If she does not, I will begin the legislative process of asking the House of Representatives to formally censure her for the heartless behavior she displayed in this situation.”

Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson issued the following statement in response to White House allegations regarding her account of President Donald Trump’s call with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson:

“Despite President Trump’s suggestion that I have recanted my statement or misstated what he said, I stand firmly by my original account of his conversation with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson. Moreover, this account has been confirmed by family members who also witnessed Mr. Trump’s incredible lack of compassion and sensitivity.

“The Johnson family and the families of the three other soldiers who tragically lost their lives in the Niger ambush are experiencing what I am certain must feel like an unbearable loss. Rather than engage in a petty war of words with Mr. Trump, it is so much more important to embrace and support the families and honor these fallen heroes.

“This is personal for me, not political. Sgt. Johnson was a member of my community and of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project that I founded to help boys of color build successful futures. He was killed while on a mission to provide training and security assistance to West African armed forces battling vicious insurgents like Boko Haram, the group whose defeat I’ve been fighting for since it abducted nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls more than three years ago.

“The loved ones Sgt. Johnson leaves behind are my constituents and my job now is to do all that I can to help them heal. I’ll save the bully pulpit for the necessary task of uncovering the circumstances surrounding the ambush and working to help ensure that our soldiers have all of the resources and support that they need while putting their lives on the line to keep others safe.”

Related News:

Gen. John Kelly: ‘Stunned’ After ‘Empty Barrel’ Frederica Wilson Politicized President’s Phone Call

House Democrats seek GAO Investigation into Federal Scheme to Fund Delta Tunnels Project

Source: Jared Huffman (D-CA, 2nd)

Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Led by Reps. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), the Natural Resources Committee’s Ranking Member, six House Democrats are calling on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to open a new investigation into the misuse of taxpayer funds by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation, following last month’s revelations that tens of millions of dollars were secretly spent by the federal agency to subsidize private interests and help develop plans for a massive new California water project.

In its September audit, the Interior Department’s Inspector General found that the Bureau of Reclamation improperly subsidized the planning process for the California WaterFix project, also known as the “Delta Tunnels.” The audit identified at least $84 million in taypayer funds spent without disclosure to Congress as required by law, and kept hidden from other water users, stakeholders, and the public. According to the Inspector General, at least $50 million of this total should have been paid by the local water agencies that sought to benefit from the massive infrastructure project, such as the powerful Westlands Water District. Instead, those costs were secretly reassigned by the Bureau of Reclamation so that taxpayers would pay most of the water districts’ share.

With today’s letter, the lawmakers are asking the GAO, the federal watchdog agency that conducts investigations and audits on behalf of Congress, to issue a legal opinion about the Bureau of Reclamation’s funding scheme. The penalty for this type of misuse of public money can include removal from office.

The Inspector General’s audit found that the controversial funding plan was first launched in 2008, during the period when David Bernhardt was the department’s top lawyer. Upon leaving the department, Bernhardt became one of the top lobbyists for the Westlands Water District, the major beneficiary of this funding plan. He has now returned to the Interior Department as Deputy Secretary. In responses to the Inspector General, Interior Department staff have indicated that there are no plans to recoup these millions of dollars in taxpayer funds that were spent without authorization or rationale.

In addition to Rep. Huffman and Rep. Grijalva, the letter was also signed by Mike Thompson (D-CA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), and Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA).

The full text of the letter below.

The Honorable Gene L. Dodaro

Comptroller General of the United States

U.S. Government Accountability Office

441 G Street, NW

Washington, DC 20548

Dear Comptroller General Dodaro,

The Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General, (DOI OIG), recently issued a report regarding the Bureau of Reclamation’s (USBR) spending on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) – a state-led effort involving the construction of new water diversion facilities benefitting select water contractors in the state of California. See DOI OIG, Report No. 2016‑WR‑040, The Bureau of Reclamation Was Not Transparent in its Financial Participation in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (Sept. 7, 2017) (DOI OIG Report). In its report, the DOI OIG found that USBR “did not fully disclose to Congress and other stakeholders the $84.8 million cost of its participation in the BDCP efforts.” DOI OIG Report, at 1. The DOI OIG report (at 1) states further that:

[USBR] did not report [to Congress] $50 million derived from an appropriation, available for other general purposes, that it also used for the BDCP. USBR obtained this $50 million over a 7‑year span by using a complex, obscure process that was not disclosed in the annual congressional budget justifications, Office of Management and Budget Calfed Bay‑Delta certified annual financial reports, or numerous briefing documents on BDCP issues and status prepared by USBR for senior management officials.

