Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Donnelly Calls on Senate to Act on Medical Device Tax Repeal, CHIP, Community Health Centers Funding, Opioid Crisis

By Senator Joe Donnely - (D - IN)

Washington, D.C. - January 9, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly spoke on the floor of the Senate calling for bipartisan action to address a number of pressing health care issues, including repealing the Medical Device Tax, reauthorization for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), funding for the Community Health Center Fund, and the need for more funds to combat opioid abuse and to address the shortage of treatment providers.

Donnelly said in his speech, “I strongly urge my colleagues to work with me to quickly and meaningfully address the medical device tax…

“We must reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program – also known as CHIP – that expired in September. I have long supported the CHIP program. It provides health coverage for millions of kids, including nearly 115,000 children from Indiana…

“Like the CHIP Program, Community Health Centers have enjoyed long bipartisan support for the high-quality care that they provide our families. Also like the CHIP program, the funding for the Community Health Center expired on September 30, leaving many health centers across Indiana worried if they will have the resources they need to continue to serve Hoosiers…

“Finally, we have demonstrated a common desire to address the needs of the opioid and drug abuse crisis. It is a scourge. It took the lives of 63,000 people just in 2016… We can show our commitment to increasing access to treatment by reauthorizing the National Health Service Corps program, that expired in September.”

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SAFER Act Signed into Law

By Senator John Cornyn- (R - TX)

Washington, D.C. - January 9, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) released the following statement after President Trump signed his Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act into law. The SAFER Act reauthorizes, strengthens, and extends the Sexual Assault Forensic Reporting program to help fight the nationwide rape kit backlog.

“Victims of sexual assault shouldn’t have to live in fear while evidence that could bring their attackers to justice goes untested,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This law will assist in the efforts of our state and local law enforcement agencies to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits so survivors can get the justice and closure they deserve.”

The SAFER Act was introduced by Senators Cornyn, Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Michael Bennet (D-CO). Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Rob Portman (R-OH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Kennedy (R-LA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) were cosponsors of the legislation. The SAFER Act also ensures pediatric forensic nurses are eligible for training, which addresses the need for pediatric sexual assault nurse examiners in responding to children suffering from abuse. A one-page summary of the bill is available here.

Sens. Cornyn and Bennet were the authors of the Sexual Assault Forensic Reporting Act, a 2013 law creating the SAFER Program which has helped law enforcement reduce the rape kit backlog through existing funds under the Debbie Smith Act. The legislation increased the amount of these funds spent on untested kits by 35 percent and allowed 5-7 percent to be used on SAFER program audits. It helps state and local law enforcement agencies address both the laboratory and storage backlogs by providing funding to conduct one-year audits of untested sexual assault evidence, which has uncovered tens of thousands of untested rape kits on shelves and in labs across the nation.

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Cantwell, Markey Announce Net Neutrality Resolution Reaches 40-Vote Milestone in the Senate

By Senator Maria Cantwell - (D - WA)

Washington, D.C. - January 9, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) continued her push to protect the open internet and restore the 2015 net neutrality rules. Senator Cantwell, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) – among others – announced that 40 senators have signed on to co-sponsor a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution of disapproval that overturns the anti-consumer regulations passed in December by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and supported by Donald Trump to end net neutrality.

At a press conference, Democrats made clear they will “force a vote” on the resolution to restore the 2015 Open Internet Order. Thirty members are needed to send the CRA to the floor for a vote and a simple majority is needed for its passage. The measure will be formally introduced after the FCC regulation has been published in the Federal Register.

“Over the last several years, the biggest job growth that we have seen in America has come from internet businesses. We are seeing an attack on that internet economy by FCC rolling back this open internet rule,” said Senator Cantwell. “We cannot allow the FCC to put a chokehold on the internet by allowing big corporations to artificially charge consumers more. The open internet rule was here for a reason. It was to protect a level playing field and to make sure no one artificially created opportunity and access by controlling the internet.”

“Last month, the FCC turned a deaf ear to millions of Americans standing up for a free and open internet and instead gutted net neutrality,” said Markey. “The anti-consumer regulations passed by the Trump administration takes away a fundamental right that ensures the internet is a diverse, dynamic and open to everyone. We can force a vote to restore net neutrality and level the playing field away from the big corporations. There will be a political price to pay for those on the wrong side of history. Momentum is on our side.”

Last month, the FCC voted to repeal the 2015 Open Internet Order, which the D.C. Circuit Court upheld in 2016. The Open Internet Order prohibited internet service providers from blocking, slowing down, or discriminating against content online. Repealing the net neutrality rules could lead to higher prices for consumers, slower internet traffic, and even blocked websites. A recent poll showed that 83 percent of Americans do not approve of the FCC action to repeal net neutrality rules.

Senators co-sponsoring the CRA resolution include Senators Cantwell, Markey, and Schumer, Ron Wyden (D-OR), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Gary Peters (D-MI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Tom Udall (D-NM), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Angus King (I-ME).

