Thursday, December 21, 2017


By Doug Collins (R-GA, 9th)

Washington, D.C. - December 21, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) has introduced H.R. 4706, the Music Modernization Act, to bring music licensing its first meaningful update in almost 20 years. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) is the bill’s lead cosponsor.

“Songs reframe the world. They show us reality as it is and as it could be. I introduced the Music Modernization Act to move music licensing law closer to where it should be. Today, the music industry is shackled to laws devised before streaming, and even basic recordings, existed—laws that penalize music creators and music lovers alike. Only by ushering music licensing into the twenty-first century can we promote artistry and its appreciation long into the future, and that’s exactly what we’re doing with the Music Modernization Act,” said Collins.

“The House Judiciary Committee has undertaken a thorough review of the issues that adversely affect stakeholders in the copyright ecosystem. We have heard a diverse array of perspectives, and it is clear that stakeholders on all sides believe the copyright system is outdated and needs reform, particularly in the area of music licensing. The Music Modernization Act is carefully crafted legislation that will improve music licensing by increasing efficiency and providing greater transparency. One change it would make is requiring digital services to pay for a Mechanical Licensing Collective that would match songwriters and publishers with recordings to ensure proper payments. I am a proud cosponsor and look forward to working with industry and my colleagues across the aisle and in the Senate on advancing this legislation as well as other needed components of copyright reform,” said Jeffries.

Additional cosponsors of this legislation include Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), as well as Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Pete Sessions (R-Texas).

Read more about this bill

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U.S. Rep. Castor’s bill to help caregivers nationwide passes U.S. House

By Kathy Castor (D-FL, 14th)

Washington, D.C. - December 21, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- The U.S. House of Representatives passed the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, introduced by U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor and Gregg Harper (MS3), which marks a major step in addressing the nation’s role of caregivers. The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act is landmark legislation strongly endorsed by the AARP that will finally give caregivers the recognition they deserve.

U.S. Rep. Castor said: “The passage of the RAISE Family Caregivers Act that I introduced with U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), and U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) will hopefully bring additional support and resources to family caregivers across America. All too often, caregivers are forced to sacrifice jobs and wages to take care of an aging family member or child with special needs. Caregivers often have little or no support themselves. In Florida, almost 3 million caregivers provide more than 2.6 billion hours of care. This bill would establish a diverse group of experts and stakeholders for a national Family Caregiving Advisory Council to help modernize federal policies and support caregivers. I have worked closely with the AARP on this legislation to implement the federal Commission on Long-Term Care’s recommendation that Congress bolster backing for caregivers through an integrated national strategy. Improving the lives of caregivers will improve the lives of our seniors, veterans and all families who need some help. We must give family caregivers the tools they need to survive economically, provide some respite when they need it, and importantly ensure that their loved ones receive the care they need. We have made much progress in recent years in elevating the role of caregivers, but as the complexity and intensity of family caregiving increases, a nationwide blueprint will help boost families, and ensure we are smart and efficient with our resources.”

View U.S. Rep. Castor’s remarks on the RAISE Family Caregivers Act before its passage yesterday by the U.S. House of Representatives.

View U.S. Rep. Castor’s recent op-ed on RAISE Family Caregivers Act

This just goes to prove that sometimes Democrats have good ideas.

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Departments of Justice and Homeland Security Release Data on Incarcerated Aliens—94 Percent of All Confirmed Aliens in DOJ Custody Are Unlawfully Present

By Department of Justice

Washington, D.C. - December 21, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- President Trump’s Executive Order on Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to collect relevant data and provide quarterly reports on data collection efforts. On Dec. 18, 2017, DOJ and DHS released the FY 2017 4th Quarter Alien Incarceration Report, complying with this order.[1] The report found that more than one-in-five of all persons in Bureau of Prisons custody were foreign born, and that 94 percent of confirmed aliens in custody were unlawfully present.