The complex, obscure process cited by DOI OIG report involved USBR altering its standard funding process for operation and maintenance activities which, according to the DOI OIG report, “obscured the source of its funding and the total cost of [USBR’s] participation in the BDCP.” DOI OIG Report, at 8. The DOI OIG report states that “USBR supplemented its BDCP activities with $50 million derived from funds appropriated for ‘water and related resources’ and authorized for application to reimbursable Federal [Central Valley Project Operation and Maintenance] activities and other purposes.” DOI OIG Report, at 8. That is, USBR may have “written off” reimbursable expenses and converted them to expenses borne by the taxpayer.

Given these troubling findings, we respectfully request a GAO legal opinion as to whether USBR’s actions with regard to the $50 million referenced above were consistent with, among other things, the rule against augmentation and the Miscellaneous Receipts Statute, 31 U.S.C. § 3302 (b). For your convenience, please find the full OIG report enclosed.

If you have any questions, please contact Matthew Muirragui and Vic Edgerton, of the House Natural Resources Committee, at (202)-225-6065. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


House of Representatives Votes to Impose New Sanctions Against North Korea

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Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- On October 24, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3898, the Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions Act. The Otto Warmbier Nuclear Sanctions Act, H.R. 3898, incurs strict penalties on any individual that facilitates transfers to North Korea through U.S. accounts or any foreign account that may touch the U.S. financial system.

Statements from House Representatives are below:

Andy Harris (R-MD, 1st)

“I commend my colleagues in Congress for passing the Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions Act. Otto’s death was the result of abuse by his North Korean captors – one of countless atrocities committed by Kim Jong Un and his oppressive dictatorship. Congress can no longer stand idly by while North Korea starves its citizens, abuses its American prisoners, and builds a nuclear arsenal with the intention of attacking the United States.”

French Hill (R-AR, 2nd)

“We took action in the House Financial Services Committee to impose stronger sanctions on North Korea. We passed legislation out of the committee with a strong bipartisan vote that would incentivize stricter sanction enforcement by foreign countries and require regular reports on sanction implementation from the Department of the Treasury. The legislation also would impose economic restrictions on a number of North Korean and Chinese banks as well as trading corporations and individuals associated with those entities. It also would give the International Monetary Fund the ability to use its budget to assist member states with improving their capacity to prevent money laundering and terrorism finance.

“This legislation comes at an important time as the United States and the international community are taking significant actions against the North Korean regime and their many threats. This legislation adds to the actions the Administration and Congress have already taken to reign in this rogue nation.”


Source: Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ, 5th)


Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressmen Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and Francis Rooney (FL-19) introduced the bi-partisan North Korea Ballistic Missile Investigations Act.

Said Congressman Gottheimer, “To be clear, North Korea’s illegal nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) programs and its cooperation with Russia, China, and Iran pose a grave threat to the United States and our allies on the Korean Peninsula, the region, and around the world. We must use every tool at our disposal - including maximum political, diplomatic, and financial pressure – to defuel Pyongyang and cut off Kim Jong-un’s access to this deadly propellant. This bipartisan, national security bill I'm introducing with my colleague, Rep. Francis Rooney, will ultimately help stop the flow of fuel and technology to North Korea from abroad."

Congressman Rooney stated, “It is beyond time to defuel Kim Jong-Un and his rogue regime in North Korea. As the Korean missile crisis escalates, the United States must consider new methods to stop the aggressive nuclear program.

