Friday, December 8, 2017

House Votes on Continuing Resolution

Washington, D.C. - December 7, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- The House voted on preventing a government shutdown on Thursday. Some House Representatives had something to say about it, though:

Bill Foster (D-IL, 11th)

This resolution is yet another last minute stopgap measure that fails to provide solutions that hardworking Americans need from the people who represent them. We still have a long list of priorities to resolve. Congress has not voted on the DREAM Act to allow individuals who were brought to the United States through no fault of their own to stay in the country. We need to provide funding to combat the opioid and heroin crisis, and we need to stabilize health care marketplaces so that premiums do not skyrocket. We also need an immediate reauthorization of Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding for the millions of children who rely on the program for health insurance, including nearly 326,000 children in Illinois. I am disappointed we did not use the last two months of the previous continuing resolution to find solutions to these issues and represent the interests of hardworking Americans. Rather than engaging in serious bipartisan discussions, Republicans worked behind closed doors on their tax plan that would harm the middle class and pass on debt to the next generation, and they tried yet again to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a move that would take away health care from millions of Americans. The public deserves better.

Gene Green (D-TX, 29th)

"Mr. Speaker, I rise to urge my colleagues to act and pass much needed supplemental appropriations to help victims of the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Hurricane Harvey brought unprecedented destruction to the Texas Gulf Coast, dropping a record 52 inches of rain and causing catastrophic flooding in Houston and all along the Gulf Coast.

Earlier this week, a report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Episcopal Health Foundation found that one in nine Texas Gulf Coast residents remain displaced, three months after Harvey’s landfall. Four in ten Texas Gulf Coast residents report sustained damage to their homes and nearly half of affected Texas Gulf Coast residents said they are not receiving the help they need to recover from the hurricane.

To date the federal government has provided $10 billion in aid to Harvey victims in Texas, mostly advance payments through the National Flood Insurance Program. However, far more federal aid is needed to rebuild Houston, Harris County, and the Texas Gulf Coast.

After Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi, and Hurricane Sandy impacted New York and New Jersey, Congress responded by passing substantial disaster supplemental bills. In 2013, Congress provided over $50 billion for recovery and rebuilding efforts as a result of Sandy, and $120 billion to rebuild New Orleans and surrounding areas.

I cannot and will not vote for a continuing resolution until House leadership puts disaster relief front and center and passes a substantial supplemental disaster bill that will help Texans fully recover from Harvey’s destruction and prepare the Texas Gulf Coast before the next major storm strikes.

We cannot continue to kick-the-can down the road while thousands of families in Texas and other parts of our country continue to suffer, months after these terrible storms made landfall.

I urge my colleagues, regardless of state and party, to join me in standing up for disaster victims and calling on House leadership to pass a substantial emergency supplemental.

Vicky Hartzler (R-MO, 4th)

“The measure we passed today is only a temporary solution. My hope is that we can use this two-week extension to focus on finishing tax reform for the American people, then reach a long-term deal to increase funding for our men and women in uniform. A continuing resolution that extends through next year would be devastating for our Armed Forces and is unacceptable. This year alone, 77 U.S. service members have been killed in readiness related accidents — we must invest in our forces now so that we’re equipped to effectively respond to and deter our enemies in the future.”

French Hill (R-AR, 2nd)

“We’ve already done our job in the House by passing all twelve government funding bills this year, but the Senate hasn’t done their job by passing any of them. In addition to these twelve funding bills, the House has also successfully passed reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and reauthorized the critically important funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

“I have said it many times and I will say it again, Continuing Resolutions are no way to govern. They particularly punish our men and women in uniform who are actively engaged around the world protecting America’s interests. We must ensure our military, federal agencies, and other key government entities have the resources they need to fulfill their duties and serve hardworking Arkansans and Americans.”

Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD, 5th)

“Congress should be able to get its work done on time. While I am glad that Republicans in Congress did not shut down the government, it is inexcusable that Republicans have spent the past three months working on a bill to cut taxes for the wealthiest individuals instead of working with Democrats to responsibly fund the government.

