Monday, October 15, 2018

Congressman Cleaver Applauds Passage of Water Infrastructure Bill

Washington, D.C. - October 15, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO, 5th) applauds the congressional passage of S.3021, America’s Water Infrastructure Act, commonly referred to as WRDA. This bill would give the Army Corps of Engineers the authorization to begin navigation, flood control, storm damage and other water infrastructure projects across the country. The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the bill, H.R. 8, by a vote of 408-2 on June 6, 2018. House and Senate committee leaders negotiated a compromise bill, which became S. 3021. Now the bill will go to the President for his signature.

“This is an effort that spans several years in the making. I’ve worked with my Republican colleagues to make sure that language was included to ensure smooth coordination of the two major parts of our local Kansas City Levees project. I’m glad we could work together to support this project and make sure several Kansas City areas are protected from flooding ,” said Congressman Cleaver.

The bi-partisan bill would include several important elements:

• Extend annual authorizations for dam and levee safety activities through fiscal 2023.

• Authorizes $110 million a year for watercraft inspections in the Columbia, Missouri, Colorado, South Platte, and Arizona river basins to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species into those watersheds.

• Authorize $75 million to the Corps to conduct a 10-year pilot program to award single contracts for multiple hurricane and storm damage reduction projects in an area.

• Authorize $125 million to be used in each of fiscal 2020 and 2021 for state public water system supervision programs.

• Establishes a task force on stormwater infrastructure funding.

• Authorizes $225 million in Fiscal Year 2019 and in 2020 for grants to states for projects to prevent combined sewer overflows and address stormwater.

Congressman Cleaver has been an advocate for improving flood control projects in the Kansas City area under WRDA for many years. With recent appropriations and the WRDA bill, several flood control projects in the Kansas City area will have enough funding to be completed.

• Turkey Creek Basin is fully funded and expected completion is in 2020.

• Dodson Industrial District (Blue River Basin) is fully funded and will be completed in summer of 2020. This project will provide 500-year flood protection for 1,500 people and $380 Million in property for local businesses.

• Swope Park Industrial Area was fully funded this year and will be completed in 2022. The new bridge over the levee will provide safe passage for over 400 people who work in the area.

• Kansas City Levees was fully funded with the supplemental appropriations package earlier this year. This legislation would be the second WRDA measure to be enacted under the process established by the 2014 Water Resources Reform and Development Act.

Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act Introduced in The House

Washington, D.C. - October 15, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressmen Steve Cohen (D-TN, 9th) and Lamar Smith (R-TX, 21st) has introduced legislation to protect consumers from unfair taxes on digital goods and services like those purchased over the internet or on smartphones. The Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act ensures that digital goods and services are not taxed at a higher rate than their tangible counterparts.

“Digital goods and services have become a driving force in our national economy,” said Congressman Cohen. “We should make sure consumers are treated fairly and not double-taxed.”

Congressman Smith said: “In our modern economy, more and more consumers are buying digital goods and services rather than tangible items. But as technology advances, it is important that tax policies do not unfairly penalize consumers who choose to download digital goods rather than purchase their tangible counterparts. This legislation promotes tax fairness and ensures that consumers are not discouraged from purchasing digital goods.”

This legislation would prevent the taxation of MP3 and software downloads, for example, at a higher rate than the tax on music and software CDs. The bill would prevent tax discrimination for consumers who chose to purchase a good or service in digital rather than tangible form.

A Senate version of the measure was introduced Thursday by Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ron Widen (D-OR).

Rep. Chu Bill Will Block Implementation of Proposed Public Charge Rule

Washington, D.C. - October 15, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA, 27th) introduced H.R. 7052, a bill to prevent any federal funds from being used to implement President Trump’s proposed “public charge” rule. The rule, announced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on September 22, 2018, greatly expands the list of programs that could be considered when an immigrant is applying for a green card. The rule change could cause individuals to disenroll from public benefits like nutrition assistance and healthcare out of fear it could make it more difficult to be reunited with loved ones, even though Chu says many of these immigrants have a legal right to these services to which they contribute through their taxes. Rep. Chu, who introduced the bill along with 49 other members of the House, released the following statement:

“In one of the more outrageous, callous, and openly xenophobic proposals of this administration, President Trump and Stephen Miller devised an immigration policy that would leave hungry children behind while doing nothing to address our country’s real immigration challenges at all. As always, their approach to immigration starts and ends at attacking and isolating immigrants.

“The so-called ‘public charge’ rule is a blight. It creates two distinct classes of tax payers, creating an unfair “pay-to-play” system. Benefits like SNAP are proven at reducing poverty and improving future achievement, but now, Trump is trying to stigmatize the program – and others like it –so that immigrants will be afraid to use it. Immigrants are our neighbors and co-workers, and play a vital role in our communities. This proposed rule only makes their lives more difficult solely based on where they were born. It is a hateful policy devoid of merit or morality and not one dollar of federal money should be used to implement it, should it become finalized. I’m proud that so many of my colleagues have joined me to stop Trump’s attempt to weaponize federal policy in his hateful war on immigrants.”