“The North Korea Ballistic Missile Investigations Act will require the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of State to investigate whether North Korea is obtaining unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine (UDMH), or rocket fuel, engines, and parts from foreign countries. Reports suggest North Korea is using UDMH in their missile tests, and it is known that Russia and China are principal users of this fuel. These measures of accountability will further isolate the Kim regime by reducing its ability to receive foreign support, and de-escalate the threat of a missile attack on the United States.”

Last month, a bombshell report in the New York Times found that North Korea has acquired or produced the deadly fuel unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine (UDMH) -- known in Russia as “the devil’s venom” -- that is used to power intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the continental United States. Reports also surfaced that North Korea tested a new solid fuel missile engine as recently as last week. This disturbing trend threatens the security of the region, especially when other international threats like Iran are involved.

Congressmen Rooney and Gottheimer introduced the bill in response to a New York Times report detailing North Korea’s use of UDMH and their possible procurement of the rocket fuel from Russia and China. The North Korea Ballistic Missile Investigations Act will:

Require the Director of National Intelligence and Secretary of State to investigate the Kim regime’s procurement of rocket fuel and engines from foreign entities

Require a report to Congress within 105 days on North Korea’s internal capabilities to produce the fuel and engines, and on Russia and China’s role in assisting the Kim regime

Require the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State to submit recommendations on improved implementation of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which was established to combat proliferation, including foreign procurement of liquid propellant engines such as the ones used by North Korea

As a member of the House Committee on Financial Service’s Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance, Rep. Gottheimer cosponsored the Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions Act, which passed the House yesterday.

Rep. Rooney and members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee recently urged Secretary Tillerson to re-list North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Grothman: House Republicans Should Support Spending Cuts in Budget

Source: Glenn Grothman (R-WI, 6th)

Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbeulah) released the following statement about the U.S. Senate’s vote to remove $200 billion in mandatory spending cuts from the budget:

"For eight years, Republicans have promised to reign in out-of-control spending and scale back expanding deficits,” said Grothman. “Now that we’re in control, we have the chance to deliver on these promises. Unfortunately, the Senate budget did not include the $200 billion in mandatory spending cuts that were included in the House budget.

“That is why I today submitted an amendment to the House Rules Committee to include the House-passed $200 billion mandatory spending cuts in the Senate budget. While the amendment was not agreed to, it is something that I will continue fighting for in future budget discussions.”

Mandatory spending is government spending on certain programs, like entitlement programs, that’s required by current law.

The Senate approved a budget plan that removed spending cuts on Thurs., Oct. 19, 2017.

U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman is serving his second term representing Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Griffith Responds to McAuliffe Letter on CHIP

Source: Morgan Griffith (R-VA, 9th)


Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) earlier sent a letter responding to Governor Terry McAuliffe’s letter regarding reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In the letter, Congressman Griffith noted that the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a bill reauthorizing CHIP on October 4, 2017, and that the delay in bringing the bill to the House floor is at the request of Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Honorable McAuliffe,

I am writing in response to your letter dated and received on the evening of October 24, 2017 regarding the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). As the sole Member of Congress from Virginia on the committee of jurisdiction, the Energy and Commerce Committee, I want to inform you that the committee passed the reauthorizing legislation on October 4, 2017. Unfortunately, the Ranking Member of the Committee, Congressman Pallone, is on record in the press stating he wants to hold up the measure for Floor consideration. It is my understanding from House Leadership that they prefer this not be a partisan issue and are trying to resolve the “pay-fors” or funding issues with Congressman Pallone before bringing it to the Floor.

For background, please see the enclosed CQ News article where Congressman Pallone has stated his position publicly.

I strongly encourage you, should you wish, to contact Ranking Member Pallone’s Washington, DC office at 202-225-4671 and share your concerns.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at 202-225-3861.

Sincerely yours,

Member of Congress


Source: Adrianno Espaillat (D-NY, 13th)

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Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) was joined by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi; Rep. Linda Sanchez (CA-38), Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus; Rep. José E. Serrano (NY-15); Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18); Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23); Rep. Robin Kelly (IL-02); Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI-12); Rep. Alma Adams (NC-12); Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26); and Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY-09) for a press conference to raise awareness of domestic violence and remember the life of Washington Heights bride-to-be Gladys Ricart and domestic violence victims and survivors around the nation.