Related News:

Collins, King Announce Support for Bill to Protect Net Neutrality

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Brown, Portman Introduce Buy American Bill to Improve Transparency, Support Manufacturing Jobs

By Senator Sherrod Brown (D - OH)

Washington, D.C. - January 9, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- In light of evidence that U.S. federal agencies have granted an excessive number of waivers to Buy American laws in the last few years, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) have joined their colleagues, Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), to introduce new legislation that would establish a centralized online hub to increase transparency and ensure federal agencies prioritize the purchase of American-made goods in compliance with existing law.

Under current law, federal agencies may use domestic content waivers to Buy American laws to purchase goods or services from foreign companies only in certain circumstances, for example, when an American-made good is unavailable or will significantly increase the cost of a product. However, federal agencies overuse this waiver authority. There is currently no government-wide system tracking the use and abuse of these waivers by federal agencies.

The new BuyAmerican.gov Act would direct the General Services Administration to establish a central, publicly-available website, called BuyAmerican.gov, to collect and display information about each requested waiver to Buy American laws. This new website will allow manufacturers and other interested parties to identify contract opportunities and hold federal agencies accountable for abusing Buy American waivers.

“Taxpayer dollars should support American-made products, and our federal agencies should lead the way in promoting U.S. jobs and products,” said Brown. “American workers are the best at what they do, and our federal agencies should always look to them first when awarding government contracts.”

“We must do everything we can to protect and maximize American jobs, and that starts by ensuring that our tax dollars aren’t used to create jobs overseas. Unfortunately, in the last five years alone, U.S. federal agencies have spent $47.7 billion on goods manufactured by foreign firms, resulting in contracts and jobs lost to overseas competitors,” said Portman. “By improving transparency, the BuyAmerican.gov Act will encourage federal agencies to support American workers and American jobs by faithfully complying with Buy American law. This is a bipartisan bill that is needed now to help protect American jobs.”

In the last five years, U.S federal agencies have spent $47.7 billion on goods manufactured by foreign firms. The Department of Defense (DoD), the largest purchaser of manufactured goods in the world, has spent almost $200 billion on manufactured goods made by foreign companies since 2007. At the same time, the United States has been shedding manufacturing jobs that could have been kept in the U.S.

In addition to creating the BuyAmerican.gov website, the bipartisan bill codifies President Trump’s Buy American Executive Order and requires agencies to report on the implementation of, and compliance with, Buy American laws.

Brown and Portman have also introduced legislation that would apply Buy America rules to all federally-funded infrastructure projects.

See more headlines at The Ponder News Web Site

Former White House Strategist Steve Bannon Steps Down From Breitbart News Network After Public Break With Trump

It is an unfortunate turn of events that Steve Bannon feels the need to step down from his post at Breitbart. Personally, I think the President really went too far in his slamming of Bannon. As a Christian, the President is still learning how to live as Christ would have him. Slamming people you have friction with to the point of destruction when that person is supporting you over all is self-destructive and not good witness material.

While I support our President, my criticism is honest. This is very unfortunate and I wish Steve Bannon the best, with prayers of healing for all parties involved in this matter. -- Shonda Ponder, The Ponder News

Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen Bannon is resigning — unable to quell a firestorm over his remarks in a new book disparaging President Donald Trump and his eldest son.

Read more at NewsMax

Focus on Farmers

President Trump gave a speech on Monday at the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Nashville. The main-stream media wanted to focus on just one thing he said, (I'm sure you have all seen it on the news, about flags and the national anthem). They refused to focus on all the other stuff he said, even though the speech was nearly 40 minutes in length. What he said about the flag and the National Anthem only occurred ONCE, in a 5 second comment. That is why I refuse to give credence to the news on television. Here at The Ponder, I think it is right that we show you what you miss by watching the news on TV, and not getting your information from the sources on the internet.

After the speech, Trump signed an executive order to expand broadband to rural communities.

Below are some reactions:

Senator Steve Daines (R-MT)

“Montana farmers and ranchers put food on America’s tables" said Daines. "As the President highlighted today, our rural communities are vitally important to the success of our nation. I will continue to fight for rural development, infrastructure, telehealth and other critical issues for rural Montana.”

Senator Joe Donnely - (D - IN)

“Hoosier farmers and rural communities are a critical part of Indiana, and I hope the President will address their most important concerns and priorities. During my farm bill listening sessions throughout the state last year, the agricultural issues I heard most about included the need to manage and mitigate the risks associated with farming, protecting crop insurance, expanding market and trade opportunities, supporting biofuels, and improving soil health. Farmers also talked to me about the importance of supporting rural communities in their efforts to address the opioid epidemic and supporting rural economies by developing rural broadband. These are all ideas that should be bipartisan and easy to support. I hope to work with President Trump and my colleagues on the Ag Committee to address these priorities in 2018.”

Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA)

“Over the last year, this Administration has made great strides in providing relief to rural Americans and our agricultural community, including the sweeping tax reform that was just signed into law, which reduces the tax burden for rural Iowans. Additionally, the President has worked to reinvigorate our economy by rolling back harmful rules and regulations, such as the burdensome Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.

“Additionally, at the direction of the President, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity has worked to collect feedback from rural communities around the country. The priorities included in the report can play a vital role in strengthening our agricultural communities. Rural America is vital to our nation’s economy, and it’s my hope that these recommendations are turned into action for Iowans and rural communities across the nation.”

Senator Deb Fischer- (R - NE)

“The president’s remarks today illustrate once again his strong commitment to rural America and the hardworking farmers and ranchers in this country. I was happy he highlighted important policy initiatives like additional regulatory relief and signed an executive order to promote increased broadband access for agriculture. Working together, we can continue to open the door to greater prosperity for agriculture producers in Nebraska and this nation.”

Senator John Hoeven (R - ND)

“I had a good meeting with the President at the White House last week. We talked about agriculture, not only trade but the importance of a strong farm bill. Right up front, I emphasized crop insurance, so I was very pleased that the President expressed his strong support for crop insurance today during his speech to the American Farm Bureau, because it’s very important to our producers.

“The President today highlighted the importance of investing in rural America and making our communities stronger and more vibrant. He outlined the benefits of our work to provide tax and regulatory relief that enables our farmers and ranchers to grow and invest in their operations. We’ve worked hard to roll back burdensome regulations, like the Waters of the U.S. rule, which have hampered economic growth.

“We appreciate the administration’s focus on building rural infrastructure, including ensuring better internet access. As chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Committee, I will continue our efforts to ensure that communities, regardless of zip code, have the infrastructure and services they need to provide rural residents with a high quality of life.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the President and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to support our nation’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities, including passing a good farm bill with strong crop insurance and counter-cyclical programs to provide our producers with the tools they need to succeed. As I reminded the President last week, good farm policy benefits every American, every day with the lowest cost, highest quality food supply in the world.”

More related news:

President Trump Pledges to Work with Chairman Roberts for an On-Time Farm Bill

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Trump Signs Executive Order to Expand Broadband to Rural Communities

Washington, D.C. - January 9, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- After his speech at the Farmer's Convention in Nashville on Monday, President Trump signed an executive order to expand broadband internet to rural communities.

“President Trump’s focus on expanding broadband to rural areas is good news for Missouri farmers, ranchers, and, most importantly, families,” Senator Roy Blunt - (R - MO) said. “Today, an estimated 61 percent of rural Missourians lack access to broadband. By ending the digital divide, we will help our agriculture industry thrive and meet world food demand. We will provide students and teachers access to new learning tools and educational opportunities. We will enable small businesses to compete in a global economy. And, we will expand access to quality healthcare through telemedicine. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I’ll continue working with the administration and my Senate colleagues to bring high-speed internet to every community in Missouri.”

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Washington, D.C. - January 9, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act now heads to the president’s desk for his signature.

The RAISE Family Caregivers Act would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop and sustain a national strategy to recognize and support the more than 40 million family caregivers in the United States. This bipartisan legislation has been endorsed by over 60 aging and disability organizations, including the AARP, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Arc.

“Every day, family caregivers do right by their loved ones, and today I am proud to say we are doing right by them by passing the RAISE Family Caregivers Act to formally recognize and support family caregivers across this country,” said Senator Tammy Baldwin (D - WI). “This bipartisan effort is especially personal to me as I was raised by my maternal grandparents and later served as my grandmother’s primary caretaker as she grew older. I know the challenges that family caregivers face. I’ve listened to family caregivers across Wisconsin and I will keep working to help make a difference in their lives. This reform will provide much-needed support for family caregivers and help ensure that our older adults and loved ones with disabilities receive the highest quality care in their own homes. When we work together across party lines we can get things done and I look forward to seeing President Trump sign this bipartisan legislation into law as soon as possible.”

“Family caregivers play an essential role in our communities by dedicating time and attention and making countless personal and financial sacrifices to care for their loved ones,” said Senator Susan M. Collins - (R - ME). “I am delighted that our bipartisan legislation to develop a coordinated strategic plan to leverage our resources, promote best practices, and expand services and training available to caregivers will now become law. This law will provide family caregivers across America with the much-needed recognition they deserve as well as the resources and training they need to better balance the full-time job of caregiving along with everything else that life brings.”

“Thanks to the efforts of bipartisan Senate champions—Senators Collins and Baldwin—the RAISE Family Caregivers Act will help address the challenges family caregivers face,” said AARP Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer Nancy A. LeaMond. “Family caregivers are the backbone of our care system in America. We need to make it easier for them to coordinate care for their loved ones, get information and resources, and take a break so they can rest and recharge.”

The RAISE Family Caregivers Act was supported by a broad bipartisan coalition of cosponsors including Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Al Franken (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

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