Brooks, Frankel Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Keep Girls in School Worldwide

Washington, D.C. - October 15, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- On International Day of the Girl (October 11), Congresswomen Susan W. Brooks (R-IN, 5th) and Lois Frankel (D-FL, 22nd), co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, announce the introduction of the Keeping Girls in School Act to support the economic and educational empowerment of girls globally.

Today, over 130 million girls worldwide are not in school. While the U.S. has been the global leader in efforts to expand and improve educational opportunities, particularly for girls, there is still more work to be done because every child deserves an equal opportunity to access quality education. This legislation brings attention to the systemic barriers preventing girls from accessing secondary education; barriers such as child marriage, religious or ethnic discrimination, female genital mutilation and poor safety traveling to schools. Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY17) and Dan Donovan (R-NY11) are original cosponsors of the legislation.

“We must break down the barriers that keep girls out of the classroom,” said Brooks. “When girls stay in school their communities are healthier, wealthier and safer. In order to cultivate a thriving future for our world, girl’s education and development must be a top priority. When we stand up for women and girls, we help empower them to raise their voices, grasp opportunities and reach new heights.”

“When girls are educated and given the skills to support their families, we uplift communities, reduce poverty, and create a more peaceful and prosperous world,” said Frankel. “This bill puts empowering adolescent girls front and center by addressing obstacles keeping them out of school, like gender-based violence and child marriage.”

“If you limit a girl's access to education, you limit her in every area of her life,” said Jaha Dukureh, founder of Safe Hands for Girls and Africa's Regional Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women. “We have a collective responsibility to break down every barrier girls face, so that they can enjoy their right to an education and realize their full potential.”

“Failing to educate a child is a grave injustice – she is not only robbed of economic opportunities, she is deprived of her voice and her future place in the world,” said Lowey. “If we want to make sustained progress on international development and make the world a more stable place, we must prioritize education, especially for girls and young women.”

“The Keeping Girls in School Act will help empower girls by increasing their access to educational opportunities and economic security,” said Donovan. “While helping girls reach their full potential and tackling poverty, this bill also advances America’s national security interests by promoting opportunities that could lead to more stability abroad. I am proud to join Reps. Frankel, Brooks, and Lowey on this bipartisan effort and will keep on pushing for initiatives to protect and educate vulnerable women across the globe.”


The Keeping Girls in School Act focuses on closing the gender gap for adolescent girls and keeping them in school at the secondary level, a time when girls are most at risk of dropping out of school due to forced marriage, pregnancy, and other family pressures. The economic benefits of girls’ education are substantial and can help lift households, communities and nations out of poverty. Keeping girls in secondary school could*:

  • Add $92 billion to the economies of low and middle-income nations;
  • Cut child deaths by 50%;
  • Reduce child marriage by 66%;
  • Decrease violent conflict by 37%; and
  • Increase girls’ future wages by up to 20% for every year enrolled.

  • Specifically, the Keeping Girls in School Act:

  • Outlines and highlights a non-exhaustive list of 14 barriers that girls face in entering and remaining in secondary education institutions.
  • Authorizes a budget neutral funding mechanism where USAID is directed to enter into results-based financing and/or traditional grant project proposals to reduce these barriers adolescent girls face. These proposals will utilize public-private partnerships, development impact bonds, and other innovative financing mechanisms to leverage real results with measurable outcomes.
  • Requires that the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls be reviewed and updated every 5 years.

  • Full text of the legislation can be found here.

    Additionally, dozens of civil, human and women’s rights organizations have endorsed the Keeping Girls in School Act. List can be found here.

    *Statistics are according to UNESCO, the Education Policy and Data Center, CARE, the Global Partnership for Education, and the World Bank.

    Protecting Election Integrity

    Washington, D.C. - October 15, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- Last Tuesday, Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL, 5th), joined by 22 other Congressmen, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging him to devote more resources to protect American election integrity from foreigners who illegally interfere in American elections by illegally voting in them.

    Congressman Brooks said, “Every single illegal vote by a foreigner in American elections dilutes and cancels the votes of American citizens and rightful voters! All Americans, whether Democrat or Republican, should agree that foreigners should not be influencing U.S. elections. Unfortunately, too many partisans single out Russian involvement in America’s 2016 election (even though there is no evidence the Russians successfully tricked a single voter into casting a bad vote) while turning a blind eye to the greatest provable foreign influence on American elections: illegal foreigner voting.”

    Brooks continued, “Foreigners illegally voting in and influencing American elections threatens our Republic. According to research by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, 3,120 foreigners were registered to vote and/or removed between 2006 and 2018 in just 13 sanctuary jurisdictions (out of thousands of voting jurisdictions in America).”