“Today, we stand united with the family of Gladys Ricart, survivors and advocates in support of victims of domestic violence and continue to lend our collective voices to stop the abuse that impacts each of our communities,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat.

“Freedom from abuse is a basic human right,” said Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. “We are all grateful for the leadership of Congressman Espaillat, New York Latinas Against Domestic Violence, Brides Marchers and all the activists fighting for a future free from the scourge of domestic violence. Together, we must honor the life of Gladys Ricart and all victims of abuse with activism, action and courage.”

“By speaking out and offering a helping hand, we can end the cycle of domestic abuse. For far too long countless of domestic violence victims have been left to suffer in silence. That time is over. We must break the silence,” said House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Linda T. Sánchez. “It’s our responsibility to continue talking about domestic abuse and teach young boys and girls that any sort of violence, be it physical, verbal, or emotional, is wrong and has no place in our society. We owe to domestic violence victims the assurance that they are not alone, and that we will keep making our voices louder to raise awareness of this important issue.”

“In New York City alone, the NYPD responds to nearly 300,000 domestic violence incidents each year. It is time to stop the abuse and stand in solidarity with all the victims who oftentimes suffer in silence. I was proud to join Rep. Espaillat and Brides March to raise awareness on an issue that has an impact not only on women but in many cases also their children. As the lead Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the Department of Justice, I will continue to fight for VAWA funding to help prevent domestic violence and support survivors,” said Rep. José E. Serrano.

“During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it is imperative that we rededicate ourselves to the unfinished work of ensuring that every individual can live in safety, security, and without fear of domestic violence,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

“I was proud to stand with Congressman Espaillat, my colleagues and brides who are speaking out against domestic violence. Far too often, women, men and families suffer domestic violence in silence because they do not have the resources to make themselves safe and break the cycle,” said Rep. Robin Kelly. “It’s time for Congress to act and support women and families escaping the ever-escalating cycle of domestic violence. We must also act to prevent stalkers, abusive boyfriends and convicted domestic abusers from accessing firearms.”

“Every individual deserves to feel safe and live in homes and communities that are free from violence and abuse,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell. “I thank Congressman Espaillat and the brides for raising awareness throughout this country. The Brides March helps give voice to those who don’t have a voice and create communities without violence.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, a number that is even greater in minority communities. The purpose of today’s press event was to raise awareness and address initiatives to help support victims of domestic violence in communities around the nation. New York Latinas Against Domestic Violence participated as part of the organization’s annual “Brides March” vigil in honor of murdered Washington Heights, New York bride-to-be Gladys Ricart, a victim of domestic violence who lost her life tragically on her wedding day.


Source: A. Drew Ferguson (R -GA, 3rd)

Betsey Johnson

Congressman Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) has introduced the PARTNERS Act with Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.). This bill would establish a grant program to promote local partnerships to help small and medium sized businesses develop work-based learning programs. Funding for this grant would come from fees collected for H1-B visas.

“The Central Education Center in Newnan led Georgia by implementing an innovative style of apprenticeship that prepares our young people for 21st century careers,” said Ferguson. “I am introducing this bill to allow workers across the nation to have access to work-based training. The United States needs a workforce that’s competitive on the world stage, but we must also face the stark realities of our current fiscal situation. By using H1-B visa fees to fund a direct path into the workplace, we can ensure workers receive the skills for success at no cost to the American taxpayer.”

“When I visit communities in my district, I hear from hard-working Oregonians who feel left behind because they do not have the skills they need to compete in today’s economy,” said Bonamici. “Our bipartisan PARTNERS Act will bring together employers, education, training, labor, and community-based organizations to develop work-based learning programs that benefit workers and rapidly growing sectors like health care and technology. We can build pathways to get more people back to work and provide our nation’s businesses with a skilled workforce that will improve productivity and efficiency.”

The bill has received support from the National Skills Coalition, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Georgia Business Leaders United (BLU).