“It is disappointing that we need another continuing resolution to fund the government – a result of Republicans wasting time on a bill that would raise taxes on thousands of families in Maryland and add $1.7 trillion to the national debt. Enough is enough – I urge my Republican colleagues to work in a bipartisan manner to fund the government and address the most pressing issues facing our nation, including passing the DREAM Act and reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”

Lynn Jenkins (R-KS, 2nd)

“I have often said that we need to stop kicking the fiscal can down the road, and enact broader spending reforms to the budget while Republicans control the House, Senate and the White House. It is my hope, that in these next two weeks, we can come together and get our budget on the right fiscal track while funding necessary programs. This Continuing Resolution also includes funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through the end of the year. While it is absolutely crucial this program be reauthorized on a more long-term basis in the near future, I want to be clear that no Kansas children who rely on CHIP are currently without health insurance coverage or are in imminent threat of losing it. The Kansas program has funds that will last well into 2018 and while it is absolutely crucial this program be reauthorized on a more long-term basis in the near future, I am confident Congress will do their job. As we near the end of 2017, I urge my colleagues to consider the importance of both fiscal stability and fiscal responsibility which, combined together, will have a positive impact on future generations.”

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Small Business Mergers, Acquisitions, Sales, and Brokerage Simplification Act of 2017 Passes House Unanimously

Washington, D.C. - December 8, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Bill Hulzinga (R-MI, 2nd) released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed H.R. 477, the Small Business Mergers, Acquisitions, Sales, and Brokerage Simplification Act of 2017. This legislation passed the House with strong bipartisan support by a vote of 426 to 0.

“Today’s one-size-fits-all regulatory structure treats the sale of a privately owned family business the same as if an investment bank were buying a publicly traded company. The current structure simply doesn’t make sense. This West Michigan inspired solution would significantly reduce the federal regulatory compliance costs, which can initially exceed $150,000 and after that, cost $75,000 annually. With an estimated $10 trillion in privately held small businesses either being sold or closing as more and more baby boomers retire, our regulatory structure should encourage these neighborhood businesses and small companies to be sold to the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

“This small business initiative promotes economic growth and development, strengthens job creation and preservation, and provides immediate and substantial regulatory relief for small business professionals. Business brokerage services are critically important to entrepreneurs who start, build, and eventually want to sell their private companies. In today’s divisive political environment, H.R. 477 demonstrates that Congress can act in a bipartisan manner to strengthen our economy and positively impact the lives of hardworking Americans.”

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Washington, D.C. - December 7, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released its beta test of its online Pilot Records Database (PRD). The PRD will expedite the sharing of pilot records to help commercial airlines and operators make informed hiring decisions.

As a result of a number of airline tragedies, including the 2009 Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash, the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 was passed and signed into law. This legislation put the flying public’s safety first by enhancing pilot training hours and establishing a pilot record database. Buffalo area families who lost loved ones during the 2009 Colgan crash became vocal advocates for flight safety reform and were instrumental in the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010 being passed into law. The FAA has developed the PRD to meet requirements put in place through this legislation.

“This new system will be a useful tool in the recruitment of qualified pilots and is the latest airline safety measure made possible thanks to the tireless efforts of the families whose lives have been forever changed by the crash of Flight 3407,” said Congressman Brian Higgins (D-NY, 26th).

“This is a common-sense resource that will allow airlines to quickly and easily check the qualifications and background of pilots before they are hired,” said Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY, 27th). “The families of Flight 3407 have worked tirelessly to make sure important reforms are put in place to keep our skies safe. The launch of the beta test is a reflection of the significant progress that has been made to make sure all pilots are well-trained and fit to fly so that we can keep preventing senseless tragedies.”

"The release of the FAA's online Pilot Records Database is an important step forward in making our skies safer for travelers. This is a direct result of the tireless advocacy of the Flight 3407 families, who have never stopped courageously turning their tragedy into meaningful action, often at great personal expense. It is because of their advocacy that we passed into law new pilot safety standards and we haven’t seen another fatal regional airline crash since. I'm proud to have worked alongside them to make air travel safer for passengers nationwide," said Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY, 25th).

Through the PRD, a commercial airline will be able to see information regarding employment history, training, certifications, and status of national driver registry records. The beta release is open to any commercial airlines interested in participating. For more information, click here.

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Let's Trade One Drug for Another: Marijuana Instead of Opioids -- Says House Representatives

Washington, D.C. - December 8, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and a bipartisan coalition of 20 Members of Congress called on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider medical marijuana as a pain management alternative to opioids. In a letter to Acting Secretary of HHS Eric D. Hargan, the lawmakers pushed for research on the use, uptake, and effectiveness of medical marijuana as a pain management substitute for opioids, as well as additional details on the Department’s ongoing information sharing and related efforts to the opioid crisis with state governments and federal agencies.