    Brooks continued, “My colleagues and I strongly urge Attorney General Sessions to devote the necessary resources to investigate and prosecute voting fraud by foreigners. After all, we are the United States, not the United Nations.”

    Brooks continued, “So-called ‘sanctuary cities’ aggravate illegal foreign influence in American elections. By shielding illegal aliens, sanctuary cities encourage widespread foreigner voting fraud. Making matters worse, sanctuary cities recklessly encourage noncitizen voting by registering them to vote through public assistance agency transactions (a/k/a Motor Voter), registration/petition drives, and registration assistors. The Justice Department should focus investigative resources on these jurisdictions to stop voter fraud.”

    Brooks concluded, “One Justice Department prosecutor has already done a fantastic job addressing this important issue. Robert J. Higdon, Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, announced indictments against 19 foreign nationals for illegally voting in the November 2016 elections. Mr. Higdon’s work is exactly what other Justice Department prosecutors should replicate across the nation— maintaining the Rule of Law demands it, maintaining our Republican requires it.”

    Click HERE for a PDF of the letter.

    Letter signers are:

    Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05)

    Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01)

    Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04)

    Congressman Brian Babin (TX-36)

    Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11)

    Congressman Andy Biggs (AZ-05)

    Congressman Dave Brat (VA-07)

    Congressman Paul Cook (CA-08)

    Congressman Warren Davidson (OH-08)

    Congressman Jeff Duncan (SC-03)

    Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01)

    Congressman Louie Gohmert (TX-01)

    Congressman Paul Gosar (AZ-04)

    Congressman Jody Hice (GA-10)

    Congressman Walter Jones (NC-03)

    Congressman Tom McClintock (CA-04)

    Congressman Ralph Norman (SC-05)

    Congressman Scott Perry (PA-04)

    Congressman Lamar Smith (TX-21)

    Congressman Daniel Webster (FL-11)

    Congressman Ted Yoho (FL-03)

    Save Our Seas Act Signed Into Law

    Washington, D.C. - October 15, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- The Save Our Seas Act, which will assist local communities and states in removing garbage and debris from our oceans and shores, was signed into law. House Oceans Caucus Co-Chairs Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Congressman Don Young (R-AK) introduced the House companion bill, H.R. 2748, last year.

    “The ocean is resilient and we can help it heal, but we cannot continue to ignore the garbage polluting our oceans and shores,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “More than eight million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans each year, harming our coastal economies, endangering marine life, destroying important marine habitat, propagating invasive species, and creating hazardous conditions for the maritime industry. I was proud to work with my fellow House Oceans Caucus Co-Chair Don Young on this bipartisan bill to assist local communities and states in preventing and responding to marine debris events. Marine debris is entirely preventable and establishing this law is an important step in protecting the health of our oceans.”

    “Alaskans know, better than most, how marine debris can impact our oceans and coastlines,” said Congressman Don Young. “I was proud to work with my Oceans Caucus colleagues, particularly my co-chair Suzanne Bonamici, to pass this critical legislation out of the House. This bill will allow NOAA and the Coast Guard to address the creation and cleanup of marine debris, and will give the U.S. tools to work with foreign allies to ensure they have the necessary tools to end this crisis. I am very pleased to see this legislation signed into law, and I appreciate my colleagues in the House who passed this bill with unanimous consent.”

    The Save Our Seas Act reauthorizes the NOAA Marine Debris Program through Fiscal Year 2022 and provides resources to help states respond to severe marine debris events. The bill allows the NOAA Administrator, in coordination with relevant Governors, to declare severe marine debris events, authorize funding to assist with cleanup and response, and encourage international engagement to address the growing effects of marine debris.

    Bonamici and Young spoke on the House floor to encourage their colleagues to support final passage. You can download video footage of Bonamici speaking here, and Young speaking here.

    Healthy beaches and waterways are critical to the marine ecosystems that drive the economy in coastal communities. More than 3 million jobs in the U.S. rely on our oceans, contributing at least $352 billion in economic activity annually.

    The House Oceans Caucus is a bipartisan group of House members committed to taking action to protect the health and future of our oceans. In addition to marine debris, the Caucus focuses on efforts to address ocean acidification, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and weather and natural disaster hazards that threaten coastal communities and wildlife.

    Rep. Blum Cosponsors Bill to Protect Social Security and Medicare

    Washington, D.C. - October 15, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Rod Blum (R-IA, 1st) recently cosponsored H.Res.1026 to express the sense of the House that Medicare and Social Security must be protected for current enrollees and preserved for future generations.

    Rep. Blum commented, "Growing up, my mother was dependent on Social Security survivor benefits to put food on the table after my father passed— I personally understand the importance and necessity of these benefits. Iowans have worked hard and paid into the Social Security system with the expectation that these funds will be available upon retirement. Both parties in Congress must work together to enact responsible long-term reforms that will protect both current and future retirees- and this bill confirms my commitment to do so."