"The American people deserve a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest," Attorney General Sessions said. "But at the border and in communities across America, our citizens are being victimized by illegal aliens who commit crimes. Nearly 95 percent of confirmed aliens in our federal prisons are here illegally. We know based on sentencing data that non-citizens commit a substantially disproportionate number of drug-related offenses, which contributes to our national drug abuse crisis. The simple fact is that any offense committed by a criminal alien is ultimately preventable. One victim is too many. It's time for Congress to enact the President's immigration reform agenda so that we start welcoming the best and brightest while turning away drug dealers, gang members, and other criminals."

“While the administration is working diligently to remove dangerous criminal aliens from our streets, this report highlights the fact that more must be done,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. “We will continue to pursue President Trump’s immigration priorities, including securing the border, enhancing interior enforcement, and pursuing a merit-based immigration system, but Congress must act immediately to adopt obvious solutions to strengthen DHS and DOJ efforts to confront dangerous criminal aliens.”

Section 16 of the Executive Order directs the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General to collect relevant data and provide quarterly reports regarding: (a) the immigration status of all aliens incarcerated under the supervision of the Federal Bureau of Prisons; (b) the immigration status of all aliens incarcerated as federal pretrial detainees under the supervision of the United States Marshals Service; and (c) the immigration status of all convicted aliens in state prisons and local detention centers throughout the United States.

A total of 58,766 known or suspected aliens were in in DOJ custody at the end of FY 2017, including 39,455 persons in BOP custody and 19,311 in USMS custody. Of this total, 37,557 people had been confirmed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be aliens (i.e., non-citizens and non-nationals), while 21,209 foreign-born people were still under investigation by ICE to determine alienage and/or removability

Among the 37,557 confirmed aliens, 35,334 people (94 percent) were unlawfully present. These numbers include a 92 percent unlawful rate among 24,476 confirmed aliens in BOP custody and a 97 percent unlawful rate among 13,081 confirmed aliens in USMS custody.

This report does not include data on the foreign-born or alien populations in state prisons and local jails because state and local facilities do not routinely provide DHS or DOJ with comprehensive information about their inmates and detainees—which account for approximately 90 percent of the total U.S. incarcerated population.

Information Regarding Immigration Status of Aliens Incarcerated Under the Supervision of the Federal Bureau of Prisons

The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has an operational process for maintaining data regarding foreign-born inmates in its custody. On a quarterly basis, BOP supplies this information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE, in turn, analyzes that information to determine the immigration status of each inmate and provides that information back to BOP.

Out of the 185,507 inmates in BOP custody, 39,455 (21 percent) were reported by BOP as foreign-born. Further details regarding these 39,455 foreign-born inmates are as follows:

  • 20,240 (51 percent) were unauthorized aliens who are subject to a final order of removal;

  • 14,979 (38 percent) remain under ICE investigation;

  • 2,374 (6 percent) were unlawfully present and now in removal proceedings;

  • 1,852 (less than 5 percent) were lawfully present aliens but are now in removal proceedings; and

  • 10 were aliens who have been granted relief or protection from removal.

  • Information Regarding the Immigration Status of Aliens Incarcerated as Federal Pretrial Detainees

    USMS identified 19,311 aliens and foreign-born inmates under ICE investigation detained at USMS facilities. Further details regarding these 19,311 foreign-born inmates are as follows:

  • 11,459 (59 percent) were aliens who are subject to a final order of removal;

  • 6,230 (32 percent) remain under ICE investigation;

  • 1,261 (6.5 percent) were unlawfully present and now in removal proceedings;

  • 358 (less than 2 percent) were lawfully present but are now in removal proceedings; and

  • 3 were aliens who have been granted relief or protection from removal.

  • Immigration Status of All Convicted Aliens Incarcerated in State Prisons and Local Detention Centers Throughout the United States

    The Departments continue to progress towards establishing data collection of the immigration status of convicted aliens incarcerated in state prisons and local detention centers through the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics.

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    ICBA Urges Collaboration on Data Breach Legislation

    By Independent Community Bankers Association (ICBA)

    Washington, D.C. - December 21, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- ICBA and other financial services trade groups called on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to support data protection and consumer notification legislation.

    In a joint letter, ICBA noted that during the last Congress the House Financial Services Committee approved legislation to require all entities that handle sensitive financial data to implement data-security processes like those already mandated for banks.