National Skills Coalition issued the following statement from Kermit Kaleba, Federal Policy Director

“National Skills Coalition (NSC) enthusiastically supports the bipartisan Promoting Apprenticeship with Regional Training Networks for Employers Required Skills (PARTNERS) Act of 2017. The bill would support partnerships between businesses and local workforce stakeholders that enable small- and medium- sized employers to develop and expand apprenticeships and work-based learning programs.”

“Small- and medium-sized businesses often lack the infrastructure to establish apprenticeships or work-based learning programs on their own. Industry and sector partnerships can help lessen the burdens businesses face when starting or expanding work-based learning programs, like apprenticeships, and help workers access and succeed in these programs.”

“Work based learning, including apprenticeship, is good for both working people and local businesses. For companies in desperate need of workers, work-based learning immediately puts motivated hires on site. Working people obtain market-driven skills and can “earn while they learn.”

“NSC applauds Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Drew Ferguson (R-GA) for introducing this bipartisan bill.”

Duncan’s Statement on Clinton Corruption Investigation

Source: Jeff Duncan (R-SC, 3rd)

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Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Jeff Duncan released the following statement after three House committees announced new investigations into the Russian acquisition of uranium and the Department of Justice’s 2016 investigation of Secretary Clinton’s possible misconduct:

“Hillary Clinton’s gross negligence has brought us to yet another congressional inquiry into her illegal behavior while serving as Secretary of State. We must investigate the botched 2016 probe by Former FBI Director James Comey to the fullest extent to ensure the legitimacy of the rule of law is upheld. Further, the twisted love triangle between the Clinton Foundation, the Obama Administration, and Russia is another shocking example of the deeply rooted corruption that we are up against.

“I applaud Chairman Goodlatte, Chairman Gowdy, and Chairman Nunes for opening investigations into the alleged fraudulent and nefarious behavior of Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, and the Obama Administration. The indisputable corruption of the Clinton family and their allies is slowly coming to light for the world to see, and I believe this is just the beginning. Justice must and will be served.”

Donovan Calls on City to Drop Sanctuary Policies

Source: Daniel Donovan (R-NY, 11th)

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Staten Island, NY - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Dan Donovan (NY-11) today called on the City of New York to adjust its sanctuary policies to comply with federal law instead of risking the loss of Department of Justice (DOJ) grants. On October 11, DOJ notified the City of New York that it must adjust its sanctuary policies to maintain eligibility for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants Program (Byrne JAG), which provided $4.3 million to the City last year.

Congressman Donovan said, “Cities shouldn’t be able to pick and choose which laws to follow. The federal law is clear: the City cannot instruct law enforcement agents to withhold information on immigration status from federal authorities. New York City should adjust its policies to comply with federal law.”

In one example of the City’s non-compliance, DOJ cites a section of New York Administrative Code stating the Department of Correction may not “honor a civil immigration detainer…by notifying federal immigration authorities of [a] person’s release.” To remain eligible for Byrne JAG grants, DOJ says the City must certify that it does not restrict the Department of Correction from sharing release information with the federal government, and that the City has communicated this interpretation to its employees.

Donovan, a former prosecutor, has long opposed sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with or enforce the law. Earlier this year, he voted in support of Kate’s Law, which enhances criminal penalties for deported felons who return to the United States so they’re not free to commit further crimes. He also voted in support of the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act, which updates immigration law to permit deportation of known members of a criminal gang who are in the country illegally.

Donovan also voted against legislation that would have ended anti-terror initiatives in New York City as a consequence of being a sanctuary city. In a joint op-ed with Congressman Peter King (NY-2), the lawmakers wrote:

[The bill] would make New York City ineligible for hundreds of millions of dollars every year that go toward thwarting terror attacks. These dollars have no connection to immigration whatsoever, except for the fact that the NYPD hunts down terror threats and also sometimes arrests illegal aliens.

It’s a cruel irony that security concerns over criminal undocumented immigrants have been given as a rationale for a bill that disembowels the anti-terror apparatus in the world’s top terror target.