“As the opioid epidemic continues to ravage communities across the country, we must pursue every available path to prevent, treat, and ultimately end America’s reliance on these highly addictive drugs,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. “In Hawai‘i alone, hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and opioid-related deaths have doubled over the last decade. Studies have found a correlation in states that have legalized medical marijuana with a drop in addiction rates and opioid abuse deaths, some by over 20%. With 91 lives lost every single day to the opioid epidemic, Acting Secretary Hargan should immediately authorize additional research into medical marijuana as an alternative treatment to urgently address this opioid crisis.”

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has cosponsored legislation like the STOP OD Act (H.R.664) to help state and local governments raise awareness of the dangers of opioids like fentanyl, oxycodone and heroin, expand educational efforts to prevent opiate abuse, and promote treatment and prevention. She also voted to pass a series of bipartisan measures in the 114th Congress to address some of the widespread problems that have caused and perpetuated the national opioid crisis, including the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (S.524) signed into law in July 2016, and has continued to call for drug companies perpetuating the crisis to be held accountable.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is the lead Democratic co-sponsor of H.R.1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which would take marijuana off the federal controlled substances list, as part of her commitment to common sense criminal justice reform.

Read the full text of the letter here.

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Congressman Backs Legislation Aimed At Stopping Companies From Writing Off Sexual Misconduct Suits As ‘Business Expenses’

Washington, D.C. - December 8, 2017  (The Ponder News) -- Congressman  Brian Fitzpatrick, (R PA, 8th), along with representatives from across the country, have introduced a piece of legislation aimed at prohibiting companies from claiming deductions related to sexual harassment or assault legal settlements.

The Settlement Tax Deductions are Over for Predators Act(STOP Act), would prohibit companies from filing legal settlements, fines, fees, and expenses related to sexual assault and harassment cases as business expenses and claiming tax related deductions. In allowing businesses to currently write off these expenses, the American taxpayer is subsidizing the cost of resolving legal issues related to sexual misconduct. The STOP Act would prohibit deduction of these expenses in cases where the allegations are public or in cases involving a non-disclosure agreement.

“Whether it’s Hollywood, Congress or a corporate boardroom, there is no place for sexual abuse or harassment in the workplace. Just as I’m committed to protecting taxpayer dollars from being misused in Washington to cover up sexual misconduct allegations, I’m also committed to preventing private sector businesses from using tax breaks to sweep these heinous acts under the rug,” Fitzpatrick, a Republican, said in a statement. “This Congress must stand with the victims of this harassment and take swift action to root out those who would sexually harass any other person, regardless of position or title.”

Currently, companies can deduct as ordinary and necessary business expenses any legal settlements, fines, fees, and expenses related to sexual assault and sexual harassment cases. In allowing businesses to write off these expenses, the American taxpayer is effectively subsidizing the cost of resolving legal issues related to sexual misconduct.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which is being considered by the U.S. Senate, includes similar language.

The introduction of legislation into the House comes after Fitzpatrick’s call for an investigation last month into the millions of dollars paid for more than 250 settlements to federal employees.

In mid-November, the Washington Post reported that Congress had made 264 settlements with Capitol Hill employees for various infractions, including sexual harassment. The newspaper said the settlements totaled $17 million over 20 years.

Since the Washington Post’s reporting on the settlements, BuzzFeed News broke the story that Democratic Congressman John Conyers of Michigan settled a complaint using funds from his office budget in 2015. The former employee said she lost her job after not falling for his sexual advances. Conyers announced this week that he will leave congress.

More recently, Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold of Texas was sued by his former communications director for sexual harassment in 2014. The matter was settled with the congressman denying any wrongdoing and using $84,000 in public funds to settle the case.

“It’s unbelievable – and unacceptable – that elected officials have been using taxpayer dollars to cover up sexual harassment suits for years. As if the American people needed another example of politicians playing by a different set of rules, this is an affront to the hardworking taxpayers forced to foot the bill for these heinous actions,” said Fitzpatrick.

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Enhancing Veteran Care Act on the Way to the President's Desk

Washington, D.C. - December 8, 2017  (The Ponder News) -- The Enhancing Veterans Care Act has passed in the House and is now on its way to the president's desk for his signature. The proposal would allow for Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) directors to contract with accredited third-party organizations to investigate their healthcare facilities.

“Our veterans deserve high-quality care from experienced and caring professionals,” said John Faso (R-NY, 19th). “These are benefits that they have earned through their service and sacrifice to our country. Unfortunately, we’ve seen far too many incidents across the country that don’t meet an acceptable standard. I am proud to support this bipartisan bill and ensure we are taking real steps to improve quality of care for America’s veterans.”

The legislation is supported by The American Legion and the Paralyzed Veterans of America. It has previously passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

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