    Like the Data Security Act of the last Congress, any data breach bill should contain robust processes for data protection and appropriate federal and state oversight, the coalition wrote.

    Read Coalition Letter

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    By House Committee on Homeland Security


    Washington, D.C. - December 21, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) recently wrote to the Department of Homeland Security, requesting the Secretary convene an advisory body of experts to help the Department—and the wider intelligence and law enforcement community—better understand and respond to the challenges posed by terrorist abuse of widely available encryption technologies. In many ways, this reflects the Chairman’s longstanding call for leaders in the private sector and across government and civil society to work together on this issue.

    As outlined in the Committee’s “Going Dark, Going Forward” report last year, encryption technologies safeguard Americans’ personal information from bad actors, but this same digital security can present significant barriers to lawful access to digital evidence and other information critical to the safety and security of Americans.

    Chairman McCaul: “For years, I have advocated for greater collaboration between leaders across law enforcement, tech community, and other stakeholders to help solve pressing national security issues, including terrorists’ abuse of widely-available encrypted communications tools. I am pleased the Department is taking action to bring together the key players to address this and related security issues so we can find ways to improve cooperation between law enforcement, national security communities, private industry and others. I look forward to continued engagement with the Department and its Homeland Security Advisory Council so we can better to keep criminals and terrorists from exploiting these technologies. The safety and security of our citizens demand no less.”

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    Bishop: Opening ANWR Is Long Overdue

    By House Committee on Natural Resources

    Washington, D.C. - December 21, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- The House approved the conference report on H.R. 1, the “Tax Cuts & Jobs Act.” The bill includes language that opens up a small portion of the non-wilderness 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for responsible energy development. Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement:

    “How do you improve a historic tax cut? I can’t think of a better way than to add the pro-jobs, pro-growth and pro-American energy provisions opening ANWR to responsible development. Senator Murkowski and Rep. Young should be commended for securing this long overdue win for Alaska, its people and the country.”

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    Generation Opportunity Applauds the Passage of Tax Reform Bill

    By Generation Opportunity

    Arlington, VA - December 21, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- The House voted to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, a bill that will deliver tax reform and provide relief for young people looking to start families and businesses. Generation Opportunity (GO) supports this legislation because it will give younger Americans a greater opportunity to prosper.

    GO Policy Director David Barnes issued the following statement:

    “For young Americans, tax reform will mean a better job market, more revenue and real growth in our economy. Young entrepreneurs deserve every opportunity to pursue the innovations that will improve our everyday lives without a tax code that stands in their way. This bill represents a positive first step towards unrigging our economy and in the coming year, we encourage Congress to continue building on these reforms.”

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    Tax Reform: On to President Trump’s Desk

    By Freedom Works Foundation

    Washington, D.C. - December 21, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon released this statement following the final passage of the tax reform bill in the House:

    “The Democrats’ inventive stonewalling of tax relief and simplification for Americans has finally come to an end. Tax reform has come. This simplification of the tax code and the dramatic reduction of complex and manipulative rules in the tax code will benefit individuals, businesses, and our economy. And it should prod high-tax states toward more conservative tax codes.

    “This tax bill will lead to even greater economic growth than we have seen under in the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency. It could lead to the highest rate of growth we have seen in almost 20 years. With higher take home pay, those who will benefit the most are the people and families with low and middle incomes, with a doubling of the standard deduction, effectively doubling the 0% tax bracket. It will be a huge boost to those trying to make ends meet.

    “While FreedomWorks activists are often left exasperated by the leadership in the House and Senate, this victory deserves their appreciation. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have worked hard on this effort and have been influential in getting this improvement to the tax code across the finish line. Chairman Kevin Brady has also played a major role in guiding this bill through the process -- and getting it done this year, which was important.

    “I look forward to seeing President Trump sign this bill into law."