Source: Colleen Hanabusa, (D-HI, 1st)

Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Hanabusa shared a new report detailing the impact of the Ryan-McConnell tax plan on families across Hawaii. While 80 percent of the tax benefits in the GOP plan go to the wealthiest 1 percent alone, 123,000 hard-working Hawaii families would pay higher taxes.

According to the report, “199,685 households in Hawaii deduct state and local taxes, with an average deduction of $9,905.” The Ryan-McConnell tax plan eliminates this deduction.

“It concerns me that Republicans are pushing a tax plan that favors the wealthiest in our society at the expense of working families and individuals who live modestly in Hawaii and strive to save for retirement,” said Rep. Hanabusa. “The GOP is essentially asking middle class Hawaii families to pay more, while borrowing trillions from our children in order to benefit the wealthiest among us.”

The state-by-state report finds that under the Ryan-McConnell framework:

  • 123,000 Hawaii households will pay higher taxes;
  • The average nationwide tax increase for families earning up to $86,100 would be $794;
  • 199,685 Hawaii households will lose their State and Local Tax Deduction, with an average deduction of $9,905;
  • The mortgage interest payments deduction, claimed by 141,980 Hawaii households would become useless for many families unless their home was worth more than $801,000 – more than 1.5 times the median home value in Hawaii of $604,800.

    The report also documents that the GOP tax plan “eliminates the personal exemption, which deducts $4,050 for each taxpayer and dependent on a return from taxable income. In Hawaii, 384,170 dependent exemptions were claimed in 2015.”

    The report was compiled by the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.
  • Rep. Doggett: Republican Tax Scheme Should be Rejected

    Source: Lloyd Doggett (D-TX, 35th)

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    Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Tax Policy Subcommittee, twice spoke in opposition to the Republican budget, which would fast track tax legislation. Rep. Doggett said:

    “This bill is about one thing only. It is about lavishing tax breaks on Donald Trump personally, on his family, and all of his billionaire buddies. It is about lavishing tax breaks and incentives on the very same giant multinationals that have shipped away so many American jobs, that have refused to pay their fair share for our national security by hiding their profits in offshore island tax havens.

    “With Halloween coming, they can try to trick American middle class families into believing that a little of those tax benefits will trickle down to them. Because if they can do that, if they can pass this bill, they will treat themselves – the billionaires and the job exporters – to tax breaks of almost astronomical proportions.

    “The Republicans want the public to know as little about the details of their sham as possible. And that’s why they’ll have it introduced next week, passed in committee the following week, forced onto this floor and into the Senate. The American people have to understand what is in it, and speak up, and say no.”

    Dingell Statement on CBO Score for Alexander-Murray Health Care Plan

    Source: Debbie Dingell (D-MI, 12th)

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    Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12) released the following statement after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the Alexander-Murray health care plan to restore the cost-sharing reduction payments ended by President Trump would decrease the deficit and not impact the number of people with health insurance.

    “This urgently-needed bipartisan fix would restore critical cost-sharing payments working families depend upon and stabilize the marketplace. This is what we are supposed to do. Rather than pushing through partisan bills that kick millions off their insurance, Congress should be working together to improve health care and bring down costs for the American people. The Alexander-Murray plan represents a commonsense, responsible step to lower premiums and ensure protections for those with pre-existing conditions. We should have a clean vote on this bill as soon as possible.”

    Senator Jeff Flake Will Not Serve Another Term

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    Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Jeff Flake - (R - AZ) spoke on the Senate floor announcing that he will be retiring from the Senate at the end of his first term.

    “I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles. To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019,” said Flake.

    Charles W. Dent (R-PA, 15th)

    "Today's announcement by my friend Senator Jeff Flake is sad news for the people of Arizona, the U.S. Senate and the entire United States. Jeff has always acted according to a clear compass of conservative principles, with recognition and respect for the responsibility to govern. A true statesman and dedicated public servant--Jeff never shied away from speaking out against the dysfunction and instability that has come to dominate Washington. I wish Jeff, his wife Cheryl, and their family all the best in whatever may lie ahead."