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    A Few Tax Reform Statements from The House

    The Tax Cuts and Jobs Bill is on the way to the President's Desk to be signed into law. According to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, the final version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will result in a 1.7 percent increase in GDP, 1.5 percent higher wages, and an additional 339,000 full-time jobs. The Tax Foundation also predicts that the increased economic activity, increased salaries, and increased jobs will result in an additional $600 billion in tax revenues, substantially reducing the cost of the plan. Below are some statements from the House of Representatives:

    Mark Amodei (R-NV, 2nd)

    “Much to my surprise, the conferencing process with the Senate resulted in the overall improvement of this bill in several areas. Based on the average incomes in CD-2, and the percentage of taxpayers currently taking the standard deduction versus those who itemize, all of the data I have evaluated on both sides of this argument leads me to believe this bill will result in widespread tax relief for Nevadans. These improvements will not only put more money back into the pockets of Nevada taxpayers, but they will also simplify the filing process while giving our nation’s job creators significant potential for reinvestment and growth.

    “Finally, for the newborn deficit hawks, you either believe that more money circulating in the private sector increases tax collections – or you don’t. Based on my research, and the history lessons we’ve learned from the Kennedy and Reagan Administrations, I believe it. While only time will tell, I’ve never been a fan of anyone’s predictions regarding the state of our economy a decade from now.”

    Robert Aderholt (R-AL, 4th)

    “This afternoon, I voted in the House of Representatives, to give back more money to Alabama taxpayers. Far too many of the people in Washington believe that the government should have a right to a high percentage of everything you earn. Those people are wrong. It is your money, and you should be able to keep even more of it.

    “This tax bill does the right thing. It doubles the child tax credit. It doubles the personal tax exemption. It keeps medical deductions and mortgage deductions, and more than 80% of the people in the 4th District of Alabama will receive a tax cut.

    “This is also a jobs bill. By lowering the corporate tax rate, businesses are no longer rewarded for moving their businesses and jobs overseas where tax rates are cheaper. Our cumbersome, 20th Century tax code desperately needed updating. This bill achieves that goal.”

    Pete Aguilar (D-CA, 31st)

    “Instead of providing tax relief to middle-class families and small businesses like the ones here in the Inland Empire, this bill is specifically designed to give massive tax breaks to the wealthiest corporations and individuals in our country. In addition to adding a trillion dollars to the deficit, this bill will drive up health care costs and raise taxes for millions of working Americans. Tax reform should be about creating a level playing field where every American has a chance to find success, not lining the pockets of wealthy corporations on the backs of working people.”

    Rick Allen (R-GA, 12th)

    “I am encouraged by our current economic growth under President Trump and I am hopeful that with the passage of this historic legislation we will continue to see America’s economic potential unleashed. Thankfully, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is on its way to President Trump’s desk, ready to be signed into law – a true Christmas miracle!”

    Alma Adams (D-NC, 12th)

    “I don’t ever want to hear a Republican complain about the deficit or spending again. They just voted to pass a wildly irresponsible tax scam that adds trillions to the deficit, increases health insurance premiums, and raises taxes on 86 million middle class families in order to give a kickback to corporations and the wealthy. Next, they’ll cut essential programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security to pay for it,” said Congresswoman Adams. “American families will remember who sold them out to help their wealthy donors and corporate special interests.”

    Rod Blum (R-IA, 1st)

    “I am very confident that increased economic activity will pay for this $1.5 trillion tax cut. Just as they did in the sixties and again in the eighties after the Kennedy and Reagan tax cuts - revenues to the federal government will increase.”

    Earl Blumenauer (D-OR, 3rd)

    “This bill represents the largest transfer of wealth in our nation’s history—financed by mortgaging our children’s future with a mountain of increased debt. It is not tax reform. It’s not even a policy. Rather, it is a collection of special interest provisions, disguised behind a set of false promises.

    “This legislation fails utterly to invest in the American people—it’s no wonder the public is opposed. They are right, and the Republicans are wrong.”

    ??? All of the public I have talked to have been totally FOR the bill.

    Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Delaware at large)

    “The American people were promised a tax reform plan that would simplify our tax system, promote economic growth, and keep our nation’s deficit under control. Unfortunately, that’s not what the Ryan-McConnell tax plan does,” said Congresswoman Blunt Rochester. “Instead, this bill makes the tax code more complex with carve-outs and loopholes for Washington special interests and forces the middle-class to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations, while mortgaging our nation’s fiscal future by adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit. I voted against this bill because it’s a bad deal for Delaware and the American people.”

    “When you take a closer look at the Ryan-McConnell plan, it also has stark consequences for health care in our country. Their plan increases the number of uninsured Americans by 13 million and would cut Medicare by $25 billion to pay for a tax cut for the wealthiest among us. Republicans chose to negotiate behind closed doors, without input from the American people, and they produced a flawed product that jeopardizes people’s health care, raises middle class taxes in the long-term, and fails to create an environment for small businesses to grow and thrive.”

    Sanford D. Bishop, Jr (D-GA, 2nd)

    “I have stated numerous times that I do support tax relief for Georgia families. However, it needs to be fair, balanced, and fiscally responsible both in the short and the long term. The benefits must be shared among Georgians of all income levels rather than just concentrated at the top. The tax legislation approved by the U.S. House of Representatives today fails this test.

    “As an institution, we in Congress are at a moment of truth. The time is now to put our political differences aside, and to find common ground on a rational tax package that is fiscally responsible, grows the economy, creates jobs, and improves the lives of all Americans.”

    Joyce Beatty (D-OH, 3rd)

    “I support tax reform that helps Americans most in need: the middle-class, seniors, veterans, students, small business owners and hardworking families. Unfortunately, Congressional Republicans and Donald Trump’s hastily written, haphazard plan does the exact opposite—giving a totally unnecessary, budget-busting tax cut to the super-wealthy and well-connected at the expense of ordinary Americans. Adding insult to injury, the bill’s $1.4 trillion price tag will be paid for by future cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other vital programs that help our most vulnerable Americans. This bill is nothing more than a trumped-up, trickle-down scheme that overwhelmingly benefits the fortunate few—people like Donald Trump and his cronies—and scams the rest of us.”

    Jack Bergman (R-MI, 1st)

    "I have been an advocate of pro-growth tax reform long before I announced my candidacy for Congress. The people who work so hard to provide a living and a future for their families in Michigan deserve to keep the money they’ve earned. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will provide real reform to our burdensome tax code and help stimulate the economy. These reforms allow small-businesses and hard-working Americans to keep more of their money. In Michigan’s First District, we understand and appreciate the value of every dollar we earn. By February of 2018, constituents in the First District will begin to see more money in their paychecks. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, and as your Representative in Congress, I’m proud to deliver on the promises I’ve made to you.”

    Jaime Hierrera Beutler (R-WA, 3rd)

    “The bill we passed today improves on the earlier version I voted for in several measurable ways for folks in all phases of life – from those preparing to begin their careers, to those in retirement. It protects virtually every middle-class homeowner by raising the mortgage interest deduction to $750,000, it expands vital relief for those families with high medical expenses, it doubles the child tax credit, and reinstates protection for all state and local taxes up to $10,000. I’m pleased that graduate students preparing to enter the workforce will have reduced tuition exempted from taxes – another improvement from our earlier bill. For those planning for retirement, popular savings accounts such as IRA’s and 401(k)s are preserved, and relief from the death tax that inhibits passing small family businesses and farms to the next generation is doubled. For the 75 percent of Southwest Washington taxpayers who use standard deduction, they will now see nearly double the amount of their money protected from taxes, and even more taxpayers will now be able to take advantage of the standard deduction.

    “Importantly, this bill will boost the economy in a manner that will provide tangible benefits to hardworking folks from Bucoda to Vancouver, from bigger paychecks to more job opportunities. We read about the ‘recovery’ from the great recession that may be benefitting Wall Street, but hasn’t boosted workers’ take-home pay or helped enough of the families continuing to live paycheck to paycheck. The critics of this tax cut plan seem to concede that our present ‘recovery’ is good enough, but I don’t accept that. Today I am taking action to jumpstart the real economic recovery that will help residents of Southwest Washington earn more money and live a more economically secure life.”

    Andy Barr (R-KY, 6th)

    “When the President signs the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act it will be a great early Christmas present for the American people – especially hardworking middle income families who haven’t had a pay raise in a decade and who need relief the most,” said Congressman Barr. “Beginning in 2018, workers will be able to keep more of their paycheck, business investment and job creation will boom, and salaries will rise. Importantly, we were able to secure important wins in the final version of the bill based on feedback from Kentuckians to protect Berea College, spur investment in the horse industry, make our signature bourbon industry more competitive, encourage more international investment in the Commonwealth, and help Kentuckians pay off their student loans and medical expenses.”

    “After nearly a decade of sluggish economic growth, lost opportunities, and low confidence, America is making a comeback. This historic legislation will make American businesses more globally competitive and help put our nation back on the right track.”

    Nanette Barragan (D-CA, 44th)

    “While the GOP and their wealthy donors celebrate this massive tax scam, it’s devastating effects will be felt by students, teachers, seniors, workers, homeowners, and basically anyone who is not in the top one percent of earners.”

    Why is it not surprising that Democrats hate the bill while Republicans love it?

    Brian Babin (R-TX, 36th)

    “We are now on the verge of delivering a historic and much-deserved win for the American people right before Christmas,” said Rep. Babin. “By cutting taxes for all Americans, eliminating special interest loopholes, doubling the child tax credit and lowering the tax burden on businesses, our bill will increase paychecks, create more jobs and make the tax code simpler and fairer for hardworking Middle-Class Americans.

    “My priority is to make sure our tax code works for the average American taxpayer. Under the current system, it is the well-connected who have benefited. Our bill eliminates special interest carve outs for lawyers and lobbyists and returns taxpayer money to its rightful owners: hardworking Americans, job creators and savers.

    “The bottom line is that our bill reduces taxes for all Americans and saves the average American family between $1,000 and 2,000 a year. For American workers, this tax reform bill creates more jobs right here in the U.S. by lowering the tax burden on small and large businesses. Currently, U.S. businesses pay the highest tax rate of any industrialized country at 35%.

    “Our bill finally overhauls our broken tax code and puts the American taxpayer first while igniting the American economy and building on the already remarkable economic growth we have seen under the Trump Administration. This is truly an exciting and historic moment for the American people.”

    Don Bacon (R-NE, 2nd)

    “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will give the typical family of four earning the median income of $73,000 a tax cut of $2,059,” said Rep. Bacon. “Families also will benefit from the expanded Child Tax Credit for those making under $400,000.”

    In addition, Nebraska families with existing home mortgages will still be able to deduct their current mortgage interest deduction. Homeowners with new mortgages on a first or second home will be able to deduct mortgage interest on the first $750,000 of principal.

    This legislation will also maintain the Adoption and Child and Dependent Care Tax Credits; the tax exemption for the value of reduced tuition for graduate students; the exemption allowing teachers to deduct the out of pocket cost of classroom supplies; and popular retirements savings options such as 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs).

    “People in the Second District voiced their support for the larger standard deduction and simplification of the tax code, but expressed the need to keep mortgage interest and other deductions,” added Rep. Bacon. “This will help Nebraskans grow their families, further their education and keep more of their hard-earned paychecks.”

    In addition, the individual mandate tax penalty has been eliminated to allow families the flexibility to buy a health care plan that’s right for them.

    “We have Nebraskans who are paying upwards of $30,000 a year in premiums, and yet they are still not receiving health care because of their high deductibles,” added Rep. Bacon.” Nebraska families simply cannot afford these high costs and not receive the care they need.”

    Jim Banks (R-IN, 3rd)

    “Today is a good day for the future of the American dream. By passing this legislation, Congress has delivered on its promise to deliver sweeping tax reform to the American people for the first time since 1986. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will provide middle-class tax relief while promoting investment, job creation and sustained economic growth. It will lead to bigger paychecks for workers across our country and restore America’s global competitiveness. I commend Speaker Paul Ryan, Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady and members of the Conference Committee for their hard work that made this day possible. I look forward to swift passage in the Senate and President Trump signing this historic legislation into law.”