    Trent Franks (R-AR, 8th)

    “In spite of our sometimes stark political differences, I consider Senator Jeff Flake a truly decent human being and a man who loves God, his country and his fellow human beings. I wish him and his family the very best God can give them during his remaining time in the Senate and going forward in life.”

    Jeb Hensarling (R-TX, 5th)

    “Jeff is a dear friend and someone I worked closely with in the House of Representatives. His commitment to limited government, freedom, responsibility, and genuine compassion for people across the world will not soon be forgotten. Jeff is a strong leader and fiscal conservative who will be missed in Congress. I wish him the best of luck on his next journey.”

    Senate votes to undermine Americans’ right to a day in court

    Source: National Consumers League

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    Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The National Consumers League (NCL) condemns the Senate’s passage of a Congressional Review Act resolution to repeal the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) arbitration rule. The rule would have allowed consumers access to courts after big banks like Wells Fargo steal their identity, or credit bureaus like Equifax compromise consumers’ most personal information.

    The following statement is attributable to Sally Greenberg, NCL executive director:

    “Last night, while most Americans were sleeping, 50 Senate Republicans and Vice President Mike Pence voted to take away our sacred right to a day in court. Today, in the aftermath of massive financial wrongdoings like Wells Fargo’s nearly 1.4 million fraudulent accounts scandal or Equifax’s massive data breach, financial companies will continue to be free to bury binding arbitration clauses in their terms of service. These ‘rip-off clauses’ are designed to prevent consumers from having their day in court or joining together to form a class action lawsuit after they are harmed.

    In fact, earlier this year the NCL Board of Directors voted to take NCL’s operating capital out of Wells Fargo and switch to Bank of Labor precisely because of Wells’ requirement that customers to give up their rights. Bank of Labor, Bank of America and many credit unions are thriving without forcing their customers to sign away rights through these odious ‘rip-off clauses.” We applaud CFPB director Richard Cordray, whom NCL is honoring this evening, for his efforts to protect the consumer rights that were just taken away in one fell swoop by this unfortunate Senate vote.

    The Senate’s decision to side with Wall Street over consumers is shameful. The denial of one of our most basic rights as Americans -- the right to our day in court -- is a massive step backwards for consumers and our nation. While this may be a setback, the National Consumers league will continue fighting before Congress and the Administration to reaffirm consumers basic rights, including, the right to justice.”

    The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad.

    AMGA Urges House to Pass CHRONIC Care Act of 2017

    Source: American Medical Group Association

    Washington, D.C. - October 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- AMGA urged U.S. House of Representatives Leadership to pass the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017. The AMGA-endorsed legislation, which passed the Senate in September, would significantly strengthen and improve the care of the chronically ill.

    In the letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-SC), AMGA detailed provisions that will improve health outcomes. Specifically, the legislation would enhance AMGA members’ ability to manage patient populations by making a number of improvements. These include:

  • Allowing for prospective assignment in Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs)
  • Encourage coordinated care by allowing certain ACOs to provide patient engagement incentives, such as offering up to $20 for a primary care service to beneficiaries
  • Provide greater beneficiary access to telehealth services by expanding payments for these services

    “Care coordination is extremely important for those with chronic illnesses and diseases,” said Jerry Penso, M.D., M.B.A., AMGA president and CEO. “AMGA members, many who participate in our programs focused on chronic care such as

    Together 2 Goal, are implementing team-based care processes that lead to better, coordinated, care, yet more can be done. The improvements included in the CHRONIC Care Act would provide clinicians with the tools needed to enhance care for the chronically ill. We urge the House to act swiftly and pass the bipartisan CHRONIC Care Act.”

    AMGA’s letter is available by clicking HERE

    AMGA is a trade association leading the transformation of health care in America. Representing multispecialty medical groups and integrated systems of care, we advocate, educate, innovate, and empower our members to deliver the next level of high performance health. AMGA is the national voice promoting awareness of medical groups’ recognized excellence in the delivery of coordinated, high-quality, cost-effective care. More than 175,000 physicians practice in our member organizations, delivering care to one in three Americans.