    Lou Barletta (R-PA, 11th)

    “Today Congress gave millions of American families a renewed and revitalized shot at prosperity,” Barletta said. “For a generation, Americans have seen good paying jobs leave our shores and their wages stagnate, while the government continued to take more and more money out of their paychecks. Washington forgot the American family and worker. Instead of fighting for Americans, Washington has been fighting to fill the coffers of faceless, nameless bureaucrats. Today, we made clear to Washington the old way of doing business is over. This is a new era of American prosperity. The plan will bring higher wages, create more employment opportunities, and deliver a tax cut to every income group. This tax plan is a much needed Christmas gift every American family. I am very excited to have been part of such a historic event.”

    Congressman Biggs' Statement on the Presidential Transition Team's Right to Privacy

    By Andy Biggs (R-AZ, 5th)

    Washington, D.C. - December 21, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Recently, we learned that the General Service Administration (GSA) inappropriately, and potentially illegally, released tens of thousands of private documents from Donald Trump’s Presidential Transition Team (PTT) to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Current law considers records produced by the PTT as private and they are afforded Fourth Amendment protections. These documents are not government property, and the GSA does not have the authority to release any of these records without due process.

    In August, Special Counsel Mueller requested that GSA release copies of the emails, laptops, cell phones, and other materials associated with 13 PTT members responsible for national security and policy matters. Contrary to legal precedent and prior direction from the GSA General Counsel, his Deputy General Counsel turned over mountains of private communications to Mueller. He did so without notifying the PTT or redacting any private, privileged information. Congressman Andy Biggs released the following statement –

    “The GSA’s distribution of unredacted and private records is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. It appears that the request and acquiescence by the GSA Deputy General Counsel was done to fuel Special Counsel Mueller’s overly broad investigation. The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 ensures that transition teams receive the right to privacy and I will introduce legislation to strengthen these rights, if necessary. I will also be sending letters to the General Services Administration and Special Counsel Mueller for clarification as to the basis of the request and transfer of these privileged documents.”

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    Beyer and Wittman Introduce Bill To Protect Federal Workers, With Government Shutdown Looming Amid Budget Uncertainty

    By Don Beyer (D-VA, 8th)

    Washington, D.C. - December 21, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) has introduced bipartisan legislation to protect federal employees’ pay in the event of a government shutdown. The Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Act would guarantee back pay for all furloughed workers if Congress and the White House are unable to come to a funding agreement.

    “We absolutely do not want to see a shutdown of the federal government, but if it comes we must act to protect federal workers from the consequences,” said Rep. Beyer. “If the government shuts down due to Congress’ failure to pass a budget, the effects on civil servants, who need to support their families, would be disastrous without this bill. We cannot allow that to happen.”
    A shutdown would temporarily suspend paychecks for federal employees, and retroactive pay for federal workers must be approved by Congress. The Beyer-Wittman legislation would guarantee that no federal employees would lose pay if a government shutdown occurs.
    "Federal employees should not suffer because Congress refuses to end its govern by crisis mentality," Rep. Wittman said. "Preparing the retroactive pay legislation sends a signal to our federal workers that they won't be forgotten in the unfortunate event of a shutdown. While this legislation minimizes the impacts of funding uncertainty, my focus remains on returning Congress to a regular schedule of budgeting and passing appropriations bills."
    Together the two Virginia Congressmen represent nearly 120,000 federal employees.

    “The National Treasury Employees Union applauds Rep. Beyer and Rep. Wittman for introducing this legislation,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “They recognize that frontline federal employees should not lose pay in the event of a shutdown of the federal government. These employees do not control the funding of the federal government and should not suffer when that funding runs out. I hope we do not get to the shutdown stage but I support this effort to protect the federal workforce.”

    Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday, December 22.

    "AFGE would like to thank Congressman Beyer (D-VA) and Congressman Wittman (R-VA) for introducing the ‘Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act,’” said American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox. “Federal employees are hardworking public servants who are dedicated to providing quality public services. Federal employees and their families should not be forced to go without pay when they are not allowed to do their jobs because Congress cannot pass a funding measure. Too many Americans—veterans, seniors, and other hardworking people rely on services provided by the federal government. In a government shutdown, it is the American people who pay the price.”

    In addition to Reps. Beyer and Wittman, the bill has 25 bipartisan cosponsors. Text of the legislation can be viewed here.

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    Companies Announce New Investments Following Tax Reform Passage

    By Mike Bishop (R-MI, 8th)

    Washington, D.C. - December 21, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Less than 24 hours following House and Senate passage of historic tax reform legislation, companies across America announced key investments in our nation’s workforce.

    AT&T announced that as a direct result of tax reform, more than 200,000 U.S. employees will receive a $1,000 bonus. “This tax reform will drive economic growth and create good-paying jobs,” said AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson. “In fact, we will increase our U.S. investment and pay a special bonus to our U.S. employees."

    Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg praised the tax bill as a critical driver of business, economic growth and innovation for the United States and Boeing. Muilenburg announced a $300 million investment to support corporate charitable giving, workforce development and infrastructure enhancements for Boeing employees.

    Prompted by the tax plan, Wells Fargo also said it would be raising its minimum wage for employees to $15 an hour. The bank added that it would target $400 million in donations to community and nonprofit organizations next year.

    Fifth Third Bancorp is also taking action as a result of the tax bill. They will pay more than 13,500 employees a bonus and raise the minimum wage for their workforce to $15. Senior managers and top executives are excluded from the special payments. "It is good for our communities, employees and Fifth Third Bank," said CEO Greg Carmichael in a statement.

    According to Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts, based on the passage of tax reform, the company will provide a $1,000 bonus to more than 100,000 non-executive employees, in addition to an infrastructure investment in excess of $50 billion over the next five years. As a result of these investments, Comcast estimates they will add thousands of new direct and indirect jobs.

    Congressman Bishop said, “By passing this comprehensive tax reform package, we've delivered on our promise to provide relief for hardworking families at every income level, and this is just the beginning. This plan will deliver real changes to the lives of American families across the nation in the form of more jobs and bigger paychecks.”

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    Family Research Council Praises the Pro-Family Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

    By Family Research Council

    Washington, D.C. - December 21, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- The Congress took a major step forward in reforming America’s tax code as both chambers passed the final conference version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1). This legislation is the first major overhaul of the country's tax code in over thirty years. The bill now goes to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law. Family Research Council (FRC) commends Republican legislators in the House and Senate for advancing tax relief to millions of hardworking families.

    Family Research Council President Tony Perkins released the following statement:

    “While the final product is missing components that would have made H.R. 1 an outstanding bill, Congress has finally accomplished something big for the American people: the largest overhaul of the U.S. tax code since Ronald Reagan.

    “The doubling of the child tax credit to $2,000 will provide immediate relief for parents and will bolster the economy further as these children become taxpayers one day. Strong families are the cornerstone of our society and providing relief for families with children is a major win for working low-income and middle-class families.

    “The bill alleviates many marriage penalties in the tax code, which should never have been added to the tax code in the first place. We have long advocated for our government to foster the best environment for children and penalizing marriage has made no sense. With this bill, many families will save thousands of dollars in their taxes next year simply due to the elimination of marriage penalties from nearly all of the income tax brackets.

    “The bill also helps families by allowing parents to save for their children’s K-12 education at private and religious schools using tax-advantaged 529 education savings accounts.

    “We are disappointed that Senate budget rules prevented this historic legislation from gutting the Johnson Amendment which has been used to stifle the free speech of non-profits and religious leaders on political matters and will continue to work with Congress to achieve this important goal. We are also disappointed the budget rules prevented recognition of unborn children as children in the tax code, and for excluding homeschooling families from benefiting from the expansion of 529 education savings accounts. One additional concern is that the increased standard deduction will create a disincentive for charitable giving.

    “However, while not perfect, repealing the Obamacare individual mandate, expanding the child tax credit, removing most marriage penalties, expanding 529 plans for K-12 private schooling, lowering personal income tax rates, and lowering the tax burden on employers are a real benefit to the American family,” concluded Perkins.

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